74.KARNA AND THE GRANDSIRE
WHEN he learnt that Bhishma lay
wounded and dying, Karna hurried to the
place and fell at his feet and said:
"Eldest of the race. Radha's son, who,
through no fault of his, incurred your
great displeasure, humbly prostrates
himself before you."
When after humble salutation Karna stood
up, the grandsire, greatly moved, tenderly
placed his hand on Karna's head and
"You are not Radha's son, young man," he
said in loving tones: "You are Kuntidevi's
own first born. Narada, who knows all the
secrets of the world, himself revealed this
to me. Son of Surya, truly I entertained no
dislike for you. But I was grieved to see
your increasing hatred of the Pandavas
although they gave you no cause for it. I
know and admire your valor and your
open handedness. And I know also that
you belong to the class of Phalguna and
Krishna in prowess. It is proper that you
befriend the Pandavas. Therein lies the
right path for you who are their brother.
With the closing of my part in this war,
may the chapter of your enmity also close.
This is my wish, Karna."
Karna listened respectfully and replied:
"Grandsire I know I am Kunti's son, and
not charioteer born. But I have eaten
Duryodhana's salt and must be true to
him, to be true to my own lineage. It is
impossible for me to go over to the
Pandavas now. You must permit me to
repay with my life, if it so be the debt I
owe to Duryodhana for his love and trust.
I have erred greatly in word and deed.
You must forgive me for it all and give
me your blessings."
The great acharya, who knew all the laws
of right conduct and what Karna said,
replied: "Do reflect for a while and then
do as you wish, for that is the right way."
Even when Bhishma was mortally
wounded and lay dying, the battle did not
cease. Discarding the grandsire's words of
wisdom, the Kauravas resumed the battle.
Deprived of Bhishma's leadership, the
Kaurava forces felt like sheep without a
shepherd when Bhishma no longer led
them. Indeed, even as Bhishma fell
wounded, the men shouted:
"O Karna, you are the one left to lead and
The Kaurava warriors felt that, if but
Karna would agree to take up the
command, victory was certain. During the
first ten days when Bhishma led the
forces, the son of Surya kept away from