Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Why Did Arjuna Kill A Chariotless, Weaponless Karna?

Arjuna was an exceptional warrior and had many military accomplishments throughout his life. A few of these include defeating Drupada and giving Panchala to Guru Drona as gurudakshina, defeating various kingdoms north of Indraprastha (all the way upto Uttara kuru - modern day Russia) prior to the Rajsuya Yajna, defeating millions of gandharvas led by Citrasena (who was a master of illusion) and freeing his brother Duryodhana, and single handedly defeating the kuru army at Virata (which comprised of some of the best warriors at the time, like Bhisma, Drona, Kripa, Ashwatthaman...). By far, he was the best warrior in the epic, mahabharatha. He was a much better warrior than kuru warriors like Bhisma, Drona, Karna, Duryodhana, etc... However one blemish on his personality was that on day 17 of the Kurukshetra war, he attacked and killed a chariotless and weaponless Karna (upon being urged by Krishna), who was trying to lift up the wheel of his chariot that had sunk into the ground - as many people claim...

However, the truth is much different. This post will debunk the claim that Arjuna had killed a weaponless, chariotless Karna!

What actually happened was that before this last karna-arjuna fight, karna sees arjuna approaching him. Karna wants to tire arjuna out before arjuna manages to reach him so that it would make it easier to kill arjuna. So, he asks duryodhana to place as many kuru army warriors as possible between him and arjuna. Due to this, arjuna was a bit tired when he reached karna, causing karna to have an upper hand initially. However, as the fight progressed, karna realized he could not overpower arjuna, and hence decided to use his naagastra against arjuna. He did not know, that aswasena (who was an enemy of arjuna as arjuna had killed his mother, takshaka when burning down the khandava forest) had entered his naagastra weapon. Due to the presence of aswasena, arjuna could not recognize the naagastra, and therefore, delayed in making a counter attack. So, krishna presses down the chariot, causing arjuna’s diadem on his crown to be damaged. However, this wise move by krishna saved the head and the rest of his body of arjuna. Then krishna explains arjuna that the naagastra was powered with aswasena, so arjuna then quickly kills aswasena. The battle then resumes. Karna pierces krishna with many arrows. Arjuna, seeing his best friend and charioteer pierced, gets very angry, and wounds karna badly to the point that karna can barely stand. He then decides to give a few moments to karna to put himself together. But krishna objects to that decision, and urges arjuna to continue the fight. So the fight resumes, and karna’s chariot wheel soon sinks. Despite this, karna still continues to fight. He manages to counter arjuna’s arrows and breaks his bowstring multiple times. Then, urged by krishna, arjuna invokes the raudrastra. Seeing the raudrastra, karna asks arjuna to stop the fight for a moment as he wishes to lift the chariot wheel up. When it seems like Arjuna might give Karna the opportunity, Krishna, realizing Karna’s plan to buy some time, provokes arjuna by listing all the adharmas committed by Karna in his life. Arjuna gets angry at karna and the fight resumes. Karna is still on his chariot, but the wheels has sunk. Karna realizes that arjuna is not going to spare him, so he lands the first attack on Arjuna (from his chariot). The fight continues between arjuna and karna, and arjuna soon invokes his anjalika astra, and cuts down the standard of karna’s chariot and then slays karna. The anjalika astra throws karna down from his chariot onto the the ground. Then shalya steers the chariot away (without having to go and lift the wheel first).
So, karna did continue the fight even when his chariot wheel sank into the ground. Now I have said a lot in the previous paragraph, and most people won’t believe what I said without evidence. So, I am providing evidence from mahabharatha translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguly.
Read these sections before proceeding further:
Now that you have read those sections, continue reading below. Below is a detailed analysis of the text from those sections.
Approaching then thy son, that foremost one among the Kurus, and saluted respectfully by him, Karna said unto that prince as also unto those two mighty-armed warriors, Kripa and the Bhoja chief Kritavarma, and the ruler of the Gandharvas with his son, and the preceptors and his own younger brothers, and all the foot-soldiers and horsemen and elephant-riders, these words, "Rush towards Acyuta and Arjuna and close up their path all around, and cause them to be tired with exertion, so that, ye lords of the earth, I may easily slay those two after ye all will have mangled them deeply." Saying, "So be it!" those foremost of heroes, desirous of slaying Arjuna, speedily proceeded against him. Those mighty car-warriors then, obeying the behest of Karna, began to strike Dhananjaya with innumerable arrows in that battle. Like the great ocean containing a vast quantity of water receiving all rivers with their tributaries Arjuna received all those warriors in battle.
[So, here karna asks duryodhana to send warriors to attack arjuna and krishna so that arjuna gets excessively tired and mangled by arrows before he reaches karna. This would make it easier for karna to kill arjuna]
Then Karna first pierced Partha in that encounter, with ten mighty shafts. Arjuna pierced him in return with ten keen-pointed shafts, shot with great vigour, in the centre of the chest. Indeed, the suta's son and Arjuna then mangled each other with many shafts equipped with goodly wings. Desirous of obtaining advantage of each other's lapses in that dreadful encounter, with cheerful hearts they rushed against each other fiercely.
[Here, arjuna and karna rush towards one another, and the fight between them begins]
Rubbing his two arms and the string also of gandiva, that fierce bowman, Arjuna, then sped showers of cloth-yard shafts, and nalikas and arrows equipped with heads like boar's ears and razors, and anjalikas, and crescent-shaped arrows. Those arrows of Partha, O king, spread over the welkin, penetrated into Karna's car like flights of birds, with heads bent down, penetrating in the evening into a tree for roosting there in the night. All those arrows, however, O king, that Arjuna, that victor over all foes, with furrowed brow and angry glances, sped at Karna, all those successive showers of shafts shot by the son of Pandu, were cut off by the suta's son with his own arrows.
The son of Indra then sped at Karna a fiery weapon capable of slaying all foes. Covering the earth and the welkin and the ten points of the compass and the very course of the sun with its effulgence, it caused his own body also to blaze up with light. The robes of all the warriors took fire, at which they fled away. Loud sounds also arose there, like what is heard when a forest of bamboos in a wilderness is on fire. Beholding that fiery weapon acting on all sides, the suta's son Karna of great valour shot in that encounter the varunastra for quenching it. That conflagration then, in consequence of Karna's weapon, became quenched.
A large mass of clouds quickly caused all the points of the compass to be enveloped with darkness. Those clouds whose extremities presented the aspect of mountains, surrounding every side, flooded the earth with water. That fierce conflagration, though it was such, was still quenched by those clouds in a trice. The entire welkin and all the directions, cardinal and subsidiary, were shrouded by clouds. Thus shrouded by clouds, all the points of the compass became dark and nothing could be seen.
Then Arjuna dispelled those clouds caused by Karna, by means of the vayavyastra.After this, Dhananjaya, incapable of being over-mastered by foes inspired gandiva, its string, and his shafts, with mantras, and invoked into existence another weapon that was the favourite of the chief of the celestials and that resembled the thunder in energy and prowess. Then razor-headed arrows, and anjalikas, and crescent-shaped shafts, and nalikas, and cloth-yard shafts and those equipped with heads like the boar's ear, all keen and sharp, issued from gandiva in thousands, endued with the force and impetuosity of the thunder. Possessed of great might and great energy, those impetuous and keen shafts equipped with vulturine feathers piercing all the limbs, the steeds, the bow, the yoke, the wheels, and the standard of Karna, quickly penetrated into them like snakes frightened by Garuda penetrating into the earth. Pierced all over with arrows and bathed in blood, (the high-souled) Karna then, with eyes rolling in wrath, bending his bow of enduring string and producing a twang as loud as the roar of the sea, invoked into existence the Bhargava weapon. Cutting off Partha's showers of shafts proceeding from the mouth of that weapon of Indra (which Arjuna had shot), Karna, having thus baffled his antagonist's weapon with his own, destroyed cars and elephants and foot-soldiers (of the Pandava army). Unable to endure the feats of Arjuna in that fierce battle, the mighty car-warrior Karna did this, through the energy of the Bhargava weapon. Filled with wrath and possessed of great activity, the Suta's son, that foremost of men, laughing at the two Krishnas, pierced the foremost of Pancala warriors with well shot arrows in that battle. Then the Pancalas and the Somakas, O king, thus afflicted by Karna with showers of shafts in that encounter, became filled with wrath and uniting together pierced the Suta's son with keen arrows from every side. Quickly cutting off those arrows with his own, the Suta's son, vigorously agitating them in that battle, afflicted with many shafts the cars, the elephants, and the steeds of the Pancalas. Their bodies pierced with those shafts of Karna, they fell down, deprived of life, on the earth, making loud sounds, like mighty elephants slain by an angry lion of terrible strength. Having slain those foremost of warriors, those heroes endued with great strength, those leaders of the Pancala forces who had always challenged him (to battle), Karna, O king, as he shot his arrows, looked beautiful, like a mass of clouds pouring torrents of rain. Then thy warriors, thinking that Karna had won the victory, clapped loudly and uttered leonine roars. O chief of the Kurus, all of them then regarded the two Krishnas as brought by Karna under his power, seeing that valour, incapable of being borne by foes, of the mighty car-warrior Karna.
[At this point, karna is having an advantage over arjuna. This could possibly be due to that fact that arjuna was tired by the time he reached karna (as he had to fight all those warriors stationed by karna and duryodhana, prior to reaching karna)]
Beholding that weapon of Dhananjaya frustrated by Karna in the midst of battle, the angry son of the Wind-god, with eyes blazing with wrath, began to squeeze his hands. Indeed, the wrathful Bhima, his anger being provoked, drew deep breaths and addressing Arjuna of true aim, said, "How, O Jishnu, could this wretch fallen off from virtue, this Suta's son, putting forth his might in battle, slay so many foremost of Pancala warriors, in thy sight? Before now thou couldst not be conquered by the very gods or the Kalakeyas. Thou receivedst the touch of the arms of Sthanu himself. How, then, O diadem-decked Arjuna, could the Suta's son pierce thee first with ten long shafts such as are used by car-warriors? That the Suta's son should today have succeeded in baffling the arrows shot by thee seems to me to be very amazing. Recollect the woes of Krishna, and those disagreeable, keen, and cutting words that this wicked-souled and fearless son of a Suta used towards us, viz., 'Sesame seeds without kernel!' Recollecting all this, O Savyasaci, quickly slay the wretched Karna in battle today. Why, O diadem-decked Arjuna, dost thou show such indifference (towards this act)? This is not the time for showing thy indifference to Karna's slaughter. That patience with which thou didst vanquish all creatures and feed Agni at Khandava, with that patience, slay thou the Suta's son. I also will crush him with my mace." Then Vasudeva, beholding Partha's shafts baffled by Karna, said unto the former, "What is this, O diadem-decked Arjuna, that Karna should succeed in crushing thy weapons today with this? Why dost, thou, O hero, lose thy wits? Markest thou not that the Kauravas, (standing behind Karna), are even now shouting in joy? Indeed, all of them know that thy weapons are being baffled by Karna with his. That patience with which, Yuga after Yuga, thou hadst slain persons having the quality of darkness for their weapons, as also terrible Kshatriyas, and Asuras born of pride, in many a battle--with that patience do thou slay Karna today. Putting forth thy might, strike off the head of that foe of thine with this Sudarsana, of edge keen as a razor, that I give unto thee, like Sakra striking off the head of his foe Namuci, with the thunderbolt. That patience with which thou didst gratified the illustrious deity Mahadeva in the guise of a hunter, summoning that patience once again, O hero, slay the Suta's son with all his followers. After that, bestow upon king Yudhishthira the earth with her belt of seas, her towns and villages, and wealth, and from off whose surface all foes will have been removed. By that act, O Partha, do thou also win unrivalled fame." Thus addressed (by Krishna), the high-souled Partha of exceeding might set his heart upon the slaughter of the Suta's son. Indeed, urged by Bhima and Janardana, and recollecting (his woes), and taking an internal survey of himself, and calling to mind the object for which he had come to this world, he addressed Keshava, saying, "I will now invoke into existence a mighty and fierce weapon for the good of the world and the destruction of the Suta's son. Let me have thy permission, as also Brahman's and Bhava's, and of all those that are conversant with Brahma." Having said these words unto the holy Keshava, Savyasaci of immeasurable soul bowed unto Brahman and invoked into existence that excellent irresistible weapon called brahmastra which could be applied by the mind alone. Baffling that weapon, however, Karna looked beautiful as he continued, like a cloud pouring torrents of rain, to shoot his shafts.
[Seeing arjuna being initially overpowered, bhima and krishna attempt to provoke him to exert all his prowess. This works to some extent, and arjuna invokes the brahmastra. However, this brahmastra is quickly countered by karna]
Beholding that weapon of the diadem-decked Arjuna baffled in the midst of battle by Karna, the wrathful and mighty Bhima, blazing up with rage, addressed Arjuna of sure aim and said, "People say that thou art a master of the high brahmastra, that mighty means (for achieving the destruction of foes). Do thou then, O Savyasaci, use another weapon of the same kind." Thus addressed by his brother, Savyasaci used a second weapon of the kind. With that, Partha of abundant energy shrouded all the points of the compass, cardinal and subsidiary, with arrows sped from gandiva that resembled fierce snakes and were like the blazing rays of the sun. Created by that bull of Bharata's race, those arrows of golden wings, in hundreds upon hundreds, endued with the effulgence of the yuga fire or the sun, in a moment shrouded the car of Karna. Thence also issued long darts and battle-axes and discs and cloth-yard shafts in hundreds, all of awful forms, at which hostile warriors all around began to be deprived of life. The head of some hostile warrior, severed from his trunk, fell down on the field of battle. Another, beholding his fallen comrade, fell down dead on the earth, through fear. The (right) arm of a third, large and massive as the trunk of an elephant, cut off (by Partha), fell down with the sword in grasp. The left arm of a fourth, cut off with a razor-headed arrow, fell down with the shield in it. Even thus, Partha, decked with diadem and garlands, wounded and slew all the foremost warriors of Duryodhana's army with his terrible and death-dealing shafts. Vaikartana also, in the midst of that battle, shot thousands of arrows. These, with a loud whizz, fell upon the son of Pandu like torrents of rain poured from the clouds. Then piercing Bhimasena and Janardana and the diadem-decked Arjuna of superhuman feats, each with three arrows Karna of terrible might uttered a loud awful roar. Struck with Karna's shafts, the diadem-decked Arjuna, beholding Bhima and Janardana, became unable to endure (the feats of his antagonist).
[Bhima urges arjuna to use the brahmastra again. He does so, and it causes much damage to many kuru warriors. However, it does not have a major effect on karna. Karna then pierces krishna and bhima.]
Once more, therefore, Partha shot eight and ten arrows. Piercing the beautiful standard of Karna with one of those arrows, he pierced Shalya with four and Karna himself with three. With ten other well-shot shafts he then struck the Kaurava warrior Sabhapati, clad in golden mail. Thereupon that prince, deprived of head and arms and steeds and driver and bow and standard, fell down, wounded and dead, from his foremost of cars, like a Sala tree cut down with an axe. Once more piercing Karna with three, eight, twelve, four, and ten arrows, Partha slew 400 elephants equipped with many weapons, and 8000 car-warriors, and 1,000 steeds with riders, and 8,000 brave foot-soldiers. And soon Partha made Karna with his driver and car and steeds and standard invisible with straightly coursing shafts. Then the Kauravas, thus slaughtered by Dhananjaya, loudly addressed Adhitratha's son, saying, "Shoot thy arrows and slay the son of Pandu. Already, he has begun to exterminate the Kurus with his shafts!" Thus urged, Karna, with his best endeavours, incessantly shot many arrows. Capable of cutting the very vitals, those blood-drinking shafts, well sped by Karna, slew large numbers of the Pandavas and the Pancalas.
[Seeing his brother and best friend in pain, arjuna exerted more prowess and caused some serious damage to the kaurava army. Then, seeing this damage, the kurus asked karna to put some more effort. Karna does so and slays a large number of the pandava and panchala armies.]
Thus those two foremost of all bowmen, those two warriors of great strength that were capable of bearing all foes, those two heroes acquainted with weapons, struck the warriors opposed to them, as also each other, with mighty weapons. Then Yudhishthira, clad in golden mail, his arrows having been extracted and himself made sound with mantras and drugs by foremost of surgeons well-disposed towards him, quickly came to that spot for witnessing (the encounter between Arjuna and Karna). Beholding king Yudhishthira the just arrived there like the resplendent full Moon freed from the jaws of Rahu and risen in the firmament, all creatures became filled with delight. Beholding those two foremost of warriors, those two first of heroes and slayers of foes, viz., Karna and Partha, engaged in fight, the spectators, both celestial and terrestrial, restraining the animals they rode or that were yoked unto their vehicles, stood motionless. As the two heroes, O king, struck each other with many foremost of arrows, O king, the sounds caused by the bows, bow-strings, and palms, of both Dhananjaya and Adhiratha's son, became tremendous and their well-sped arrows also caused a deafening whizz. Then the bow-string of the son of Pandu, stretched with force, broke with a loud noise. During the interval thus offered, the Suta's son pierced Partha with a hundred small arrows, keen and steeped in oil, winged with the feathers of birds, and resembling snakes freed from their sloughs. He then quickly pierced Vasudeva with sixty shafts, and then Phalguna again with eight. Surya's son then pierced Bhima with thousands upon thousands of mighty arrows.
[Yuddhistira soon comes to observe the fight between arjuna and karna. The string of the gandiva bow, unable to bear arjuna’s strength, breaks. So arjuna has to use another string. In the meanwhile, karna pierces him and krishna and bhima with many arrows]
Having pierced Krishna and Partha's standard, Karna felled many amongst the Somakas that followed Partha. These, however, in return shrouded Karna with showers of straight shafts like masses of clouds shrouding the sun in the welkin. Accomplished in the use of weapons, the Suta's son, stupefying those advancing warriors with his shafts and baffling all the weapons shot by them, destroyed their cars and steeds and elephants. And the Suta's son, O king, also afflicted with his arrows many foremost of warriors among them. Their bodies pierced with Karna's shafts, they fell down on the ground, deprived of life and making a loud noise as they fell. Indeed, those mighty combatants, afflicted by Karna of terrible strength, perished like a pack of dogs afflicted by an angry lion. And once more many foremost of combatants among the Pancalas and many such (among the Kauravas) fell down after this, slain by Karna and Dhananjaya. Deprived of life by the mighty Karna with well-aimed arrows shot with great force, many fell down, purging the contents of their stomachs. Then thy troops, regarding the victory to be already theirs, clapped furiously and uttered loud leonine roars. Indeed, in that dreadful encounter, all of them regarded the two Krishnas to have been brought by Karna under his power.
[Karna manages to then kill lots of panchala and somaka warriors, and it seems like he has completely overpowered krishna and arjuna at the moment]
Then quickly bending his bow-string and baffling all those shafts of Adhiratha's son, Partha, filled with rage in consequence of his limbs having been mangled with Karna's arrows, assailed the Kauravas. Rubbing his bow-string, he clapped his palms and suddenly caused a darkness there with the showers of shafts he shot. The diadem-decked Arjuna pierced Karna and Shalya and all the Kurus with those arrows. The welkin having been darkened by means of that mighty weapon, the very birds were unable to range in their element, a delicious wind then blew, bearing fragrant odours. Laughing the while, Partha forcibly struck Shalya's armour with ten arrows. Piercing Karna next with a dozen shafts, he struck him once more with seven. Deeply struck with those winged arrows of fierce energy shot with great force from Partha's bow, Karna, with mangled limbs and body bathed in blood, looked resplendent like Rudra at the universal destruction, sporting in the midst of crematorium at noon or eve, his body dyed with blood.
[Then, arjuna gets angry at seeing the destruction caused by karna and exerting more and more prowess, he pierced karna and shalya]
The son of Adhiratha then pierced Dhananjaya who resembled the chief of the celestials himself (in energy and might) with three arrows, and he caused five other blazing arrows resembling five snakes to penetrate the body of Krishna. Shot with great force, those arrows, decked with gold, pierced through the armour of that foremost of beings and passing out of his body fell upon the earth. Endued with great energy, they entered the earth with great force and having bathed (in the waters of the Bhogavati in the nether region) coursed back towards Karna. Those shafts were five mighty snakes that had adopted the side of Takshaka's son (Aswasena whose mother Partha had slain at Khandava). With ten broad-headed arrows shot with great force, Arjuna cut off each of those five snakes into three fragments whereupon they fell down on the earth. Beholding Krishna's limbs thus mangled with those snakes transformed into arrows sped from Karna's arms, Arjuna, decked with diadem and garlands, blazed up with wrath like a fire engaged in burning a heap of dry grass. He then pierced Karna in all his vital limbs with many blazing and fatal shafts shot from the bow-string stretched to the very ear. (Deeply pierced), Karna trembled in pain. With the greatest difficulty he stood, summoning all his patience. Dhananjaya having been filled with wrath, all the points of the compass, cardinal and subsidiary, the very splendour of the Sun, and Karna's car, O king, all became invisible with the showers shot by him. The welkin seemed as if it were shrouded by a thick forest. Then that slayer of foes, that bull of Kuru's race, that foremost of heroes, viz., Savyasaci, O king, soon slew in that battle 2,000 foremost of Kuru warriors, with their cars and steeds and drivers, forming the protectors of Karna's car-wheels and wings and his van-guard and rear-guard and who constituted the very pick of Duryodhana's car-force, and who, urged by Duryodhana, had been fighting with great energy. Then thy sons and the Kauravas that were still alive fled away, deserting Karna, and abandoning their dying and wounded, and their wailing sons and sires. Beholding himself abandoned by the terrified Kurus and seeing the space around him empty, Karna felt no agitation, O Bharata, but, on the other hand, rushed at Arjuna, with a cheerful heart.'"
[Then, karna pierces arjuna with a few arrows. After that, he pierces krishna with 5 shafts, which were actually 5 snakes that supported awasena (who was looking for revenge from krishna and arjuna as his mother was slain by arjuna when burning down the khandava forest). Seeing krishna pierced, arjuna quickly kills those 5 snakes, and then pierces karna very badly. He goes on and kills some of the best kuru warriors that were reserved by duryodhana. At this point, after seeing his best friend injured and in pain, he takes control of the fight and begins to overpower karna]
"Sanjaya said, 'Flying away in consequence of the falling of Arjuna's arrows, the broken divisions of the Kauravas, staying at a distance, continued to gaze at Arjuna's weapon swelling with energy and careering around with the effulgence of lightning. Then Karna, with showers of terrible shafts, baffled that weapon of Arjuna while it was still careering in the welkin and which Arjuna had shot with great vigour in that fierce encounter for the destruction of his foe. Indeed, that weapon (of Partha) which, swelling with energy, had been consuming the Kurus, the Suta's son now crushed with his shafts winged with gold. Bending then his own loud-sounding bow of irrefragable string, Karna shot showers of shafts. The Suta's son destroyed that burning weapon of Arjuna with his own foe-killing weapon of great power which he had obtained from Rama, and which resembled (in efficacy) an Atharvan rite. And he pierced Partha also with numerous keen shafts. The encounter then, O king, that took place between Arjuna and the son of Adhiratha, became a very dreadful one. They continued to strike each other with arrows like two fierce elephants striking each other with their tusks. All the points of the compass then became shrouded with weapons and the very sun became invisible. Indeed, Karna and Partha, with their arrowy downpours, made the welkin one vast expanse of arrows without any space between. All the Kauravas and the Somakas then beheld a wide-spread arrowy net. In that dense darkness caused by arrows, they were unable to see anything else. Those two foremost of men, both accomplished in weapons, as they incessantly aimed and shot innumerable arrows, O king, displayed diverse kinds of beautiful manoeuvres. While they were thus contending with each other in battle, sometimes the Suta's son prevailed over his rival and sometimes the diadem-decked Partha prevailed over his, in prowess and weapons and lightness of hands.
[Karna quickly counters arjuna’s weapon and then pierces arjuna. The battle continues and becomes so fierce that the kauravas and somakas could not see what was going on (due to the dense darkness caused by the arrows of karna and arjuna). Sometimes karna prevails, and sometimes arjuna does]
Beholding that terrible and awful passage-at-arms between those two heroes each of whom was desirous of availing himself of the other's lapses, all the other warriors on the field of battle became filled with wonder. The beings in the welkin, O king, applauded Karna and Arjuna. Indeed, many of them at a time, filled with joy, cheerfully shouted, sometimes saying, "Excellent, O Karna!" and sometimes saying, "Excellent, O Arjuna!" During the progress of that fierce encounter, while the earth was being pressed deep with the weight of cars and the tread of steeds and elephants, the snake Aswasena, who was hostile to Arjuna, was passing his time in the nether region. Freed from the conflagration at Khandava, O king, he had, from anger, penetrated through the earth (for going to the subterranean region). That brave snake, recollecting the death of his mother and the enmity he on that account harboured against Arjuna, now rose from the lower region. Endued with the power of ascending the skies, he soared up with great speed upon beholding that fight between Karna and Arjuna. Thinking that that was the time for gratifying his animosity towards, as he thought, the wicked-souled Partha, he quickly entered into Karna's quiver, O king, in the form of an arrow.
[The battle became so fierce that nothing could be seen. In the meanwhile, aswasena (whose mother takshaka was killed by arjuna when burning down the khandava forest) enters the naagastra in karna’s quiver. That greatly increased the strength of the naagastra]
At that time a net of arrows was seen, shedding its bright arrows around. Karna and Partha made the welkin one dense mass of arrows by means of their arrowy downpours. Beholding that wide-spread expanse of arrows, all the Kauravas and the Somakas became filled with fear. In that thick and awful darkness caused by arrows they were unable to see anything else. Then those two tigers among men, those two foremost of all bowmen in the world, those two heroes, fatigued with their exertions in battle, looked at each other. Both of them were then fanned with excellent and waving fans made of young (palm) leaves and sprinkled with fragrant sandal-water by many Apsaras staying in the welkin. And Sakra and Surya, using their hands, gently brushed the faces of those two heroes. When at last Karna found that he could not prevail over Partha and was exceedingly scorched with the shafts of the former, that hero, his limbs very much mangled, set his heart upon that shaft of his which lay singly within a quiver. The Suta's son then fixed on his bow-string that foe-killing, exceedingly keen, snake-mouthed, blazing, and fierce shaft, which had been polished according to rule, and which he had long kept for the sake of Partha's destruction. Stretching his bow-string to his ear, Karna fixed that shaft of fierce energy and blazing splendour, that ever-worshipped weapon which lay within a golden quiver amid sandal dust, and aimed it at Partha. Indeed, he aimed that blazing arrow, born in Airavata's race, for cutting off Phalguna's head in battle. All the points of the compass and the welkin became ablaze and terrible meteors, and thunderbolts fell. When that snake of the form of an arrow was fixed on the bow-string, the Regents of the world, including Sakra, set up loud wails. The Suta's son did not know that the snake Aswasena had entered his arrow by the aid of his Yoga powers.
[Soon, karna realizes he cannot overpower arjuna. So, as a last resort, he decides to use his naagastra, which he had preserved for a very long time. But what he did not know was that the snake aswasena had entered it, through his yoga powers, making the naagastra extremely powerful]
Beholding Vaikartana aim that arrow, the high-souled ruler of the Madras, addressing Karna, said, "This arrow, O Karna, will not succeed in striking off Arjuna's head. Searching carefully, fix another arrow that may succeed in striking off thy enemy's head." Endued with great activity, the Suta's son, with eyes burning in wrath, then said unto the ruler of the Madras, "O Shalya, Karna never aimeth an arrow twice. Persons like us never become crooked warriors." Having said these words, Karna, with great care, let off that shaft which he had worshipped for many long years. Bent upon winning the victory, O king, he quickly said unto his rival, "Thou art slain, O Phalguna!" Sped from Karna's arms, that shaft of awful whizz, resembling fire or the sun in splendour, as it left the bow-string, blazed up in the welkin and seemed to divide it by a line such as is visible on the crown of a woman dividing her tresses. Beholding that shaft blazing in the welkin, the slayer of Kamsa, Madhava, with great speed and the greatest ease, pressed down with his feet that excellent car, causing it to sink about a cubit deep. At this, the steeds, white as the rays of the moon and decked in trappings of gold, bending their knees, laid themselves down on the ground. Indeed, seeing that snake (in the form of an arrow) aimed by Karna, Madhava, that foremost of all persons endued with might, put forth his strength and thus pressed down with his feet that car into the earth, whereat the steeds, (as already said) bending down their knees, laid themselves down upon the earth when the car itself had sank into it. Then loud sounds arose in the welkin in applause of Vasudeva. Many celestial voices were heard, and celestial flowers were showered upon Krishna, and leonine shouts also were uttered. When the car had thus been pressed down into the earth through the exertions of the slayer of Madhu, the excellent ornament of Arjuna's head, celebrated throughout the earth, the welkin, heaven, and the waters, the Suta's son swept off from the crown of his rival, with that arrow, in consequence of the very nature of that snaky weapon and the great care and wrath with which it had been shot. That diadem, endued with the splendour of the sun or the moon or fire or a planet, and adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, had with great care been made by the puissant Self-born himself for Purandara. Costly as its appearance indicated, it was inspiring terror in the hearts of foes, contributing to the happiness of him that wore it, and shedding a fragrance, that ornament had been given by the chief of the celestials himself with a cheerful heart unto Partha while the latter had proceeded to slaughter the foes of the gods. That diadem was incapable of being crushed by Rudra and the Lord of waters and Kuvera with Pinaka and noose and thunderbolt and the very foremost of shafts. It could not be endured by even the foremost ones among the gods. Vrisha, however, now broke it forcibly with his snake-inspired shaft. Endued with great activity, that wicked-natured snake of fierce form and false vows, falling upon that diadem-decked with gold and gems, swept it away from Arjuna's head. That snake, O king, forcibly tore it away from Partha's head, quickly reducing into fragments that well-made ornament set over with many a gem and blazing with beauty, like the thunderbolt riving a mountain summit decked with lofty and beautiful trees graced with flowers. Crushed by that excellent weapon, possessed of splendour, and blazing with the fire of (the snake's) poison, that beautiful and much-liked diadem of Partha fell down on the earth like the blazing disc of the Sun from the Asta hills. Indeed, that snake forcibly swept away from Arjuna's head that diadem adorned with many gems, like the thunder of Indra felling a beautiful mountain summit adorned with lofty trees bearing budding leaves and flowers. And the earth, welkin, heaven, and the waters, when agitated by a tempest, roar aloud, O Bharata, even such was the roar that arose in all the worlds at that time. Hearing that tremendous noise, people, notwithstanding their efforts to be calm, became extremely agitated and reeled as they stood. Reft of diadem, the dark complexioned and youthful Partha looked beautiful like a blue mountain of lofty summit. Binding then his locks with a white cloth, Arjuna stood perfectly unmoved. With that white gear on his head, he looked like the Udaya hill illumined with the rays of the sun.
[So, seeing Karna about to use the naagastra, shalya tells him not to use it as it is not powerful enough to kill arjuna. Shalya too did not know that the naagastra had aswasena’s strength. Karna, then releases the naagastra at arjuna. The naagastra alone is not a really powerful weapon, and can be easily countered by the garudastra and pashupatastra (both of which arjuna had). But since the naagastra was endued with aswasena’s strength, it could not be recognized by arjuna, and hence, arjuna could not think of a counter astra in time. So, krishna was forced to push the chariot down a bit, to save arjuna’s head from being struck down by the naagastra. Instead of arjuna’s head, the naagastra swept away the diadem that adorned arjuna’s crown]
Thus that she-snake (whom Arjuna had killed at Khandava) of excellent mouth, through her son in the form of an arrow, sped by Surya's son, beholding Arjuna of exceeding energy and might standing with his head at a level with the reins of the steeds, took away his diadem only, that well-made ornament (formerly) owned by Aditi's son and endued with the effulgence of Surya himself. But Arjuna also (as will appear in the sequel) did not return from that battle without causing the snake to succumb to the power of Yama. Sped from Karna's arms, that costly shaft resembling fire or the sun in effulgence, viz., that mighty snake who from before had become the deadly foe of Arjuna, thus crushing the latter's diadem, went away. Having burnt the gold-decked diadem of Arjuna displayed on his head, he desired to come to Arjuna once more with great speed. Asked, however, by Karna (who saw him but knew him not), he said these words, "Thou hadst sped me, O Karna, without having seen me. It was for this that I could not strike off Arjuna's head. Do thou quickly shoot me once again, after seeing me well. I shall then slay thy foe and mine too." Thus addressed in that battle by him, the Suta's son said, "Who are you possessed of such fierce form?" The snake answered, saying, "Know me as one that has been wronged by Partha. My enmity towards him is due to his having slain my mother. If the wielder of the thunderbolt himself were to protect Partha, the latter would still have to go to the domains of the king of the pitris. Do not disregard me. Do my bidding. I will slay thy foe. Shoot me without delay." Hearing those words, Karna said, "Karna, O snake, never desires to have victory in battle today by relying on another's might. Even if I have to slay a hundred Arjunas, I will not, O snake, still shoot the same shaft twice." Once more addressing him in the midst of battle, that best of men, viz., Surya's son, Karna, said, "Aided by the nature of my other snaky weapons, and by resolute effort and wrath, I shall slay Partha. Be thou happy and go elsewhere." Thus addressed, in battle, by Karna, that prince of snakes, unable from rage to bear those words, himself proceeded, O king, for the slaughter of Partha, having assumed the form of an arrow. Of fierce form, the desire he ardently cherished was the destruction of his enemy. Then Krishna, addressing Partha in that encounter, said into him, "Slay that great snake inimical to thee." Thus addressed by the slayer of Madhu, the wielder of Gandiva, that bowman who was always fierce unto foes, enquired of him, saying, "Who is that snake that advanceth of his own accord against me, as if, indeed he advanceth right against the mouth of Garuda?" Krishna replied, "Whilst thou, armed with bow, wert engaged at Khandava in gratifying the god Agni, this snake was then in the sky, his body ensconced within his mother's. Thinking that it was only a single snake that was so staying in the sky, thou killedest the mother. Remembering that act of hostility done by thee, he cometh towards thee today for thy destruction. O resister of foes, behold him coming like a blazing meteor, falling from the firmament!'" "Sanjaya continued, 'Then Jishnu, turning his face in rage, cut off, with six keen shafts, that snake in the welkin as the latter was coursing in a slanting direction. His body thus cut off, he fell down on the earth. After that snake had been cut off by Arjuna, the lord Keshava himself, O king, of massive arms, that foremost of beings, raised up with his arms that car from the earth.
[Seeing that he (aswasena) failed to kill arjuna, he asked karna for another chance. He told karna to use the naagastra once more. But karna refused as he did not want to rely on another persons prowess to kill his enemy, arjuna. Then, aswasena got angry at karna and alone, in his true form decided to attack arjuna. Then, krishna tells arjuna that the snake approaching them is aswasena, the son of the snake takshaka who was killed by arjuna when burning down the khandava forest. Hearing this, arjuna quickly killed aswasena, and then krishna raised up the chariot to its original position
Upto this part, the text makes sense. It does not seem that there are interpolations in the text yet. However, there are interpolations in the text after the naagastra incident. These interpolations will be described below]
At that time, Karna, glancing obliquely at Dhananjaya, pierced that foremost of persons, viz., Krishna, with ten shafts whetted on stone and equipped with peacock feathers. Then Dhananjaya, piercing Karna with a dozen well-shot and keen arrows equipped with heads like the boar's ear, sped a cloth-yard shaft endued with the energy of a snake of virulent poison and shot from his bow-string stretched to his ear. That foremost of shafts, well shot by Arjuna, penetrated through Karna's armour, and as if suspending his life breaths, drank his blood and entered the earth, its wings also having been drenched with gore. Endued with great activity, Vrisha, enraged at the stroke of the shaft, like a snake beaten with stick, shot many mighty shafts, like snakes of virulent poison vomiting venom. And he pierced Janardana with a dozen shafts and Arjuna with nine and ninety. And once more piercing the son of Pandu with a terrible shaft, Karna laughed and uttered a loud roar.
[Karna pierces krishna and glances obliquely at arjuna while doing so. He was indirectly telling arjuna “I pierced your best friend and you could not do anything to save him from my arrows”. Arjuna got angry seeing krishna pierced and karna’s oblique glance, and then pierced karna badly. In reply, karna pierced arjuna and krishna with more arrows]
The son of Pandu, however, could not endure his enemy's joy. Acquainted with all the vital parts of the human body, Partha, possessed of prowess like that of Indra, pierced those vital limbs with hundreds of arrows even as Indra had struck Vala with great energy. Then Arjuna sped ninety arrows, each resembling the rod of Death at Karna. Deeply pierced with those shafts, Karna trembled like a mountain riven with thunder. The head-gear of Karna, adorned with costly gems and precious diamonds and pure gold, as also his earrings, cut off by Dhananjaya with his winged arrows, fell down on the earth. The costly and bright armour also of the Suta's son that had been forged with great care by many foremost of artists working for a long time, the son of Pandu cut off within a moment in many fragments. After thus divesting him of his armour, Partha then, in rage, pierced Karna with four whetted shafts of great energy. Struck forcibly by his foe, Karna suffered great pain like a diseased person afflicted by bile, phlegm, wind, and fever. Once more Arjuna, with great speed, mangled Karna, piercing his very vitals, with numerous excellent shafts, of great keenness, and sped from his circling bow with much force and speed and care. Deeply struck by Partha with those diverse arrows of keen points and fierce energy, Karna (covered with blood) looked resplendent like a mountain of red chalk with streams of red water running adown its breast. Once more Arjuna pierced Karna in the centre of the chest with many straight-coursing and strong shafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold and each resembling the fiery rod of the Destroyer, like the son of Agni piercing the Krauncha mountains. Then the Suta's son, casting aside his bow that resembled the very bow of Sakra, as also his quiver, felt great pain, and stood inactive, stupefied, and reeling, his grasp loosened and himself in great anguish. The virtuous Arjuna, observant of the duty of manliness, wished not to slay his enemy while fallen into such distress.
[Seeing karna happy and laughing, arjuna got very angry and pierced karna with many more arrows. This attack was very brutal, and karna could barely even stand up properly. Arjuna did not want to kill karna in this state, and therefore, decided to give karna time to put himself together]
The younger brother of Indra then, with great excitement, addressed him, saying, "Why, O son of Pandu, dost thou become so forgetful? They that are truly wise never spare their foes, however weak, even for a moment. He that is learned earneth both merit and fame by slaying foes fallen into distress. Lose no time in precipitately crushing Karna who is always inimical to thee and who is the first of heroes. The Suta's son, when able, will once more advance against thee as before. Slay him, therefore, like Indra slaying the Asura Namuci." Saying, "So be it, O Krishna!" and worshipping Janardana, Arjuna, that foremost of all persons in Kuru's race once more quickly pierced Karna with many excellent arrows like the ruler of heaven, piercing the Asura, Samvara. The diadem-decked Partha, O Bharata, covered Karna and his car and steeds with many calf-toothed arrows, and putting forth all his vigour he shrouded all the points of the compass with shafts equipped with wings of gold. Pierced with those arrows equipped with heads like the calf's tooth, Adhiratha's son of broad chest looked resplendent like an Asoka or Palasa or Salmali decked with its flowery load or a mountain overgrown with a forest of sandal trees. Indeed, with those numerous arrows sticking to his body, Karna, O monarch, in that battle, looked resplendent like the prince of mountains with its top and glens overgrown with trees or decked with flowering Karnikaras.
[So, then krishna urges arjuna to continue the fight and not stop attacking karna. Arjuna agrees with what krishna says and continues the attack. Karna gets pierced badly by karna.
One problem in this text is the sentence:
The diadem-decked Partha, O Bharata, covered Karna and his car and steeds with many calf-toothed arrows, and putting forth all his vigour he shrouded all the points of the compass with shafts equipped with wings of gold.
That sentence mentions arjuna as diadem-decked. But the diadem was ripped off by aswasena and had fell on the earth. Arjuna, at the moment, was not decked with the diadem. This sentence probably a later addition. Removing this sentence, still maintains the flow of the paragraph:
The younger brother of Indra then, with great excitement, addressed him, saying, "Why, O son of Pandu, dost thou become so forgetful? They that are truly wise never spare their foes, however weak, even for a moment. He that is learned earneth both merit and fame by slaying foes fallen into distress. Lose no time in precipitately crushing Karna who is always inimical to thee and who is the first of heroes. The Suta's son, when able, will once more advance against thee as before. Slay him, therefore, like Indra slaying the Asura Namuci." Saying, "So be it, O Krishna!" and worshipping Janardana, Arjuna, that foremost of all persons in Kuru's race once more quickly pierced Karna with many excellent arrows like the ruler of heaven, piercing the Asura, Samvara. Pierced with those arrows equipped with heads like the calf's tooth, Adhiratha's son of broad chest looked resplendent like an Asoka or Palasa or Salmali decked with its flowery load or a mountain overgrown with a forest of sandal trees. Indeed, with those numerous arrows sticking to his body, Karna, O monarch, in that battle, looked resplendent like the prince of mountains with its top and glens overgrown with trees or decked with flowering Karnikaras.]
Karna also shooting repeated showers of arrows, looked, with those arrows constituting his rays, like the sun coursing towards the Asta hills, with disc bright with crimson rays. Shafts, however, of keen points, sped from Arjuna's arms, encountering in the welkin the blazing arrows, resembling mighty snakes, sped from the arms of Adhiratha's son, destroyed them all. Recovering his coolness, and shooting many shafts that resembled angry snakes, Karna then pierced Partha with ten shafts and Krishna with half a dozen, each of which looked like an angry snake. Then Dhananjaya desired to shoot a mighty and terrible arrow, made wholly of iron, resembling the poison of snake or fire in energy, and whose whizz resembling the peal of Indra's thunder, and which was inspired with the force of a high (celestial) weapon. At that time, when the hour of Karna's death had come, Kala, approaching invisibly, and alluding to the Brahmana's curse, and desirous of informing Karna that his death was near, told him, "The Earth is devouring thy wheel!" Indeed, O foremost of men, when the hour of Karna's death came, the highbrahmastra that the illustrious Bhargava had imparted unto him, escaped from his memory. And the earth also began to devour the left wheel of his car. Then in consequence of the curse of that foremost of Brahmanas, Karna's car began to reel, having sunk deep into the earth and having been transfixed at that spot like a sacred tree with its load of flowers standing upon an elevated platform. When his car began to reel from the curse of the Brahmana, and when the high weapon he had obtained from Rama no longer shone in him through inward light, and when his terrible snake-mouthed shaft also had been cut off by Partha, Karna became filled with melancholy. Unable to endure all those calamities, he waved his arms and began to rail at righteousness saying, "They that are conversant with righteousness always say that righteousness protects those that are righteous. As regards ourselves, we always endeavour, to the best of our ability and knowledge to practise righteousness. That righteousness, however, is destroying us now instead of protecting us that are devoted to it. I, therefore, think that righteousness does not always protect its worshippers." While saying these words, he became exceedingly agitated by the strokes of Arjuna's arrows. His steeds and his driver also were displaced from their usual position. His very vitals having been struck, he became indifferent as to what he did, and repeatedly railed at righteousness in that battle. He then pierced Krishna in the arm with three terrible arrows, and Partha, too, with seven.
[Karna then shoots many arrows at arjuna, but arjuna quickly counters them all with his own arrows. Then karna pierces arjuna and krishna with a few of his arrows. Upon being pierced, arjuna invokes a powerful, celestial weapon. But at that moment, karna’s chariot wheel sinks in the ground, and he becomes distressed. Due to this distress he momentarily forgets how to invoke the brahmastra (but as you will see later on, upon putting more effort and concentration in, he manages to invoke the brahmastra). His steeds and driver are also displaced from their usual position, but he continues the fight with arjuna]
Then Arjuna sped seven and ten terrible arrows, perfectly straight and of fierce impetuosity, resembling fire in splendour and like unto Indra's thunder in force. Endued with awful impetuosity, those arrows pierced Karna and passing out of his body fell upon the surface of the earth. Trembling at the shock, Karna then displayed his activity to the utmost of his power. Steadying himself by a powerful effort he invoked the brahmastra. Beholding the brahmastra, Arjuna invoked the Aindra weapon with proper mantras. Inspiring gandiva, its string, and his shafts also, with mantras, that scorcher of foes poured showers like Purandara pouring rain in torrents. Those arrows endued with great energy and power, issuing out of Partha's car, were seen to be displayed in the vicinity of Karna's vehicle. The mighty car-warrior Karna baffled all those shafts displayed in his front. Seeing that weapon thus destroyed, the Vrishni hero, addressing Arjuna, said, "Shoot high weapons, O Partha! The son of Radha baffles thy shafts." With proper mantras, Arjuna then fixed the brahmastra on his string, and shrouding all the points of the compass with arrows, Partha struck Karna (with many) arrows.
[Then, arjuna pierces karna with 17 arrows, causing karna to tremble. Quickly putting himself together, karna then invoked the brahmastra. Karna he did not forget how to invoke the brahmastra. But earlier, he was under much distress and could not put in the concentration required to invoke the brahmastra. Once he put more concentration and effort in, he managed to invoke the brahmasta. Seeing the brahmastra invoked, arjuna invoked the Aindra weapon (which countered karna’s brahmastra), and poured showers of arrows on karna. However, karna soon baffled this shower of arrows. So, then krishna urged arjuna to use more powerful weapons. Arjuna listens to krishna and invokes his own brahmastra, thus piercing karna with many arrows]
Then Karna, with a number of whetted shafts endued with great energy, cut off the string of Arjuna's bow. Similarly he cut off the second string, and then the third, and then the fourth, and then the fifth. The sixth also was cut off by Vrisha, and then the seventh, then the eighth, then the ninth, then the tenth, and then at last the eleventh. Capable of shooting hundreds upon hundreds of arrows, Karna knew not that Partha had a hundred strings to his bow. Tying another string to his bow and shooting many arrows, the son of Pandu covered Karna with shafts that resembled snakes of blazing mouths. So quickly did Arjuna replace each broken string that Karna could not mark when it was broken and when replaced. The feat seemed to him to be exceedingly wonderful. The son of Radha baffled with his own weapons those of Savyasaci. Displaying also his own prowess, he seemed to get the better of Dhananjaya at that time.
[This brahmastra was probably countered by karna (although vyasa does not explicity mention it), and then karna cuts off many the bowstrings on arjuna’s gandiva. For a moment, it seems like karna is beginning to overpower arjuna.]
Then Krishna, beholding Arjuna afflicted with the weapons of Karna, said these words unto Partha: "Approaching Karna, strike him with superior weapons." Then Dhananjaya, filled with rage, inspiring with mantras another celestial weapons that looked like fire and that resembled the poison of the snake and that was as hard as the essence of adamant, and uniting the Raudra weapon with it, became desirous of shooting it at his foe. At that time, O king, the earth swallowed up one of wheels of Karna's car. Quickly alighting then from his vehicle, he seized his sunken wheel with his two arms and endeavoured to lift it up with a great effort. Drawn up with force by Karna, the earth, which had swallowed up his wheel, rose up to a height of four fingers' breadth, with her seven islands and her hills and waters and forests.
[Seeing arjuna pierced by karna’s weapons, krishna urges arjuna to use even more powerful weapons. So arjuna invokes the raudra astra. The rest of the text in that paragraph is likely a later addition:
At that time, O king, the earth swallowed up one of wheels of Karna's car. Quickly alighting then from his vehicle, he seized his sunken wheel with his two arms and endeavoured to lift it up with a great effort. Drawn up with force by Karna, the earth, which had swallowed up his wheel, rose up to a height of four fingers' breadth, with her seven islands and her hills and waters and forests.
The first sentence of that text mentions that at the time arjuna invoked the raudra astra, one of the wheels of karna’s chariot sunk into the ground. However, as shown by the earlier text I presented, the left chariot wheel had sunk much earlier. After the chariot wheel sunk, karna continued to fight. Hence, it is incorrect that karna’s chariot wheel sunk right before he invoked the raudra astra. This text was added by interpolaters to show that karna jumped off his chariot to lift the wheel immediately after the wheels sank.
The second sentence says that karna got off the chariot and tried to lift the wheel up. This is also a later addition to the epic. Lets assume for a moment that karna actually got off from the chariot, and from that point onwards, fought from the ground… This is possible, but highly unlikely, considering krishna’s words in the next section of karna parva (Karna Parva: Section 91). So, if we go by our assumption we made, then karna jumps off the chariot to lift its wheel up. He asks arjuna to give him time to lift up his chariot wheel. Krishna thinks that arjuna might fulfill karna’s request, so he provokes arjuna by listing karna’s adharmic acts throughout his life. Then krishna tells arjuna:
Then Vasudeva, addressing Phalguna, that bull among men, said, "O thou of great might, piercing Karna with a celestial weapon, throw him down."
The fact that krishna tells arjuna to throw karna down with celestial weapons implies that karna was not on the ground, but on his chariot, when krishna said that. Also, take a look at the description of karna in that same section, after he is killed by arjuna:
Beholding the heroic Karna thrown down stretched on the earth, pierced with arrows and bathed in blood, the king of the Madras, went away on that car deprived of its standard.
The fact that vyasa mentions that Karna was thrown down onto the earth implies again that when karna was killed, he was not on the ground, but still on his chariot. Based on these quotes, it seems highly unlikely that karna jumped off his chariot to lift his wheel. He probably remained on the chariot, even after his chariot wheel sank. So, it is concluded the second sentence is also an interpolation.
The third sentence says “Drawn up with force by Karna, the earth, which had swallowed up his wheel, rose up to a height of four fingers' breadth, with her seven islands and her hills and waters and forests”. This is also another addition by some interpolater that was a karna fan. I have previously shown how karna remained on the chariot after the wheel sank, so there is no way karna would be lifting his wheel. And also, it is not possible for a person to lift the Earth by a distance of the breadth of four fingers, while standing on the Earth. Try standing on a carpet, and try to lift up the carpet with your hands, while still standing on the carpet!
So, I have shown how those last three sentences were later additions to the epic. So, the text with the additions removed, should read:
Then Krishna, beholding Arjuna afflicted with the weapons of Karna, said these words unto Partha: "Approaching Karna, strike him with superior weapons." Then Dhananjaya, filled with rage, inspiring with mantras another celestial weapons that looked like fire and that resembled the poison of the snake and that was as hard as the essence of adamant, and uniting the Raudra weapon with it, became desirous of shooting it at his foe.]
Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears from wrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, "O Partha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunken wheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed through accident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (of striking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only a coward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of the righteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, or at those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, or at him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggeth for quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrows are exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. For these reasons, excuse me for a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from the earth. Thyself staying on thy car and myself standing weak and languid on the earth, it behoveth thee not to slay me now. Neither Vasudeva, nor thou, O son of Pandu, inspirest me with the slightest fear. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
[So, after arjuna invokes the raudra astra, karna realizes that he does not have any weapons to counter it, and decides to buy some time. He quickly realizes that his chariot wheel has sunk, and uses that as an opportunity to buy time. He requests arjuna for some time.
In the text where he asks arjuna for some time, this is probably an interpolation:
Thyself staying on thy car and myself standing weak and languid on the earth, it behoveth thee not to slay me now. Neither Vasudeva, nor thou, O son of Pandu, inspirest me with the slightest fear.
In the first sentence, Karna says that he is standing on the ground, and in that position, arjuna should not attack him. It has already been explained why karna was in his chariot at the moment, and not on the ground. Also, in the text before this sentence, karna is politely asking arjuna to give him a moment to pull up his wheel from the ground. Then, in this sentence, it seems like he is teaching morality to arjuna and ordering (not requesting) arjuna to not attack him. It seems totally out of line with the flow of karna’s earlier speech. Furthermore, in the second sentence, karna says he is not scared of arjuna or krishna. This again sounds quite odd, and goes against how he was earlier requesting arjuna to not attack him. This second sentence would definitely work to provoke arjuna (to attack karna), and hence, karna would have never said that. If we look at what karna says after this second sentence, we would see that karna praises arjuna again, which is in sync with the text before the two sentences posted above, but not in sync with the two sentences I posted above (as those sentences show karna giving orders to arjuna and insulting him). Hence, those two sentences are probably later additions. With those two sentences removed, the text flows much more smoothly:
Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears from wrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, "O Partha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunken wheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed through accident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (of striking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only a coward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of the righteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, or at those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, or at him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggeth for quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrows are exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. For these reasons, excuse me for a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from the earth. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
A further examination of that text (with the interpolations removed) reveals that the sentence “For these reasons, excuse me for a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from the earth” might also be a later addition. It interferes with the flow of karna’s speech. Prior to that sentence, karna praises arjuna (in many sentences), staring each sentence with “Thou are”. Similarly, after that sentence (which I claimed was an later addition), karna continues to praise arjuna by starting his sentences with “Thou are”. Hence, karna’s speech would make much more sense, and would have better flow if that sentence was removed.
This is how the praise goes, before the removal of that sentence:
Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. For these reasons, excuse me for a moment, that is, till I extricate my wheel, O Dhananjaya, from the earth. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
This is how the praise goes after the removal of that sentence:
Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
It is clearly evident how the there is much more flow in karna’s speech, after that sentence is removed. So, we can conclude that sentence was a later addition… With that sentence (and the other two I explained earlier) removed, this is how the entire text goes:
Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears from wrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, "O Partha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunken wheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed through accident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (of striking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only a coward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of the righteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, or at those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, or at him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggeth for quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrows are exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
"Sanjaya said, 'Then Vasudeva, stationed on the car, addressed Karna, saying, "By good luck it is, O son of Radha, that thou rememberest virtue! It is generally seen that they that are mean, when they sink into distress, rail at Providence but never at their own misdeeds. Thyself and Suyodhana and Duhshasana and Shakuni, the son of Subala, had caused Draupadi, clad in a single piece of raiment, to be brought into the midst of the assembly. On that occasion, O Karna, this virtue of thine did not manifest itself. When at the assembly Shakuni, an adept in dice, vanquished Kunti's son Yudhishthira who was unacquainted with it, whither had this virtue of thine gone? When the Kuru king (Duryodhana), acting under thy counsels, treated Bhimasena in that way with the aid of snakes and poisoned food, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? When the period of exile into the woods was over as also the thirteenth year, thou didst not make over to the Pandavas their kingdom. Whither had this virtue of thine then gone? Thou didst set fire to the house of lac at Varanavata for burning to death the sleeping Pandavas. Whither then, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thou laughedest at Krishna while she stood in the midst of the assembly, scantily dressed because in her season and obedient to Duhshasana's will, whither, then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? When from the apartment reserved for the females innocent Krishna was dragged, thou didst not interfere. Whither, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thyself addressing the princess Draupadi, that lady whose tread is as dignified as that of the elephant, in these words, viz., 'The Pandavas, O Krishna, are lost. They have sunk into eternal hell. Do thou choose another husband!' thou lookedest on the scene with delight. Whither then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? Covetous of kingdom and relying on the ruler of the Gandharvas, thou summonedest the Pandavas (to a match of dice). Whither then had this virtue of thine gone? When many mighty car-warriors, encompassing the boy Abhimanyu in battle, slew him, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? If this virtue that thou now invokest was nowhere on those occasions, what is the use then of parching thy palate now, by uttering that word? Thou art now for the practice of virtue, O Suta, but thou shalt not escape with life. Like Nala who was defeated by Pushkara with the aid of dice but who regained his kingdom by prowess, the Pandavas, who are free from cupidity, will recover their kingdom by the prowess of their arms, aided with all their friends. Having slain in battle their powerful foes, they, with the Somakas, will recover their kingdom. The Dhartarashtras will meet with destruction at the hands of those lions among men (viz., the sons of Pandu), that are always protected by virtue!'" Sanjaya continued, 'Thus addressed, O Bharata, by Vasudeva, Karna hung down his head in shame and gave no answer. With lips quivering in rage, he raised his bow, O Bharata, and, being endued with great energy and prowess, he continued to fight with Partha. Then Vasudeva, addressing Phalguna, that bull among men, said, "O thou of great might, piercing Karna with a celestial weapon, throw him down."
[Hearing karna asking for some time, krishna does not want arjuna to fall into the trap set by karna, so he quickly replies (before arjuna can do so). He lists out all the adharma committed by karna, so that arjuna gets provoked and does not spare karna. Krishna then urges arjuna to throw karna off his chariot, using a powerful celestial weapon. Karna realizes that arjuna will now not spare him, so he gets angry and ashamed (of his earlier adharmic acts) and decides to attack arjuna before arjuna can attack him]
Thus addressed by the holy one, Arjuna became filled with rage. Indeed, remembering the incidents alluded to by Krishna, Dhananjaya blazed up with fury. Then, O king, blazing flames of fire seemed to emanate from all the pores of the angry Partha's body. The sight seemed to be exceedingly wonderful. Beholding it, Karna, invoking the brahmastra, showered his shafts upon Dhananjaya, and once more made an effort to extricate his car. Partha also, by the aid of the brahmastra, poured arrowy downpours upon Karna. Baffling with his own weapon the weapon of his foe, the son of Pandu continued to strike him. The son of Kunti then, aiming at Karna sped another favourite weapon of his that was inspired with the energy of Agni. Sped by Arjuna, that weapon blazed up with its own energy. Karna, however, quenched that conflagration with the Varuna weapon. The Suta's son also, by the clouds he created, caused all the points of the compass to be shrouded with a darkness such as may be seen on a rainy day. The son of Pandu, endued with great energy, fearlessly dispelled those clouds by means of the Vayavya weapon in the very sight of Karna.
[Hearing what krishna said stirred up arjuna’s anger, and then arjuna decided to kill karna. Karna, then invoked his brahmastra before arjuna could invoke his astra. Seeing this, arjuna also invoked his brahmastra and poured a shower of arrows on karna. This baffled karna’s brahmastra, and arjuna continued to strike karna with his arrows. He then used his agneya astra and attacked karna. However, karna quickly countered arjuna’s agneya astra using his own varuna astra. Arjuna then dispelled the darkness caused karna’s varuna astra by using the vayavya astra.
One sentence in the text above is “Beholding it, Karna, invoking the brahmastra, showered his shafts upon Dhananjaya, and once more made an effort to extricate his car”. From this text, it may seem that karna tried to lift up his chariot wheel. But this does not make sense as karna was on his chariot at the time and not on the ground. There is no way that he could lift up his chariot wheel while being in the chariot. Also, at that time, the war was going on. Karna would not have had time to leave his chariot to lift his wheel. Had he decided to leave his chariot, he would have been killed by the brahmastra of arjuna (that was launched to counter karna’s brahmastra) while he was getting off the chariot.
Based on this, it seems that the last part of that sentence was either an addition to the original text, or a translation mistake by Kisari Mohan Ganguly. Hence, that sentence should instead read:
Beholding it, Karna, invoking the brahmastra, showered his shafts upon Dhananjaya.
The entire paragraph, with the additions removed should be:
Thus addressed by the holy one, Arjuna became filled with rage. Indeed, remembering the incidents alluded to by Krishna, Dhananjaya blazed up with fury. Then, O king, blazing flames of fire seemed to emanate from all the pores of the angry Partha's body. The sight seemed to be exceedingly wonderful. Beholding it, Karna, invoking the brahmastra, showered his shafts upon Dhananjaya. Partha also, by the aid of the brahmastra, poured arrowy downpours upon Karna. Baffling with his own weapon the weapon of his foe, the son of Pandu continued to strike him. The son of Kunti then, aiming at Karna sped another favourite weapon of his that was inspired with the energy of Agni. Sped by Arjuna, that weapon blazed up with its own energy. Karna, however, quenched that conflagration with the Varuna weapon. The Suta's son also, by the clouds he created, caused all the points of the compass to be shrouded with a darkness such as may be seen on a rainy day. The son of Pandu, endued with great energy, fearlessly dispelled those clouds by means of the Vayavya weapon in the very sight of Karna.]
The Suta's son then, for slaying the son of Pandu, took up a terrible arrow blazing like fire. When that adored shaft was fixed on the bow-string, the earth, O king, trembled with her mountains and waters and forests. Violent winds began to blow, bearing hard pebbles. All the points of the compass became enveloped with dust. Wails of grief, O Bharata, arose among the gods in the welkin. Beholding that shaft aimed by the Suta's son, O sire, the Pandavas, with cheerless hearts, gave themselves up to great sorrow. That shaft of keen point and endued with the effulgence of Sakra's thunder, sped from Karna's arms, fell upon Dhananjaya's chest and penetrated it like a mighty snake penetrating an ant-hill. That grinder of foes, viz., the high-souled Vibhatsu, thus deeply pierced in that encounter, began to reel. His grasp became loosened, at which his bow Gandiva dropped from his hand. He trembled like the prince of mountains in an earthquake. Availing himself of that opportunity, the mighty car-warrior Vrisha, desirous of extricating his car-wheel that had been swallowed up by the earth, jumped down from his vehicle. Seizing the wheel with his two arms he endeavoured to drag it up, but though possessed of great strength, he failed in his efforts, as destiny would have it. Meanwhile the diadem-decked and high-souled Arjuna, recovering his senses, took up a shaft, fatal as the rod of Death, and called anjalika. Then Vasudeva, addressing Partha, said, "Cut off with thy arrow the head of this enemy of thine, viz., Vrisha, before he succeeds in getting upon his car." Applauding those words of the lord Vasudeva, and while the wheel of his enemy was still sunk, the mighty car-warrior Arjuna took up a razor-headed arrow of blazing effulgence and struck the standard (of Karna) bearing the elephant's rope and bright as the spotless sun. That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. The diadem-decked Arjuna, with that razor-headed shaft, exceedingly sharp, equipped with wings of gold, possessed of the splendour of fire when fed with libations of clarified butter, and blazing with beauty, cut off that standard of Adhiratha's son, that great car-warrior. With that standard, as it fell, the fame, pride, hope of victory, and everything dear, as also the hearts of the Kurus, fell, and loud wails of "Oh!" and "Alas!" arose (from the Kuru army). Beholding that standard cut off and thrown down by that hero of Kuru's race possessed of great lightness of hand, thy troops, O Bharata, were no longer hopeful of Karna's victory.
[According to this text, karna made arjuna unconscious using a powerful arrow, and then got off his chariot to pull up the chariot wheel. While karna was pulling up his chariot wheel, arjuna regained consciousness, and on being urged by krishna, invoked his anjalika astra and cut down the standard of karna’s chariot.
However, a careful examination of this text reveals that there are some major interpolations…
Lets first look at the portion of the passage that talks about karna making arjuna unconscious, and then how karna left the chariot to lift up his wheel, and how in the meantime, arjuna regained consciousness and then krishna’s speech to arjuna:
The Suta's son then, for slaying the son of Pandu, took up a terrible arrow blazing like fire. When that adored shaft was fixed on the bow-string, the earth, O king, trembled with her mountains and waters and forests. Violent winds began to blow, bearing hard pebbles. All the points of the compass became enveloped with dust. Wails of grief, O Bharata, arose among the gods in the welkin. Beholding that shaft aimed by the Suta's son, O sire, the Pandavas, with cheerless hearts, gave themselves up to great sorrow. That shaft of keen point and endued with the effulgence of Sakra's thunder, sped from Karna's arms, fell upon Dhananjaya's chest and penetrated it like a mighty snake penetrating an ant-hill. That grinder of foes, viz., the high-souled Vibhatsu, thus deeply pierced in that encounter, began to reel. His grasp became loosened, at which his bow Gandiva dropped from his hand. He trembled like the prince of mountains in an earthquake. Availing himself of that opportunity, the mighty car-warrior Vrisha, desirous of extricating his car-wheel that had been swallowed up by the earth, jumped down from his vehicle. Seizing the wheel with his two arms he endeavoured to drag it up, but though possessed of great strength, he failed in his efforts, as destiny would have it. Meanwhile the diadem-decked and high-souled Arjuna, recovering his senses, took up a shaft, fatal as the rod of Death, and called anjalika. Then Vasudeva, addressing Partha, said, "Cut off with thy arrow the head of this enemy of thine, viz., Vrisha, before he succeeds in getting upon his car."
This text mentions that once arjuna was made unconscious, karna got off the chariot to lift its wheel. This seems like an interpolation though. Let me explain… If we believe that karna got off his chariot to lift his wheel, it would also mean that karna remained on the ground till he died (as there is no later mention that karna got back on the chariot). However, the text of karna parva section 91 (when karna died) contradicts the claim that karna died while on the ground:
Beholding the heroic Karna thrown down stretched on the earth, pierced with arrows and bathed in blood, the king of the Madras, went away on that car deprived of its standard.
The fact that it is mentioned that karna was thrown down onto the earth implies that karna was not on the ground, but on the chariot prior to dying. The anjalika astra that killed karna would have thrown him down, from the chariot, onto the earth’s surface. Hence, the most logical conclusion is that karna never got off his chariot (to lift the chariot wheel). This means the last sentence in the above text, “Then Vasudeva, addressing Partha, said, "Cut off with thy arrow the head of this enemy of thine, viz., Vrisha, before he succeeds in getting upon his car" is also an interpolation (as karna was on his chariot at the time, NOT on the ground).
It may initially seem that karna did make arjuna unconscious. However, if one takes a closer look, they would find one major hint that this is also a later addition to the epic. The text above mentions “Meanwhile the diadem-decked and high-souled Arjuna, recovering his senses, took up a shaft, fatal as the rod of Death, and called anjalika”. It refers to arjuna as “diadem-decked”. But if you think back to the naagastra incident, you would remember, that the naagastra ripped off the diadem from arjuna’s crown, and threw it on the ground. So, arjuna was not diadem-decked. The fact that arjuna is referred to as diadem-decked indicates that the entire incident of karna making arjuna unconscious is a later interpolation.
One may say that only this sentence, “Meanwhile the diadem-decked and high-souled Arjuna, recovering his senses, took up a shaft, fatal as the rod of Death, and called anjalika”, is an interpolation, as the text prior to that does not refer to arjuna as diadem-decked. Although this is true, we cannot do that. The reason is that in this sentence where arjuna is described as “diadem-decked”, it is mentioned that arjuna regained consciousness. Without this fact, there would be a big break in the flow of events during the war, and hence it becomes necessary to remove the entire incident of karna making arjuna unconscious.
Take a look at the flow of the events if only that sentence mentioning arjuna as “diadem-decked” is removed:
Sped by Arjuna, that weapon blazed up with its own energy. Karna, however, quenched that conflagration with the Varuna weapon. The Suta's son also, by the clouds he created, caused all the points of the compass to be shrouded with a darkness such as may be seen on a rainy day. The son of Pandu, endued with great energy, fearlessly dispelled those clouds by means of the Vayavya weapon in the very sight of Karna. The Suta's son then, for slaying the son of Pandu, took up a terrible arrow blazing like fire. When that adored shaft was fixed on the bow-string, the earth, O king, trembled with her mountains and waters and forests. Violent winds began to blow, bearing hard pebbles. All the points of the compass became enveloped with dust. Wails of grief, O Bharata, arose among the gods in the welkin. Beholding that shaft aimed by the Suta's son, O sire, the Pandavas, with cheerless hearts, gave themselves up to great sorrow. That shaft of keen point and endued with the effulgence of Sakra's thunder, sped from Karna's arms, fell upon Dhananjaya's chest and penetrated it like a mighty snake penetrating an ant-hill. That grinder of foes, viz., the high-souled Vibhatsu, thus deeply pierced in that encounter, began to reel. His grasp became loosened, at which his bow Gandiva dropped from his hand. He trembled like the prince of mountains in an earthquake. That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. The diadem-decked Arjuna, with that razor-headed shaft, exceedingly sharp, equipped with wings of gold, possessed of the splendour of fire when fed with libations of clarified butter, and blazing with beauty, cut off that standard of Adhiratha's son, that great car-warrior.
There is a clear break in the flow of the text after arjuna’s gandiva slips from his hand. All of a sudden arjuna goes from a state of pain and unconsciousness to cutting off karna’s standard. This all appears out of the blue. However, if we consider the entire episode of karna making arjuna unconscious (with that powerful weapon) a later addition to the epic, and therefore choose to remove it, the flow of the text will flow much much more smoothly. Take a look at how the text flows once that incident is removed:
Sped by Arjuna, that weapon blazed up with its own energy. Karna, however, quenched that conflagration with the Varuna weapon. The Suta's son also, by the clouds he created, caused all the points of the compass to be shrouded with a darkness such as may be seen on a rainy day. The son of Pandu, endued with great energy, fearlessly dispelled those clouds by means of the Vayavya weapon in the very sight of Karna. That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. The diadem-decked Arjuna, with that razor-headed shaft, exceedingly sharp, equipped with wings of gold, possessed of the splendour of fire when fed with libations of clarified butter, and blazing with beauty, cut off that standard of Adhiratha's son, that great car-warrior.
As you can see, the flow of the text is much much better now that we have removed the text describing the incident of arjuna becoming unconscious. Since arjuna was already having an upper hand in the fight, it makes sense how he was able to easily cut off the standard of karna’s chariot.
So far, I have discussed the interpolations upto the point where krishna advises arjuna to kill karna before he steps back on his chariot. Now, I will analyze the rest of the text in that passage. This text (that will be analyzed) is shown below:
Applauding those words of the lord Vasudeva, and while the wheel of his enemy was still sunk, the mighty car-warrior Arjuna took up a razor-headed arrow of blazing effulgence and struck the standard (of Karna) bearing the elephant's rope and bright as the spotless sun. That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. The diadem-decked Arjuna, with that razor-headed shaft, exceedingly sharp, equipped with wings of gold, possessed of the splendour of fire when fed with libations of clarified butter, and blazing with beauty, cut off that standard of Adhiratha's son, that great car-warrior. With that standard, as it fell, the fame, pride, hope of victory, and everything dear, as also the hearts of the Kurus, fell, and loud wails of "Oh!" and "Alas!" arose (from the Kuru army). Beholding that standard cut off and thrown down by that hero of Kuru's race possessed of great lightness of hand, thy troops, O Bharata, were no longer hopeful of Karna's victory.
The first sentence is a reply to krishna’s speech where he urges arjuna to kill karna before karna remounts on his chariot. I explained earlier why that speech of krishna is an interpolation. Since that speech is an interpolation, it logically follows that the reply to that speech (by arjuna) would also be an interpolation. In other words without krishna’s speech, it is not possible to have arjuna’s reply. And anyways, earlier (in karna parva section 90), when arjuna had badly injured karna, he had waited for karna to put himself together before launching another attack. So it seems highly unlikely that arjuna would now go against his previous belief of “fairness in war” and attack an unarmed, chariotless karna…
The rest of the text describes the standard of karna’s chariot, and then talks about how arjuna cut off this standard. In that text only the sentence that seems like an interpolation is the following one:

The diadem-decked Arjuna, with that razor-headed shaft, exceedingly sharp, equipped with wings of gold, possessed of the splendour of fire when fed with libations of clarified butter, and blazing with beauty, cut off that standard of Adhiratha's son, that great car-warrior"

The reason for this is that it addresses Arjuna as "diadem-decked", despite the fact that his diadem was already knocked off by Aswasena. So, the entire passage with all its interpolations removed is as follows:
That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. With that standard, as it fell, the fame, pride, hope of victory, and everything dear, as also the hearts of the Kurus, fell, and loud wails of "Oh!" and "Alas!" arose (from the Kuru army). Beholding that standard cut off and thrown down by that hero of Kuru's race possessed of great lightness of hand, thy troops, O Bharata, were no longer hopeful of Karna's victory.]
Hastening then for Karna's destruction, Partha took out from his quiver an excellent Anjalika weapon that resembled the thunder of Indra or the rod of fire and that was possessed of the effulgence of the thousand-rayed Sun. Capable of penetrating the very vitals, besmeared with blood and flesh, resembling fire or the sun, made of costly materials, destructive of men, steeds, and elephants, of straight course and fierce impetuosity, it measured three cubits and six feet. Endued with the force of the thousand-eyed Indra's thunder, irresistible as Rakshasas in the night, resembling Pinaka or Narayana's discus, it was exceedingly terrible and destructive of all living creatures. Partha cheerfully took up that great weapon, in the shape of an arrow, which could not be resisted by the very gods, that high-souled being which was always adored by the son of Pandu, and which was capable of vanquishing the very gods and the Asuras. Beholding that shaft grasped by Partha in that battle, the entire universe shook with its mobile and immobile creatures. Indeed, seeing that weapon raised (for being sped) in that dreadful battle, the Rishis loudly cried out, "Peace be to the universe!" The wielder of Gandiva then fixed on his bow that unrivalled arrow, uniting it with a high and mighty weapon. Drawing his bow Gandiva, he quickly said, "Let this shaft of mine be like a mighty weapon capable of quickly destroying the body and heart of my enemy, if I have ever practised ascetic austerities, gratified my superiors, and listened to the counsels of well-wishers. Let this shaft, worshipped by me and possessed of great sharpness, slay my enemy Karna by that Truth." Having said these words Dhananjaya let off that terrible shaft for the destruction of Karna, that arrow fierce and efficacious as a rite prescribed in the Atharvan of Angiras, blazing with effulgence, and incapable of being endured by Death himself in battle. And the diadem-decked Partha, desirous of slaying Karna, with great cheerfulness, said, "Let this shaft conduce to my victory. Shot by me, let this arrow possessed of the splendour of fire or the sun take Karna to the presence of Yama." Saying these words, Arjuna, decked with diadem and garlands, cherishing feelings of hostility towards Karna and desirous of slaying him, cheerfully struck his foe with that foremost of shafts which was possessed of the splendour of the sun or the moon and capable of bestowing victory. Thus sped by that mighty warrior, that shaft endued with the energy of the sun caused all the points of the compass to blaze up with light. With that weapon Arjuna struck off his enemy's head like Indra striking off the head of Vritra with his thunder. Indeed, O king, with that excellent Anjalika weapon inspired with mantras into a mighty weapon, the son of Indra cut off the head of Vaikartana in the afternoon. Thus cut off with that Anjalika, the trunk of Karna fell down on the earth.
[After using the broad headed shaft to cut off the standards of karna’s chariot, Arjuna quickly invoked the anjalika astra and using it, struck off karna’s head. The thing to note is that the text says “Thus cut off with that Anjalika, the trunk of Karna fell down on the earth”. This implies that karna was not standing on the Earth when he was struck by the anjalika astra. Instead, he was on his chariot, and after he was beheaded by the anjalika astra, the trunk of karna’s body fell down, from the chariot, onto the earth’s surface.

Furthermore, another thing to note is that the following sentences in the passage are interpolations:

And the diadem-decked Partha, desirous of slaying Karna, with great cheerfulness, said, "Let this shaft conduce to my victory. Shot by me, let this arrow possessed of the splendour of fire or the sun take Karna to the presence of Yama." Saying these words, Arjuna, decked with diadem and garlands, cherishing feelings of hostility towards Karna and desirous of slaying him, cheerfully struck his foe with that foremost of shafts which was possessed of the splendour of the sun or the moon and capable of bestowing victory.

The reason for them being interpolations is that Arjuna is addressed as diadem decked in them, despite the fact that his diadem was already knocked off. Removing this interpolation, the passage reads:

Hastening then for Karna's destruction, Partha took out from his quiver an excellent Anjalika weapon that resembled the thunder of Indra or the rod of fire and that was possessed of the effulgence of the thousand-rayed Sun. Capable of penetrating the very vitals, besmeared with blood and flesh, resembling fire or the sun, made of costly materials, destructive of men, steeds, and elephants, of straight course and fierce impetuosity, it measured three cubits and six feet. Endued with the force of the thousand-eyed Indra's thunder, irresistible as Rakshasas in the night, resembling Pinaka or Narayana's discus, it was exceedingly terrible and destructive of all living creatures. Partha cheerfully took up that great weapon, in the shape of an arrow, which could not be resisted by the very gods, that high-souled being which was always adored by the son of Pandu, and which was capable of vanquishing the very gods and the Asuras. Beholding that shaft grasped by Partha in that battle, the entire universe shook with its mobile and immobile creatures. Indeed, seeing that weapon raised (for being sped) in that dreadful battle, the Rishis loudly cried out, "Peace be to the universe!" The wielder of Gandiva then fixed on his bow that unrivalled arrow, uniting it with a high and mighty weapon. Drawing his bow Gandiva, he quickly said, "Let this shaft of mine be like a mighty weapon capable of quickly destroying the body and heart of my enemy, if I have ever practised ascetic austerities, gratified my superiors, and listened to the counsels of well-wishers. Let this shaft, worshipped by me and possessed of great sharpness, slay my enemy Karna by that Truth." Having said these words Dhananjaya let off that terrible shaft for the destruction of Karna, that arrow fierce and efficacious as a rite prescribed in the Atharvan of Angiras, blazing with effulgence, and incapable of being endured by Death himself in battle. Thus sped by that mighty warrior, that shaft endued with the energy of the sun caused all the points of the compass to blaze up with light. With that weapon Arjuna struck off his enemy's head like Indra striking off the head of Vritra with his thunder. Indeed, O king, with that excellent Anjalika weapon inspired with mantras into a mighty weapon, the son of Indra cut off the head of Vaikartana in the afternoon. Thus cut off with that Anjalika, the trunk of Karna fell down on the earth.]
The head also of that commander of the (Kaurava) army, endued with splendour equal to that of the risen sun and resembling the meridian sun of autumn, fell down on the earth like the sun of bloody disc dropped down from the Asta hills. Indeed, that head abandoned with great unwillingness the body, exceedingly beautiful and always nursed in luxury, of Karna of noble deeds, like an owner abandoning with great unwillingness his commodious mansion filled with great wealth. Cut off with Arjuna's arrow, and deprived of life, the tall trunk of Karna endued with great splendour, with blood issuing from every wound, fell down like the thunder-riven summit of a mountain of red chalk with crimson streams running down its sides after a shower. Then from that body of the fallen Karna a light passing through the welkin penetrated the sun. This wonderful sight, O king, was beheld by the human warriors after the fall of Karna. Then the Pandavas, beholding Karna slain by Phalguna, loudly blew their conchs. Similarly, Krishna and Dhananjaya also, filled with delight, and losing no time, blew their conchs. The Somakas beholding Karna slain and lying on the field, were filled with joy and uttered loud shouts with the other troops (of the Pandava army). In great delight they blew their trumpets and waved their arms and garments. All the warriors, O king, approaching Partha, began to applaud him joyfully. Others, possessed of might, danced, embracing each other, and uttering loud shouts, said, "By good luck, Karna hath been stretched on the earth and mangled with arrows." Indeed, the severed head of Karna looked beautiful like a mountain summit loosened by a tempest, or a quenched fire after the sacrifice is over, or the image of the sun after it has reached the Asta hills. The Karna-sun, with arrows for its rays, after having scorched the hostile army, was at last caused to be set by the mighty Arjuna-time. As the Sun, while proceeding towards the Asta hills, retires taking away with him all his rays, even so that shaft (of Arjuna) passed out, taking with it Karna's life breaths. The death hour of the Suta's son, O sire, was the afternoon of that day. Cut off with the Anjalika weapon in that battle, the head of Karna fell down along with his body. Indeed, that arrow of Arjuna, in the very sight of the Kaurava troops, quickly took away the head and the body of Karna. Beholding the heroic Karna thrown down stretched on the earth, pierced with arrows and bathed in blood, the king of the Madras, went away on that car deprived of its standard. After the fall of Karna, the Kauravas, deeply pierced with shafts in that battle, and afflicted with fear, fled away from the field, frequently casting their eyes on that lofty standard of Arjuna that blazed with splendour. The beautiful head, graced with a face that resembled a lotus of a 1,000 petals, of Karna whose feats were like those of the thousand-eyed Indra, fell down on the earth like the thousand-rayed sun as he looks at the close of day.'"
[So, after karna was pierced by the anjalika astra, his head and trunk was carried by the astra, and thrown off the chariot, onto the ground. This is supported by all the bolded phrases in the passage above.]
So, I have analyzed all the text about the final fight between arjuna and karna. The interpolations all begin after the naagastra incident. Hence, I will post the text after the naagastra incident, with all the interpolations removed, below:
At that time, Karna, glancing obliquely at Dhananjaya, pierced that foremost of persons, viz., Krishna, with ten shafts whetted on stone and equipped with peacock feathers. Then Dhananjaya, piercing Karna with a dozen well-shot and keen arrows equipped with heads like the boar's ear, sped a cloth-yard shaft endued with the energy of a snake of virulent poison and shot from his bow-string stretched to his ear. That foremost of shafts, well shot by Arjuna, penetrated through Karna's armour, and as if suspending his life breaths, drank his blood and entered the earth, its wings also having been drenched with gore. Endued with great activity, Vrisha, enraged at the stroke of the shaft, like a snake beaten with stick, shot many mighty shafts, like snakes of virulent poison vomiting venom. And he pierced Janardana with a dozen shafts and Arjuna with nine and ninety. And once more piercing the son of Pandu with a terrible shaft, Karna laughed and uttered a loud roar. The son of Pandu, however, could not endure his enemy's joy. Acquainted with all the vital parts of the human body, Partha, possessed of prowess like that of Indra, pierced those vital limbs with hundreds of arrows even as Indra had struck Vala with great energy. Then Arjuna sped ninety arrows, each resembling the rod of Death at Karna. Deeply pierced with those shafts, Karna trembled like a mountain riven with thunder. The head-gear of Karna, adorned with costly gems and precious diamonds and pure gold, as also his earrings, cut off by Dhananjaya with his winged arrows, fell down on the earth. The costly and bright armour also of the Suta's son that had been forged with great care by many foremost of artists working for a long time, the son of Pandu cut off within a moment in many fragments. After thus divesting him of his armour, Partha then, in rage, pierced Karna with four whetted shafts of great energy. Struck forcibly by his foe, Karna suffered great pain like a diseased person afflicted by bile, phlegm, wind, and fever. Once more Arjuna, with great speed, mangled Karna, piercing his very vitals, with numerous excellent shafts, of great keenness, and sped from his circling bow with much force and speed and care. Deeply struck by Partha with those diverse arrows of keen points and fierce energy, Karna (covered with blood) looked resplendent like a mountain of red chalk with streams of red water running adown its breast. Once more Arjuna pierced Karna in the centre of the chest with many straight-coursing and strong shafts made entirely of iron and equipped with wings of gold and each resembling the fiery rod of the Destroyer, like the son of Agni piercing the Krauncha mountains. Then the Suta's son, casting aside his bow that resembled the very bow of Sakra, as also his quiver, felt great pain, and stood inactive, stupefied, and reeling, his grasp loosened and himself in great anguish. The virtuous Arjuna, observant of the duty of manliness, wished not to slay his enemy while fallen into such distress. The younger brother of Indra then, with great excitement, addressed him, saying, "Why, O son of Pandu, dost thou become so forgetful? They that are truly wise never spare their foes, however weak, even for a moment. He that is learned earneth both merit and fame by slaying foes fallen into distress. Lose no time in precipitately crushing Karna who is always inimical to thee and who is the first of heroes. The Suta's son, when able, will once more advance against thee as before. Slay him, therefore, like Indra slaying the Asura Namuci." Saying, "So be it, O Krishna!" and worshipping Janardana, Arjuna, that foremost of all persons in Kuru's race once more quickly pierced Karna with many excellent arrows like the ruler of heaven, piercing the Asura, Samvara. Pierced with those arrows equipped with heads like the calf's tooth, Adhiratha's son of broad chest looked resplendent like an Asoka or Palasa or Salmali decked with its flowery load or a mountain overgrown with a forest of sandal trees. Indeed, with those numerous arrows sticking to his body, Karna, O monarch, in that battle, looked resplendent like the prince of mountains with its top and glens overgrown with trees or decked with flowering Karnikaras. Karna also shooting repeated showers of arrows, looked, with those arrows constituting his rays, like the sun coursing towards the Asta hills, with disc bright with crimson rays. Shafts, however, of keen points, sped from Arjuna's arms, encountering in the welkin the blazing arrows, resembling mighty snakes, sped from the arms of Adhiratha's son, destroyed them all. Recovering his coolness, and shooting many shafts that resembled angry snakes, Karna then pierced Partha with ten shafts and Krishna with half a dozen, each of which looked like an angry snake. Then Dhananjaya desired to shoot a mighty and terrible arrow, made wholly of iron, resembling the poison of snake or fire in energy, and whose whizz resembling the peal of Indra's thunder, and which was inspired with the force of a high (celestial) weapon. At that time, when the hour of Karna's death had come, Kala, approaching invisibly, and alluding to the Brahmana's curse, and desirous of informing Karna that his death was near, told him, "The Earth is devouring thy wheel!" Indeed, O foremost of men, when the hour of Karna's death came, the highbrahmastra that the illustrious Bhargava had imparted unto him, escaped from his memory. And the earth also began to devour the left wheel of his car. Then in consequence of the curse of that foremost of Brahmanas, Karna's car began to reel, having sunk deep into the earth and having been transfixed at that spot like a sacred tree with its load of flowers standing upon an elevated platform. When his car began to reel from the curse of the Brahmana, and when the high weapon he had obtained from Rama no longer shone in him through inward light, and when his terrible snake-mouthed shaft also had been cut off by Partha, Karna became filled with melancholy. Unable to endure all those calamities, he waved his arms and began to rail at righteousness saying, "They that are conversant with righteousness always say that righteousness protects those that are righteous. As regards ourselves, we always endeavour, to the best of our ability and knowledge to practise righteousness. That righteousness, however, is destroying us now instead of protecting us that are devoted to it. I, therefore, think that righteousness does not always protect its worshippers." While saying these words, he became exceedingly agitated by the strokes of Arjuna's arrows. His steeds and his driver also were displaced from their usual position. His very vitals having been struck, he became indifferent as to what he did, and repeatedly railed at righteousness in that battle. He then pierced Krishna in the arm with three terrible arrows, and Partha, too, with seven. Then Arjuna sped seven and ten terrible arrows, perfectly straight and of fierce impetuosity, resembling fire in splendour and like unto Indra's thunder in force. Endued with awful impetuosity, those arrows pierced Karna and passing out of his body fell upon the surface of the earth. Trembling at the shock, Karna then displayed his activity to the utmost of his power. Steadying himself by a powerful effort he invoked the brahmastra. Beholding the brahmastra, Arjuna invoked the Aindra weapon with proper mantras. Inspiring gandiva, its string, and his shafts also, with mantras, that scorcher of foes poured showers like Purandara pouring rain in torrents. Those arrows endued with great energy and power, issuing out of Partha's car, were seen to be displayed in the vicinity of Karna's vehicle. The mighty car-warrior Karna baffled all those shafts displayed in his front. Seeing that weapon thus destroyed, the Vrishni hero, addressing Arjuna, said, "Shoot high weapons, O Partha! The son of Radha baffles thy shafts." With proper mantras, Arjuna then fixed the brahmastra on his string, and shrouding all the points of the compass with arrows, Partha struck Karna (with many) arrows. Then Karna, with a number of whetted shafts endued with great energy, cut off the string of Arjuna's bow. Similarly he cut off the second string, and then the third, and then the fourth, and then the fifth. The sixth also was cut off by Vrisha, and then the seventh, then the eighth, then the ninth, then the tenth, and then at last the eleventh. Capable of shooting hundreds upon hundreds of arrows, Karna knew not that Partha had a hundred strings to his bow. Tying another string to his bow and shooting many arrows, the son of Pandu covered Karna with shafts that resembled snakes of blazing mouths. So quickly did Arjuna replace each broken string that Karna could not mark when it was broken and when replaced. The feat seemed to him to be exceedingly wonderful. The son of Radha baffled with his own weapons those of Savyasaci. Displaying also his own prowess, he seemed to get the better of Dhananjaya at that time. Then Krishna, beholding Arjuna afflicted with the weapons of Karna, said these words unto Partha: "Approaching Karna, strike him with superior weapons." Then Dhananjaya, filled with rage, inspiring with mantras another celestial weapons that looked like fire and that resembled the poison of the snake and that was as hard as the essence of adamant, and uniting the Raudra weapon with it, became desirous of shooting it at his foe. Seeing his wheel swallowed, the son of Radha shed tears from wrath, and beholding Arjuna, filled with rage he said these words, "O Partha, O Partha, wait for a moment, that is, till I lift this sunken wheel. Beholding, O Partha, the left wheel of my car swallowed through accident by the earth, abandon (instead of cherishing) this purpose (of striking and slaying me) that is capable of being harboured by only a coward. Brave warriors that are observant of the practices of the righteous, never shoot their weapons at persons with dishevelled hair, or at those that have turned their faces from battle, or at a Brahmana, or at him who joins his palms, or at him who yields himself up or beggeth for quarter or at one who has put up his weapon, or at one whose arrows are exhausted, or at one whose armour is displaced, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken! Thou art the bravest of men in the world. Thou art also of righteous behaviour, O son of Pandu! Thou art well-acquainted with the rules of battle. Thou art born in the Kshatriya order. Thou art the perpetuator of a high race. Recollecting the teachings of righteousness, excuse me for a moment, O son of Pandu!"'"
"Sanjaya said, 'Then Vasudeva, stationed on the car, addressed Karna, saying, "By good luck it is, O son of Radha, that thou rememberest virtue! It is generally seen that they that are mean, when they sink into distress, rail at Providence but never at their own misdeeds. Thyself and Suyodhana and Duhshasana and Shakuni, the son of Subala, had caused Draupadi, clad in a single piece of raiment, to be brought into the midst of the assembly. On that occasion, O Karna, this virtue of thine did not manifest itself. When at the assembly Shakuni, an adept in dice, vanquished Kunti's son Yudhishthira who was unacquainted with it, whither had this virtue of thine gone? When the Kuru king (Duryodhana), acting under thy counsels, treated Bhimasena in that way with the aid of snakes and poisoned food, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? When the period of exile into the woods was over as also the thirteenth year, thou didst not make over to the Pandavas their kingdom. Whither had this virtue of thine then gone? Thou didst set fire to the house of lac at Varanavata for burning to death the sleeping Pandavas. Whither then, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thou laughedest at Krishna while she stood in the midst of the assembly, scantily dressed because in her season and obedient to Duhshasana's will, whither, then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? When from the apartment reserved for the females innocent Krishna was dragged, thou didst not interfere. Whither, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thyself addressing the princess Draupadi, that lady whose tread is as dignified as that of the elephant, in these words, viz., 'The Pandavas, O Krishna, are lost. They have sunk into eternal hell. Do thou choose another husband!' thou lookedest on the scene with delight. Whither then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? Covetous of kingdom and relying on the ruler of the Gandharvas, thou summonedest the Pandavas (to a match of dice). Whither then had this virtue of thine gone? When many mighty car-warriors, encompassing the boy Abhimanyu in battle, slew him, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? If this virtue that thou now invokest was nowhere on those occasions, what is the use then of parching thy palate now, by uttering that word? Thou art now for the practice of virtue, O Suta, but thou shalt not escape with life. Like Nala who was defeated by Pushkara with the aid of dice but who regained his kingdom by prowess, the Pandavas, who are free from cupidity, will recover their kingdom by the prowess of their arms, aided with all their friends. Having slain in battle their powerful foes, they, with the Somakas, will recover their kingdom. The Dhartarashtras will meet with destruction at the hands of those lions among men (viz., the sons of Pandu), that are always protected by virtue!'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Thus addressed, O Bharata, by Vasudeva, Karna hung down his head in shame and gave no answer. With lips quivering in rage, he raised his bow, O Bharata, and, being endued with great energy and prowess, he continued to fight with Partha. Then Vasudeva, addressing Phalguna, that bull among men, said, "O thou of great might, piercing Karna with a celestial weapon, throw him down." Thus addressed by the holy one, Arjuna became filled with rage. Indeed, remembering the incidents alluded to by Krishna, Dhananjaya blazed up with fury. Then, O king, blazing flames of fire seemed to emanate from all the pores of the angry Partha's body. The sight seemed to be exceedingly wonderful. Beholding it, Karna, invoking the brahmastra, showered his shafts upon Dhananjaya. Partha also, by the aid of the brahmastra, poured arrowy downpours upon Karna. Baffling with his own weapon the weapon of his foe, the son of Pandu continued to strike him. The son of Kunti then, aiming at Karna sped another favourite weapon of his that was inspired with the energy of Agni. Sped by Arjuna, that weapon blazed up with its own energy. Karna, however, quenched that conflagration with the Varuna weapon. The Suta's son also, by the clouds he created, caused all the points of the compass to be shrouded with a darkness such as may be seen on a rainy day. The son of Pandu, endued with great energy, fearlessly dispelled those clouds by means of the Vayavya weapon in the very sight of Karna. That standard bearing the device of the costly elephant's rope, was adorned with gold and pearls and gems and diamonds, and forged with care by foremost of artists excelling in knowledge, and possessed of great beauty, and variegated with pure gold. That standard always used to fill thy troops with high courage and the enemy with fear. Its form commanded applause. Celebrated over the whole world, it resembled the sun in splendour. Indeed, its effulgence was like that of fire or the sun or the moon. With that standard, as it fell, the fame, pride, hope of victory, and everything dear, as also the hearts of the Kurus, fell, and loud wails of "Oh!" and "Alas!" arose (from the Kuru army). Beholding that standard cut off and thrown down by that hero of Kuru's race possessed of great lightness of hand, thy troops, O Bharata, were no longer hopeful of Karna's victory. Hastening then for Karna's destruction, Partha took out from his quiver an excellent Anjalika weapon that resembled the thunder of Indra or the rod of fire and that was possessed of the effulgence of the thousand-rayed Sun. Capable of penetrating the very vitals, besmeared with blood and flesh, resembling fire or the sun, made of costly materials, destructive of men, steeds, and elephants, of straight course and fierce impetuosity, it measured three cubits and six feet. Endued with the force of the thousand-eyed Indra's thunder, irresistible as Rakshasas in the night, resembling Pinaka or Narayana's discus, it was exceedingly terrible and destructive of all living creatures. Partha cheerfully took up that great weapon, in the shape of an arrow, which could not be resisted by the very gods, that high-souled being which was always adored by the son of Pandu, and which was capable of vanquishing the very gods and the Asuras. Beholding that shaft grasped by Partha in that battle, the entire universe shook with its mobile and immobile creatures. Indeed, seeing that weapon raised (for being sped) in that dreadful battle, the Rishis loudly cried out, "Peace be to the universe!" The wielder of Gandiva then fixed on his bow that unrivalled arrow, uniting it with a high and mighty weapon. Drawing his bow Gandiva, he quickly said, "Let this shaft of mine be like a mighty weapon capable of quickly destroying the body and heart of my enemy, if I have ever practised ascetic austerities, gratified my superiors, and listened to the counsels of well-wishers. Let this shaft, worshipped by me and possessed of great sharpness, slay my enemy Karna by that Truth." Having said these words Dhananjaya let off that terrible shaft for the destruction of Karna, that arrow fierce and efficacious as a rite prescribed in the Atharvan of Angiras, blazing with effulgence, and incapable of being endured by Death himself in battle. Thus sped by that mighty warrior, that shaft endued with the energy of the sun caused all the points of the compass to blaze up with light. With that weapon Arjuna struck off his enemy's head like Indra striking off the head of Vritra with his thunder. Indeed, O king, with that excellent Anjalika weapon inspired with mantras into a mighty weapon, the son of Indra cut off the head of Vaikartana in the afternoon. Thus cut off with that Anjalika, the trunk of Karna fell down on the earth. The head also of that commander of the (Kaurava) army, endued with splendour equal to that of the risen sun and resembling the meridian sun of autumn, fell down on the earth like the sun of bloody disc dropped down from the Asta hills. Indeed, that head abandoned with great unwillingness the body, exceedingly beautiful and always nursed in luxury, of Karna of noble deeds, like an owner abandoning with great unwillingness his commodious mansion filled with great wealth. Cut off with Arjuna's arrow, and deprived of life, the tall trunk of Karna endued with great splendour, with blood issuing from every wound, fell down like the thunder-riven summit of a mountain of red chalk with crimson streams running down its sides after a shower. Then from that body of the fallen Karna a light passing through the welkin penetrated the sun. This wonderful sight, O king, was beheld by the human warriors after the fall of Karna. Then the Pandavas, beholding Karna slain by Phalguna, loudly blew their conchs. Similarly, Krishna and Dhananjaya also, filled with delight, and losing no time, blew their conchs. The Somakas beholding Karna slain and lying on the field, were filled with joy and uttered loud shouts with the other troops (of the Pandava army). In great delight they blew their trumpets and waved their arms and garments. All the warriors, O king, approaching Partha, began to applaud him joyfully. Others, possessed of might, danced, embracing each other, and uttering loud shouts, said, "By good luck, Karna hath been stretched on the earth and mangled with arrows." Indeed, the severed head of Karna looked beautiful like a mountain summit loosened by a tempest, or a quenched fire after the sacrifice is over, or the image of the sun after it has reached the Asta hills. The Karna-sun, with arrows for its rays, after having scorched the hostile army, was at last caused to be set by the mighty Arjuna-time. As the Sun, while proceeding towards the Asta hills, retires taking away with him all his rays, even so that shaft (of Arjuna) passed out, taking with it Karna's life breaths. The death hour of the Suta's son, O sire, was the afternoon of that day. Cut off with the Anjalika weapon in that battle, the head of Karna fell down along with his body. Indeed, that arrow of Arjuna, in the very sight of the Kaurava troops, quickly took away the head and the body of Karna. Beholding the heroic Karna thrown down stretched on the earth, pierced with arrows and bathed in blood, the king of the Madras, went away on that car deprived of its standard. After the fall of Karna, the Kauravas, deeply pierced with shafts in that battle, and afflicted with fear, fled away from the field, frequently casting their eyes on that lofty standard of Arjuna that blazed with splendour. The beautiful head, graced with a face that resembled a lotus of a 1,000 petals, of Karna whose feats were like those of the thousand-eyed Indra, fell down on the earth like the thousand-rayed sun as he looks at the close of day.'"
So, in short, karna continues the fight even after his chariot wheel sinks. He does not get off his chariot to lift up the wheel, and is killed in combat with Arjuna. When he died he was on his chariot, and had his vijaya bow with him.

                                                 Image result for arjuna

27 comments:

  1. IT is impossible because if karna had the vijaya bow in his hand then he would had been unwinable since the wilder of the vijaya bow has guranteed win!!

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    1. That claim has no basis. Nowhere in the epic are we ever told that wielding the Vijaya bow gives a warrior victory. If that was the case, everyone would have used the Vijaya bow, right?

      Even Rukmi had a Vijaya bow, but he still got defeated by Krishna, right?

      So Vijaya bow does not guarantee a warrior victory. Just to prove that to you, I will show you Karna's defeat by Bhima, on day 17, when Karna using the Vijaya bow:

      "Sanjaya continued, 'Then, O king, Shalya speedily proceeded on that car to the spot where that great bowman, viz., Bhima, was engaged in routing thy army. There rose then the blare of trumpets and the peal of drums, O monarch, when Bhima and Karna met. The mighty Bhimasena, filled with rage, began to scatter thy troops difficult of defeat, with his sharp and polished shafts, to all sides. That collision in battle, O monarch, between Karna and the son of Pandu became, O king, fierce and awful, and the noise that arose was tremendous. Beholding Bhima coming towards him, Karna, otherwise called Vaikartana or Vrisha, filled with rage, struck him with shafts in the centre of the chest. And once more, Karna of immeasurable soul, covered him with a shower of arrows. Thus pierced by the Suta's son, Bhima covered the former with winged arrows. And he once more pierced Karna with nine straight and keen shafts. Then Karna, with a number of arrows, cut in twain Bhima's bow at the handle. And after cutting off his bow, he pierced him once again in the centre of the chest with a shaft of great keenness and capable of penetrating every kind of armour. Then Vrikodara, taking up another bow, O king, and knowing full well what the vital parts of the body are, pierced the Suta's son with many keen arrows. Then Karna pierced him with five and twenty arrows, like a hunter striking a proud and infuriate elephant in the forest with a number of blazing brands. His limbs mangled with those shafts, his eyes red with rage and the desire of revenge, the son of Pandu, insensate with wrath, and impelled by the desire of slaying the Suta's son, fixed on his bow an excellent shaft of great impetuosity, capable of bearing a great strain, and competent to pierce the very mountains. Forcibly drawing the bow-string to his very ear, the son of the Wind-god, that great bowman, filled with wrath and desirous of making an end of Karna, sped that shaft. Thus sped by the mighty Bhima, that shaft, making a noise loud as that of the thunder, pierced through thunderbolt Karna in that battle, like the thunderbolt itself piercing through a mountain. Struck by Bhimasena, O perpetuator of Kuru's race, the Suta's son, that commander (of thy forces), sat down senseless on the terrace of his car. The ruler of the Madras then, beholding the Suta's son deprived of his senses, bore that ornament of battle away on his car, from that fight. Then after Karna's defeat, Bhimasena began to rout the vast Dhartarashtra host like Indra routing the danavas.'"

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08050.htm

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    2. Some pandava warrior also defeated karna. when karna had vijaya bow

      "The eldest son of Karna, viz., the mighty car-warrior Vrishasena, himself protected his father's rear"
      #Desirous or #rescuing their father, the sons of Karna, all of whom were effectual smiters, and many other heroes, O king, of thy army, #resisted #those (Pandava) heroes.

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08048.htm

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    3. That section says that Dhrishtadyumna, Satyaki, and the five sons of Draupadi, and Vrikodara, Janamejaya, and Shikhandi, and many foremost warriors among the Prabhadrakas, and many amongst the Cedis, the Kaikayas, and the Pancalas, the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva), and the Matsyas, all clad in mail, rushed fiercely upon Radha's son. It was a group attack against Karna. They were overpowering Karna, but it cannot be considered a defeat as he was just afflicted by their arrows. He did not flee, nor was he on the verge of death when his sons came to his rescue...

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    4. Motherfucker. Such bows were possessed by every great Maharatha in Kurukshetra.
      Ghatotkatcha had the Paulastya bow of Ravana. Bhima had the Vayavya bow. Abhimanyu had the Raudra bow. Yudhister had the Mahendra bow. PLEASE KILL YOURSELF FOR NOT READING THE MAHABHARATA!

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. Also do you think it's strange how Arjuna using Agneyastra and Karna using Varunastra is mentioned TWICE in sections 90 and 91 of Karna Parva?

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  2. Awesome post! Even dhristrasta said when Arjuna cut karna's head, At that time karna was on his chariot.

    Dhrist. Said:- Without doubt, the son of Adhiratha, afflicted with arrows, FELL DOWN FROM HIS CAR, like a mountain-peak riven by the fall of thunder! Without doubt, bathed in blood, he lieth, adorning the Earth, like an elephant slain by an infuriate prince of elephants!

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08009.htm

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    1. Thanks for your comment.

      But that quote occurs in Karna Parva prior to Dhritarashtra learning about the true story of Karna's death. So I wonder how he knew that Karna fell off his chariot when killed by Arjuna. But anyways, it is a fact that Karna was killed fairly. The BORI CE also says that Karna was killed fairly by Arjuna.

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    2. READ KARNA PARVA-SECTION 5, here sanjaya tell everything about karna parva in short to dhrisht. Hence it is not wonder that how dhristrasta knew about this incident.like

      Sanjaya said to dhrish that vrishasena was killed infront of Karna.

      He who was
      equal to Karna himself in battle, Karna's son
      Vrishasena, accomplished in arms, of mighty
      energy and steady prowess, hath, in the very
      sight of Karna, been despatched to Yama's
      abode by Dhananjaya
      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08005.htm

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  3. This is Jaideep Gill by the way.
    INTERPOLATION EXPOSED! KARNA ACTUALLY TRIED TO KILL ALL THE PANDAVAS HE DID NOT TRY TO SPARE THEIR LIVES.
    1ST PROOF - Even thus was he classed during the counting of Rathas and Atirathas, he that is the foremost (of all Rathas and Atirathas), he that is respected by all heroes, he that would venture to fight even with Yama, Kuvera, Varuna, and Indra. Through anger caused by this, O king, he had said unto Ganga's son these words: 'As long as thou livest, O thou of Kuru's race, I will never fight! if thou, however, succeedest in slaying the sons of Pandu in great battle, I shall, O Kaurava, with Duryodhana's permission, retire into the woods. If, on the other hand, thou, O Bhishma, slain by the Pandavas, attainest to heaven, I shall then, on a single car, slay all of them, whom thou regardest as great car-warriors.' Having said this, mighty-armed Karna of great fame, with thy son's approval, did not fight for the first ten days. http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07001.htm
    Point (1) - If Karna vowed not to kill any Pandava brothers then why did he VOW to kill all Pandavas while riding ona single car if Bhishma is slain by them?
    Point (2) - IF KARNA WAS JUST LYING TO BHISHMA & KAURAVAS then he is exposed as being a liar, deciever and fraud that gave Duryodhana fake expectations and false hope. What a pathetic friend.
    2ND PROOF - Then Karna, desirous of slaying Bhima, shot at him in rage many whetted arrows equipped with wings of gold and polished by the hands of the smith. http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07135.htm
    Attacking Bhima with the intention of killing him.

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    1. Yes. I also believe that Karna's promise to Kunti is a later interpolation... It is possible that the entire Karna-Kunti conversation is a later interpolation. Likewise, Arjuna never vowed to kill Karna, nor did Bhima vow to break Duryodhana's thigh or rip Dushasana's chest...

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    2. Actually wait never mind it has been stated multiple times that Karna spared Sahadeva, Nakula, Yudhishthira & Bhima from remembrance of the words of Kunti. Also during Stri Parva and Santi Parva (some of it's sections may not be interpolated as they were consistent with the epic barring the narration of Brahmanic lore) Kunti said only herself and Surya talked to Karna and tried to persuade him.
      Only the Krishna-Karna meeting is interpolated.

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    3. I feel the Krishna-Karna conversation is not an interpolation, but the Kunti-Karna-Surya one is. Krishna's conversation with Kunti gives him subtle hints that Karna is her son. It is only after this that Krishna approaches Karna...

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    4. If so why did he spare Yudhishter, Nakula, Sahadeva & Bhima(at-least once)?

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    5. He spared them because he needed to rush to help Duryodhana, who was being attacked at the time. Remember that he had nearly killed Yuddhistira that day. Many surgeons were required to treat Yuddhistira and bring him back to life.

      Karna only initially fought mildly against Bhima. It could have been because he never anticipated such a fierce attack by Bhima. Once Bhima exerted himself more, Karna stopped fighting mildly (that was on day 14). On day 17, he rushed at Bhima with the desire to kill him.

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  4. But they say that Karna remembering the promise of Kunti took nto the life of the unarmed Bhima on day 14.

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    1. I consider that an interpolation. That same day, Karna chased down a chariotless, weaponless Bhima and attacked him in that position. If he was so worried about Bhima's life, he would not have done that. Also on day 17, he says:

      That desire of mine may be fulfilled today in consequence of my encounter with Bhima. If I slay Bhima or make him carless, Partha may come against me.

      http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08050.htm

      If he made the promise to Kunti, that thought should have not come to his mind that day!

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  5. karna is called suryaputra , shani dev is aslo called surya putra so is karna the avatra of shani dev?

    In Shani Mahatmya , Lord Shani while speaking to Kali Yugan King Vikramadiyaa tells him that did not spared even Lord Krishna.
    When Lord Shani entered in horoscope of Lord Krishna. People blamed Lord Krishna for stealing Syamantak Mani and killing Satrajit , when Lord Krishna realized this he worshipped Shanidev , he removed his gaze and asked Lord Krishna that he will come out of the false allegations.
    Lord Krishna asked Shani that in upcoming great war between Kauravas and Pandavas which is the side that upholds dharma at this Shani replied “Pandavas”. Lord Krishna requested him to favour Pandavs . Shani has given an interesting reply ” I and Yama are two judges. I deliver fruit of ones’ deeds through ones’ life through the punishment and rewards while Yama grants fruit of one’s deeds after death. Since am living curse of my mother in my human incarnation and my human incarnation is great friends with Duryodhana , I am governed by laws of karma so I can’t influence the outcome of war directly or indirectly as my human incarnation has to take part in the war but as you are supreme lord I cannot deny your request and hence I am in crisis , whether to follow the duty or deny the request of lord. Since you are Ultimate Lord , please free me from this crisis situation”

    Lord Krishna smiled at this and replied Shani that he will get him liberated from crisis and also ensure that his amshavatara attains salvation.

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    1. spyhk,

      Thanks for the info. But Shani Mahatmya is a marathi folktale and not an authentic Hindu scripture... So, I would not consider it authentic...

      If you consider Karna's father as the mythical Surya dev, then he is the brother of the mythical Shani dev. He is not an avatara of Shani dev though... He is just a brother.

      Indajit Bandyopadhyay wrote an article on Karna being the son of a brahmin named Durvasa. He argues that Karna being the son of Surya is simply a cover up. You can read the article here:

      http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=1439

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  6. Why is beef in the Mahabharata ?
    https://youtu.be/AXckeoUXhE8

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    1. Because it was part of the diet of the Vedic Aryans. There are many Rig Vedic verses supporting beef eating.

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  7. How about analysing the battle while looking at both sources from KMG and BORI as you have done in some posts?

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    1. Sin sama,

      Welcome to this blog. For your query... When I originally wrote this post, I had not read BORI at the time and hence did not use it in the post. However, now that I have read BORI, it seems that it agrees with my analysis to a great extent. The difference is that it retains one of the shlokas (corresponding to Karna Parva Section 91 in KMG version) where Karna tries to lift up the chariot wheel. I, in my analysis, gave reasons why that must be an interpolation. So, that is the only major difference between my interpretation in this post and BORI.

      BORI does remove the verses where Karna makes Arjuna unconscious and spares him... The verses the Karna fans like to quote to argue Karna's superiority over Arjuna as a warrior. If you would like a more detailed explanation, I can dedicate a couple of comments here to the BORI version (just let me know if you want a more detailed explanation).

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