CLXIX Bhishma said, Both the brothers Achala and Vrisha are Rathas. Invincible in battle they will slay thy foes. Endued with great strength, those tigers among men, those foremost of Gandharvas, are firm in wrath. Young and handsome, they are possessed of great strength. As regards this thy ever dear friend, this one who is always boastful of his skill in battle, this one who always urgeth thee, O king, to fight with the Pandavas, this vile braggart, Karna, the son of Surya, this one who is thy counsellor, guide, and friend, this vain wight who is destitute of sense, this Karna, is neither a Ratha nor an Atiratha. Without sense, this one hath been deprived of his natural coat of mail. Always kind, he hath also been deprived of his celestial ear-rings. In consequence of the curse of Rama his preceptor in arms as also of the words of a Brahmana who cursed him on another occasion, owing also to his deprivation of the accoutrements of battle, he, in my judgment, is only half a Ratha.
Having approached Falguni in battle, he will not certainly escape with life' Hearing this, Drona, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, said, It is even so as thou hast said. That is not untrue! He boasteth on the eve of every battle, but yet he is seen to retreat from every engagement. Kind out of season and blundering, it is for this that Karna, in my judgment, is only half a Ratha' Hearing these words, Radha's son, expanding his eyes in rage, and afflicting Bhishma with words like sharp hooks, said unto Ganga's son these words, O grandsire, though I am innocent yet from thy aversion to me, thou manglest me thus, according to thy pleasure, with thy wordy arrows at every step. I tolerate, however, all this for the sake of Duryodhana. Indicating me as only half a Ratha, thou regardest me worthless, as if, indeed, I were a coward! What doubt is there in this? I do not speak an untruth when I say that thou, O Ganga's son, art an enemy of the whole universe, and especially of all the Kurus!
The king, however, doth not know this! Who else is there that would thus seek to disunite and abate the energy of these kings that are all equal and that are all equally brave, as thou, from thy hatred of merit, seekest to do? O Kaurava, neither years, nor wrinkles, nor wealth, nor possession of friends, would entitle a Kshatriya to be regarded as a Maharatha! It hath been said that a Kshatriya acquireth eminence only through might, as Brahmanas acquire eminence through superiority in mantras, as Vaisyas through wealth, and Sudras through age. Influenced, however, by lust and envy, and acting from ignorance, thou hast indicated Rathas and Atirathas according only to thy own caprice! Blessed be thou, O mighty-armed Duryodhana, judge properly! Let this wicked Bhishma, who only wrongeth thee, be abandoned by thee! Thy warriors, once disunited, can with difficulty be united again. O tiger among men, thy main army, under such circumstances, can with difficulty be united; far greater will the difficulty be in uniting an army gathered from various provinces! Behold, O Bharata, doubt of success hath already arisen in the hearts of thy warriors!
This Bhishma weakeneth our energy in our very presence! Where is the task of ascertaining the merits of Rathas, and where is Bhishma of little understanding? I alone will withstand the army of Pandavas. Coming in contact with me, whose arrows never go for nothing, the Pandavas and the Panchalas will fly away in all directions like oxen when they come in contact with a tiger! Where, Oh, are battle, the press of armed encounter, good counsels and well-expressed words, and where is Bhishma, who is superannuated and of wicked soul, and who is impelled by the very fates to become their victim? Alone he challengeth the whole universe! Of false vision he regardeth none else as a man. It is true the scriptures teach that the words of the old should be listened to. That, however, doth not refer to those that are very old, for these, in my judgment, become children again. Alone I will exterminate the army of the Pandavas!
The fame, however, of such a feat will attach to Bhishma, O tiger among kings, for this Bhishma, O monarch, hath been made by thee the commander of thy forces, and the renown always attacheth to the leader and not to those that fight under him. I will not, therefore, O king, fight as long as Ganga's son liveth! After Bhishma, however, hath been laid low, I will fight with all the Maharathas of the enemy united together' Bhishma said, This burden, vast as the ocean, in the matter of Duryodhana's battle with the Pandavas, is about to be taken up by me. I have thought of it for many years. Now that the hour is come for that terrible encounter, dissensions amongst ourselves should not be created by me. It is for this, Suta's son, that thou livest! Else, superannuated though I am and young in years thou art, I would quell thy desire for battle and crush thy hope of life! Thy preceptor Rama, the son of Jamadagni, shooting his great weapons, could not cause me the slightest pain. What canst thou, therefore, do to me?
They that are good, do not approve self-praise. Infamous wretch of thy race, know that I indulge in little boast because I am enraged. Vanquishing on a single car all the assembled Kshatriyas of the world at the Swayamvara of the daughters of the ruler of Kasi, I abducted those maidens. Alone, I stopped on the field of battle the rush of countless kings with their soldiers! Obtaining thee as embodiment of strife, a great calamity is ready to overtake the Kurus! Strive then for slaying our antagonists. Be a man, fight with that Partha, whom thou so often challengest. O thou of wicked understanding, I desire to see thee come out of that encounter with thy life' King Duryodhana then said unto Bhishma, of great prowess, Cast thy eyes on me, O Ganga's son! Great is the business that is at hand!
Think earnestly as how I may be most benefited! Both of you will render me great services! I desire now to bear of the best car-warriors among the enemy, that is, of those that are Atirathas among them and of those that are leaders of car-division. O Kaurava, I desire to hear of the strength and weakness of my foes, since when this night will dawn, our great battle will take place