The armies of the Kauravas and the
Pandavas got ready for war. Bhishma became the Supreme Commander of the Kaurava army. He
was listing the names of the important generals on his side and on the side of the
Pandavas. In those days the mighty warriors used to rank as Atirathas and maharathas
according to their prowess.
Bhishma said of Karna: "This Karna is not an Atirathas; he is not
even a purnaratha. Even the teacher who taught him has cursed him. Also the natural armor
and earornament he had at birth, he has presented to others. So he is not as strong as he
used to be. Therefore, he is an ardharatha." So Bhishma ranked him disparagingly, far
below the renowned generals. Dronacharya who was nearby also said: "Yes, yes, tie is
very vain. Truly he is an ardharatha."
Karna who heard all this was very much pained. He was also enraged.
Said he: "Bhishma, why do you hate me so much? I am innocent. Still you always prick
me with such fierce words. You are the Supreme Commander. Is it right to sow conflict in
the army? Who can say that you know your responsibility as the Supreme Commander?
You are extremely old; you are senile. That is why you talk like this.
"He turned to Duryodhana and said: "Friend, this man thinks he is the only
warrior in the world. Single-handed, I can destroy the Pandavas and their army. But when
he derides me in this fashion, why should I fight? Even if I kill the enemies, this
Supreme Commander will get the credit. I do not like it. In any case, he will be defeated
in the war. After that I will fight and kill the enemies". So saying, Karna renounced
the war and walked away.