Saturday, November 19, 2011

Glimpses from Mahabharata # 19 - Duryodhan-Karna Friendship

Drona had taught the prince everything about warfare. He had also told them about the methods to be followed during a war. He had explained about the right and the wrong, the do's and don'ts a Kshatriya should follow. Arjun attained excellence in archery under Drona's training. Dharmaraj was adept at fighting from atop a chariot. Bheem and Duryodhan acquired mastery in using the mace. Nakul and Sahadev were good as horse riders.

Drona wanted the entire Hastinapur to know about the expertise of the princes in waging wars. So he made suitable arrangements for such a day. On the appointed day Hastinapur flocked to the arena of war sports. For, they had an opportunity to watch the princes demonstrate individually, their skill and knowledge. And compete with each other.

Dhristarashtra, Gandhari, Kunti, Vidur, Bhishma, Kripacharya and Dronacharya were seated on the dais. The commoners were also provided with seats. The entire Hastinapur wore a festive look.

Shortly, all the princes that is Dharmaraj with his four brothers and Duryodhan accompanied by his ninety-nine brothers entered the arena. They ere all dressed in a war like fashion and were armed suitably.

The competition began after the Vedic chant by the "Raj Purohit" (Chief priest of the Palace) conches were sounded and drums were beaten to indicate the opening of the games. It was then announced that the princes should exhibit their capabilities.

The archers, the fencer, the wrestlers amongst the princes demonstrated their talent. "Bravo Bravo" shouted the excited crowd. Bheem and Duryodhan's deftness in using the mace also delighted the crowed Nakul, Sahadev and the other Kaurava also drew appreciation from the spectators.

It was now Arjun's turn. Partha (Arjun) was Drona's prize student. When he entered the arena, the spectators clapped their hands and cried out "Hail Arjun! Hail Arjun! The warrior demonstrated before the public all that he had learned from his teacher. The crowed applauded each and every feat of Arjun.

The only person who could not tolerate this adulation towards Arjun was Duryodhan. He felt restless and agitated that none of his younger brothers could excel Arjun. If he were to score victory over the Pandav, he ought to have a very able person who could defeat Arjun. Otherwise his ambitions to rule Hastinapur would be shattered.

Kunti felt very happy and proud of her son Arjun. Drona announced that Arjun is the most excellent prince in the whole Aryavart (land ruled by the Aryans). Suddenly a man stood up from amongst the spectators and entering the arena proclaimed that he too would like to demonstrate his skill as a warrior and that he could prove himself to be far better than Arjun.

Drona was annoyed that a stranger trespassed into the arena, which is meant for princes only. "Who are you? Identify yourself" Drona, asked with angry voice. Everyone was curious to know about the challenger. His face radiates an inner strength. He had a pair of earring, which dazzled in the sunlight. " I am Karna. I am son of one of your charioteer" the newcomer said. "This arena is meant only for princes. Lower cast are not allowed to compete here" Drona said with a loud voice.

Duryodhan felt a hope in the voice of Karna. He was the prince of the Hastinapur. "I crowned him as the king of "Ang", the country which is mine. Now onwards he is a king of Ang. As a king he can participate in the contest and I hope now nobody has objection in this" Duryodhan said. Even though it was not very pleasant to the elders of the family, but now it was the matter of Drona's reputation Arjun accepted the challenge.

When Karna displayed all the feats of Arjun effortlessly. Duryodhan was delighted. "Finally. I have found someone who can combat with Arjun" he rejoiced. He immediately went to Karna and embracing him said, " From now on, you are my brother". Karna promised Duryodhan that as he gave a new life to him by giving him a chance to be a worrier he will fight for him to the end of his life for Duryodhan.

These dazzling earrings also caught the attention of Kunti and she immediately occurred to her that this was her eldest born. She was filled with anguish to see he two children facing each other n a challenge. The contest between Arjun and Karna created a lot of excitement amongst the spectators. They knew that this would be a very significant contest, for both Arjun and Karna were great warriors.

Kunti, the mother for both Karna and Arjun just couldn't witness the scene. She knew for certain that Karna was the child she had set adrift in the river long ago. Moreover, at close quarters one could make out a striking resemblance between the two brothers. Thinking about the outcome, she fainted. Suddenly an idea occurred to Drona.

He decided that he would allow only the princes to take part in this contest. He immediately conveyed this suggestion to Kripacharya. Kripacharya at once entered the arena and told Arjun " Arjun! Dronacharya has agreed to this combat. But prior to this. Both of you have to proclaim about yourselves".

Arjun had no difficulty in proclaiming about his royal origin. It was now Karna's turn to reply. The warrior told the spectators that his name was Karna. But what next? He did not know, who his real parents were?, what his clan was? Or any other information about himself. Red in the face, Karna felt distressed that fate had cheated him. He felt utterly humiliated. Kripacharya took advantage of this opportunity and spoke again.

"You do not know who you are? You are just and ordinary soldier. So, you do not qualify yourself to take part in a contest meant only for the royal blood. You may leave the arena". He said in an insulting tone. Drona and Kripacharya do not have any grudge against Karna. But to avoid Arjun's defeat by this warrior. They had to prevent Karna's participation in the contest.

Karna could not say anything. He did not know who he was, except that he had been brought up by a charioteer. He had no status in the society. Duryodhan too, did not like Karna being humiliated in such a fashion. He desperately needed someone to fight against Arjun. So, he quickly ran up to Karna and said " I am the prince of Hastinapur and upon my authority, I am appointing you as the king of Anga. You are now a king. So I dare anyone to say anything against you". So saying he placed a crown on Karna's head. He also performed all the necessary rites to bestow the kingdom of Anga on Karna.

Bhishma, Drona and Vidur were speechless. The Pandav found Duryodhan's behavior very strange. Bheem thought it to be ridiculous. He roared with laughter and said " A charioteer's son! King of Anga! Ho…Ho…!" But Duryodhan ignored them all and hugging Karna in a friendly way drove away in his chariot.

The contest ended and the crowd dispersed Some praised Arjun, others Karna but none knew that Karna was the eldest among Kunti's children. From that day onwards Duryodhan and Karna became very close friends and Karna remained loyal to his friend till he died. Karna was a great warrior and a good human being. But his only drawback was that he did not know about his origin. He had learnt archery under Parshurama by representing to him that he was a Brahmin.

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