Saturday, December 7, 2013

Karna - Part 1 of 8

'I am very pleased with your hospitality Pritha!' Sage Durvasa's face crinkled into a smile. 'Ask for anything you wish!' He said as he looked at the sixteen year old Pritha standing before him.
(Pritha and Vasudeva (The Dark Lord - Krishna's father) were the children of King Surasena from the Yadava clan. When Pritha had been very young, Surasena had given her in adoption to his childless cousin King Kuntibhoja. Kuntibhoja doted on Pritha so much that he changed her name from Pritha to Kunti.)
While answering the sage, Kunti not only displayed her intelligence, but also her maturity by which she was able to please the ferocious sage. (Sage Durvasa was an extraordinarily powerful sage with a serious flaw. He got angry extremely fast and in his anger he very often cursed people.) 'My Lord! You know of all the things that has happened and the things that are going to happen! Please give me any boon which you feel would be useful for me in my future!'
Sage Durvasa smiled. Of course, he knew Kunti's destiny. He took a deep breath. 'Pritha! There is a mantra by which you would have the power to invoke any God of your choice! Once the mantra is uttered, the Deva would appear before you and offer you a child with the power of the Deva!'
Why would I need the mantra? Kunti wondered briefly but then she shook her head. If the Sage felt it was necessary for her to learn the mantra, she would learn it....
And so Kunti learnt the mantra. His mission completed there, the sage left the palace and went back to the forests leaving behind the young Kunti with her new found knowledge.
Any Deva? Did she really have the power to invoke any Deva of her choice? Kunti sat in her palace as she stared out of the window the sun's rays washing her. The sage had unconditionally given her this power....Kunti frowned....Would the mantra really work?
The sun was feeling warm today and without even realizing it, Kunti started murmuring the mantra staring at the sun.
Before Kunti knew what was happening, a dazzling light was filled in the room. Kunti gasped as she saw the shining Surya Deva standing before her! 'My Lord!' Kunti bowed looking flustered.
'You summoned me by the mantra!' was all Surya said.
Kunti blinked. She had not realized what she had done. She shook her head hurriedly. 'No my Lord! You do not understand! What I did....I did without understanding!' Kunti was suddenly feeling ashamed wondering what her father would say if he came to know of this....Much to her horror, Kunti saw Surya shake his head. 'I am sorry but I am bound by the mantra!'
Kunti continued, wailing. 'You do not understand! I am not married! How on earth, can I have a child now?'
The Sun God shook his head. 'I cannot go back without abiding by the mantra! However do not worry, you would be a virgin, even after you have the child....!'
And so Kunti had a glorious and beautiful child...wonders of wonders the child was born with earrings and a natural armour around his body!
The Sun God vanished from there....

Kunti realized that she could not keep the child with her. She repeatedly regretted her hasty action of summoning the Sun God. Probably deep down, she realized that this child....her son, her first born son....would be the one who would face a harsh difficult world for her mistakes....She wept as she wrapped the child in a cloth and put the baby inside a box and let the box float in the River Aswa.....

From there the box floated to the Charmanwati to the Yamuna and finally to the Ganga.....The child inside the box was alive and fine. Destiny had kept the child alive for a purpose...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Karna - Part 2 of 8

Adhiratha nodded his head as he came out of the palace of Hastinapur. Adhiratha was a fisherman from a charioteer's family, and was a good friend of Prince Dhirdarashtra of Hastinapur.
As was his usual practice, after meeting Dhidarashtra, Adhiratha along with his wife Radha went to the Ganga for fishing.
The two of them went about setting up the nets in the river when an unusual sight met the two of them.
A box was floating on the river. The two of them looked at each other and ran towards the box.
With a sense of urgency, the couple pulled the box out of the river, when they heard a muffled cry of an infant, from inside the box. Bewildered the two of them opened the box and were shocked to find a beautiful child inside...
You cannot have any children....You are not a good wife....The words kept repeating in Radha's mind as she picked up the baby from the box. Ever since she had been married, her neighbours had always said these things behind her back. They thought that she did not heard the words, but she did, but she had never been able to talk back....Because what they said was true, Radha could not have any children. Though Adhiratha never said anything, Radha felt ashamed of herself....What sort of a wife was she, she could not even have any children...
Radha swooped down hugging the child. The child felt perfect in her hands. She turned to Adhiratha. 'This child looks a like a divine child. I have never seen a child with a natural coat of armour and earrings before! I am sure this child was sent here to fulfill our desires.' She looked at Adhiratha with pleading eyes. 'Please let us adopt the child!'
Adhiratha looked at his wife and smiled.

The warrior picked up the bow and the arrow and pointed it straight at the bush. Wait! One second....two seconds.....There! The target was now visible! The warrior let the arrow fly.
Radheya woke up with a start. His mother saw him move suddenly and came near him. 'What is the matter?'
Radheya shook his head tiredly. Why did this dream always haunt him? He was from a charioteer's family, for Gods sake! He could not become a warrior....Radheya tried to be rational about it, but he could not forget. He could not forget the glorious sensation when the bow and the arrow was in the warrior's hands. The weapon had felt so alive and beautiful, like as if it was a part of him.
'Nothing mother!' Radheya said resignedly, as he saw that his mother was still expecting an answer from him. He accidentally brushed against the armour on his chest. He had had this armour for as long as he could remember. It was almost as if it was second skin. Radheya had asked his parents many times about why he had the armour. But his parents never answered. Probing further, Radheya learnt that his parents were very vague regarding any questions which involved his birth. Radheya wondered why.....
'Did you have the warrior dream again?' Radha asked his son. Radheya took a deep breath as he silently nodded his head.
Radha looked at the sharp and handsome features of the boy before her, and shook her head sadly. 'I should have told you this a long time ago! But every time I wanted to tell you the truth....I felt afraid!' Radheya frowned as Radha continued. 'I was afraid that I would lose you! You mean more to me than all my other sons born after you! You are RADHA'S SON!' Radha said vehemently. Radheya looked a little taken aback with the force in his mother's words but he listened patiently.
'I think it is time, I tell you the truth, my son!' Radha said softly.
And she told her son everything. For the first time Radheya came to know that he was indeed the adopted child of his parents. Though he felt a deep sense of despair, he could not extinguish another feeling budding inside him...He was not the son of charioteer. Probably there was a chance, he could still become a warrior! Probably his father was a warrior!
After his mother had told him everything, Karna decided the course his life would take. He realized that he wanted to be a warrior, no matter what....With the blessings of his parents, Radheya or Karna as he was called because he was born with earrings, set out to learn the art of weapons. First he approached the famed royal teacher of Hastinapur – Dronacharya.
Dronacharya, however looked scornfully at the uncouth and shabbily dressed youth. 'What is your parentage?' He demanded from the youth.
'Adhiratha and Radha are my parents!' Karna mumbled.
Dronacharya shook his head mockingly. 'I am the guru of royal princes! I teach the likes of Prince Yudhishtara and Prince Duryodhana! I cannot be found teaching to boys like you who do not have proper upbringing!' Dronacharya's eyes glowed with arrogance. 'Leave before I have you thrown out of here!'
Angry and ashamed, Karna left the place in tears. If only the teacher had seen the raw potential he had....and all Dronacharya was interested was who were his parents! As if Dronacharya was going to teach his parents and not him!
Karna decided that he would teach himself the art of warfare. Considering the Son God - Surya as his teacher, Karna practised archery till he was very good in it. However he realised that he needed guidance to learn advanced warfare techniques, if he ever was to be considered as a good warrior. Dronacharya was obviously not an option....
Karna roamed around the entire country asking around whether anyone would be interested in teaching him. However no one wanted to teach the art of warfare to a person from a charioteer's family. Just as Karna was about to give up, he heard about Sage Parashurama, the Brahmin who was a master warrior himself, but who hated all warriors and kings....If only the sage would teach him....

Karna went to the sage who was sitting in meditation. As Karna saw the stern sage, he began to have second thoughts. What if the sage also refused to teach him, because he was from a charioteer's family....Then he had nowhere else to go...The sage was the last option he had....
Karna was filled with doubt.
Soon...too soon, the sage opened his eyes. The sage looked at Karna enquiringly.
'Sir! I am a Brahmin!' lied the fisherman's adopted son, appalled that he was able to lie so effortlessly. 'I wish to learn warfare! I have gone to the teachers all over the country! However no one was willing to teach me! Please sir, you are the only hope I have!' Karna said desperately.
Still Sage Parashurama did not speak, just studying Karna who was now looking at the sage with open desperation taking in a deep breath, praying....
Finally the sage nodded. 'Fine! I accept you as my disciple! Let us see what you can do!'
Karna was feeling giddy with relief....The sage had accepted him as a disciple! His mind repeated again and again.
Finally Karna's mind gave him one clear thought....The sage had accepted him as his disciple because he had lied. He had lied to the sage! What if the sage ever found that out! What would the sage do? Would the sage understand that he had lied because he was desperate to learn...Karna took a deep breath trying to clear his mind. Right now all that mattered was that he was going to learn....What happened after this, was something he could neither control nor plan for...
And so Karna learnt under Sage Parashurama. He learnt with a passion that the sage found thrilling. In Karna, Sage Parashurama had found a perfect student. Sage Parashurama found that Karna had an excellent grasp of the basics of warfare - And with a bow and arrow, Karna was a class by himself.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Karna - Part 3 of 8

Soon Karna became Sage Parashurama's favourite student and the two of them used to spend countless time together talking about everything under the sun. The Sage happily taught the warrior the advanced fighting techniques and Karna absorbed the knowledge like a sponge.
As was the practice between them, the teacher and the student went on frequent hunts to the forest. After one such hunt, the sage became extremely tired. Karna sensing this, went and sat down under the shade of a tree and offered his lap to the sage as a pillow for the sage to lie down. Smiling happily and sage laid on Karna's lap and went into a deep, blissful sleep.
Karna watched the tired face of the sage wondering how such a fierce warrior could look so innocent in his sleep. Part of him was feeling proud that the sage trusted him implicitly knowing that he would protect the sage no matter what...
However now seemed to be the time for Karna's lies to catch up with him......
The place where Karna had chosen to sit down was infested with worms and insects. As Karna sat stock-still hoping that he would not disturb the sage, a huge worm slowly made its way towards Karna's thigh. Karna tried shooing it away, however he saw that any movement from him disturbed the sage and sat perfectly stock still....
The worm climbed up onto Karna's lap and Karna was shocked to find that it had a sharp sting. Karna almost shouted when he remembered the sage lying on his lap. Gritting his teeth, Karna firmly kept his mouth closed. The worm by now had bored itself deep inside Karna's thigh and Karna could not remove it without moving. 
Blood spurted out of the wound and Karna tried his best to ignore the throbbing pain in his thigh....The blood soon covered the cloth and slowly spread towards the head of the sage....
Sage Parashurama woke up with a start when the stench of blood reach his nostrils. Even as he woke up Sage Parashurama realized that a part of his head was covered in blood. Turning his head, Sage Parashurama looked at Karna whose face was lined with pain and stubbornness. He looked angrily at the worm and the worm suddenly dissolved in the blood and fell dead and a huge being stood in its place.
'Who are you?' Sage Parashurama asked the being.
'I am Dansa, an Asura!' the being said in a deep rumbling voice. 'You have saved me from this life...Thank you! Thank you very much!'
Sage Parashurama looked confused as the being continued. 'I belong to the first yuga – the Satya yuga or the Krita yuga! When I was younger....I....I....' The Asura fumbled and then cleared his throat and continued again. 'I...fell in love with Sage Bhrigu's wife!'
Sage Parashurama looked angrily at the asura. Sage Bhrigu was his ancestor. The asura hurriedly continued. 'It was for this reason that the sage cursed me to be born as a worm!' Dansa looked crestfallen as he continued. 'The sage said that only when I meet Rama from his clan, my curse would end! You are the great Parashurama and today my curse ends!' Saying this, Dansa vanished from there.
Sage Parasurama turned his attention to Karna who was looking at the entire scene stupefied, the pain in his thigh forgotten. Sensing that the sage was watching him, Karna turned his attention to the sage. However he was shocked to see the sage angry with him. 'You cannot be a Brahmin!' the sage said sharply. 'No Brahmin would have the capacity to endure so much pain! You have the makings of a warrior! Tell me the truth! Who are you?'
Karna took in a deep breath and realized that he had no other option other than to tell the sage the truth. 'Sir! I...I am Radheya, the son of Radha and Adhiratha. Adhiratha is a fisherman who comes from a charioteer's family. I...'
'So you lied to me?' Sage Parashurama asked Karna, his voice deadly cold and without any emotion.
'No....You don't understand...' Karna said fumbling. 'I lied because I was afraid you would not teach me....And I wanted to learn...I so desperately wanted to learn the advanced warfare techniques....All my life I have wanted nothing more....nothing more than....'
'SILENCE!' The sage thundered. 'I trusted you and you lied to me and you lied to me because you wanted to learn warfare techniques....Radheya I curse you....!' The sage said angrily. 'The knowledge that you have got from a lie will fail you....It will fail you when you need it the most!'
Karna was looking at the sage numb, wishing that he could say anything....anything to make all this go away. But all that he saw was the furious sage standing before him, unrelenting....I did this for knowledge...He wanted to scream but he knew that the sage would not listen....
Elsewhere, Dronacharya had finished teaching the Pandavas and the Kauravas all the warfare techniques. Much to Duryodhana's anger(Duryodhana was the eldest Kaurava), Arjuna, the third Pandava became a brilliant archer and was Dronacharya's favourite student. Dronacharya taught Arjuna not only archery but much more. Duryodhana, Dhirdarashtra's son was dismayed. Hastinapur was originally ruled by Pandu. But Pandu had gone to the forests to perform penance for the killing of a sage. So, in the absence of Pandu, Dhirdarashtra – his blind, elder brother had ruled the kingdom.
Now Duryodhana,fueled by his maternal uncle – Shakuni, nursed an ambition to rule the kingdom of Hastinapur after his father. Initially he was glad when the Pandavas stayed in the forest. Because then his claim to the throne was undisputed. Unfortunately after the death of Pandu, his wife Kunti (Pritha) came to Hastinapur with her five sons.
Duryodhana who was entertaining thoughts of defeating the five Pandavas was shocked when he saw them. He realized that though all the five of them were formidable warriors, Bhima and Phalguna (another name of Arjuna) were such powerful warriors that singlehandedly they could defeat all of the hundred Kaurava brothers.
Duryodhana was more than confident of his own mace wielding capabilities and knew that he could match upto to Bhima on any day.
But Duryodhana studied Arjuna, he realized that he had absolutely no one to match up to Arjuna's skills...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Karna - Part 4 of 8

Soon the big day had come. The entire kingdom was Hastinapur was waiting eagerly for the princes to show off their fighting prowess. An auspicious day was fixed and the princes started exhibiting their talents. Predictably enough it was Arjuna who stole the day. People were stunned with what the man could do with the bow and arrow as his feats bordered on the realm of greatness.

The people were watching the feats stunned when there was a stubborn looking youth standing just outside the arena. He watched Arjuna's skills with a disdainful expression. 'Well aren't you going to see what others can do?' The youth demanded angrily.
The people of Hastinapur who were watching the entire scene with bated breath watched the tall, dark and handsome man came forward and bowed to Dronacharya and Kripacharya with something far less than respect.
The young man again looked at Arjuna. 'I can do everything that you just did and a lot more....'
Without waiting for another minute, the youth pulled out his bow and arrow and with complete ease repeated all of Arjuna's feats.
In the sidelines, Duryodhana watched the youth mesmerized like as if all his dreams had come true....
Without knowing what he was doing, Duryodhana found himself being dragged forward as he found himself face to face with the young warrior. 'My friend!' Duryodhana said with something close to wonder in his face. 'I....I....' Duryodhana was fumbling. Finally clearing his throat, Duryodhana started again. 'I do not know who you are, but from this day onwards, you are my friend! You will always be my friend! Ask for anything you want my friend and it is yours!' Duryodhana said with utter sincerity in his heart.
The youth smiled as he turned his attention to Arjuna, his eyes suddenly becoming cold. Arjuna was showing off all the prowess which he was allowed to learn...because Arjuna was born a prince...something that was denied to me....The youth angrily closed his eyes and looked at Duryodhana properly. He realized that Duryodhana did not even know who he was, but he was still willing to become his friend. The youth suddenly realized that Duryodhana would not cast him off because of who he was or to whom he was born. To be with such a man would be probably the greatest thing in the world.....The youth cleared his throat. 'I want nothing more than to be your friend! But if you can, please grant me the permission for fight a battle with Arjuna!'
Duryodhana at that time realized that the young man whoever he was, hated Arjuna even more than Duryodhana hated him. Duryodhana smiled as he realized that the coming of the warrior was an answer to all his prayers....Duryodhana looked coldly at Arjuna and then turned to young man. 'For that, you do not need my permission! You are always welcome to it!'
Arjuna angrily shouted at young man. 'I am here only to exhibit my talents! How dare you....'
'Since when is the arena open only to the likes of you?' The man said. 'Just because you were born a prince and I was not...are you going to....' As the young man spoke, his armour which seemed strange because it almost seemed a part of his skin glinted in the sunlight. It reflected the light and the ladies of the royal palace who were watching the entire scene from the balcony caught sight of the young man for the first time.
Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas was first annoyed at the intruder. But when she saw the armour, she gasped. Was it really....? Kunti was almost hyperventilating as she studied the face of the warrior. The face....that face...That stubborn face was the same face she had seen in the face of Surya Deva! Kunti wanted to scream because she finally recognized her first born son.....But then she saw what was happening below and realized the irony of the situation. Her two sons were willing to kill each other over who was superior archer....If only Arjuna knew....If only Arjuna knew that the man whom he had just challenged was none other than his own....Kunti never completed the thought...She fainted!
Meanwhile in the arena, Karna taunted Arjuna. 'Are you afraid of using your weapons, is that the reason you are wasting my time talking, Phalguna?'
Arjuna bristled. He hastily took the blessings of his elder brothers and embraced his other brothers and marched ahead for battle.
Vidura revived the unconscious Kunti and frowned looking at her. He knew that something was not right. Kunti was not someone who fainted easily. He looked at the scene in the arena, wondering.....
Kripacharya, sensing this, immediately turned to Karna. 'This is Arjuna, the youngest son of Kunti and he is from the Kaurava lineage! Who are you warrior?'
Duryodhana looked dismayed as he saw the thundering face of Karna literally wilt before his eyes. It took just a fraction of a second for the prince to realize that though Karna may be a formidable warrior, he was not from high birth....Duryodhana smirked. Because that hardly bothered him. He immediately turned to his priests. 'Today is a good and auspicious day! Narrate all the mantras properly, because I wish to crown my friend Karna as the King of Anga! Henceforth Karna is the king of Anga!'
Duryodhana turned an haughty eye at Kripacharya. 'I think a king has the right to challenge Prince Arjuna to a battle!'
All the people in the arena were stunned.
Karna however was beyond all that. All he had wanted was just an show the world that he was as good as the princes whom Dronacharya taught.....And here he met a man who was willing to make him King! A man who did not even know who he was......
That was the single most decisive moment of Karna's life. Because he decided then and there, that no matter what happened, he was never going to leave Duryodhana's side. Duryodhana had given him the one thing that till date no one had been able to do....Duryodhana had given him a position...after this no one, not one person would look down upon him because he was a fisherman's son.....Karna took a deep breath as the realization flowed through him....Duryodhana meant more to him than the whole world.
Adhiratha was sweating as he saw the happenings in the arena. The words of Prince Duryodhana kept resounding in his old ears. The sacred mantras of the priests re-vibrated in his head as the realization slowly sank. His son....His son....The son of a fisherman was now a king!
Adhiratha stumbled forward as he went inside the arena. He felt as if he was dragged here, as if he had to touch his son just to know that all that happened right now was real and not a figment of his imagination.
Karna turned right sharply as he saw someone entering the arena. Seeing who it was, Karna's face broke into a beautiful smile. With tears in his eyes he bowed to his father. Father! I am now the king of Anga! You do not have to be a fisherman anymore....Your son, the son whom you raised and loved is now a king!
Bhima, Arjuna's elder brother looked at the entire scene and snorted angrily. 'You are the son of the charioteer! And you wish to fight with my younger brother, the great Arjuna!' Bhima angrily made his way to the centre. 'You are not even fit to die in my brother's hands! Go! Get a riding whip and drive a chariot! That is all you are good at!'
Karna clasped his bow tightly, his lips quivering. However the words which came out were not from his lips. 'Bhima! How dare you? Just look at that man.' Duryodhana said angrily pointing at Karna. 'If there was a warrior as great as Arjuna....' Duryodhana snorted. 'Why as great....If there was a warrior greater than Arjuna, it is Karna!' Duryodhana shook his head acidly. 'And please let us not compare about people's parents! I know exactly how you were born!....'
Duryodhana angrily held Karna's hands and led him away from the scene. 'If there is someone who should be complaining about the battle, it is Karna, not you!' Duryodhana angrily kept walking away. 'Come my friend!'
Duryodhana followed by his brothers led Karna away from the arena.
Bewildered and hurt, the Pandavas accompanied by their Guru and the other elders went back to the home.
The people of Hastinapur were stunned. In a single day, they had seen not one but two great warriors....Some of them were of the view that Arjuna was a better warrior....some others believed in Karna....Still some others believed that the day actually belonged to the astute Duryodhana....
Only when her sons were walking back home, Kunti heaved a sigh of relief. Though she knew that she had to be unhappy for Arjuna, but another part of her rejoiced....Karna was the king of Anga....Her son, Karna was the king of Anga...

Duryodhana also slept beautifully that night. He knew that he had found a perfect weapon to fight Arjuna.....

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Karna - Part 5 of 8

Karna became the King of Anga, but still there was no end to Duryodhana's jealousy. The Pandavas started expanding the kingdom of Hastinapur and soon the entire kingdom was talking about the fighting prowess of the Pandavas. Added on top of it, Yudhishtara, the eldest Pandava was showing a marvelous skill while learning the administration of the kingdom. The last straw was when the people started openly talking about handing over the reigns of the kingdom to Yudhishtara after Dhirdarashtra.
Enraged Duryodhana with a lot of help from Shakuni, along with Karna and his brothers planned for getting the Pandavas out of the way. Duryodhana was insanely jealous when it came to the Pandavas and he was incapable of thinking correctly when any matter concerned them. Whether Karna realized this and accepted it as part of his friend's nature or whether Karna loved his friend so much that he was blind to Duryodhana's jealously, whatever the reasons, Karna did not object to his friend's plans.
Duryodhana prepared for the wax palace to be built to burn the Pandavas in it. However the Pandavas, with help from Vidura escaped and lived in hiding to escape Duryodhana's unwanted attention. However everyone in Hastinapur believed that the Pandavas had perished in the fire.
Just so that no one would suspect him, Duryodhana and the others pretended on being extremely sorrowful at the death of the Pandavas. However no one was fooled. The people slowly came to realize the extent to which Duryodhana hated the Pandavas.
As a change to this, the king of Panchala, Drupada arranged for the swayamwara of his daughter – Krishna (Draupadi), the fire born princess of Drupada, who was of unparalleled beauty and intelligence.
The entire Hastinapur retinue went to the kingdom of Panchala to try their luck at the swayamvara. The Pandavas also came to the swayamvara but were disguised at Brahmins.
The test set up was not easy to say the least. A pole with a revolving fish was set up in the court with a huge pool of water beneath it. The test was to pick up a very heavy bow, string it and shoot five arrows at the eye of the fish looking at its reflection of the fish in the pool.
One by one, the princes and the king came forward to try their luck. But much to their dismay, shooting was another matter, most of the princes could not even lift the bow. All the Kaurava brothers tried their level best and failed miserably....even Duryodhana himself. Duryodhana came back dejected. Unable to bear his friend's sadness, Karna came forward and much to the surprise of the assembly effortlessly pulled up the bow and strung it. He was about to pull out the first arrow when suddenly Draupadi stood up.
The entire court stood motionless as Draupadi looked angrily at Karna. 'You cannot participate!'
Karna looked perplexed and angry and was about to retort when Draupadi said firmly, 'I will not choose you as my husband!' Every single word of Draupadi hit Karna hard. He realized that no matter what happened, people would never forget the fact that he was the son of the charioteer. People would never forget that and would never let him forget that either....
The entire Kaurava clan looked ferociously angry but Draupadi stood her ground. Karna realized that no matter what happened, he would always be considered as the son of the charioteer. Sadly he dropped the bow back in its place and walked back away.
That day Karna saw Draupadi getting married to a Brahmin who was none other than the person, Karna considered his arch rival – Arjuna.... Karna felt that Draupadi was being haughty and arrogant by even refusing him a chance to participate in the swavamvara...

Draupadi was soon to know exactly how much Karna's rejection was going to affect her- during the dice game....

Monday, December 2, 2013

Karna - Part 6 of 8

The ill-fated dice game had started with Shakuni rolling the dice and the Pandavas lost everything in it. Yudhishtar, who was supposed to be the incarnate of Dharma, after losing his kingdom and riches, pledged his brothers, one by one. After losing his brothers, Yudhishtara pledged himself and lost himself too and after that pledged their common wife Draupadi in the dice game and needless to say he lost her too.

Draupadi was dragged in the Court of Hastinapur before all the people.

She stood before all the great people in the court of Hastinapur and demanded angrily. 'Is this the great Kuru house? I, a daughter-in-law of the house, someone who should be loved and worshiped....I am dragged here to the court, declaring that I am a slave! Is this how you treat your daughters-in-law?'

Dusshasana, Duryodhana's younger brother shamelessly tried pulling Draupadi by her hair, however she pushed him away and Draupadi continued again. 'They say that my husband bet me in a game of dice and lost me! How is that even possible? He bet himself and lost himself in the game of dice! After a man has lost himself how can he pledge anything? Then how can you say that Yudhishtara pledging me in the game of dice was correct?'

The entire assembly was now still. Probably they realized that they had carried a game of dice too far or probably they realized that Draupadi's argument had merit.....

The stillness of the assembly was shattered by the loud laugh from the King of Anga. 'Draupadi! How can you even say such a thing? How can you say that Yudhishtara, who is the epitome of justice and Dharma, was wrong in pledging you? He is your husband and he has bet you, what is wrong in that?' Dusshasana who had gone very quiet, suddenly found some strength in Karna's words. He angrily pulled Draupadi by her hair and said viciously. 'You are now our slave! We get to decide what you....'

Draupadi looked at Dusshasana so angrily that his hands almost fumbled while he let her go. Draupadi turned her attention to the court. 'My question is right! Can not even one person in the great royal Kuru household answer this question?'

Unfortunately it was Karna who answered. 'Your husbands...' he said contemptuously. 'Your five strong husbands, who have never known any defeat so far in any battle are silent! They say nothing about dragging your here in the court! Do you know why?' Karna asked with unmasked hatred in his eyes. 'Because they all believe that you were lost fairly in the game of dice! That settles the matter!' Karna said with a voice of finality.

'No!' The voice belonged to Vikarna, one of Duryodhana's younger brothers. The entire court looked at the young man who stood stubbornly in the centre of the court.

'No what?' Duryodhana demanded his voice icily angry. Without flinching Vikarna looked at his eldest brother and shook his head. 'I think Draupadi is right! Her pledge is not correct!' Vikarna turned to his father, the blind king of Hastinapur. 'Father call off the dice game! This is not....'

'THATS ENOUGH!' Karna bellowed angrily. 'You are blabbering, Vikarna! When Drauapdi's husband and all the elders in the court themselves are quiet, why are you unnecessarily poking your nose in such matters?' Karna looked at Draupadi with a cruel smile playing in his lips. 'A woman who has one husband and who is faithful to him can be called as a chaste woman! But you....Princess of not satisfy that criteria....You with your five husbands....'

It is at this time that Dusshana started pulling of Draupadi's clothes or atleast tried to. Draupadi closed her eyes and remembered the Dark Lord of Dwaraka to come and protect her....Needless to say Dusshasana pulled and pulled...Draupadi always seemed to be clad in fresh set of clothes around her.

Tired Dusshasana lay beside a bundle of clothes almost having no energy to pull anymore....Disgusted with this Duryodhana with his friends retired to their inner chambers.

It was at this time that there was a ghastly noises of the most unearthly sounds and sights. The noise, the visions and the omens were so terrible that almost every single person in the court trembled with fear. It seemed like Nature herself was protesting and she was doing it violently....Almost as if Nature wanted to destroy the very place where such a gross injustice was being carried out....

Dhirdarashtra, the blind king of Hastinapur finally realized that he had let the game of dice carry too far. For the first time since it had started, it probably sank into Dhirdarashtra's head that the act which he had let happen today was going to have disastrous consequence. He understood that his blind love for his first born son was going to destroy the entire Kuru race and Dhirdarashtra realized the harsh truth...He was responsible for all that, because he did not put a stop to the game.

Trembling, Dhiradarashtra turned to Draupadi and offered the Pandavas their freedom, their riches and their kingdom back and asked them to leave immediately.

The Pandavas left Hastinapur and were going back to Indraprastha to get their army and raze Hastinapur to the ground.

Dusshasana who saw all the entire happening in the court, ran to his elder brother and told him everything that had happened in the court after he had left. Duryodhana realized that his father following some silly noble notion had done a very bad thing. He realized that the Pandavas would never take any slight to Draupadi lightly and would come back with their entire army. Duryodhana realized that now the Pandavas were powerful and Duryodhana realized that he could not get his people together that quickly to ward off the attack.

Duryodhana went to his father and angrily talked with him.'Father! What you have done is intolerable? How could you....?' He asked spluttering in his angry.

Dhirdarashtra shook his head solemnly. 'No my son! If I had not done what I did, I am afraid....the wrath of that woman would kill all of you.....I did what I did because that was the only way I could protect you.....'

'Protect us?' Duryodhana said scornfully. 'From what? Now the Pandavas are on their way back and they will come back with their huge army tomorrow and attack us! Do you think we have the capacity to fight off that attack?' He demanded angrily.

Dhirdarashtra suddenly fell quiet. Duryodhana realized that his father was again falling under his influence, continued. 'Listen to me father, I have a plan! Call the Pandavas for a dice game again! This time the wager will be that whoever loses would have to go and live in the forests for twelve years and they would have to spend the thirteenth year in disguise....'

Needless to say Dhirdarashtra again fell for his son's plan. He called the Pandavas for another game of dice and surprises, Yudhishtara agreed saying that it was the duty of a king to accept an invitation to a dice.

The dice were cast and the Pandavas were exiled for twelve years and to spend the thirteenth year in disguise.....


Though the Pandavas were now exiled Duryodhana still knew no peace. He was pacing the palace angrily muttering about the Pandavas as his friend Karna watched. 'What is it Duryodhana? Why are you....?'

'It is the damned Pandavas...I just cannot rest knowing that they would be back after thirteen years. Every time I think of it I....'

'Fear not my friend!' Karna said gently. He picked up his bow as he looked at Duroydhana, 'I will go to the forests now and defeat and kill the Pandavas...'

However Karna's foolishness was luckily stopped by Veda Vyasa. The great sage himself spoke to Duryodhana and made sure Duryodhana dropped the plan...

However Duryodhana unable to contain himself was responsible for Karna's defeat in a battle. A defeat which would rankle Karna for the rest of his life. A battle which would always be mentioned to him whenever Karna boasted about his fighting prowess.

Duryodhana wanted to see the Pandavas suffer in the forests and at the same time show off his wealth to them. So he organised a Ghosha yatra {a trip which is undertaken by the king or someone under him to check on the cattle and the other animals in the area} to the place which was the closest to where the Pandavas were staying.

Indra, the Lord of the Devas came to know of Duryodhana's plan and with an intention to teaching the prince a lesson sent his friend Chitrangada, who was a gandharva to the area near the forest. Now gandharvas were celestial singers and dancers. However they were very strong and powerful and they were also very good in their fighting skills.

Just as Indra planned, Duryodhana got into a fight with the gandharva. Duryodhana thought that the fight with the gandharva would be an easy one. It was not. Far from it. Duryodhana, his brothers and Karna were all captured by Chitrangada.

Yudhishtara came to know of this. He was of this opinion that the revenge which the Pandavas wanted from the Kuru princes should be enjoyed only by them and if Chitrangada harmed the Kaurava princes then the revenge would be denied to the Pandavas. With this idea he asked his brothers to fight Chitrangada.

The four Pandavas fought with the gandharva army and defeated them.

Seeing that the arrogant Duryodhana had learnt his lesson, Chitrangada also freed Duryodhana and the others.

It always hurt Karna and Duryodhana that it was Arjuna who had come to their rescue and that he was the one who had defeated Chitrangada who had so effortlessly imprisoned the Kauravas.....


A few years later, all the kings of the Bharatha race were invited to the Kingdom of Kalinga where another king by the same name Chitrangada had organized his daughter's swayamvara. Duryodhana and his brothers also had decided to attend the swayamvara. And he obviously went there with Karna. The minute Duryodhana's eyes fell on the Kalinga princess, Duryodhana was besotted. He knew that he had to have this woman as his wife. Unmindful of the time, place and the fact that there were plenty of other kings who were all waiting for the same opportunity, Duryodhana grabbed the princess by the hand. Before the startled princess knew what to think Duryodhana was almost at the end of the Court with the princess.

The other kings and the princess were all stunned and suddenly recovered as all of them reached out for their weapons. But Duryodhana was unfazed. He had his Karna near him. He knew that when Karna was with him absolutely nothing could happen to him. And he was right.

Karna singlehandedly disarmed all the kings and the princes there. As they neared the end of the palace with the other kings and the princess trying to give them a chase, Karna smilingly pushed Duryodhana and the Kalinga princess onto the chariot. 'Drive my friend! And don't worry nothing with happen to you!'

Duryodhana did not say anything but he smiled. But he did not doubt Karna, not even for a second.


Bhanumathi was looking worriedly at the game of dice. The bet was huge and it was definitely not going well for her. She angrily looked at Karna who was seated opposite to her with a winning smile on his face. The man had been winning almost every other game, that they had played. Bhanumathi was wondering what she could do to get out of the game. She knew that Karna would definitely not let her go easy and he was going to defeat her.

Worriedly Bhanumathi picked up the dice and was about to roll it when she saw movement in the outside door. Pausing she saw Duryodhana, her husband, come in. Smiling, she was about to get up when Karna looked at her surprised. 'Hey! I was winning! There is no way, you are going to stop this game half way through!' Karna said as he threw his hands forward. Unknowingly Karna's hands was caught in Bhanumathi's rich and beautiful dress. Bhanumathi kept walking away and suddenly the fragile dress tore with all the beautiful stones and pearls of the dress shattering and falling on the floor.

Bhanumathi looked shocked. What has Karna done? What would Duryodhana think? My God! I am in my inner chambers alone with another man and he pulled my dress. My God...

Looking at Bhanumathi's shocked expression Karna turned and for the first time saw his friend near the door. He looked at the torn dress and the pearls on the floor and wondered exactly what he was going to explain to Duryodhana...

Duryodhana looked at the stupefied expressions on the face of his friend and his wife and grinned. 'Do you wish me to pick the pearls up or string them as well?'

Karna looked shocked as he realized that Duryodhana did not suspect anything. His faith on the two of them was shakable. Karna smiled.....


Slowly the stories of Karna's valour began to spread throughout the country. Jarasandha the king of Magadha who prided himself on being very strong and brave found it intolerable that people spoke of him and Karna in the same breath. Angrily he decided to teach Karna a lesson.

Jarasandha challenged Karna to a duel to which Karna agreed. The two ferocious warriors fought long and hard and soon the weapons were exhausted and the two warriors fought with bare arms. Karna's proficiency in bare arms fighting was so great that he had Jarasandha on the back foot in no time. Karna pushed the warrior on the floor and threatened to tear Jarasandha's body in two. [According to the Mahabharatha, Jarasandha was actually a union of two half babies put together as a whole. Jarasandha was almost an invincible man and the only way to defeat him was to tear his body in two halves and throw them in opposite directions.]

'STOP!' Jarasandha screamed as Karna threatened to dislodge him. Karna looked at Jarasandha thorough his tired eyes when Jarasandha screamed again. 'PLEASE STOP! LET US BE FRIENDS!'

In a daze, Karna stepped back. Jarasandha slowly got up and looked at Karna, a slow smile forming in his lips. 'From this day you are my friend! You are not only a brave man, you are also a noble one! Please be friends with me!'

Karna agreed happily. Jarasandha gave Karna a town called Malini to Karna as a mark of their friendship. The King of Anga happily extended his rule over the new kingdom and won a powerful ally for his friend, Duryodhana.


The warrior walked and walked, from one village to another not caring about a thing. He was no longer sure about what he was seeing or hearing. He ignored the hungry rumblings of his stomach and crushed all the need for sleep. The warrior looked like he was chasing Death.

As he was walking, through the corner of the eyes he saw something flash by. Turning the warrior saw the bushes move. Thinking that it was a deer, the warrior even before he realized it, pulled out his bow. Before the warrior could focus, the arrow shot through straight towards its intended target....

Instead of the THUMP of the animal falling on the ground, the warrior heard an abysmal wailing of a human. Bewildered and half tired the warrior stumbled as he ran towards the bush. The warrior was shocked to find a beautiful white cow looking at him with great pain as his huge arrow pierced the cow straight in its chest....

Karna woke up screaming as the dream kept repeating in his mind. Slowly Karna calmed himself down as he looked outside the windless dark night. He had told no one but the dream he had was one he had every night. Because it was no dream. It was something which had happened to him. He was the warrior in the dream....

This had happened at the time, after Parashurama had cursed Karna. Not knowing what to do, Karna went from one place to another. He had felt lost and cut off from the rest of the world. That was when he had unknowingly killed the cow. The anguished wailing which he had heard was the wail of the owner of the cow. The wail always resounded in his ears shattering what little peace he sometimes felt.

'You murderer!' The man wailed. 'That was my daughter! I loved that cow like I loved my own child! You killed....' The man broke down unable to say anything anymore.

'Please...' Karna said with tears streaming down his face. 'Please I will do anything! I will give you a hundred cows, instead of this one! Please...Please!'

'If someone's child dies, would you make an offer of giving them another child?' The man sneered. 'YOU MURDERER!' The man screamed again. 'I CURSE YOU! I curse you that you will also be killed when your chariot gets stuck in the ground and you will be weak and defenceless' The man broke down sobbing as he looked at his beloved cow.....

Karna suddenly felt detached as he walked away from there as nothing in the world made sense anymore. He looked at the sun which was bright in the sky and slowly all the confused thoughts in his mind calmed down a little. It was at that minute that Karna decided that his life would be one of struggle and would never be easy...ever! Karna decided to worship the Sun Lord because worshiping the Sun Lord gave Karna some peace of mind.

In the present, Karna took a deep breath as thinking of the Sun Lord again calmed him down. Karna lay down again in the bed as the elusive sleep slowly came to him. But Karna was in for a surprise. This time he had another dream. But it was not of something which had happened. It was something which was to happen.

A man stood before him. A man who looked like a powerful aura emanated from him. The man looked very powerful and sad at the same time and he looked at Karna with so much love that Karna was disconcerted for a few minutes.

'Who are you sir?' Karna asked the man, an immeasurable happiness filling him inspite of himself.

'That does not matter, child! Listen to what I have to say! You earrings and the coat of the armour is special! Kindly do not part with it!' The man said eagerly.

Karna looked at the man strangely. 'Why would I part with it?'

'Tomorrow, Indra, the Lord of the Devas would come to you! He would come and ask you for your earrings and the armour! Indra will do that, because that is the only way he can protect his son – Arjuna!' The man smiled mirthlessly. 'As long as you have your armour, you can never be killed! Indra knows this! He also knows that you refuse nothing to people who come to you and ask you of anything! He will probably come to you disguised as a Brahmin! Please child refuse to entertain the Deva! Please save your own life!'

Karna laughed mirthlessly at the man. 'My Lord! I have nothing of my own! Though I have done many brave acts, I am always known as the son of a charioteer. The only thing which I can do with my life is make sure people remember me after I am gone! I have been following this ritual of giving anyone, whatever they want. I am afraid I cannot change it for anyone!'

'ARE YOU DEAF?' The man shouted. 'DID YOU HEAR EVEN A SINGLE WORD I SAID? The man who is coming is Indra! This is ploy! All of it is a ploy!' The man said hoping that there was someway he could make the stubborn Karna understand.

'Fine! I will give Indra what he wants!' Karna said without any emotion.

The man opened his mouth to shout but realizing that it was a waste of time closed his mouth again.

Karna smiled looking at the man. 'I see love in your eyes sir! Love for me! The number of people who love me' Karna smiled shaking his head sadly. 'Not many people love me! Who are you?'

That was when Surya showed himself in all his blazing form. Karna felt delighted at meeting the God he prayed to everyday, not knowing that the man before him was his own father. He prayed to the Sun Lord and praised him. Surya Deva blessed him and Karna woke up from his beautiful dream....

However Karna kept to his word. Though Karna was warned and knew the things which were to happen, the next day when Indra came and asked him for the earrings and armour, Karna took his knife and cut open the armour and earrings and happily handed it over to the Indra.

Moved by this, Indra gave Karna the Shakti, an extraordinarily powerful weapon which never missed its target, but with a caveat. The weapon could be used only once......