It is said that during the war, Duryodhana lost 99 of his brothers and though he grieved for their death, it was only the loss of Karna which hit Duryodhana really bad. Once Karna was killed, Duryodhana lost all the will to fight. Duryodhana no longer even wanted the kingdom.....After Karna's death, the only reason Duryodhana continued the war was because he was wanted to get it all over with. Probably he also wanted to die in the very same battlefield that also claimed his friend. Thus for all practical purposes, the war was really over after the death of the king of Anga.
Fulfilling his promise to Karna, Shalya led the Kaurava army the next day. The last day of battle was a lackluster affair. Yudhishtara killed Shalya in the afternoon and the Kaurava army was routed. Duryodhana who had the capacity to hold his breath for a long time, got away from the battlefield and stayed inside a lake, probably because he wanted nothing to do with the world where Karna was not there.
The Pandavas found Duryodhana and challenged him to a one on one fight. Yudhishtara in a burst of foolishness allowed Duryodhana to choose any one of the Pandavas as an opponent and also suggested that the winner could walk away with the kingdom.
For winning the war, all Duryodhana needed to do was to choose one of the Pandavas other than Bhima as his opponent and he would have won the battle, hands down....
But a man who fought a huge and gory war all for the sake of his arrogance was obviously very proud. Duryodhana chose Bhima as his final opponent.
Bhima all but lost the fight. Duryodhana was already a better fighter than Bhima and now he also had a special boon from his mother which made his body hard and impervious to any injuries. It was only because of some quick thinking by Krishna and some illegal move by Bhima that he won the fight.
The Pandavas won the war but at a terrible price. Only three people from the Kaurava army survived the last day of the war – Ashwattama, Kripacharya and Kritivarman. And Ashwattama unable to bear the grief of the death of his father, killed all the people from the Pandava army when they were asleep....
So the only people who actually survived the war from the Pandava side was Krishna and five Pandavas whom Krishna had managed to take away to another place....
Yudhishtara performed the last rites of the warriors slain in the war.....He was surprised to see his mother stumble across the grounds. 'Mother! What are you doing here?'
'I....I just came to see whether the last rites of everyone was done!'
Yudhishtara looked surprised and nodded his head. 'I am not ungrateful, mother! These brave people have laid their lives for me! I have not forgotten anybody! I....'
'Yes you have!' The words were out of Kunti's mouth before she could even stop herself. Yudhishtara stopped talking unable to believe what he was hearing. He looked at his mother questioningly who was now looking at the Dark Lord.
Krishna looked at Kunti with a sad smile on his lips and slowly nodded his head. Kunti opened her mouth but still no words came out. Krishna came forward and held Kunti's shoulder. Kunti who suddenly looked feeble, closed her eyes and with the touch of Krishna's finger opened her eyes.
'You have forgotten Karna!' Kunti said slowly.
'Why on earth should I perform the last rites for Karna? He is the enemy! The one person whom I was genuinely....' Yudhishtara stopped suddenly looking at the expression on his mother's face.
'He is my son! He was born before I married your father!' Kunti said quietly.
Feeling the world go topsy turvy, Yudhishtara suddenly sat down unable to take in what was being said. He did not doubt, not even for a second, about what he had just heard......
'He is my brother!' Yudhishtara whispered a tiny tear trickled from his eyes. 'My elder brother!' Yudhishtara sat down holding his head in his hands. 'All he had to do was tell me! I would have given him everything! And I fought him!' Yudhishtara looked at his hands wishing he could do something to his hands, which he suddenly found offensive.
Yudhishtara was feeling detached as he saw Bhima look like he could not understand anything.
Bhima closed his eyes wishing he could forget that smile of Karna....That smile of Karna which Bhima always found so offensive....Bhima just wished he could forget everything....
Arjuna broke down sobbing. 'I KILLED MY BROTHER! I CAN NEVER BE FORGIVEN!' He screamed. He looked around as he suddenly saw images of Karna everywhere. The noble features of Karna, his pride, his beheading, his.....
'Keshava! What do I do?' He said crying and unable to think straight.
Kunti made all her sons sit down and narrated everything. She even told them about how she had approached Karna to come to the side of the Pandavas. 'He said he was Duryodhana's friend and would never leave him....' Kunti said breaking out crying unable to bear it anymore.
'He knew!' Yudhishtara said with a broken heart. 'He knew about us....' Yudhishtara looked at Kunti with angry eyes. 'Is that the reason he spared all our lives?' Yudhishtara asked suddenly feeling disgusted with himself.
Kunti slowly nodded her head as she told about Karna's promise to kill only Arjuna.....
Krishna shrugged looking at Kunti and the Pandavas. 'You all had each other! Through all your trials, you were still together!' Krishna shook his head. 'Karna has suffered much in his life and he had no one...not one person to share it with!'
Yudhishtara closed his eyes wishing he could just....'That is why I felt....like that in the dice game!' Yudhishtara muttered to himself.
Bhima looked at his elder brother enquiringly. 'I was feeling very disgusted with myself in the dice game!....But there...I saw Karna's feet and I was surprised...' Yudhishtara said speaking fast. 'Karna's feet looked exactly like mother's feet....' Yudhishtara shook his head rapidly. 'I could not explain it...Not even to myself...But looking at the feet calmed me down....Now I know why!'
Yudhishtara is a fit of anger looked at his mother. 'All this happened because you kept a secret! This war...the entire war would not have happened....' Yudhishtara chocked unable to continue. He finally looked at his mother. 'I curse all women! None of you would ever be able to keep a secret!'
Sage Narada came to the Pandavas and told them all about the curses of Karna. 'Parashurama's curse caused Karna to forget the mantra for the Brahmastra when he needed it the most at the battlefield....And the curse of the owner of the cow caused the chariot to be stuck in the soft mud and as cursed when he was helpless, Phalguni (Arjuna) killed him!' Narada said quietly.
The war had taken a terrible toll and looking at the loss of life, Yudhishtara felt that he was committing a crime if he sat on the throne of Hastinapur now. But listening to the story of Karna, he realized that if one man all alone could endure so much and still achieve glory then it would be more easier for Yudhishtara with his four brothers to start afresh and give the ordinary people the peace that they so desperately were striving for.
Thinking about Karna, Yudhishtara ascended the throne of Hastinapur and ruled very well for 36 years and prosperity reigned in the kingdom for these years.....