Pandu started living ascetic life in forest. He dedicated his life in prayers and meditation. He was desirous of offspring but due to curse of the sage couldn’t approach his wives. Kunti, when came to know about the desires of Pandu told him about a powerful mantra she had. She was blessed by Rishi Durvasa that she could call any God using that mantra and can be blessed with a son of that God. After knowing about mantra, Pandu’s excitement had no limits. Finally, he got a way to have his son. He requested Kunti to use the mantras, invoke the God of Dharma, and be blessed with their first son. Kunti followed the wishes of Pandu and used the mantras to call God Yama. Yama honored the mantras, appeared, and blessed Kunti with the first son. Happiness came into the desolated life of Pandu. They named the first born as Yudhishthira.
Some time later, Pandu once again requested Kunti to use the mantras. He said the prince needs a powerful protector and hence call upon God Vayu to bless her. Kunti followed and got blessed with another son from Vayu. This boy was born with the strength of elephants and was named Bhima. But the greed of man has no ends, Pandu said, “O Kunti! Now we have our successor and a protector, but who will expand the kingdom. We need a skilled son who can protect the dominions of our land. So, let’s pray to God Indra to bless us with a son.” Following this, they both prayed for a year and pleased God Indra. Indra honored the power of mantras and appeared when Kunti called him. Indra blessed Kunti with the most skilled boy and predicted that the boy would remain unparalleled. Nobody would be able to match his expertise. They named this newborn as Arjuna.
Kunti was now mother of three sons. Madri the other wife of Pandu, one day, expressed her wishes. She too wanted to contribute for the future generations of Pandu. Beholding Madri’s desires, Pandu requested Kunti to share the mantras with Madri. Kunti did so and Madri was blessed with twin sons – Nakul and Sahadeva from the twin Gods Ashwin brothers.
On the other side in the palace of Hastinapur, Gandhari too was blessed with hundred sons with eldest named Duryodhana and a daughter named Dussala. That was the time before Gandhari’s pregnancy when, Rishi Vyasa visited Hastinapur. Gandhari ensured the comfort of the rishi and hence he asked Gandhari about her wishes. She asked for a century of sons equal in strength like her husband. Gandhari got pregnant but even after completion of full pregnancy cycle no child was born. She waited but nothing happened and one day when her patience overpowered her, she tried to push the baby out of her womb. But there was no baby but a piece of flesh, she cried and prayed to Rishi Vyasa. She didn’t know what to do with that piece of flesh.
Soon, Rishi Vyasa appeared and said, “My boon doesn’t go in futile. I never speak untruth. Why didn’t you wait?” Gandhari had no answer. She wept and wept.
Rishi then asked to bring 100 earthen pots filled with water. He started cutting that lump of flesh into smaller pieces and while he was doing so, Gandhari said, “O Lord! I also want a daughter along with the 100 sons.” “So be it!”, said rishi and asked for a smaller pot filled with water. He put all those 101 pieces in earthen pots and kept in secluded place. And when the time came, the children of Gandhari born out of those pots as blessed by Rishi Vyasa.
Years passed. Duryodhana with his other brothers was growing up in palace, while Yudhishthira with his brothers in forest.
It was springtime. And one day Pandu and Madri forgot their sorrows with the throbbing life around them, the happy flowers, creepers, birds and other creatures of the forest. Pandu’s resolution broke down under the exhilarating influence of the season, and at once the curse of the sage took effect and Pandu fell, dead. Madri couldn’t contain her sorrow and entered the pyre of Pandu, leaving behind her two sons Nakul and Sahadeva. Kunti took the responsibility of five sons and decided to return to Hastinapur.
It was not easy for sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra to accept each other warmly and friction started growing among the brothers. Bhishma then decided to send all the princes to the ashram of Guru Kripacharya. All princes were sent to the ashram and their education started. Meanwhile, Satyavati with Ambika and Ambalika decided to walk into the forest and live like ascetics as per the advice of Rishi Vyasa.
One day, few of the princes were playing with a ball made of hay when suddenly it fell into a well. All saddened were just wandering how to bring that ball out. Looking at the ball they couldn’t decide what to do. After some time, a man in white robes and hair matted like a sage passed through the place. Observing the bewildered princes, he asked about the reason of their sorrow. He said, “O Sons! What are you all looking at?” One replied, “our ball has gone into the well and we don’t know how to bring it out. We don’t have ropes.” The sage asked, “Aren’t you Kshatriyas?”
Arjuna came out from the group and said, “Lord! We are Kshatriyas, princes of Hastinapur.”
“What kind of Kshatriya are you when you don’t know how to pull out the ball from the well?”, mockingly said the sage.
All bowed their heads, embarrassed, couldn’t utter a word. Arjuna silently walked forward, bowed down before the sage and said, “O Great man! If you know how to pull out the ball without ropes, please help us.” The sage smiled and said, “Collect few sticks and bring them to me.” Few of the princes ran and collected dried sticks and came back. The sage then threw one stick into the well targeting the ball. The stick got stuck into the ball and then he did something extraordinary. He threw more sticks, each piercing the previous one, made a long chain. And then the ball was taken out.
Arjuna watched the act inquisitively.
Later in the day, Bhishma visited the ashram and then Arjuna told him the entire event. Bhishma immediately got that the act was not normal, it was certainly done by someone expert. He enquired about it with Guru Kripa and found that the sage was Dronacharya. Drona was Kripa’s sister Kripi’s husband, who came to visit Kripa. Bhishma immediately requested Drona to teach the princes of Hastinapur, the art of handling weapons.
Drona accepted the proposal and soon his fame spread all around. The gurukul of Drona accepted many students from varied backgrounds, few sons of kings, few sons of countrymen.
Arjuna was leading the training and soon he became favorite of Guru Drona. While other princes picked their favorite weapons, Arjuna chose “bows and arrows”. He used to practice all day without break. There was one more student in the gurukul of Drona who had special interest in handling bows and arrows. He had special envy on Arjuna. He became close friend of Duryodhana and like other brothers of Duryodhana participated in teasing the Pandava brothers. His ambitions were high, his vision was strong, but he chose not to grow with Arjuna and other Pandavas. Albeit elder than Arjuna, he always saw Arjuna as his competitor. This young boy was Karna. Karna grew with princes of Hastinapur, learnt under the supervision of Kripa and Drona but his obscured vision took him away from the path of righteousness. And one day, he decided to walk away from the gurukul of Drona, without giving any reasons.