Years passed and the education of all princes in the Gurukul of Drona and Kripa completed. That was the day of Graduation when on the orders of king Dhritarashtra, a large stadium was prepared for the citizens of Hastinapur to witness the prowess of princes of Hastinapur. “Rangbhumi” was decorated and citizens gathered to welcome the future of Hastinapur.
Amid the cheering crowd, entered the caravan of brothers, following their Guru, Drona. The energetic denizens showered flowers and shouted slogans to welcome their beloved princes. All princes, learnt in different scriptures, war forms, array formations, politics and other traits were returning to their home. Arjuna’s prowess and skills were unparalleled and he excelled in various fields to be called as the warrior. Be it the challenge of targeting the eye of hanging metal bird, be it hitting the targets in dark, Arjuna’s excellence had no match and, on that day, each pair of eyes was waiting to witness the miracles of skilled Arjuna. Born with the blessings of Indra but became learnt warrior with his determination, Arjuna was welcomed by roaring crowd as he reached the center ofRangbhumi.
All princes showed their strengths before the mesmerizing crowd and proud elders. Skills of swords, lances, maces and bows and arrows left the viewers awestruck. They were witnessing the never-seen-before skills and were elated seeing the calibers of future generation.
While Arjuna was busy showing his skills using the powerful mantra evoked arrows showering like torrent, a man wearing golden shield entered the arena. In a loud voice he demanded to show his skills as well. “I can also show what this prince of Hastinapur is doing with his arrows. This is like a child play.”, uttered proud man.
Beholding the man with extraordinaire effulgence and decked with weapons, Drona said, “This arena welcomes all skills. You are welcomed to show your strengths.” Then with the permission of Drona, he showed his great skills. Witnessing his dexterity, Duryodhana and his other brothers praised him. Duryodhana with extreme joy said, “Welcome O mighty warrior! This is our fortune to see you. Ask, what you desire.” To which the man replied, “I don’t desire anything except your friendship. But my one wish is to have single combat with Arjuna.” “So be it”, said delighted Duryodhana.
Guru Kripa, beholding the over joyous Duryodhana, said, “O mighty-armed one, Arjuna will get into duel with you, but before that you have to introduce yourself, and tell the names of your parents.”
That man decked with golden shield in loud voice said, “My name is Karna, I am son of Radha and Adhiratha. My father belongs to Suta varna. Because of this I am son of a Suta.”
Listening to words of Karna, Bhima started laughing and mockingly said, “Son of Suta can’t fight with son of Kshatriya.” Yudhishthira tried to calm Bhima, but Bhima continued making fun of Karna. The entire arena then got divided into two groups, Duryodhana and his brothers favored Karna while others favored Arjuna. When Duryodhana saw this non-stop mock and exchange of words between the two groups, he raised his voice and said, “If the lineage of my friend, Karna, is becoming a hurdle, I extend my support to install him the king of Anga. And from today, this world will know Karna as the king of Anga Pradesh. Now nobody can stop Karna having combat with Arjuna.”
Arjuna and Karna stood at the center of the field, and the world was about to witness the duel of two titans, when the sun gradually set. It was evening and Guru Kripa announced to call off the event. It was end of the eventful day. Arjuna’s prowess was witnessed by the citizens of Hastinapur and Duryodhana got Karna as his answer for Arjuna’s skills.
Days passed and one day, the princes of Hastinapur, gathered before Guru Drona and asked his wish as preceptor fee. It was tradition to pay the preceptor’s fee as per the desire of the Guru and the disciples had to follow the wishes. Guru Drona then asked something which nobody could think, he said, “Seize Drupada, the king of Panchal, in battle and bring him to me. That will be the most acceptable fee.”
Following the orders of Drona, Pandavas and Kauravas with Drona proceeded towards Panchal on the decided day. After days of travel, the caravan reached the outskirts of Panchal. A messenger was sent with Drona’s message for King Drupada to either fight or surrender. But the king of Panchal, Drupada, wasn’t ready to give up his kingdom without fighting.
Drona then sent Duryodhana, Karna, and other Kaurava brothers to captivate the king Drupada. But King Drupada and his son Satyajit fought valiantly and the troop of Duryodhana returned defeated. Drona then turn to Arjuna and Bhima. The two Pandava brothers took the charge and like angry lions attacked the Panchal army. Bhima was ruthlessly slaying anyone coming to his way and Arjuna, decided to rush towards Drupada. Soon he reached near Drupada but Drupada was protected by his son Satyajit. Satyajit gave tough combat to Arjuna, and it was first single combat of Arjuna before an unknown warrior. Arjuna showered hundreds of arrows on Satyajit, repeatedly cutting his arrows and negating the attacks of general of Panchal army. Soon Satyajit surrendered and desisted from the fight.
King Drupada was now on the target of Arjuna and as Arjuna promised to his Guru, he brought Drupada before his Guru. Seeing captivated Drupada, Drona arrogantly said, “King of Panchal, your kingdom and capital is now in my control. Your life is controlled by my wish. But fear not, I am not here to take your life.” Drupada stood silently.
Drona mellowed his voice and said, “Drupada, my affection and love for you have grown. Our childhood memories of our gurukul are still fresh in my mind. Do you want to revive our friendship again? And as a boon, I give you half of this kingdom which is won by my disciples.”
Drupada’s eyes were full of tears. Tears of remorse or anger, only he knew but he didn’t utter a word. Drona moved closer to Drupada and said, “This southern side of Bhagirathi will be yours and I will rule the northern part. I have kept my childhood promise, gave you half which belonged to me.” Drona mocked at helplessness of Drupada and asked him to return to his palace.
So why Drona asked for captivating Drupada? What was the story of division of half wealth? What was the childhood story of Drona and Drupada? We will check this story in next episode.
Before ending today’s episode, let’s listen to the backstory of Karna. So, the story goes like this –
Long before the marriage of Kunti with Pandu, when she was living with her foster father Kuntibhoja, she was blessed with a mantra by Rishi Durvasa. The mantra had the power to call upon any God to seek a son from him, indeed a powerful mantra, which even God couldn’t refuse. Young Kunti in her maidenhood fell prey of her inquisitiveness and one day she used the mantra to invoke God Sun. With the power of mantra, Sun God appeared. Kunti got scared, she didn’t know what to do. She was not married, and there was no choice of having child in maidenhood. She was affrighted. She folded her hands and said, “O God! This is my foolishness. I was doubtful of power of mantra and hence, thought of using it.”
Sun God smiled and said, “Dear! The power of mantra cannot go in vain. I have to honor the mantra.”
“But I am not married.”, replied Kunti.
“Don’t worry, nothing will happen to your maidenhood.”, replied the God and blessed Kunti. And when the time came, a child with effulgence of Sun was born. He was born with natural shield, as blessings of God. But Kunti didn’t want to reveal the secret of the birth of child and she then put the baby in a basket and floated the basket in river.
The basket carrying infant drifted and reached to the other part of the land where a mighty warrior with name Adhiratha found the basket and infant. He was childless and thus took the baby with him. His wife Radha accepted the baby and raised him as her own son. This boy grew and was called as Karna.
Adhiratha was prince of Anga Pradesh, founded by King Anga, one of the five sons of great ascetic king Bali. Bali’s five sons were Anga, Banga, Sumha, Pundra and Kalinga. Anga was the eldest and ruled over Anga Pradesh, one of the divisions of Bali’s kingdom. Adhiratha was descendant of King Anga and was son of Satyakarma. Satyakarma married a Brahmin woman and thus as per the rules of Varna system, the son born of Kshatriya father and Brahmin mother belonged to Suta Varna. Adhiratha took varna as pride and always addressed himself as Suta. Therefore, Karna was called as son of Suta. Not because his father was a charioteer but because his father chose to be called as Suta.
Later Karna went to the gurukul of Guru Drona, but Karna chose to leave Drona and find some other teacher. He became disciple of Parashuram by concealing his identity.
So, when Karna entered the Rangbhumi to have combat with Arjuna, he knew his real identity. He knew that he was anyway going to be the ruler of Anga but chose to remain silent when Duryodhana extended his support to Karna. Karna, born with blessings of Sun God and raised by another great warrior Adhiratha, became close ally of Duryodhana.