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 opportunity....to 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.....