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 Panchala....do 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 like....like...' 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 is....is...' 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......

8 comments:

  1. Great story- telling... You can write a novel as good as shiva's trialogy... Why not try one???

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, just discovered your blog. Love the stories and details. So when can I expect part 7 & 8?

    Good work.

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  5. Great post, well written. But just a question. From where did you get the origial story of the game of dice between Bhanumathi and Karna? I thought it was not in original Mahabharatha? Can you please tell? Any other books in which this story appears?

    ReplyDelete