Thursday, 27 September 2007

Visiting Mahabharata 25--The Tournament (revisted in 2011)

(The tension between sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra, the hyberboles used by the author to describe the tournament reminds us of the just completed 20-20 format cricket world cup final between India and Pakistan. The crowds went berserk, the country went mad after India literally won the match by a whisker. Anyway reading about the tournament conducted by Guru Drona to showcase his students amply illustrates how a mere tournament could be loaded with so much emotion!)

Drona's intention obviously was to show Bheeshma, the citizens of Hastinapura and other kings the skills of warfare he had taught the princes. But what was seen was the intensity of jealousy and hatred between the cousins Bheema and Duryodhana. But the appearance of Karna as a challenger to the supremacy of Arjuna indeed depressed him and the Pandavas.

The tournament, the author says, was watched by millions. Arjuna shows his skill by shooting his arrows singly and in bunches at such a speed that they could not be seen. (I am sure this speed can be calculated by a physicist! I wish there was some information about the material used for the bow, the arrow and the bow string! May not be relevant if an arrow is moved by a mantra.)

It is time for Karna to make his appearance in the tournament. The twang of his bow-spring was heard all across the stadium like a thunder. Anyway, he duplicates all that Arjuna has demonstrated with ease and challenges Arjuna for a contest.

The story continues, Kunti recognises Karna and faints. Karna's challenge is thwarted by a tradition that 'No prince can fight with his inferior'. Duryodhana has other ideas, he counters that 'bravery is not the birthright of Khastriyas alone' and crowns Karna as the King of Anga so that the fight can go on. Karna's foster father appears on the scene and it is now the turn of Bheema to field objections that a sutaputra is not fit to fight Arjuna and insults Karna.

Duryodhana again is quick to react, he draws attention to the way his father and their father were born and also says 'The world knows that you are the sons of your mother and not your father'. The day ends and so does the tournament and a victory of sorts for Duryodhana. He also gains a very loyal friend in Karna. Yudhistara is a worried man now.

(This story also illustrates that while a lot of importance is given to class it was not a rigid system. Bravery and ability to fight were still paramount. Also interesting to note that people knew how the Kuru and Pandava clan came into existence. Obviously there was no problem with that. This makes me wonder why Kunti kept quiet at this moment and did not come out in the open about Karna being her son and why Vidura who knew everything wanted her to be silent!  Again it must be fate of Karna the unfortunate one.)

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