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Mahabharat Chapter 6 - Birth of Pandavas and Kauravas

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Sura was a scion of the Yadava clan and was grandfather of Krishna. His daughter was Pritha. Sura’s cousin Kuntibhoja did not have any children so he gave his daughter Pritha in adoption to Kuntibhoja. Pritha was known as Kunti after her adoptive father.

When Kunti was a young girl, Rishi Durvasa came to live with them as guest for a year. Rishi Durvasa was well known for his quick temper. Kunti was given the immense responsibility to taking care of Rishi Durvasa. She took served him with a lot of care, patience and respect. Rishi Durvasa was very pleased with her service. “I am going to teach you a mantra. By invoking it upon any God, he will manifest himself and give you a son equal to him in glory.” He foresaw the misfortune of Kunti’s husband and gave her this boon.

As time passed Kunti grew impatient day by day. She wanted to test the boon. One day, she decided to invoke the mantra on bright shining Sun in the sky. As soon as she invoked the mantra, dark clouds came over and under the screen of the clouds Sun god came in all his glory. Kunti stood transfixed watching the divine visitor.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am the sun god and I am drawn by the divine son-giving spell that you uttered.” Replied Sun.

Kunti was aghast. “I am a young unwed girl. I cannot have a son. Please go back and forgive the folly of my youth.”

“Once you utter the powerful mantra, I cannot go back without fulfilling the request.” The sun god was held by the power of the spell and Kunti was mortified at the prospect of having a child. “Do not be afraid. Cast away the child in a secure basket. I will bless the child so he will not be harmed. To compensate for the misfortune the child has to bear, I will give him divine armor and earrings that will make him invincible. You will not be blamed, Kunti.” And Sun god gave Kunti a son. He was bright and beautiful like the Sun and had the divine earrings and armor on him. Kunti put the baby in a secure box and set it afloat in the river.


The box was found by a childless charioteer. He opened the box and was delighted to find the beautiful baby inside. Since he was born with the earrings and the armor, he was called Karna. Thus, Karna, born of the Sun god and Kunti, was raised by the Charioteer and his wife who showered the entire mother’s love. He grew up to be one of the greatest warriors.

Kuntibhoja arranged for a swaymvara for Kunti. Many suitors flocked for the swayamvara for Kunti was known for her beauty and virtue. One of the suitors was Pandu. Kunti chose Pandu over all the other suitors. On the advice of Bheeshma, Pandu also wed Madri, the sister of King of Madra. This was according to the customs of the old days to have more than one wife.

One day King Pandu was out hunting. A sage and his wife were also sporting in the forest in the guise of deer. Pandu shot the male with an arrow, in ignorance of the fact that it was a sage in disguise. Stricken to death the rishi thus cursed Pandu: "Sinner, you will meet with death the moment you taste the pleasures of the bed."

Pandu was heartbroken at this curse and retreated to the forest with his wives after entrusting his kingdom to Bhishma and Vidura and lived there a life of perfect abstinence.

Seeing that Pandu was desirous of offspring, which the rishi’s curse had denied him, Kunti confided to him the story of the mantra she had received from Durvasa. He urged Kunti and Madri to use the mantra and thus it was that the five Pandavas were born of the gods to Kunti and Madri. Kunti invoked lord Yama Dharmaraj and had Yudhishthir, who was well known for his righteousness and his inability to tell a lie. Then she invoked Vayu (air) and had Bheema. Bheem had the most physical strength and was strong as Hanuman. Since Hanuman was also fathered by Vayu, Bheem was Hanuman’s younger brother. Kunti then invoked Indra the king of devas (demi gods) and had Arjun. Arjun was a peerless archer and was invincible. Kunti then asked Madri to invoke the mantra. She invoked the Ashwini gods and had twins Nakul and Sahadev. Both Nakula and Sahadeva had a way with horses and the cows. Both were peerless swordsmen. Sahadev was the youngest of all the Pandavas. He was the wisest of them all too and was often referred as wiser than Brihaspathi (the teacher of Devas).

The Pandavas were born and brought up in the forest among ascetics. King Pandu lived for many years in the forest with his wives and children. It was springtime. And one day Pandu and Madri forgot their sorrows in the rapture of sympathy with the throbbing life around them, the happy flowers, creepers, birds and other creatures of the forest.

In spite of Madri’s earnest and repeated protests 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 could not contain her sorrow. Since she felt that she was responsible for the death of the king. She burnt herself on the pyre of her husband entreating Kunti to remain and be a mother to her doubly orphaned children.

The sages of the forest took the bereaved and grief-stricken Kunti and the Pandavas to Hastinapura and entrusted them to Bhishma.

Yudhishthira was but sixteen years old at that time. When the sages came to Hastinapura and reported the death of Pandu in the forest, the whole kingdom was plunged in sorrow. Vidura, Bhishma, Vyasa, Dhritarashtra and others performed the funeral rites.

All the people in the kingdom lamented as at a personal loss. Vyasa said to Satyavati, the grandmother: "The past has gone by pleasantly, but the future has many sorrows in store. The world has passed its youth like a happy dream and it is now entering on disillusionment, sin, sorrow and suffering. Time is inexorable. You need not wait to see the miseries and misfortunes that will befall this race. It will be good for you to leave the city and spend the rest of your days in a hermitage in the forest." Satyavati agreed and went to the forest with Ambika and Ambalika. These three aged queens passed through holy asceticism to the higher regions of bliss and spared themselves the sorrows of their children.

Gandhari was the daughter of Saubala the King of Gandhar a province in Afghanistan (may be modern days Kandahar?) She was married to Dhritarashtra. When she came to know that Dhritarashtra was blind, she too decided to deny herself the pleasures of sight. She tied a piece of cloth over her eyes for the rest of her life. Rishi Vyasa gave his blessings at her wedding as “Be a mother of one hundred sons”. She was a very pious lady and an ardent worshiper of Lord Shiva.

When Kunti gave birth to Yudhishthir, Gandhari became pregnant too. However, she had an unusually long pregnancy. Frustrated that Kunit’s son was the first born, she beat her womb and a hardened gray mass of flesh was delivered. She challenged Vyasa to fulfill his blessing of one hundred sons. Vyasa took the piece of flesh and divided into 100 parts. He then put them into 100 pots and tied their mouths and buried them in the earth for a year. Duryodhana was the first to emerge out of the pot. His name literally means “hard to conquer”. He was said to be an incarnation of “Kali” (demon Kali, not to be confused with goddess Kaali). When he was born at a very inauspicious hour, Vidhura and Bheeshma advised Dhritarashtra and Gandhari to abandon the child. He was to bring upon the certain death and destruction of the complete clan. But Dhritarashtra and Gandhari’s love was truly blind and they refused to part with Duryodhana. Gandhari thus had 100 sons; Duryodhana and Dushasana were amongst them and one daughter Dushala who was married to Jayadrath.

Click here to read all stories from Mahabharata

Mahabharat Chapter 7: The Story of Drona - Teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas

You might also like....Amba Becomes Shikhandi and the story of Vidura.

Drona was a brahmin and the son of Rishi Bharadwaj. Like his father, he wanted to be great teacher. He learned all the vedas and vendantas and specialized in archery. He was a supreme archer and was later appointed as the teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas by Bheeshma.

Drupad, the King of Panchala, was at the gurukul of Rishi Bharadwaj at the same time as Drona. In those days, the students went to the teacher and lived with the teacher until the education was complete. This was called the gurukul. In the gurukul, all the student were equal and each had to do their share of work along with their studies. The work would include, getting water from the well, chopping firewood, helping in the kitchen, washing dishes, taking the cows out to pasture and plastering the walls and floor with cowdung. When cows eat their natural diet of grass and grain, their dung is sweet smelling and a powerful insecticide. Even today in the villages, houses are plastered with cowdung as they keep away the insects.

Drupada and Drona were best friends at the gurukul. Drupad, being the son of a king, did not want to do a lot of chores and Drona would often cover for him doing both their shares of work. In the boyish enthusiasm, Drupad would often exclaim that when he grew up and became the king of Panchala, he would gladly give half his kingdom to Drona.

Both Drupad and Drona graduated from the gurukul of Rishi Bharadwaj. Drupad became the king of Panchala. Drona married the sister of Kripa and had a son Aswathama. Drona had no desire for worldly riches and hence they were extremely poor. One day, the little boy Aswathama, began demanding for milk. He had never tasted milk as a boy and after hearing about it from the other little boys, he wanted to taste some. Drona and his wife were so poor, they did not have milk to give to Aswathama. Drona's wife mixed some flour in water and gave it to Aswathama. Having never, tasted milk before, he gladly drank up the mixture as milk. The mother however, could not stop her tears and pleaded to her husband to go seek some wealth. Moved by the plight of his wife and son, whom he loved very much, Drona decided to go out and seek some wealth.

He heard that Parsurama had defeated a lot of kings and was distributing their wealth amongst the poor. Drona went in seek of Parsurama. By the time Drona reached him, Parsurama had already donated all the wealth. So, instead he offered to impart to Drona his knowledge of use of weapons. Parsurama was one of the very few teachers who knew how to call the brahmastra. Drona, a skillful archer that he was, learned from Parsurama and became an unrivaled master of military art.

Drona, now had even more knowledge but no wealth. He remembered Drupada, his childhood friend. He decided to go to Drupada and thought he would be received very warmly. In Drupada's court, he addressed Drupada as a friend and reminded him of his friendship and his child hood promise of giving half his kingdom. Drupad, who now was a King, was offended by Drona's poverty. How could Drona, who reeked poverty, address him, a King, as friend in the full court. Drupada thought Drona had come to ask for half his kingdom.

Drunk with power and wealth, Drupada said: "O brahmana, how dare you address me familiarly as your friend? What friendship can there be between a throned king and a wandering beggar? What a fool must you be to presume on some long past acquaintance to claim friend ship with a king who rules a kingdom? How can a pauper be the friend of a wealthy man, or an ignorant boor of a learned scholar, or a coward of a hero? Friendship can exist only between equals. A vagrant beggar cannot be the friend of a sovereign." Drona was turned out of the palace with scorn in his ears and a blazing wrath in his heart.

Drona decided to teach Drupad a lesson. He then decided to go to Hastinapur. Kripa, his brother-in-law was the teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas. As he reached the outskirts of the city, Drona saw some boys playing. While they were playing, their ball fell into a very deep and narrow well. The boys gathered around the well, trying to figure out a way to retrieve the ball.

The boys were Kauravas and Pandavas. As they were looking at the ball, Yudhishtir's ring fell in the well too. The water was clear and they could see both the ball and the ring in the water. The boys did not see the dark skinned brahmin approaching. “You boys belong to the great clan of Bharat, are you not skillful enough in archery to retrieve the ball and the ring?” Yudhishthir, turned around and said in fun, “If you can take out the ball and the ring, we will make sure you get a good meal at our teacher Kripacharya's house.”

Drona took a blade of grass and aimed it at the ball. The blade of grass stuck the ball. He then threw a succession of blades that stuck to the end of the previous one. Soon, Drona could pull out the ball out of the well. The boys were impressed. “Can you remove the ring from the well too?”they inquired. Drona borrowed Arjuna's bow and arrow. He took a aim at the ring and released the arrow. The arrow went through the ring, stuck a stone and rebounded back to Dron who skillfully caught it. Yudhisthir bowed his head in reverence, “O Brahmin, please forgive my boyish impudence. Who are you?” Drona said, “Go ask Bheeshma about me. I will wait for you boys right here.” The boys ran to Bheeshma and told him what had happened. Bheeshma welcomed Drona and appointed him to teach Kauravas and the Pandavas.

Kauravas and Pandavas learned the use of various weapons and the art of war from Drona. When their studies were complete, Drona asked to defeat Drupad and bring him as guru-dakshina(fees paid to the teacher). Duryodhana was the first to go. He took Karna with him and fought Drupad. Drupad was skilled warrior too and he defeated Duryodhana. The Pandavas were the next to try. Arjuna was were very valiant in the battle and defeated Drupad. They tied him up and brought him to Drona.

Drona was avenged, he released Drupad and said, “Drupad you are a great King, do not fear for your life. We were best friends in childhood, but you decided to forget our friendship. You said that friendship can only occur between equals. Having defeated you, your kingdom is mine and you have none. I give you half the kingdom. We are now equals and I hope you learned your lesson. Go rule your kingdom wisely, I do not seek the power of a king.” He then let Drupad go.

Drupad burnt with the insult. At the same time, he was very impressed by Arjuna's archery skill. He performed tapas, underwent fasts and yagnas. He wanted a boy who would slay Drona and a girl who would marry Arjun. His efforts bore fruit and he had a son named Dhrishtadyumna who killed Drona in the war of Mahabharata. He also had a daughter Draupadi who married the Pandavas.

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Amba Becomes Shikhandi - Filled with grief and rage, Amba began her penance to please Lord Shiva as all human aid had failed. Lord Shiva appeared before her and granted her the boon that she would slay Bheeshma in her next life. Click here to read more...

Story of Vidura - Vyasa told Satyavaty to send one of them so that a healthy child may be born. Both Ambika and Ambalika did not want to go so they sent a maid instead. The maid was calm and composed during the yogic process. The child born was named Vidura who was the incarnation of Dharma. This is how Dharma came on earth as a mortal. Click here to read more...

Click here to read all stories from Mahabharata

Mahabharat Chapter 8 : The Story of Karna - the Doomed Hero

You may also like - Bhishma - His vow and Drona - The teacher of Kauravas & Pandavas.

KarnaThe Kauravas and Pandavas learned the art of using weapons first from Kripacharya and then from Dronacharya. When they graduated from the school of Dronacharya, a huge event was organized for all the people of Hastinapur including the masses living in the villages and the royals of the Palace. Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Bhishma, Kunti, Vidura, Kripacharya and Dronacharya and others were present for the event to display the skills of the princes.

The Kauravas were good but the Pandavas excelled. The large enthusiastic crowd was lost in wonder and admiration at Arjuna's superhuman skills with his bow and arrows. Duryodhana's barometer of rage, envy and jealousy was steadily climbing. By the time the sun was ready to set, Duryodhana was fuming with jealousy at all the admiration Arjuna was getting. Just then there came a loud compelling sound like that of thunder made by clashing weapons from the main entrance to the arena. From the cloud of dust there emerged, a young man wearing shining armor and earrings that shone like bright sun. He came face to face with Arjuna with his whole body expressing a challenge to Arjuna. Instinctively, the rest of the Pandavas gathered around Arjuna. Little did they know the irony of fate that they were standing in challenge in front of the eldest son of Kunti and God Sun. It was none other than Karna.

Karna gave a careless bow and salutations towards Kripacharya and Dronacharya and then towards the royalty. With a voice like rumbling thunder, he addressed Arjuna, “Arjuna, I can show greater skills at archery than you have.” With careless ease Karna repeated all the feats of Arjuna. Duryodhana was overjoyed at the appearance of this unexpected good fortune. He embraced Karna with all the love of a long lost brother, “Who ever you are, fortune has sent you to me. Me and my hundred brothers are at your command.”

While love flooded Duryodhana's heart, blazing wrath filled in Arjuna, as he felt affronted. He stood stately over Karna and exclaimed, “Who ever you are, you shall be slain by me and go to hell for intruding uninvited.”

Karna gave a mirthless laugh, “This arena is not open just for you Arjuna. What is the use of showing off skills when they cannot be compared with any one else's. Talk is the weapon of the weak, send arrows instead of words.”

Arjuna hastily bowed to his teachers and then embraced his brothers, as he prepared himself to the challenge. Karna took leave of the Kauravas and stood in front of Arjuna in combat. Lord Indra, the god of the thunderclouds and Arjuna's father, and the Sun god came at once in the sky to encourage their progeny.

Meanwhile, the moment Karna entered the arena, Kunti recognized him as her first born. As Arjuna and Karna became ready for the combat Kunti fainted. When she regained her consciousness, she was stupefied in anguish and was at a loss. She confided in Vidura the true identity of Karna and sought to stop this confrontation.

Kripacharya, who was well versed in the rules of the single combat, came over as the referee. Before beginning the combat he addressed Karna, “Youth, what is your name and what is your lineage? We cannot go forward without knowing this information. Arjuna is a prince and cannot engage in single combats with unknown adventurers” At the mention of lineage, Karna bowed down his head, downcast, like a lotus in rain, for all his life he was thwarted in his attempts for being a charioteer's son. He braced himself for the insults to follow.

Duryodhana came to his rescue,”We all know this youth matches Arjuna in skills. If the combat cannot take place merely because he is not a prince, that can be remedied easily. I proclaim from hence forth, this youth is King of Anga. I shall perform all the rites and rituals necessary to give him sovereignty over the kingdom of Anga.”

It seemed that a combat between the youthful warriors was inevitable and was about to commence when the Charioteer Adhirath entered the arena. He was the foster father of Karna and was now shaking with fear at the impudence of his son to challenge the royal prince. As soon as Karna saw Adhirath, he bowed his head and gave the salutations to his father.

Bheema jeered at Karna, “King of Anga indeed, you are but a son of a charioteer. You don't need a royal insignia you need a whip to drive the horses or may be a brush to clean the horses. You are fit to rule the stables not the kingdom of Anga.” Karna's lips trembled in anguish at this outrageous speech. Before Karna could speak anything, Duryodhana spoke indignantly, “Such speech is unworthy of you Vrikodara. Valor makes Kshatriyas, Kshatriyas do not make valor. The exercise of tracing one's lineage is meaningless. I can give you hundreds of instances of great men of humble births. Why awkward questions may be asked about your own origin. Look at Karna, his armor, his earrings, his build, confidence and the way he carries himself. I am certain there is a certain mystery behind him. Lion is not born to antelopes.Unworthy of ruling Anga did you say, I contest that he is worthy of ruling this whole world.” Duryodhana whisked Karna in his chariot and drove away from the arena.

The sun set and a confrontation between the two sons of Kunti Karna and Arjun was avoided for a day.

Karna wanted nothing more than a show down with Arjuna and win. This desire was fueled even more by Duryodhana. Karna felt a certain loyalty towards Duryodhana after the unexpected and affectionate display of friendship by Duryodhana. He wanted to learn about the all powerful “Brahmastra”, the equivalent of today's nuclear bomb. He went to Parsurama to learn about it. Parsurama was known for his dislike of the Kings and the warriors. Karna hid his identity as a charioteer's son because the world always ridiculed his ambition for the best warrior because of his parentage. He learned the art from Parsurama and Parsurama in turn was very pleased with his disciple. Indra in heaven knew Karna had learned the Brahmastra only to use it on Arjuna.

One day, Parsurama was sleeping with his head on Karna's lap. Indra took the form of a wasp and started to drill a hole in Karna's thigh. Karna tried to shoo ti away but the wasp was determined. Karna could not move without waking up his guru. As the wasp drilled the hole and warm blood started to trickle,it fell on Parsurama and he woke up. He saw what had happened. Parsurama was furious, “Karna you no Brahmin boy, only Kshatriya can bear the pain you are bearing. You have tricked me and learned the knowledge by deceit. I curse you that when you need it the most, you will nor be able to remember anything you have learned from me.” Karna stood aghast, he pleaded Parsurama, “I am not a Brahmin, but I am not a Kshatriya either. I am a sutaputra (charioteer's son). I had to lie because all my life I was denied education because of my lineage.”

Parsurama's anger subsided a little bit after knowing that he was not a Kshatruya. He liked Karna too, “Son, I cannot take back my curse, and I have cursed you rather harsh. In return, I will give you my Vijaya bow. Take it and go back home.”

Karna took the bow and started back home. On the way, he decided to test the new bow. He stretched an arrow on it and carelessly without aiming at any particular target, he shot the arrow. The arrow stuck a cow and killed it. The owner of the cow was furious at Karna's callousness. “You have killed a cow that did not threaten you, you were displaying your skills on someone who had no weapon. You too shall be killed defenseless, when you have put down your weapons.”

These fatal curses set the stage for Karna's death in the Mahabharata war. He always remained a faithful friend to Duryodhana. He is the tragic hero, a gifted, righteous and a brave hero, known especially for his generosity. He fought impossible odds all his life and died with courage, valor and honor. He is also an example of misplaced loyalty that doomed him.

Bhishma - His vow - King Santanu was hunting for deer in the jungle when he separated from his group. His horse was thirsty and so was he. He led the horse to the river for a drink. He saw a beautiful damsel by the banks of the river Ganga. Click here to read more....

Drona - The teacher of Kauravas & Pandavas - Drona was a brahmin and the son of Rishi Bharadwaj. Like his father, he wanted to be great teacher. He learned all the vedas and vendantas and specialized in archery. He was a supreme archer and was later appointed as the teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas by Bheeshma. Click here to read more....

Click here to read all stories from Mahabharata

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