Ironic. That’s how my life is now. Ironic. Amid the clash of maces, clang of swords, whiz of bowstrings, all I am trying to do is remove the wheel of my chariot from the ground. It’s sad that I, the greatest archer in the world, am going to be killed by my own brother in this fashion.
In these last few minutes of my life, I guess you people deserve to know the truth. Before it is too late.
As they say, let me begin from the beginning.
I am Karna, the one born with the armour and ear-rings. My parents are Radha and Adhiratha, a charioteer couple. I was raised near the banks of the river Ganga.
I was always fascinated with archery. The sturdy bows, sharp bowstrings, and the keen arrows always had me stare in wonder. While my brothers employed their rough, coarse hands in lubricating chariots, I was busy utilizing my long, thin and nimble fingers for crafting rough bows made from the bark of trees. Whatever happened, I wanted to become an archer. The best archer in the world.
I didn’t need anything else except a good teacher. I am already born with this amazing golden armour that appears and disappears with my will, and nothing could penetrate it. Not to mention my earrings, which makes me glow like the Sun itself. Yeah, I know. I’m incredibly lucky.
Anyways, seeing my deepening interest in archery, my parents took the utmost pains to take me to a good teacher, who would teach me the complex skill of archery. Alas, it was a hopeless dream.
Every single guru we met, every single one, from Guru Drona to Guru Kripa, all of them rejected me. They stung my heart with their words, “You have great potential, my boy, but we cannot teach you, ah, for you are the son of a wretched charioteer. We do not accept suta-putras as our disciples.”
When honesty and sincerity fail, there is only one way left: trickery and deceit. I went to Guru Parashurama, the guru of Drona himself, and posed as a Brahmin to him. He had taken an oath to teach only Brahmins, and this was the only way I could learn from him.
One day, towards the end of my training, Guru Parashurama was sleeping, resting his head on my lap. Suddenly, a scorpion appeared from nowhere, and stung my thigh. Not wanting to disturb my guru’s hard-earned rest, I bore the pain. But I guess the warm blood trickling down my thigh could not be controlled, for my guru woke up, and started scolding me.
“Oh Vasusena, what have you done? You told me that you were the son of a Brahmin, but no one, not even I, can bear the pain of a scorpion sting without even a whimper. Surely then, you must be a Kshatriya, for only a person with royal blood in his veins can bear it.”
I was startled. I had expected him to respect my effort of not to wake him up, and here he was, calling a suta-putra a Kshatriya. Slip of the tongue, I guessed.
“You fool, knowing my hatred of Kshatriyas, how dare you come here in the guise of a Brahmin? I curse you, oh Karna, that in the hour of need, may you forget the use of the divine weapons!”
Great. I spend all my life learning the use of divine weapons, and here my great guru is, cursing me to forget all of them.
I couldn’t bear my guru being so disappointed in me. He had once told me that I was equal to him in all skills of warfare. My guru love me deeply. I couldn’t let this happen. I couldn’t disappoint him in this way.
I’ll ask for his forgiveness. There must be something, something I could do to be pardoned. But deep inside, I knew it was impossible. Nothing could change my guru’s mind. There was practically no hope that he would show me even an iota of pity for the crime I have knowingly committed.
“However, being the excellent and diligent student that you were, I give you a boon too. Here, take my bow, Vijaya.The string of this bow cannot be broken by any kind of divine weapon. Every time an arrow is released from this bow, it will create a terrible twang as loud as thunder, causing terrible fear in the hearts of your enemies, and will produce flashes of light, as brilliant as lightning, which will blind your enemy.
This bow cannot be broken by any weapon or anyone, and it is so heavy that a normal person cannot even lift it. Every time an arrow is aimed, the energy of the arrow is amplified by multiple times, as this bow is charged with sacred mantras.
Bowing down, I received the celestial Vijaya, the last show of affection to me by my guru. I will preserve this bow for future use, I thought.
“Take this bow, and show me not your face again,” my guru said with rage.
I reeled. I had thought of telling him the truth and begging his pardon before I left the gurukula, but I never expected it to come off this way.
(to be continued…)