Night falls! Darkness suffused the kingdom-Kurukshetra! Everybody in the kingdom was in a deep sleep, but one man- Dronacharya, the Gurudev of the royal family was awake- restless and pacing. His mind raced with thoughts of how he could test his students, the Kauravas and Pandavas.
Engrossed in his thoughts he went to a jungle. There was a beautiful river named Kundalini flowing through that jungle. He spent the night at the river bank as he meticulously planned. An idea of finding his true disciple struck him and he instantly leapt from the bank and got to work.
As the dawn sky slowly lit up, Dronacharya smiled, preparations complete.
The Kauravas and Pandavas, including Ashwatthama and Karna, came to their waiting teacher at first light. He addressed to all of them in a serious tone, ‘Oh my dear sons! I have decided to see your talent today! A test so you can show me your skill in archery Vidya. Do not release the arrow unless I command you to.’
‘As you wish, Gurudev!’ the princes chimed.
An excited hum broke out among the crowd of young boys. They were all excited! Duryodhan- the eldest of Kauravas winked at Karna, “I’ll bet you will manage to win this one, Karna!”,’ proudly he said. Karna nodded his assent with a mischievous glint in his eye.
Dronacharya looked at them all, then cast his eyes on Karna first. Karna came forward, full of confidence. Gurudev handed over the bow and arrow to Karna.
‘Alright Karna, stand on this spot, look at the distant hill and tell me what can you see? Remember, do not release the arrow till I ask,’ Drona spoke in a soft voice.
Karna peered at the hill carefully gripping the bow and arrow. Then he said, ‘Gurudev! I can see a pillar on the top of the hill. Upon that pillar, a thin stick is lying down. A small paddy is kept above it. Beyond that, I can't see anything.’
Dronacharya smiled. Fondly he patted his back said, ‘Well done, Karna! You can rest now.’
‘Ashwatthama, come on. Tell me, my son- what do you see?’
The moment Ashwatthama held the bow and arrow, he started shaking like a leaf. He took his position, looked at the hill that his father mentioned. He stammered, ‘I-I can see the pillar, uh, the s-stick and the paddy. That’s all, father.’
‘Ok, step down!’ Gurudev told him.
‘Duryodhan get ready!’
Duryodhan’s response was unsure, ‘I can see the hill. A pillar on which a thin stick is lying. Above it a paddy...but Gurudev above it, I can't see anything.’
‘Hm, good job Duryodhan. You can step down,’ said Dronacharya.
And so, each prince was called and the same question was repeated.
Duhshasan had said that he could only see the huge clouds floating around the sky above the hills, beyond that nothing is visible. Bhimsen, Nakul, Sahadev, and rest of the Kauravas all of them saw up till the paddy or to the pillar only! None of them could reach the target. At last, Drona called Arjun.
Diligently Arjun moved to the spot, bowed his head before Gurudev, waiting for his command. Drona felt his sixth sense sing as Arjun felt the weight of the bow against his palm. The question was repeated for the final time.
Arjun fixed his eyes on the distant hill. He placed the arrow on the bow. Pulling the arrow to its full strength, he humbly said, ‘Gurudev! Kindly command me. What should I hit? At a distance of eight thousand eight hundred eighty-eight, I can see a hill. A pillar is there on the top of the hill. A stick, a paddy, upon which rests a mustard seed. I can shoot any of these targets as you wish, Gurudev!’
Dronacharya was amazed by Arjun’s incomparable prowess! He hugged Arjun out of sheer happiness but requested him not to aim at anything.
At that time, Arjun politely said, ‘Gurudev! You had taught us to respect the rule! Once an arrow is attached to the bow to its full strength means- it has to be released, that is the rule. Please, tell me what to shoot!’
Dronacharya thought for a while. He could foresee the future scenario of Kauravas! He admired the hidden power of Arjun silently. He began to contemplate, then in a deep voice said, ‘Well, Arjun! Shoot the mustard, but the mustard will remain resting on the leaf, attached to the arrow, it should not fall to the ground.’
Without any delay, Arjun keenly focused on the mustard seed, then released the arrow. There was no mistake. The arrow flew in lightning speed, pierced through the mustard and stopped there above the paddy without falling down!!
‘Bravo! Arjun, bravo! You will conquer the world with your Archery Vidya!’ Drona shouted aloud.
Both the Kauravas and the Pandavas were amazed by their teacher's jubilance.
Duhshasan’s response was the most immediate, lips pulled tight and a resentful glare sent toward his unaware teacher. Duryodhan maintained his respectful mask even though his anger boiled hot under the surface. Among all of them, Karna was the only one who was equally good in archery, unfortunately, it was his destiny that his attention was not perfect that day. The other Kaurava princes varied from pride in their brother Arjun to deep jealousy and resentment that not even Karna had elicited such a response from their teacher.
Dronacharya was extremely pleased by Arjun’s performance! He was well aware of Karna’s formidable skills, though, he believed Arjun had them all.
Dranachary’s partiality had sown the seeds of animosity deep into the earth, the flowering of which would shake mankind.