Reading Guide. As you can imagine, Duryodhana's jealousy has not abated, and in this episode he will be humiliated in front of the Pandavas once again. Karna continues to be loyal to Duryodhana, and he now vows that he will kill Arjuna in the battle that will follow the end of the Pandavas' exile.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [700 words]
Now while the Pandavas were enduring great suffering in the forest, Karna spake to Duryodhana and prevailed upon him to spy upon their misery. So Dhritarashtra's son went forth, as was the custom every three years, to inspect the cattle and brand the calves. And with him went Karna and many princes and courtiers, and also a thousand ladies of the royal household. When, however, they all drew nigh to the forest, they found that the gandharvas and apsaras, who, as it chanced, had descended to make merry there, would not permit the royal train to advance. Duryodhana sent messages to the gandharva king, commanding him to depart with all his hosts, but the celestial spirits feared him not, and issued forth to battle. A great conflict was waged, and the Kauravas were defeated. Karna fled, and Duryodhana and many of his courtiers and all the royal ladies were taken prisoners.
It happened that some of Duryodhana's followers who took flight reached the place where the Pandavas were, and told them how their kinsmen had been overcome. Then Arjuna and Bhima and the two younger brethren went forth against the gandharvas and fought with them until they were compelled to release the royal prisoners. In this manner was the proud Duryodhana humbled by those against whom he had cherished enmity.
Yudhishthira gave a feast to the Kauravas, and he called Duryodhana his "brother," whereat Duryodhana made pretence to be well pleased, although his heart was stung with deep mortification.
After this the sullen and angry Duryodhana resolved to end his life. His friends remonstrated with him, but he said, "I have naught to live for now, nor do I desire friendship, or wealth, or power, or enjoyment. Do not delay my purpose, but leave me each one, for I will eat no more food, and I will wait here until I die. Return, therefore, unto Hastinapura and reverence and obey those who are greater than me."
Then Duryodhana made a mat of grass, and, having purified himself with water, sat down to wait for the end, clad in rags and absorbed in silent meditation.
But the daityas and danavas desired not that their favorite rajah should thus end his life lest their power should be weakened, and they sent to the forest a strange goddess who carried him away in the night. Then the demons, before whom Duryodhana was brought, promised to aid him in the coming struggle against the Pandavas, and he was comforted thereat, and abandoned his vow to die in solitude. So he returned speedily unto Hastinapura and resumed his high position there.
Soon afterwards, when the princes and the elders sat in council with the maharajah, wise old Bhishma praised the Pandava princes for their valor and generosity, and advised Duryodhana to offer them his friendship so that the kinsmen might ever afterwards live together in peace. Duryodhana made no answer, and, smiling bitterly, rose up and walked out of the council chamber. Bhishma was made angry thereat, and departed also and went unto his own house.
Then Duryodhana sought to rival the glory of Yudhishthira by holding an Imperial sacrifice. Duhshasana, with evil heart, sent messengers unto Yudhishthira, inviting him to attend with his brethren, but Yudhishthira said, "Although this great sacrifice will reflect honor on all the descendants of King Bharata, and therefore upon me and my brethren, I cannot be present because our years of exile have not yet come to an end."
He spoke calmly and with dignity, but Bhima was made angry, and exclaimed, "Messengers of Duryodhana, tell thy master that when the years of exile are over, Yudhishthira will offer up a mighty sacrifice with weapons and burn in consuming flames the whole family of Dhritarashtra."
Duryodhana received these messages in silence. And when the sacrifice, which was called Vaishnava Yajna, was held, Karna said unto Duryodhana, "When thou has slain the Pandavas and canst hold thy Rajasuya, I will be present also to do homage unto thee."
Then Karna took a vow and said, "I will neither eat venison nor wash my feet until I have slain Arjuna."
Spies hastened unto the Pandavas and related all that had taken place at the sacrifice, and also the words which Karna had spoken. When Yudhishthira heard of the terrible vow which Karna had vowed, he sorrowed greatly, for he knew that a day must come when Arjuna and Karna would meet in deadly conflict.