The first impression lasts, they say, and it is, to a very great degree, true. These seem to last longer than they rightfully should, for we tend to judge people’s actions to be either good or otherwise on the basis of our preconceived notions. Prejudice has never been an asset and rarely do people come out of its nets and even if they do, not very soon.
On mentioning the name Duryodhana, negative images crowd us. The name itself is suggestive and means Bad Warrior. Yet, it is true that he did possess positive qualities. He was a true Kshatriya by virtue for he fought unto his death; he was a great exponent in the art of wielding the mace and was Balarama’s favourite student; he valued friendship and selflessly gave even to the ever-giving Karna and stood by his friend when the latter was subjected to poignant remarks: in this he was greater than the Pandavas who looked down upon Karna as a low-born. All these earned him a place in heaven.
This incident especially brings out the hero in Duryodhana: At the end of the training of the Pandavas and the Kuru princes under the teachers Kripa and Drona, a competition was held, open to the public to watch, in which the princes displayed their talent in wielding the arms. Arjuna, with his skill in archery, cast a spell on the crowd. He was the unquestioned hero until, suddenly, a youth of great radiance and a beautiful physique entered the arena and replicated Arjuna’s acts as though it were child’s play. He then challenged Arjuna to a one-to-one combat. As the crowd grew excited over this new twist of events, wondering who this youth might be, Kripacharya enquired of him his credentials and eligibility to challenge Arjuna. At this, the mighty Duryodhana intervened and said: Do you all not see here a true Kshatriya? Who cares who he is or whence he came for it is only valour that matters. Still if it is important that he has to be a prince, I crown him the king of Anga!
Then, with the permission of Bheeshma and his father Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana performed the rites and crowned the youth. Soon after the coronation, the elderly charioteer Adhiratha entered the arena, all trembling with fear, having heard of his son’s venture. Karna, the newly crowned king, bowed down in all humility to his father. At this, Bhima burst out into thunderous laughter and exclaimed: So, you are a charioteer’s son! Take up the whip as befits your pedigree! You are not worthy to rule Anga leave alone be killed by Arjuna!
As Karna stood downcast, Duryodhana spoke: Oh, Vrikodhara! It is wont of you to talk such unworthy things! He is worthy to rule the whole world! Look at the radiance about him and his armour and earrings! There is no point in tracing the roots of great men or rivers. Why, even your very roots are questionable!
As the setting sun brought to an end the display and the crowd began to disperse, Duryodhana came down to escort in person, the son of the ruler of the world and his ever-loyal friend, Karna.