An old proverb pertaining friendship states that “A friend in need is a friend in deed” and, in today’s materialistic Indian society there are unfortunately very few examples that reflects this old adage. Although one of the best examples of this old maxim can be found in the great Indian epic “Mahabharata” as shown through the friendship between the characters Karna and Duryodhana.
In the great epic Mahabharata the foundation for a great friendship between Karna and Duryodhana is first laid during an exhibition to test the skills in the use of arms for both the Pandavas and Kauravas princes. It is during this exhibition that Karna openly challenged Arjuna’s skills in archery and, also ends up matching him in skills that too in the presence of the entire Kuru clan. It is at this moment that the shrewd as ever Duryodhana utilizes the opportunity before him to include Karna into the Kuru clan in spite of Karna being the son of just an ordinary charioteer by adoption. Thus began a great friendship between Karna and Duryodhana until Karna was finally killed by his archrival Arjuna. Even though the initiation of this friendship was largely due to the fact that the shrewd Duryodhana who understood that having Karna as a friend could be used as weapon against the Pandavas especially against Arjuna. Yet this friendship which was initiated on the basis of self interest by Duryodhana gradually developed into a deep bond of friendship.
Such was the bond between the two friends that it was on Duryodhana’s suggestion that Karna was included in the great battle at “Kurukshetra” despite Kaurava’s commander-in-chief Bhisma’s reluctance to include him on account of his arrogance and the fact that he had in the past disrespected his teacher Parshuram. It is also a well known fact that during the great battle when Arjuna eventually killed Karna is when Duryodhana finally shed a few tears who up until then had controlled his emotions even while his brother’s were being killed during battle which clearly indicates the mutual respect and love he had for his friend.. Even at the Swayamvara of Draupadi when she herself insults Karna on account of his low caste is when Duryodhana once again who supports his friend whole heartedly by stating that “Great sages, philosophers, and warriors have no source. They are made great not born great’ and, thereby yet again displaying a deep bond of friendship that existed between them. Also the fact that Karna was given the choice by his mother Kunti to become the leader of Pandavas on account of him being the eldest brother in the fight against the Kauravas yet he refused the offer and stood by his friend Duryodhana till his death which clearly proved his true loyalty as a friend.
So if we put this great friendship that existed between Karna and Duryodhana in context to today’s modern Indian society we will definitely realize that unfortunately very few such friendships are witnessed today. The reason for this is mainly because the society is more focused on materialistic pleasure rather than on relationships. So unlike Karna and Duryodhana’s friendship which was lifelong in today’s society friendship only last as long as there is self interest involved.
Another factor which is one of the major reasons why friendships tends to fall apart and not last as seen today is mainly due to the “Crab mentality” that has seeped into our culture. It is this very “Crab mentality” which encourages people to bring down others so that they can climb up the ladder in life which in turn creates a sense of insecurity within one’s mind. It is this very insecurity that then prevents an individual in today’s society to form genuine friendships without feeling threatened. While during the times Karna and Duryodhana existed the Indian society was a society based on relationships wherein materialism ceased to exist and, as a result a genuine friendship was a reality. Also the fact that during those days the value on human relationship was given priority ensured that relationships once made could be maintained for a lifetime which unfortunately is not the case in today’s Indian society.
So with the friendship of Karna and Duryodhana in the great epic Mahabharata acting as a template for friendship in today’s society we can certainly learn that genuine love and fierce loyalty above materialism is what forms a basis of a great friendship. Above all it raises a pertinent question on whether or not we as a society today are prepared to relinquish self interest to gain genuine friendship or are we satisfied in living life sorely based on self interest?
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