Yudhishthir and Karna


Once Krishna told Arjun that Karna was a greater philanthropist than Yudhishthir. Arjun was annoyed that Krishna spoke so highly of an enemy and asked Krishna to prove his statement. Sandalwood was in short supply at that time and it was decided that Krishna and Arjun should disguise themselves as merchants and approach both Yudhishthir and Karna for sandalwood and judge their responses.They first went to Yudhishthir and introduced themselves as merchants from a neighbouring town. They said that they were building a marriage hall and had run out of sandalwood. They needed a certain quantity of sandalwood to complete their task. Since they were not familiar with this city and they had heard a lot about Yudhishthir’s generosity they were approaching him for assistance. Yudhishthir ordered a servant to collect the sandalwood from the timber merchants and invited the disguised Krishna and Arjun to have dinner with him. Dinner was soon over but there was no news from the servant. Instead of retiring at his usual time Yudhishthir stayed awake with his two guests attending to their every comfort. It was late when the servant returned. He had manages to procure a small quantity of sandalwood, but because of the untimely rains large stocks had become wet and hence unusable. Yudhishthir promised to have the procured quantity delivered the next day and requested the merchants to restart work. The remainder would be sent as soon as it dried and became usable.

Arjun was sure that Karna would not do better when the two went to Karna’s palace the next day. They repeated the same story. Karna sent his aide who returned with the news that all stocks were already committed for sale and that the merchants would have to wait till the next lot came in. Arjun smiled at Karna’s imminent defeat but Karna was calm and collected. He asked his guests to wait and went inside to his chambers. Arjun cursed Karna for neglecting them and kept on reminding Krishna about the personal attention Yudhishthir had lavished on them. After two hours Karna returned, an axe in his hand. His servants followed bearing lengths of sandalwood very obviously cut from items of furniture and from columns and beams and other supporting structure. He said that if the merchants needed more he would cut up the woodwork from other rooms of his palace as well. Thoroughly embarrassed, Krishna and Arjun thanked Karna and left.

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