Duryodhana’s Thiranottam, Thiranottam is the traditional way an important Kathi character appears on the stage for the first time. A kingly character who is evil minded is a Kathi Character in Kathakali. Duryodhana is a Kathi character.
War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is imminent. Duryodhana is the chief of the Kauravas. Bhanumathi, wife of Duryodhana is sitting despondent, anxious about the outcome of the war and the fate of her husband. Duryodhana coming in finds Bhanumathi in a despondent mood and asks her why she was so depressed. Bhanumathi says that she was scared about the imminent battle, and if Duryodhana is killed, she will not live for another moment. Duryodhana assures her that he will kill all his enemies, and there is no cause for anxiety. He says that he has powerful relatives, loyal dependent kings, mighty friends, illustrious gurus, and above all his friend the great Karna all ready to assist him. He will therefore succeed in battle and will rule the country.
Karna arrives, and Duryodhana tells him of Bhanumathi’s anxiety, requests him to talk to her and departs. Karna assures bhanumathi that he is prepared to shed his blood for his very dear friend Duryodhana and will certainly see that Duryodhana wins in battle and will become ruler of the country. By his confidence he is able to console Bhanumathi. When Duryodhana returns his wife is in a happy mood. Dussasanan, Duryodhana’s younger brother comes in to inform him that the ministers are waiting to see him. Duryodhana, Dussassana and Bhanumathi depart.
Karna is in a very pensive mood and decides to have a bath in the Ganges. He goes to the river and has his bath. He wonders who his parents are; whether he is really the son of Radha and her husband the charioteer who brought him up. He is ready to go back when he observes a lady coming to meet him and recognizes her as Kunthi, the mother of the Pandavas. After greeting her respectfully, he asks her to disclose the object of her visit. Kunthi tells him that she has come as a supplicant to beg Karna to leave the company of the Kauravas, and join the Pandavas in the coming battle. Karna is infuriated, and tells Kunthi that her life is being spared only because she is a woman.
Kunthi has no option but to tell Karna the real facts of his birth, and try to enlist his support for her children, the Pandavas. She tells him that he is really her own son and that his father is the Suryadeva himself. This unexpected revelation stuns Karna who feels faint and sits down. He falls at the feet of Kunthi and Implores her to reveal the secret of his birth. Kunthi tells him that Durvasa the great sage, pleased with her for looking after him during his visit to her father, gave her five boons. The test the efficacy of the first boon she prayed to Suryadeva, and he arrived, and he bestowed her a son who at the time of his birth had kundals and shield (kavacha). Fearing public scandal she was compelled to put the baby in a basket and cast him on the river.
Karna had always been very close to Duryodhana and the Kauravas. Once at the contest, the Pandavas had insulted Karna saying that he could not take part as he was not a nobleman. Duryodhana however sprang to his support and said that he was making Karna the King of the Kingdom of Anga. Karna’s honour was saved, and he considered Duryodhana his savior and closest friend.
Karna while showing great respect and love for Kunthi tells that he could not abandon his friend Duryodhana under any circumstance, and that all he could promise was that he will not kill any of the Pandavas other than Arjuna. Kunthi leaves disheartened. Karna returns to the palace and from there to his own residence.
Dussasana comes seeing all these, and decided to disclose the fact that Karna is the son of Kunthi and the brother of the Pandavas to Duryadhana. Duryodhana and Bhanumathi enter, and Dussasana tells them that Karna cannot be depended upon as he is the son of Kunthi. Duryodhana asks Dussasana to fetch Karna. Dussasana comes back with Karna. Duryodhana tells him that he knows that Karna is the son of Kunthi, and that he is free to leave him and join his brothers. Karna is greatly upset, and says that he will never leave his friend and that he may not be considered ungrateful, or that his great love for his friend will ever lessen. Karna in a state of great emotion tries to cut his own throat. Duryodhana stops him and says that his words were meant to console him, and give some relief to his distressed mind and permit him to choose his own path, and that he had never any doubt about Karna’s love or loyalty. Bhanumathi consoles him and Dussasana realizing the greatness of karma asks for his forgiveness.
Karna then takes a most awful and solemn oath that he will abandon his mother and brother for his bosom friend Duryodhana. Either Arjuna or he will die in battle, and that they will not survive the battle together. He will court a warrior’s death to save Duryodhana. With this great oath the Kathakali ends.