A Boy Called Karna

Mahabharata 195 Comments

It is not difficult to fall in love with Karna. He has all the elements of a hero but is not allowed to be one – by his mother, his brothers, his teacher, even God. Our heart goes out to him. It all starts with a princess called Kunti letting her curiosity get the better of her. She uses a magical formula given to her by a sage to summon the sun-god, Surya, who is compelled to give her a child. Fearful that a child conceived before marriage may ruin her reputation, Kunti places the child – born with a natural armor and divine earrings – in a wicker basket and leaves him afloat to a river’s whim, very much like Moses in the Bible. But while the river takes Moses, the son of a slave, into a royal household, this river takes Karna, the son of a princess, into the house of a charioteer transforming a Kshatriya, member of the ruling class, into a Shudra, a member of the service class. Rejected by his natural mother, this foundling refuses to submit to this enforced destiny. In his heart he is a warrior. He knows it. Why else would he be born with an armor if he was not fated to fight? He approaches Drona, teacher of the Kuru princes, but is turned away. “Stick to your caste duties,” he is told. But what determines a man’s caste? The caste of the father, say the scriptures. Who is Karna’s father? Is it the man who raises him (a charioteer), the man who made his mother pregnant (a god) or the man who married his mother (a king)? In the Mahabharata, fatherhood is intensely debated. The storyteller wonders who is the true father of the Pandavas – Pandu, who married Kunti, or the gods, who impregnate her because her husband can’t, or is it Bhisma, the granduncle of the boys, or Vidur, their uncle, who serve as foster fathers ? The conclusion is that it should be Pandu who is lawfully wedded to Kunti hence father of all her children. Does this include children she bore before she married him? Does it make Karna the eldest Pandava and hence true heir to the Pandava fortune? Krishna believes it so for years later when he tries to lure Karna away from the Kauravas he offers the following bribe, “You will be king. Your five brothers will stand by you. Their wife, Draupadi, will be your queen.” Rejected by Drona on grounds that he is not a Kshatriya, Karna seeks tutorship of Parashurama, a warrior sage who is willing to teach the martial arts to anyone but a Kshatriya. But when Parashurama notices his ability to withstand intense pain silently, Parashurama concludes the boy is a Kshatriya by birth. Feeling he has been made a fool of, an enraged Parashurama curses Karna. “You will forget all that I have taught you at the moment you need it most.” Rejected by Parashurama, Karna returns to his mother’s house. According to a folklore in Andhra Pradesh, on his way he comes across a young girl crying because she has dropped her pot of milk on the ground and she fears punishment at the hands of her step-mother. Out of compassion, Karna takes the wet earth and squeezes milk out of the soil back into the pot. The girl goes away happy but the earth-goddess is not pleased. She swears that one day she will squeeze Karna the way he squeezed her and that would be the cause of his death. Rejected by the earth herself, Karna is determined to win a respectable place for himself in society based on merit. He decides to participate in an archery tournament held in the city of Hastinapur. The tournament is organized by Bhisma to showcase the skills of his grandnephews, the hundred Kauravas and the five Pandavas. Unfortunately for him, the show is stolen by a handsome young man who calls himself Karna. Everybody wonders who this man is. Kunti recognizes his armor and earrings and identifies him as her son but dares not tell anyone of her pre-marital misdemeanor. To Karna’s great discomfort, his foster father rushes into the arena and hugs him in public. The cheering onlookers fall silent. The great warrior is no warrior at all. He is a lowly charioteer. This association haunts Karna all his life. Rejected by the Pandavas, Karna finds honor amongst the Kauravas. Duryodhana, eldest of the Kauravas, anoints Karna king of Anga, thus making Karna a Kshatriya by merit if not by birth. For this Karna is eternally grateful. Duryodhana and Karna become the best of friends but we are never sure if the relationship is true or one based on mutually convenience. No one takes Karna’s royal title seriously. For everyone, he remains suta-putra, the charioteer’s son, the outsider. This is most evident in the archery contest organized by the king of Panchala for the hand of his daughter, Draupadi. When Karna goes to pick up the bow he is disqualified by the bride herself on grounds that a man of unknown origin and low rank cannot even contend to be her groom. Perhaps because of this public rejection, despite all his nobility, Karna does not come to Draupadi’s rescue when she is publicly disrobed by the Kauravas. He quotes an ancient law, “A woman with more than four husbands is nothing but a public woman, a whore!” Technically he is right. But morally? It is this refusal to help the helpless in a moment of dire need that makes Karna, like other members of the Kuru nobility, such as Bhisma, a marked man in the eyes of Krishna. One curious Maharashtrian folklore states that later Draupadi secretly fell in love with Karna and this secret of hers was known only to Krishna. Karna and Duryodhana are inseparable like Krishna and Arjuna. Karna sides with Duryodhana even when Duryodhana does wrong. “The hand of friendship once given cannot be taken back,” he tells Krishna. Krishna retorts, “Your integrity is wasted on a man without integrity. You may never go back on your word but he has – promised to return the Pandava lands after 13 years but refused to give back even a needlepoint of territory.” Duryodhana’s mother, Gandhari, resents his association with a lowly charioteer. Even Bhisma does not like Karna. Nor does Drona. For them he is the bad influence. They blame Karna for corrupting Duryodhana. In a way that is true. Without Karna, the Kauravas are nothing. Assured of Karna’s unwavering loyalty, Duryodhana is unafraid to be arrogant and forceful, claim all rights to the inheritance, even though the elders believe at least half of it, if not all, belongs to the Pandavas. When war is declared, Krishna tries to make Karna defect but fails. He finally motivates Kunti to tell the truth for the sake of the Pandavas. Kunti goes to Karna and tells him all. He recoils. He realizes she is doing this for the Pandavas and not out of any love for him. “That’s not true. I love you. I am only afraid of the truth,” cries Kunti. Karna refuses to believe her. According to a Tamil folklore, Kunti plans to offer Karna milk of her breast she has reserved for him from the day of his birth. This milk has magical power and can render Karna invincible. Krishna is about to make the milk disappear, when Karna tells Kunti that he will not take milk denied to him at birth. He promises Kunti he will not kill any Pandava except Arjuna. With or without him she will always have five sons. Karna tries to earn merit and fame by becoming the lord of charity, a ‘daan-veer’. Krishna takes advantage of this charitable nature and gets Indra, king of the gods, to ask as charity Karna’s natural armor. Karna donates this leaving himself vulnerable. Impressed by Karna’s unwavering commitment to charity, Indra gifts Karna a spear that never misses its mark but can be used only once. Karna reserves it for Arjuna, his great enemy, but Krishna forces him to use it against Ghatotkacha, the demon son of Bhima. It is almost as if Krishna is conspiring against Karna. At the height of the war, when Arjuna and Karna finally come face-to-face, a moment both have been preparing for years, the earth-goddess is instructed by Krishna to grab hold of Karna’s chariot wheel. She does so. Karna tries to use the magical formula to release the chariot wheel but Parashurama’s curse manifests itself right at that moment. He forgets the formula. In a fit of frustration, he throws down his bow and jumps off his chariot and tries to free the wheel himself. Krishna tells Arjuna to take advantage of the situation and shoot Karna. “But he carries no weapons and his back is turned towards me,” protests Arjuna. Krishna goads him nevertheless. He is as helpless as Draupadi was when the Kauravas disrobed her in public, says Krishna. Show no mercy to the merciless, advises Krishna. Arjuna releases the arrow and Karna dies – shot in the back at a moment when he cannot even defend himself. Why did Krishna kill Karna in such a horrible way? Scholars say this is God’s way of achieving karmic balance. In his previous life, Krishna was Rama. And Rama had sided with Surgiva, monkey son of Surya, the sun-god, and shot Bali, monkey son of Indra, the rain-god, in the back. As Krishna, it was necessary to reverse the situation. God sided with Arjuna, who was the son of Indra, while shooting Karna, the son of Surya, in the back. He who is blessed with divine favors in one lifetime loses it in the next; thus are the books of karma balanced and closure achieved.

  • Deewana Mastana


    Excuse me for my english and little knowledge of Compuiters. Thank you for posting this wonderful article. I am still studying the Mahabharatha Epic, so as I study it more and try to understand various character’s, the circumstance and the decisions they took I am sure my comments would be refined.

    I think just like when rain water pours on earth, it has different effects on different things. Due to the same water somewhere you would beautiful flowers growing, somewhere you will find lush fields and somewhere you will find floods creating havoc. Some people, animal, birds would be extremely happy whereas others would be upset. This Epic should be studied putting yourself in different shoes, in other words taking different characters and understanding there reluctance, nature of there role and constrains imposed on them.

    I am a soilder but I will try to see things from others point of view also.

    1. Karna story/life is extremely thought provoking. His birth, training, day to day life, loyalty and death are interesting enough for anyone to fall in love with him. Yet there are many instances when he would have thought/behaved in a different manner. I like Karna more than any other character in the Epic and I am sure Lord Krishna had immense love for him (Karna) too. Yet many questions arise. Should we give more importance to Loyalty than respect for Women, Worried about questions on your character (Kunti) should you leave your child (Karna), Why should not people from caste other than (Warrior class) should not be allowed to learn Martial tradition, Did Pandavs committed any sing, if yes was that more or less than Kauravas. etc. the list of question is endless. Let’s try to Answer some of them…I would be happy if anyone have any comments about my view…unless the comments are some form of abuse…

    2. I went through the comments which are already posted on this forum. Some of them are wonderful and again points to a different point of view. Pandavs went to hell for sometime after death before moving on to heaven, Karan went to Heaven, Duryodhan went to heaven (due to the one time food process followed by his parents), Droupadi was in love with Karan, Lord Krishna performed Tarpanum for Karan (the only one to whome it was performed by the lord), Why there was a solid caste system in ancient India,

    • i explained the story of karna in my post, go through that. Any sins committed had to be paid off. Pandavas got a glimpse of hell because of some reasons. Yudishtara got it because of his apparent lie in mahabharata war to disable and kill drona (Ashwathama hata thah kunjaraha). Bheem got a glimpse of hell because of his greed for food. Arjuna got it because of his pride in his archery skills. Nakul got it because, he is very fond of his beauty and always use to feel that he is the most handsome amongst all. sahadev, i dont remember. droupadhi gets it because amongst the five brothers, she secretly has more love towards arjuna.

      Karna’s story i have explained above in my comments. Krishna as appeared in Mahabharatha is never partial or biased to anyone. He is the prakrithi purusha, the one belongs to the nature. He is only bothered about the balance in the nature. The emotions, decptions, treachery which were so much talked about in mahabharatha are only earthly.

      Duryodhna has paid for all his sins on the earth itself. He did not die very pleasently after the gadha yudh with bheem. He had to struggle few days lying on the ground, with pain and cast off with no dear ones near him during his death. Thats why he had gone to heaven. but there is even interesting story about duryodhana. Duryodhana was no other than Pannanga Narayana himself in his previous life, who was cursed by Sudraka Brahma to be born in the world of the mortals. The latter had performed most rigorous tapas to please the former, who not only did not respond to his tapas, but also destroyed it with the help of feminine attraction. When Sudraka Brahma realized what had happened, he cursed
      him. Pannanga Narayana appeared before the great god and pacified him. Sudraka
      Brahma assured him that he would enjoy a great life in the mortal world, that his divine spouse would join him as his wife, and that his status would be so high that he would not bow down to anyone, human or god. Anyone who dared to receive his bowing would be reduced to ashes. This accounts to Duryodhana’s arrogance in dwapar yuga. So none are sinner. The whole mahabharatha is balance act done by the Nature with help of Krishna.

      • Parineeta

        Your comments are very informative. Stories u mentioned are equally interesting as Mahabharat story

        • Ashtheta

          good masala stories

  • I know an interesting story about Karna. It is said that the whole mahabharatha took place because of Karna. Karna in his previous life was a dangerous and invincible demon called ‘sahasra kunchi’ which means that he is the one with 1000 armours. As usual he becomes a great inconvenience to hermits, sages and rishis. To destroy him Lord Vishnu takes the avatar of twin brothers Nar-Narayan. To kill sahasra kunchi they need to tear off his armours. It was believed that it requires the efforts of both Nar and Narayan, to get the power to tear off each armour one needs to do 1000 years penance while the other is fighting with kunchi. In that process, Nar and Narayan with their combined effort tore 999 armours. Kunchi realised that he is going to be killed and their is one more armour left. He takes refuge of Sun God who was offered to kunthi, coinciding her summoning the sun god. So to kill kunchi Nar and Narayana have to take a rebirth. So, Nar takes birth as Arjuna and Narayan as Krishna. Krishna is a blessed soul and he knew everything. Though it appears that Krishna wins war with deceipt, he knew that the balance can be done only that way. He is not against Karna or Duryodhana. Before dying krishna asks for a boon, then Karna asks him another life where he is very rich and has good son who follows pitruvakparipalana and a good wife who always follows his words. After dying Karna goes to heaven and he feels very hungry there. But he is not offered any food. When he asks for food, everyone there shows him with their index figure towards treasure like diamonds and gold. This accounts to an incident in his life as Karna. Karna in his life has given all types of ‘daan’ except food. Once God tested him in form of hungry and poor sage. Karna instead of getting him some food, points out with his index figure to a place where he can get food. Now Karna gets every thing in heaven except food. He requests good to give him a life to sort out this balance. So he takes rebirth as a vysya who is very rich and has a good wife and good son. In this life he always fed poor people and never let anyone go out of his home without food. Then God came in form of an Agora to test him. The vysya invites him to his home to offer some food. Agora warns him saying that he can never satisfy him. But the vysya still insists him. When agora comes home, the vysya offers shakahara to him. Agora says that he never eats shakahara and he needs mamsahara. Vysya says that he do not prepare mamsahara at his house. Agora gets angry and when he is about to leave, the vysya promises him mamsahara. He gets mamsahara from the market and offers him. Agora denies it again saying by mamsahara he means human flesh. Vysya tries to offer himself. Agora again denies it saying that he and his wife are his host and therefore he cannot eat them. The vysya then calls his son and explains him about the problem. The vysya’s son suggest to offer him and does it willingly. The vysya then kills his son and offers him to the God. The God assumes his true form and makes his son alive and assures ‘moksh’ after this life. This way karna reaches back to heaven.

    This story about Karna is commonly untold. May be true or not true,this story is somewhat convincing

    • Nitin shaji

      he had 1000 heads & isnt the time of penance 1year instead of 1000

      • Ashtheta

        I thought 1001 heads

    • tensai

      Seems like typical maha-vishnu /vaishnav story.

    • a P

      Another rubbish story to justify the cruelties committed against Karna.

    • Rahul D

      So killing Son aint restricted to Islam?

      • Ashtheta

        I think so

    • Ashtheta

      Good story. Greant effort. Heart breaking.Where is he now?

    • Arundhati Saravanan

      Not convincing. Typical people trying to degrade Karna to make the Pandavas seem more righteous.

  • mohan tiwari

    when god krishan is with the arjun and advises him to kill karan, it is
    not illegal or it is very right since karn had also killed son of
    Arjun,Abhimanu who was also without any weapon when seven warriors
    altogether overpower Abhimanu. also to fight in favour of dharm(since
    yudhisthir was fighting for dharm) therefore if for the sake of dharm
    one is to protect it, it can be at cost of destroying anyone who is
    fighting against dharm, how pure he might be(once the person side with
    adharm he becomes adharmi). And please this is right that krishan tries to influence karn to come to pandavs camp, but he never said that kunti will be his.

    • hemu

      At the time of killing Abimanyu Karan just followed orders of Guru Dhrona who was then the general of kauravas

      • Mamata

        Karna was not a kid. He was a grown man with his own intellect. He knew the definition of dharma and willingly chose to break it.

        • a P

          oh really ! That makes arjuna the biggest cry baby ever ! the guy cudn’t do any thing on his own….

          • Milin Patel

            Arjuna defeated all the kuru warriors in virata yudh single handedly.

    • a P

      The whole point of a chakravyuha is that one warrior fights many. y on earth did yudhishtir allowed abhimanyu to enter the chakravyuha when the boy clearly said he didn’t knew to come out of it ? neither karna nor 7 kuru maharathis pounced upon abhimanyu like u said. abhimanyu fought with durmashan(son of dushasan), a 1 on 1 fair battle & lost to him. that was how he was killed. don’t follow the tv serials blindly but for a change read the epic fully before commenting.

      • Milin Patel

        Karna broke the bow of abhimanyu from behind, and then everyone attacked him simultaneously. At the end out of exhaustion, he could not get up in time, and was killed by the son of dushasana. So, Karna (and Drona) were the root causes of Abhimanyu’s unfair death.

        • Arundhati Saravanan

          Give me a break. For God’s sake read the text and stop following whatever these tv serials tell you. Karna’s son were killed unjustly as well. Karna himself was killed unjustly. Abhimanyu was no special case. Many things can’t be justified in that battle but stop lashing out on a single person.

          • Milin Patel

            I have read the text and can say that vrishasena and karna were killed fairly, but abhimanyu was not

          • Milin Patel

            LOL. You should read KMG mahabharatha. It says that karna broke abhimanyu’s bow (on drona’s advise) on day 13. That ultimately lead to his death. The last blow to abhimanyu was given by dushasana’s son, though. Karna was killed quite fairly. Jumping off the chariot was a way to buy time. When karna realized arjuna would not buy that, he shot brahmastra at arjuna from the ground. Then he made arjuna unconscious and continued to lift the wheel. He still had the bow with him at this time. Then arjuna regains consciousness and cuts karna’s standards and his head. Now are you saying karna was blind and could not see his standards being cut. Cutting the standards was a warning to karna. Karna probably went to attack arjuna but he could not counter the anjalika astra and died. That seems most logical.

          • Milin Patel

            Neither karna nor his son were killed unfairly. Read kmg translated mb.

  • Nitin shaji

    parashuram was a half brahmin half kshatriya

    • tensai

      ghanta…parshuram is a bhargav (descendant of bhrigu)

      parashuram was full blooded brahmin , son of jamadagni and renuka, therefore jamadagnya.
      His ancestors include the brilliant asura guru Shukracharya.
      Chavanav who had might to single-handedly challenge Indra with his terrible weapon Vajra.

      His ancestors had the knowledge, power and terrible temper , he kicked vishnu himself in chest….

      So impressed are everyone with these folks, that krishna claims, that if he was a sage, he would be “Bhrigu”.


    Through character of admirable Karna, virtues like loyalty and detachment to mortal things are pushed. Message is clear; to give up, renounce even if that means ultimately losing life, pride and deep desires.

  • Cali Kumar

    My first love is Karna! I read all articles on Karna that I come across. Thanks for posting this article.

  • Sarika

    Technically then almost all the male characters of mahabharat are male-whores as they are then public men as they have more than one wife.???

    • a P

      accordin to ur logic, what is draupadi/kunti then ?

      • Sarika

        Why only women are targetted ..men with same qualifications left ?

        • a P

          No it wasn’t due to feminism or draupadi’s consent that she was condemned to lead such a life with 5 men. People defend Draupadi’s lifestyle as if she herself chose to marry 5 men ! She didn’t & her life was made hellish by her mother in law & ‘husbands’.

          By the way, i wasn’t tagging kunti & draupadi as ‘characterless’ but i just pointed out that kunti herself thought so & there was no need to tag people as in ur own words as ‘male-whores’ or otherwise ! A women with more than 3 hubbies were considered ‘characterless’ according to the shastras of the age. The before mentioned sentence was uttered by Kunti herself in Mahabharat, yet can u tell me y she condemned draupadi to live with 5 men ? There is nothing glorious with draupadi’s lifestyle but only tragedy. U can’t point out it as feminism either.

          By the way, i am a woman myself.

          • Ashtheta

            upto three is okay. More than that it hurts.

          • Milin Patel

            Provide me a quote from the vedas saying that a women with 3+ husbands is a whore. And Draupadi was not forced to marry 5 men. She willingly agreed to.

        • a P

          I said, ‘according to ur logic’ not mine.

    • Ashtheta

      yes and they got paid

  • vikas

    Dear sir,
    Its been delight to read the article but I have one question that what happened about karna kavach and kundal after taking it from him. I even heard rumors that its on earth. Was that true?

    • Ashtheta

      ya the british took them.

      • Arundhati Saravanan

        Lol XD

  • Bhausaheb Rautrai

    Karna is the The best character in the history of India (Bharat). it is the character which suits to indian mindset straight forward, loyal and great fighting skill on his own. but due to krishna and some corrupted people this character never get what he deserve.

    Arjuna did nothing without help VS Karna all he does for others without anyone’s help no one give credit to him.
    krishna needed to tell false stories for to kill him because he did not commit any crime by stating draupadi a whore because he lives with 5 men how can be it is dharma. because of this in bihar or northen parts of india some people abuses woman pressure womens to live with many persons. it is a fact. you can read it anywhere on net or some films or books.

    Arjuna takes help from Indra time to time but Karna’s father meet him only once in his lifetime at last.

    My Best Hero is karna. Now no one remembers Pandava they refers those because of Karna this is sign who is better.

    • siddhartha gowda

      all u said was true but karna was protected by his father from childhood by his kavach kundal
      kavach kundal is a unique defence where other pandavas dont have it is a surya divine defence where it protects karna from many obstacles from his childhood

      • Naveen Parashar

        But thus boon proves ban for karn

  • sk.tehjeeb

    bhagwan krishna,indra and kunti…is very unfair to karna..they actuallly break all rules and dharma to kill karna..God himself is adharmi in case of karna mis fortune..

    • Mamata

      Dharmo rakshati rakshitaht. Those who engage in unfair immoral acts cannot claim protection under the same code of morality they have broken.

      • a P

        Really !!! plz read the epic once to know who really committed adharma…When ever pandavas & kunti do adharma it is for ‘dharmasthapana’, ya right. Give me a break. Don’t swallow every thing at face value, do think at least once in ur life time.

        • Milin Patel

          It was Karna, dushansana, duryodhana, and shakuni who plotted to poison bhima and burn the pandavas and kunti alive. Is that not adharma to you???

          • Arundhati Saravanan

            Karna wasn’t involved in the poisoning of Bheem, or the lakshagraha event. Get your facts right it was dushasana.

          • Milin Patel

            Read KMG mb.

          • Milin Patel

            “Sanjaya said, ‘Then Vasudeva, stationed on the car, addressed Karna, saying, “By good luck it is, O son of Radha, that thou rememberest virtue! It is generally seen that they that are mean, when they sink into distress, rail at Providence but never at their own misdeeds. Thyself and Suyodhana and Duhshasana and Shakuni, the son of Subala, had caused Draupadi, clad in a single piece of raiment, to be brought into the midst of the assembly. On that occasion, O Karna, this virtue of thine did not manifest itself. When at the assembly Shakuni, an adept in dice, vanquished Kunti’s son Yudhishthira who was unacquainted with it, whither had this virtue of thine gone? When the Kuru king (Duryodhana), acting under thy counsels, treated Bhimasena in that way with the aid of snakes and poisoned food, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? When the period of exile into the woods was over as also the thirteenth year, thou didst not make over to the Pandavas their kingdom. Whither had this virtue of thine then gone? Thou didst set fire to the house of lac at Varanavata for burning to death the sleeping Pandavas. Whither then, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thou laughedest at Krishna while she stood in the midst of the assembly, scantily dressed because in her season and obedient to Duhshasana’s will, whither, then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? When from the apartment reserved for the females innocent Krishna was dragged, thou didst not interfere. Whither, O son of Radha, had this virtue of thine gone? Thyself addressing the princess Draupadi, that lady whose tread is as dignified as that of the elephant, in these words, viz., ‘The Pandavas, O Krishna, are lost. They have sunk into eternal hell. Do thou choose another husband!’ thou lookedest on the scene with delight. Whither then, O Karna, had this virtue of thine gone? Covetous of kingdom and relying on the ruler of the Gandharvas, thou summonedest the Pandavas (to a match of dice). Whither then had this virtue of thine gone? When many mighty car-warriors, encompassing the boy Abhimanyu in battle, slew him, whither had this virtue of thine then gone? If this virtue that thou now invokest was nowhere on those occasions, what is the use then of parching thy palate now, by uttering that word? Thou art now for the practice of virtue, O Suta, but thou shalt not escape with life. Like Nala who was defeated by Pushkara with the aid of dice but who regained his kingdom by prowess, the Pandavas, who are free from cupidity, will recover their kingdom by the prowess of their arms, aided with all their friends. Having slain in battle their powerful foes, they, with the Somakas, will recover their kingdom. The Dhartarashtras will meet with destruction at the hands of those lions among men (viz., the sons of Pandu), that are always protected by virtue!'”

            That was said by krishna in karna parva section 91

          • a P

            it seems kunti throwing a an infant karna into the mighty ganges is not an adharma to u and others. so no, the above one is not an adharma to me. pandavas suffered the karma of kunti and their own acts.

          • Milin Patel

            Seriously, more than half your points are incorrect.

            1. Kunti never threw her baby in the water. Kuntibhoja probably gave it to adiratha who was the king of anga desh. The text says that karna was dropped in ganga river and floated to aswa river, where radha found him. First of all, he would die of hunger and thirst as the distance is 100s of miles. Think about it.

            2. Can you provide text where pandu asks that? And why would pandu ask kunti if she had any sons outside marriage? Was he accusing her of extramarital sex?

            3. When that eklavya incident happened, eklavya was at least 10 yrs older than arjuna. Arjuna was like 6 yrs old then, so the jealousy is justified. And arjuna never blackmailed drona. He simply reminded drona of his promise to make him the best archer. And anyways, eklavya stole knowledge and was a potential threat to hastinapura.

            4. Karna was initially taught by drona, but he was always jealous of arjuna when studying in drona’s gurukul. One day he asked drona for brahmastra knowledge, drona refused as he wanted it out of jealousy, not for proper reasons like upholding dharma. So drona refused. Nothing wrong it that. Then karna went to parshurama and lied about his birth to be taught by parshurama.

            5. The swayamvara was open to people of all 4 varnas, as mentioned by drishtyadumna to all the kings. KMG mb clearly states that karna failed the swaymvara task. And anyways, a suta is a son of brahmin mom and kshatriya mom. This is mentioned in santi parva section 3 by karna himself. So karna was at a higher social position than the other kings in the swayamvara. Even sudeshna was a suta and her son uttara also came to the swayamvara. So why was he not rejected then?

            6. Duryodhana never made karna the king of anga by duryodhana because he inherited angas from his father adiratha. Drona only taught princes and thats why karna was also taught by drona initially. So that part and bheema insulting karna are later interpolations. And anyways, even if bheema did insult karna, there is nothing wrong in it. If you can recall, karna was involved in poisoning bhima during childhood. So bheema would have hate for karna.

            7. Stop watching suryaputra karna. Indra never disguised himself as an insect to bite karna LOL.

            8. Yes the 5 pandavas lusted after draupadi, but draupadi also lusted after the 5 pandavas and so she married them 5. When it was decided that the 5 pandavas would marry her, she was described as being “cheerful” so definitely she did not feel exploited. And what is wrong in lusting after a woman, or vice versa?

            9. So when arjuna won draupadi and brought her home, draupadi felt attracted to the other 4 pandavas, and the 4 pandavas were also attracted to her, so she decided to marry the 5 pandavas. When indian society got more closed minded, they needed a justification to this marriage so they created stories like kunti asking the pandavas to share draupadi and shiva giving draupadi a boon to marry 5 men in her next birth.

            10. Gambling is never good. Yuddhistira was addicted to gambling and ended up losing his entire empire due to that. But he did not gamble himself nor his brothers nor his wife. If you read sabha parva, you can see the clear interpolations. The sometimes refer to draupadi as drupada’s sister (daughter of prishata) and sometimes shakuni as shakuni’s father (suvala). Anyways, after pandavas lost indraprastha, duryodhana considered them his subjects and therefore said that they were common people, so he ordered the pratikamin to bring draupadi to the assembly. She would then be sent to servant quarters along with the pandavas as they were no longer royals. Royals in those days wore tops, but the common folk didnt, so karna asked the pandavas and draupadi to remove their tops, and they all did. Draupadi later acted well in court to blackmail dhritarashtra into giving the pandavas back their kingdom. But anyways, the truth is that yuddhi didnt stake his brothers or wife and there was no vastraharan attempt on draupadi.

            11. See my answer on 10. Gambling was never good, and yuddhistira paid the price. But he later repented when in exile. But duryodhana karna shakuni and dushasana didnt repent for ever insulting draupadi by dragging her to court and asking her to marry another husband.

            12. You should realize that draupadi was really an actress once she was dragged to the assembly. She rescued the pandavas from servitude and got back the kingdom by her acting in the court. She did this on yuddhistira’s orders so there was no need for yuddhistira to intervene as everything was going according to yuddhistira’s wish. He would soon regain his lost empire. Yuddhistira was a good politician.

            13. When kichaka kicked draupadi in the court, yuddhistira asked her to go back to sudeshna’s apartments. This was in their best interests because he knew that if the incident info spreads bhima would kill kichaka and duryodhana may even find out where they are in their 13th year of exile. It was the most wise thing to do at the moment.

            14. Neither bhisma nor drona nor karna were killed through cheating.

            15. LOL. Did you even read udyoga parva. After the peace missions failed, krishna left hastinapura. The part where kunti and krishna try to convince karna are later interpolations. They seem to just come out of the blue when reading the text. And anyways, even if you consider that those sections are not interpolations, krishna never offers draupadi as a wife to karna. The pandavas and draupadi would never agree to marry karna. And according to kmg mb, kunti never asked to save the pandavas, she asked karna to not fight the war. Karna could not promise that, so he promised to only kill arjuna, that way 5 of her children would still live.

            16. The kavach kundal was given by durvasa to kunti after karna’s birth. Kunti then gave it to her father kuntibhoja, who gave the armor earring and child to adiratha. Karna used kavach and kundal as propaganda that he could never be killed in war as long as he is wearing it. If kavach kundal protects against death, then why did karna flee from gandharvas? Indra was fooled and went to ask karna for it. Karna said he would only give it if he receives a powerful astra in return. Indra got fooled and gave up his shakti astra for the useless kavach kundal

  • tensai

    Yeah well i take solace by seeing that even in this story of vituperative vipers, theres some brilliant men who stick to the code no matter what the cost viz. Karna , bhishma, dronacharya, Parashuram etc…

    And then there are some, who flout dharma to protect dharma…

  • Raghvendra

    Two wrongs can make a right!
    I am sorry my mind is unable to grasp the knowledge.
    However, concept of Indra and Surya sons (Bali-Sugriva / Arjun-Karna) Is enlightening.

  • Sphinx

    Nice to read Mahabharat story again after long time.

    Mr. Devdutt is great at it as always.

  • Mamata

    I was never able to empathize with Karna. He kept whining a lot and took some very immoral stands as the article points out. As explained in the Gita, our actions (karma) are within our control and we are therefore responsible for then. Karna despite knowing the evil of Duryodhana, participated in all his evil schemes from Lakshagriha to Abhimanyus murder. The Gita also states that the only allegiance or duty we have is to God (or dharma if you will) as a response to Arjuns query about fighting his kinsmen and guardians. Karnas character is used to illustrate that a man’s destiny lies in his karma, not his abilities, not even in his personality.

    Disclaimer: I am an atheist. This is my personal interpretation

    • Amit Karwasra

      Dear Friend.

      I respect your interpretation, but here’s what I have to say against it, with all due respect.

      It’s difficult not to whine, if for argument sake we agree that Karna was a whiner, when life deals you a hand like it did to him. He was anything but immoral. He could have accepted the Pandavas as his brothers and got the crown of Hastinapur easily as Duryodhan wouldn’t have dared fight the battle without his support. He could have refused to oblige Indra and Kunti when they came deceiving and begging respectively for Arjun’s life but he didn’t. His evil actions were no better or worse than anyone else in the epic. If he killed Abhimanyu (again agreeing for argument sake), the Pandavas had a long list of warriors they slayed with the same tektites. If he sat with Duryodhan in the dyut-krida and helped him belittle the Pandavas, Youdhisthir was the one who wagered his brothers and wife for the sake of a game. And don’t forget that the great Bhsim, Dronacharya, Kripacharya and vidur too sat there doing nothing when Draupadi’s modesty was being fondled with in the court. Why didn’t Krishna come and kill Dushashan then rather than showing magic tricks with the never-ending sari?

      And who is to say whose side Dharma really was? If so were the case, why did Krishna let his whole army fight and die on behalf of the Kauravas? Why did he let Ghatotkach die instead of Arjun? Or was the later’s life more precious for humanity than the previous? By the end of the war, the Pandawas were as deep in the grim of deceit, jealousy, greed and pride that the Kauravas were at the beginning of the war.

      The biggest flaw in Karna was that he was unfortunate and accursed.

      • Milin Patel

        I think you have a huge misconception about Karna. Karna was involved in the plots of poisoning bhima, the laksha grah. He also called draupadi unchaste, and ordered her stripping. Does that sound like something anybody with high moral values would do. On, the other hand, if we look at yuddhistira, we can see that he had really high moral values. Although yuddhistira made the mistake of gambling his wife and brothers, he later repented for it. However, Karna was never sorry for what he had done to the pandavas. This was demonstrated by the fact that he proposed to go the pandavas to mock them during their vanvas. He was never sorry for what he did. When the gandharvas attacked duryodhana, Karna fleed. That itself shows how much respect he had for his friend. Also, when the pandavas freed duryodhana and his family from the gandharvas, he could have made duryodhana and his wife slaves. But he didn’t do so. He instead freed them.
        Krishna gave his army to the kauravas because they had become adharmi and had to be slayed. The kurukshetra war was a good opportunity for this to happen. Krishna let gatotkach die instead of arjuna because arjuna was a far greater warrior than gatotkach. Usually, the commander is protected in the war because, if he dies the army would collapse in the absence of a leader.

        • a P

          He also called draupadi unchaste, and ordered her stripping.

          plz tell me, how she got gambled in the first place. was that karna’s fault too? wat was panchali’s noble hubbies doin wen adharmi karna ordered to strip her ???
          yes, that is right, NOTHING.

          • Milin Patel

            That was yuddhi’s fault. Ok. And when she was dragged, her husbands were slaves. But karna was NOT a slave. He was really jealous of arjuna and pissed of as he failed in the draupadi swayamvara thats why he wanted to insult draupadi.

            That was the pandavas only mistake. Remaining quiet when draupadi was insulted. But karna was involved in many other crimes like trying to poison bhima, laksha grah, proposing to mock the pandavas in their exile, attempting to capture krishna when he came for peace….

  • Rahul D

    For me and many others Karna is a hero. A flawed one just because of the times he lived in. Please read Rashmirathi once if you understand Hindi.

  • Abhishek

    equally interesting character like Karna was Eklavya

  • Prem Pradhan

    people talk that karna was defeated by arjuna at the virat war and the gandharva war in wchich karna fled away.people also talk that he was defeated by abhimanyu. People forget that abhimanyu had an armour which cannot be easily penetrated.abhimanyu has learn this art from his father.In the virat war arjuna only made karna unconscious.but in the real war karna was far superior as compared to arjuna.There was also an interesting incident.after arjuna killed karna by unlawful means he started proclaiming himself as the best archer in the world.lord krishna smiled and at his the flag wchich was present in the charriot of arjuna fell and charriot of arjuna destroyed into pieces.then lord hanuman appeared and told arjuna that he was protected against karna because of hanuman and shri krishna.This incident prove that karna was far better as compared to arjuna.

    • Milin Patel

      That incident about arjuna bragging of his superiority over karna is a myth. In virata yudh, arjuna made karna flee around 3 times or so.

  • anonymous

    A good man supporting adharma and those associated with adharma is worse than a man on the path of adharma. Karna showed his own weakness in character when he fell for and accepted the pralobhan of Duryodhana knowing the man’s proclivities. There itself he lost out on being a hero when he took as his patron one steeped in adharma. Also he failed as a friend. In Ramayana the qualities of a good friend are enumerated and one of these is to guide a friend to the path of dharma when he looses his way.

  • Either you have not read Mahabharata properly or you are deliberately misleading people. He was Drona’s student, was not rejected based on caste (Adiparva) . Draupadi did not reject any suitor based on caste – it is clearly mentioned that karna failed her contest (BORI). Similarly, Parshuram curse is a myth, since karna fired Brahmastra, which Arjun nullified with his own Brahmastra. Also, Shalya, after karna;s death ‘drove away on the chariot deprived of its rider.’ So where does that leave mythical chariot-wheel curse? You are allowed to have your pet favorites, but kindly don’t mislead an entire generation via your TV serial distortions.

  • Akshay Hiremath

    Hi Devdutt,

    Could you please throw light on Karna’s previous life Karmas that might have brought him this most capable but most miserable life?
    Most of the actions/deeds could be proven right or wrong by just changing the perspective lenses. Yes Karna acted wrongly at times but finally he was a human and he had much more Good deeds than few bad or wrong deeds that also came out of reaction to very open wrongs against him.
    I’m trying to understand what karma in previous life could make such Prarabdh?
    I read one story of Dambodbhav but its not very convincing..

  • Unstoppable Leo

    So Kunti cast Karna aside only to save her reputation. That was certainly selfish on her part.

  • Naveen Parashar

    In the beginning he teaches every one who is capable of that level learning. But later he denid to Kshtriya because they are rulers, and can take advantage of his teachings & blessings to haress the people.
    Parshuram was bound with his oath not to raise his own weapon for war, destruction against Kshtriya more.
    So in that case no one was able to stop Kshtriya if he continued to teach them. So he decided not to teach Kshtriya.
    And only tech to Brahmans, because they are teachers, not rulers. But unfortunately he find only few one CANDIDATE DRONA. SO Lord Parahurama teach Drona.
    Later Karan met him as in the form of brahmin, and Lord Parahuram also taught him. Lord Parshuram give him his all celestial weapons, and declared him best all time warrior in the world. Unfortunately Parshuram find that Karan is not, brahmin and assume him Kshtriya, so he in short temper he cursed the KARAN, to unfrutile all what be got from him(PARSHURAMA).
    BUT when Parshuram heard Karan s story, he feel sympathy for him. Parshuram also feel mortification for his curse.
    Then Parshuram said to Karan that if you tell me your story in the beginning, then I definitely teach you.I am always stand against injustice, and admire potential. He said to Karan, that you are not culprit. It is my mistake.For the mortification Parshuram give his divine bow VIJAY DHANUSH of GOD SHIVA told to KARAN that he is unconquerable untill this bow is in his hand.