Monthly Archives: September 2010

Parshurama sleeping in Karna's lap

Seven little known facts about Karna from the Mahabharata

Karna – the most virtuous but tragic warrior from Mahabharata

Karna was the eldest son of Kunti. He was born before Kunti was wedded, so Kunti had to let him go and He, being the eldest and most deserving, had to live his life in obscurity. The only fault was his timing of birth, where he had no control over. Read some of the fate’s cruelty imparted to him.

1. Curses on Karna

One afternoon,  Parashurama requested Karna to bring a pillow to sleep on under a tree shade. Karna instead offered his lap to his guru. While Parashurama was fast asleep a giant bee stung Karna’s thigh, despite of the severe pain Karna didn’t move so as not to disturb his guru’s sleep. As the bee bored deeper the wound began to bleed.  Parashurama was woken by the blood from Karna’s thigh.

Karna - Drona - Danveer - Kavach Kundal

Karna – The most virtuous warrior from Indian mythology – Mahabharat

Then Parashurama deduced at once that Karna is a kshatriya and not a Brahmin because a brahmin  can not endure such pain. So, he cursed Karna that all his martial skill including use of Brahmastra would desert him when he needed them most.

This meant that Karna would forget all that he had learned from Parashurama during his hours of crisis. Karna who was unaware of his royal lineage pleaded that any student in his place would do the same and he was son of Vasusena,  a mere charioteer and not a kshatriya.

Parshurama's curse to Karna

Parshurama’s curse to Karna

Though Parashurama regretted cursing him in a moment of anger as his curse was irrevocable. He gifted him a celestial weapon Bhargavastra along with his personal bow called Vijaya and blessed him with everlasting glory and immortal fame.

Karna kills a cow accidentally

Departing from Parashuram’s ashram Karna wandered for some time. On his way he killed a cow that was rushing towards him by shooting an arrow. Incensed by this incident, the brahmin who owned the cow cursed. He said as he had killed a helpless animal, he too would be killed in the same way i.e. when he was most helpless with his concentration being diverted away from his enemy at that crucial moment.

Curse by Bhoomi Devi

Once Karna was riding his chariot in his kingdom of Anga. He encountered a child who was crying over her pot of spilt ghee. On asking her reason, she stated that she feared her step mother would be angry over her carelessness.  Being generous enough Karna told her that he would give her new ghee. But the child insisted that she wanted only the ghee which was mixed with the soil and refused to take new ghee. Taking pity on the girl, took the soil mixed with ghee in his fist and squeezed it with all his might to extract the ghee and pour it back into the pot.During this process, Karna heard the agonised voice of a  women. When he opened his fist he realised it was voice of Bhoomidevi, furious Bhoomidevi chastised Karna for inflicting enormous pain for sake of mere child so, she cursed him that in a very crucial battle of life she would trap his chariot wheel in the same way that he held the fistful of soil.

Thus Karna was cursed on three separate and independent occasions. Unfortunately, each of these curses became operational at the same crucial moment in the kurukshetra war thus making him weapon less, left without chariot and helpless. These three curses are the main reason of his fall.

2. Generous Karna

On the eve of Mahabharat battle, Lord Indra disguised as an old Brahamin went to Karna asked for his Kavach and Kundal in daan (alms) Indra asked for this gift so as to reduce his strength, as he was  apprehensive that Karna by virtue of his phenomenal skill as a warrior would defeat Arjuna. Karna was being cautioned by by Sun God about such move of Lord Indra. But Karna was so great hearted that he could not refuse anyone and inspite of knowing that Indra is playing a trick he parted his kawach and kundal, which were part of his body since birth and made him invincible. Indra was pleased with Karna’s generosity and granted him a vardan (boon) Karna asked for his weapon shakti which can destroy any enemy Indra granted him that on a condition that he can use it only once.

Karna giving Kavach to Indra

Karna giving Kavach to Indra

When Karna was on his death bed, Lord Indra and Surya had a dispute regarding his generosity. To settle this they disguise as a beggar and asked for alms. Karna responded that he had nothing left with him for them. The beggar replied that he had some gold on his tooth which would be valuable for them. On realizing this fact, Karna took a stone and broke his tooth and gave it to beggar, epitomizing the ‘way of life’ he led.

Karna born with Kavach and Kundal

Karna born with Kavach and Kundal

3. Karna’s promise to Kunti

As the war approached Kunti met Karna to reveal his true identity. Kunti asked him to join Pandavas and become king. Karna stated that he can’t betray his friend Duryodhan. However he promised that he would not attempt to kill any of the Pandavas except Arjuna. Karna knew very well that Arjun is under the divine aegis of lord Krishna and hence invincible. This way he would be able to pay off Duryodhan’s debt while performing the duties of elder brother. So he told Kunti that she could only keep her 5 sons being him or Arjuna.


An excellent book by none other than Anant Pai from Amar Chitra Katha. Third one is dedicated to the battle of Kurukshetra.

4. Karna in battle field

Bhisma the commander in chief of Kaurava’s refused Karna to participate in war under his leadership saying that Karna has insulted his guru Parshuram by insulting Draupadi and nobody insulting his guru can fight under my leadership. Bhisma also knew about Karna’s true ancestry and did not want him to fight against his own brothers . Consequently Karna entered the battle field only on 11th day after the fall of Bhisma on 10th day.

5. Birth of Karna

Karna was born before his mother Kunti was married to  prince Pandu. Kunti was granted a boon from sage Durvasa who was very pleased with her service and hospitality. The boon was that she can call upon any God to beget a child. Out of curiosity Kunti still being unmarried wanted to test the power of mantra. She invoked the mantra and called Sun God (Surya), bound by the power of mantra Surya appeared and handed her a son, who was radiant and robust as Surya himself. the baby had a Kavach (armour) and kundal (ear ring) attached to his body. Though Kunti didn’t physically give birth to the baby, she was unwilling to face the world as an unwed mother so she placed Karna in a basket and set him float on the holy river Ganga.

Karna was founded by charioteer, he and his wife Radha raised Karna and named him Vasusena. He was also known as Radheya after her foster mother.

Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away

Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away

6. Karna as king of Ang Desh

Once Drone held a competition in Hastinapur to find out who is the best warrior among all the princes. Arjuna was the winner At that time Karna came forward and did all that Arjuna could do but he was not accepted as competitor because he was a son of a charioteer. This was a great disrespect which Karna has suffered in front of the public. Kunti was also sitting in the audience was a mute spectator she did not dare to say that Karna was her son. At this time Duryodhan came forward and made him king of Ang Desh. This made Karna a friend and follower of Duryodhan for life.

7. Karna, a loyal friend

On the onset of war when Kunti met Karna and revealed his identity and asked him to take the side of Pandavas he replied that he can’t betray his friend Duryodhana. Krishna also revealed his identity and asked him to join Pandava side. Krishna assured him that being the eldest Pandav he will be given the crown of Hastinapur but, Karna refused this enormous offer for his friend Duryodhan. Though Krishna was sad with his decision but appreciated his loyalty.

Further reading:

Seven little known facts from the Mahabharata(2)

Pandavas exile – seven little known facts from the Mahabharata (3)

Seven unknown facts about Karna

When incarnation of Lord Vishnu could not defeat his bhakta

Karna – the unfortunate who deserved

The reason for Karna’s suffering is no longer a myth. This story tells all.

Karna stories


Recommended books


The story of Vidura

There is one character in Mahabharata, who could have made the ideal king. But as fate would have it, he was born to a maid. This wise person was none other than Vidura, whose foresight have saved Pandavas from dying prematurely.

Vidura was half-brother to the kings Dhritarashtra and Pandu. He was a son of a maid-servant who served the queens of Hastinapura, Ambika and Ambalika. In some accounts, he was an incarnation of Yama or Dharma Raja, who was cursed by the sage, Mandavya, for imposing punishment on him that exceed the sin.

Birth of Vidura

Both queens were married to King Vichitravirya of Hastinapur, who died childless. Vichitravirya’s mother Satyavati was anxious to ensure that the royal line was carried on. She called upon her other son Vyasa to invoke his mystical powers to grant motherhood to the two queens. Vyasa was a sage and ascetic hermit, and came to the palace, unkempt as he was. He went to Ambika who closed her eyes when she saw him, and to Ambalika who became pale. Hence the children they bore were blind and an albino.

When Satyavati asked Vyasa to go to Ambika’s bed again, to ensure that there would be children, she placed her maid-servant instead in her bed. The dutiful maid-servant was not frightened. Hence her son was not born flawed like his half-brothers. Thus, Vidura was born who was raised as brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
With his half-brothers he was raised and educated by Bhishma, whom they called father. As neither of his parents were of royal blood (sage Vyasa was of divine but not royal lineage), Vidura was never considered for, or had any chance of obtaining the throne of the kingdom. He served his brothers as a chancellor.

A well wisher of Pandavas

After Krishna, he was the most trusted advisor to the Pandavas and had warned them repeatedly about Duryodhana’s plots. In particular, he warned the Pandavas from Duryodhana’s plan to burn them alive in a house of wax he had made for them. He was known for speaking the truth and for his intelligence.

Devotee of Shri Krishna

Vidura is famous also for being a true devotee of Lord Krishna. When the latter visited Hastinapura as a peace emissary of the Pandavas, he shunned Duryodhana’s offer to stay in his stately guesthouse, instead choosing the humble dwellings of Vidura. Vidura served as counselor to his half-brother King Dhritarashtra. In the Sanatsujatiya section of the Mahabharata, shortly before the Kurukshetra War began, Vidura invoked the sage Sanatsujata to answer Dhritarashtra’s questions about death.

Vidura Neeti

In protest against the Kurukshetra War, Vidura resigned from the post of minister. After the great battle, he helped Yudhishtira when he became ruler. Later, he accompanied Dhritarashtra, and his sisters-in-law Gandhari, and Kunti, when they left on their last journey to the forest. He died before his companions, on the banks of the Ganga. Vidura is considered as the Mahachohan in the Theosophical world. Mahachohan is said to be the chief of a Social Hierarchy of the trans-Himalayan mystics. “Vidur Neeti” or Vidur’s opinion on the science of politics, narrated in the form of a conversation between Vidur and King Dritrashtra, is often tipped as the pre-cursor of the Chanakya Neeti and has standing as that of Vibhishana Neeti and Bhisma Neeti.