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 boared deeper the wound began to bleed. Parashurama was woken by the blood from Karna’s thigh.
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 means that Karna would forget all that he had learned from Parashuram 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.
Though Parashurama regretted cursing him in a moment of anger but his curse was irrevocable so he gifted him a celestial weapon Bhargavastra along with his personal bow called Vijaya and blessed him with everlasting glory and immortal fame.
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 brahamin who owned the cow cursed him that 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.
Once Karna was riding his chariot in his kingdom of Anga encountered a child who was crying over her pot of spilt ghee. On asking her reason for her dismay 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.
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, to which 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.
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.
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.
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.