First Things First – A Lesson Karna Forgot

This is the first article in the new series- “Insights From Mahabharata”.

It is not without reason that the character of Karna has attracted so much fascination and attention from readers of the Mahabharata. People have seen and identified in him an ideal friend, an ideal giver, and above all – the fatally wronged son who never got his due from either his brothers or his mother. The right warrior, who fought on the wrong side.

But among all that has been written in the Mahabharata, is there an underlying narrative, hiding between the pages, that that may tell us something more about Karna, and therefore, about human nature itself? To do that, it is instructive to revisit some of the pivotal moments in Karna’s life.

A young Karna had convinced Parashurama to train him in the use of weapons. So desperate was Karna to receive this knowledge that he had described himself as a brahmana, and not as the kshatriya he was (a suta perhaps, but certainly a brahmana he wasn’t). Parashurama would teach no kshatriya. One day, as Parashurama slept on Karna’s lap, a bee stung Karna. Not wanting to disturb his guru, Karna bore the pain. When Parashurama woke up and saw the blood, he accused Karna of having deceived him. No brahmana – or so Parashurama believed – could have withstood so much pain. Parashurama cursed Karna that he would forget the knowledge of his weapons, when he would need them the most. This is well known. The question is – why did Karna not get up or otherwise take some step to swat the bee away? Why was it so important to show that he could withstand huge amounts of pain, if only to not displease his guru?

A dejected Karna walked on, lost in his thoughts. He had just been cursed by his guru, the formidable Parashurama. Distracted by the sound of an animal, he shot his arrows in the direction of the sound. Those arrows ended up killing a brahmana’s cow. Actually, in Karna’s words, “I had unconsciously used my arrows to kill the calf that had been born from his homa cow.” In some ways, Karna had displayed the same rashness of thought as Pandu. Rishi Kimdam had cursed Pandu to a life of forced celibacy. The brahmana in this case uttered an even deadlier curse on Karna than Parashurama had – “Your miserable wheel will be stuck in the ground and you will confront great fear in your heart, when you are fighting in a battle.” The brahmana had described Karna’s fate in literal terms.

The years passed on. The scene shifted to the Kuru sabha in Hastinapura, where a desperately inveterate gambler played, and lost, repeatedly. Yudhishthira, the sovereign who had not long ago performed the Rajsuya Yagya, had lost his riches, his kingdom, his brothers, himself, and even his wife. This was Duryodhana’s revenge for what he had seen and suffered, while at Indraprastha. The fire of envy in Duryodhana’s heart, that had raged at Indraprastha as brightly as the fire of the Khandava forest that had ended up creating Indraprastha in the first place, had culminated in the vile game of dice. Duhshasana had done his brother’s bidding by dragging Droupadi by the hair to the hall. Vikarna had then spoken out in defence of Droupadi, ending with the declaration – “I do not think, she has been won.

To this defense, who was the first one to respond? Not Duryodhaha. Not Duhshasana. Yet again, an “almost senseless with anger” Karna berated Vikarna and argued that Droupadi had indeed been won by fair means. His tirade ended with these spiteful and biting words [bold emphasis mine] – “It has been ordained by the gods that a woman should only have one husband. However, she submits to many and it is therefore certain that she is a courtesan. It is my view that there is nothing surprising in her being brought into the sabha in a single garment, or even if she is naked. In accordance with dharma, Soubala has won all the riches the Pandavas possessed, including her and themselves. O Duhshasana! This Vikarna is only a child, though he speaks words of wisdom. Strip away the garments from the Pandavas and Droupadi.

This was a fight between the Pandavas and Kauravas. This was not Karna’s fight. Why then he chose to weigh in defies logic. What did he hope to accomplish more? Wasn’t it enough for him to sit back and enjoy the complete, and utter, humiliation of the Pandavas.

Some thirteen years later, a small contingent of the Kuru army stood at the outskirts of the Virata kingdom. This army, with the redoubtable Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Duryodhana, and of course Karna, faced the lone prince Uttara and his big-stick charioteer, the eunuch Brihanalla. The Kurus didn’t know that Brihanalla was none other than Arjuna. Arjuna had retrieved his weapons from the shami tree, and was seated in the chariot, with Uttara the prince. The Pandava blew his conch, and “The earth trembled from the sound of the conch shell, the roar of the chariot and the thunder of the Gandiva.” Drona recognized it to be none other than Arjuna’s conch, and acknowledged the Pandava’s might – “From the roar of the chariot, the blast of the conch shell and the trembling of the earth, it can be no one other than Savyasachi. Our weapons are no longer shining and our horses have lost their spirits.”

Yet again, Karna could not bear this praise of his nemesis. The task at hand was to fight the lone warrior in the lone chariot. Yet Karna could not stop himself from letting loose a diatribe, yet again – “Horses always neigh, whether they are walking or standing. The wind always blows. Vasava always showers down. The roar of the thunder can be heard many times. What does this have to do with Partha and why should he be praised?” Yes, Karna was a mortal enemy of Arjuna. But just what did he achieve through this volley of words?

For all of Karna’s boasting and bravado, how did the battle end? We all know, how it ended. What about Karna? He fled from the battle – “Thus wounded by the arrows shot by Partha, and scorched by Pandava’s arrows, like a swift elephant that has been defeated by another elephant, Vaikartana fled from the forefront of the battle.

The die had been cast. The battle at Kurukshetra was now announced. The armies had collected. A war that would see only three survivors from the Kaurava army of eleven akshaunis. This was the battle that Karna had waited all his life. The Kaurava warriors had assembled. Duryodhana wanted to know from Bhishma his assessment of the warriors on either side of the armies. Bhishma obliged. Shalya was an atiratha, as were Kritavarma, Shalya, and Bhalika; Shakuni and Sudakshina were equal to a single ratha, and so on. Bahlika was an atiratha. Even Vrishasena, Karna’s son, was rated as equal to a maharatha. And Karna? Bhishma’s assessment ran thus – “Karna Vaikartana is harsh, boastful and inferior. … He is insolent and has been extremely uplifted by you. O king! He is not a full ratha. Nor is he an atiratha. … it is my view that he is only half a ratha.” Drona concurred with Bhishma’s assessment.

These were grievous insults that no warrior would have taken lying down. Nor did Karna. He made his decision – “I will never fight as long as Gangeya is alive. But once Bhishma has been slain, I will fight with all the maharathas.” Thus, did Karna sit out of the war for ten days. However, Karna had forgotten, what was more important.

The war commenced. Ten days passed. Bhishma fell. Karna entered the battlefield. The fortunes of the Kaurava army, however did not improve. Drona fell on the fifteenth day. Karna was appointed commander of the Kauravas and took charge of what was left of the Kaurava army on the sixteenth morning. His charioteer was the redoubtable Shalya – uncle of the Pandava brothers Nakula and Sahdeva. How the brother of Madri came to fight on the side of the Kauravas is a tale in itself, but how did the two warriors spend the morning before the battle resumed? Arjuna and Krishna had spent the time before the battle began by getting to understand the purpose of the battle itself. Krishna had delivered the eternal message of the Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna. How did Shalya and Karna spend the time on the sixteenth morning? By arguing. Shalya provoked Karna, comparing him to a child wanting to touch the sun, to “a stupid jackal” shouting “at a maned and angry lion.” The “stupid jackal” being Karna, while the “angry lion” was Arjuna.

How did Karna respond? Need we guess? Karna took Shalya’s bait, and thus began a long argument, a cacophony that was as ugly as the real battle being fought. Karna had the choicest of abuses for the king of Madra, Shalya, his charioteer – “evil in nature“, “You are stupid“, “There are no good feelings in a Madraka“, “He [a Madraka] always lies and is never straight.“, “Noble women [Madrakas], according to their own wishes, mingle with men, known and unknown“, “They drink liquor, eat the flesh of cows and dance and laugh. The songs don’t have proper rhymes“, “Women who are intoxicated by liquor cast off their clothes and dance around. … O Madraka! You are the son of one such“, “They drink liquor made from grain and molasses. They eat the flesh of cows, laced with garlic. They eat bread mixed with meat and fried barley that has not been sowed.

On and on went the bickering. Shalya recounted a tale about a crow and swan, comparing Karna to the crow “that fed on leftovers from a vaishya household.” Karna, in Shalya’s estimation, was no different, and had “subsisted on leftovers from the sons of Dhritarashtra.

This then was Karna’s state of mind as he entered the battlefield.

How did the end come? In the middle of the furious battle, Parashurama’s curse manifested itself, as did the brahmana’s. “the earth swallowed up one of the wheels of Radheya’s chariot.” Karna “wept in rage.” An anjalika arrow, invoked with the right mantras, affixed to Arjuna’s Gandiva, severed Karna’s head.

Karna was the eldest of the four sons of Kunti. He was elder to Arjuna, Bhimasena, and Yudhishthira. Yet his lifelong battle had been with Arjuna. If one looks at Arjuna, the image most likely to be imprinted on the minds of people would be of Arjuna in a chariot commandeered by Krishna, who held the reins of the horses of the splendid chariot. The image cannot, but remind oneself of these lines from the Katha Upanishad:

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as
The charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the road they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow.” [Katha Upanishad, tr. Eknath Easwaran]

The contrast between Karna and Arjuna could not have been starker. All through his life, although Karna was a man, who possessed the greatest of talents, he could not bring himself to focus with single-minded attention to any one task. Distracted, he killed a calf, and got cursed. In the Kuru dyuta sabha, he could not keep his mouth shut, ordering Duhshasana to disrobe Droupadi. At Virata, he could not go after Brihanalla, and got distracted in arguing with Drona. Later, before the Kurukshetra battle, he would not ignore Drona and Bhishma’s taunts and walked off the battlefield in a huff. While on the one hand Krishna had dispelled the demons of doubt that raged in Arjuna’s mind at the start of the battle, Shalya, on the other hand, filled Karna’s mind with rage, doubt, and fear.

Thus, when Karna’s end came, the “Self“, for all practical purposes, had already dismounted the “body“. The “intellect” had refused to cooperate with the “Self“, as we witnessed. Karna was a distracted person. In a final assessment, the only thing that separated Karna from Arjuna was focus. One possessed an “intellect” as Krishna, the other Shalya. Shalya himself had not exactly distinguished himself, when he had allowed himself to get fooled by Duryodhana, had he? Karna chose such a person as his charioteer. A starker contrast between the marriage of the self and intellect could not be found than what was on display with Jishnu and Vishnu on the one hand, and Karna and Shalya on the other.

A last question that reinforces this contrast was raised by Dhritarashtra himself, when he asked Sanjaya after Ghototakacha had been killed by Karna’s Shakti weapon. He wanted to know from Sanjaya, “Why did he [Karna] not forget everyone else and hurl it [Indra’s spear] at Partha? Had he been slain, all the Pandavas and Srinjayas would have been killed too. Had that brave one alone been killed, why should victory in the battle not have been ours?” The answer was provided by Krishna himself, to a similar question posed by Satyaki – “The thought of killing the wielder of Gandiva was always in Karna’s heart. O foremost among warriors! But I confused Radheya.” Through his yogic powers, Krishna had been able to distract Karna’s mind. Day after day, for four days, till Karna had been forced to use the Shakti against Ghatotakacha.

I forgot to mention one thing. When Bhishma had assessed Karna’s capabilities, Drona had also weighed in. Before rating Karna as “half a ratha,” Drona had said this about Karna, to Karna himself – “Karna is generous. But he is also distracted.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Abhinav Agarwal is a son, husband, father, technologist and an IIM-B Gold Medalist.
  • mahesh chandra

    A thought and a suggestion :

    Karan is the true Hero of Mahabharat.

    In Max Muller’s English translations of Sanskrit all of the proper nouns end with a needless a which distorts the pronunciation/locution. This irksome habit/tradition ought to be examined.

  • Hayagri

    Beautifully written & analyzed, except in one place where a first time story listener would confuse that Krishna delivered bhagawat saara to Arjuna on the morning of the 16th day – after Bhishma and Drona had been slain. That’s incorrect I think..

  • Mohan Iyengar

    The problem with a lot of people is that they have preconceived ideas of Karna based on other versions of the Mahabharata, not authored by Vyasa, but popularly propagated nevertheless by Hari Katha tellers. This has turned them into Karna sympathisers, and like Karna their sense of Dharma is confused. Some sympathise with him so much that they come to hate Krishna. However, let us remember that it was Vyasa alone who was witness to it all, and who has given the truest picture of each’s character.

    Excellent article, Abhinav!

  • Also I think there is one more incident involving Karna and his charioteer which involves the nag-astra or may be I am misremembering it.

    Karna’s fascination among present Indians may be due to nastik(original meaning) versions or may be even due to colonial conformity and communist propaganda.

  • JustSaying

    Even if he Karn had not been cursed he would have still lost to Arjun. Interpretation of all the incidents mentioned in the article seems to be an attempt to justify Karn’s defeat at the hands of Arjun. Arjun was the superior warrior of the two.

  • Mamata

    Excellent article! A good attempt to answer one of the Dharmic dilemmas of the the Dharm yuddh. Indeed Arjun’s defining characteristic, even more than his skill, is focus. His skill is a result of that focus which has allowed him to hone it.

  • PV

    After the great war, Yudhistira curses his mother Kunti regarding Karna. The effects of that curse can be felt even today 🙂

  • Sharath Chandra Gongireddy

    Karna always boasted about his talent but was never a match to Arjuna in-terms of SKill or Character

    Examples of Situations where he could not prove his Skills

    1. He could not save himself and his friend Duryodhana from a Gandarva (Arjuna and Bheema had to come to their rescue).

    2. Karna along with Bheeshma, Drona, Duryodhana, Dushyasana and an army could not defeat a lone warrior Arjuna during Dakshina Gograhna (This was when Krishna was not even present physically besides Arjuna)

    3. All of the Kaurava Sena (Karna, Duryodhana and Others ) could not handle son of Arjuna (Abhimanyu) in the war for one day.

    4. He also lost in the ultimate war (Kurukhetra war) to Arjuna. 11 Akshauhini Sena having Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Ashwadhama, Dhuryodhana, Dushyasana etc. could not defeat 7 Akshauhini Sena lead by Arjuna

    Karna was part of Dushta Chathushtayam, because he always demonstrated negative character (Not confident of skills, Jealous of Pandavas etc – That is what was exploited by Dhuryodhana). Following examples Demonstrate the cheap character he was

    Draupadi Swayamwara – he could not win Draupadi in the Swayamwara test: If he was a man of character or had belief in his skills ; he would not have thought of taking revenge on Draupadi for his inability. That too supporting an act of women being made naked in front of so many people. For a moment even if we assume that Draupadi insulted him in Swayamwara (Which is not true) you want to make her naked – That shows the character of a man

    Arjuna was the chosen one of the Paramatma – Demonstrated not once but multiple times. Pandavas always chose the path of Dharma and hence Paramatma was always helping them…

    1. Lord Shiva along with mother had come down to earth and picked up a physical fight to transfer his energy to Arjuna and also gave Pashupathasthra.

    2. Lord Krishna chose Arjuna to give Bhagawad Gita to world.

    3. In Bhagavatha there is a narration of an incident on one occasion Rushis wanted to have Darshan of Krishna and Arjuna in Vaikunta ; and a situation was created where Krishna took Arjuna to Vaikunata.

    You cannot separate Arjuna from Krishna – they are Nara-Narayana AMsha of Lord Vishnu.

  • Nandoo

    I am no fan of Karna but I have bit sympathy for him. Well there are many versions and interpretations. What I read and convinced about is as follows:
    1. Karna’s previous birth’s bad karma led to his suffering, was given away after birth etc.
    2. For whole life he was taunted as Sutputra so the anger and distractions.
    3. He was indebted to Duryodhana and has taken oath to serve him.Though he was not supportive of Duryodhana’s adharmic nature which he learned at later stage.He was bound by his oath.
    4. He was desperate to lie to learn from Vishwamitra
    5. It was not Karna but Bheeshma wished he should not take part in war under him(some say Bheeshma knew Karna was actually pandava and so wantes to protect him.he even urged him to join pandavas)
    6.Karna didn’t insult Darupadi,he was a mute spectator and didn’t like Duryodhana’s Duhshasanas behaviour in Dyutgraha.
    Overall, he was a great maharathi like Arjun but anger bcoz of Sutputra etc insults,bad friendship kept him distracted.Krishna didn’t notify him about his birth before bcoz he knew his fate. I symathise with Karna for his fate but i believe he could have got rid of Duryodhana after knowing him well.but again that’s human nature,we make mistakes sometimes due to our ego and take decisions emotionally.

  • Shourie Bannai

    As far as I know, not a lot is wrong with this article, but the fact that Karna was not cursed twice but thrice

    1. Parshurama had cursed Karna, since he had lied about his varna to be a student and get the knowledge from this great rishi.The curse was that his entire knowledge and virtue would desert him whenever he needed it the most.

    2. Karna was cursed by the owner of a cow whom Karna had killed while practicing the Shabdvedi vidya with his bow and arrows gifted by Parshurama. The curse was that, just like Karna had killed the cow which was helpless and unarmed, so would be Karna’s death completely unarmed and helpless.

    3. He was cursed by Bhudevi (mother earth) for squeezing out the Ghee from soil which had fallen out of a little girls bowl. The girl was trying to get out of the way of Karnas approaching chariot. Bhudevi had cursed Karna that she would eat up something from Karna at the most inopportune time and thus leave him helpless.

    And all the three curses culminated at the same time and the rest is a known story.

    • Saiswaroopa Iyer

      Bhudevi’s curse is a local legend. Not from critical edition AFAIK. Did not come across this even in KM Ganguli’s version, but I might be wrong.

  • 0nlyPeace

    Nice one.

  • Lalitaditya Muktapida

    Okay I’ll take a shot at answering some of these

    Q1. Why did Karna not swat away the Bee
    Ans. He felt the movement would disturb his teacher and wake him up. I don’t think any other thought even entered his mind, let alone the need to show his ability to withstand pain.

    Q2. Why did Karna chose to weigh in on Draupadi being a courtesan?
    ans. He was burning from Draupadi having humiliated him at her swayamvara.

    Q3. Why the volley of words in Virata?
    ans. How many extremely talented people can maintain equanimity when an inferior is being praised. None that I know of. I doubt even Arjuna could pull this off

    Q4. Karna’s distraction?
    and. Can Arjuna keep a calm mind without Krishna around after being abused and reviled all his life for no fault of his?

    • Shubhangi Raykar

      Vanity and impetuosity are bad. Karna did not have poise and grace.

      • Lalitaditya Muktapida

        I think your biggest complaint against Karna was that he was on the losing side. Much like present day Hindus. No one makes excuses for a loser

        • Vamsi Krishna

          If that is the comparison, you may be right. Hindus does not posess the kind of focus that chrisitians and muslims have

          • Lalitaditya Muktapida

            I’m just giving the reason why you people find fault with Karna while giving clean chits to the Pandavas. All of you love winners and revile the losers. Like everyone else on this Damned planet in this damned age. The bottomline is all you lot are interested in

          • Ashish

            Not sure about others, but I hate Karna for not being on Krishna’s/dharma’s side in war 🙂

          • Lalitaditya Muktapida

            Well, Karna was as devoted to Krishna as Arjuna was, possibly more, because he was on the other side. Karna told Lord Krishna what he himself was sure to be on the losing side because where Krishna is, there Dharma is, where Dharma is, there Victory is. He expressed his helplessness to Lord Krishna, to which Lord Krishna merely smiled, where he acknowledged Karna’s point.

            When Lord Krsna offered the crown of Hastinapura to Karna, Karna refused.

            Lord Krishna: Why do you refuse the crown.

            Karna: Because then I’ll give the crown to Duryodhana

            Lord Krishna: So what’s the problem with that. Duryodhana is happy and Yudhisthira and the Pandavas will accept your decision since you are the elder brother

            Karna: Because My friend Duryodhana does not deserve the crown.

            Lord Krsna: Then why do you fight on his side

            Karna: Because of the debt I owe him, I will fight for him to the end of my ability

            Lord Krsna: But if you win the war, he becomes King which you can do now without the bloodshed

            Karna: But I won’t be on the winning side

            Lord Krsna: Why do you say so?

            Karna: Because Lord Krsna is not on my side. Where Krsna is, there Dharma is. Where Dharma is, there victory is. Therefore try as I may, I will lose.

            So tell me my Friend, Wasn’t Karna an excellent Disciple of Lord Krsna? Does not his love for Krsna equal that of Arjuna? Would you still hate him for not being on Lord Krsna’s side? Or would you marvel at the sheer nobility of a warrior going bravely to his doom, following his own Dharma to the last?

          • Ashish

            Yes, I would still hate him. Just being a devotee of god is not sufficient, one has to be on side of the god while doing karma, when it matters most, despite all odds.
            Precisely the reason many hate Mulayam Singh yadav or Digvijay Singh etc despite of them being ardent devotees of Shri Ram or some other Hindu gods but admire & love Atheists like Arun Shourie(if u leave his recent shenanigans ) , as he is on the dharma side.
            PS: I am not comparing Karna with MSY or DS but only giving an example that devotion shouldn’t be a criteria to like or dislike a character.

          • Lalitaditya Muktapida

            I don’t think mulayam or diggy are devotees of lord Rama. One us a devotee of power and the other is a devotee of Empress Helena.

          • Ashish

            Well, u may believe what u want to, but your comments prove nothing that they’re not religious hindus.. S Swamy once revealed in a PTIs meet that Mulayam doesn’t come out of home without doing Puja of Shri Ram & Hanuman, he has also revealed a private conversation between him & mulayam about Shri Ram Temple at ayodhya that he will support ram mandir there if Hindus get united.
            Digvijay has close relationships with many sangh sadhus, u can see his photos bowing to Yogi Aditynath on net. So they are pretty much religious Hindus. But they prioritize something else first just like Karna who prioritize to fight with Pandavas/Krishna instead of stepping aside or fighting kauravas.

          • Lalitaditya Muktapida

            I hardly think you can compare Karna to Diggy or Mullah. Seriously, this is offensive

          • March Ahead’ India

            true, Karna’s actions do not qualify as devotion because acts in devotion have to be favorable to Krsna and His will. it has to be ‘anukula’ as per definition of devotion given by Jiva Goswami. anukulyena krsna anusilanam bhaktir ucyate.

    • Vamsi Krishna

      When chosing the wrong side, he cannot have the luxury of even one bad attribute. Even Bhisma and Drona could not stand (for all their virtues), Karna, I am sure was below them in terms of skill as a warrior.

      • Lalitaditya Muktapida

        Well, Lord Parashurama would beg to differ with you. Lord Parashurama felt that Karna was his best disciple, but then what does that senile old man know, right?

    • ccc

      but why Karna couldn’t keep his calm just when the situation presented itself which if capitalized would forever shut the mouth of all his detractors ? like Kurukshetra, like Virat. No doubt Karna was more talented (though we never got to see it in action, why I wonder ? ) but unfortunate and Arjuna was equally fortunate as talented and though neither could win over their self but Karna by virtue of some accidents & loose talk (which could happen to anybody) lost the grace of his only Guru, Bhagwaan Parshuram, then chose the side opp. to Shri Krishna in Yudh. maybe this brought him down.

      • Lalitaditya Muktapida

        Karna was the equal of Yudhisthira in his understanding of Dhamma, the equal of Bhima in strength, the Equal of Arjuna in archery, of Nakula in handsomeness and of Sahadeva in scholarship. Yet, he was still a Human. Yet he was not the equal of Lord Krishna. Thus he has human weaknesses of Vanity, of being dejected on rejection, of bad judgment, of getting agitated on undesirable occurrences etc. Only Lord Krishna is above such pettiness. Not even Yudhisthira is above such pettiness

        Karna had this great desire to be acclaimed for the greatest Archer on the planet by every Fool on the planet. This was his fatal weakness. It is for this reason that he could not shut his mouth. If People kept praising Arjuna’s inferior in front of arjuna, would Arjuna have been able to shut his mouth? A cursory study of arjuna’s character in the Mahabharata indicates that he would have failed miserably. Kshatriyas by their nature are boastful and proud. Hard for them to shut up when an inferior is being praised in front of them.

        The problem with all you people is that you are comparing Karna to Lord Krishna. Compared to Lord Krishna everyone will fall short. Only Lord Krishna could have kept calm had he faced all the situations Karna faced. I doubt anyone in the Mahabharata could have done better, Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and Yudhisthira included. So compare Karna to the other actors in the Mahabharata such as the Pandavas and then come to a conclusion. That is a fair comparison. Comparing anyone to Lord Krishna is unfair.

        • ccc

          only you think that Karna is being compared to Krishna.

          • Lalitaditya Muktapida

            You’re making the comparisons unconsciously. You are judging Karna based on impossible standards, standards which only Lord Krishna can meet. This is what I meant when I said that

          • ccc

            I am arguing the lack of those qualities which would have washed away the disablities put on him by the society. After Duryodhan made him Anga Desh’s king, he had many chances to prove himself and shut his critics but everytime he lost focus and got imbroiled in something else.

      • Lalitaditya Muktapida

        Now regarding Karna taking the side opposite to Lord Krishna. He did so because he had a debt of friendship to pay Duryodhana. Karna knows Duryodhana is evil and so he forever regrets his lack of judgement in accepting Duryodhana’s hand in friendship in the stadium where everyone humiliated him.

        In that stadium Karna was humiliated thus
        1. He was not allowed to compete with Arjuna
        2. he was reminded of his lowly social status
        3. His social status was thought to be more important than his skills in Archery
        4. he was roundly insulted for his social status by every Pandava except Yudhisthira.

        He felt lonely, rejected, dejected and in despair. In such a situation, his mind was clouded by despair. Thus when the wicked Duryodhana offered friendship, Karna was unable to perceive the evil of Duryodhana in that weakened mental state. In any other situation Karna would have refused the offer of friendship.

        Now let us examine the conduct of the Pandavaas
        1. Did the pandavas except for Yudhisthira cover themselves inb Glory by insulting Karna for no fault of his? How does Arjuna come out of this? How does Bhima come out

        2. Why did Yudhisthira not rebuke his brothers when they were humiliating Karna? Why did he stay silent? Could he not have told his brothers, “Respect Karna for his skill in Archery instead of rebuking him for his low social status.”

        The way I see it, nobody in that stadium exactly covered themselves with Glory when tested on a matter of Virtue. In fact I feel Karna, while not perfect in conduct, came out the best. Karna was being reviled for being a Suta’s son. Yet, when his father appeared on the field, did he not immediately fall at his father’s feet? Should we not marvel at this display of Sheer Nobility? Has anyone in the Mahabharata performed such a noble feat in such a situation?

        I rest my case

        • Manikant Kant

          The whole article is about how / when / why Karna loses FOCUS and gets distracted, whereas Arjuna has a single-minded approach. Unfortunate for him. All his positive deeds do not sum up to help him in his fight against Arjuna; and he is shown as being cursed heavily often for all the odd mistakes that he made in his life unwittingly. The script did not do justice to this noble character. Seems that the gods conspired against him.