Sunday, April 8, 2012

Karna and his fight with destiny


For me Karna is the one of the two most exciting and complex characters from the epic Mahabharat. If anyone matches the complexity of Krishna’s character I think it’s Karna’s character. Story of his birth is also  very interesting. He was born to Kunti much before her marriage to Pandu when she accidentally invoked Surya to test the boon given to her by sage Durvasa. It was too late when she discovered that boon really worked and was left with an unwanted child. Ashamed of the baby and scared about social reactions she set the infant afloat on the river praying for his safety. This baby was picked up by Adhiratha, a childless charioteer, he and his wife Radha raised this child like their own son.  He had inborn attributes, his earrings (hence name Karna) and breastplate which make him invincible. 

Karna’s official entry in the epic is also very dramatic. He enters the public arena as a stranger where sons of Pandu and Dhritarashtra were displaying their martial art skills. He openly challenges Arjuna and even claims that he can put better show  of skills than Arjuna, and to everyone’s surprise this stranger fulfills his promise. Then he challenges Arjuna for duel and from here his conflict with Pandavas begins. Kripacharya, the match referee asks Karna to reveal his identity to confirm his lineage as it seems only Kshatriya can fight with another Kshatriya. Karna’s face fades, this was not the first time his lineage blocked his way.  Mahabharat takes place in very feudal society, where social status or lineage matters a lot. Karna faced  this problem of lineage when he tried to become student of Drona or when his Guru Parashuram cursed him for not disclosing his true identity. Kunti his biological mother recognizes him as her abandoned son but doesn’t show enough courage to accept him. Bhima insults him as ‘sutaputra’ just because he is a mere charioteer’s son. He stands there as defenseless victim questioning whether a person's social position should be defined by birth or by some other criterion. Duryodhana seizes this opportunity and comes to rescue him as he sees that this warrior might come in handy in his fight against Pandavas. Similar incident is repeated many years later in Kuru assembly where Draupadi gets insulted when Dushasana drags her in assembly and tries to disrobe her. Karna was also disrobed in public (not literally but the way he got insulted because of his lineage is like getting disrobed in public). In both the cases victim was targeted for no fault of theirs (Daraupadi at least insulted Duryodhana and Karna in past but it seems Karna overstepped his limits just by challenging Arjun who was from higher cast than his). If Kauravas would have been victorious in war I am sure Karna's insult would have been equivalent to Draupadi's vastraharan.

I am not trying to justify any of Karna’s future actions like his role in Draupadi's insult or killing of Abhimanyu or his loyalty towards Duryodhana. Karna made some mistakes in his life and got punished for each of them. Karna's story is a story of double standards by our society. He was wronged by his teachers, mother, brothers, friends, seniors (Bhishma) and even by Gods (Indra).

Krishna tried to pursue Karna to switch sides by offering him the kingdom by disclosing his true identity as eldest son of Kunti. Karna not only denied his offer but even requested Krishna to keep truth about his true identity as a secret till his death. Krishna didn’t try to deliver something like Bhagvad Gita to Karna as he knew that Karna didn’t need it. I think most of celebrated warriors from Kuru army already understood the principle of Nishkam Karma from Gita, they did their duty without worrying about the results or end product. I think every one of them knew what their destiny was and even had an opportunity to change it but they didn’t. One can not understand Mahabharat and its characters if we assume in the beginning itself that one side is right and other is wrong. It’s not simple story of victory of hero over villain, but its a tale of continuous tussle between right and wrong attributes, they are not associated with any particular side or character and there is no clear winner. 

Karna is one of my favorite characters from this great epic.  He refused to give up even after so many setbacks and defeats, stood by his friend till end, fulfilled his promises, fought with all the odds. He made mistakes and paid for all of them, at the end of his life his slate was clear, he didn't owe anything to anybody. Even people who killed him, hated him also came to pay homage after his death because of his bravery, honesty and loyalty. For me he will always remain a symbol of mans fight with his destiny.

Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

6 comments:

  1. http://www.mahabharataonline.com/articles/mahabharata_article.php?id=35

    do read this... interesting!

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  2. just awesome Vinay.....great writing with such an amazing thoughts..... i will like to grab your attention to the fact that our super star Amitabh Bachhan's character in movies is hugely inspired by Karna's life story and Salim Javed duo n Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra n Yash Chopra had frequently projected Big B in too similar way...

    regards
    Sanddep Avhad...:)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot Sandeep for your comment and encouragement. I knew that their scripts were influenced by Mahabharat but didnt think of this angle. You are right Amitabh's angry young man character, who is angry with society for treating him unfairly and want to take revenge is heavily influenced by Karna. Even many of his death scenes are also popular because people sympathize with his character a lot than main hero (nice guy in movie).
      Vinay

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  3. For all karna's Fans:

    (SOURCE-TRANSLATION OF ORIGINAL MAHABHARAT OF VYAS BY KESARI MOHAN GANGULY
    & WHICH IS THE ONLY PRECISE TRANSLATION AVAILABLE ON PUBLIC DOMAIN):



    Incident 1:Karna fled rom battlefield from Arjuna(Virata Yudh):

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04060.htm




    Incident 2:Karna defeated by Gandharwa chitrasena:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03239.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03240.htm




    Incident 3:Arjuna defeat Ghandarwas & rescued Duryodhan & kurus:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03243.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03244.htm



    Incident 4:Karna defeated & freightened by Abhimanyu in chakruvyuhu:

    Hearing these words, Karna, afflicted with the shafts of Arjuna's son, once more said unto Drona, 'Exceedingly afflicted with the shafts of Abhimanyu, I am staying in battle, only because (as a warrior) I should stay here. Indeed, the arrows of this south of great energy are exceedingly fierce. Terrible as they are and possessed of the energy of fire, these arrows are weakening my heart.'

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07045.htm




    What Karna's own friend Ashwathama & kripacharya think of karna:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04049.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m04/m04050.htm




    what Lord Krishna think of karna's bravery:

    Krishna said(To Arjuna):.I swear by Truth to thee, O friend, that my limbs are burning at the thought that while the son of Subhadra was thus advancing, consuming the hostile army with his shafts, even on that occasion the wicked-souled Karna was engaged in acts of hostility to that hero,Unable, O Partha, to stay in that battle before Abhimanyu's face, mangled with the shafts of Subhadra's son, deprived of consciousness, and bathed in blood, Karna drew deep breaths, inflamed with rage. At last, afflicted with arrows, he was obliged to turn his back upon the field.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08073.htm



    & Finally karna himself accepting Arjuna's supeority:

    Source:origial mahabharat by vyas..trans by km ganguly!

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08079.htm




    FINAL KARNA ARJUNA BATTLE(DAY 17 OF MAHABHARATA):


    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08089.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08090.htm

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08091.htm

    ACCORDING TO MY ANALYSIS OF THIS TRANSLATION IN THE FINAL BATTLE OF MAHABHARATA,ARJUNA & KARNA ASSAULTED EACH OTHER 35 TIMES WITH NUMEROUS, THOUSANDS & LAKHS OF ARROWS ………8 TIMES THEY NULLIFIED EACH OTHER ARROWS ,12 TIMES BOTH KARNA & ARJUNA PIERCED EACH OTHER BUT THE REMAINING 15 TIMES ARJUNA PIERCED KARNA IN EVERY PART OF HIS BODY & KARNA’S LIMBS,YOKE,STANDARD,STEEDS,CHARIOT WERE RIPPED APART & KARNA WAS LEFT MANGLED BATHED IN BLOOD & KARNA HAD NO ANSWER FOR ARJUNA’S ARROWS!!!



    Authenciaty of vyas original mahabharat by km ganguly:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kisari_Mohan_Ganguli







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    Replies
    1. Thanks Akshadh for visiting the blog and sharing your views, actually what is the purpose of sharing all these links? Do you think most people who like Karna don't know about these incidents from the story? And basically what these incidents show, Karna was prone to do mistakes like we all humans are? Doesn't it make him more human like us? Don't you think that's why people relate with him? Anyway thanks for sharing those links, there are many characters from this great story from Mahabharat which people like, they all are fascinating characters and have their own strengths and weaknesses, that's why that story is so fascinating and still people are interested in it.

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  4. TO FIND OUT WHO IS THE GREATEST WARRIOR KARNA OR ARJUNA FROM ORIGINAL VYAS'S MB,VISIT:

    https://www.facebook.com/karnavsarjuna

    ReplyDelete