Karna

Karna
Highlights

KARNA is a great hero of the Mahabharata War. The word Karna means ear. Since he was born with kundalas or ear ornaments, he was known as Karna.

KARNA is a great hero of the Mahabharata War. The word Karna means ear. Since he was born with kundalas or ear ornaments, he was known as Karna.
Kunti, his mother, was a young girl at that time. She was not married. Rishi Durvasa came to her house and taught her a mantra. He said: "If you say this mantra to any God, he will give you a son”. Kunti became curious. Just to test the efficacy of the mantra, she said it to the Sun God. Lo! The Sun God appeared and gave her the child Karna. Kunti at once became afraid. Unknown to anyone else she put the young child in a basket and floated it down a river.

Fortunately, at that hour, the charioteer of Dhritarashtra was bathing in the river at the far end. He saw this floating basket and the child in it. As he had no children, he thought God Himself had sent that child to him and brought him up as his own child. He named him Radheya. Karna learnt the art of warfare from Dronacharya and Parasurama. Seeing that he was as clever as Arjuna, Duryodhana took Karna to his side. Karna became a great friend of Duryodhana who made him king of Angadesa. Arjuna and Karna became inveterate enemies, and Arjuna vowed to defeat him.

As long as Karna had the divine kundala and kavacha or armour which the Sun God had given him, no one could defeat him. Indra was Arjuna’s Godfather. In order to help Arjuna defeat Karna, Indra decided to get karna’s kundala and kavacha. Indra, however, knew that Karna was very generous and would give anything when asked. Karna’s Godfather the Sun God came in Karna’s dream and warned him: "Karna! Indra will come dressed like a Brahmin and ask for your kundala and kavacha. Do not give them. Your life will be endangered!” Yet, when Indra came as a Brahmin and asked for the gift of his kundala and armour, he gladly gave them. Karna thought: "The merit of the gift is much greater than my life itself!”One day, before the war, Kunti went to Karna while he was saying prayers at the river Ganga. Karna, seeing her, greeted her saying: "I am Radheya, son of the charioteer; I bow to you”. Karna did not know she was his mother.

Kunti said: "You are not the son of the charioteer. You were given to me by the Sun-God. I am your mother and the Pandavas are your brothers. Having known it, come now and join the Pandavas and become their chief”. For a moment Karna’s eyes became wet; his heart appeared to melt. But the next moment, he composed himself and said: "Mother, I have great love and respect for you and admiration for my brothers. But how can I now leave Duryodhana and join the Pandavas? It will be against dharma. I have eaten the salt of Duryodhana all these years. He has great confidence in me. Won’t it be disloyalty to betray one’s trust? Again, if I join the Pandavas, won’t people say I have done so out of fear? Would you like your son to be called as a coward? You know that ingratitude is the worst sin. Please therefore forgive me if I cannot accept your suggestion.

Kunti again asked: "Don’t you have any love and respect for me, your mother ?" Karna said: "All right. I won’t harm your other four sons. I shall battle only to Arjuna. Either I will kill him or he will kill me. In either case, you will still have five sons left!” Kunti on hearing it consoled herself saying: "Let whatever is destined, happen," and returned home sad. In the battle Karna fought bravely and Arjuna could kill Karna only with the help of Krishna. Karna was a great hero indeed. His name has become proverbial for charity.

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