Karna in battle
|Children||Sudama, Vrishasena, Chitrasena, Satyasena, Sushena, Shatrunjaya, Dvipata, Banasena, Prasena and Vrishaketu|
|Parent(s)||conceived by (Kunti and Surya), adopted by (Adhiratha and Radha)|
Karna (Sanskrit: कर्ण, IAST transliteration: Karṇa), originally known as Vasusena, is one of the central characters in the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, from ancient India. He was the King of Anga (present day Bhagalpur and Munger). Karna was one of the greatest warriors, whose martial exploits are recorded in the Mahābhārata and the only warrior believed to be able to defeat Arjuna in battle, an admiration expressed by Lord Krishna and Bhishma within the body of this work. As per Mahabharata, Karna was the only warrior in that era who conquered the entire world. Karna was the only warrior in the Mahabharata who single-handedly successfully conducted Digvijaya Yatra, conquering all kings in every direction of the world in order to establish Duryodhana as the emperor of the world and to conduct the Vaishnava sacrifice.
Karna was the son of Surya (a solar deity) and Kunti. He was born to Kunti before her marriage with Pandu. Karna was the closest friend of Duryodhana and fought on his behalf against the Pandavas (his brothers) in the famous Kurukshetra war. Karna fought against misfortune throughout his life and kept his word under all circumstances. Many admire him for his courage and generosity. It is believed that Karna founded the city of Karnal, in present Haryana. Karna, Mahabali, Harishchandra are the three most famous personalities in Hinduism based on the merits they earned by giving charity. They are often quoted for their sacrifice, courage, charity, valour and selflessness they exhibited for helping a fellow being.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Story
- 3 Conquering World
- 4 Prelude to war
- 5 Celestial weapons (Astra's) of Karna
- 6 Kurukshetra war
- 7 Karna's family
- 8 Draupadi’s Secret
- 9 Themes and analysis
- 10 Secondary literature and media
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
The name he became renowned in the epic was Karna meaning the cutter or peeler of his own skin/natural armor.
Karna's other names according to Mahabharata are :
- Radheya - Son of Radha
- Vaikarthana - The one who gave away his impenetrable natural armour & earrings to Indra. Also mean the one who is related to or belonging to the Hindu solar deity, Surya
- Rashmirathi - One who rides the chariot of light
- Vasusena - Birth name meaning the one born with wealth,ie, golden Kavacha Kundala (natural armour and ear rings).
- Suryaputra - Son of Surya
- Parashurama Shishya - Disciple of Parashurama
- Angaraj - King of Anga
- Vijaya Dhari - One who wields the celestial bow Vijaya
- Adhirathi - Son of Adhiratha
- Daanveer - The hero possessing undying charitable nature;
- Daanshoor - One who fought like a true warrior
- Vrisha - One who is truthful in speech, engaged in penances, observant of vows, kind even to enemies. Vrisha also means bull, and Karna was referred to as bull among warriors by Vyasa
- Souta - Son of Suta or belonging to charioteer caste
- Sūtaputra - Son of Sūta or belonging to charioteer caste
- Kaunteya - Son of Kunti
Birth, education and curses
As a young woman Kunti, the princess of the Kunti Kingdom, had been granted a boon by sage Durvasa to be able to invoke any deity to give her a child. Eager to test the power, while still unmarried, she called upon the solar deity Surya and was handed a son Karna wearing armour (Kavacha) and a pair of earrings (Kundala). Afraid of being an unwed mother Kunti, placed the baby in a basket and set him afloat on a river. The child was found by Adhiratha, a charioteer of King Dhritarashtra of Hastinapur. Adhiratha and his wife Radha raised the boy as their own son and named him Vasusena. He also came to be known as Radheya, the son of Radha.
Karna became interested in the art of warfare and approached Dronacharya, an established teacher who taught the Kuru princes. But he refused to take Karna as his student, since Karna was not a Kshatriya.Dronacharya insulted Karna for being a mere suta-putra,son of a charioteer and asked him to help his father in riding chariot instead of trying to learn warfare.After being refused by Dronacharya, Karna with his brother Shona's help started his own's education and appointed the sun god as his guru. But, Karna wanted to learn advanced skills of archery and hence he decided to learn from Parashurama, Dronacharya's own guru.
As Parshurama only taught to Brahmins, Karna appeared before him as a Brahmin because of the fear of rejection. Parashurama accepted him and trained him to such a point that he declared Karna to be equal to himself in the art of warfare and archery. On a day towards the end of his training Karna happened to offer Parashurama his lap so his guru could rest his head and nap. But while Parashurama was asleep, a bee stung Karna's thigh and despite the pain, Karna did not move, so as not to disturb his guru's sleep.In some versions,Lord Indra became afraid of the fighting prowess of Karna and he himself took the form of a bee and stung Karna's thigh in order to benefit his son Arjuna. With blood oozing from his wound, Parashurama woke up at once deduced that Karna was not a Brahmin. Parashurama, who had sworn to teach Brahmins only, laid curse upon Karna that he would forget all the knowledge required to wield the divine weapon Brahmanda astra. Parashurama cursed Karna,[note 1]
|“||Since you are not a Brahmana, the Brahmanda astra shall not dwell with you in your last moments. You shall forget it at your bidding, when your death becomes nigh in battle. Though at other times except engaging with an equal warrior, you may be master of it !||”|
Upon Karna's pleading, Parshurama gave Karna his personal celestial weapon called Bhargavastra which no one else possessed, for being such a diligent student. Repenting over the curse and in order to nullify the given curse, Parashurama gave Karna his personal bow called Vijaya for being ever victorious in battle and blessed Karna,
|“||On earth, no Kshatriya will be thy equal in battle||”|
Karna was also cursed by a Brahmin for killing his cow while practising his skills with bow and arrows. The Brahmin got angry and cursed him that he would become helpless and die in the same way the innocent cow had become, by his chariot wheels getting stuck in the ground. Folklore from Andhra Pradesh further relates that Karna once encountered a child who was crying over her pot of spilt ghee. On asking her the reason for her dismay, she stated that she feared that her stepmother would be angry over her carelessness. Refusing to take new ghee from Karna, the child insisted that she wanted the same ghee. Taking pity on her, Karna took the soil mixed with ghee in his fist and squeezed it with all his might, so that the ghee dripped back into the pot. During this process, Karna heard the agonized voice of a woman. When he opened his fist, he realized that the voice was that of Bhoomidevi, the Earth goddess. She furiously chastised Karna for inflicting enormous pain on Mother Earth for the sake of a mere child and cursed him that at a very crucial moment in battle, his chariot wheel would be trapped as tightly as he had held that fistful of soil and die helplessly.
Friendship with Duryodhana
To display the skills of the Kuru princes, guru Dronacharya arranged a friendly tournament. His student Arjuna, third of the Pandava brothers, was shown to be a particularly gifted archer. Karna arrived at this tournament uninvited and surpassing Arjuna's feats, challenged him to a duel. Kripacharya refused Karna his duel, asking first for his clan and kingdom; for according to the rules of duelling, only a prince could challenge Arjuna to a duel and due to his low birth, Karna was not allowed to fight Arjuna.He was further insulted by Bhima by comparing him to a stray dog, for his mixed caste and lineage. This incident marks the beginning of a feud between Karna and Pandavas. Duryodhana, the eldest of the one-hundred sons of the king Dhritarashtra, knew that his cousins Pandavas were better at warfare. Seeing Karna as a chance to get on even terms with them he immediately offered Karna the throne of the kingdom of Anga, making him a king and hence eligible to fight a duel with Arjuna. Neither of them knows that Karna is in fact Kunti's oldest son, born to (sun god) Surya. When Karna asked him what he could do to repay him, Duryodhana told him that all he wanted was his friendship. Karna later married Vrushali belonging to the suta caste,as per the wishes of his foster father Adirath.
Karna was a loyal and true comrade to Duryodhana. Karna helped Duryodhana marry the Princess Bhanumati of Kalinga. Duryodhana abducted Princess Bhanumati from her Swayamvara ceremony in a chariot and Karna fought with the rest of the suitors.Many legendary rulers like Shishupala, Jarasandha, Bhishmaka, Vakra, Kapotaroman, Nila, Rukmi, Sringa, Asoka, Satadhanwan etc attended the ceremony and Karna easily defeated the pursuing Kings, who dejected and abandoned their pursuing after seeing the fighting prowess of Karna to protect his friend Duryodhana.The ashamed Jarasandha,the king of Magadha later challenged Karna for a one to one fight.Jarasandha earlier 18 times defeated Lord Krishna and every time Lord Krishna and his brother Balarama ran away from Jarasandha.The defeat by the hands of Jarasandha prompted Lord Krishna to abandon Mathura and built the new capital city Dvārakā for the Yadavas. Karna and Jarasandha fought continuously with different weapons and Karna defeated Jarasandha by trying to tear him apart during a wrestling fight. Jarasandha concedes defeat and Karna spared his life. Jarasandha gifted the city of Malini to Karna as a token of appreciation. Jarasandha accepted and declared Karna as the greatest warrior in world and thus Karna become the king of both Anga and Malini. The victory over Jarasandha made Karna famous all over the world.Later following his accession to the throne of Malini, Karna took an oath that anyone who approached him with a request, when he worshipped the sun, would not leave empty-handed. 
Hostilities with Pandavas
Karna was a suitor for Draupadi at her swayamvara, or her choosing of a marriage partner. Unlike most other contenders, he was easily able to wield and string the bow, but Draupadi refused to allow him to take part,rejecting him for being a "suta-putra" - son of a charioteer.The entire kings and the assembled people insulted Karna for his low birth and only Duryodhana supported and argued for Karna.Duryodhana defended Karna saying Great Sages, Philosophers, and Warriors have no source. They are made great, not born great. The Pandavas were also present in the swayamvara, disguised as Brahmins. Following the failure of the other princes, Arjuna stepped into the ring and successfully hit the target, winning Draupadi's hand.After the marriage was over, the assembled Kings in the swayamvara argued that a Brahmin cannot attend the swayamvara and they took their weapons and attacked Arjuna disguised as Brahmin. Arjuna fought with all the assembled kings and defeated them easily except Karna. Karna entered the battle field to protect his friend Duryodhana and terrible battle was fought between Karna and Arjuna who was disguised as Brahman. Karna never knew that the Brahman was Arjuna and this was the first time when these two ace archers fought each other.But Arjuna recognized Karna and the two Maharathi's fought each other. The battle was so intense that sky was filled with arrows and visibility was lost in the cloud of arrows.With both archers not gaining upper hand,they turn to use celestial weapons and sky and earth trembled due to the usage of celestial weapons.With battle continued neither of them gaining upper hand news came to Karna that his nine-year-old son Sudama was dying. Karna praised the skill of the Brahmin and compared it with the skill of Drona or Kripa. Not being intreseted in doing the sin of Brahmahatya i.e hurting or killing a Brahmin,which is considered as a grave sin as per scriptures Karna withdrew from the fight and rushed to his son Sudama.It was then revealed that Sudama was hit by an arrow send by the Brahmin warrior when fighting earlier with the other kings.The bystander, nine-year-old Sudama was deeply hurt by Arjuna's arrows and died in the hands of Karna.When Arjuna's identity was later revealed, Karna's feelings of hostile rivalry with him further intensified and sworn to kill Arjuna and his family.
After Shakuni won a game of dice by trickery, Draupadi, now queen to all five sons of King Pandu, including Arjuna, was dragged into the court by Dushasana. Duryodhana and his brothers attempted to strip her. Karna insulted Draupadi by saying that a woman with more than four husbands is nothing but a whore and that the Pandavas were all like sesame seeds removed from the kernel and she should now find some other husbands. On the spot, Bhima, another of the Pandava brothers, vowed that he would personally slaughter Duryodhana and his brothers in battle. Arjuna subsequently swore to kill Karna.
Later after Pandavas were in exile, Karna took up the task of establishing Duryodhana as the Emperor of the world. Karna embarks upon a worldwide military campaign, otherwise called Digvijaya Yatra, conquering all kings in every direction in order to subjugate kings, impose Duryodhana's imperial authority over them and establish Duryodhana as the emperor of the world. He commanded army that marched to different parts of the world to subjugate kings and made them swear allegiance to Duryodhana, the king of Hastinapur or else die in battle.
In this military adventure, Karna waged wars all over the world and made submission of entire kingdoms in the world. He started Digvijaya Yatra having war with the Panchalas, defeating king Drupada and the kings under him. Then going to the north he defeated all the sovereigns of that quarter, defeated king Bhagadatta. And ranging all sides, he conquered and brought under subjection all the kings inhabiting the Himalayas and made them pay dues. Then descending from the mountain and he went to the east, he reduced the Angas, the Bangas, the Kalinga's, the Mandikas, the Magadhas, the Karkakhandas and also included with them the Avasiras, Yodhyas, and the Ahikshatras. Having thus conquered the eastern quarter Karna went to Batsa-bhumi. Karna defeated Batsa-bhumi, Kevali, Mrittikavati, Mohana, Patrana, Tripura, Kosala and compelled all of them to pay tribute. Then going to the south, Karna defeated all the very powerful charioteers of that quarter and in Dakshinatya, Karna defeated Rukmi. After this Karna went to Pandya and the mountain Sri. And by fighting, he made Karala, king Nila, Venudari's son, and other kings living in the southern direction pay tribute. Then going to Sisupala's son, Karna defeated him and defeated all the neighbouring rulers. Then Karna defeated the Avantis and conquered the Vrishnis. Thus Karna conquered the entire west quadrant. He then further travelled west outside the land mass of Bharata Kingdom and made all the Yavana, Varvara kings pay tribute to Hastinapura and Duryodhana. And having conquered the entire earth i.e east, west, north and south directions, Karna without any aid brought under subjection all the nations of the Mlecchas, the mountaineers, the Bhadras, the Rohitakas, the Agneyas and the Malavas. Having conquered the powerful charioteers headed by the Nagnajitas, Karna brought the Sasakas and the Yavana's under his sway. Having thus conquered and brought under his subjection the entire world, Karna came back to Hastinapura with immense wealth and power the world had never witnessed before. The entire Hastinapur welcomed Karna back.
King Dhritarashtra proclaimed Karna's feats and said,
|“||What I have not received from either Bhishma or Drona or Kripa or Vahlika, I have received from thee. May good betide thee! What need of speaking at length! Hear my words, O Karna! In thee, O chief of men, I have my refuge. O mighty-armed one. O tiger among men, without doubt all the Pandavas and the other kings crowned with prosperity, come not to a sixteenth part of thee. Do thou, O mighty bowman, O Karna, see Dhritarashtra, and the illustrious Gandhari, as the bearer of the thunderbolt did Aditi||”|
Having thus, Karna in a short time conquered the entire world with all the mountains, forests, skies, oceans, fields, cities and all the islands. Karna thus brought the entire monarchs of the world under subjection and gained imperishable wealth. King Dhritarashtra with Gandhari loved Karna even more than their children. Bringing tribute and allegiance from all the world's kings, Karna helped Duryodhana to perform the Vaishnava yagna to please Vishnu and crown Duryodhana as "Emperor of the World", as Yudhisthira did with the Rajasuya Yagna. No person in the entire universe, except Lord Vishnu in ancient times performed this Vaishnava sacrifice before. Duryodhana thus become the most powerful and the most wealthiest man in the world. Duryodhana even made plans and preparations to conquer Indra, the lord of the heavens and the father of Arjuna with the help of Karna in order to become the sovereign ruler of both heaven and earth.
Prelude to war
|“||Bhishma, Drona, Ashwatthama and the illustrious Kripa,are masters of all celestial weapons and devoted to the practice of virtue. I think they are incapable of being vanquished even by gods led by Vasava himself. There is again amongst them that mighty warrior Karna,impetuous, and ever wrathful, master of all weapons, and invincible, and encased in impenetrable mail.Without first vanquishing in battle all those foremost of men, unaided as thou art, how canst thou slay Duryodhana? O Vrikodara, I cannot sleep thinking of the lightness of hand of that Suta's son, who, I regard, is the foremost of all wielders of the bow!||”|
Following failed peace negotiations with Duryodhana, Krishna is driven back to the Pandavas by Karna. Krishna then revealed to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, and therefore, technically, the eldest Pandava. Krishna implored him to change sides and assures him that Yudhisthira would give the crown of Indraprastha to him; Draupadi who rejected him earlier will become his wife. Shaken from the discovery, Karna still refuses these offers over Duryodhana's friendship. Krishna is saddened, but appreciating Karna's sense of loyalty, accepted his decision, promising Karna that his lineage would remain a secret. In addition, Karna was elated to learn that his true father was none other than Surya.
Indra, the king of the Devas and the father of Arjuna, realized that Karna would be invincible in battle and unable to be killed as long as he had his kavach and kundal. He approaches Karna as a poor Brahmin during Karna's sun-worship. Surya warned Karna of Indra's intentions, but Karna thanked Surya and explained that he was bound by his word and could not send anyone from his door empty-handed. When Indra approached Karna in the form of a Brahmin beggar and asked his Kavach and Kundal ( natural armor an earrings) as alms, Karna reveals that he knew the Brahmin's true identity but assured that he would never turn anyone away.Indra became ashamed and took his normal form.Cutting the armor and earrings off his body, Karna handed them to Indra.As Karna cut off his Kavach and Kundal ( natural armor an earrings) which give him immortality and invincibility, heavens opens up and all the gods and celestial beings in all realms appeared in sky and showered flowers on Karna. They praised that it was the greatest charity the world have ever witnessed.All Gods, Deva's, sages and celestial beings blessed Karna with glory and fame.They blamed the Lord of Heaven, Indra for such crooked and cunning actions for the benefit of his son Arjuna.Lord Indra justified himself and told, like every father he only wished for the welfare of his child, Arjuna.Celestial beings become very much ashamed of seeing the Lord of Heaven becoming a begger. In order to escape from such severe shame Lord Indra asked Karna to accept a gift in return. Karna rejected this offer telling that he didn't give charity expecting anything in return.All Gods, Deva's ,sages and celestial beings requested Karna to accept any gift in return in order to save them from the insult that was caused by Indra upon them.Obeying the celestial beings and as per the request of Lord Indra ,Karna asked for any weapon that can be used against his enemy's in warfare whenever he needed.For Karna's generosity Indra decided to reward him with his powerful weapon, the Vasavi Shakti. Indra granted the boon, with the stipulation that Karna could only use the weapon only once.Later in order to make the weapon Vasavi Shakti futile against his son Arjuna in Kurukshetra War,Lord Indra made plans to sacrifice Ghatotkacha, the son of Pandava elder brother Bhima.
As war approached, Kunti met Karna and in desperation to keep her children alive asked Karna to join the Pandavas. But Karna denies the offer again.Knowing that Karna will fight against Arjuna with a motive to kill, Kunti extracted couple of promises from Karna that he will not kill any of the Pandavas except Arjuna and against Arjuna he will not use a same celestial weapon twice. This particular request by Kunti as suggested by Lord Krishna led to the death of Karna in the war as he did not use Nagastra and Rudraastra twice against Arjuna. Lord Krishna knew that Lord Parashurama gifted entire celestial weapons to Karna and Arjuna don't have any counter to many of these weapon. Karna requested his mother to keep their relationship a secret till the end of the war, as pandavas will not fight against their own brother in the Dharma Yuddha if she reveals the truth to them, due to dharma against fighting a brother/father figure. After the end of the war she is supposed to reveal his birth identity to everyone and also promised that at the end of the war she would still have five sons, the fifth one be either Arjuna or Karna himself.
Celestial weapons (Astra's) of Karna
Earlier Sage Parashurama satisfied with the behavior of Karna in obliging the orders of elders and performing the act that is assigned to him, gives many weapons to Karna, called Shastra's and Astra's.The weaponry is categorised mainly into two types.One is Shastra, a handheld weapon like sword, lance or mace.The other is astra, a projectile missile invoked by reciting hymns. Parashurama told Karna,
|“||I am going to accord all of those divine missiles by which scores of gods, demons, or even from gandharvas, uragaas and the like, or even earthlings are dominated, humbled down and conquered in war.Let safety be with you.||”|
Shastra's that are given to Karna are,
|Kaal Disc||Time disc,Renders a piteous state of the enemy, full with magical powers,ending in air, and water filled, ends in craters with fire, generates fire|
|Vishnu Disc||It first sparkles with cosmic holes, contains high degree radiance, revolves with one lakh revolutions per foot, very panicking is its projection|
|Indra Disc||Disc of King of Gods|
|Danda Disc||Punisher Disc|
|Dharma Disc||Virtue Disc|
|Modaki Mace||The Beater mace|
|Shikhari Mace||The tower of Protection mace|
|Dharma Paasha||The noose of Lord Dharmma|
|Kaala paasha||The noose of Time|
|Naga Pasha||Noose of The Nagas,Upon impact, this weapon would bind the target in coils of living venomous snakes.|
|Kankaalam||The deadly Pounder weapons that are wielded by demons|
|Impellers||Presided over by the power of Vishnu|
|Impellers||Presided over by the power of Rudra|
|Kapaalam||Weapons that are wielded by demons, Rod for the elimination of those very demons|
|Kankanam||Weapons that are wielded by demons,Rod for the elimination of those very demons.|
|Vijaya Bow||The bow of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer.Lord Shiva left it in the care of Lord Indra who on instruction from Lord Shiva gave it to Lord Parashurama. Lord Parashurama kept it as his personal bow and later gave it to Karna. The Sanskrit name ‘Vijaya’ means ‘victory’ and this bow is said to give sure victory to the possessor. The string of this bow cannot be broken by any kind of astra or weapon.Every time an arrow is released from this bow, it created a terrible twang, which is said to be loud as thunder causing terrible fear in enemies and produces flashes of light as brilliant as lightning, which blinds the enemy. Every time an arrow is aimed, the energy of the arrow is amplified by multiple times as this bow is charged with sacred mantras.No weapon, not even Pashupatastra, can harm a warrior who has Vijaya bow in his hand, as the name Vijaya implies
victory to the wielder.
Offensive astra's that are given to Karna are,
|Aishiika Astra||Grass-Blade missile,aisiika missile is dried blade of grass, which by invoking with hymns will become a projectile weapon|
|Shushka Astra||The Drier astra|
|Aardra Astra||The Drencher astra|
|Krouncha Astra||The Wrester astra|
|Mohana Astra||The Stupefier,astras of Gandharvas|
|Prashamana Astra||The Pacifier of enemy's anger,astras of Gandharvas|
|Maanava Astra||The Humane astra of Gandharvas|
|Varshana Astra||The Rainer astra|
|Shoshana Astra||The Drainer astra|
|Santaapana Astra||The Humidifier astra|
|Vilaapana Astra||The Weep inducer astra|
|Mohana Astra||The Intoxicator,an unassailable intoxicator and a dear astra of Manmatha|
|Paishaca Astra||The Monster missile, astras of pishaacas, monsters|
|Teja Prabha Astra||Solar missile the sequestrator of others' brilliance|
|Shishira Astra||The Cooler,the missile of Moon-god|
|Sudaamana Astra||A very deadly astra of Tvasta|
|Shitaisu Astra||Dangerous Astra of Bhaga|
|Samvarta Astra, Mausala Astra, Satya Astra, Maaya Astra||Indomitable astras|
|Vaidyadhara Astra, Taamasa Astra, Saumana Astra||Indomitable astras|
|Naga-astra||Astra of the Nagas,The weapon would have an unerring aim and take on the form of a snake, proving deadly upon impact.|
|Twashtar Astra||Astra of Twashtri,the heavenly builder,When used against a group of opponents (such as an army), would cause them to mistake each other for enemies and fight each other.|
|Manavastra||Astra of Manu (Hinduism), father of the human race,Could overcome supernatural protections and carry the target hundreds of miles away. Can inspire humane traits in an evil being.|
|Parvataastra||Would cause a Parvata/mountain to fall on the target from the skies.|
|Bhaumastra||Astra of Bhūmi, goddess of earth,The weapon could create tunnels deep into the earth.|
|Agneyastra||Astra of Agni, god of fire,the weapon discharged would emit flames inextinguishable through normal means.|
|Varunastra||Astra of Varuna, god of water,the weapon discharged would release torrential volumes of water. This weapon is commonly mentioned as used to counter the Agneyastra.|
|Vayvayastra||Astra of Vayu, god of wind,Bring about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground.|
|Suryastra||Astra of Surya,the solar diety and the father of Karna,Create a dazzling light that would dispel any darkness about/dry up water bodies/ can produce blinding light.|
|Indraastra||Astra of Indra god of weather and King of Devas,would bring about a 'shower' of arrows from the sky.|
|Vasavi Shakti||Magical dart of Indra god of weather and King of Devas,Infallible.|
|Mohini Astra||Astra of Mohini, an Avatar of Vishnu,Dispel any form of maya or sorcery in the vicinity.|
|Hayagriva Astra||The Astra of the Horse-head avatar of Vishnu|
|Bhargavastra||Astra of Lord Parashurama ,Guru of Karna.This astra possesses Parashurama's skill in archery. Infallible. It brings a shower of arrows much more powerful weapons than the Brahmastra and could cause total destruction of a planet if not retracted.|
|Rudra Astra||Astra of Rudra,a form of Lord Shiva,Contains the power of a Rudra. When it is used, it invokes the power of a Rudra out of the Ekadasha (Eleven) Rudras and destroys the target.
The mantra for the Siva kavach(armour) can be weakened by the Rudra astra
|Maheshwarastra||Astra of Lord Maheshwara, a form of Lord Shiva,Contains the power of Shiva's third eye. Shoots a really fast fiery beam which can turn even celestial beings to complete ashes. Infallible and unstoppable.It has the power to turn the entire creation to ashes|
|Shiva Astra||The Astra of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer.|
|Brahma Astra||Astra of Lord Brahma, the Creator,Capable of killing devas,would destroy entire hosts at once. Could also counter most other astras. It is said that the weapon manifest with the single head of Lord Brahma as its tip.It is the only weapon capable of piercing the Brahma Kavach (invincible armour of Lord Brahma). Extremely powerful.|
|Brahmashira Astra||Astra of Lord Brahma, the Creator,Capable of killing devas.It is the evolution of the Brahmastra, 4 times stronger than Brahmastra.|
|Brahmanda Astra||Astra of Lord Brahma, the Creator,Capable of repelling the Brahmastra and Brahmashira astra and any other weapons ever created.The weapon manifest with the all five heads of Lord Brahma as its tip.This weapon is said to possess the power to destroy the entire universe or Brahmand, the 14 realms according to Hindu cosmology when used for offensive purpose.Highly prohibited to use against an inferior enemy. Designed to neutralize Vaishnavastra of Vishnu and Pashupatastra of Shiva.|
Defensive astra's or Upasamhaara astras, which can be used to neutralize enemy's astra's are,
|Satyavanta, Satyakeerti, Dhristha, Rabhasa, Pratihaaratara, Paraanmuka, Avaanmukha, Lakshya, Alakshya, Dhridhanaabha, Sunaabha, Dashaaksha, Shatavaktra, Dashasheersha, Shatodara, Padmanaabha, Mahaanaabha, Dundunaabha, Svanaabha, Jyotisha, Shakuna, Nairaashya, Vimala, Yungandhara, Vinidra, Daitya, Pramadhana, Suchibaahu, Mahaabaahu, Nishkali, Virucha, Saarchirmaali, Dhritimaali, Vrittiman, Ruchira, Pitrya, Ssaumansa, and also thus Vidhoota, Makara, Karaveerakara, Dhana, Dhaanya, Kaamaroopa, Kaamaruchira, Moha, Aavarana, and thus Jrimbhaka, Sarvanaabha, Varana.|
Offensive astras and their Defensive astras or Upasamhaara Astras that can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes are,
|Andhatamisr Astra||Mahatarany Astra|
|Pakhand Astra||Gayatry Astra|
|Andh Astra||Chakshushmat Astra|
|Shaktinash Astra||Vishvavasumah Astra|
|Antak Astra||Mriityunjay Astra|
|Sarvasmritinashan Astra||Sarvasmritidharan Astra|
|Bhay Astra||Abhayankaraaindr Astra|
|Maharog Astra||Namatray Astra|
|Ayurnash Astra||Kalasamkarshan Astra|
|Mahasur Astra||Muladurg Astra|
|Muk Astra||Mahavagvadiny astra|
|Vedataskar Astra||Mahamatsy Astra|
|Arnav Astra||Adikurm Astra|
|Hiranyaksh Astra||Mahavarah Astra|
|Balindr Astra||Vaman Astra|
|Haihaya Astra||Bhargava Astra|
|Ravaana Astra||Kodandaram Astra|
|Dvivid Astra||Haladhar Astra|
|Rajasur Astra||Vasudev Astra|
|Sankarshan Astra||Pradyumn Astra, AniruddhAstra|
|Mahamoh Astra||Shambhav Astra|
Lord Parashurama trained Karna for decades in the Mahendra mountain after pleased by his intense devotion to learn the science of weapons.At the time of Kurukshetra war Karna was 85 years old.
Bhishma was appointed as the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army. But giving the reason that Karna had humiliated Draupadi and disrespected his guru Parashuram, Bhishma refused to take him in the Kaurava army. He secretly knew of Karna’s lineage and hence did not want him to fight his own brother.At the tale of Rathi's and Atirathi's, Bhishma further insulted Karna and declared him as just an Ardha Rathi(Half a Rathi) warrior.But in real Karna was equal to 2 Maharatha warrior. Bhishma done this to weaken the energy of Karna when fighting against his brothers Pandavas.Bhishma also know that if Karna fight from day one then the war will end in 2 days as the Pandavas cannot deal with the overwhelming power of Kaurava Maharathas. Bhishma already gave the blessing of victory to Pandavas so it was his duty to ensure the victory to Pandavas by keeping Karna away from battlefield.But Duryodhana wants Karna to fight in the war from the beginning,but Bhishma threatens that he will not fight if Karna is in the army.Duryodhana wanted Karna as the commander of his army but due to Karnas low birth many Kings threatened to not fight under Karnas leadership and the moral of the army started to weaken.So Karna decided that he will not fight till the fall of Bhishma and the grandsire Bhishma took the commandership. Only after Bhishma fell on the eleventh day did Karna enter the war.After the fall of Bhishma, Karna visited him on the bed of arrows and Bhishma said to Karna.
|“||I know thy prowess in battle, which can with difficulty be borne on earth by foes!.I know also thy regard for Brahmanas.thy courage, and thy great attachment to alms-giving! O thou that resemblest a very god, amongst men there is none like thee! For fear of intestine dissensions I always spoke harsh words about thee. In bowmanship, in aiming weapon,in lightness of hand and in strength of weapons,thou art equal to Phalguni(Arjuna) himself, or the high-souled Krishna! O Karna, proceeding to the city of Kasi, alone with thy bow, thou hadst crushed the kings in battle for procuring a bride for the Kuru king! The mighty and invincible king Jarasandha also, ever boastful of his prowess in battle, could not become thy match in fight! Thou art devoted to Brahmanas; thou always fightest fairly! In energy and strength, thou art equal to a child of the celestials and certainly much superior to men.||”|
On the morning of 11th day of battle Surya, the father of Karna offered his invincible chariot and his charioteer Aruṇa to Karna, just like Lord Indra who gave his chariot to Arjuna.The chariot of Surya was brilliant as the sun, yoked with 7 horses of different colors  and only a person with divine vision can look into it, all of which will give terrible advantage to Karna against his enemy's.Karna rejected this offer as he was confident about his own skills and said he don't want to be remembered as a person who depended upon others strength to gain victory, indirectly referring to Arjuna who depend upon Lord Krishna. Dronacharya took the commander-in-chief position on twelfth day and the thirteenth day ended with Abhimanyu’s (Arjun’s son) death in the specially organized Chakravyuha formation. Uncharacteristically, the battle on fourteenth day extended into the dark hours. Taking advantage of that, Krishna introduced Ghatotkacha, Bhima’s half-Asura son, as asuras gained extraordinary power at night time. Ghatotkacha’s destroyed the Kaurava force and also injured Dronacharya. Seeing the desperate situation, Karna used his Vasava Shakti, that was the boon from Indra, against Ghatotkacha, thus killing him. Krishna however was pleased with the fact that the powerful weapon could not be used against Arjuna in future as Karna had only one chance to use it.Later Lord Krishna told Satyaki that he always applied his maya or illusion on Karna inorder to proctect Arjuna from Karna's celestial weapons.
|“||I,however always used to stupefy the son of Radha(Karna). It was for this that he did not hurl the dart at Pandu's son (Arjuna),owning white steeds.As long as I could not baffle that means of Phalguna's(Arjuna's) death,I had neither sleep,nor joy in my heart,O Satyaki!.Beholding that dart,therefore,rendered futile through Ghatotkacha,O Satyaki,I regarded Dhananjaya(Arjuna) today to have been rescued from within the jaws of death.It was for this that I had despatched the Rakshasa (Ghatotkacha)unto Karna for battle.None else was capable of withstanding, in the night, Karna in battle.||”|
Karna Parva, the eighth book of the Mahābhārata, describes sixteenth and seventeenth days of the Kurukshetra war where post Dronacharya’s death Karna took over as the commander-in-chief. Karna took his Vijaya bow for the first time in battle.This bow was very radiant,the twang was extremely loud and believed to give sure victory to the user.As Karna drawn the Vijaya bow, terrible twang was produced because of the immeasurable energy of this bow and it silenced all other loud sounds. Hearing this and anticipating a likely battle to the death between Karna and Arjuna, Krishna warned Arjuna calling Karna to be the foremost of the heroes. Lord Krishna told Arjuna,
|“||Hear in brief, O son of Pandu! I regard the mighty Karna as thy equal, or perhaps, thy superior ! In energy he is equal to fire. As regards speed, he is equal to the impetuosity of the wind. In wrath, he resembles the Destroyer himself. Endued with might, he resembles a lion in the formation of his body. He is eight ratnis in stature. His arms are large. His chest is broad. He is invincible. He is sensitive. He is a hero. He is, again, the foremost of heroes. He is exceedingly handsome. Possessed of every accomplishment of a warrior, he is a dispeller of the fears of friends. No one, not even the Gods with Vasava at their head, can slay the son of Radha. No one possessed of flesh and blood, not even the Gods fighting with great care, not all the warriors of the three worlds fighting together can vanquish the son of the chariot-rider.||”|
As promised to Kunti, Karna aimed at killing only Arjuna. On the sixteenth day, he fought with all the Pandava brothers but Arjuna,defeated them all in direct combat and spared each one of them after insulting them with harsh words.After defeating them, he ordered his charioteer Shalya to move towards Arjuna.After the terrible death of Dushassan, the brother of Duryodhana and egged by the Kaurava prince, Karna decided to personally take on Arjuna and finish him off for once and all. Karna cut his way ruthlessly through the Pandava forces and headed straight for Arjuna.So violet and offensive was Karna's attacks that Arjuna's defenses soon crumbled before it.Karna then moved in for the kill. He used Nagastra, the same celestial weapon that was used by Indrajit against Rama in Ramayana, in an attempt to kill Arjuna, but Krishna saved Arjuna from certain death by lowering their chariot wheel into the earth. Karna and Arjuna then waged a rough war against each other. As promised to Kunti, Karna used a celestial weapon only once against Arjuna. Karna had a chance to kill Arjuna but spared the latter as the sun was about to set.In some versions,Lord Krishna the charioteer of Arjuna realized that only miracles can save his ward Arjuna from death and in order to protect Arjuna who was seriously wounded by the arrows of Karna,Lord Krishna caused the Sun to set prematurely.
On the seventeenth day of battle the two foes faced each other once more. This battle between Arjuna and Karna is perhaps the most cataclysmic and awesome of the great epic. The warriors on the battlefield and the devas in heaven watched the battle in speechless amazement and terrified admiration of the strength and skill of these greatest of warriors. On the seventeenth day, Karna cut the string of Arjuna’s bow many times.As the battle intensified, Arjuna pushed back Karna's chariot 10 steps backward every time by the energy of the arrows,but Karna was only able to push Arjuna's chariot 2 steps backward.Seeing this Lord Krishna praised Karna and admired the skill of Karna.Arjuna questioned Lord Krishna and asked why Krishna is praising Karna.Lord Krishna said it is impossible for any human ever to push his chariot backwards because the chariot of Arjuna contains both Hanuman and Lord Krishna and it holds the entire weight of the universe.Even to shake the chariot is an impossible task and Karna is pushing it 2 feet every time by the energy of his arrows. Krishna said no human ever had or ever will can attain this feat as it is impossible even to shake the chariot containing Maha Vishnu. The epic states that initially, the battle was even between the two foes, but then Karna's chariot wheel was trapped in the mud as a result of the curse he received earlier from a Brahmin. He still defended himself, but at the crucial moment forgot the incantations to invoke Brahmanda astra, as a result of his guru Parshurama's curse.Even though Parshurama nullified his curse with the blessing that "no Kshatriya will be thy equal in battle", but the second clause of Parshurama's curse i.e "at the time of death" came true because of the Brahmin's curse and Karna forgot the mantra to invoke Brahmanda astra. Karna got down from his chariot to free the wheel and asked Arjuna to pause, reminding him of the etiquette of war. But Krishna reminded Arjuna of all the incidents - Draupadi’s insult, Abhimanyu’s death and the raged Arjuna attacked Karna while he was trying to lift his sunken chariot wheel. Karna defended himself and invoked Rudraastra against Arjuna and this astra hit Arjuna on his chest. Arjuna lost his grip on his bow, Gandiva, which fell down from his hand for the first time and Arjuna fell down in a swoon. Following the rules of engagement of war, Karna did not try to kill him but instead tried to utilize the time in extracting the wheels of his chariot. Arjuna recovered and using the Anjalika weapon decapitated the weaponless Karna, who was still trying to lift the sunken chariot wheel. Though it was highly forbidden according to the rules of engagement of the war to attack a weaponless warrior or to attack an enemy from the back, Arjuna was spurred by Lord Krishna to do so. It was later revealed that Karna could be killed only when all the 3 curses acted together upon him, and this made Krishna employ deceit to kill Karna.
It is said that, Duryodhana never shed a single tear drop for any of his real brothers who were killed in the battlefield, but when his beloved friend Karna was slain, he was inconsolable.
In some versions as Karna lay dying on the battlefield, his father Surya and Arjuna's father Indra fell into a debate as to who among their sons was superior and decided to test Karna's generosity and appeared before him as Brahmins asking for alms. Karna said that at this point he had nothing to give them while one of the Brahmins remark that he has some gold in his teeth which could be of use to them. Karna on realizing this promptly took a stone and broke his teeth handing them over to the Brahmins,thus proving his superiority. In other versions of the epic, When Arjuna used the Anjalika astra on weaponless Karna, who was still trying to lift the sunken chariot wheel, Lord Krishna found that Karna was still alive even though seriously wounded. Lord Krishna found that Dharmma-devata, the goddess responsible for protecting Dharma (righteousness) was guarding Karna from death and resisting every arrows send by Arjuna. Krishna and Arjuna found it was impossible to kill Karna as the goddess was protecting Karna personally. Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that the Dharma-devata herself was protecting Karna from death because of the massive good merit Karna earned by giving charity during his life time and it was impossible even for Lord Shiva to kill Karna. Krishna said wherever Dharma is present there is victory and this time Dharma was with the side of Karna. So Krishna went down from his chariot and appeared as a Brahmin and asked for Karna's punya or merit to him as charity. Karna gave his entire merits as charity to the Brahmin in the form of his blood and once Karna gifted his life's merit to him, Krishna rewarded Karna with the view of Krishna's Vishwaroopa. Krishna told that only this way it was possible to kill Karna and when Karna gave away his life's merit to Krishna, Dharma-devata disappeared. Karna asked Krishna to cremate him in a virgin land where nobody else is present. Then Krishna went back to his chariot and asked Arjuna to take the kill shot on Karna. Later Krishna himself done the cremation of Karna at Karnaprayag. Karna's wife Vrushali went sati on Karna's pyre after his death. A play is staged in South India known as Kattaikkuttu which is based on the events that occurred in Karna's life on the day of his death.
In some versions of Mahabharata, guru Parasurama appeared in Karna's dream during the night of 15th day of battle, as requested by Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna knew that Karna will only listen to his guru Parasurama and no one else. In order to protect Arjuna and Dharma, Lord Krishna sought the help of his previous avatar Lord Parasurama. The avatar Lord Parasurama explained Karna that if he killed Arjuna, Duryodhana would be king instead of Yudhishthira and chaos would ensue. Parashurama asked Karna to accept death and asked him to die at the hands of Arjuna, so that the world might live in peace. Karna protested to this idea but Parasurama asked this as his Guru Dakshina.Karna earlier never got a chance to pay his Guru Dakshina and Parasurama never asked for it too. Lord Parasurama reminded Karna that whatever he became or attained in his life is due to the knowledge he gained from his guru and nothing more. Karna accepted his guru's words and promised guru Parashurama that even if he got chance to kill Arjuna in battle he will never kill Arjuna. Pleased by this Guru Dakshina, in return the grateful guru Parashurama blessed Karna with immortal glory and everlasting fame after his death. Thus Karna never took the kill shot on Arjuna even though many time such opportunity became available to him and submits to be killed by Arjuna so that Dharma may triumph.
Following the end of the war, Tarpan vidhi were performed for all the fallen. Kunti then requested her sons to perform the rites for Karna and revealed the truth of his birth. The brothers were shocked to find that they had committed fratricide. Yudhishtira, in particular, was furious with his mother and laid a curse upon all women that they should never thereafter be able to keep a secret. In some versions it is said that right after the death of Karna, Kunti revealed the truth about Karna to her sons and the world, just as she promised to Karna. For Pandavas it was the most shocking event of their life. Kunti asked her sons to cremate Karna. Yudhisthira went to Duryodhana and told that being the second eldest brother, only he owns the right to cremate Karna. Duryodhana told that only he owns the right to light fire to Karna’s body.To this argument Duryodhana said,
|“||This is not the dead body of eldest Kunti putra. This is the dead body of my best friend who died for me in the battlefield. Ask Vasudeva Krishna, is this the dead body of eldest kunti putra or is this the dead body of my best friend?||”|
Lord Krishna told that Duryodhana is right and he has the highest right over Karna. Hence, Karna’s final ceremony was performed by Duryodhana and not Yudhisthira. Pandavas can only become a mere spectator of this event. Later Arjuna built the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple during his conquest for Ashvamedha in South India. Legend has it that Arjuna built this temple, to expiate for the sin of having killed Karna on the battlefield, against the dharma of killing an unarmed enemy.The temple is dedicated to Parthasarathy, Lord Krishna's role as Arjuna's charioteer in the Mahabharatha war.
Later, when it was revealed that Karna was actually Arjuna's older brother, Arjuna became haunted by Karna's killing, and took it upon himself to treat Vrishakethu, Karna's only remaining son, with great care.
Ascension to svarga
The Mahabharata mentions that after his death in the Kurukshetra war, Karna's soul ascended to Suryalok (the abode of his father, Sun god), and along with his sons and "attained" the "state" of a god.
According to the Mahabharata, Karna was married to Vrushali. He had ten sons; Sudama, Vrishasena, Vrishaketu, Chitrasena, Satyasena, Sushena, Shatrunjaya, Dvipata, Banasena and Prasena; eight of them took part in the Kurukshetra war. Sudama was killed by Arjuna at Draupadi swayamvar when he was was 9 years old, Prasena was killed by Satyaki, Shatrunjaya, Vrishasena and Dvipata by Arjuna, Banasena by Bhima, Chitrasena, Satyasena and Sushena by Nakula. Vrishakethu was his only son who survived the war as he was too young to participate in the war. After the war when Pandavas were made aware of Karna's lineage, Vrishakethu was under the patronage of Arjuna and took part in various battles that preceded the Ashvamedha yagna. Vrishakethu was killed by Arjuna's son Babruvahana during the battle fought during Ashvamedha Yagna. In this fight between Arjuna and his son, Babruvahana killed Arjuna but Ulupi, the snake-princess used the Mritasanjivani, a boon from goddess Ganga to bring Arjuna back to life.
The secret of Draupadi,though not mentioned in many versions, but considered to be an important episode in many folk renditions of Mahabharata and sometimes better known as the "Jambul episode".All popular versions of Mahabharata have mentioned that Draupadi did not love all five husbands equally and that she loved and longed for Arjuna more amongst all the brothers. However, Arjuna had never reciprocated the emotion as he was more in love with Subhadra (Krishna’s sister) than anybody else. The hidden love of Draupadi for Karna is something that has been explored by many writers. Some have even justified the romance, in the sense that the powerful and the dynamic character of Draupadi could find her match only in Karna and not in the five brothers, who were incomplete without one another.
According to a legend from Mahabharata, during the thirteenth year of the exile of the Pandavas, Draupadi saw a ripe jambul (rose apple), hanging from a tree. She plucked it to have it. No sooner had she done this, Lord Krishna came from somewhere and stopped her from eating it. According to Lord Krishna, the ripe fruit was supposed to be the fruit with which a sage was supposed to break his twelve year fast. Not finding the fruit at its place,Pandavas could earn the wrath of the sage, resulting in more trouble. Pandavas prayed Krishna to relieve them from the crisis.
Lord Krishna said that he see to it that the wrath of sage Amitra does not befall on Pandavas. In order for that to happen, each one of Pandavas must speak only the truth. Saying thus, he took them to the tree. He placed the fruit under the tree and told that each one of them should reveal all secrets about them without hiding anything and without any deceit.Then the fruit will go and cling to the tree on its own accord. Having said this, he invited Yudhishtra to speak first.
Yudhistra said that truthfulness, honesty, tolerance and righteousness should flourish in this world while wickedness, conceit and dishonesty should banish entirely. He hold Draupadi responsible for the whole bad events happened to them. At this, surprisingly the fruit moved two feet above the ground and remained in the air. Next, Lord Krishna asked Bhima to speak.Lord Krishna sternly warned Bhima that if he uttered a lie, the fruit would be burnt to ashes. Bhima said that he was never content with food, fight, sleep, and sex, and always craved for more. He would kill every one of Dhritarashtra’s sons. He had great reverence and unflinching loyalty towards Yudhisthira, but would kill anyone who insulted his mace.The fruit moved two feet further up.
Arjuna spoke next and said, “Prestige and fame mean more to me than even my life. Unless I kill Karna in the war, the ambition of my life will not be fulfilled and for that i would adopt any method,even if it is against Dharma.” The fruit moved up two feet further.Then Nakula said that virtues, a noble birth, wealth or beauty do not give a person what he desires. He believe that a man can attain fame just by leading a life in this world that is based on his discrimination alone. Again, the fruit moved up two feet.Lord Krishna looked at Sahadeva and Sahadeva said , “Truth is my mother. Intelligence is my father and good deeds are my siblings. The love that I shower on others is my friend. My calm mind is my wife. The attitude of eradicating the thoughts of hatred, enemity and vendetta is my son. I believe these to be my real family.” He also said that he had the knowledge of the past, the present and the future. One would never come to grief if one sought his advice, but he himself would not volunteer to offer any advice or suggestion to anyone. The fruit moved up by two feet again.
At last Draupadi said, "I have five husbands like the five senses, namely, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and body. Though I have five husbands, I am being the cause of agony for all. I feel penitent for having acted thoughtlessly inspite of being well educated.After Draupadi said what she did, the fruit didn't move up and join the branch. Krishna said that she concealed something.With great trepidation, Draupadi looked into the eyes of her husbands and said “I love five of you. But I love a sixth too. I love Karna . I regret not marrying him on account of his caste. If i had married Karna, then i would never have to experience any of these bitter events in my life”.
|“||If I had married him, I would not have been gambled away, publicly humiliated and called a whore. For he has all the qualities possessed by my 5 husbands||”|
This was a shock to all the husbands, but none said anything. Draupadi having confessed this,the fruit went back on the branch of the tree and all was well.The Pandavas got the message that in spite of five brave husbands, they had failed their wife when she needed them the most. When Draupadi was being disrobed after she was lost in the dice-game, none of the husbands could come to her rescue. It brought out the weakness amongst each one of them, and that Draupadi had a soft corner for someone who was more a man than the five of them. This was an insult which they had to bear without any malice towards their wife. Also, being the wife of five, made her that much vulnerable to such acts, than it did to their own wives, which each had taken for themselves.
Themes and analysis
Within the various Hindu mythologies, Karna draws resemblance with various other characters. The attributed author of Mahabharata, sage Vyasa, is also noted to be born from an unwed union of Satyavati and sage Parashara, just the way Karna is born before Kunti's marriage. Philologist Georges Dumézil also compares him with his father Surya in the sense that he too has two mothers, Kunti and Radha, just the way Surya in Vedas has two mothers, the night and the dawn. German indologist Georg von Simson, notes the similarities in the names of Karna and of the Kumbhakarna, the demon brother of the main antagonist Ravana of the epic Ramayana. He also notes that both Karna and Kumbhakarna did not take part in the great wars of their respective epics at the start. Scholars internationally have also drawn parallels with various European mythologies. Karna's kawach (armour) has been compared with that of Achilles's Styx-coated body and with Irish warrior Ferdiad's horny skin that could not be pierced. He has been compared to the Greek character Achilles on various occasions as they both have powers but lack status. In Mahabharata, Vyasa gave lengthy description about Karna's beauty and skills. Karna is often compared to his biological father and Hindu Solar deity Surya and is referred to as second Sun on earth. Karna is considered as the most handsome man alive in that era. In Mahabharata it is often refereed that Kunti's elder son i.e Karna possessed all the qualities, skills and power of her other sons i.e the Pandavas and a perfect man in all aspects. Karna is always considered as a warrior who fought fairly, but his enemies always used crooked and unethical methods to gain advantage over him. Though Karna defeated Arjuna on the 17th day of Kurukshetra war, but spared Arjuna obeying the rules of engagement of war. Even the gods had to conspire against him and the god of righteousness Vishnu had to cheat Karna in order to win over him. Karna is always considered as a tragic hero in the Mahabharata. The great contest between Karna and Arjuna, long expected and long deferred, came on at last in the Kurukshetra war. It is the crowning incident of the Indian Epic Mahabharata, as the contest between Hector and Achilles is the crowning incident of the Iliad. With a truer artistic skill than that of Homer, the Indian poet Vyasa represents Karna as equal to or greater than Arjuna in strength and skill and his death is only due to foul play by Gods and the Pandavas especially Lord Indra piercing Karna's thigh for the benefit of his son Arjuna, Lord Indra in the form of beggar taking away the armor of Karna for the benefit of his son Arjuna, Lord Krishna revealing the truth about Karna's family to him and making him vulnerable, the boons collected by Kunti as suggested by Krishna from Karna by employing deceit, Bhishma purposely keeping Karna away from the battlefield, Sacrifice of Ghatotkacha by Lord Krishna, the constant application of illusion or maya by Lord Krishna on Karna during the war, the use of Shalya by King Yudhisthira to demoralise Karna and at last the foul play by Arjuna and Lord Krishna, blowing away all the rules of engagements of the war by shooting arrow on the back of Karna when he was trying to lift his sunken chariot wheel.
Secondary literature and media
Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem, "Karna Kunti Sangbad" based on the meeting of Karna and Kunti before the war. Karna also has been topic of various contemporary literary works. The Marathi books of Radheya (1973) authored by Ranjit Desai and Mrityunjay (1967) authored by Shivaji Sawant bring forth Karna's private and personal life on paper. Sawant also received Moortidevi Award, instituted by Bharatiya Jnanpith, for his work and was translated into nine languages. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar in 1978 published an epic poem Rashmirathi (translation: One who rides the Chariot of light, 1952) which narrates Karna's life. The poem has later also been adapted as play.
Film and theater
The 1964 epic Tamil film Karnan depicted his life and friendship with Duryodhana, starring Sivaji Ganesan in title role. In 1977, the Telugu movie Daana Veera Soora Karna starred the Indian film actor, director and producer N. T. Rama Rao. Shyam Benegal's 1981 film Kalyug adapted the Mahabharat as a conflict between rival business houses with Shashi Kapoor playing Karan, the character based on Karna. One of the songs from the 1991 Indian movie Thalapathi, based upon the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana, has been voted number 4 in the BBC's 'World's Top Ten Revealed' worldwide music poll. In Peter Brook's filmed version of the epic (1989), Karna was played by British actor Jeffery Kissoon. Recently in 2010, Prakash Jha directed the Bollywood film Raajneeti, a fictional adaptation of the Mahabharata, set within a backdrop of Indian politics and starring the actor Ajay Devgan, playing a character based on Karna. Karna was portrayed by Pankaj Dheer in 1988, in the television series Mahabharat, for which he is popularly known. Aham Sharma portrayed the role of Karna in the Mahabharat (2013 TV series) and won the award for Best Actor Supporting at Indian Telly Awards for the same role.
South Indian film actor Mohanlal performed Karna on the stage in Karnabharam, a Sanskrit play that was premiered in New Delhi in 2001 as part of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav directed by Kavalam Narayana Panicker. The play depicts Karna's mental agony a day before the Kurukshetra War, as he thinks about his past and his faith.
In popular culture
Karna, synonyms like Karan,Karnan is one of the most popular choice of name for Hindu male child in Indian subcontinent.This name is believed to bring glory and fame as per the blessing on it by sage Parashurama.
- "Since thou art not a Brahmana, truly this Brahmanda astra shall not up to the time of thy death dwell in thee, when thou shalt be engaged with a warrior equal to thyself !"
- Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. The Mahabharata, Book 7: Drona Parva. Netlancers Inc, 2014.
- Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1896). "Mahabaratha ,Digvijaya yatra of Karna". The Mahabharata. Sacred Texts. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. The Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva. Netlancers Inc, 2014.
- "Karnal". District of Karnal. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Website dedicated to the story of Karna
- K M Ganguly(1883-1896) Karna to Salya about the cheating of Lord Indra for benfiting Arjuna October 2003,Retrieved 2015-03-08
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- THE MAHABHARATA, BOOK1, ADI PARVA: SAMBHAVA PARVA, translated by KM Ganguli :......"Vaisampayana said, 'After this, with his sheet loosely hanging down, Adhiratha entered the lists, perspiring and trembling, and supporting himself on a staff. Seeing him, Karna left his bow and impelled by filial regard bowed down his head still wet with the water of inauguration. And then the charioteer addressed Karna crowned with success as his son. And the charioteer embraced Karna and from excess of affection bedewed his head with tears, that head still wet with the water sprinkled over it on account of the coronation as king of Anga. Seeing the charioteer, the Pandava Bhimasena took Karna for a charioteer's son, and said by way of ridicule, 'O son of a charioteer, thou dost not deserve death in fight at the hands of Partha. As befits thy race take thou anon the whip. And, O worst of mortals, surely thou art not worthy to sway the kingdom of Anga, even as a dog doth not deserve the butter placed before the sacrificial fire.' Karna, thus addressed, with slightly quivering lips fetched a deep sigh, looked at the God of the day in the skies.".......
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- "Vaisampayana continued, 'When the spectators, made way for that subjugator of hostile cities, Karna, that hero with his natural mail and face brightened with ear-rings, took up his bow and girded on his sword, and then entered the spacious lists, like a walking cliff. That far-famed destroyer of hostile hosts, the large-eyed Karna, was born of Pritha in her maidenhood. He was a portion of the hot-beamed Sun and his energy and prowess were like unto those of the lion, or the bull, or the leader of a herd of elephants. In splendour he resembled the Sun, in loveliness the Moon, and in energy the fire. Begotten by the Sun himself, he was tall in stature like a golden palm tree, and, endued with the vigour of youth, he was capable of slaying a lion. Handsome in features, he was possessed of countless accomplishments. And that foremost of eloquent men, the offspring of the Sun, in a voice deep as that of the clouds, addressed the son of (Indra) saying, 'O Partha, I shall perform feats before this gazing multitude; excelling all thou hast performed! Beholding them, thou shall be amazed.' And, O tiger among men, Duryodhana was filled with delight, while Vibhatsu was instantly all abashment and anger. Then with the permission of Drona, the mighty Karna, delighting in battle, there did all that Partha had done before. 'Arjuna, after this, deeming himself disgraced, said unto Karna, 'That path which the unwelcome intruder and the uninvited talker cometh to, shall be thine, O Karna, for thou shall be slain by me. Karna replied, 'This arena is meant for all, not for thee alone, O Phalguna! They are kings who are superior in energy; and verily the Kshatriya regardeth might and might alone. What need of altercation which is the exercise of the weak? O Bharata, speak then in arrows until with arrows I strike off thy head today before the preceptor himself! And beholding both the warriors with bows strung in their hands Kripa, addressed Karna, saying 'This Pandava, who is the youngest son of Kunti, belongeth to the Kaurava race: he will engage in combat with thee. But, O mighty-armed one, thou too must tell us thy lineage and the names of thy father and mother and the royal line of which thou art the ornament. Learning all this, Partha will fight with thee or not (as he will think fit). Sons of kings never fight with men of inglorious lineage.' 'When he was thus addressed by Kripa, Karna's countenance became like unto a lotus pale and torn with the pelting showers in the rainy season. Duryodhana said, 'O preceptor, verily the scriptures have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty, viz., persons of the blood royal, heroes, and lastly, those that lead armies. If Phalguna is unwilling to fight with one who is not a king, I will install Karna as king of Anga.'..... http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01139.htm
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