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The Path of Dharma Is Not Easy! Lessons from life of Karna

Karna, as many of you will know, was the eldest son of Kunti, elder to Yudisthira and a great warrior of Mahabharata. He was a man of principles and his life illustrates why path of principle is not an easy one to follow. A few key details on his life:

1.       Was deserted by his mother, Kunti, soon after his birth (as she was born before Kunti was married)

2.       Adopted and grew up in the family of a charioteer, who chanced upon the infant

3.       Was trained in war skills and archery by Guru Parashuram. Since Parashuram despised Kshatriyas, Karna disguised himself as a Brahmin to take lessons from him. This was later discovered by Parashuram and he cursed Karna, a curse which sealed his fate long before the Kuruskhetra war

4.       He was an excellent archer and considered as equal or even better than Arjun

Karna’s destiny with the Kuruskehtra war started when he barged onto the game competition of the Pandava’s and Kaurava’s, practically uninvited and unannounced. When he was nearly being barred from competing because he was neither a king nor a prince, Duryodhana came to his aid by anointing him the king of Angada. This started off a very close friendship between the two. Karna, despite knowing that Duryodhana is not on the side of Dharma, decided to side with him as his Dharma was not to ditch a friend who embraced him when no one else was ready to accept him. The defiance of that gratitude and leaving Duryodhana was something that a man of principle, Karna, could never accept. The incidents post that only point to supreme realization and sacrifice of a great man that Karna was.

1.       When Kunti came to Karna revealing his birth truth and begged for him to join the Pandavas (since she knew that if that happens, Duryodhana would not dare go into war), Karna promised to her that post war she will still be mother of 5. Either he or Arjun will live and he won’t harm the other brothers. Karna kept his word by letting go the other brothers, despite they being defeated and unarmed by Karna. While everyone was surprised, only Krishna and Karna knew the reasoning

2.       Arjun’s God father (God King Indra), came in the disguise of a Brahmin to take away the ‘un-penetrable’ ‘Rakshya Kabach’ worn by Karna. It was to ensure that Arjun survives the battle as he only knew that only Karna has the ability to defeat and kill Arjuna. Karna was forewarned by his own God father (Sun God). Karna was man of principle and so when Indra, came in disguise, he accepted his request (it was his daily routine to give away anything that any Brahmin would ask him post his morning puja) and gave away his ‘Rakshya Kabach’, well knowing that it means imminent defeat for him in the war.

3.       Karna, was always teased by Pandavas as ‘Suta Putra Karna’, he ensured that he never reveals his true identity and at same time his adopted parents are not disrespected. Such ‘principled’ stance in front of hostilities is extremely difficult

4.       During the war, Krishna was extremely worried over Karna possessing an extremely dangerous weapon that was given to him by Lord Indra. Hence Krishna brought in Ghatontkach, son of Bheema, into the war. Ghatontkach wrecked havoc and Duryodhana, out of sheer fear, asked Karna to use that particular weapon. Karna knew what it meant for him but could not refuse his friend Duryodhana and let go that weapon killing Ghatontkach. Krishna sigh a huge relief, as knew that the danger has been averted.


These are no means the complete list and it is for no reasons that Karna is also called ‘Danta Karna’ (one who is known for giving). His death saw, Gods throwing petals on his body. A true great had fallen!



Photo courtesy: Zee News (Zee News attributes: ‘Pic courtesy: A grab from Mahabharat Katha’)

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