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Karna – Ideal, If not perfect

Karna – Ideal, If not perfect



Karna, the guy was a legend, also called the tragic hero of Mahabharat. He is my favorite character among all from Mahabharat. I admire Karna’s character from Mahabharat for a lot of reason but if I have to point out that one thing which I loved the most about him was his courage to fight against the destiny. He was a guy who never had anything, lived in adverse conditions but still became better warrior than Arjun, who was a prince and had everything thing at his disposal.

People say, “When a man is put under pressure by life, his true character emerges”. Drona denied Karna to teach the art of warfare and then insulted him saying that he should stick to his caste duties. But, Karna didn’t back out. This only strengthened his will to learn the art of warfare, even, if he didn’t have a guru to teach. Karna then decided to be self-taught. Karna was determined and thus, worked hard. When Karna heard that Arjun succeeded in the “shoot the bird in the eye” trick, which Drona conducted to test his pupils skills, he told his brother that he will hit both eyes of the bird with a single arrow and eventually, he did hit both eyes of the bird with a single arrow which he achieved within a short period of practice and that too at night. This is one of the many small instances in Karna’s life which proved his potential to become a great warrior and eventually that’s what he achieved, everlasting glory and immortal fame.

After Drona’s rejection, Karna went to Parshuram for learning the advanced art of warfare. Parshuram, who taught everybody other than kshtriyas , concluded that Karna was a kshtriyas seeing his ability to withstand immense pain. He then cursed Karna that he will forget everything he taught when he will need them the most. This cruse ultimately proved to be fatal as Karna died cause of the curse.

After learning the art, Karna determined to earn a respectful place in the society, went on and challenged Arjun in a duel during archery tournament, held by Bhishma to showcase his grandson’s skills. But, Kripacharya, the army in chief of Kuru’s, denied the duel asking Karna for his clan and kingdom as only a Prince can challenge a Prince. Duryodhan saw karna as an advantage that he can have over Pandavs as they were better than Kauravs in the art of warfare. He immediately offered Karna the throne of Anga and made him the king of Anga. Karna and Duryodhan became good friends after his incident. Even though, Karna was a kshtriyas by now, by merit if not by birth, but no one agreed to that and always looked towards him as a shudra/shoot putra/ charioteer’s son.

Karna was a loyal friend and proved it time and again. Karna helped Duryodhan in marrying princess Chitragandha. Duryodhand, after being rejected at the princess’s swayamvar, took her by force. Many of the kings stood against him but Karna defeated them all alone.

Even though, Karna supported Duryodhan almost at every instance but he never agreed to his deceit and trickery strategies to kill Pandavs. Karna may be said to be on the wrong side but he neither did wrong nor supported wrong. After knowing about, Shakuni’s and Duryodhan’s attempt to kill Pandavs in the “House of Lac”, he condemned the act saying him to be a warrior as ways of cowards are doomed to failure.




Even though Karna was an ideal human being, but still he wasn’t perfect. Karna had a couple of moments in his life for which he will always be looked down for but, for me, that simply proves that he was no god. First, was when he didn’t came for Draupadi’s rescue during the game of dice and then insulted her saying that a women with more than 4 husband is nothing else than a whore. After reading all about karma, I thought, he could have avoided it but we can also say that it was Draupadi who started it. She rejected Karna participation in her Sawayamvar saying that Karna is a shootputra/ son of a charioteer but I agree that no argument can justify what Karna did.

Another moment of shame for Karna was when he with other 5 member of Kaurav sena came together to kill Abhimanyu. It was against the rules of war. There have been justifications for this act of Karna too. People say, it was Drona who created the Chakarayu which was meant to kill Arjun by cornering him that’s why people blame Drona for the conspiracy. But I don’t agree to it. Karna was equally responsible for killing a lone and helpless Abhimanyu.

Karna was a man of words and principles. He always supported Duryodhan even when Duryodhan was wrong. Krishna told him, “Your integrity is wasted on a man without integrity”. To which Karna replied, “The hand of friendship once given can’t be taken back”. Krishna knew that Karna is Duryodhan’s strength. So, he sent Kunti to talk to Karna and tell him the secret of his birth. When kunti told Karna about his birth and asked him to join Pandavs and become the king of Indraprasth, as Yudhisthir would step as Karna was the oldest of her sons. But, Karna didn’t agree to the proposal. He said to kunti that if she had told her this when he challenged Arjun for a duel in the tournament, the first time when kunti recognized him as his son cause of his armor and earring, then everything would have been different but it was too late to go back. But, he promised Kunti that after the war she will have 5 sons. He won’t kill any of the Pandavs other than Arjun. He stood firm on his words and after joining the war of Mahabharat on the Eleventh day, he defeated all the Pandav’s and spared their life because of his promise to Kunti, except Arjun.

By the end of Mahabharat, Karna proved to be one of the best warriors of Mahabharat. One of the instances was when even Krishna applauded for his efforts in the war. During Mahabharat, when Karna arrow pushed Arjun’s chariot by a couple of feet behind, Krishna applauded for Karna. Arjun asked Krishna that why didn’t you applaud me when my arrow pushed his chariot behind? To which, Krishna replied saying that you have me, the weight of three worlds on your side and Hanuman on top of your chariot and still his arrow made such an impact. If we haven’t been on your side…………your chariot would have been orbiting the earth right now.

Karna’s character is an inspiration. Perseverance in the face of adversity, proving himself better than the destiny and achieving everything with determination are a few of the attributes of Karna’s character. Again, for what I think, he is the ideal man if not perfect.

~Devidutt

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19 Responses to "Karna – Ideal, If not perfect"

  1. chandan  January 13, 2014 at 4:12 am

    I agree Karna was one of the best in his field but to look at him as an inspiration or hero is wrong (my personal thoughts). He was not allowed to participate in the dual at the beginning because he is shootputra. Yes. rules are rules and there was a reason for every rule during that period. He valued friendship more that truth . It is not justified. He has been a mute spectator on many issues though he was unhappy of Duryodhan’s wrong doings. He felt he was not given opportunities because of his caste but he doesn’t do anything about this once he becomes the king. He had a lot of good values but used it mostly for wrong reasons. I think even in today’s world it is scary to have such people as your friends.

    Reply
  2. rk  April 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    yeah reminds me of Manmohan Singh sitting pretty while the congress Kuru blokes indulge in rampant loot…..Maybe he is political Shootputra Manmohans hero too…lol

    Reply
  3. Vasusena  May 29, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Chitrangada was the princess of Manipur’s king Chitravahana. She married Arjun, during his 12 years of exile.
    Duryodhan’s wife was BHANUMATI.

    Reply
  4. Rajiv Ahuja  May 29, 2014 at 11:21 am

    You are correct in your observations.

    Reply
  5. AbhiManyu  May 30, 2014 at 2:54 am

    Karna was not a better warrior than Arjun. In every direct encounter with Arjun, Karna came up short. When the
    Also, remember Arjun had the full artillery of celestial weapons at his disposal – Karna lacked a few.

    When the Gandharvas attacked Duryodhana & Co., Karna received a blow to the head & absconded. Duryodhan & Wives were captured and humiliated with Karna nowhere to be seen.

    In Uttara – The Panadvas last days of hiding – Arjun knocked Karna between the eyes with an arrow. Karna was groggy & never returned to the battle scene.

    Having said that, Karna was the complete character in MahaBharat. Karna had the totality of all virtues of the Pandavas & had street smarts which the Pandavas lacked. The Pandavas street smarts was supplied by Draupadi & Krishna. None was more generous than Karna. His act of surrender & selflessness definitely adds to his legendary nobility.

    The man who would have been King. If Karna’s true birth was revealed earlier – there would have been no Mahabharata & we wouldn’t have one of the best epics to talk about.

    Reply
  6. Rajiv Sharma  May 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I know this is not related but please can anyone give me a full article on the origin of Vasuki and Adishesha. Please if possible please also include why they are above every Devas and Rakshas

    Reply
  7. Trath Nafar  July 5, 2014 at 1:09 am

    I fully concur with this article, Karna was definitely a man who fought against his destiny n we should also cal him Dhaanveer Karan. His character has been with utmost struggling & surprising. He showed his honesty n & truthfulness towards his friend Dhuryodhan, when everyone else denied him. Yes he eventually became the part of the wrongness of his friend & other consipiracies , so he had also accepted his fate for that. The ideal suits perfect that he was Ideal. if not perfect. He was one of the most Unlucky sort of or struggles or hatred ,,,but definitely an ideal man.

    Reply
  8. Daven Swades  July 5, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Lord Krishna once asked Sahadeva what should be done to stop the ‘MahaYudh’ to which Sahadeva replied that Krishna should be tied down and imprisoned and all the Pandavas including Duryodhana must be sent to the forest in exile while Karna must be made the King. Sahadev is known for being the youngest Pandava, observant of morality, virtuous, intelligent, wise, heroic, and formidable in war, and ever-wrathful.

    Reply
  9. Daven Swades  July 6, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Karna was well-known as ‘Dhaan Veer’ for being the most generous person alive that even the King of Gods Indra Dev asked him for alms. Indra Dev asked Karna for his divine earrings and armour which no weapon including any divya astra (divine weapon) could penetrate thus making him invulnerable and indestructable in battle, a virtual immortal; yet he gave the earrings and armour to Indra Dev. Indra Dev was ashamed that instead of making an appearance to grant a benediction to someone he was instead making an appearance to accept one. To save the Devtas from the disgrace Karna agrees to accept the Vasavi Shakti Astra which he could one use once.

    Reply
  10. Daven Swades  July 6, 2014 at 12:22 am

    In war the Chain-Of-Command is to be strictly observed and the highest ranking officer in war is that of the Senapati [Commander-In-Chief]. It was every warrior’s and soldier’s duty and dharma to obey the Senapati’s orders. Karna was obeying his Senapati’s (Drona’s) orders that the warriors must all simultaneously attack and kill Abhimanyu. it was a ghastly deed he had to perform as a subordinate to Drona as he accepted to fight under Drona’s command and orders. When Karna was made Senapati he restored order and dharma to battle. On the first day of battle as Senapati he (Karna) was about to kill Arjuna when he observed that the arrow he was about to kill Arjuna with would not hit Arjuna before sunset so he held back from shooting the arrow and finished fighting for the day in observance of one of the rules of war that fighting must end at sunset.

    Reply
  11. Daven Swades  August 2, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Karna’s Vijaya Dhanush (Vijaya Bow) or the Bow of Victory.

    Vijaya Dhanush was the bow of Karna, one of the Maharatis of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. The sanskrit name ‘Vijaya’ means ‘Victory’ and the Vijaya Dhanush is said to give sure victory to the possessor. The string of Vijaya Dhanush cannot be cut by any astra (weapon) or any divya astra (divine 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 on enemies and produces flashes of light brilliant as lightning which blinds the enemy. Vijaya Dhanush could not be broken by any astra (weapon) or anyone and it is so heavy that a normal person cannot even lift it. Every time an arrow is aimed the energy of the arrow is amplified by multiple times as Vijaya Dhanush is charged with sacred mantras.

    Vijaya Dhanush was created by Vishwakarma, Royal Architect of the Devas (Gods) as per instruction of Lord Shiva for the purpose of destroying the city of Tripura created for the sons (tripurAsuras) of the demon Tarakasura. Lord Shiva destroyed Tripura by firing Pashupatastra from Vijaya Dhanush. Lord Shiva left the Vijaya Dhanush in the care of Indra Dev, ruler of heaven, who destroyed demon dynasties with it and later gave it to Lord Parshurama on Lord Shiva’s instructions. The king of Dieties, Indra was so pleased he presented the most feared bow named ‘Vijaya’ to Lord Parshurama. In addition to giving the Vijaya Dhanush to Lord Parshurama, Lord Shiva also also gave Divya Astras (Divine and Celestial Weapons) and taught the science of Dhanur Vidya (Archery Warfare) to Lord Parshurama for the task of killing all evil people in the world. The Asuras feared Vijaya Dhanush due to the destruction it caused wherever it was used, and it was respected by all the beings in the universe. By the fatal arrows shot from with the help of this Dhanush ‘Vijaya’, Lord Parshurama destroyed the war-mongering Kshatriyas twenty-one times. Later, Lord Parshurama presented this Vijaya Dhanush to his disciple Karna being pleased with Karna’s intense devotion to the Guru (Lord Parshurama). The Vijaya Dhanush made Karna, who already had terrific skills, virtually invincible. Vijaya Dhanush is unparalleled and except Lord Parshurama, Karna and an equally or more skilled warrior, nobody can even left it. No weapon, even the mighty Pashupatastra, can harm a warrior who has Vijaya Dhanush in his hand, as the name ‘Vijaya’ implies, the wielder remains victorious and therefore won’t be defeated.

    Since Lord Parshurama only taught Brahmns the art of warefare, Karna disguised himself as a Brahmin to become his student. On a day towards his training, Karna offered his lap to his Guru to rest his head for taking a nap. While Lord Parshurama was sleeping a scorpion stung karna’s thigh. However, despite the pain he didn’t move so as to not disturb his Guru’s sleep. When blood oozed from his wound and reached Lord Parshurama he woke at once and deduce that Karna was not a Brahmin but a Kshatriya. He cursed Karna to forget the mantra to invoke Brahmastra at the time of his greatest need. Karna told him he was a Suta, not a Kshatriya, and pleaded with him for forgiveness. Lord Parshurama repented and and since Karna was a diligent and worthy student he blessed Karna and gifted him a unique and very powerful celestial weapon called Bhargavastra over which he (Lord Parshurama) was the Presiding Diety and no one else possessed, and also gifted his personal ‘Vijaya’ Dhanusha. The Bhargavasta, Vijaya Dhanush, along with the earring and armour Karna was born with made Karna one of the most fearsome and powerful warriors in the universe. During his lifetime Karna only used Vijaya Dhanush during the Kurukshetra War on the 16th and 17th days of war when he (Karna) was the Senapati (Commander-In-Chief) of the Kaurava Army, as mentioned in Karna Parva of the Mahabharata.

    Knowing Karna’s might, Krishna on the 16th day warned Arjuna not to underestimate Karna:
    “Hear in brief, O son of Pandu! I regard the mighty car-warrior Karna as thy equal, or perhaps, thy superior! In energy he is equal to Agni. 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 of every accomplishment of a warrior, he is a dispeller of the fear of friends. No one, not even the gods with Vasava (Indra) at their head, can slay the son of Radha, save thee, as I think. 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 that car-warrior”.

    WIth his Vijaya Dhanush Karna overpowered Arjuna on the 16th day of the Kurukshetra war. Learning that Karna with Vijaya Dhanush is invincible, Krishna on the 17th day of war advised Arjuna to kill Karna when he had put down his bow to lift his sunken chariot wheel which was the result of an earlier curse given by a Brahmin that he would become helpless during his end-time like the cow he had mistakenly killed.

    After the death of Karna, Vijaya Dhanush went back to its original owner Lord Parshurama.

    Reference: Mahabharata

    Reply
    • Sonny  November 30, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Very well written Bhai

      Reply
  12. nit  September 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    No Krishna praising of Karna for shooting ARjuna’s chariot even further wasnt stated in the epic story.

    Reply
  13. rahul  March 1, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    everybody who knew Karna or heard of him praised and admired him for his virtues even Gods

    Reply
  14. Dyah  March 28, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Karna is indeed an ideal character. And Karna’s imperfection is his unability to choose between right or wrong. A righteous individual, however, must be ‘right’ to the core. Yes human would never be perfect, but all of us must face our fruits of actions in the end. That’s why Karna’s destiny is so tragic.

    Reply
  15. Haridas  May 19, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Hari om…
    usually, I am reading and sharing all most all the articles publishing in this online magazine, but this article giving a wrong notion about the “Dharma”. Because,Karna was always stand along with the “adharmic “people. Also Duryodhana did all the wrong things becuase of Karna’s support. Suppose , Karna was not along with Duryodana, Duryodana become a better person. my simple understanding of mahabharatha is that thosw who stand with adharma , whatever super personality they have , finally they cannot win. like, Bhishma, Drona,karna, aswathma and many others.

    Hari om….

    Reply
  16. Viji  December 1, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I am a late entrant. Sorry. I don’t agree. Lotus grows in muddy and dirty water but is still used to worship Goddess. The essence of the article is that Karna is like ‘Lotus’. Wrong. Mahabharatha is not just a story but a true happening and therefore it’s important to see the events and situations differently. He was a highly ambitious person and supported the always-wrong-doer Duryodhana for selfish goals. So, the starting point itself, apart from his birth, is not supportive of putting Karna on a pedestal. His wrong doings were masked by the continued ‘adharmic’ acts of Duryodhana, the blind support of a blind father and blinded mother, self imposed stupidity of Bhishma, and others in the dirty water. Having said that, there are many upsides with Karna that makes him a great person. I certainly don’t concur on ‘Ideal’ status.

    Reply
  17. ANAND  June 13, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    THE GREATEST WARRIOR IN THE GREAT BATTLE WAS KARN AGAINST LORD KRSNA AND HIS BROTHERS

    Reply
  18. Subbu  July 27, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Full of mistakes in the article.
    1) Karna had everything. It was Pandavas, who had all adverse conditions through out the life. Pandavas born and brought up in Forest without any royal luxuries. Education period in Hastinapura was more fearful, as Kauravas were always trying to kill them. After that, again they lived begging in Ekachakra pura. Even after marrying Draupadi, after few years, again went to forest / exile for 13 years. But, they overcame all the difficult with their virtues.
    2) Self learning was done by Ekalavya and not Karna. Karna lied as if he is from Bhargava clan to Parashurama for obtaining Bhargava astra, which was supposed to be in possession of Bhargava clan only.
    3) Shoot the bird eye – incident is testing the capabilities of Concentration /Focus of mind. hitting two eyes is a made up story, and it only proves he lacks focussing on single object.
    4) Karna had also encouraged Duryodhana in all his bad deeds.
    5) Karna never won against Arjuna or Bhima. Even Bhima has spared Karna several times in the Mahabharata.
    6) The archery tournament was meant for princes community, and Karna was an uncalled participant. He always wanted to prove himself better than Arjuna, but never did. It was only his jealousy towards Arjuna.
    7) It was his jealousy towards Arjuna that got him all curses.
    8) He is the worst example of a friend. A friend should lead in the good direction. He always directed Duryodhana in the wrong direction, by showing his false valour. He was never able to save Duryodhana..
    9) Chariots moving back, because hit by an arrow – is just a joke. An arrow can only break a chariot but not move back. I’m wondering why did not Arjuna’s chariot sink in the ground, because of heavy as exaggerated here.
    10.. … so many other mistakes..

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