Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Karna - The Ill Fated Elder Son of Kunti


Karna is one of the most tragic characters in the Mahabharata. He was born to Kunti through Surya, who was drawn to Kunti by the power of a Mantra (incantation) taught to her by the sage Durvasa. As Kunti was unmarried at that time, she abandoned her beautiful child, who was born with divine armor and earrings in the river.

The young child was found by a charioteer named Atiratha of the Suta caste, who brought him up as his own son with his wife Radha. The young Karna was named Radheya, the son of Radha. Karna did not want to be a charioteer and enrolled as a disciple of Parashurama who hated all Kshatriyas. He knew that he had little chance of being accepted into the hermitage if he revealed that he was a charioteer's son, and hence passed himself off as a Brahmana.

He became exceedingly skilled in the use of arms, especially with the bow. He was taught the use of many divine Astras (missiles) by Parashurama. One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head on Radheya's lap. An insect started biting into the young warrior's foot. He did not want to shake it off as it would wake his Guru up. The insect continued to bore its way through his flesh. Yet Karna bore the pain manfully. Finally the blood flowing from the bite touched Parashurama, who awoke instantly. When he saw the blood flowing from Karna's wound and the stoic silence in which his disciple had borne it, his anger knew know bounds. He said, "You cannot be a Brahmana. Only a Kshatriya is capable of bearing such immense pain without a whimper. Tell me at once who you really are?".

Karna humbly begged his Guru's pardon and said "O Guru! I do not really know who I am. I was found by my adopted parents. My adopted father is a charioteer."

Inspite of Karna beseeching him to secure his pardon, Parashurama was unmoved, he cursed his disciple thus, " You have committed the unpardonable sin of deceiving your acharya. For this crime, I curse you. All the skills and incantations that you have learnt will forsake you at the time of your direst need. When you are in the gravest danger of your life, you will not be able to remember anything that I taught you."

A distraught Karna left the hermitage of his Parashurama, bemoaning his fate that had made him unaware of the secret of his birth. Later he challenged Arjuna in a festival that had been designed to show off the talents of the Kauravas and Pandavas, who had just completed their training under Drona. The contest ended in a tie, whereupon Karna challenged Arjuna to single combat. However as he was unable to prove his lineage, Arjuna refused to fight him. Kunti who had recognized her first born son by his divine armor and earrings had fainted away among the audience. Duryodhana the eldest Kaurava, who hated the Pandavas, bestowed the kingship of the kingdom of Anga on Karna. Thus began one of the most selfless friendships in the world. Duryodhana was ready to share everything he possessed with his new found friend and Karna in turn was eternally grateful to the Kaurava for conferring such a signal honor upon him.

Karna became the sworn enemy of the Pandavas from that day. He was particularly jealous of Arjuna, whom he thought inferior to him in archery. Karna fought on the side of Duryodhana in the battle of Kurukshetra, and became the command-in-chief of Kaurava army upon the death of Drona. He was killed by Arjuna when the he was trying to release the wheels of his chariot, which had been stuck in mud. As foretold by Parashurama, in the hour of need, all his skills forsook him. He was killed by an Astra from Arjuna when he was defenseless.


Karna -
Vasusena Name given to Karna by his adopted parents-> born with wealth
Vrisha -
Radheya Son of Radha

Last Modified At: Sat Mar 26 22:44:45 2005