To all those who have witnessed the greatest story of Mahabharata, you can never deny how unfortunate and unfair life was to Karna. What should we call him? The Daana Veera (enduring charitable hero) Karna, who gave his natural Kavacha-Kundala (armour-earrings) as charity to Lord Indra despite knowing he will become defenceless, or the kind-hearted Karna who cared for his Guru but in return gained curses from him, or the Sūtaputra (son of Suta, a low-caste) Karna, who sacrificed his entire life to bring changes to the society and his people. No matter what we call him, for all the right deeds Karna has done in his life, the only thing he got back in return was rejection, insults and curses. If we take a closer look at Karna’s life, responsibility, situations, time and other individual’s mistakes have always controlled his decisions and life.
Karna’s birth is the most tragic incident that happened to him in his whole life. From the story, Sage Durvasa had awarded Devi Kunti with a boon, which she would be able to request any supreme being to gift her a child. Devi Kunti being young and immature doesn’t trust the power of the boon and wants to test it. She immediately appeals to God Surya to gift her a child. God Surya with the restriction of the boon, forced himself to gift Devi Kunti with a son, who had natural Kavacha-Kundala (armour-earrings) for protection. Devi Kunti being unmarried and young at the time, doesn’t want to face disgrace from the society, so she abandoned her son at the Ganga River. After that, the charioteer of Dhritarashtra, Atiratha found the child and adopted him. Atiratha named his child as Vasusena (another name for Karna). Later on, Devi Kunti became the wife of King Pandu. From Karna’s birth incident we can see that, if Devi Kunti did not abandon Karna, he could have lived the life of a Kshatriya (upper-caste) and a royal family. Due to the immatureness of Devi Kunti, Karna had to live a life full of rejection, insults and curses as a Suta (low-caste).
As Karna grew up, he worshipped God Surya and considered him as his Guru. Karna explored and self-taught himself in the art of archery. At a point of his life, Karna knew that to become the best archer in the world, he needed to learn advanced skills of archery and to achieve that he needs to find an actual Guru. He approached Guru Dronacharya, who was the Guru for the five Pandavas including Arjuna and the 100 brothers of Kauravas and requested him to take Karna as his student. Dronacharya refused to take Karna as his student because Karna was a Suta (low-caste). After Dronacharya rejected Karna, Karna still didn’t give up and approached Dronacharya’s Guru, Lord Parashurama. Lord Parashurama however only taught Brahmins (upper-caste), so Karna decided to hide his identity and lied to Lord Parashurama saying that he’s a Brahmin. Karna learned the advanced skills of archery and Astras from Lord Parashurama. Karna’s skills, courage, dedication and impressive knowledge of dharma made him Lord Parashurama’s favourite student. One day, Lord Parashurama was asleep on Karna’s lap. An insect was approaching Lord Parashurama and fearing that the insect might bite Lord Parashurama, Karna caught the insect in his bare hand. The insect bit Karna’s hand, but he was holding it until Lord Parashurama woke up. After seeing Karna’s bleeding hand, Lord Parashurama praised Karna on his respect towards his Guru. At the same time, Lord Parashurama realised that only a Suta can bear such a pain for the comfort of others. Lord Parashurama got extremely angry on Karna for hiding his identity and cursed him that in a time when Karna needs Lord Parashurama’s teaching the most, he will forget it. The curse was one of the main reason for Karna’s death against Arjuna in the Kurukshetra war. If Karna did not hold the insect, his real identity would not have been revealed, and Lord Parashurama would not have cursed him. Once again, only because of his caste, Karna obtained the curse from his Guru.
After learning advanced archery skills from Parashurama, Karna went to Hastinapur to join the friendly tournament held by Dronacharya to showcase the skills of his students. In the tournament, Arjuna clearly dominated other participants and became everyone’s favourite. At one point in the tournament, with pure confidence knowing that no one else is better than Arjuna in archery, Dronacharya challenged and opened the tournament to anyone to go up against Arjuna. Karna knew that this was his time to showcase his skills and challenged a one-on-one duel with Arjuna. Right after Karna challenge Arjuna, Kripacharya (chief priest at the court of Hastinapura) refused Karna’s duel challenge against Arjuna because Karna doesn’t own any clan or kingdom. According to the rules of duelling, only a prince could challenge Arjuna to a duel. At that time, Duryodhana understood well that his cousins, the Pandavas, were better at warfare. After looking at Karna’s skills and courage, Duryodhana immediately provided the kingdom of Anga to Karna and made him the King. Being a king made Karna eligible to duel with Arjuna. The duel, however, didn’t take place because the sun had set on that day. The kindness of Duryodhana gifting a kingdom to Karna when no one helped him impressed Karna hugely. Karna asked Duryodhana on how he could repay him. Duryodhana asked for Karna’s friendship and pulled Karna to his side. When everyone insulted Karna, only Duryodhana helped him. Duryodhana kindness made Karna forever being indebted towards Duryodhana. Karna fought against the Pandavas with Duryodhana in the Kurukshetra war to honour his friend. This part of Karna’s life, situation and responsibility left Karna with no options but to be indebted to Duryodhana’s friendship.
Despite being a powerful warrior, an excellent student, lovely husband, caring friend and kind-hearted donor, Karna could not achieve his destiny in life. Responsibility, situation, time and other individual’s mistakes have always controlled his life and decisions. The saying, ‘you are the creator of your destiny’ has proven to be wrong in his life. Personally, when I got to know the story and role of everyone in Mahabharata, Karna truly inspired me, but deep inside there was a question raised. Do I want to live like Karna? Yes, I do! Do you want to live his life like it is? No, I don’t. I believe many of us could connect to Karna’s life in this 21st century more than ever. We all want to create our own destiny, live the life like we want to. To achieve that, non-stop hard work and passion alone is enough, isn’t it? Well, I don’t think so. Karna’s life somehow teaches me that, no matter how much hard work and passion we put, situation, time and responsibility will still hunt us. How many of us gave up on our journey to achieve our dream because of responsibility that we have to sustain? How many external individuals have influenced us on choosing our significant life’s decision? Think about it. Is it our fault to follow the situation and time as it is? I seriously don’t know. Whatever the answer is, the only thing we don’t want is life like Karna’s. The only feeling that I felt when discovering Karna’s life is fear. The fear of responsibility, the fear of a situation, the fear of time and the fear of other individual’s mistakes shaping my life and destiny. Fear… fear of Karna’s life.
This blog post above was written by me after watching the television series called Suryaputra Karn, where I really got to know the story of Mahabharata. Just to let you all know, my knowledge regarding Mahabharata is very limited and this is the first time I’m writing a blog. I hope you liked it and I hope we can discuss more about it.