Who is Karna in Mahabharata

Who is Karna in Mahabharata – Hero or Villain | The story of Karna

Who is Karna in MahaBharata?

Karna without any doubt is one of the most charismatic central characters in Mahabharata.

His nature makes anyone fall in love with him.

He is packed with heroic elements but he has been deprived of the chance of being one by his mother, Guru, his brothers, and even the time.

His early phase of life is greeted by a set of unfortunate events while in the later phase he is challenged with dilemmas.

His life starts taking him to the final moment right from his birth. 

Birth of Karna

It all starts when the Princess of Kuntibhoj lets curiosity take the better of her. In her teens, the princess served Sage Durvasa.

Pleased by her dedication, the Sage gave her the boon to summon a Deva and have a child in his form.

Raised by curiosity, Kunti wanted to test the Mantra very badly. So she chanted the Mantra and invoked the Sun god.

To her astonishment and bewilderment, Lord Surya appeared in front of her and compelled to give her a handsome boy.

Kunti feared that having a child before marriage will tarnish her and her father’s reputation, for she placed the boy in a basket and leaves it afloat in the River Ganga’s whim.

On Kunti’s plea to protect her son, the sun god gave the boy indestructible armor and earrings. 

The second set of Karna

His life takes another turn of misfortune as he being a Kshatriya becomes a shudra as a charioteer finds him (the working class).

The caste system in the Mahabharata times oppressed the working class while the Brahmins and Kshatriyas ruled over.

Though he had a loving mother Radha and a caring father Athiratha, the charioteer of Bheeshma, his nature didn’t submit to the newfound destiny. At heart, he was a warrior.

He knew that all he wanted was to be a great archer and warrior. Even as everyone told him to stick to his caste, he went in search of a Guru.

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Curses on line

When he approached Drona, the guru of Pandavas and Kauravas, Karna heard him say the same as others and was insulted.

Rejected by Drona, Karna goes to the warrior Sage Parashurama. Feared by rejection based on his caste, Karna lies to Parashurama that he is a Brahmin and gets accepted.

He learns the best archery in the world. One fine day, when the guru asked Karna to bring a pillow to rest, Karna offered his lap.

Parashurama fell asleep and a giant bee stung Karna’s thigh. Karna didn’t move a bit to not disturb his Guru’s sleep. the bee bore his thigh and went deeper and started to bleed.

Parashurama woke at once on feeling the blood; he also concluded that Karna is not a Brahmin seeing his power to withstand pain.

As he found the truth, he cursed that knowledge gained at the expense of lie will abandon him when he needed it the most. 

Parashurama regretted cursing him in the moment of anger and blessed him with a bow named Vijaya and everlasting fame and glory. 

He was also cursed by Bhoomadevi that he would squeeze Karna to pain in an important battle of his life.

He was also cursed by the owner of the cow which he killed accidentally. The Brahmin said as he killed an innocent and helpless animal, he would die the same way.

All three curses came into effect at the same time and him to the gates of death. 

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The friendship he never expected

Dejected by the curses, Karna returned to Hastinapur where he participated in the tournament organized by Bheesma to showcase the talent of the Kuru princes on their return from their studies.

Though Karna steals the show, everyone suppresses him because of his caste.

That is when he finds respect among the Kauravas.

The eldest brother Duryodhan makes the King of Anga thus making him a king by merit.

Karna became grateful for Duryodhan and they become great friends.

But no one takes his royal title seriously and disgraces him as Suta-Putra. 

All his life Karna was caught in a dilemma between serving the right and his friend.

But he was known for his nobility as he gave anything to people who came to him in the name of charity.

During the war, he even tore the armor from his body as Indra asked for it as charity. 

In the final moment of his life, his curses came into effect and he was killed by Arjuna, as he tried to bring out the chariot stuck in the ground unarmed. 

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Bottom line

Though Karna stood by the side of adharma, his lifelong struggle to establish an identity and his heart of nobility made his name stand the test of time. 

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