The Fall of Mighty Karna


 In Part VII of our series, we learn how the mighty Karna fell a victim to Attitude


 KK Shanmukhan

One might have a lot of faculties such as honesty, bravery, moral strengths, etc., in-built or acquired, at his command. Nevertheless, if one’s attitude is not conducive to the order of the day, he would be a failure as attitude plays a pivotal role in one’s life.
Karna, the great hero of the Mahabharata war, was a formidable warrior. Being the first born of Kunti, he would have been the emperor of Bharatvarsha had his attitude been different. And the Mahabharata war would have ended earlier, had he sought peace with his own brothers – the Pandavas. Maybe, the war itself would not have taken place had Duryodhana been bereft of Karna.
There was only one hero in the whole Mahabarata war, who could stand against Karna with a slim chance of success – Arjuna. And they were brothers. Karna knew this harsh truth before the commencement of the war and that was his tragedy. Arjuna did not know that he is fighting his elder brother Karna – and that was his victory!
Pritha was daughter of king Surasena. His nephew Kuntibhoja had no offsprings. Surasena had promised that his first born would be given in adoption to Kuntibhoja. Thus Pritha was given to Kuntibhoja. She was thence known as Kunti. As she was growing up well there, she was deployed to look after all the rituals related to fire-sacrifices. Once saint Durvasa, the omnipotent ascetic, happened to be the guest of honour of Kuntibhoja and had spent some months there. He was immensely pleased with the services rendered by young Kunti. At the time of departure, the highly pleased hermit gave her a boon. The ‘Santanagopala’ mantra, the son-giving hymn. By chanting this divine mantra one could summon any god who would give a son to the supplicant.
One day, in her youthful innocence, Kunti, infatuated by the rising Sun, chanted the mantra. Lo and behold! The Sun God manifested itself before her. She was surprised, aghast and wanted to escape from her folly.
The Sun God said: “I am compelled by the potency of your mantra. Don’t worry! Even after you give birth to a baby, you will still retain your virginity.”
She became pregnant. Her foster mother kept it as a secret. Kunti delivered a charming, god-like boy with two ear-rings and a breast shield. Immediately after the birth of the boy, Kunti and her foster mother placed the boy in a wooden box and cast it off in the river. Athiratha, the charioteer of the Kauravas, took the baby boy and nourished him. He was named Karna.
Karna learnt archery and martial arts from Kripa, Drona and Parasurama. He became excellent in arts. He was a courageous, kind and chivalrous but he was unscrupulous if he had to tell lies even to his masters. He compromised on all his principles when the possession of the Brahmastra came up. Having known very well that as long as his ear-rings and chest shield protected him, no one could kill him; so he donated them to the Brahman in disguise. This was despite the warning by the Sun god.
Karna’s valour was unique. He defeated Jarasandha in single combat. He defeated Drupada, Bhagadatha and Kerala in his conquest of attaching the neighboring countries. He fought war and attached Chamba city to Angarajya.
Just before the war, Kunti, his mother, appeared before him and with supplicant hands, entreated him to join his brothers. But he was loyal to his bosom friend, Duryodhana. He said, “Mother, when I was nobody; Prince Duryhodhana enthroned me as king of Angadesha and gave me an address. He chose to fight the war fully dependent on me. Is it not disloyal and betrayal on my part to deceive him at this juncture?”
He continued after a while: “Mother mine, don’t worry too much. I shall not kill any of your other sons. My combat will be with Arjuna. If he dies in the battle, I shall join the Pandavas and thus you will have five sons. And if I die, you will still have five sons.”
Karna’s attitude contributed to his glory and the same to his death as well. n