Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The story of a loyal Hero

Hi Readers,

Any guesses on whom this story is based on. Well, it's from the epic tales of Mahabharata. Any guesses now... Its Karna. The characters whom I like the most in tale of Mahabharata is the mightiest Bhisma, who was always composed and calm. He was strongest man who could protect and flourish the kingdom of Hastinapur without ever having a urge to be known as the King. He left his position of being King of Hastinapur to his younger brother for the well being of his father, his step mother and his step brother's. The second man in this list is Karna. Though born to the mighty Lord Sun and Queen Kunti, he never enjoyed royalty. With his firm courage and faith, he became one of the great warrior. When Krishna finally revealed his biological birth and wanted him to join Pandavas, this heroic man did not accept it. He could have accepted the request and could have been the King of Hastinapur, as he was elder to Yudhisthira. However, he chose not to abandon his adoptive parents, who bestowed all their love upon him. He chose to stay firmly by the side of Duryodhan, because he had saved him from criticism. Though, Duryodhan always used him, he stayed by his words, by his friendship till his death. Let me now describe the side of Karna in detail.

Karna was born to Kunti and Sun God. Kunti had received a boon from Sage Durvasa to bear sons from Gods. She just had to utter a Mantra and call upon which ever God she wanted and they would give her a son before they depart. Kunti just wanted to test the powerful Mantra and thus Karna was born. However, she abandoned him. Later, post marriage to Pandu, Kunti and Madri had five sons whom she raised after death of Pandu and Madri. Karna's fate took him to Adhiratha and Radha, who adopted him. They bestowed all their love and never let him feel that he was an abandoned child. Karna never enjoyed the royalty that his biological brother's Pandavas enjoyed. He could not get him a Guru or teacher. However, with his courage and trust to learn he changed his look and became the disciple of Parshuram. He became a great warrior. He had same ability as his biological brother Arjuna. However, when Karna wanted to fight against Arjuna in a bravery show, he was not allowed. He was ridiculed because he was son of Suta(an inferior caste compared to Khatriya or Warrior class) his adoptive parents. When he was being humiliated , his biological mother and father chose to remain silent. They witnessed him being ridiculed. At this time, Duryodhan came to his rescue and made him King of Anga. Thus Karna was first time equipped with firm sense of self by Duryodhan. Karna became his friend and he was a true friend to Duryodhan till his death. Though he was aware that Duryodhan is actually using him, exploiting him and is not going by Dharma or law, he chose to be by his words and friendship.

In the battle of Mahabharata, Krishna came to Karna. Like the knowledge  of Gita that Krishna gave to Arjuna, he also gave similar Gyan to Karna. This is known as Karna-gita. In this chapter of Mahabharata, Krishna reveals the real identity of Karna. Krishna makes him aware of his biological parents. His biological brothers and asks him to abandon Duryodhan and join Pandavas. The interaction between Krishna and Karna is very interesting. Krishna states:-

... the scriptures teach that son born
to a women before her marriage
is as much counted as the son of his wedded husband
as the sons she bears in marriage.
You, Karna was born this way.
Under law you are the son of Pandu.
Under the constraint of the book of law,
come with me and you shall be King.

You Kunteya, surrounded by Parthas
as the moon by the stars, reign you over the realm
and bestow blessings on Kunti!
Your friends shall shudder with joy,
your enemies with fear.
Today, let their be brotherhood, between you and your Pandava brothers.

Karna however rejects the new identity. He accepts that by law he may be the son of Pandu, but he appeals to love as the determiner of his identity.

An unmarried maiden conceived me, by the sun, Janardan.
and at the behest of sun, she abandoned me at birth.
Yes, Krishna under law I was born the son of Pandu,
however Kunti abandoned me as though i was stillborn.
And Adhiratha, a suta, no sooner than he see me,
he carried me to his home,Madhusudan
and offered me to Radha, with love.

Acknowledging his adoptive parent's low caste birth, he nonetheless praises his adoptive parents for their generosity and undying dedication. Emphasizing his helplessness, he attributes his survival and nurture to Adhirath and Radha. He appeals to keep his identity as Radheya(son of Radha) not as son of Kunti.

A man who knows the law and always took care
to listen to the scriptures on the Law,
Adhiratha, the suta, thinks of me as his son,
and my love demands me to think of him as my father.

Karna then goes on to defend his links with Duryodhan,

can make me a traitor of my words...
Duryodhan has raised arms and prepared for war
because he relies on me...
Neither death, nor capture, neither greed nor fear
can make me break my promise..

Karna then states that if he has to reveal his identity to Yudhisthira, then Yudhisthira would hand him his Kingdom. Yudhisthira the son of Dharma, would immediately yield his throne to Karna, the eldest of Kunti's sons. In an interesting and insightful observation, Karna predicts his own demise. If Yudhisthira yielded to Karna, then Karna out of gratitude and loyalty would yield it to Duryodhan, his protector and friend. But, Karna states that this would not be correct. He acknowledges the moral superiority of Yudhisthira ,asking" Let the Law spirited Yudhisthira be king forever."

Then Krishna returns to Pandavas and declares that his mission has been failed. Kunti then meets Karna at the banks of Ganges and pleads him to abandon Duryodhan and join Pandavas. The father Sun God, Surya then speaks and urges Karna to listen to his mother Kunti. At this, Karna replies that he believes Kunti and Karna and he can not forget the wrong that has been done.

.... the irreparable wrong that you have done by casting me out
has destroyed the name and fame that I could have had...
What enemy could have done greater harm than you have?
When there was time to act
you did not show me the compassion...
you have never acted in my interest like a mother,
and now, here you are, enlightening me solely on your interest..

Karna reminds Kunti that the sons of Dhritarastra have been in his support, and now he should not betray them. But, he agrees to one concession now, that he will spare the life of all Pandavas except Arjuna.

In all this interchange, Karna refuses to change his side for two reasons, love and loyalty. Karna stands as the literature's great tragic figure. He lives according to the heroic values of valor and courage.Due to his inauspicious birth, over which he had no control, his fate was marked from the beginning. The generosity firstly by his adoptive parents and then by Duryodhana, who befriended him equipped Karna with a firm sense of self.

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