Mahabharat has always served as a saga of fascination since childhood. My imaginations used to run wild with each story my grandma told. Being a big fan of Arjun and Krishna, my favoritism slowly shifted towards Karna as I grew up. Previously, seen as a villain, I began realizing that he is actually an unsung hero.
Dissecting the traits of the main characters will certainly bring up Karna as being one among the best. Loyal, righteous, and compassionate, he has everything that creates a good human being. Sadly, he never received any due credit for his golden character traits.
This article is a dedication to my favorite character and the unsung hero of Mahabharat – Karna.
1. Who is Karna?
Karna is the eldest son of Kunti and elder brother of five Pandavas. Still, he faced a harsh life filled with insults and tragedy and was called the son of a chariot driver.
2. The story of birth
Impressed by Kunti’s hospitality the sage Durvasa granted her a boon. He told her about a mantra that would help her in being the mother of sons from whomever she wants. That includes the Gods too. In her ignorance, she decided to test it before her marriage. She chanted the mantra while thinking about the God, Sun. Hence, a baby was born with a divine body armor and earrings. However, to hide her shame of being an unmarried mother she decided to abandon him. Later he was found by a chariot driver who raised him as his own.
Throughout his life, he faced the humiliation of being a ‘low-life’ despite being one of the elite-born. His ‘secret’ influenced and changed the saga of Mahabharata to a great extent.
3. Selfless and generous
Karna’s kavach and kundal were the things that made him invincible during the battle of Kurukshetra. However, out of his generosity, he gave those to Lord Indra who disguised himself to trick Karna. Despite knowing the trick, he never stepped away from his duty to give alms to those in need.
4. Loyalty and friendship
Duryodhana, the established villain in the saga had one of the best gifts. He had the friendship of Karna. Single-handedly he conquered kingdoms after kingdoms to honor his friendship with Duryodhana. The kuru prince gave him the honor of a royalty when he was mocked and in turn, Karna showed his loyalty till his last breath.
5. Keeping his promise
He was the one capable of killing the Pandavas but didn’t kill them due to a promise. Kunti, the mother who abandoned Karna at birth, made him promise that she will always be a mother of 5 brothers. He kept his promise by giving his life.
6. Conquering greed
When Kunti told Karna about the truth of his birth, she also offered him to join the Pandavas as their eldest brother. That meant being the king eventually and husband of Draupadi. Being the selfless character he is, Karna didn’t give in to the call of the greed and decided to stay loyal to Duryodhana.
7. Understanding the hardship
According to the saga, throughout his life, he faced nothing but difficulty. Other than facing humiliation regarding his birth, he was plagued with curses. Even his apparent acts of goodness turned gave the bad outcome.
8. Why the misery?
No character in Mahabharata has faced more misery and hardship than Karna. Why was his life filled with sorrow despite having a benevolent nature? This is answered by the story of Karna’s previous birth. Karna’s karma in his previous birth pushed him towards a life of misery in the new one.
9. The story of Dambhodbhava
A demon named Dambhodbhava prayed to God Surya and asked for the boon of being immortal. Surya couldn’t grant him that boon as no man can be immortal. However, he granted him another wish. Dambhodbhava was now protected by thousand armors. He coaxed Surya into giving him the boon that whoever breaks the armor will die immediately and it can only be broken by someone who has performed penance for thousands of years. As imagined, as soon as he got his boon Dambhodbhava wreaked havoc on the world.
Soon, Lord Vishnu intervened and one of his devotees gave birth to the ones who would kill the demon. Thus, Narayana and Nara were born. Narayana challenged the demon and broke his first armor. As per the boon, he died immediately. However, his brother Nara was very powerful from his meditation and he gave life to Narayana. Nara performed meditation for thousand years and Narayana fought the demon to break his armor one by one. This cycle went on till remaining 999 armors were down.
The fearful demon, now known as Sahasrakavacha, took refuge with Surya. When Nara demanded Sahasrakavacha, Surya refused to give him up. Thus, Nara cursed him. This happened at the end of one Yuga. In the next, Sahasrakavacha was born as Karna with a part of Surya in him. Nara and Narayana were reborn as Krishna and Arjuna. The misery and death of Karna were debts he was paying for his sins in previous life.
Despite his previous life’s karma, Karna will always be a brave, strong, fearless, and charitable character for me. Who is your favorite character in the epic saga Mahabharata? Let’s know in the comments below.