Everyone loves the story of a seemingly loser, or lesser provisioned and lesser known guy who rises beyond his limitations and emerges winner. We have already read about number of people who changed their destiny. But to me, someone whom I admire and inspires me the most is an underdog from the very pages of history of our own country.
His life had been full of misfortune right from childhood. This guy had it all; luck, hard-work, determination, talent, even powers; but still he failed in front of destiny. This is the story of an unsung hero from the epic Mahabharata, this is the story of Karna.
1. The accidental birth : A warrior who could very well have been part of any royal lineage and become king some day, was forced to live a life of banishment because of the immaturity and impatience of his unmarried mother, Kunti, who abandoned Karna fearing disgrace in the society.
2. The unfortunate curses : As Dronacharya only taught Kshatriyas, he rejected Karna to be his student. Karna then disguised as a brahmin and approached Parashurama, the Guru of Dronacharya, who hated Kshatriyas.
One afternoon Parashurama requested Karna to bring a pillow to sleep on under a tree shade. Karna instead offered his lap to his guru. While Parashurama was fast asleep a giant bee stung Karna’s thigh. Despite of the severe pain Karna didn’t move so as not to disturb his guru’s sleep. As the bee bared deeper the wound began to bleed. Parashurama was woken by the blood from Karna’s thigh. Then Parashurama deduced at once that Karna is a kshatriya and not a Brahmin because a brahmin can not endure such pain. So he cursed Karna that all his martial skill including use of the mighty Brahmastra would desert him when he needed them most.
3. Loyalty always came first :Before the war, Krishna confronted Karna and told him how he was actually the eldest of the Pandavas and the rightful heir to the throne, not Yudhishthir. Though Karna was elated in finding his real mother and father Surya, he declined to join ranks with Pandava out of his friendship and loyalty towards Duryodhana. In true terms, Karna was the the only one who followed dharma throughout his life.
4. Generous Karna : Karna never refused to give anything asked from him.
On the eve of Mahabharat battle, Lord Indra, following instructions of Krishna, disguised as an old brahmin went to Karna asked for his Kavach (shield) and Kundal (earrings) in daan (alms) Indra asked for this gift so as to reduce his strength, as he was apprehensive that Karna by virtue of his phenomenal skill as a warrior would defeat Arjuna. Karna was being cautioned by by Sun God about such move of Lord Indra. But Karna was so great hearted that he could not refuse anyone and inspite of knowing that Indra is playing a trick he parted his kavach and kundal, which were part of his body since birth and made him invincible.
5. Dharma till death: Karna’s is a story of a warrior, who kept fighting against all odds, but destiny and hardships kept defeating him at every step of his life. It could not have been a more ironical and saddening the way the very pious Karna of the way he laid down his life. A man, who all his life kept giving away to people around him, ended up giving his belongings even when he was dying.
When Karna was on his death bed Lord Indra and Surya had a dispute regarding his generosity. To settle this they disguised as two brahmins and approached him around sunrise, and asked him for alms. When Karna felt helpless as he had nothing left and was on his deathbed, he broke two of his teeth which had some gold and gave it to the brahmins.
6. The most deserving warrior : The story goes like this…
It was the last day of the war and everything had ended. Krishna on realizing this immediately drove the ratha on which arjuna was riding to the nearest forest and asked Arjuna to step down from the ratha instantly.
Arjuna did as said. Suddenly the ratha on which Arjuna was riding blasted into thousands of pieces. Arjuna on seeing this was stunned and asked Krishna for an explanation Krishna said “Arjuna do you remember, whenever you shot an arrow on Karna’s chariot, it would go 10 feet back, but i nevwr praised you. But whenever Karna shot an arrow on your chariot, even though it went merely a step back, I always complemented him by saying WHAT A SHOT!! “. “You did not know but on the flag pole of your chariot was sitting lord Hanuman, the strongest of all gods, who was suffering all the blows of your chariot.”
Arjuna said that he did not know it. Krishna then said. “You Arjuna were firing your arrows on only a simple man and were able to send him 10 steps back. Karna on the other hand was firing his arrows on a chariot with Lord Hanuman on its top (Hanuman, the mightiest of all) and on top of that on your chariot was I, I on whose shoulders resides the weight of the entire universe. If a simple man is able to push me and Hanuman together even a single step back, then that man deserved every complement I gave him. And the condition that you are seeing right now of your chariot is all because of Karna only, because no one else was able to fire a weapon on your chariot.”
That was the time when Arjuna realised the true power and strength that Karna had.
An important point to be seen here is that this was the only warrior that lord Krishna praised on the war field.
This is only because of his strength and power that he was able to force back the two most powerful and strong gods in the Hindu mythology.
Karna truly deserves respect and honor for the same.
7. The Fraudulent Death : As per legends, Karna fought with each one of the Pandavas except Arjuna, and defeated them all. Then he proceeded to defeat Arjuna, Before that, Krishna has already introduced Ghatotkach into the war, who gained power beyond limits during night, and was able to wipe out a major portion of the Kaurava army. Desperate for a breakthrough, Karna used his boon from Indra, the Vasav Shakti and killed Ghatotkach. But, now Karna could never re-use it and was stripped of a special power.
On the 17th day of Mahbharata, when Karna was fighting an intense battle with Arjuna. the wheels of his chariot got stuck in the soil. Karna tried to remember all his heavenly warfare incitations, but due to the curse of Parsuram, forgot it all. He requested Arjuna to stop the fight momentarily, to which Arjuna agreed, but Krishna reminded him of how his son Abhimanyu was killed unethically and how Draupadi was insulted in front of the entire court. This enraged Arjuna and he shot helpless Karna with a fatal blow.
8. Praised by Krishna : Lord Krishna was well aware that Karna is a generous and a righteous person. Bhagwad Gita also portrays him as a good individual and a gem of a person. At one stage in the midst of the war, Krishna even tells Arjuna that Karna is indeed a real warrior and far better than him.
Karna reminds me of the saying ”Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Despite so much pain and ill-fate, he never gave up and always did what was right in true sense.
All his life, Karna was ridiculed, shamed and humiliated. Every time. And not just by other characters. He was shamed by fate itself. But he never stopped learning, and never stopped fighting. And he never stopped being a loyal friend to Duryodhana.
And he never refused to stand up for what he believed in – Dharma.
And the most important of all – he never stopped giving. He gave away his most valuable at a request, even though he knew how cruel fate was.
So, if you think you have had a bad day, and life is not going as you want it to, take heart from the story of Karna and face it nonetheless, without fear of failure and without any interruption in learning.
Because at the end of the day, and at the end of time, were you unflinching in the eye of a cruel fate and stayed your path?
Because in real life, fate does seem to be cruel and life unfair.