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Re: Your research on Karna

30 Sep

I would greatly appreciate it, if could help me in understanding some aspects of Karna’s life.

I have, during my research, not really been able to find out the antecedents of Adhiratha, Vasusena’s adoptive father. And as you are well aware, a lot of the issues confronting the adolescent, and later, the adult Karna hinge on him being addressed as Sootaputra. I thought you could shed some light on this. Technically, Adhiratha’s mother should be a Brahmin/Rishi’s daughter, while his father would be a Kshatriya warrior King/ Prince, if he is a Soota.

Also, is it possible that Adhiratha, and Vidura (Also called Daasi-Suta {not Soota}) could have had some connection? Wasn’t Vidura’s wife Aruni (also a Soota, the daughter of King Devaka by a Shudra handmaid) also called Radha, as was Adhiratha’s wife (From whom Karna got the Metronymic Radheya)? Although, strictly going by definitions, Vidura is not really a Soota at all- he was born of a Shudra maid and Rishi Vyasa…

I would love to hear more from you on this… Blessings, Deepam

A nameless, aimless waif on earth.
Relentless Fate swoop’d thee to serve Her aim.
And veer’d thy steps into a nest of plots
And feuds: A Royal house of power-drunk sots,
Perdue to Pity, Chivalry, e’en shame!

Beguil’d with bribe of crown to battle in cause
Of king, who match’d thee ‘gainst thy very kin,
Thy valor, bounty, innocence of sin
Avail’d thee naught ‘gainst unjust death. Alas!
Befooled babe ‘gainst Fate’s bewildering odds!
Bejeweled bauble of the jeering Gods!

—T.P. Kailasam

Welcome

1.1. Dear Shri Deepamjee, You are welcome. Thank you for asking the questions. I find the subject of your research quite interesting; and more interesting is your background. You say that after being an Officer in  the Army  and quitting it about a dozen years ago you have taken up research; and have authored a book on ‘The Timeless Faith: Dialogues on Hinduism’.

1.2. You mentioned that you registered on Sulekha only in order to talk to me. That’s ok. May I suggest you stay here and look around; you will find a number of wonderfully gifted persons who write with great skill and enterprise on diverse subjects . Your interactions could be mutually beneficial.

1.3. You have raised a number of issues and my response might be lengthy. I therefore prefer to post it as blog, rather than as a comment or send it to you  by E-mail .I reckon that if posted on the net it might also help those looking for similar answers.

1.4. I suggest you read my earlier posts on Draupadi, Kunti and Satyavathi, the three most remarkable women of Mahabharata who wielded enormous influence and power with skill and sagacity over the lives of those around them; and more importantly they knew precisely when not to exhibit their power. You might also read my post on the concept of Dharma as it was employed and demonstrated in Mahabharata. This article briefly discusses some of the issues related to your research; it might be of use, modestly.

The Question of Caste

2.1. Since your questions touch upon caste and other social issues, it is important to understand the matrix of the then prevailing system.

The question of caste and the systems of its classifications and sub- classifications played a crucial role in the story of Mahabharata; and particularly in the lives of those  disadvantaged ones. The caste spread its tentacles deep into every aspect of the Mahabharata society; and had a vise- like stranglehold over matters concerning ones position and rights in the society, as also the matters related to property –rights, inheritance etc.

2.2. The Mahabharata society functioned, I reckon, not as a collection of free individuals enjoying equal rights; or as a cohesive society bound together by a set of equitable –common civil laws. Its society was viewed as a community made up of distinct caste groups. Its specific position in social hierarchy, its economic and social functions, rights and responsibilities of each group were well recognized and articulated.

The Bhagavad-Gita tried to mollify a bad situation that was getting worse by clarifying that the four-way classification was indeed based on ones merit or excellence (guna) and functions (karma).But that sadly remained an academic placation.

2.3. A person in the Mahabharata society derived his position and rights by virtue of being a   member of a given caste-group rather than as an individual on the strength of  his merits. The questions of his status, his inheritance as also those of his offspring were decided in the context of his sub caste-group. The matter would usually be fairly simple and well laid out when both the husband and wife belonged to the same caste-group. But, it would get rather complicated when man and woman came from different caste-groups.

The then Law-givers went into great lengths to classify and sub-classify the offspring of such inter-caste marriages, in order to determine their status and rights. There were, of course, supplementary questions that begged for answers. Such uncomfortable questions  arose in the context of those born out of the wedlock or of those born to a re-married woman and such other complications.

Towards the end of the epic, in the Shanthi-parva, Yudhistira the newly anointed king queries, among other things, the wise old Bhishma strung on a bed of arrows:  “We hear of many disputes that arise out of the question of the sons. Do thou solve the doubt for us, who are bewildered “. Bhishma then initially lists out nine types or categories of sons who then are classified as those: (i) sons who belong to the family and have also the right to inherit; (ii) and as those sons who only belong to the family, but have not the right to inherit. Bhishma then goes on to list twelve other types of sons who are born out of man and woman who belong to different castes.

Of these the first six are termed apadh-vamsaja (three types born of a Brahman with Kshatriya, Vaishya or Sudra woman; two types born of a Kshatriya with Vaishya or Sudra woman; and one type born of a Vaishya with a Sudra woman); and six other types termed apasada (three types born of Sudra with Brahman, Kshatriya or Vaishya woman; two types born of a Vaishya with Brahman or Kshatriya woman; and, one type born of a Kshatriya with Brahman woman). Apart from these there are also other categories born outside –wedlock with or the without the express approval of the husband; sons of re-married woman; sons born to widows, sons born to virgins; as also those sons adopted, sons gifted, adopted from other parents; those abandoned infants picked up from the street and whose parentage is not known; and, sons bought for price etc. The rights of inheritance or otherwise, the caste and the social status of each category are also listed.

2.4. The later text the Arthasastra (dated around the third century BCE) fairly well enumerated the classifications based on the distinction whether the male was of a superior caste (anuloma) or whether the female was of a superior caste (pratiloma). Those were again sub-classified depending on how far a spouse ranked below the other.

For instance, the son begotten by a Brahman from a Kshatriya woman was a murddhabhishikta (an anantaráputráha or savarna marriage); a son begotten by a Brahman from a Vaishya woman was ambashtha; and a son begotten by a Brahman  from a Sudra woman was a Nisháda or Párasava. Similar classifications were provided for Kshatriyas and Vaishyas who married below their caste-rank .The rights of those offrsprings diminished progressively. [Chapter VII : “Distinction between Sons” in the section of “Division of Inheritance” in Book III, “Concerning law” of the Arthasástra of Kautilya.]

2.5. Under a similar classification, the offspring begotten by a Brahman woman from a Kshatriya male was called Suta; her offspring from a Vaishya male was Videha; and her offspring from a Sudra was a Sudra. Similar sub-classifications were provided for Kashatriya and Vaishya women marring below their caste-rank. The Artha-sastra said, the sons begotten by a Súdra on women of higher castes were Ayogava, Kshatta, and Chandála. The term Kshatta, however, had earlier had a totally different connotation in the Mahabharata times, as we shall see in the next paragraph.

2.6. The sub-classifications briefly outlined above might look rather pedantic and obtuse. But, they had the bite to inject pain and humiliation into the lives of many virtuous but underprivileged persons in the Mahabharata tale.

The caste issue was a tragedy that not merely marred the lives of some its characters but it also turned into a bane and curse on the countless generations that followed.

The Sutas

3.1. The offspring born of a Brahman woman from her Kshatriya husband was labeled a Suta. You come across a number of Sutas in the Mahabharata story; and most of them played crucial but thankless roles; and endured humiliation and pain.

The terms Suta and Suti or Sauti (son of suta) appear to have gained currency at a later time. For instance Yadu the ancestor of the Yadavas in which linage Krishna and Balarama descended was the son of the legendry  King Yayathi (Kshatriya) and Devayani (daughter of the Brahman Guru Shukracharya) . Yadu was technically a Suta –  as per the norms that later came into use ; but, Yadu was never addressed as a Suta , nor his descendents were termed Sauti.

3.2. The Sutas of Mahabharata traditionally served the kings and functioned as their charioteers (Rathakára); and as those who reported events, narrated stories, read out massages and took out messages from the king. They were also the repositories of the lore and genealogies of the Royal dynasties. The Sutas in general, were confidants of the king, at times his advisers; and moved closely with the king while he was in his living quarters (anthahpura).

But Sutas were never treated as friends of the king; nor were they provided living quarters in the palace per se .There are hardly any instances of Sutas  being offered Brahman or Kshatriya brides, in marriage. The Sutas married among themselves; and followed the customs and avocations their ancestors.

3.3. To mention some of the Sutas, Sanjaya (the son of Gavalgana who also was in the service of the kings of Hasthinapur) the charioteer who was temporarily bestowed  long-distance-vision of the happenings on the battle fields of Kurukshetra;  and who narrated the war events to his blind king Dhritarashtra was a Suta.

Ugrashrava (meaning one blessed with high or loud voice) was often addressed as Sauti(the son of a Suta). He was the son of a Suta Lomaharsha or Lomaharshana or Romaharshana(because of his delightful and thrilling manner of narration). Lomaharshana Suta is the one who narrated the Srimad Bhagavata purana to the sage Saunaka and other at Naimsaranya – a forest named after the king of the yore Nimi.  His son Ugrashrava   recited in verse the entire epic story of Mahabharata, also to the sages in Naimsaranya.Ugrashrava  was revered as one well versed in all puranas.

While Ramayana is sublime poetry, Mahabharata is the vigor of the spoken language studded with extensive use of similes, metaphors and symbolic allegories. It portrays the living language of the times with blessings, curses, oaths, sane advise, humour,  ranting , heart wrenching shrieks , sagely preaching etc  conveying every shade of human emotions.

The beauty of its language is in its oral rendering. Even today, groups of devote listeners love to gather around a narrator to listen in divine fervor to the ancient tales the glory of their heroes and heroines, rather than read the epic.

[Incidentally, another explanation for Naimsaranya is the time-less zone of peace: nimisha = unit of time; naimisha = timeless; aranya = a zone free from conflicts (ranya) or a zone of peace]

3.4. Kichaka, the half-brother of Sudeshna the queen of the Matsya king Virata, was also a Suta. In the entire sordid story of Mahabharata, Kichaka perhaps was the only Suta who had his way and who enjoyed his style of life. But, he lost his head, overreached himself and eventually met a rather an ignoble end.

Karna was a Suta-putra, the son of a Suta, which meant he was inferior to  a Suta.

.…And the others

4.1. There were others of a similar class; such as Vaitalikas who called out aloud the hour of the day or night, and also keep track of genealogy (vamsavali-kirtaka); and, the Vandi –Magadhas who recite the glory  , the titles and aceivements of the kings ; herald their arrival into the Royal Court and recite blessings.  Most of them, just as the Sutas, were men of virtue, wisdom and valor; and they served their masters with devotion. They were, however, denied the recognition they deserved, mainly because of their birth antecedents. The ponderous Mahabharata hides in its bosom countless stories of unspoken pain, sorrow and humiliation. That is one of the tragedies of its sordid tale.

4.2. For instance, the blind king Dhritarashtra fathered a son named Yuyutsu, from his servant maid, a Vaishya woman. Yuyutsu was thus technically a mahishya (the son of a Kshatriya father and a vaishya mother); and, he was acknowledged as such in public. He was younger to Duryodhana and elder to Dushyasana; but was snubbed and neglected because he was a mahishyaand not a full-blooded prince. Yuyutsu was the only one, in the crowded court-hall, that had the courage and sanity to disapprove Duryodhana’s heinous behavior and the humiliation meted out to Draupadi, the kula-vadha. And later when the war looked imminent, he pleaded in vain withDuryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas; and to avoid needless bloodshed.  When the war did eventually happen, Yuyutsu chose to fight along with the Pandavas against his step brothers. Yuyutsu was the only Kaurava that survived the internecine bloodbath. Yet, Yuyutsu the  mahishya  could not succeed to the Kaurava throne ; while Arjuna’s grandson Parikshit was made the king of Hasthinapur;  and Krishna’s grandson Vajra was made the king of the other remaining half of the kingdom , Indraprastha . Yuyutsu was made only a prime minister of Indraprastha on the eve of Pandava’s departure from the earthly world.

4.3. You mentioned Vidura. He was not a Suta. He was repeatedly addressed by all as Kshatta; perhaps meaning a kshetraja a son born to a woman from a man (other than the husband) appointed to impregnate her. Vidura’s mother was a servant maid to the queen while his father was Vyasa, a sage. The term Kshatta, centuries later, acquired a totally different meaning in the Artha Sastra, where Kshatta meant a son begotten by a Súdra male from a women of higher caste.

Among the three de-jure sons of Vichitravirya, only Vidura was wise, and sound both in body and mind. He could not however be treated as equal to Pandu and Dhritarashtra born of Kshatriya mothers. Bhishma, the grand-old-man, brought brides from Kshatriya families for Pandu and Dhritarashtra. But for Vidura he got the daughter of king Devaka ‘begotten upon a Sudra wife’. Her name was Parshavya. She was technically an ugra (begotten by a Kshatriya on a Súdra woman). It is said ‘Vidura begot upon her many children like unto himself in accomplishments’. His no other family details are easily available. http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01115.htm

Dhritarashtra seemed to have affection towards Vidura, but he ordered him about, and often dismissed him rudely. Vidura was for all purposes a half-brother of the king but could claim neither  right nor respect.

Vidura was a person of great wisdom, he often advised the King even on matters relating to the State. But none of the Kauravas, including the blind king, cared to listen to him or follow his counsel. His role was unenviable and frustrating.  He knew the right way; but had to watch a helpless onlooker  when  everything was going  wrong hurling down  towards death and destruction.

When all his attempts to avoid the war ended in failure, Vidura withdrew from all state affairs, stayed aloof and did not participate in the war . After the end of the ruinous war Vidura out of loyalty and love for his step brother retreated into the forests along with Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Kunti; and eventually gave up his coils in forest fire.

4.5. Karna was a suta-putra, the son of a Suta, which meant he was below the rank of Suta. Because, Suta was born to a Kashatriya and a Brahman; and the Suta-putra was the offspring of Suta parents. Karna, all his life endured taunts, insults and humiliation for being a Suta-putra. That hurt him grievously.

But it was the rejection and insult thrown in his face by Draupadi, at her swayamvara that hurt him most. Draupadi, yajnaseni the flashing one born out of fire, insisted on being declared a Veeryashulka, a bride to be won by the worthiest and the very best; and she vehemently protested against the lowborn Suta-putra entering the contest.That pain and humiliation burned deep into his soul searing his self esteem. It was like a raw wound that never would heal. Karna later in his life did not let go a slightest opportunity to hurt and humiliate Draupadi.  He shamefacedly participated in the outrage mounted on her modesty. That sowed the seeds of destruction of the Kaurava clan.

Duryodhana treated Karna as a bosom friend. He provided him an identity, recognition and esteem by making him the King of Anga. But, he would not offer him a Kshatriya princess in marriage. Karna was a good friend but he fell short of being a Kinsman.

As the war began, Bhishma the commander-in-chief of the kaurava armies ranked Karna as an Ardha-rathi which was inferior to the ranks of Maha-rathi, Ati-rathi and Rathi. [A warrior capable of fighting 60,000 warriors simultaneously; having mastery over all forms of weapons and combat skills was termed Maharathi. while a warrior capable of contending with 10,000 warriors simultaneously was an Atirathi]. Though Karna by then was universally recognized as a Maha-rathin, Bhishma degraded him to half of a capable warrior, perhaps just to spite the Sutaja. Karna understandably was deeply hurt and insulted; and he withdrew from the battle till Bhishma fell

Towards the end of the war, Shalya the king of Madra (the maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva) a skilled horseman was tricked by Duryodhana into being Karna’s charioteer. Shalya suppressed his anger at being cheated to act as a charioteer to a Suta-putra; but did upset Karna and dampen his fighting spirit, in order to ensure Karna’s defeat.

The Karna – Shalya rancorous repartee is not in high flowing language and in rather bad taste; it also refers to slang and abusive oaths and cusses of the women of Madra region (Punjab – Sialkot area)

All those heaps of insults, treachery and conspiracy of fate  did eventually burnt a deep hole in his heart; and he lost the will to live.

Adhiratha

5.1. Adhiratha, the foster father of karna, was a Suta. His father was a Kshatriya king and his mother a Brahman. Adhiratha was born of Satyakarma (satkarma) the king of Anga (a region around the present-day Bhagalpur in Bihar) from his Brahman wife.

Who was this Satyakarman or Satyakarma or Satkarma?

5.2. Satyakarma of Chandravamsha (Lunar dynasty) was the son of Dhrtavrata; who was the son of Druthi who in turn was the son of Vijaya. And, Vijaya was the son of Bruhanmana from his second wife Satya. Bruhanmana was the son of Jayadratha by his wife Sambhuti.

The Ninth Canto, Twenty-third Chapter, of the Srimad-Bhagavata, entitled “The Dynasties of the Sons of Yayati” provides a very long list of names tracing Satkarma to Yayathi.  http://bvml.org/books/SB/09/23.html

5.2. “The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Puranas” by Parmeshwaranand Swami, in a relatively brief form traces the genealogy of Sathyakarman to the ancient King Yayathi:

Yayathi – Anudruhya –Sabhanara – Kalanara – Srnjaya – Titiksha – Kasadhrta – Homa – Sutapas.

From Sutapas and his wife Sateshna was born Bali who had seven sons: Anga, Kalinga, Sushma, Kandra, Vanga, Adrupa and Anasbhu.

Anga was the progenitor of a linage. To Anga were born several sons including the following: Dadhivrata, Raviratha, Dharmaratha, Chitraratha, Sathyaratha, Lomapada, Chaturanga, Pruthu, Haryanga and Bhadraratha.

Bhadraratha had following sons:    Jayadratha, Bhadramanas, Vijaya, Dhruthi, Dhartavrata and Satyakarman.

Satyakarman was the father of Adhiratha who was the foster father of Karna; and Karna was the father of Vrasasena.

5.3. It appears that Satyakarma had sons by his Kshatriya wife; and they succeeded him as kings of Anga. His other son Adhiratha begotten from his Brahman wife was a Suta who, as per the tradition, became a charioteer. It is likely that Adhiratha was at one time in the employ of king Dhritharastra of Hasthinapur, as his charioteer.

5.4. Adhiratha (at times called Surasena) was married to Radha, another Suta offspring. At the time Adhiratha and Radha found the baby- Karna in a box set adrift on the Ganga, they had no children, yet. But, after he and Radha adopted Karna as their son, they were blessed with four sons: Shatruntapa, Dhruma, Vrtharatha and Vipata.

In the later years, Shatruntapa died at the hands of Arjuna during the Uttrara-go-grahana misadventure on the outskirts of the Viratanagara the capital of Matsya Desha. The other three died in the Kurukshetra war during the days when Acharya Drona was commanding the Kaurava forces. Dhruma and Vrtharatha were killed by Bhima; and Vipata was killed by Arjuna.

[I did not come across a connection between Vidura and his wife with Adhiratha and his wife Radha.

Vidura’s wife was Parasavya; and Adhiratha’s wife as you said was Radha.

Adhiratha was a Suta while Vidura was a kshatta born of Sudra woman from Vyasa. Vidura was also said to be a kshetraja one born of a male appointed to impregnate the female.

The name Adhiratha is not to be mistaken for the term Ati-rathin a classification of warriors based on their supposed capabilities and valour. ]

6. Biographic details of Karna

6.1. The biographic details of karna are interspersed in bits and pieces at four different places in the Mahabharata : in Adi-Parva – SECTION CXI (Sambhava Parva);  in Vana Parva from SECTION CCCI to SECTION CCCVIII ;in Udyoga Parva SECTION CXLI ; and , in :SANTI PARVA – SECTION I  through to SECTION VI.[The references relate to sections in  Shri Kesari Mohan Ganguli’s monumental translation The Mahabharata of Krishna-dwaipayana Vyasa]

6.2. The first reference briefly mentions the birth antecedents and infancy of Karna. The second one in Vana Parva which follows Karna’s dream-conversation with Surya, his parent, warning against hoax requests exploiting his generosity is fairly detailed .It covers the early story of Kunti (Prutha) too: about her maidenhood in the household of Kuntibhoja her foster parent; serving the irascible sage Durvasa; helpless encounter with the Sun god; begetting out-of-wedlock a most wonderful looking adorable bright son, and out of sheer shame and fear of sullying the fair-name of her family, tearfully abandoning her firstborn setting him adrift the Aswa River. The narration continues along with the casket carrying the new born floating along the Aswa River then on to the Charmanvati (Chambal), the Yamuna and finally joining the River Ganga where Adhiratha and his wife Radha find the baby, joyously bring the little boy home, name him as Vasusena and bring him up most lovingly.  Kunti, all the time, through her spies keeps track of her son growing up in the Sutha family. In this section, it is said,   Adhiratha the foster father later sends Karna to Hastnapur for education under the famous teacher Drona. The story in this section concludes with Karna gifting away his invincible Kavacha (shield) and Kundala (earrings) to Indra in disguise, despite Surya‘s warning and sane counsel…

6.3. The third narration which occurs in Udyoga Parva is a brief one , wherein Karna in conversation with Krishna ,who tried to entice him,   reminiscences his early childhood lovingly enveloped in the care and affection of the Suta family and particularly of his mother Radha. He fondly recalls his early upbringing and education provided by his foster family: “When also I attained to youth, I married wives according to his selections. Through them have been born my sons and grandsons, O Janardana. My heart also, O Krishna, and all the bonds of affection and love, are fixed on them. From joy or fear. O Govinda. I cannot venture to destroy those bonds even for the sake of the whole earth or heaps of gold. “

It was a very mature, restrained and almost a sagely reply. He speaks with a great sense of responsibility and commitment to his values in life, hiding    his deep sense of sorrow and betrayal behind calm courage that almost borders on suicidal detachment.

6.4. The fourth narration in Shanthi Parva occurs after the death of Karna. This occurs at the commencement of Shanthi Parva soon after the conclusion of the internecine bloodbath at the Kurukshetra war.   Yudhistira   on learning from Kunti, Karna’s identity is distraught and heartbroken. He laments over the cruelty and irony of fate that conspired forcing him to kill his elder brother Karna for the sake of reclaiming the lost kingdom. “I desire to hear everything from thee, O holy one!’ he cried out in anguish. At the request of Yudhistira, Sage Narada recounts the tale of Karna from his birth, childhood, education and his deeds and misdeeds in company of his friend and benefactor Duryodhana.  This narration covers a little more ground than the earlier two; and also speaks of Karna’s adult life in service of Duryodhana. Narada explains the wrongs that Karna committed were prompted by his sense of abandonment, loneliness, bitterness and envy of the Pandavas particularly of his rival and challenger Arjuna.

It is this section which mentions that Karna in his early tutelage with Drona approaches the teacher (Drona), in private, requesting to be taught the secret of “the Brahma weapon, with all its mantras and the power of withdrawing it”, for he desired to fight Arjuna. Drona of course promptly refuses saying ‘None but a Brahmana, who has duly observed all vows, should be acquainted with the Brahma weapon, or a Kshatriya that has practiced austere penances, and no other.’ Thereafter Karna promptly takes leave of Drona and proceeded without delay to Parasurama then residing on the Mahendra mountains introducing himself as ‘I am a Brahmana of Bhrigu’s race.’ Karna thereafter spent perhaps the happiest days of his life acquiring all the knowledge, skills and all the weapons; becoming a great favorite of his teacher, the gods, the Gandharvas, and the Rakshasas. That happiness was short-lived. Soon two tragedies and two curses struck him. Please check for details the links provided above.

[The Karna -Parasurama episode could obviously have occurred between the period of Karna’s early education with Drona (at the instance of Adhiratha the foster parent of Karna) and the game-show at Hastinapura at which the bright and belligerent Karna was anointed the King of the Anga province. Towards the end of the game-show Adiratha enters the arena and blesses his son Karna; and the whole world thereafter comes to recognize Karna as the son of Adhiratha the Suta.

Karna’s education with Parasurama was apparently before he was appointed the King of Anga-Desha and not later. Because, after that happening there was no way that Karna famed as the friend and confidant of the prince of Hastinapura could have gone to Parasurama in undercover calling himself as ‘I am a Brahmana of Bhrigu’s race.’]

Karna – your questions

7.1. The childless couple Adhiratha and Radha found the enchanting baby Karna in a box filled with gold-jewels, drifting on the waves of the Ganga. They were overwhelmed with joy and adopted the new found baby as their son.

Adhiratha took away the box from the water-side, and opened it by means of instruments. And then he beheld a boy resembling the morning Sun. And the infant was furnished with golden mail, and looked exceedingly beautiful with a face decked in ear-rings. And thereupon the charioteer, together with his wife, was struck with such astonishment that their eyes expanded in wonder. And taking the infant on his lap, Adhiratha said unto his wife, ‘Ever since I was born, O timid lady, I had never seen such a wonder. This child that hath come to us must be of celestial birth. Surely, sonless as I am, it is the gods that have sent him unto me!’

And after Karna’s adoption, Adhiratha had other sons begotten by himself. And seeing the child furnished with bright mail and golden ear-rings, the twice-born ones named him Vasusena. And thus did that child endued with great splendour and immeasurable prowess became the son of the charioteer, and came to be known as Vasusena and Vrisha.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03307.htm ]

7.2. Karna recounts to Krishna (in Udyoga-parva) his early child hood. He speaks with great warmth about his foster parents; fondly recalling the love they showered on him narrates how they doted on him,  how they brought him up in the Suta tradition and how they got him married to a Suta bride.

As soon as he beheld me, took me to his home, and from her affection for me, Radha’s breasts were filled with milk that very day, and she cleansed my urine and evacuations.

So also Adhiratha of the Suta class regardeth me as a son, and I too, from affection, always regard him as (my) father.

Adhiratha from paternal affection caused all the rites of infancy to be performed on my person, according to the rules prescribed in the scriptures. It is that Adhiratha, again, who caused the name Vasusena to be bestowed upon me by the Brahmanas.

When I attained to youth, I married wives according to his selections.

All my family rites and marriage rites have been performed with the Sutas.

[ http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/editorials/mahabharata/udyoga/mahabharata142.htm ]

Karna retained loyalty and loving relationship with his foster parents till his death.

7.3. He was initially named Vasusena as he was found with ornaments of gold. He was Karna because he was adorned with most precious and glowing ear-ornaments. His other names were: Radheya (the son of Radha, his foster mother); Vrisha; Vrikartana (the Sun); Bhanuja (Sun’s son); Goputra; Vaikarttana (because he gave away the kavacha and earrings he was born with); Angaraja (the king of Anga); Champadhipa (king of Champa, a region along the banks of the Ganga). And of course he was also called Sutaputra,; Sutaja; Kanina( one born to a Kanya an unmarried girl); and Bhishma deliberately insulted Karna by labeling him an Ardha-rathi , one who has  only half the fighting  capacity of a valiant warrior. That was the unkindest cut of all.

7.4. Karna’s wife is named as Vrushali, a Suta (The names such as Prabhavathi and Supriya are also mentioned as the other wives of Karna, But, Kesari Mohan Ganguli’s monumental translation “The Mahabharata of Krishna-dwaipayana Vyasa” does not seem to mention those names).It is very likely that Karna had more than one wife. Karna mentioned to Krishna: “When I attained to youth, I married wives according to his (Adhiratha) selections”.

7.5. As regards his sons, Karna had several sons and the names of nine of his sons are mentioned. Of the nine, only one survived the Kurukshetra war.

Vrasasena; Sudhama; Shatrunjaya; Dvipata; Sushena; Satyasea; Chitrasena; Susharma(Banasena); and Vrishakethu .

Sudhama died in the melee that followed Draupadi’s swayamvara. Shatrunjaya and Dvipata died in the Kurukshetra war at the hands of Arjuna during the days when Drona commanded the Kaurava forces. Sushena was killed in the war by Bhima. Satyasena, Chitrasena and Susharma died in the hands of Nakula. Karna’s eldest son Vrasasena died during the last days of the war when Karna was the commanded the battle forces. Vrasasena was killed by Arjuna.

Vrushasena’s death is described in all its gruesome detail:

Arjuna rubbed the string of his bow and took aim at Vrishasena in that battle, and sped, O king, a number of shafts for the slaughter of Karna’s son. The diadem-decked Arjuna then, fearlessly and with great force, pierced Vrishasena with ten shafts in all his vital limbs. With four fierce razor-headed arrows he cut off Vrishasena’s bow and two arms and head. Struck with Partha’s shafts, the son of Karna, deprived of arms and head, fell down on the earth from his car, like a gigantic shala adorned with flowers falling down from a mountain summit. Beholding his son, thus struck with arrows, fall down from his vehicle, the Suta’s son Karna, endued with great activity and scorched with grief on account of the death of his son, quickly proceeded on his car, inspired with wrath, against the car of the diadem-decked Partha.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08085.htm

Some versions mention that a son of Karna died in the battle with Abhimanyu. But, his name is not given.

Vrishakethu was the only son of Karna that survived the horrific slaughter called Kurukshetra war. He later came under the patronage of the Pandavas. During the campaign that preceded the Ashvamedha –yaga, Vrishakethu accompanied Arjuna and participated in the battles with Sudhava and Babruvahana. During that campaign Vrishakethu married the daughter of king Yavanatha (perhaps a king of the western regions).  It is said, Arjuna developed great affection for Vrishakethu, his nephew.

wedding of vrushakethu

 

 

76. As regards Karna’s tragic end, so much has been written about those heart wrenching scenes; one can hardly say any more. To put it simply:

The seventeenth day of the war began fairly well for Karna. In the early part of the day, Karna defeated Bhima and Yudhisthira, but spared their lives. Later in the day Karna resumed his duel with Arjuna. During their duel, Karna’s chariot wheel got struck in the mud and Karna asked for a pause. Krishna reminded Arjuna about Karna’s ruthlessness unto Abhimanyu while he was similarly stranded without chariot and weapons. Hearing his son’s fate, the enraged Arjuna shot his arrow and decapitated Karna.

7.7. All his life, Karna carried in his heart the searing raw wound of unrecognized greatness. The many insults and humiliations he had to endure were because of his supposedly low birth. That led him to a quest for recognition and respect from his fellow beings as the mightiest Kshatriya of his times.  His feats of great heroism, his bitter rivalry with Arjuna were fueled mainly by that ambition. “I was born for valour; I was born to achieve glory” (43.6). Karna was the blazing but the sinking Sun among the dark clouds of the Kauravas.

Vyasa mourns Karna: “The arrow raved Karna-Sun, after scorching its enemies, was forced to set by valiant Arjuna –kala” (91.62)

Kunti  praises her first-born, her dead son as “A hero, ear-ringed, armoured, and splendid like the Sun”; ”He was all dazzle like molten gold , like fire , like the Sun”; “ To whoever asked he gave, he never said no..Always the giver” (94.34)

7.8. The lives of the Sutas and of the similar other ones are filled with unspoken pain and neglect. When you come to think of it, you realize that none of the major characters – men and women even of royal blood – had a happy and peaceful life. Their lives too were filled with struggle, sorrow and frustration. Each one – virtuous or otherwise- was disillusioned, in the end.

7.9. Vyasa concludes the epic imploring all humans to adhere to Dharma and to practice Dharma. And, for some reason, the Great Vyasa in desperation pours out his frustration, screaming aloud:

“With raised hands, I shout at the top of my voice; but alas, no one hears my words which can give them Supreme Peace, Joy and Eternal Bliss. One can attain wealth and all objects of desire through Dharma (righteousness). Why do not people practice Dharma? One should not abandon Dharma at any cost, even at the risk of his life. One should not relinquish Dharma out of passion or fear or covetousness or for the sake of preserving one’s life….”   

Trust this helps. .Please let me know. Regards

 

References and sources:

The Mahabharata of Krishna-dwaipayana Vyasa  by Shri Kesari Mohan Ganguli

Purana Bharata Kosha by shri Yagnanarayana Udupa

The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Puranas by   Parmeshwaranand Swami

The Mahabharata of Vyasa By Prof. P. Lal

 Pictures are from internet

 http://bvml.org/books/SB/09/23.html

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m05/m05141.htm

http://www.dharmakshetra.com/literature/puranas/garuda.html

http://www.swaveda.com/elibrary.php?id=85&action=show&type=etext

 
24 Comments

Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Mahabharata

 

Tags: , , ,

24 responses to “Re: Your research on Karna

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:44 am

    mahabharath
    signifies to me the movement form an agrarian era to a technological era..
    the identites that get cerated in the transition typify the charecters of the maha bharath
    arjuna represents the deep ambivalence of the being which is the core identity
    if indians ..
    “to be or become”
    gets to the core at the time of great test ..the war
    even the full treatise of bahgavath gita
    could not polarise him to go to one side
    in the struggle between his social identity and the task identity..
    finally krishna had to show his vishwarupa to help him polarise..by giving energy to his being

    but karna resolevd it through his personal affiliative allegiance to duryodhana..
    a person who gave legitamecy to his becoming
    with the contamination of illegitanacy in his being the
    need for legitamacy by authority took precednce and the dharma
    was intepreted as loyalty to the king and his role…

    DSampath

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Dear Shri Sampath, You are a delight, as always. Karna was anchored in a faith, in his loyalty to his friend and benefactor who lent him an identity, esteem and recognition that was denied to him. He centered his life on that faith; and being true to his friend was, according to him, his Dharma.The Dharma is context sensitive.

      Arjuna, all through his life was a follower; he inherited the convictions of his elders and obeyed his guide Krishna. At the crucial hour he did crumble; and as ever, his friend and guide helped him out. I am not sure if Arjuna understood entirely the wisdom in Krishna’s words or his perception of life. He was just overwhelmed by the awe and wonder of the terrifying spectacle. After the war, when the dust, blood and tears of the slaughter were put behind, Arjuna admits to Krishna that he did not understand what he said on the battlefield and requests him to repeat it. Krishna is naturally annoyed, and says it is rather impossible for him to render that version again, as he was then in a heightened state of consciousness. Krishna however obliges his friend by narrating the Anu Gita.

      As regards the characters in Mahabharata, they were essentially different from the characters of Ramayana .In Ramayana,the evil was easily identifiable with its grotesque exterior and it had its base in far off lands. Ramayana demonstrated that a person of steadfast faith established in Dharma would eventually vanquish evil and ignorance.

      Whereas in the Mahabharata tale,the evil had entered the hearts and minds of almost all of its men and women, all of whom came from the common heritage.The conflict that eventually took place was not between the absolute right and the wrong; but between two groups of cousins and their supporters; with a sprinkling of the noble among the crowds of not- so- noble. Pandavas themselves were not perfect, either. The stepping in of Krishna alone rescued the epic from degenerating into internecine family feud; and elevated it into a conflict of great significance to uphold Dharma. He taught the world that the ultimate conflict was not about land, riches or power but about the human spirit, the Dharma.

      I am not sure whether, when you mentioned transition from agrarian era to a technological era, you meant change from an age innocence, purity and nobility to a world of sullied characters with a complicated mental makeup. All the men and women in Mahabharata were on a quest of something that kept eluding; in search of their identity, their true self; or as you said “to be or become” something. And, most ended either disappointed or disillusioned. Please let me know.

      Pleasure talking to you

      Regards

       
  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Sir,
    I am overwhelmed! Thank you for such a detailed and exhaustive study! Many other questions do spring up…
    1. Realistically, what kind of Technology, Architecture, Weaponry. Battle Gear, Military Ethics and Battle Science could have existed during the period of the Mahabharata- for it was still Iron Age? The Films and TV serials do give a totally wrong picture- don’t you think? The clothing of that time too must have been very basic and simple- not like what is projected in the serials…
    2. Do you think Karna was educated in Anga before going to Drona and being rejected?
    3. One does not find any mention of people writing during the Mahabharata Era. So I would like to believe that people learned only through oral traditions only. Am I correct?
    4. I am not sure that the mythical Kavacha and Kundals of Karna really existed. Could it be that he was abandoned with a lot of gold and gemstones? Do you think Kunti abandoned him after the Karnabheda Samskara (which can be done soon after birth, if I am correct…)- having nourished the baby with her milk for a few days?
    5. Suppose, one were to discount all ‘divine powers’, Gods and goddesses, ‘celestial weapons’ and ‘Curses/ Boons’, what are we left with. Isn’t Mahabharat called an itihasa? I feel all the ‘ornamentation’ came much later. Then ‘what verily happened’?
    6. Did Karna really die at the hands of Arjuna or not- the Mahabharata says he did. But the Pitri paksha and Mahalaya tradition mentions he ‘came back’ and gave ‘Anna Daana’ for 14 days…
    7. Where was Karna during the 13 years of Pandavs’ vanavaasa/ agyaatvaasa? Except for his purported ‘desertion’ of Duryodhana, when he is held by the Gandharvas, we do not come to hear of him at all…
    8. What were the ‘great’ campaigns of Karna? He supposedly annexed territories for the Kuru empire. Some are mentioned in texts, but we do not come to know about his Military strategies and Battle heroics…
    9. Was his Kavacha really the source of invincibility? Nowhere do we see that the Kavacha really helped Kerna. He is supposed to have ‘deserted Duryodhana some seven times- if the texts are to be believed…
    10. Did Karna really speak his mind and instigate Dusshasana to disrobe Draupadi? If in the Kuru court, things were so that, as you say, even Vidura went unheard, would Duryodhana and Dusshasana have heeded anyone’s counsel, unless if it was to their own liking? The disrobing would have happened anyway- don’t you think?

    Deepamjee

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Dear Shri Deepam, Wow…it is now my turn to be overwhelmed. That’s a lot of question. I cannot claim I have the right answers to all of those questions, nor can I answer all at one time.

      To take your last question first, it appears to be a sort of moral story made up to highlight the virtues and merits of feeding the needy; anna being one of the most primary requisites for existence, next only to prana the vital breath. I am not sure if the story is mentioned in Mahabharata. But if you need a source you may try this link: http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Hindu_Rituals/id/23073

      May I suggest you step aside the and similar legends; else your research might become a river running into desert sands. It is of no avail in any manner.

      Your question at # 1 interests me most: The Historical perspective of warfare in Ancient India –types of wars -organization of the Army – Ethics of war – strategies- technologies including yantras (devices)-Armory- weapons- clothing- welfare of the Army (functions of the quartermaster) etc.

      India’s military history goes back to the Indus or Harappan people who flourished about 5 000 ago or from earlier times; the history of military fortifications or fortifications of the cities (pura) goes back even further. The subject however remains largely neglected by our historians. We know very little about the evolution of India’s military tactics and strategy during the ancient periods.

      A unique and commendable feature of warfare in ancient India was its success in bringing about some restraint and rules into the ethics of war for a humane conduct of war and the treatment of the vanquishes . It took several centuries for the rest of the world even to begin thinking of such dimensions of the war.

      Before coming to Mahabharata, you need to look elsewhere. Perhaps the best place to start is Rig Veda which describes the warriors their chariots equipments etc. as also the description of the Dasrajan War, the strategies and tactics employed by the combatants.

      For instance Rig Veda describes the warrior described the warrior on his chariot armed with his bow and arrows; dressed in armor or corselet or kavacha with a hand guard (hastaghna) on his left forearm to prevent friction with the elbow and also to avoid oncoming blows. The bow was usually kept relaxed and strung only when needed for shooting. The bow string (jya) was made of cowhide and guts. The string was drawn up to the ears, discharged from the ear. The arrow was called karnayoni; and the sound of the bowstring jyaghosha sounded sweet to the ear of the warrior. The bow the proud , the beloved possession of the warrior was the last to be taken away from a dead warrior.

      The next is the portions of Kautilya’s Arthashastra (c. 350-275 BC) dealing with all aspects of war as also with matters before and after the war.It also talks about war diplomacy and interstate relations; the dharmayuddha (ethical warfare); and the kutayuddba (devious warfare).

      There is abundant information on warriors, the armies, the war and after in these texts.

      The strategies described in these texts sadly remained virtually unchanged till about 7th -8th century or say till about the Muslim invasion. These texts, for some reason, came to be regarded as Shastras rather than as war manuals which need to be updated and honed day-after-day. Such loyalty to the’ shastras ‘bred extreme conservatism in military doctrine and in conducts of wars; and eventually stunted the development of fresh thinking and innovations in the art of war. A comparison with the Chinese would highlight the Indian stagnation.

      After talking to you, I am tempted to consider writing on some these aspects of warfare in ancient India, as they appear in Rig Veda, Mahabharata and such other. But, you are the best suited, equipped and qualified. I wish you could attempt a comprehensive study; and bring in fresh perspectives.

      Let’s talk of the other questions, another time.

      Please keep talking.

      Regards

       
  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:45 am

    One other question comes to mind regarding the Mahalaya Pitra Paksha Tradition. It is said that Karna was sent back to do Anna Daana for 14 days by Lord Yama as he had not done any Anna Daana when alive and so he was having great trouble in the higher planes without food and water. He had donated only gold and silver, which he had been given back thousand fold.
    Could you help me locate the authentic source of this anecdote in Mahabharata (or any other scripture) to corroborate this?
    Thank you once again,

    Deepam

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Dear Shri Deepamjee, Let me initially attempt answering a few questions which I presume I can deal. I shall later try finding clues to other ones for which I do not have the answers, by consulting books, persons and other sources. As you rightly observed, there are no satisfactory answers to all the questions. There are contradictory versions; the authenticity of some texts is also questionable; some events do not seem to fit into the chronological order; there are a few unexplained gaps; and quite a number of events seem eminently passable. Your judgment is the key; and your rationale is the light that illumines your argument.

      Q: One does not find any mention of people writing during the Mahabharata Era. So I would like to believe that people learned only through oral traditions only. Am I correct?

      As you mentioned the oral traditions were the principle repositories and conveyers of accumulated lore and legends. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that vast empires which spread across several kingdoms were administered by mere word of mouth. The kings, ministers and court officials that figure in these epics seemed to have been men of learning, wisdom and sophistication. I presume that some form of writing must have existed during those ancient times. Even in the Rig Veda there are references to chandas (metre), lines in a metre and no of syllables in a line. There are references to what it terms as ‘the seen’ language; perhaps to graphic representation of spoken words. In the absence of some form of writing it would have been very difficult to compose a vast quantity of hymns and sublime poetry.

      As regards Mahabharata, I understand that term ‘lekhi ‘(writing) and its other forms (lekhako, lekhani, etc.) appears the text (Aadi 1.77- 78). There are references to messages in writing sent through emissaries to their lovers (eg.Rukmani) as also to the courts of kings. It is also said the arrows were inscribed with the names of the warriors (eg.Drona). A grantha (book) meant palm leaves bundled together.

      But there is catch here .The Mahabharata tale survived in circulation, perhaps, over centuries before it was reduced to writing. One has to therefore make distinction between the ‘event-time” that is ‘the time when the events actually took place’ and the time those events were reduced in writing into a narration. If we are talking about the times the epic was written, one can safely conclude that writing was in vogue. The epic, in fact, commences with the problem encountered by its author Sage Vyasa in writing down hundreds of thousands of stanzas. As regards the ‘event-tme’ it is quite likely the author might have seamlessly blended the ‘current practices’ into the ancient tale. So, that still leaves us with the question whether writing was in existence at the ‘event-time’.

      I think, one can presume that the writing skills were known to ancient people of Mahabharata; but, the script they employed is lost to us.

      Do we know the ultimate fate of the Dowager Queens Satyavati, Ambika and Ambalika. Does Kunti meet ever her Mother in Laws?

      Yes she did.After the untimely and tragic death of her grandson Pandu death, Satyavati was broken, sad and disillusioned. , Satyavati realized how in vain were her efforts to capture and retain power. She then meekly obeyed her son Vyasa who advised her the coming years would be full of conflicts and horrors and she might not endure those miseries: “The green years of the earth are gone. . . . . Do not be a witness to the suicide of your own race.” Vyasa counseled her to leave the court and retire to the forest with her daughters-in-law. She did accordingly; and, they all died soon thereafter. (Adi parva)

      What made Bhishma so full of hatred for Karna, in spite of knowing of his true parentage?

      Bhishma might not have hated Karna; but, he did nothing to help Karna. Bhishma was a person of inaction though endowed with knowledge and strength. He was never a leader; nor did he take initiatives.

      How authentic is Shivaji Savant’s Mrityunjaya? I did find it biased in glorifying and justifying Karna’s actions… poetic license?

      Sorry, I have not read the book, but have seen references to it on the net. What you said might be true. I understand “parva” in Kannada to is Mahabharata narrated as a novel.

      Now, let’s talk of other question at another time.

      BTW, please check, if you have not already, Karna’s Father Found by shri Indrajit Bandyopadhyay wherein he tries to prove that the sage Durvasa was the biological father of Karna. Well , that might not help your project but you might find it interesting. http://www.boloji.com/hinduism/138.htm

      Regards

       
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:55 am

      From: Offline deepam chatterjee

      Dear Mr Sreenivasa,

      Sorry to keep pestering you with my questions, I am asking another.

      My present questions relate to Karna and the language/s he could speak. Could Karna have communicated with Duryodhana comfortably in his very first meeting, when Karna arrived in the show of skills competition, challenged Arjuna, was insulted, and eventually was gifted Anga Pradesh after Duryodhana asked him where he came from? I contend that Karna did not know either Sanskrit, or Prakrit, until he first arrived at Hastinapura. He would have been educated in Angika based dialects, and possibly some earlier form of a local Pali.

      Therefore communication with Duryodhan, in comfortable spoken language would either mean that Duryodhan knew Karna’s language, or vice versa. For the to happen seems remote, but the latter is possible in case Karna had already been living in areas where Sanskrit/ Prakrit were spoken for some time- which would also imply that Karna was educated in Hastinapura or thereabouts- which I do not recall reading in any Mahabharata texts (Of course it can be ‘presumed’ that Karna studied under the tutelage of Kripacharya, and was rejected by Drona only later, whence he went to Parashuram for higher studies- which, if true, will nullify the entire argument.).

      Would love to hear your comments on this.

      Warm Regards,

       
  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Dear Rao,

    Karna was the most hurt man ( he tells Bheesma on his arrow bed awaiting death in the battle field to speak to him ” here is your Radheyan,whom you hated all your life “)..Unfortunately he was on the wrong side – right from birth when Kunti chose to abandon him,the treatment meted out to him by Acharya Drona and the rest often quoting his birth played havoc in his mindset perhaps and turned him bitter and a tragic hero falling at the hands of Partha and his Sarathy.I have read somewhere that when secret desires had to be revealed out as part of final renunciation as a passport to heavenly abode ( other wise the fallen mango will not go and attach atop the mango tree ) Drupathi said she also wanted to marry Karna as he was also a Kunti Putra.( the mango went up instantly ).His was the story of a tragic hero like Hamlet,Macbeth,Othello and king Lear.

    This caste thing is very disturbing to the modern mind – particularly the way of practice and punishment meted out by the society – which has resulted in creation of Buddhism and Jainism perhaps.This makes it not only a personal tragedy of a suta but a social tragedy of of an evolving civilization.

    N.K.Ravi.

    PS : just now finished reading all your 4 parts on Maha Vishnu .We are vaishnavites and called my wife to read these 4 blogs and she was complementing your efforts.

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:49 am

      Dear Shri Ravi, Thank you. Your observation on the caste prejudices in Mahabharata is very relevant “it not only a personal tragedy of a Suta but a social tragedy of an evolving civilization”.

      I am glad your wife found the articles on Vishnu readable.

      Regards

       
  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:51 am

    Dear Shri Deepamjee, Regarding Bhishma & karna, I closed the comment rather abruptly, as I thought the page was getting rather lengthy.

    Now, In Volume One of Mahabharata the author Adam Bowles remarks” Bhishma harbors a strong dislike for Karna, and rarely fails to rebuke Karna or to question his abilities. In Bhishma’s and Karna’s touching rapprochement at the end of the epic (Bhishma parva:117) , Bhishma , lying fallen but not dead bed of arrows made for him by Arjuna, gives arrows his motives for his repeated rebukes of Karna.’

    Bhishma’s concern was to control a dangerously impulsive alley who lacks self-restraint whose fiery temper fueled by profound sense of personal injustice might propel his patrons from one disaster to another. The other was his rather vociferous bragging, insulting verbal attacks. Bhishma sought to control these self destructive tendencies of Karna. Nevertheless, these do eventually happen; and are the undoing of his character.

    Karna’s detractors and even his supporters are never tired of holding up failures to his face. His lack of self restraint and bitterness, it is said, drove Karna deep into the conspiracies hatched by Shakuni and Dushyasana. Karna eventually becomes their champion, spearhead and the chief weapon against Pandavas.

    When Yudhistira waged and lost himself, brothers, sons and even Draupadi , Karna loose his sense of balance, calls Draupadi a whore and slave (Sabha parva: 63.1-4). He orders and cheers Dushyasana to strip her (though, as it happens, she is menstruating). Later in the epic, even Karna’s allies remind Karna of his cruelty to Draupadi. Karna eventually regrets his behavior.

    Karna plays a key role in several misadventures such as: the attempt to capture Krishna; the raid on the Gandharvas when Pandavas were in the forest; and attempts to capture herds of cattle outside Virata city.

    Karna, sadly, depicted as saptah vanchitah, cursed and betrayed.

    See you again

    Regards

     
  6. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Dear Shri Deepamjee, I saw the link. , which mentions Anga as province in Kabul region.

    1. The earliest reference to Anga is in Atharva Veda (5.22.14) where it is mentioned along with Magadha. Further, Lomapada the friend of Dasharatha was also a king of Anga; the sage Rishyashringa was brought to Anga to cause rains. The other ancient reference to Anga occurs in Srimad Bhagavatha Purana while tracing the Kings of Chandra-vamsha from the ancient king Yayayhi downwards.

    Yayathi- Anudruhya-Sabhanara-Kalanara-Srnjaya-Titiksha-Kasadhrta- Homa – Sutapas – Bali.

    From Sutapas and his wife Sateshna was born Bali who had seven sons: Anga, Kalinga, Sushma, Kandra, Vanga, Adrupa and Anasbhu.

    Anga was the progenitor of a linage. To Anga were born following sons: Dadhivrata, Raviratha, Dharmaratha, Chitraratha, Sathyaratha, Lomapada, Chaturanga, Pruthu, Haryanga and Bhadraratha.

    Satyakarman (the father of Adhiratha who was the foster father of Karna) was four-five generations removed from Anga. Mahabharata (sabha-parva: II.44.9) mentions Anga and Vanga (the region of Vanga-Desha, Bengal) as forming one country or being neighbors.

    2. Almost all versions of Mahabharata mention that Adhiratha found baby-Karna in a box adrift the river Ganga. The city of Champa is mentioned as the capital of Anga. Champadipathi was one of the many names of Karna. Champa was located on the right bank of the river Ganga near its confluence with the river Champa (it might correspond to Bhagalpur area of Bihar)

    3. There are innumerable references to Champa, Anga and Magadha in the Buddhist texts such as Dhigga Nikaya, Angutta Nikaya and Maha-vamsa as also in the Jataka tales. Dhiga Nikaya reckons Champa as one among the six major cities of its time. Maha-Jnaka-Jataka mentions that the city of Champa was located about sixty yojanas from Mithila (One yojana is roughly 16km).

    3.1. Anga was one of the sixteen Maha- Jana-padas, the major powers of the ancient India (Ref.Pitakas; Angutta Nikaya; Dhiga Nikaya ii.200). Anga with Champa as its capital was to the East of Magadha separated by the river Champa. The other cities of Aga mentioned in the cannon are Bhaddiya and Assapura which the Buddha visited (pl. see the story of Visakha)

    3.2. Magadha located between the countries of Vatsa and Anga was said to be initially comparatively ratherer a weak. And, Anga had one stage annexed Magadha and extended its boundaries up to Matsya Desha. (The Vidhura pandita Jataka mentioned Rajagraha the capital of Magadha as being within Anga).Mahabharata too briefly mentions a yajna performed by the king of Anga at Vishnupada (Gaya).

    3,3, By about sixth century BCE, things changed rather swiftly and sadly for Anga. Bimbisara the prince of Magadha overpowered and killed Brahmadatta the last of the independent Anga kings; and seized the Champa city. It is said, Bimbisara the prince stayed at Champa as his father’s representative (perhaps like a viceroy or regent).Annexation of Magadha was said to be the turning point in the history of Magadha. From then on Anga became a part or a vassal of Magadha which grew into an Imperial power. See attached map.

    3.4. There are innumerable references (too many to count) to Anga and Magadha in the Buddhist cannons and Jataka tales. There is one Champeya Jataka which talks about Champa and Magadha.

    3.5. During the latter half of the Buddha’s life Anga was ruled by a nobleman (perhaps not a king). He granted some gifts to Brahmans (Manjjama Nikaya II).Anga and Magadha are generally mentioned together, as if they were one country.

    4. The Jain texts too carry similar references to Anga and Magadha (Bhagavati Sutra lists).

    5. There is also reference to Angika language, the language of Anga region; and, is said to be the forerunner of Hindi

    6. It appears to me the Anga region of Karna refers to the country in the neighborhood of Magadha in the Ganga -Champa basin.

    7.1. The sole reference you mentioned was perhaps picked up from Bodhayana Dharma Sutra which groups the Angas with people of mixed origin as a mlechcha and barbarian. (There is no reference to Karna of Mahabharata). This text belongs to the Eastern Bihar and Western UP. The Anga it refers to might be a country in the distant Northwestern region which was always under attack by inimical hordes.

    In contrast, Karna praises the people of Anga “The old men among the Northerners, the Angas, and the Magadhas, (without themselves knowing what virtue is) follow the practices of the pious.

    Shalya in turn abuses the Angas as those who indulge in: -abandonment of the afflicted and the sale of wives and children

    7.2. Further, Mahabharata (3,252) also mentions that Karna reduced the Angas, Bhangas and Kalingas; subjugated many invincible and mighty foes: the Angas, the Nishadhas, the Pundras, the Kichakas, the Vatsas, the Kalingas and others. “Subjugating all these brave races, Radha’s son, had caused all of them to pay tribute to Duryodhana “.The Anga mentioned in the link might refer to another country.

    7.3. There is also a mention of a mleccha king killed by Bhima in the Kurkshetra war: While the elephant was falling down, the Mleccha king also was falling down it. But Vrikodara, cut off his head with a broad-headed arrow before his antagonist actually fell down. When the heroic ruler of the Angas fell, his divisions fled away. (7, 24)

    7.4. Nakula is also said to have killed a mleccha king of Anga: Sahadeva proceeded against the chief of the Angas. Nakula however, causing Sahadeva to desist, himself afflicted the ruler of the Angas with three long shafts, each resembling the rod of Yama, and his foe’s elephant with a hundred arrows. Then the ruler of the Angas hurled at Nakula eight hundred lances bright as the rays of the Sun. Each of these Nakula cut off into three fragments. Nakula then cut off the head of his antagonist with a crescent-shaped arrow. At this that mleccha king, deprived of life, fell down with the animal he rode. Upon the fall of the prince of the Angas who was well-skilled in elephant-lore, the elephant-men of the Angas, filled with rage, proceeded with speed against Nakula. (8, 22)

    Regards

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Dear Shri Deepamjee, before going to the general issue: Karna perhaps had a fairly good upbringing and education. Referring to Radha his foster mother, Karna counters: How can one like us, conversant with duties and ever engaged in listening to scriptures deprive her of her Pinda? O Madhava that Adhiratha, from paternal affection caused all the rites of infancy to be performed on my person, according to the rules prescribed in the scriptures.

      Further, he spent a few years with Parushurama presenting himself as a Brahmin lad and had his education and training in archery. His demeanor, conduct and speech should been credible enough to impress his teacher.

      Karna’s entry into the tournament arena is very impressive. Vyasa erupts into rapture describing the brilliance of Karna:portion of the hot-beamed Sun and his energy and prowess were like unto those of the lion, or the bull, or the leader of a herd of elephants. In splendor he resembled the Sun, in loveliness the Moon, and in energy the fire. Begotten by the Sun himself, he was tall in stature like a golden palm tree, and, endued with the vigor of youth, he was capable of slaying a lion. Handsome in features, he was possessed of countless accomplishments.

      His voice and speech too were like lightning:And that foremost of eloquent men, the offspring of the Sun, in a voice deep as that of the clouds, addressed his unknown brother, the son of the subduerofthe Asura, Paka (Indra),

      And the heroic Karna, accomplished in arms, began to gratify Duryodhana by sweet speeches, while Yudhishthira was impressed with the belief that there was no warrior on earth like unto Karna.

      Karna speaks well. He equals Arjuna in martial skills; but surpasses him in the gift of speech, address. He was eloquent. He interprets sastras and points out what is correct or incorrect. The problem however appeared to be that Karna rather over did: he is vociferous and insulting. He indulges in indulges in bragging and ‘verbal assault’. He must have been an effective speaker in whatever language he spoke. He surely spoke the classical language as also the language of his region. He was quite familiar with slang too.

      The second part of the question in the morning. Good night.

      Regards

       
  7. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Dear srinivasarao

    Excellent research on Karna, beautiffully presented too. Enjoyed reading about Karna.

    “Further, he spent a few years with Parushurama presenting himself as a Brahmin lad and had his education and training in archery…..”

    I am under the impression Karna had his education & training in archery watching Dronacharya teach archery to Pandavas.

    Is not Parushurama a much older avatara purusha? Is the Parushurama you mention here another one born in Dwapara yuga?

    Kaveriyamma

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

      Dear kaveriyamma . Delighted to see you after quite a while. Yes maa, the name of Parashurama appears in Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhavagatha and in kalki purana too. There is even a mention in Rig Veda (10.110) of a certain Rishi named Rama Bhargava. According to Sarvanukramani (a sort of directory cum index) attached to Rig Veda, he indeed is the Parashurama; and he is the priest of Shyaparnas who it appears was the leader of a confederation of warriors of the Panchala (Punjab) region.

      Parashurama of the epics is from the linage of Bhrighu; and hence his name Bhargava Rama. (Parashurama is his acquired name). Historically Bhrighus were the people of the rivers and the sea. Their main region was the mouths of the Indus as it joined the sea; and it was named Bhrighu Kakshya, the region of Bhrighus. That name eventually turned into Brighu-kaccha or Baruch in the Gujarat region. Bhrighus were highly skilled; they were carpenters, metallurgists, astronomers and mathematicians.

      Bhargavas in whose linage Jamadagni and Bhargava Rama appeared were the priests of the Haihaya kings who initially ruled in the Narmada region but later migrated East to Mahishmati and Ujjain in Central India. It appears there was a running feud between the Bhargavas and the Haihayas, which stretched over twelve generations. That bitterness culminated with Bhargava Rama killing the hostile Haihaya King Arjuna Kartavirya; and acquiring the name Parashurama. He is said to have gone round the country twenty-one times cleansing it. (Atharva Veda 5.18.10)

      Later in his life Parashurama is said to have given up violence, became an ascetic and settled on the Mahindra Mountains

      It is said that Parashurama came into being in mid-period between Treta and Dwapara Yugas.

      It also said that following the rout of king Bali (who was a Bhrighu follower) by the Angirasas (represented by Vamana) the Bhrighus living in the Narmada region were resettled by Parashurama along the Konkan regions of the west coast up to Kerala (Parashurama kshetra).The migrant people carried with them the legend of their beloved King Bali and the Krishna cult, to their new land (Kerala).

      Parashurama of Ramayana is regarded an Avatar though not in full measure. He is a passing phase (Avesha) of the divinity that lasted for a brief time.

      Parashurama also appears in Mahabharata as the teacher of Drona and Karna. Prior to that when Amba came to Parashurama for help because Bhishma refused to marry her, Parashurama fought with Bhishma but lost.

      In the Kalki purana, Parashurama is the teacher of Kalki the tenth Avatar, yet to appear.

      Parashurama is also associated with Lord Dattatreya as his devotee.

      Parashurama name appears over eons. One explanation is that he was a Chiranjeevi the onewho lives forever.

      Or, it is very likely, as you said; they were different persons perhaps belonging to Bhrighu linage.

      Thanks for the question

      Regards

      Please keep following the discussion on this page.

       
  8. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Dear Shri Deepamjee, before going to the question of spoken language in Mahabharata let me add a word about Karna’s response to Krishna’s enticements that came towards the end of Udyoga parva. It was a very mature, restrained and almost a sagely reply. He speaks with a great sense of responsibility and commitment to his values in life, hiding his deep sense of sorrow and betrayal behind calm courage that almost borders on suicidal detachment.

    1.1. Vyasa was dealing with a vast area comprising several states. The society of Mahabharata era was typically heterogeneous. It is reasonable to assume that the empire over which Hastinapur presided was populated by people of various races, regions speaking several languages with their regional variations.

    1.2. There are indications in the epic about racial mixtures, like those of Mlecchas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas and others. Further, inter course with foreign languages seems to have left their traces in the spoken language of the Mahabharata society.

    1.3. We have also to take into account the poor, hazardous or non-existent road network of that ancient era, rendering communication and transport very difficult and tedious. The populations of those days might have lived in isolated village communities separated by vast stretches uninhabited lands spread across the country. Each group or subgroup of people developed their own culture, their own communicating language derived from classical and/or regional language with local variations.

    1.4. Obviously, numbers of spoken languages were in vogue. The people of the region spoke its predominant language such as Prakrit, Angaki, Gandhari or Magadhi or whatever along with the classical link language for special or formal or official occasions.

    1.5. But strangely, Mahabhararata does not mention by name any specific local or Prakrit language or its dialects. And, All types of characters from all strata of society speak Sanskrit..

    2.1. Its spoken language, as in any society, varied with the purpose for which it was employed, ranging from the most formal to street slang. The accent and the language also varied with the status of the speaker in the social hierarchy.

    2.2. That reminds me of the prescriptions of the Natyasastra (a text dated prior to second century BCE) on the dramatic speech. The text states that the spoken language of each character should be consistent with its social standing and the region of its origin. Natyasastra provides four broad classifications of the spoken language: (1) atibasha, the grand language of gods and celestial beings ;(2) aryabasha , the refined language of kings and , royalty and aristocracy;(3) jatibashsa , mother tongue of ordinary folks; and (4) mlecchabasha , corrupt or slang or the language of uncouth foreigners.(Chapter xvii)

    In addition, Natyasastra mentions that other kinds of dialects as found necessary should be employed. It also painstakingly lists the way in which the characters should address each other, depending upon their status and mutual relations .It also suggests the intonation and the pause appropriate for men and women of different class-status.

    3.1.. Though Vyasa scripted his epic in Sanskrit; I reckon, the shades and nuances of these variations could perhaps be noticed in his narration. (I am not sure if scholars have attempted studies on these aspects)

    3.2. For instance, the Karna – Shalya rancorous repartee is not in high flowing language; it also refers to slang and abusive oaths and cusses of the women of Madra region (Punjab – Sialkot area)

    At the other end of the spectrum you have high flown oratory of kings and Princes ; and the account of the transactions of those meetings and councils held discussing the wisdom or otherwise of conducting the war.

    There are in-between a variety of people ranging from ordinary citizens, and workers to Rakshasa, Gandharvas. Vyasa’s narration is perhaps properly colored.

    3.3. The question of the communicating languages and their variations becomes truly frightening when you place it in the context of the war, when millions of soldiers drawn from all corners of the country (larger than the present day India) traveled long distances with their animals, food , weapons and assembled in a limited area of a few square Km , shouted, screamed , moaned , wept, fought , slaughtered each other in just a matter of 18 days. I am sure no one had time or inclination to learn the others language; each shouted in his own tongue. Vyasa too, for obvious reasons, does not go into those details.

    4.1. While Ramayana is sublime poetry, Mahabharata is the vigor of the spoken language studded with extensive use of similes, metaphors and symbolic allegories. It portrays the living language of the times with blessings, curses, oaths, sane advise, humor, ranting , heart wrenching shrieks , sagely preaching etc conveying every shade of human emotions.

    4.2. The beauty of its language is in its oral rendering.Even today, groups of devote listeners love to gather around a narrator to listen in divine fervor to the ancient tales the glory of their heroes and heroines, rather than read the epic.

    4.3. Perhaps even during the epic period, Sanskrit was not the spoken language of the common people. It surly ceased to be so thereafter and simplified and modified forms of Sanskrit merged into and enriched the regional languages.

    Regards

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Dear shri Deepamjee, Yes, I agree, Vyasa must have, at some point, decided to write the entire story in a consistent language; and he must have also chosen to include the most dramatic ones, and exclude a lot of details.

      Vyasa did not set out to prepare a report of the past events. His Mahabharata is an impressionistic presentation of certain significant events of the past as Vyasa envisioned them; and that was done with a purpose. As you mentioned, some events are therefore highlighted, some are elaborated and a lot others ignored. We may to view that question by placing it in the context of how Mahabharata was regarded in the olden days.

      Mahabharata along with Ramayana is classified as an Ithihasa (Iti =thus; ha sa = it happened). Though Amarasimha in his Amara-kosha defines Ithihasa as pura-vrtta, recollecting past events, that definition is largely rejected by most authorities. Ithihasa, they pointed out, is surely meant to narrate certain past events; but its purpose is to supplement Vedic knowledge. It is said, in the very early period even the Brahmana portion of the Vedas which narrated past events partly through facts and partly through myths were treated as Ithihasa.

      The connotation of the term Ithihasa underwent changes and enlarged. Kautilya in his Arthasastra provided an extended meaning to the term Ithihasa; and said the term Ithihasa encompasses Itivritta or pura-vrtta (history), Akhyayika (tales), Udaharana (illustrative examples), Dharmasastra (righteous conduct), Arthasastra (science of wealth) and Puranas.

      Hence, Ithihasa is not history in the sense we understand the term. Perhaps Itivrtta, pura-vrtta, itikatha or purakatha cold be nearer to that. Those forms represent a collection of different happenings or chronology of events.

      Ithihasaas in the context of Mahabharata is regarded as that pura-vrtta which furthers the four cherished values in human life: purushartha. Mahabharata is that Ithihasa from which humans gain fruits of caturvarga – dharma, artha, Kama and moksha

      Of the four Vargas, the one that Vyasa was most concerned with was Dharma. The treatment of Dharma in Mahabharata is remarkable for its erudition, complexity and clarity of thought. The accent on healthy growth of Dharma and its perpetuation is primary to the unfolding of Mahabharata. This concern stems out of Vyasa’s strong conviction that Dharma, the essence of right thinking and right living, is the law of being and is the basis of our existence. Our wellbeing and that of our future generations depends on that Dharma. It has therefore to be protected and perpetuated in the right way for the benefit of all, at any cost.

      Mahabharata seeks to awaken the essence of Dharma within us, and to learn to distinguish Dharma from its opposite. One has to look within oneself, grasp the true intent and spirit of Dharma in order to judge a situation and act in the best interests of the self and of the fellow beings. One may not always find ready answers to the problems at hand, in the external forms of Dharma; one may necessarily have to innovate the appropriate approach and action to safeguard the larger interests of Sathya and Dharma. That was the genius of Krishna, who was far ahead of his times. It was he who stressed that the essence of Dharma was in living, practicing, experiencing it.

      Vyasa concludes the epic imploring all humans to adhere to Dharma and to practice Dharma. “One should not abandon Dharma at any cost, even at the risk of his life. One should not relinquish Dharma out of passion or fear or covetousness or for the sake of preserving one’s life”.

      (For more, Please see Evolution of Dharma part two)

      The sage Vyasa, it appears, designed his narration to delineate different facets of Dharma and to highlight situations where Dharma was in conflict. Hence he might have, as you pointed out, must have chosen to include the most dramatic ones, and exclude a lot of details; and, highlight some , elaborate some others and ignore a lot more.

      Regards

       
  9. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Dear Shri Deepamjee, There is little doubt that the original kernel of the epic has a historical background and is based on ancient tales of conflicts between two groups of people of common origins. The historical germ of the epic could belong to a very early period. Old songs, ballads about the ancient feud; and of the heroic men and women, who played a part in it, must have been handed down the generations by word of mouth, recited by wandering bards in popular assemblies over centuries.

    Those disconnected songs inspired the genius of Vyasa to construct an epic comparatively short, describing the tragic fate of the Kuru-Pandu race. The Mahabharata has preserved in its folds the heroic spirit and the customs of ancient times, which were in contrast with the later state of things in its unfolding story. In the earlier stages, the epic referes (through Pandu) to customs of the ancient people of Uttara-kuru as also to some pre –Vedic practices. The speaker (narrator) often commences a passage with the phrase: the wise men narrate this Ithihasa in a similar context; For instance Brihadashva Uvacha etc…The story in its late stage degenerates into trickery and cunning employed by even the so-called virtuous just to gain advantage over the rival. The story reached its ignominic nadir with Ashvatthama the son of a Brahmin teacher needlessly slaughtering innocent children while they were fast asleep; and, that too after the conflict was virtually over.

    The scholars say, Mahabharata in its epic nucleus, contains remnants of an older phase, archaic verses, besides some old prose stories. Included within its frame are vast number of narratives of old legends about gods, kings, and sages; accounts of cosmogony; disquisitions on philosophy, law, religion, and the duties of men in various strata of the society but mainly of the ruling class ; that is because Mahabharata is basically a kshatriya epic..

    Since the very kernel of Mahabharata is a re-rendering of a past tradition interwoven with subsidiary narratives to illustrate the purusharthas, Dharma, it came to be known as Ithihasa, a grand one at that: the Mahabharata.

    It is quite likely that the epic underwent several stages of development from the time it was first rendered by Vyasa. Many incidents or narrations with their regional variations were built into the epic. It is a virtual Palimpsest .Separating the interpolations from the original is by itself a huge task which many scholars have labored in vain.

    That might also be one of the reasons why some portions of the epic in its present form look either grossly exaggerated, or dampened down too, as you mentioned. I am totally unfamiliar with the shorter version, if any, as originally conceived by Vyasa. That version, if it existed, might perhaps have read a lot more cogent, consistent and surely better structured.

    Regards

     
  10. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Yes, many others also think so. Mahabharata it said is about Nara and Narayana. There is a strong Vaishnava prevalence in the text.

    As regards the victors and losers, yes it might appear so. But in the broader picture there are no decisive winners or losers in these epics. Ramayana and Mahabharata end in a somber note; the evil undoubtedly was vanquished in the end, but the virtuous victors were neither jubilant nor at peace. Rama, Krishna and Pandavas, all ended their earthly sojourn on a rather solemn note, and returned to their heavenly abode.

    That might be because the struggle depicted was not about a person and his success or failure; but it was about what they stood for and the values they represented. The pith of the story was in the manner the virtuous men and women faced their adversaries and adversities, within the frame work of Dharma and finally triumphed after sustained fighting. At the end, it was hailed as the triumph of the Dharma. The object was to demonstrate the proper way to live, a way which the generations to come can follow and adopt as a benchmark or a norm of attitude and behavior while grappling with the conflicts confronting them in their lives.
    Regards

     
  11. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Dear Mr Sreenivasa,

    Thanks for a well-written, well-researched, and well-cited post. I enjoyed it immensely and found it very informative.

    A few questions, though.

    1. You said Karna’s wife (the only one named in the Ganguli translation) was named Vrushali. Could you please tell us where in the Mahabharata she’s named? Which parva and chapter?

    2. You also said he had wives named Prabhavati and Supriya, but said these weren’t mentioned in the Ganguli translation. Could you please tell us your source(s) for this info?

    3. I was trying to figure out exactly when in his life Karna sought Parashurama as his guru. But the only instance I found where the story is narrated in detail is in Chapter 42 of the Karna Parva, during the lengthy war of words between Karna and Shalya.
    (http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m08/m08042.htm)
    However, it’s not mentioned here exactly when in his life he sought Parashurama out. Is there any place in the Mahabharata which provides this info?

    Satyanarayana Venugopal /

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Dear Mr Sreenivasa,

      Thanks for your kind comments on my profile. 🙂 It’s actually rather bare at the moment; I only just joined Sulekha the day I first commented on this article.

      And thanks for your detailed replies. They’ve helped a lot.

      I think, however, the Wikipedia article on Karna is not a reliable resource. The author(s) of the article have themselves referred to unreliable sources of information. Some details there (e.g.: the name of Kunti’s nurse being Dhatri) are not in the Mahabharata and others even contradict it (e.g.: the story of Karna being born from Kunti’s ear, hence his name). Such stories probably have their origins in later folklore. In addition to Vrushali, the article also mentions Ponnuruvi, who is Karna’s wife in Tamil traditions that have sprung up after the popularisation of the Mahabharata, most notably in Pukalentippulavar’s “Karna Moksham” (a beautiful play on Karna’s death and moksha, but like Kalidasa’s “Abhijnana Shakuntala”, it deviates significantly from the Mahabharata).

      PS: Another (brief) narration of Karna’s story occurs in Adi Parva Section CXI (http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01112.htm).

       
      • sreenivasaraos

        March 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

        Dear Satya Venugopal, Thank you for the response. I agree with you. The Adi-Parva – SECTION CXI (Sambhava Parva) too briefly mentions the birth antecedents of Karna. Thanks for the reference .As regard Wikipedia and its unquestioned credibility; I tend to agree one needs to exercise judgment. I am delighted, I am talking to one who is very well informed and whose judgment is not cluttered. May I suggest you look around Sulekha where you will find number of gifted writers who express ideas with great enterprise and skill. Your interaction should be mutually beneficial. Please keep talking. Regards

         
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Dear Satya Venugopal , Thank you for the detailed comments and for reading the post closely.(Btw, your profile is interesting ; it is informal and eloquent. I liked it).There are two issues in your comment: one, the name of Karna’s wife; and two when did Karna stayed with Parasurama; and where is it mentioned in Mahabharata?

      As regards Karna’s wife; yes, as I said “Kesari Mohan Ganguli’s monumental translation “The Mahabharata of Krishna-dwaipayana Vyasa” does not seem to mention those names”. Wikipedia mentions “His wife’s name was Vrushali.”

      As regards Karna’s birth, childhood and early life (as far as I am aware) there are three references in Mahabharata which talk about the incidents related to Karna’s life, in fair detail.

      A. One is in Vanaparva (Forest Book) which follows Karna’s dream-conversation with Surya, his parent, warning against hoax requests exploiting his generosity. Thereafter King Janamejaya queries Sage Vaisampayana, “What was that secret which was not revealed to Karna by the deity of warm rays? Of what kind also were those ear-rings and of what sort was that coat of mail? Whence, too, was that mail and those ear-rings? All this, O best of men. I wish to hear! O thou possessed of the wealth of asceticism, do tell me all this!”

      This narration by Vaisampayana is quite detailed and covers the early story of Kunti (Prutha) too: about her maidenhood in the household of Kuntibhoja her foster parent; serving the irascible sage Durvasa; helpless encounter with the Sun god; begetting out-of-wedlock a most wonderful looking adorable bright son, and out of sheer shame and fear of sullying the fair-name of her family, tearfully abandoning her firstborn setting him adrift the Aswa River. The narration continues along with the casket carrying the new born floating along the Aswa River then on to the Charmanvati (Chambal), the Yamuna and finally joining the River Ganga where Adhiratha and his wife Radha find the baby, joyously bring the little boy home, name him as Vasusena and bring him up most lovingly. Kunti, all the time, through her spies keeps track of her son growing up in the Sutha family.

      Adhiratha the foster father later sends Karna to Hastnapur for education under the famous teacher Drona.

      You may refer to this narration spread over eight sections in KM Ganguli’s Mahabharata -Vana Parva from SECTION CCCI to SECTION CCCVIII concluding with Karna gifting away his invincible Kavacha (shield) and Kundala (earings) to Indra in disguise , despite Surya ‘s warning and sane counsel …

      B. The second narration, rather a brief one, is by Karna himself in conversation with Krishna who tried to entice him. Karna reminiscences his early childhood lovingly enveloped in the care and affection of the Suta family and particularly of his mother Radha. He fondly recalls his early upbringing and education provided by his foster family: “When also I attained to youth, I married wives according to his selections. Through them have been born my sons and grandsons, O Janardana. My heart also, O Krishna, and all the bonds of affection and love, are fixed on them. From joy or fear. O Govinda. I cannot venture to destroy those bonds even for the sake of the whole earth or heaps of gold. “

      Please check Udyoga Parva SECTION CXLI in KM Ganguli’s Mahabharata.

      C. The third narration occurs at the commencement of Shanthi Parva soon after the conclusion of the internecine bloodbath the Kurukshetra war. Yudhistira on learning from Kunti Karna’s identity is distraught and heartbroken. He laments over the cruelty and irony of fate that conspired forcing him to kill his elder brother Karna for the sake of reclaiming the lost kingdom. “ I desire to hear everything from thee, O holy one!’ he cried out in anguish. At the request of Yudhistira, Sage Narada recounts the tale of Karna from his birth, childhood, education and his deeds and misdeeds in company of his friend and benefactor Duryodhana. This narration covers a little more ground than the earlier two; and also speaks of Karna’s adult life in service of Duryodhana. Narada explains the wrongs that Karna committed were prompted by his sense of abandonment, loneliness, bitterness and envy of the Pandavas particularly of his rival and challenger Arjuna. This third narration is spread over six sections of KM Ganguli’s Mahabharata. Please check: SANTI PARVA – SECTION I through to SECTION VI .

      You might also check another reference Shanti Parva, the Lamentation of Maharaja Yudhisthira which is briefer.

      It is in this section which mentions that Karna in his early tutelage with Drona approaches the teacher (Drona) , in private, requesting to be taught the secret of “the Brahma weapon, with all its mantras and the power of withdrawing it” , for he desired to fight Arjuna . Drona of course promptly refuses saying ‘None but a Brahmana, who has duly observed all vows, should be acquainted with the Brahma weapon, or a Kshatriya that has practiced austere penances, and no other.’ Thereafter Karna promptly takes leave of Drona and proceeded without delay to Parasurama then residing on the Mahendra mountains introducing himself as ‘I am a Brahmana of Bhrigu’s race.’ Karna thereafter spent perhaps the happiest days of his life acquiring all the knowledge, skills and all the weapons; becoming a great favorite of his teacher, the gods, the Gandharvas, and the Rakshasas. That happiness was short-lived. Soon two tragedies and two curses struck him. Please check for details the links provided above.

      The Karna -Parasurama episode could obviously have occurred between the period of Karna’s early education with Drona (at the instance of Adhiratha the foster parent of Karna) and the game-show at Hastinapura at which the bright and belligerent Karna was anointed the King of the Anga province. Towards the end of the game-show Adiratha enters the arena and blesses his son Karna; and the whole world thereafter comes to recognize Karna as the son of Adhiratha the Suta

      Karna’s education with Parasurama was apparently before he was appointed the King of Anga-Desha and not later. Because, after that happening there was no way that Karna famed as the friend and confidant of the prince of Hastinapura could have gone to Parasurama in undercover calling himself as ‘I am a Brahmana of Bhrigu’s race.’

      Thank you for asking. I am sure Shri Deepamjee will also appreciate your observations. Please keep talking.

      Regards

       
  12. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Dear Shri Sreenivasa,

    As for the Karna tale, it is going well too. I am still in a dilemma though, as to when to show Indra taking Karna’s Kavach/Kundals. It must be before Karna went to Parashurama, since his Kavach/Kundals would have given him away… and it has to be after the show of skills/ declaration as Angaraja, since Kunti recognises him there, keeps quiet, and faints. Now, did she recognise Karna by his Kavach/Kundals or not is never mentioned…

    Yet, Karna possibly goes to Parashurama BEFORE the show of skills event, which is what I would like to believe (Although many scholars would iterate that it was much later, during/after the Pandava Agyatvas period, when Duryodhana encouraged him to get the Brahmastra Vidya to have some powers to counter Arjuna during the imminent war. But this seems unlikely, as Karna was already a well known King by then, and would have been easily recognised by Bhargava…)

    Of course, all this becomes immaterial, if we can find a way to have Kunti recognise Karna at the Show of skills through some other means- him not having his Kavach/ Kundals… Then Indra could be possibly have taken the Kavach/Kundals much earlier- even before Karna goes to study at Drona’s Gurukul as a youth… This because, even there, no mention is ever made of Karna’s Kavach or kundals… Therein comes up another dilemma- in exchange Karna is given the Vaijayanti/ Shakti/ Vimala/ Vasavi/ Shakrashakti/ Vajraayudha (Nobody seems sure of the name of Indra’s weapon)

    Anyway, the Kavach/ Kundals did not give Karna any protection at all in ANY wars… and the Indra-Karna episode is possibly entirely Bhasa’s own creation…

    Would love to hear your views on this…

    Regards,
    Deepamji

     
    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 7:11 am

      Dear Shri Deepamjee, I truly admire your tenacity; and pursing with Karna. Yes, as you mentioned, the Karna-chronology is a huge problem. Though the events are narrated ( in four phases) they cannot easily be placed in an order.

      A. I too feel that Karna’s tuition with Parashurama might well have been before the game-show at Hastinapur.

      B. As regards his parting with the kavach-kundala: KM Ganguli’s Mbh section CCCVII , Yudhishthira notices Karna ‘bedecked with earrings and mail’ after Karna befriended Duryodhana, and after Karna learnt the war-arts from Drona. Indra’s appearance follows soon thereafter.

      [And having acquired all the four kinds of weapons from Drona, Kripa, and Rama, he became famous in the world as a mighty bowman. And after having contracted a friendship with Dhritarashtra’s son, he became intent on injuring the sons of Pritha. And he was always desirous of fighting with the high-souled Falguna. And, O king, ever since they first saw each other, Karna always used to challenge Arjuna, and Arjuna, on his part, used to challenge him. This, O foremost of kings, was without doubt, the secret known to the Sun, viz., begot by himself on Kunti, Karna was being reared in the race of the Sutas. And beholding him decked with his ear-rings and mail, Yudhishthira thought him to be unslayable in fight, and was exceedingly pained at it. And when, O foremost of monarchs, Karna after rising from the water, used at mid-day to worship the effulgent p. 598]

      The actual gifting of the kavacha-kundala is narrated in SECTION CCCVIII; after which “all the sons of Dhritarashtra became distressed and shorn of pride. And the sons of Pritha, on the other hand, learning that such plight had befallen the son of the charioteer, were filled with joy.”

      Again, In SECTION V of Shanthi Parva, according to the narration by Narada , Indra begging from Karna the natural coat of mail and earrings occurs after Karna was well settled with Duryodhana ; and both abduct a maiden.” Armed with sword, clad in mail, and his fingers cased in leathern fences, Karna, that foremost of all wielders of weapons riding on his car, proceeded along Duryodhana’s rear”; “Protected by Karna, Duryodhana came away, with a joyous heart, bringing with him the maiden to the city called after the elephant “. Thereafter, Jarsandha mighty pleased with Karna’s valor befriends him.

      Following that, the narration sums up all of Karna’s woes:

      From friendship, he (the ruler of the Magadhas, king Jarasandha) then gave unto Karna the town Malini. Before this, that tiger among men and subjugator of all foes (viz., Karna) had been king of the Angas only, but from that time the grinder of hostile forces began to rule over Champa also, agreeably to the wishes of Duryodhana, as thou knowest. Thus Karna became famous on earth for the valour of his arms. When, for thy good, the Lord of the celestials begged of him his (natural) coat of mail and ear-rings, stupefied by celestial illusion, he gave away those precious possessions. Deprived of his car-rings and divested of his natural armour, he was slain by Arjuna in Vasudeva’s presence. In consequence of a Brahmana’s curse, as also of the curse of the illustrious Rama, of the boon granted to Kunti and the illusion practised on him by Indra, of his depreciation by Bhishma as only half a car-warrior, at the tale of Rathas and Atirathas, of the destruction of his energy caused by Salya (with his keen speeches), of Vasudeva’s policy, and, lastly of the celestial weapons obtained by Arjuna from Rudra and Indra and Yama and Varuna and Kuvera and Drona and the illustrious Kripa, the wielder of Gandiva succeeded in slaying Vikartana’s son Karna of effulgence like that of Surya himself. Even thus had thy brother been cursed and beguiled by many. As, however, he has fallen in battle, thou shouldst not grieve for that tiger among men!'”

      It appears that Karna had his Kavach-kundala even after the game-show; and long after that.

      C. Vana Parva SECTION CCCVII mentions that after she set adrift her infant son: “Pritha learnt through spies that her own son clad in celestial mail was growing up amongst the Angas as the eldest son of a charioteer (Adhiratha). And seeing that in process of time his son had grown up, Adhiratha sent him to the city named after the elephant”.

      At the tournament, ‘When the spectators, with eyes expanded with

      wonder, made way for that subjugator of hostile cities, Karna, that hero

      with his natural mail and face brightened with ear-rings, took up his bow

      and girded on his sword, and then entered the spacious lists, like a

      walking cliff.

      Even before the contest began between Arjuna and Karna “ Kunti, seeing her two sons clad in mail, was seized with fear, but she could do nothing (to protect them)”.

      After Karna was humiliated and later made the king of Anga, Duryodhana chides Bhima for his bad behavior “Your own births, ye Pandava princes, are known to me. Can a she-deer bring forth a tiger (like Karna), of the splendour of the Sun, and endued with every auspicious mark, and born also with a natural mail and ear-rings? This prince among men deserveth the sovereignty of the world, not of Anga only, in consequence of the might of his arm and my swearing to obey him in everything. If there be anybody here to whom all that I have done unto Karna hath become intolerable, let him ascend his chariot and bend his bow with the help of his feet.”…..Mahabharata

      “At that time the Sun set and the debate ended. Kunti was relieved and happy to see her son crowned the king of Anga”. “And Kunti, recognizing her son in Karna by the various auspicious marks on his person and beholding him installed in the

      sovereignty of Anga, was from motherly affection, very pleased.

      It appears therefore that Karna did have kavach-kundala while at the tournament; and it was visible. And, Kunti recognized her lost son.

      D. If it becomes very difficult to sequence it properly, you may discuss the issue and leave it open-ended. But, let that alone not hamper your work.

      E. As regards the dart that Karna got in exchange was perhaps ‘Vasavi’.

      O Karna, thou shall be possessed of complexion and energy of thy father himself. And if, maddened by wrath, thou hurlest this dart, while there are still other weapons with thee, and when thy life also is not in imminent peril, it will fall even on thyself.’ Karna answered, ‘As thou directest me, O Sakra, I shall hurl this Vasavi dart only when I am in imminent peril! Truly I tell thee this!'”

      F. By the way, you may check the following links, if you you have not already done so. It has lot of statistical and other information and references to Mahabharata and also of Karna.

      Regards

      http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/mbh:karna

      http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/mbh-category:karna

      http://ancientvoice.wikidot.com/mbh:karna

       

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