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Karna-The Real Hero of Mahabharata, The World's Greatest Epic From India (Part I)

Updated on July 20, 2017

The world's greatest epic 'Mahabharata' speaks the story of a great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It is written in Sanskrit by Vyasa in 6th century BC. It has hundred thousand couplets in 18 sections and is considered as the longest epic of the world. The bloody war lasting eighteen days concludes with the victory of Pandavas over Kauravas. It is the triumph of good over evil.

The Mahabharata is also the story of Lord Krishna, Pandavas-the five brothers-Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva and Duryodhana, the eldest of Kaurava and his 100 brothers. Kunti, Draupati, Dhrutarashtra, Pandu, Gandhari, Dhrona, Abhimanue, Shakuni, etc. etc. A mere mention of the character in Mahabharata itself is a Himalayan task, leave alone the story telling. And that precisely makes it the largest epic in the world.

A painting depicting Karna's ill fate from his birth onwards. Kunti, the mother abandons the baby fearing disgrace
A painting depicting Karna's ill fate from his birth onwards. Kunti, the mother abandons the baby fearing disgrace | Source

You may be familiar with several heroes in the Mahabharata and may love or worship some warriors like Krishna, Arjuna, Yudhishtira or Bhima. Love and respect towards the brave and powerful heroes are common and justifiable. But when you go deeper into the complex stories of Mahabharata and immerse yourself into the characterization of this epic, you will find an unsung hero. Karna will definitely be your choice. Your research will undoubtedly clarify that Karna is the real hero of Mahabharata. Sadly, he is the most mistaken hero too. From his birth onward, he was a cursed, abandoned, rejected and a victim of taunts and ridicule. Listen here the sad story of Karna, which is one of the most tragic episodes of Mahabharata.

Watch this video to know the life story of Karna

The Birth

Unmarried, yet pregnant. This would bring disgrace both to the mother and her family. Kunti had no choice when she faced such a shameful situation. She decided to take the most painful decision: abandon the baby! She cried and prayed for her baby. Her prayer was to save her child from all troubles he may have to face. She also prayed that he be reached at a safe place and at the hands of a decent family. Then, Karna, the baby, placed in a basket was left to fate on the Sona river. Karna's ill fate thus begins from his very birth onward. He is abandoned by his own mother and left to the smoothly flowing waters!

How this unwanted delivery took place, you may ask. The story goes thus: Sage Durvasa once came to Kuntibhojha's (Kunti's father) Palace. Kunti treated him so well that he was totally impressed by her kind hospitality. As a token of his satisfaction, he taught her a mantra, which would bring any god before her. He (the god) would also give her a son, who has his own qualities.

Kunti being a young girl was unaware of the impact of the boon. One day while standing on the banks of Sona river facing the rising sun, she recited the mantra with Surya, the Sun God, in mind. This resulted in Surya's sudden appearance. Suddenly, the words of Durvasa flashed on her mind. Having seen Surya in all in his splendor, Kunti pleaded with him, "Oh my God I just tested the mantra out of curiosity. Please forgive me. But Surya was not ready to listen to her request. He replied, a mantra is mantra and once invoked, it has to be executed. If you stand against me, I will curse you as well your family too. He added, 'you shall have a son by me. You need not fear disgrace because you will still be pure'.

Soon, Kunti became pregnant and delivered a beautiful boy. The boy had all the splendor features of the powerful Sun. The boy was clad in shining Armour that was part of his body. Also, his face was resplendent with the brilliance of the earring that he wore. Yet, Kunti was sad. A child to an unmarried girl is a disgrace to the entire royal family. That made Kunti take that drastic step of floating her cute baby into the river!

Karna's Safe Landing

Sometimes, one's liability is an asset for another. One's pain may be a gain for another. Here, Kunti's pain was Radha's gain. Radha, the wife of Charioteer Adhiratha found the baby when she was having her bath. For her, it was God's gift as she had no children. She was praying all these times to God for blessing her with a child. She and her husband were performing all sorts of Pujas (rituals) to please all gods. She happily lifted the basket and took the baby out. The moment was the happiest in her life. The couple took the boy to their home and named him Karna. They loved him well and brought him with utmost care. Though they had other sons later, they loved Karna so special.

Karna's sad destiny

See, the fate of Karna, who was a prince by birth is destined to grow as an ordinary child for an ordinary couple. He had been denied his lineage of divinity and royal blood and brought up by an issueless charioteer and his wife.

Karna's birth story was a topmost secret. Nobody including Kunti's family had an idea about it. Only Kunti and her most devoted nurse and, of course, the Sun God knew the truth. There was one more person aware of all these developments. It was Lord Krishna, but who kept it as a secret till a crucial moment in the Mahabharata war.

Being Kunty's first son, he should have part of the Pandavas. But destiny took him to grow as an ordinary child. Karna had no idea of his royal blood. His real brothers, the Pandavas too were ignorant about it. The case of Kauravas was too not different. None of them knew that big secret until Lord Krishna revealed it at a very later stage.

The poor Karna who was to have lived in a royal palace had to live in an ordinary house of an ordinary couple. It was his destiny. He had more to suffer in the days to come. That too was due to his ill fate.

How was his childhood, education, mastery on archery, to who he declared his loyalty, positioning in the great war.....A lot of troubles, turbulent turn of events. His life was full of dramas. These all will be discussed in the second part of this hub. Please wait for the same to know more about Karna.

+++++Mahabharata is the greatest epic in the world. Naturally, to extract even some simple stories from this great book, we need to refer and research a lot. I too referred a lot of available materials, both print and electronic, to tell you this story. My thanks to all those known and unknown authors, whose great efforts made my work comparably easier++++++

© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Vijay Kumar, your visit and comments are appreciated.

    • profile image

      vijay kumar R 2 years ago

      ya i agree the karna is real hero of mahabharatha .... i like karna so match, without lord Krishna Arjuna cannot killed karna ...Karna only one person had capable to change the whole victory of Kurukshetra ....

    • profile image

      raju 3 years ago

      abhimanyu vadh ke samay pradhan senapati dronacharya they isliye abhi vadh ka karan drona they karna nahi army rules ke anusar senior officer jo kahega junior ko vahi karna padega na kehne ka adhikar uske pas nahi hota

    • profile image 3 years ago

      Karna is the real hero.Ilike him.

    • profile image

      Kushleshwar singh 3 years ago

      Karn was really a great hero;he never comprosied with his honesty anddignity.That was aperson who teachs us never go under lure and never leave the company of such person who has been thankful for u .Hlnduism also convey message that's why there is no national religion.

    • profile image

      Nkumar 3 years ago

      If we read more and more about karna and so of Mahabharata, we may conclude thinking of human civilization of 3000-5000 years ago whereof the so called scientific evidences are not there, but we can imagine the life of that period...

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for reading my hub and leaving some comments. Bharat and Hindus always stood for communal harmony and respected all religious practices. For us, it is 'Vasudeva Kudumbam" means all citizens of this world is one family. Dharma should be prevailed the whole universe. God bless all.

    • ravi1991 profile image

      Ashutosh Tiwari 3 years ago from Lucknow, India

      @sunil Do you know something about Barbarik, the most powerful warrior in Mahabharata ?

    • profile image

      KUMARAN 3 years ago

      Karna is the great warrier.He had the qualities of five pandavas.One karna is equal to five pandavas.unfortunately due to his curse,karma etc he was defeated.Mahabaratha teaches dharma.It is really a happened one.We should be proud that dharma is established in India and not in other land like England,Israel etc.We should follow the teachings of lord Krishna in the epic. It is the only way to know the truth of life.

    • profile image

      Kathir 3 years ago

      Actually Abhimanyu is the real hero of mahabharatha.... If arjuna kills karna when we was lifting his chariot then what you ill say when 7 peoples are attacking abhimanyu karna knowingly killed him. Karna may the good human being but not a true hero of mahabharata... he having blind hope on his skills that's why he blindly supported dhuriyodhan because of made him as king....Karanan movie from tamil and another one movie from telugu made him as a great person but as per epic he did lot of bad things also

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Sunny, you are very much on the wrong track. You still need to learn a lot about Hinduism, the world's oldest religion. It never attacks other religions and instead welcome all faiths. That shows why India became the land of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. We Hindus have no hatred towards other religion and we often visit Churches and Mosques and other religious place also. Stop thinking negatively. Try to love and respect all religious faiths. Jesus never acted against other religions and loved all. If you love Jesus, learn what he taught the world. God bless you.

    • profile image

      Sunny 3 years ago

      This is what Hinduism teaches, kill your brothers, teachers, friends, etc...Stop this foolish stories and start believing Christ, Jesus the true wholy spirit. Save India...

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving some insightful comments.

    • profile image

      Truth 3 years ago

      Karna was more powerful than arjun... Even lord krishna knew about it.... So only he told arjun to shoot the arrow when karna was busy removing his chariot wheel from ground....

      If arjun was powerful than karna then why would lord krishna ask arjun to shoot arrow at karna when he was busy removing his charriot wheel from thr ground!!!!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Karna is a valiant fighter and hero in Mahabharatha. The cruel destiny changed his life and played a bad role. But he is honest, energetic, powerful and full of virtues. People love him like anything.Thanks for your comments.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      You are right. the destiny played a bad role in his life.

    • profile image

      joya 3 years ago

      Thank u for opening this hub. By reading this we can know about karna's life. I think karna is the best person.

    • profile image

      joya 3 years ago

      I feel bad for karna . What a miserable life he have!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Lady E

      Thanks for commenting. Happy to my hub touched you as well you find it an interesting one. Keep on reading other parts of the story I already wrote.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      Very touching and interesting story.

      Shukriya. :-)

    • profile image

      rohit 4 years ago

      pooja before blaming someone look at u r own path later on u can do et u want

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      Enough of stuff is available in internet. You can simply Google search and extracts tons of information. Try Wikipedia also. Also read my whole hubs (three numbers) on Karna. Some of the people who commented on these three part series have left some valid links on the topic, which I hope you will find.

    • profile image

      suresh 4 years ago

      kindly send the reseacrh detail of Karna in mahabharat on

    • profile image

      Pooja 4 years ago

      It was really nice to read this blog. According to me Karan is a bad person. If he was really good than why did he have to support bad and make bad choices even though he knew how dhuryiodhan was? When druapadi was getting molested why did he abuse druapadi instead of standing against this Hedious act by his beloved friend? If he really did have principle thn he would have walked out as a friend to dhuryiodhan. I'm sorry for me he is a hopeless character.

    • profile image

      Akshadh Katyal 4 years ago


    • profile image

      ajoy kumar bhattacharjee 4 years ago

      The readers are showing inclination to Karna that's why he remained immortal even being killed by Arjuna. I am not going for or inviting any debate on this matter.I am not convinced about opinion of some commentators that the poets had not made justice to the character of Karna but I opine that it is the writing skill of the poet who glorified Karna in spite of the fact that his presence in the whole epic is limited.

      Ajoy Bhattacharjee, Guwahati.

    • ktnptl profile image

      ktnptl 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Karna, was definitely one of the main character in Mahabharat. He was as great archer as Arjun. He fall in bad company of Duryodhana and Shakuni. Beside his bad company, Karna was really a great warrior.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      Joyfully noted your valid comments. You are right that Karna didn't get his apt share in the epic. He deserved more. But still millions of people have understood his values and life of high principles. Your book suggestion is welcome. I should read it. Thanks for your visit and comments.

    • TicksProfessional profile image

      Talha Rehman 4 years ago from Lucknow India

      Thanks for sharing this hub. I agree with you...Karna's life forms the most tragic episode of Mahabharata. Surprisingly he does not feature as prominently as the other characters. Yet there is one book in which he is very prominent...The Palace of Illusions, in which Chitra Bannerji beautifully narrates the story from Draupadi's point of view!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      So glad to note your previous comments. I am happy that my hub gave you a nice read.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving some precious comments.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Karna-The Real Hero of Mahabharata, The World's Greatest Epic From India (Part I) A strong and powerful culture and so well mentioned. A moat interesting and thoughtful hub


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