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

Updated on July 20, 2017
Karna meets Arjuna on the Mahabharata War
Karna meets Arjuna on the Mahabharata War | Source

The war began. The Kurukshetra war or the Mahabharata war. The world’s greatest war between two super powers- the Pandavas and the Kauravas. On the war front, Kauravas outnumbered Pandavas. But the Pandavas were least bothered. And why should they, when they have Lord Krishna on their side. His mere presence itself would give them extra energy and confidence.

The war progressed each day under the commandership of great leaders. And came Karna’s role when Bhishma fell. Before taking control of the war for the Kaurava camp, Karna went to meet the great Bhishma, who was lying on a bed of arrows in a corner of the battlefield. He was waiting for the northward turn of the Sun, an auspicious time, to die.

When Karna sought the blessing of Bhishma, he replied, “You are the son of Kunti, you must know that the Pandavas have right on their side. So you should join them and I shall tell them the truth. Having known all these truths, I always tried to protect you from joining the war”.

Karna was cool and adamant. He was not ready to betray his side at a crucial juncture. He replied, “I cannot betray Prince Duryodhana. It is he who saved me when I was in trouble. And after all, how I, a Kshatriya, can betray my friend at a battlefield?”

Bhishma was happy on hearing Karna’s words and his loyalty to the Kauravas despite the advantages that may come out of the best offers thrown to him from many quarters. He blessed him. With Bhishma’s blessing, Karna entered the battlefield and took commandership of the Kaurava force.

Karna’s entry had a dramatic change on the war front. It created great confidence among the Kaurava camp. Karna’s war strategies were superb and they fought with great might. The Pandavas suffered great casualties and struggled very much.

Karna was hopeful of killing Arjuna. He thought he can end the war soon by finishing off Arjuna using his great weapon, the trident gifted to him by Indra. Though he had several chances to kill the other four Pandava brothers, he didn’t take advantage for he had given promise (not to kill them) to Kunti, his real mother.

Lord Krishna’s Role at a Crucial Moment


Lord Krishna was well aware of the strategies of Karna and his plan to kill Arjuna. Krishna thought of saving the life of Arjuna. He decided that Karna should not get an opportunity to use the trident against Arjuna. He designed strategies accordingly.

On the war front, a fierce fight was going on. The sudden entry of Ghatotkacha, Bhima’s son resulted in great casualties to the Pandavas. He made a strong attack and the Kauravas were fearing with trouble. Having found the situation worse, Duryodhana met Karna. He asked him to use the trident against Ghatotkacha.

Thus, Karna was forced to use the most powerful weapon, the trident, which he had kept for killing Arjuna. As the fate of the war (and, of course, his fate too) demanded a sudden action, Karna had no choice but to use the trident. He used it and the giant Ghatotkacha fell. It was happy news for the Kauravas; but surely not for the Karna.

The Arjuna-Karna Duel


Krishna was all smiling as he knew that Karna sans the trident is weak. He did not prevent Arjuna when the latter decided to meet Karna. It was a great moment. Two greatest warriors are meeting on the battle field- Arjuna, the most powerful on the Pandava side and Karna, the most powerful on the Kaurava camp.

Their war began. The arrows rained on both sides. Different types of arrows fired. All so powerful of making heavy damage. Each arrow was met by equally powerful one fired by both the great warriors. The duel was so fierce that it created fire, wind, and water. The whole universe was shaking on its impact. Even the gods too came to witness the great duel. No one can predict who will win the war for it was such a fierce fight between the two great heroes on the war front.

Krishna explains to Karna
Krishna explains to Karna | Source
 The painting depicts the battle of Kurukshetra of the Mahabharata epic. Karna, commander of the Kaurava army is seen here.
The painting depicts the battle of Kurukshetra of the Mahabharata epic. Karna, commander of the Kaurava army is seen here. | Source

In the second part of this series on Karna, I had narrated two incidents- two cruel fate Karna had to face during his lifetime. He had to suffer the curse of two people. It was pronounced by the great Parasurama and a Brahmin for the mistakes Karna unknowingly committed.

A curse is a curse. It should have its impact at the right time if it is made by some powerful or dignified souls. Whoever great you are, you are bound to suffer if a curse is made against you. No one can escape it. Karna too had no option but to face the cruel fate.

On the war front, even gods too were anxious while watching the fierce battle between Arjuna and Karna. Both were super powers. Then suddenly the tragedy struck. One of the wheels of his chariot sunk into the ground. Then what came to Karna’s mind was the curse of the old Brahmin- “when you are fighting for your life, the wheels of your chariot will sink in the battlefield exactly as the legs of this cow did in the mud."

Karna requested Arjuna time to save his chariot. He asked him to hold his arrow until the recovery is made. The request was out rightly rejected by Arjuna on the compulsion of Krishna. Krishna questioned Karna’s call for maintenance of the rule of fair play at the war front. He asked Karna if the Kauravas applied the principles when Shakuni cheated them at dice. He also asked where these principles were when Abhimanyu (Arjuna’s son) was cornered and killed by a cheat. Krishna even reminded Karna the sad incident of Draupadi’s humiliation at Hastinapur.

Facing the volley of questions and the cruel play of fate, Karna was standing helplessly. He is alone and even without his chariot. On the other hand, Arjuna was under the protection of the mighty Krishna, the Lord.

Krishna was not ready to entertain the request of Karna. He ordered Arjuna to shoot his arrow. Arjuna was waiting for the occasion. He aimed Karna to shoot. Karna was never fearful. He too took his arrow and aimed Arjuna boldly. Arjuna’s arrows were fired at Karna. The brave Karna started to retaliate. But sadly he could not remember the usage of the weapon techniques. Karna’s memory on the proper usage of weapon lost. It was due to the curse of his guru Parasurama that took effect here. He is totally helpless and powerless. His cruel fate played heavily.

Karna's Final Fight With Arjuna (A Video in Hindi)

Soon things were easy for Krishna and Arjuna. One of Arjuna’s arrows hit Karna’s head. It severed the brave Karna’s head from his neck. The greatest warrior of Mahabharata fell. He died only because of his cruel destiny!

Krishna was well aware of the power of Karna. He was sure that Karna would have killed Arjuna if Karna had not been incapacitated keeping him weaponless. The two incidents that Karna had faced at his prime time was ‘designed’ to control or tame his power. These incidents resulted into the great curse and which finally took the very life of the powerful warrior Karna. The story of Mahabharata is also the story of the brave Karna and his sad destiny. He lives in the hearts of millions of readers even today.

+++++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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    • profile image

      Lithesh rajan 21 months ago

      Karn is the son of the great sun God.

      At the time of martial arts and archery competition, he surprised everyone. But he was neglected in the name of caste.Even Krishna didn't help him but duryodhan did.(Lord knows the secret of karna' birth) duryodhan questioned everyone saying how can one question this young man who is charming like the sun for his caste......his bravery beauty and talent just says that he is son of some supreme caste.

      There are many many incidents to prove that Karna is the greatest Archer in Mahabharata......... He is the elder and son of sun amoung the pandavas.........

      Just try to feel that why did arjun killed him when he was weaponless the one who gave his kavach kundal as daan.........when arjun said Krishna that why should I kill him in such weaponless situation, for that Lord replies........... Arjun no being could kill karn when he have his bow in his hand,its name is Vijaya......it was given by lord parashuram saying that Lord Shiva gave it to parshuram and only a loyal,truthful man could touch this bow.So Parshuram his guru before leaving him give this bow to karna.

      Thanks for reading........

    • profile image

      pooja 21 months ago

      war was not a necessity it was justice.If someone tries to rape a woman how can u let him be?? even now rapists have 2 face capital punishment!

      And as u say Karna got alot of oppurtunities 2 betray his friend but he chose not to, but how does that make him good? if he was a true friend u correct ur friend and prevent him from sinning his soul not take his side even though he is wrong and please him! Do think..

      What Kunti did to him was bad but wat happened 2 Draupadi was worst.

      He stayed mum the whole while and supported Duryodhan.

      He did not get his actual birth right but he still got a good family who loved him..

      But what wrong did draupadi do to deserve what happened to her?

      Karna and Arjuna were equally powerfull if the former was more powerfull then when they were fighting Karna would hav killed Arjuna but failed to cause Both were equally Powerfull.. In the end good had 2 win over bad so fate played its role..

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 22 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for your visit and comments.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 22 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      I believe there is great confusion in religion because of the sacred books. I propose Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam place the following principle in their sacred books and make the principle itself sacred and overriding all other principles.

      The Sacred Principle:

      Violence by man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of that name.

      Issue a new edition of the Mahabharata!!!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 22 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Om Shanti! That is my answer and that is what always Hinduism preaches for too.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 22 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      The article begins:

      "The war began... But the Pandavas were least bothered. And why should they, when they have Lord Krishna on their side."

      Does Lord Krishna of heaven command or condone one man kill another?

      "Violence by man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of that name," Pope Francis, January 18, 2016 in a Jewish Synagogue.

      What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Pope Francis?

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 22 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for your detailed comments. Your visit and comments are highly appreciated.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 22 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for your insightful comments. Hari Om!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Hello again. I understand war exists, but that does not mean we have to become enmeshed in it. If Dharma means duty we do not have to join a group whose duty it is to kill. We have a choice as to what group we belong. In other words choose not to be a warrior.

      Peace Officers maintain order in society, but they never have as a goal (Dharma) to kill. Peace Officers are trained to use the least amount of force to arrest someone. After 20 years as a Peace Officer and teaching courses on Use of Force, I have concluded that Lethal Force is not needed.

      What was Arjuna's claim to the throne? He was third in line. Why did he have to be a warrior? Could not he have chosen not to be a warrior? How is a civil war useful to society? Why not just not kill at all?

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      To Aaditya,

      They were both awesome. One can say, perhaps that Karna was more all rounded, more powerful, dauntless .. Ekalavya was extremely devotional. Karna has gone down in history for heroics, indomitable courage, skill .... Ekalavya for the spirit of Sacrifice. These are both spiritual messages. The Gita is a spiritual book.

      Ronaldo and Messi are the two greatest footballers on Earth, and there is always a fierce argument as to who is better. They both enrichen the game. So Karna was better than Arjuna, yes. They were of the same caste and both warriors. Ekalavya was soft, soulful, sweet, gentle ...they all complemented each other.

      Perhaps the most important message here and elsewhere, is that God is always first. Hari Om Tat Sat!!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Dear Jay C OBrien, thank you for your reading my hub and leaving some valid queries. You are right war has no meaning. But it did happen and does happen even now. But finally what wins is Dharma and the best example is Mahabharatha. I dont like the conept of caste. But again it is a fact and more relavent in Hinduism. Let's learn our religious text more clearly and try to be good citizens our great religions call for. Om Shanti!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      I am new here and I ask your patience as I ask questions.

      Why did these two groups have to fight? What were the religious principles contested?

      Is it better not to fight at all?

      If The Lord tells you to harm someone should you seek a mental health expert?

      Do you believe in the cast system?

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Yes, all Bharateeyars or Indians love and respect Karna.

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      ARVIND 2 years ago

      Karna is the greatest warrior in mahabharatham I love u karna I miss u u bless me

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Your observation is fantastic. I do endorse your views and maybe write an article on Bhishma later. Thank you for your insightful comments.

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      Sidhartha bahadur 2 years ago

      There is no character in all of our religious literature like the noble Bhishma. His greatness and the extraordinary sacrifices he made haven't been recognised and properly understood in this Kalyuga .

      Most people do not realise that Bhishma was the only character from Mahabharata to achieve Moksha (liberation from rebirth) . Neither any of the 5 Pandavas, Nor Karna or any other character from Mahabharata achieved Moksha.

      In terms of military prowess Bhishma could have defeated the entire Pandava anf Kaurava army together if he wanted to . He had defeated no less than a Vishnu Avatar Parshuram (Bhishma's guru) in battle . The Pandavas stood no chance against this warrior who had the power to choose the time of his own death.

      It was Bhishma himself who told the Pandavas how he could be defeated. This is an unprecedented sacrific, only one amongst many such sacrifices made by Bhishma throughout his life, for the good of others.

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      patel santoor 2 years ago

      Undoughtfully karna is the gratest of all pandavas and also a greatest chariooter of all time.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for your comments. Karna never matched up to Arjun is your own conclusion. I have done some fine research and got the knowledge that Karna is far ahead. But destiny played its cruel role and so Karna had a tragic end. Both Mahabharata and Ramayana are ithihas but it is also considered as epic. Anyhow I will made a thorough research on the points you claimed here.

    • profile image

      Atharv 2 years ago

      Hello Sunil ,

      Thank you for this nice hub about Karna . But you should dig deeper in Mahabharata . Karna never matched up to Arjun either in behaviour or archery skills . If you read Mahabharata you will know what I am saying .

      BTW, Mahabharata and Ramayana are treated Ithihas(History) and not epic or stories .

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      ANAMIKA 3 years ago

      PPL R SAYNG KARNA IS EQUAL 2 ARJUN BUT ACCORDING 2 ME ARJUN IS NOT EQUAL 2 KARAN WITH OUT LORD KRISHNA'S HELP HE COULDN'T DO ANYTHING.SO PLZ DON'T COMPARE KARAN WITH ARJUN.KARAN IS THE REAL HERO MAHABHARATH

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thank you Manatita44, my dear Bro. Om Shanti!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Thanks Bro. Give me time. I see that you've got Abhimanyu as well. One of my favourites. Om Shanti!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Yes, Bro.

      We had already agreed on Karna. This additional note was for Aaditya and to note Ekalavya's sacrifice, which was supreme. He was a prince and did fight on afterwards - without his right thumb - in many ways and was finally killed by Krishna himself. One might say that he was probably as unfortunate as Karna also.

      With Krishna present, so many heroes were subjected to destiny, even the great Bhishma himself. Taking God's side is always the greatest duty. Hard way to learn.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Excellent knowledge. Congrats! I do agree with your observation. His love and respect for his guru is commendable and noted beautifully in the Mahabharata story. I wonder how you amazed such a great knowledge in Indian mythology. If your interested, you can check my other articles on Indian Gods. Om Santi! (peace).

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      According to my limited knowledge Karna was the best. It is believed he is even powerful than the united strength of the Pandavas. Fate made his life a disastrous one.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      To Aaditya, Sunil, as you did not seem to answer this one.

      Ekalavya was a different kind of warrior and is best known in spiritual circles for his spirit of sacrifice. He was totally dedicated and devoted to his adapted Guru Dronacharya. As such he gave up his right finger without flinching and without hesitation. He did an amazing and unparalleled display of archery on a dogs mouth, something that even Arjuna could not do. Drona himself recognised Ekalavya's skill, and later said that he had to do what he did to protect the status quo.

      Ekalavya is known and recognised for his supreme act of sacrifice and have gone down in the annals of history for this. Certainly his unconditional spirit at the time ranks high and perhaps reminds us of the greatness of Hanumanji himself. Hari Om Tat Sat!

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      Aaditya 3 years ago

      Karna was better than eklavya. Agreed?will expect a reply soon

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      Nikita 3 years ago

      Love Mahabharat...love Karna

      ( Aham Sharma ) ♥♥♥♥

      And very well written bro!

      Quite enthralling:-*

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for reading my article and commenting.

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      baalamurugan 3 years ago

      It is really nice and great job

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thank you for the visit and insightful comments.

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      Surendra Bikram Thapa 3 years ago

      Invincible, unconquerable and brave warrior who fought with all misfortunes.... No one could win Karna except Mahadev...

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      Akshadh Katyal 3 years ago

      FOR ALL THOSE WHO CALL ARJUNA INFERIOR TO KARNA,VISIT THIS LINK & FIND OUT THE TRUTH YOURSELF FROM ORIGINAL VEDA VYAS' MAHABHARATA TRANSLATION:

      https://www.facebook.com/karnavsarjuna

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      terminator 3 years ago

      Karna was the greatest archer of mahabharatha...:)

      Arjun would never have defeated karna in a fair fight...!!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving some fine comments. Glad to know my hub is of interest to you.

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      sid 3 years ago

      I am reading ant Mahabharat since some days,...i must say this one is the greatest epics..no epic story can be equal to this..reallllllyyy aweome..i am still finding my own ways...and truly karna was a great warrioorr..and sadly cursed too..

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      manatita44

      Very much happy to read your detailed comments. It is self explanatory and to the point. I loved it. Thank you for sharing brother.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Well Bro,

      I was born in Grenada, West Indies (Nr top of South America), but I travelled to London in 1973. I was blessed with a Guru from East Bengal in 1982, and I am still with Him 31 years later.

      Vedic literature I have read a lot, but I have also done plays on the lives of some great God-men of the past: Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Chaitanya, Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo. My Teacher has written plays on all.

      Your Christmas thoughts are reciprocal. Extend this to your family on my behalf. You should know that I share your thoughts about Karna. I like him very much.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi manatita44

      So glad to note your comments. Amazed on your knowledge on Indian epic Mahabharata. Thanks for visit, comments and blessing. Wish you a Happy Christmas dear.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Yes, Bro.

      We know. A super-excellent warrior indeed. God bless you loving heart.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Sure, no one can forget Karna. Thanks for stopping by and leaving comments.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving comments.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      DDE

      Thank you for your nice post as comments to my article on Karna.

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      mathira 4 years ago from chennai

      Sunil, who can forget Karna, the greatest character of Mahabharata. It was very interesting to read.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      Karna is a great character. Nice post

    • 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 III) This is very interesting and informative. A place of many secrets indeed.