Heroes of the Mahabharata: The 5 faces of Karna

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In response to my previous post about neglected characters in the Mahabharata, many comments referred to Karna, which sort-of propelled me to do this post. Karna is one of the most enigmatic characters in the epic. If you could pick just one person from the story who personifies its ‘grey’ nature, you would do well to pick Karna. Even after years and years of hearing retelling after retelling, we have not yet made up our minds on this man. This is because he’s a true chameleon from one scene to the next, and Vyasa never allows us to settle down in one judgement of him.

Here I am listing five of Karna’s most often seen faces.

1. The great warrior

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Karna is frequently named – both by his contemporaries and historians – as one of the great warriors of his age. The first time we see him in the flesh, he appears out of nowhere at the stadium in Hastinapur where the Kuru princes were showing off their skills. For anyone seeing him at this moment, it is clear that he has a touch of the divine about him. He challenges Arjuna and matches him move for move, only for Dronacharya to step in and stop the duel mid-way. At Draupadi’s groom-choosing, he’s the only person other than Arjuna to be able to lift the ceremonial bow.

But, as Irawati Karwe says in her beautiful book, Yuganta, there is very little evidence in actual battle of Karna’s prowess. During the goharan, he gets routed by Arjuna in a battle where the Pandava prince is fighting the entire Kaurava army single-handed. Even during the war, owing to pride, he stays out of the war for a full ten days. When he does arrive, though, he fails to make a significant impact.

2. The generous king

Many tales are told about Karna’s generosity. Often, he commits acts of outrageous kindness at cost to himself. When he’s young, he squeezes oil out of the earth to help a Brahmin boy only to incur the wrath of Mother Earth. When he holds his pose even while bleeding to the bite of a bug so that Parashurama’s sleep should not be disturbed, he only gets cursed as a result. And finally, during the war, when Indra appears and begs for his armour, he gladly gives it, knowing full well that it would make him vulnerable in battle.

3. The loyal friend

Karna’s friendship with Duryodhana is the stuff of legend. At the stadium when Karna first makes his appearance in the story, Duryodhana comes to his rescue and makes him a king. On that day Karna makes a promise that he wouldn’t ever leave Duryodhana’s side; a promise he would keep to his death. Throughout the tale there are instances when the friends do not agree with each other, but never do they quarrel. Karna’s loyalty made him one part of Dushta Chatushtayam (the wicked foursome) along with Duryodhana, Dushasana and Shakuni, but he wouldn’t once think of breaking away. The world may think anything it wishes of him, he says, but he would never forego his friendship.

4. The confused man

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His is probably the first recorded case of identity crisis. Repeatedly throughout the story, he laments that a man who does not know his roots will never achieve happiness. Abandoned at birth, A Kshatriya by looks but a lowly charioteer by adoption, a king by circumstance, a warrior by choice; what is he? Who is he? Only right at the very end does he get his answers, but as always, they raise new questions in his head. Kunti tells him that he is her son, the eldest of the Pandavas, and that he must fight therefore with his brothers, to which Karna replies: ‘I only have one brother. His name is Duryodhana.’

5. The vengeful villain

At Draupadi’s disrobing, when Vikarna, one of the Kaurava brothers, opposes the act, it is Karna who jumps into the fray and discourses on why it is right for the Kauravas to treat Draupadi as property. He may have been speaking for what is just and what the Dharma of that day upheld, or he may have been speaking out of revenge, for Draupadi insults him at her groom-choosing and prevents him from competing for her hand. He behaves similarly during the war; when Bhishma chides him, he sulks and vows not to fight until the grandsire has fallen. This is at great cost to the Kauravas, and yet he holds firm, putting a personal slight above the needs of his friend Duryodhana.

More than anything, Karna comes across as a man of low self-esteem. His excessive generosity and loyalty, perhaps, are just reflections of his eager-to-please nature. The under confident are also often easily hurt, and are prone to claims of revenge. Maybe this is why we all feel sorry for him, because we see in him a bit of ourselves.

What are your reasons for liking Karna? If you think there is a facet of his that I’ve missed, or if you’d like to share your own opinion of him, please do in the comments below.

Comments

  1. That is a brilliant line you used in the post about Karna being a chameleon, doing one thing in one scene and something completely contradictory in the next. And some of the examples you have cited above go on to prove this point very well, like the ones where he is completely loyal to Duryodhana but still goes on to stay out of the war due to a small tiff with Bhishma.

    To me, trying to interpret Karna has probably been extraordinarily confusing, abetted to no small extent by all the Karna fans out there to whom he is one wronged individual against whom fate, destiny, Gods and the Pandavas did grave injustice to. For whatever reason Karna evokes extremely strong emotions of sympathy among almost all readers of this great epic, as is evidenced by the number of comments on your previous post.

    To me, although he is an important character in this great epic he would still remain an enigmatic one, but not somebody who I can honestly say that I am a fan of.

    BTW, loved this post where you detailed almost all the important faces of Karna in the Mahabharata. The research you have done for your current series clearly shows through in this post.

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    • Thanks for your detailed comment, Jairam. Karna is probably the most emotional of the male Mahabharat characters, and he has that ‘self-pitying’ vibe about him which evokes sympathy in some. He deserves some of it too, I think, as does anyone who is trying to overcome self-esteem issues.

      But there are other facets to his personality. One of the other people who commented on the post said that he could be seen as a spurned lover of Draupadi, which I also thought was interesting, because generally Draupadi is shown to be in love with Karna and getting spurned by him.

      So a lot to think about, yes 🙂

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  2. I so much agree on the observation that karan had low self esteem and revengeful nature .

    Nice post.

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    • Thanks, Nimue. It’s nice to see you here 🙂

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      • While I really enjoyed this beautiful dissection of Karna, I’m going to disagree on the high emphasis about his self-esteem issues. Without a doubt, Karna had self-esteem issues, but compare his circumstances to Arjuna and the insane self-esteem issues that Arjuna has. Arjuna is the one who whines and sulks when a low-caste, Ekalavya, defeats him. Arjuna is the one who can’t handle another low-caste, Karna, fighting him.

        I’m really not trying to turn this into a Karna vs. Arjuna debate or “which rival brother was more insecure?” debate, because we all know there’s enough of that already, but I am trying to provide context. Take the life circumstances of all the other highly insecure Mahabharata characters into account, and compare them to Karna. Then compare Karna’s achievements against the odds to all the other highly insecure Mahabharata characters who never had to face the odds that Karna did.

        When you do that, you realize that Karna isn’t defined by his insecurity: he’s defined by how he overcame it.

        I think Karna’s generosity has nothing to do with an eager-to-please mentality, or else you’d see Karna kissing ass throughout the epic – which he pretty much never does. His generosity comes from just that…generosity. It’s his kind nature warring against his bitterness and emotional wounds. He rises through dramatic caste barriers on his merits and his dignity, not because he was eager-to-please because let’s face it, if Karna was that eager to please he would have jumped at Kunti’s offer.

        I think this is the only aspect of your article which I very strongly disagreed with. Thank you for writing it though!

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  3. Sharath, I personally detest the ‘self pitying’ vibe that Karna gives out to most people when they read this great epic. In my opinion, he was somebody who was clearly conscious of all his actions and the resultant complications and implications thereof. To me, he was a confused soul, who was somewhat cast hither and thither by fate and circumstances. And even though he had more than one chance to correct himself, he chose not to, he chose loyalty to frienship over everything else most of the time in the epic.

    As for the Draupadi love angle, I didn’t find it in any of the Sanskrit translations of the epic, and found them only in contemporary retellings and hence would prefer not to pay too much attention to it. But, yes, as a plot point in a retelling, it makes for an interesting angle, that much I will grant.

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    • Yeah, you’re right. The love story between Karna and Draupadi does not exist anywhere in the canon. In fact, there is no love story between Draupadi and Arjuna either. Vyasa didn’t seem to ‘do’ love stories. But then, in those days when women were looked upon as property, romantic love probably did not play that big a role.

      Most of the Draupadi/Karna stories are contemporary imaginings, yes. What’s worse, I am yet to come across a convincing explanation for why these two guys would go for each other, given their history.

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  4. Such a nice write up on Karna. I feel he is a character who has faced a lot of injustice. I read Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni and felt that Karna was portrayed in the right ‘light’.

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    • Hi Aathira,

      Welcome to the blog. I read ‘Palace of Illusions’ too and the only thing I remember about it now with respect to Karna is that he was dealt in a sympathetic light, because the love angle between Draupadi and Karna is one of the main plots of the book. What exactly did you enjoy in the way Karna was portrayed in that book?

      Generally we go one way or the other with Karna, but I think we should look at his character as perhaps the greyest of all. He divides opinion like no one does, not even Yudhisthira, the other enigma of the tale.

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  5. Nicely summed Sharath. To me, Karna is a perfectly flawed character. As a warrior he is brilliant but his recklessness in all manner of things became his downfall. His birth secret and his bitterness against his mother was yet another reason which blurs his reasoning. He stuck to Duryodhana out of loyalty but he could never help the man when it was needed. He virtually abandons his friend in the forest when the Gandharvas capture Duryodhana and against Brihadbhala’s arrows he is virtually helpless. He opts to stay out of the war during the first ten days, because of his big ego. All his life, he struggles against his adopted caste. He yearns for recognition that is due to him but recklessly gambles it all away to stand for Duryodhana.

    His comment about Draupadi being Kaurava property is the catalyst of the shameful disrobing scene that happened. It shows the deep contempt that he held her in. And as you right pointed out, the love with Karna and Draupadi is an interpolation of later storytellers. There is no hint of it in the original Mahabharat.

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    • Hi Sumeeetha,

      Thank you for the comment. I think Karna is someone who is always trying to find himself, and wishing that the world would appreciate him. To cover up his low self-esteem, he displays extravagant traits of generosity and kindness, and yet in key moments, his character fails him. A multi-faceted and complex fellow.

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    • Dear madam he commented Draupadi because Pandavs were mot trying to save Draupadi he himself cannot go against duryodhana so he tried to provke pandavs so they can fight and save her . His intendion was not to insult but to save Draupadi Krishna has revealed this fact to Draupadi. He delibritly left alive all brother in war even if he would wish he could make end Arjuna but he left because ultimately he also desire dharma will get victory, how u can say so bad for him ,without knowiing ant fact.

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      • I am sorry Vijay. I do not agree with your interpretation and please don’t say that I don’t know the facts. I have read the original text and many interpretations of the same by well-known scholars.

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  6. Falguni srikanth says:

    Nicely done sharath…..he was pictured as a hero in the serial Mahabharat which was aired recently…I like him and have soft spot for him because of maternal instincts.
    His bragging was his downfall I feel.nice discussion.By the way I am looking forward to your next book on mythology.

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    • Hello, aunty! Yes, I ran an informal survey a few months back and let me tell you, almost every woman I asked had a soft corner for Karna. So you’re not the only one 🙂

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      • Its really a great work on Mahabharata especially on karna who is just duty bound and I request you to do some works on Lord Shiva and share the same with us so that we can be enlightened about the curtained characters of the great one as we did in bharat

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  7. Awesome research sharath. I always appreciate the character of karna for his basic human nature. Unlike others, he cannot be categorised as good or bad. He’s just like us- A common man, and this is his commonness that attracts….

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    • Hi Dheeraj. Yes, thank you. I’ve always thought that Karna is probably the most human of all the Mahabharat heroes, and maybe that’s why we all have a soft spot for him. Especially the shades of grey. Long before Amitabh came along being the angry young man, we had Karna 🙂

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  8. I disagree with the part where his battle prowess is not proved. In Karna Parva, when he takes command, there are detailed descriptions of how he kills by the thousands and thousands. The Pandava army takes heavy losses. Both Karna and Arjuna is said to have inflicted incredible damage to the other army. He also defeats every other Pandava with ease (except maybe Bhima) and then let’s them live because of his promise to Kunti. Even in the final fight with Arjuna, Arjuna is saved only by Krishna’s intervention. Even about the duel, it’s written that the Gods themselves stop everything and watch the incredible battle between the two titans

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    • Hi Sharath. Good to see you here 🙂

      I think Karna is probably the warrior-equivalent of Rohit Sharma: almost invincible when in full flow and in good form (and in suitable conditions?) but also very susceptible to being daft and moody. That’s why (maybe) there are as many tales of his defeat as there are tales of his victory. In fact, until the Karna Parva, it is safe to say that he doesn’t show any signs of being a ‘matchwinner’.

      At least not enough to be called one of the great warriors of his age. In that sense he was probably just like regular human beings, who cannot be equally good on all days.

      Sorry for the cricket analogies. It’s the ‘India versus Pakistan’ hangover 🙂

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  9. Shalini says:

    I don’t think this is to do with low self esteem.

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  10. Most of the time Karna have always been portrayed as a negative character. However after reading the book “Mrityunjay” by Shivaji Sawant, my thoughts and my perspective of who Karna is have changed forever.

    I won’t state much of my views on above article except one thing that made me sad that “chameleon” word being used to describe Karna.

    Anyway for all Karna lovers I would strongly recommend a book “Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant”.
    Have blessed day all. 🙂

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  11. Ananthakrishnan S says:

    Karn was always a victim of circumstances right from his birth
    Born to an unwed mother, he had to be abandoned. Thus he went from being a successor to the throne of Hastinapur to the lowly son of a charioteer. As a result of his status in society, irrespective of his superiority over all the other princes, he was rejected by Draupadi. The same status also earned him the scorn of the regent of Hastinapur, Bheesma which also meant that the other palace elite like Dronacharya, Vidur as well as other princes excluding Duryodhan isolated him. His only friend in the palace was Duryodhan and that too due to the fact that Duryodhan saw Karn as the perfect pawn to fight his cousin Arjun. His generous nature due to the hardships he faced in his childhood led to him making a promise to Kunti that he would not harm any of his younger brothers. This nature also led to his downfall with Lord Surya asking Karn to part with his impenetrable armour in order to save Arjun. Lord Krishna’s treachery in the war ensured his chariot getting stuck in the mud and Arjun shooting an arrow at a kneeling Karn from behind him.

    Thus Karn remained unlucky throughout his life.

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  12. Hypokrite says:

    About the confused identity about himself, he was a reincarnation of Dambodhava an Asura. He had an amsha of Surya in him. Dambodhava was an Asura who had obtained from Sun – a boon of 1000 armours and each of those 1000 armours would take relentless attacks for 1000 years to break. Further, anyone who broke the armour would die instantly. Dambodhava challenged Vishnu for a Duel.
    Therefore Vishnu used his masculine energy to create Nara and himself became Narayan.
    Now Nara and Narayan were on war with Dambodhava. Only one of them would fight Dambodhava at a time; the other one would practice Mrutyu Sanjeevni tantra for 1000 years. The moment one of them died, the other one would bring him back to life and the other one would then go to fight Dambodhava.
    This happened for 999 Armours. With only the last armour remaining, Dambodhava fled the battle and escaped to Surya Loka where Lord Surya gave him shelter.

    Seeing this Vishnu cursed both Surya and Dambodhava that they would be born as mortals on Earth.

    So that explains why he is generous, warm hearted, a loyan friend and a flawless warrior (characters inherited from the Sun) and at the same time with Adharma (characters from Dambodhava).

    As far as insulting Draupadi is concened, one perspective was that Duryodhana was anyway planning to insult Draupadi. Karna insulted Draupadi just to provoke the Pandavas; he envisioned a scenario where the Pandavas would start a fight there and then and while he and Kauravas would engage in a fight with the Pandavas, ay least Draupadi would be safe from further insults. But Alas!! The Pandavas continued to be sitting ducks.

    The way he participated in Abhimanyu’s killing is completely wrong…(Dambodhava in action).

    And as far as staying away from War is concerned, it was Bheeshma who had declared that while he’s the Senapati (General), the son of Suta would not be in his army. Bheeshma did this because, Karna had earlier insulted Bheeshma to test Bheeshma’s loyalty towards Duryodhana in the war. Little did Bheeshma know that Karna was just testing his loyalty.

    Cast no doubts on his warfare skills, Parashuram had trained him to a point where he considered Karna to be equal to him. Karna had wisdom, he had freat strength (he was 8 Rathnis tall), excellent warfare and administrative skills, patience and was handsome.

    In the Mahabharata war, he met Arjuna only on the 17th day and their encounter was a stalemate even with Lord Krishna by Arjuna’s side. When Karna’s 3 curses got activated, he eventually died.

    By the way – Arjuna is Nara’s reincarnation and Krishna is Narayan himself.

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  13. At first let me thankyou all for these posts.But I am sorry to say that Karna was himself squarely responsible for his downfall and lowly stature. First I would draw attention to the story where Karn asks for brahmastra from Dronachharya in the gurukul…for the sole reason of defeating Arjun. ( not many know that karn was initially admitted with kuru princes before going to Parashuram).Is it befitting to ask for brahmastra to defeat a mortal…like using a modern nuclear weapon against a human . Besides Arjun had nothing against Karna to be dealt the killer shaft!.Then how can you call Karn valiant or worthy warriour? When pandavas were in vanvas Karn accompanied Duryodhan to tease them. There duryodhan misbehaved with a gandharv girl and was taken prisoner.Karn fled… Arjun and Bheema mediated to set duryodhan free. Leave aside the virat war because Karn was left unconcious and clothless inspite of having the ekghatini shaktii of lord Indra.In the final battle Karn met Arjun on the 17 th day as senapati or comander in chief of kuru army but before in dron parv he did have a duel with Arjun on the day jaidrath was killed….result none the less was against him.Karn used the sakti preserved for Arjun on ghatotkach…but vis a vis ,Arjun, having all divya shaktis used them only when it became absolutely necessary , not before th6at. This is control. Over self….one aspect of kshatriya dharm……Karn didnt have it…..so he wasnt a kshtriya either. Last Throughout the Mahabharat Karn boasted of defeating Arjun and restoring the throne to Duryodhan….the poor sutaputra couldnt even last a single day compared to bheesm or dron who led for 10 and 5 days respectively. Many in the mahabharat had low births but their deeds evolved them into greats , for example the author himself born to a fisherwoman or drona born to an apsara mother but Karn never did anything worthy to achieve what he aspired for and took refuge of fate and low birth to cover up his calousness. He infact resorted to giving away or daan, to earn fame through the short cut method.
    Bhaskar Kumar

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    • I see certain misconceptions in your article. it was not Karna but his destiny which led to his downfall. karna went to Dronacharya gurukul when he was small to get trained and not acquire Bramastra. he needed that only when he had donated his kavach to Indra ,because only then he had become fallible,otherwise no astra including Bramhastar would have harmed him.So the he approached Dronacharya again but he refused ,then he had to approach Parashuram and there he proved to be his best student ( it is to be noted that Bheeshma and Drona were also Parashuranm students)Karna was in the battlefield for 7 days and not a single day.He was senapati for 2 full days.In that he defeated all the 5 pandav. his daanveerta is beyond anybody’s realm. He has personified how to achieve success even in adverse circumstances.

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  14. Prasanna says:

    “His excessive generosity and loyalty, perhaps, are just reflections of his eager-to-please nature”.Reading this line reminded me of a story where Arjun asks krishna how karna is different/noble than him,Krishna hands him a mountain of gold and asks arjun to give it away.Arjun does accordingly ,he takes a portion of the gold mountain and gives it away to each and everyone of the people although it is a never ending mountain.Hence receiving all the blessings.Krishna then hands over the same task to Karna who calls one person and he gives away the entire mountain of gold and walk away.Krishna shows Arjun how karna is ready to give while expecting nothing in return. Im not sure of the originality of this story,also the moral arrived from it.but if it is true karna doesn’t seem like people pleaser .Kindly enlighten me if im wrong 🙂

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  15. I don’t think Karna is that bad person as described by you.., I have read many books but it all showing him as a hero greater than Arjuna. in some book it was mentioned that during Draupadi’s incident karna walks away from the hall.

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  16. Tushar Chopda says:

    Hey brother in one of your points u have claimed Karna cudnt show his power in final battle.
    Yes I know it’s not ur opinion, its one of authors opinion.
    But I myself have closely observed Mahabharata war, and let me tell u Karna was the most powerful warrior if we follow stats.

    Bhishma in 10 days n Drona in 6 days of Commander ship cudnt achieve which Karna did on first day became commander.
    Bhishma n Drona cudnt even come closer to Yudhishtira to size him, but Karna not only defeated his all protectors but also seized Yudhishtira and almost Yudhishtira was killed not even once but four times in a single day but was spared by Karna recollecting the promise to mata Kunti.

    Satyaki who was main protector of Yudhishtira was not defeated by Bhishma n Drona infact Bhishma ran once n Drona once from him but in front of Karna he was like useless, he himself fled in Yudhishtira car from Karna.

    Also Karna was commander under whose guidance only one adharma was done, else all commanderscommanders including both Kauravas n Pandavas made many adharmas.

    In Karna’s leadership only one adharma was done and that too Arjuna killed weapons less Karna.

    If u will see stats Karna’s average is more than even Arjuna of killing enemies.
    On 16 n 17 day only, Karna killed 5 akshauhini sena.

    Karna also broke Arjuna’s bramha kavacha which was almost unbreakable by even gods

    Also Sri Krishna applied illusion on Karna from day he entered battle, accepted by Krishna himself.

    Arjuna didn’t have Krishna n Hanumaanji only but also Shiva himself was killing great maharathis of Kauravas army, said by Arjuna himself that one figure was killing army before me n it was looking like I killed them butbin reality I killed those which were already killed by that figure n Vyasa confirmed that was noone but Shiva.

    Also Sri Krishna swared to Arjuna n said noone even all gods with Indra at head can kill Karna until he has weapon in hand so when time will come his chariot wheel will sink in earth at that time I will command u to kill him n must obey else that hero is unstoppable.

    So who can say Karna didn’t show his power, he achieved what Bhishma Drona cudnt achieve.

    It is generally shown in TV serials Karna shoots arrows n Ghatotghacha catches like toys but in reality Karna caught asani of Lord Shiva with bare hands n threw it on Ghatotghacha n that time, all gods screamed great great, n Sanajaya also said that was feat noone achieved saving son of Surya.

    Ghatotghacha fled 3 times from Karna in one single night. Karna didn’t flee even once.

    It was promise else Karna wud hv killed all four Pandavas n also Arjuna if Krishna wasn’t there who protected by pushing chariot down else Arjuna was gone that moment only.

    Karna never knew Ashwasena naga was sitting on Nagastra by Yogmaya, when he approached Karna second time, Karna denied taking his help saying I don’t want anybody’s help even if I hv to face 100 Arjunas together.

    This is just trailer I can also prove Virata war is interpolation.
    and in that war when Arjuna defeated Bhishma, Drona, Karna single handedly, Hanumaanji was there on his chariot that time also still if u want I can give u many reasons to believe virat war was interpolation.

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  17. Oh please first reconfirm what u cmnt, don’t go with fake stories.
    Karna was not even any demon like Dambodbhava or Sahastrakavacha or Narakasura.

    Dambodbhava n NaraNarayana story is in Mahabharata.
    No Mahabharata version says Karna was Dambodbhava.
    And please read whole story of Dambodbhava n Nara Narayana battle.
    Dambodbhava was sinful to bramhanas hence NaraaNaraarayana approached him for war. But he at end, surrendered n promised that he will not trouble anybody n then was became devotee of Nara Narayana, war ended. Stroy ended of Dambodbhava.

    About Karna.
    Karna was portion of Surya himself, it is clearly mentioned that at birth of Karna, Surya devided himself in two parts n one part kept lightening world n second started living on earth as a Karna.

    These two Karna n Dambodbhava r linked together because some claimed Dambodbhava’s other name is Sahastrakavacha n as he had kavacha like Karna so Karna was his incarnation.
    But let me tell u, first Dambodbhava n Sahastrakavacha r two different demons, not one.

    Second Karna was never gonna born with kavacha, it was Kunti who asked Surya to give Kavacha to Karna, it wasn’t Surya’s decision. It was Kunti mata request to Surya.

    Now Karna’s kavacha wasn’t any ordinary surya kavacha, it was Aditi’s kavacha, also kundalas belonged to her only.
    Aditi is mother of all adityas including Surya, n she gifted tht kavacha to Surya. Surya gave to karna.

    So no common thing in Dambodbhava, Sahastrakavacha n Karna.

    Now last Narakasura, there is no way Karna can be Narakasura.
    Narakasura was killed by Krishna at age of 15-18.
    So by that time Karna was also born in fact he was elder to Yudhishtira n Balarama also. So when Krishna killed Narakasura Karna was already alive n of age more than 30.

    Conclusion Karna was incarnation of Surya himself nobody else.

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  18. Karna was not responsible for his down fall in fact he had downfall until he met Krishna only.
    Yea he besided Duryodhana n that is why his character looks grey.
    But Karna hv played his part for dharma even by residing at adharma.

    First of all why Karna was like he was.
    See Karna’s love for archery was inbuilt, natural one.
    Though by society he was suta, in reality he was Kshatriya or much more than Kshatriya, he was of such a lineage which was divine n much more than Kshatriya bramhanas.

    So his love for archery was unavoidable n natural.
    But society was not ready to let him hold bow but they wanted him to ride royal chariots like his father.

    But why wud Karna throw his bow aside n hold ropes of horses?? Just cause society says so??

    And abt why Karna resided Duryodhana, then it was Karna’s nature, he cud die but never backstab one who helped him in his bad time.
    Remember it was only Duryodhana who stayed on his side when whole society was against him, so it was quite sure Karna wud side only Duryodhana.

    Karna knew no other dharma, his duties towards his frd was only dharma he knew.

    and please read Karna Krishna meeting or Bhishma Karna meeting, Karna knew he was on losing side n his death was certain but he was bound to die with Duryodhana but not to live by leaving him in danger.

    Karna himself said to Krishna, that this is not war but a mahayagya n he n Bhishma r the ahutis in yagya.

    And if u see carefully Karna never faught to win, he only faught to protect Duryodhana.

    He had chance to kill fainted Arjuna as Arjuja wqs showering arrows at fainted Karna just a moment ago, so it was legal from his side. But still he didn’t kill him.

    He spared 4 Pandavas, what If had killed one of them?? War wud hv stopped then n there, Arjuna wud hv quit it without any Pandavas alive.

    Leave abt war, what if karna hhad revealed his identity openly?? Pandavas wud hv never been able to stand in war, not even to take revenge of Draupadi humiliation.

    What if Karna had revealed his secret to Arjuna when he was going to kill weaponless Karna, Arjuna wud hv dropped Gandiva n fled away in terror.

    Don’t forget these points before claiming anything.

    And someone said Karna took bramhastra cause he wanted to defeat Arjuna, is this so?? Where it is mentioned so??

    And if it is true then what abt Arjuna jealous of Ekalavya n Karna?? It was Arjuna who asked Drona to take care of Ekalavya in jealousy saying u promised me to make me best archer, then how Ekalavya better than me, u make sure I become best.

    It was Arjuna who danced at Karna’s armor donation news in vanvasa.

    Karna never took bramhastra to defeat Arjuna, it was to make himself perfect archer, it was his hunger to become best not to defeat Arjuna.

    And last point, some say Karna wasnted to revenge Arjuna hence sided Duryodhana, please tell me what was pproposal of Krishna to Karna, that take kingdome of earth n Arjuna will ride ur chariot.

    So tell me what can be bigger revenge for one who was insulted as sutaputra whole life than making his biggest enemy or rival to mle ride his own chariot??

    If Karna wanted to revenge, he wud hv accepted Krishna proposal n made both Arjuna n Duryodhana obey his order but he chosed to die.

    Its needful to observe carefully cause Karna is most complicated character of Mahabharata after Krishna.

    There r lots of novels who says Karna was equal of Duryodhana in every dirty plan n there r also lots of novels who claim Karna’s greatness.

    So Karna is only character of Mahabharata who have such a two exactly contradictory opinions.

    So plz understand all before coming to any solution.

    Like

    • Dear Tushar,
      You look to be an ardent fan of Karna, even the knowledge you have got is through books, same with the rest, lot of writers, with a lot of R&D have written about a lot of facts which you have tried to nullify. Karna didnt flew? there are lot of references made in vyasa bharatha which emphasizes the fact that Karna flew 4 times while having a war with Arjuna & with Bhisma, Karna wasnt even a match and remember Lord Parushuram had given all his armoury to Drona who was a lot superior to Karna.

      Please dont be emotional and partial… try to be practical .

      Like

      • He mentioned things from Authentic versions only do check it before accusing him ..karna was not a match to arjuna ROFL have you at least read any authentic versions except that version by self made avatar madhacharya ? Karna got all weapons from parashurma itself that’s the reason for Arjuna to wander in forest in search of divine weapons…..Karna achieved great feats than Bhisma,Drona in kuruchestra war……why people are more interested in virata war ? is it bigger than Kuruchestra or that’s important because Arjuna succeeded in it but desperately failed in Kuruchestra ?

        please don’t be biased too much by hiding behind Virata war always its war anything could happen

        Like

      • That foremost of men endued with great valour, viz., the son of Radha, afflicted those eight heroes engaged in battle with eight keen shafts. The Suta’s son possessed of great prowess, O king, then slew many thousands of other warriors skilled in fight. Filled with rage, the son of Radha then slew Jishnu, and Jishnukarman, and Devapi, O king, in that battle, and Citra, and Citrayudha, and Hari, and Singhaketu and Rochamana and the great car-warrior Salabha, and many car-warriors among the Cedis bathed the form of Adhiratha’s son in blood, while he himself was engaged in taking the lives of those heroes. There, O Bharata, elephants, assailed with arrows by Karna, fled away on all sides in fear and caused a great agitation on the field of battle. Others assailed with the shafts of Karna, uttered diverse cries, and fell down like mountains riven with thunder. With the fallen bodies of elephants and steeds and men and with fallen cars, the Earth became strewn along the track of Karna’s car. Indeed, neither #Bhishma, nor #Drona, nor any #other #warrior of thy army had ever achieved such feats as were then achieved by Karna in that battle.

        its clear Karna is better than Drona ,bhisma………….

        Like

  19. Great post sir , i admire your half knowledge work.

    Karna was defeated By GAndharavas ok fine hide that he was drunk and citrasena attacked him without warnings and used Illusions to deprive his senses …..but are you aware he Vanquished them during his dig vijay campaign ? well did you guys covered up this article by concentrating only on anti -karna passages
    //When he’s young, he squeezes oil out of the earth to help a Brahmin boy only to incur the wrath of Mother Earth// folklore not present in any authentic texts

    //kunti tells him that he is her son, the eldest of the Pandavas, and that he must fight therefore with his brothers, to which Karna replies: ‘I only have one brother. His name is Duryodhana.’//
    I just had to wonder where you get this kinda cooked stories he just tells her that he cant dessert him in a critical situation and offers the lives of four sons.

    // regarding generosity // He has taken a vow not to return any one in empty hands in which indra took the advantage and being gratified he offered him a weapon skathi which no one has a counter for….. by the same logic he offered four sons to kunti who turned empty hands after failing to change his side.

    // He behaves similarly during the war; when Bhishma chides him, he sulks and vows not to fight until the grandsire has fallen. This is at great cost to the Kauravas, and yet he holds firm, putting a personal slight above the needs of his friend Duryodhana.//

    He was offered the title “artha ratha” purposely by Bhisma to put karna out from the war.ther’s nothing karna can do and Duryodhana knew about it seriously artha ratha , a position for a
    “atiratha” warrior or two maharatha warrior ? and why do you guys feel Duryodhana needs Karna when Gransire is in the posotion himself ? what can he do as a ” artha ratha” with weapons like Brahamastra,Bhragava, etc… Reputation

    // . Even during the war, owing to pride, he stays out of the war for a full ten days. When he does arrive, though, he fails to make a significant impact.//

    Karna was the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army for 2 days, but in 2 days he had slain 1.5 Akshauhini of Pandava troops still not a significant impact ?

    Sparing bhima,yudhistir,nakula,shadeva repeatedly not enough ?

    Krishna had to bail arjuna out from the hands of karna twice nagastra,Brahamastra and he broke the brahama armor of Arjuna remember Indra who had to take Karna’s armor ? still not significant

    KARNA – THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE WARRIOR
    Karna killed 1.5 Akshahoni (1,18,14,39,270) of pandava army in just 1.5 days. There was no warrior in history who had achieve such feats in kurushetra.
    p.s : I have proofs from authentic texts about the things i mentioned above

    now coming to your question regarding //What are your reasons for liking Karna?//

    A : its because i find so much half knowledge people who shower their hatred without reading the texts to defame a hero that maybe another new reason to like him Thanks !!!!

    Like

  20. Karna and Bhisma are the most powerful warriors in Mahabharata . They both never fought together at Kurukshetra . Because both of their presence would have given an unconditional victory to the Kaurava army . Apart from Krishna’s presence , The reason Pandavas won was that they had a true purpose to fight , which the Kaurava army didn’t have . The Kaurava army even with many powerful warriors like Bhisma , Drona , Karna and Aswattama had lost because they just fought to protect Duryodhan . Not for glory . And none of these powerful warriors wanted to harm the Pandavas ( Except for Karna who targeted only Arjuna ) .

    Like

  21. leaveityaar says:

    Dear sharath

    Whatever you have written or Whatever i am replying its our personal views towards a man whom even lord krishna liked , he always admired his loyality and friendship , his generosity, and his fight against his fate. I know that its my personal view but according to lord krishna Mahabharat is a play and he is director and all other are characters having assigned a role to portray so that the world of today can take lessons from these great characters , even you all say bad about Duryodhana, but he was born with that hatred to pandvas and it is said that apart from pandvas topic he was also a great and kind hearted king to his people, a person whom his brothers loved most. I am not saying that he was right what he has done to Droupadi but from that episode of droupadi and duryodhana in indraprasth , we learned that even a small thing can create Mahabharat. Coming to karna , for me he was the hero , because he always fight for everything which he have achieved , even he was made king of Anga only because Duryodhan knows that apart of karna no one can do a 1 on 1 combat with Arjuna. Whatever he acheived in his life either curse or blessings all are circumstances and phases of life.

    Like

  22. sushilkunwar says:

    if lord krishna and lord hanuman did not have give support to arjun them arjun get easily defect by karna its arjun great luck to have lord krishna and hanuman who is with him in the war

    Like

  23. sharath if u don’t knw just stop writing n if u want 2 write knw full well beforehand or is ur brain empty vessel that sound much…….whatever writer sharath ji…..

    Like

  24. 1) Karna caused tremendous carnage of Panchalas on the penultimate day of the battle under the very eyes of Jishnu and Krishna.
    2) Karna was unslayable as Lord Krishna himself admitted that even Sudarshana Chakra could not penetrate his celestial solar armour.
    3) Karna was about to split Jarasandha in a mortal duel with bare hands (ever heard Arjuna doing this??). This has been recorded by Narada.
    4) Karna brought all kingdoms under the sway of hastinapura including Panchala.
    5) His bow Vijaya which he used only in the final battle was superior to Arjunas Gandiva.
    6) Read the gandharva part carefully in MB. You will find that Karna did not even have his weapons in hand which explains why he did not use celestial weapons by which any illusion could be destroyed. Pandavas and Arjuna on the other hand were very well prepared. Arjuna immediately used agneya weapon and atleast 5 other celestial weapons mentioned in MB.
    7) The only place where Arjuna suposedly defeats Karna is in the Virata Parva using a weapon called Sammohana. Just before using that weapon is a detailed account of how they encounter each other. An account of how Arjuna himself amount a celestial chariot and with celestial bow and inexhuastible quivers destroys Karnas chariot, quivers, bow and pierces his mail with arrows and makes him flee. But later on Karna returns. So do the other warriors who were made to flee by Arjuna. No warrior is decisively defeated. And then unable to check them all, he finally uses Sammohana. It is difficult to believe that Drona and Karna are unable to counter this weapon. In the same description there are several inconsistencies. It is said that Arjuna after using the Sammohana and taking the garments of kurus leaves the battle though Bhishma strikes him while leaving and he strikes in return. Then Bhishma discourages Duryodhana by praising Arjuna and he agrees to retreat and it is mentioned that Arjuna follows the kurus for some time and breaks Duryodhanas crown ! Highly impossible. So first Arjuna uses Sammohana, stupefies the kurus and leaves the battlefield (without checking whether the kurus are retreating), while countering Bhishma ! Is he running away ? Paradoxically he follows them after they start retreating and breaks Duryodhanas crown ! I dont ever think Duryodhana would have taken it in kind with crown broken by a following Arjuna. Duryodhana was not a coward by any chance. The inconsistency does not stand a chance. Drona and Karna could easily have countered the Sammohana weapon. What really must have happened, is this. Arjuna used the weapon only on the formation in which Duryodhana was stationed resulting in his and the armys stupefaction and then retreated from the battlefield. The fearful words of Uttara after the battle had commenced indicate that he could no longer perform as a charioteer. And thus even after having an unbreakable chariot and unable to check the advancing Kuru army Arjuna had to retreat by stupefying them. Drona and Karna were not stupefied at all nor was Ashwatthama. However, Bhishma portrayed this the other way round. He made it appear as if Arjuna was doing them all a favor by retreating from battle.
    8) Karna helps Duryodhana become the emperor through the Digvijay and also when he abducts Bhanumati it is Karna who fights with all the kings present. And it is said that he could not help Duryodhana. It is Karna on whose prowess Duryodhana is confident of victory against Pandavas.
    9) Yudhisthira has mentioned about Karna giving him sleepless nights in 14 years of exile due to fear.
    10) The very boon granted by Parshurama was that it would fructify when someone equal to him and not superior or inferior would confront him in war.
    Wj

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  25. allseasons says:

    This article is merely a personal interpretation of the author and has got no real basis. At times I feel the author is trying to get attention by writing something as negative as this, the quality of low self esteem feels like more of a reflection of the author than Karna. Don’t want to get personal but, lot of the claims made by the author are more in his head than a sensible interpretation of the story of Karna.
    This is how modern journalism is working unfortunately, creating negative influences..

    Like

  26. Sumit Chatterjee says:

    Whoever have posted this thread should read this carefully……
    You are telling that Karna had a low self esteem…a man who is abandoned by his mother Kunti at the time of birth(or better saying attempted to kill him by drowning in river), gets deprived of education from teachers including Dronacharya, gets mocked by the society due to his thirst of knowledge,gets rejected as well as insulted by Drapaudi inspite of being loyal in the Swayambar,declared as Ardharathi by Bhishma(inspite of being an Atimaharathi),mocked by Pandavas because of his low caste…..but still adopted by Radha(according to karna she was his real mother and Karna known as Radheya not Kaunteya),got his education(not only education but the highest warfare technique which can be ever learned) from the guru of all gurus Parashuram,had all the qualities of Pandavas alone which Draupaudi never ever understood,killed more number(akshounis) of soldiers on average than Bhisma,deafeated all the 5 pandavas and spared their live(including Arjuna on the 17th day)…. are all these the qualities of a person with low self-esteem???!!! In the Mahabharata every person cheated each other…the Pandavas killed their own pitamaha Bhisma inspite of knowing that Bhisma always favoured Pandavas…Arjuna killed his own guru Dronacharya who loved Arjun more than his own son Ashwathama….only Karna stands for his true friendship…inspite of knowing his fate and destiny he decided to support his friend Duryodhan till his last breath. Lord Krishna asked Karna how he knew that the Pandavas would win the war, to which he replied, “Kurukshetra is a sacrificial field. Arjuna is the Head Priest, you -Krishna are the presiding deity. Myself (Karna), Bhishma Dev, Dronacharya and Duryodhana are the sacrifice.’ Krishna ended their conversation by telling Karna, ‘You are the best of the Pandavas.’He is an epitome of friendship for today’s generation.
    You have told that karna’s daanveerta is due to his ego….if that was true then people have not used the complement Danveer Karna til 21st century.One day Krishna in disgiuse went to karna to ask for sandel wood…but as it was raining in the forests all the woods were wet so karna himself cut down his fence to provide the wood..is this daan related to ego by any means???When karna helped a child to get the ghee(oil) from the ground,when he did not move a little bit so that his teacher’s sleep is not disturbed…where was his ego????He used to donate to the poor on every morning during sunrise…is this an ego???Actually he was from a poor family,he lived his childhood among common people that is why he knew their lives,he was different from the kings….so he donated. He was the most soft hearted and selfless person of entire Mahabharat.
    You have told that karna did not participated in the war during the first 10 days due to his ego problems with Bhisma….you are completely wrong about this…it was Bhisma who did not wanted to fight alongside karna due to his low caste…as Bhishma was senior and more experienced so Karna accepted Bhishma’s decision otherwise Bhisma wouldnot have fought the war.
    You are telling that Arjuna defeated Karna during Virat Yudh…I am providing you one more information Karna also couldnot defeat the Gandharvas while Arjun defeated them…Now the reasons are during Virat Yudh karna didnot carried many of his special weapons and also fought with ordinary bow while Arjuna was having Gandiva…but still karna wasn’t really defeated…Arjuna used mohini astra and made him unconscious…in the Gandharva war Karna was not at all prepared for any war…he did not have any bow…he was fighting with a sword…but still he fought his best but the Gandharvas were using magical powers and created many illusions and Karna couldnot encounter them easily due to the absence of bow…but still he was invulnerable due to his skills…but duryodhan was captured and hence Karna had to surrender otherwise Gandharvas would have killed Duryodhan. Moreover,wining and losing are the same sides of two coins…they cannot occur alone…you lose some and win some.In Brazil vs Argentina,sometimes Brazil wins and sometimes Argentina…but that does not decide superiority of any team.
    You have told that Karna didnot created any significance impact during the kurukshetra war…during the war karna killed the Gandharva King Chitrasena who previously captured Karna in absence of his bow….he killed the mighty giant Ghatotkacha who was invulnerable even for Guru Dronacharya…he defeated the four pandavas(Yudhisthir,Bhim,Nakul,Sahadeva) with their respective preferred weapons but spared their lives due to his promise with karna…in duel with arjuna when arjuna’s arrow struck karna’s chariot it moved about 10 feets…but Karna’s arrow moved Arjuna’s chariot only 2 feets…but Krishna praised Karna because Arjuna’s chariot included the weight of entire universe because Krishna was on his chariot and still Karna moved it…if krishna would have stepped down then Arjuna had been thrown outside the universe…Lord Hanuman was sitting on the flag of Arjun’s Chariot so Karna’s weapons had no action on it…when after the war the flag was removed the chariot bursted into pieces….Arjuna was saved by Krishna when Karna used Nagastra and Vaishnavastra….Arjuna fled from the battlefield when Karna used Bharagavastra,the weapon of his guru Parashuram.On the 16th day,Karan defeated Arjun and tied him with arrows.Just when Karna was about to kill Arjuna…Krishna made the sunset and hence Karna spared Arjun’s life as he always followed the rules(both of war and life except the fake ones which are against humanity).Due to the skills of Karna, Yudhisthira even started doubting Arjuns’s ability.
    Knowing Karna’s might, Krishna on the 17th day warned Arjuna, called Karna as the foremost among the warriors and not to underestimate Karna: Hear in brief, O son of Pandu! I regard the mighty car-warrior Karna as thy equal, or perhaps, thy superior! In energy he is equal to Agni. As regards speed, he is equal to the impetuosity of the wind. In wrath, he resembles the Destroyer (Shiva) himself. Endued with might, he resembles a lion in the formation of his body. He is eight ratnis in stature. His arms are large. His chest is broad. He is invincible. He is sensitive (about his manhood and honour). He is a hero. He is, again, the foremost of heroes. He is exceedingly handsome. Possessed of every accomplishment of a warrior, he is a dispeller of the fears of his friends. No one, not even the gods with Vasava (Indra) at their head, can slay the son of Radha, save thee, as I think. No one possessed of flesh and blood, not even the gods fighting with great care, nor all the warriors of the three worlds fighting together can vanquish that car-warrior.
    So,are these not enough as the proof of Karna’s impact of the war???
    Karna was the most modern and advanced man of his time period….his thoughts were far advanced of his age…and its was this modernisation that always conflicted with the thoughts of the orthodox society….the people including Bhsima,Drona and Pandavas had no logic to proof their views and so forcefully wanted to implement their own rules and thereby insulted Karna who was their only barrier.
    But still Karna was indirectly involved in many conspiracies and adharma as he was always beside Duryodhan. Many times he even quarreled with Duryodhan,tried to make his friend understand dharma and bring him to right path but he failed. He even decided to leave many times but could not escape the barrier of his friendship,loyalty,promises and duty.It is this dilemma which led him to his death.But if we think ourselves in his position, then it is really difficult to have any solution for this dilemma.But Karna solved his dilemma…he kept his promises to his friend Duryodhan by fighting for him,he kept promises to his mother Kunti by not slaying any Pandavas and finally even saved the society by accepting death in the hands of Arjuna.Thus he kept the promises of brotherhood,friendship and even as a son.
    People say that Karna was himself responsible for his acts…but the society too was equally responsible….where was his mother Kunti when the while world asked about his parentage???where was Lord Krishna when the society mocked him???why did not he raise his Sudarshan Chakra at that time like he did at the time when Shisupal was insulting Draupadi???Why he remain silent when Draupadi insulted Karna by calling Sutaputra???Do women only demand respect and men have no respect??Why did he did not guide Karna like he did with Arjuna??And why the society is so concern about birth lineage of a man…is it more important than talent,skills,dedication and humanity???
    Your post is full of wrong information. The only right info is that most of us like Karna because we find ourselves in Karna. Yes Karna exists in many of us.The people who have talents hidden inside them,have minds full of ideas,have heart full of humanity and courage,have throats filled with thirst of knowledge,but do not have any reputed background,or any connection with higher level people,or not enough wealth to give bribes are the Karnas of this Kaliyug. They have the potential to get the highest education…but they are deprived of education by the Reputed Universities due to the flaws of education system,they have the ability to get the best jobs but are deprived of the companies because of their degrees from ordinary universities,they can become great scientists,scholars etc. but are not given any single chance.They try and try and fail and become frustated. The higher authority people who govern the world are the Bhishma,Dronacharya,Pandavas of Kaliyug. Then the helpless Karnas atlast get help from some bad company like Duryodhan(for fulfulling their own wishes) and become their friends.They start working with their aim of changing the world but also share the sins of Duryodhans. They started suffering from dilemma,their life become like hell but they cannot do anything.
    I myself find Karna inside myself. But we all are proud about that.To change the world more and more Karna are needed.It is not Arjun, it is only Karna who can break the obstacles of the rules of the hypocritic society.The rules which are against humanity are really meant to be broken and only Karna can broke them.And one they today’s Karna will broke them and even Kaliyug’s Arjun with his Kalki Avatar can not stop him.
    Your post is full of false information….I do not know if you have done it intentionally or not…if you don’t like Karna then do not praise him…but you have no right to insult him.If you think that you have 1 Lakh fans of Arjuna…then I remind you that there are 1 Crore fans of Karna…and your post cannot change the ratio.
    THANK YOU.

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