Karna, the charitable one, was the brother of Emperor Yudhistira and son of Queen Kunti.
Birth of Karna
Once Sage Durvasa visited the palace of King Kuntibhoja.
There, his daughter Kunti served him satisfactorily.
Therefore, he initiated her into a Vashikarana mantra or a seductive spell.
In her childlike curiosity, she instantly invoked the sun god.
Bound by the spell, he granted her a resplendent boy child.
The baby looked appealing wearing divine armour and a pair of earrings.
Since Kunti was unmarried, she feared societal norms.
Hence, she reluctantly packed the infant in a treasure chest and floated it across the ganges.
Luckily, a charioteer named Adhirtha found the infant and fostered it like a father.
The couple named the infant ‘Karna’.
Karna learns Archery
Karna showed passion for archery.
Hence, his father Adhiratha approached Dronacharya for his tutoring.
On maturing, Karna challenged Arjuna.
Pleased by Karna’s outgoingness, Duryodhana became his friend.
Thereby, as a token of love, he gifted him the kingship of Anga.
Hence, Karna is also called Angaraj.
Parashurama- the teacher of Karna
Since Dronacharya refused to teach him the Brahmastra, he slyly learnt warfare from the great Parshurama.
Consequently, he reached Mahendra Parvata and propitiated Lord Parshurama by posing as a brahmana.
By his one-pointed devotion, he impressed the seer.
The Brahamana’s curse
Once, while hunting, Karna shot a Brahman’s pious cow and incurred the sin of Gohatya.
Pained by the loss, the brahmana uttered a curse-
“Your greatest enemy shall vanquish you!”
Thereafter Karna pleased Sage Parashurama by his services.
Eventually he learnt the brahmastra.
Parshurama curses Karna
Once, Sage Prashurama was peacefully sleeping on Karna’s lap.
Suddenly, an eight-legged spider began sucking his blood.
In his great guru bhakti, unmoved he endured the pain.
The insect literally pierced through him resulting in blood loss.
At his fiery glance, the insect immediately perished.
On seeing the boy’s endurance, he thought-
“This child cannot be a Brahmana.
A brahmana cannot possess such tolerance.”
Angrily, he yelled “Are you a brahmana boy?”
Karna immediately fell at his feet and said-
“Oh lord, I am the son of a charioteer.”
Parshurama cursed him-
“You lied to your preceptor.
Hence, you shall forget my teachings during war”
Thereafter Karna immediately returned to his bosom friend Duryodhana.
Once, King Chitrangad of Kalinga, held his daughter’s swayamvara.
Duryodhana deceitfully abducted her.
Hence, to help his friend, Karna fought with the valorous Jarasandha.
Impressed by his bravery, Jarsandha gifted him Malini Nagari.
Thereafter Karna married Padmavati.
Karna conquers the world
Durodhayan struggled to kill the Pandavas.
Bhishma Pitamah, the great grandsire, criticized Karna and praised Arjuna.
In retaliation, Karna set out on a conquering spree to prove his superiority.
Finally, he returned conquering Drupad, Bengal, Kalinga, Mithila, Magadha, Keral and Malava.
Duryodhana and his flatterers applauded his valour.
Karna- The epitome of generosity
Thereafter Karna organized a Vaishnava Yagya where he donated riches.
He had vowed-
“Until I kill Arjuna,
I shall follow this vow.”
Indeed, Karna never hesitated in parting with his favorite-of-favorite possessions.
Such was his generosity.
Like the sun god, he generously made the greatest of sacrifices.
Thus he bore the traits of his celestial father Surya.
Indra demands Kavacha and Kundala
Once Surya deva appeared in his dream and warned him of his brother Indra’s intentions-
“See, Indra shall arrive in the guise of a Brahmana.
He shall undoubtedly demand your kavacha and Kundala.
Don’t give them”
“Oh lord, I can never deny when it comes to giving.
I shall protect my honour even if it means giving my life.”
The kavacha and kundala remained with him from birth.
Yet, he discarded all mundane thoughts.
Ultimately Surya dev suggested a counter ploy-
“Ok, Ask the impeccable Shakti weapon in return.”
Accordingly, Indra appeared in disguise and demanded his possession.
Without the least trace of doubt, Karna said-
“Deva, take these and grant me your powerful Shakti weapon”
However, Indra said warningly-
“We kill thousands of enemies with this.
However, it shall return to me after your first use.”
After the exile
The pandavas had sincerely finished their exile and sent messengers for a truce.
However, Karna’s interference foiled all attempts.
Both sides prepared for war.
Bhishma became the first commander-in-chief of the Kaurava camp.
He carefully instructed Duryodhana-
“Karna is cursed by my revered preceptor Parshurama.
Also, now he doesn’t possess his Kavacha and Kundala.
Hence, I grant him the status of a half-warrior or Ardharathi.”
Humiliated, Karna decided to not yield weapons under Bhishma’s flag.
Bhishma recognizes Karna
Ten day later, when Bhishma lay on the bed of arrows, Karna met him at dusk and said-
“I am that very Karna whom you keep humiliating.”
Bhishma demanded isolation.
Then he hugged karma and said-
“You disliked the Pandavas. Hence, I criticized you.
However, none is as generous and devoted to God as you.
I have heard from Sage Narada and Vyasa that you are Kunti Putra.
All my misconceptions have gone.
Now, you should fight for your Pandava brothers.”
“I believe your words.
But, Duryodhana is my benefactor.
How can betray him?
Then Bhishma said-
“Ok fight dispassionately and desist from unfair war.”
The killing of Abhimanyu
After Bhishma, Drona became the next commander.
Under his flag, Karma fought numerous wars.
He helped Duryodhana in treacherously murdering Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna.
To prevent the fatal shakti, Krishna kept Arjuna’s chariot away from him.
Instead he sent Bhima’s mighty son Ghatotkacha.
By his illusionary warfare he dumbfounded the Kauravas and killed many of their soldiers.
In self defence Karna reluctantly released the shakti weapon on him.
Ghatodgacha died instantly and safeguarded his uncle Arjuna’s life.
Karna- the Kaurava commander
After Drona, Karna became the third commander. Even Shalya agreed to become his charioteer.
The entire pandava army ran in meyhem by his powerful onslaught.
In spite of Shalya’s demotivation, Karna killed numerous exceptional warriors.
Except Arjuna he had defeated all the Pandavas.
Kunti meets Karna
Before the war, Kunti met Karna and revealed his identity. She said- You are my eldest son. Fight for your brothers.”
Karna rejected the proposal. However, he vowed- “Except Arjuna, I shall spare the rest.” Hence, the Pandava still survived on being defeated.
Death of Karna
Shri Krishna rode Arjiuna’s chariot. By his grace, Arjuna ultimately won the war.
Besides, Karna gave Arjuna a tough fight.
Without Krishna’s assistance, Arjuna’s defeat was certain.
Karna was exceptional in bravery, generosity, and stuck to his vow.
Even today, people sing tales of his bravery with great love and admiration in the countryside.
Thanks for reading!