End of radiance – Karna’s end | Mahabharata Paintings

Karna took over as commander in chief of Kaurava army on the sixteenth day, after the fall of Drona. Kaurava army had much hope of recovery after the fall of their great chieftains, Bhishma, and Drona.

Coronation of Karna
Coronation of Karna

Kunti knew about the news. She understood that she could not prevent the clash between her sons. But she wanted to minimize the damage by meeting him. Maybe, I think she might have felt that discussing that with Yudhishthira would not earn her because he did not know the background. Some versions of Mahabharata say that it was Krishna who sent her to seek protection for Pandava-s.

It was early in the morning. Karna was in his morning prayers. Kunti came to meet him. Everybody knew that Karna would donate whatever had been asked. Karna understood her motive and asked her to express her wish in a grudge.

“சந்தனக்கட்டைகள் அடுக்கிய சிதையைக் காட்டி பிணங்களை ஆசை காட்டிடும் வீண்வேலை… அர்த்தமற்றதும் கொடூரமானதுமான வீண் உடற்பயிற்சி! விரைவில் நாமிந்த காட்சியை முடித்துக் கொள்வோம்… எந்த லட்சியம் கருதி நீ இங்கு வந்தாய் – என்பதைச் சொல். இனி நான் மேற்கொள்ள வேண்டிய செயல் என்னவென்பதையும் கூறிவிடு. அச்செயல் என்ன ஆயினும் நானதற்குப் பணிவேன் என்பதை நிச்சயமாக நம்பிக்கொண்டு, சொல்லவேண்டியதை விரைவில் சொல்லி முடித்துவிடு”

The futility of making a carcass happy by showing the pyre stacked with sandalwood. Meaningless and horrible futile exercise! We will finish this scene soon. Tell me what ambition you came here for. Please tell me, what you want me to do hereafter. Complete what you have to say as soon as possible, be confident that I will obey you no matter what.

Ini nan urangattum, BK Balakrishnan
Karna Kunti dialogue
Karna Kunti dialogue

Kunti requested him to come to Pandava‘s camp. Citing his bond with Duryodhana, Karna refused to oblige. She asked for the safety for Pandava-s. Karna assured her she will be known as mother of five sons even after the war, either with Arjuna or with him. Karna left to battlefield after that.

It was difficult for Pandava-s to fight with Karna. Kaurava‘s army had time to take breath after successive loses on the sixteenth day. There was a dispute between Yudhishthira and Arjuna about Arjuna’s failure in tackling Karna. All Pandava-s except Arjuna had fought with Karna and lost before this dispute. Though they lost, Karna did not kill then, as he promised to his mother. Unaware of the reality, poor Pandava-s felt humiliated by Karna.

Karna-Bhima
Karna-Bhima

Shalya – the Madra king and maternal uncle of Nakula and Sahadeva – was appointed as Charioteer for Karna by Duryodhana. Krishna raged a psychological war against Karna with the help of Shalya. As directed by Krishna, Shalya was praising Arjuna often. He pointed to his low birth as well to irritate Karna while fighting.

Karna had a powerful astra (weapon) to kill Arjuna. It had the capacity to Kill Arjuna as well. But it can be used only once. Shayla advised Karna to focus on Arjuna’s chest. Karna was confident about this target, so he focused on Arjuna’s neck and shot it. Krishna pushed Arjuna’s chariot a few inches down. As Shalya expected, the astra missed its target and hit Arjuna’s crown.

“கர்ணா, சிரசினை குறிவைத்து அந்த அஸ்திரம் நீ தொடுக்காதே. குறி தவறிவிடும்…” அதற்குக் கர்ணன் சொல்வான்: “மத்ரேசா உனது கூற்றின் பொருள் எனக்குப் புரிகிறது. ஆனால் லட்சியம் குறிவைத்து தொடுத்திட்ட சரம் தனை மாற்றி தொடுப்பது தர்ம நீதிக்கு உகந்ததல்ல. தொடுத்த அம்பினை கர்ணன் திருப்பி வைப்பதில்லை என்பதை நீ அறியவும்…”

“Karna, do not aim at the neck and shoot that arrow. ” To which Karna will say: “Madresa, I understand the meaning of your statement. But it is not in the interest of moral justice to change the string of my target. Know that Karna will not revoke the his arrow.

Ini nan urangattum, BK Balakrishnan

Unfortunately, the wheel of his chariot got stuck inside the pit. He sought help from Shalya to release it. He refused to help and started abusing Karna’s caste.

Death of Karna
Death of Karna

Karna highlighted the rules of war and asked Arjuna to hold for some time until he releases his wheel from the pit. While Karna was busy releasing his wheel by showing his back to Arjuna, Krishna asked Arjuna to shoot his arrow to kill Karna. Arjuna refused as Karna was armless. Krishna countered him by saying that poor Draupadi had not shown such dharma when she was disrobed in court. Outraged Arjuna shot his arrow at Karna, which pierced his heart (or beheaded him).

Death of Karna
Death of Karna

The beautiful and mighty warrior was born in right place at wrong time, faced humiliation allover, did not take anything from this world but donated a lot, ended his life in the battlefield miserably.

Arjuna Slays Karna, page from a copy of the Razmnama, Mughal period
Arjuna Slays Karna, page from a copy of the Razmnama, Mughal period

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2 thoughts on “End of radiance – Karna’s end | Mahabharata Paintings

    • True sir. He is someone who had all opportunities to own the crown. If we keep the dharmic way aside, he should be reasonable for Duryodhana’s failure as well. Duryodhana went to war by trusting on the strength of Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Dushashana. This Karna, had beautiful opportunities to kill every Pandava-s. He wasted all of them due to his belief (or egoic belief) of dharma. Thank you for your visit and comment.

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