Anand Neelkantan

Karna from Mahabharata – the man I awe

Karna, from Mahabharata, was one man who could have changed the entire scenario of Mahabharata. His ally mattered, and he could have been the king of Hastinapur, but he chose friendship. He chose anger against his mother – maybe the umpteen dejections he faced because of being a suta putra created constant trouble inside him. Researchers read his thoughts according to their understanding, but I sometimes wonder – What was his thought process? Was he just an impulsive common man? Or was he something much beyond that? Whatever it was – when I read about him – I cry when he cries, I feel angry when he acts on principles, I feel happy when he is in love, and I hate the people he hates.

Mahabharata – the serial on Doordarshan

During my childhood, we didn’t have a TV in all households, forget about cable and individual entertainment devices. Doordarshan was our sole rescue. So, every Sunday, people used to flock near the windows and in the drawing room to watch Mahabharata. This was in my grandma’s house in Mugma, Jharkhand.

Kurukshetra (Dharmakshetra) war

Some scenes have refused to leave my memory even after 3 decades.

  1. Bhisma, the great Pitamaha getting slain by arrows for keeping up to his valour and not fighting against a woman (even as a child, I had wondered whether he was disrespecting a woman by not fighting with her! As back then I wasn’t aware of eunuch).
  2. Abhimanyu, getting trapped in Chakravyuh. I remember the entire crowd crying at his death – for being cheated by the Kauravas. As a kid, I didn’t bother to ask myself why he entered the Chakravyuh with half-baked knowledge!? If he has gained the knowledge in his mother’s womb before she fell asleep, should he have not tried to gain the full knowledge from his father when he was practising his war skills? Or he might have – but Arujana was confident of protecting his son forever.
  3. Karna’s death. I still remember the man trying to pull out his chariot’s wheel when he was killed! What a silly death for a Dharmaveera.
  4. In the dual, when Bhima was all haggard, the smirk on Krishna’s face and his tapping on the thigh. And then Bhima hit Duryodhana on his thighs.
  5. The lie on the lips of the ever truthful, Yudhisthira and not to anyone else but his Guru (a teacher who holds one of the highest positions in our lives) – Aswathama is dead, and then he mutters an elephant. He lies to his teacher that the latter’s son has died in the war, whereas Pandavas under the guidance of Krishan had named an elephant Aswathama and killed it (after all, the lives of animals are made for sacrifices). So, Yudhisthira didn’t lie after all – Drona just fell into their trap!

Incidents leading to the Kurukshetra war

The Sabha in which Draupadi was gambled
The Sabha in which Draupadi was gambled

Those were the scenes from the great Mahabharata war. Some scenes are not a part of the Kurukshetra war but are crucial for this war, and I so remember them.

  1. Draupadi stripped off her saree. And the white saree didn’t seem to end. Dushasana kept pulling it and pulling it, and Draupadi kept chanting Krishna’s name. And, the entire Sabha sat still, some jeering, while some hanging their heads down in shame. Roopa Ganguly’s face got engraved in my mind in that scene, with burning eyes and unkempt hair.
  2. Some rishi (I can’t remember from the serial. But read that it was Indra, the father of Arjuna) came and asked Karna from Mahabharata to give away his kavach kundala and he parted with it –to keep a promise to his guru, Parshurama! He wasn’t superstitious. He believed in his cause and believed the better one, fighting a righteous war, would win.

So, why am I suddenly blabbering about Mahabharata – I’m currently reading Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan. And through this journey, I re-lived some of the scenes of the serial that was an integral part of my childhood. Now, coming to my hero – Karna.

Karna – the Dharmaveera, the Glorious

Who was Karna from Mahabharata?

Excerpts from the Rise of Kali - Karna from Mahabharata
Who was Karna from Mahabharata?

To me – Karna was an ordinary man, disowned by his mother, unaware of his father, brought up by loving foster parents in a caste-bound society, an ambitious man with capabilities, a true friend, and a man of principle. I have not read about his wife and children. But I think he was a man who loved his wife honestly and with passion—and instilled the right principles in his children while being a caring father.

Karna as a husband & father

Yes, he had loved Draupadi, and from the book, I learnt even Draupadi loved him. But she was just a pawn in the hands of Krishna, who had to stop him from participating in her swayamvara. And he later got married to a herd of 5. Karna, of all people, should have stopped the vastraharan of Draupadi but his rage made him so blind that he faltered and did something no man should do to a woman and that too to a lady whom he loved so dearly. Why he participated in that crime – does anyone have an answer? My heart grieves to think of that Sabha!

I have hardly read anything about Karna’s children – maybe that’s because I’m not an avid reader. But I want to know how this fearless man was as a father and a husband!

Aswathama, the Brahmin son

This poor kid was a fighter well trained by his father but never got the acclamation from his father, Drona until he was alive. He was one of the closest companions of Duryodhana. He could live and die for the latter but not accept that his friend valued him after Karna. When he got to know that Karna has promised Kunti not to kill any other son of hers except Arjuna, he thought him to be a traitor. And, when Aswathama learned that Karna had given off his armour to a priest, he was furious. But, when this same man learned that Karna was Kunti’s son, he felt ashamed for doubting a man who chose death over the crown. But, would Karna’s name be related with good and equally bad if he had accepted the throne – forget about winning the admiration of many like me?

Rise of Kali – Anand Neelakantan

Excerpts from the Rise of Kali - Mahabharata the war ends
Who won the Mahabharata war?

The war of Kurukshetra has formally ended. The Kauravas were dead, and the Pandavas was living dead.  Aswathama crawls to Suyodhana (known to us as Duryodhana), lying dead, and speaks about their friend, Karna from Mahabharata, “Suyodhana, the kingdom belonged to Karna, yet he died for you. You were right about him.”

Is everything fair in love and war?

When Karna struggled to pull out his chariot’s wheel, Arjuna, guided by Krisha, raised his bow and aimed Karna’s throat. This mostly righteous man thought Arjuna was posing, as “no warrior possessed of a modicum of honour would shoot a man like this.” He had got the same scope just a few mins back; he could have shot at Arjuna when he was weaponless. But he was following the rules of war. The rules of war? I mean, seriously – isn’t everything fair in love and war?

Excerpts from the Rise of Kali

And to Conclude

If you have read till here, first, we would like to thank you for your patience and bearing with Neha’s random thoughts. After reading the two parts of Ajaya, her thoughts were all scattered. So many characters and all obsessed with their thoughts of Dharma and Adharma. It’s not just a fictional drama filled with whims and where anyone can be pointed out as right or wrong. It’s about us, the people taking a right and wrong actions in a particular situation. Of all the characters, she holds Karna from Mahabharata closest to her heart. And thus, this article.

Please feel free to share your views.

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