Re-enacting the script of the Mahabharata
Benito Z. Swu
[dropcap]A [/dropcap]recap of the Mahabharata to maintain continuity of the article: The Mahabharata revolves around the Kauravas, Pandavas and Karna the pre-marital son of the mother of the Pandavas, Kunti. The former is portrayed as the villains and the later as the heroes, saviors of justice, good deeds, and virtue. In a game of dice, the Pandavas are compelled to play with all the possessions they have, including the brothers, the king, and their common wife Draupati. All were won by the Dhartarashtras, the Pandavas were humiliated and sent to forest for 12 years. On their return to claim what they had lost, a war is declared between the Dhartarashtras and the Pandavas with Karna at the Dhartarashtras’ side. Karna was on the side of the Dhartarashtras purely because of friendship which culminated when Duryodhana came to the rescue of Karna, when Karna was being publicly insulted, by offering him friendship and a kingdom. Krishna sided with the Pandavas due to the relationship within the family. Krishna plays tactically outside the war frame and also within the frame to defeat the Dhartarashtras.The personality of Karna in the epic is no less than that of a hero, or rather, the “hidden hero” of the Mahabharata. He has been portrayed as an all time generous and a good individual. He never said ‘no’ to anybody whatever they may ask for. After all, he also carried the same blood as that of the Pandavas. He was the son of the “Sun God” and “Kunti”.
Since he was the pre-marital son of Kunti, she, inorder to avoid the humiliation of being a mother before marriage rolled baby Karna with a cloth in a basket and set it afloat on the river Ganga. He was picked up by a charioteer of the king and was raised by him as his own son. He was born with the kavach and Kundal (armour and earrings), the gift of his father, the Sun God, to protect him from harm. Karna was a great warrior and learnt the art by himself, by just observing the guru. Karna was better than the best, the best being Arjuna.
Now, it must be mentioned that Krishna played a pivotal role in the Mahabharata. But any lay person can see the role he played, in poor light, especially when keeping Karna in mind as the hero. The only mistake, people say Karna did wrong was being associated with bad company. Otherwise, the Gita portrays him as a gem of a person. At one stage after the war Krishna himself says to Arjuna that Karna is the real warrior and better than him. There are reasons as to how and why he was pulled into the bad company. Karna was denied his rights in several kingship activities since he was not a Kshatriya, but was the son of a charioteer. He was humiliated and cursed for the reason of his birth. Naturally, he accepted the person who extended a friendly arm. Though Duryodhana would involve himself in evil activities, he was always a good friend of Karna and he saw Karna as a Commander in his army. Here, Krishna doesn’t have anything to do, but as he was a God, he could have stopped Karna ending up with bad company, for Karna was just a human being. During the “Game of Dice” Karna refused to support the activities of Shakuni and Karna seriously did not like him. The climax of the “Game of Dice” – the humiliation of Draupadi, is heart breaking from the Pandavas point of view but it all started and ended with the knowledge of Krishna and one can easily see and deduce that there was no mistake from Duryodhana. In the game of dice, the Pandavas lost their wife, Draupadi, who was placed as a bet. Krishna didn’t stop the Pandavas from playing their wife. He did not do that or he was not there to advice the Pandavas by design, but one thing is certain here. The Pandavas, failed to respect women, leave alone their wife. Krishna didn’t advice them but had decided to play it against Duryodhana and his friend Karna. If Krishna had to punish, he should have done it with Duryodhana and Shakuni and not Karna.
Just before the great battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna strategizes on the strengths and weaknesses of Duryodhana. He understands Karna to be the biggest strength and meets Karna to reveal the truth of his birth and mother, and asks him to join the Pandavas, ditching Duryodhana, but Karna refuses. Now Krishna, as he had failed, tries to get Karna through the back door by using his weakness – the generous nature of Karna. He asks God Indra, the father of Arjuna, to meet Karna and ask for his golden kavach and kundal fearing that these two will guide Karna to victory. Karna though, knew that the person who had come was God Indra in disguise and also of his intensions. Yet he still cuts off the kavach and the kundal and gave it to God Indra. Indra, touched by this bold gesture of Karna, in return gave him to use the “Bhramashtra”.
Though Krishna succeeded in stripping Karna of his armor and earrings, he did not like the gesture of Indra giving Karna the ‘Bhramashtra’. This time Krishna tries to play with Karna’s emotions and asks Kunti to meet Karna and let him know the truth. Kunti tried to get him with the Pandavas but as usual Karna refused. He just could not betray Duryodhana. However, Karna gave his mother his word that he will not harm the Pandava brothers, but “Arjuna”, and also use the ‘Bhramashtra’ only once. The goodness of Karna here again is that, he knew since Arjuna is in the hands of Krishna as his charioteer, nothing could possibly harm him, but yet In return Karna didn’t even ask for the surety of his own life.
During the war, Karna spared every member of the Pandava brothers. When he met Arjuna with Krishna, Krishna plays a trick. When Karna used his ‘Bhramastra’, Krishna cunningly sunk the chariot down to save Arjuna. Karna’s aim was the neck of Arjuna and since the chariot was sunk, it missed Arjuna. The charioteer for Karna had told him not to aim the neck but the waist. Why Karna did not consider that advice, I for one do not know, but due to that the charioteer left the battlefield angry, leaving behind Karna helpless. When Karna tries to get his chariot running, Krishna orders Arjuna to attack him and so does Arjuna, but Karna remains alive. The Dharma that Karna did unto others was saving him from dying. Krishna knew that killing Karna will be difficult when they face him and thereby orders Arjuna to kill Karna when he was busy pushing the chariot, hapless and defenseless. After the war, when Krishna meets Gandhari, the queen mother of the Kauravs, she tells him, “you knew what was going to happen and you still could’ve prevented the war but did not.”
Krishna could have stopped the war, he could have brought everyone together well before anything could have happened. Had Krishna told the Pandavas about who Karna actually was instead of silently watching the Pandavas humiliate Karna, the scale and magnitude of the tragic war would have been limited, if not completely averted. Krishna hit the weak points of Karna before the war could begin knowing that he cannot win him in the battlefield. This was gross misuse of power, as he is god and he knew what was going to happen. Krishna sent God Indra to get Karna’s armour by deception, which was cowardice at its best. Krishna had sent Kunti to extract two promises from her son Karna, knowing that Kunti had no option but to do as told (and Karna would never refuse his mother), inorder to secure the lives of her five legal sons. This was blackmail and dirty politics. Krishna sunk the chariot to save Arjuna and he knew that Karna would not use the ashtray for the second time as he had promised his mother. This is against the nature. Just to save somebody of his interest how can nature be changed? Krishna used the chariot which had divine powers protecting them from Karna’s arrows. This is against the rules of war, as people with equal powers are expected to face each other.
Ultimately we see that Karna basically did not do any wrong. Everything that happened and all his actions were because of circumstances dictated by the times of those days, and as such we find him to be the Hero to whom justice was denied, knowingly by Krishna and unknowingly by the Pandavas.
Oh! House of the Vicitraviryas, Oh! House of the Pandus, you all were not told that he was your brother when he was alive. Even your mother was compelled to not tell you all about the truth. But now you know the truth. He might not have been born from within inside your mother’s womb, and might have very well been a product of genetic science, but he is and remains your brother. The Karna of that epical age cannot be brought back for justice to be given to him. But it can be done so to today’s Karna through your benevolent authority and hand. Even though he might be going bald and his facial hairs going white, he is there as good and as faithful as was told to be, in your midst and under your wings. And he knows more than all the heads here brought together from afar. Oh! All the descendents of the Kuru Kingdom, let peace reign amongst yourselves and the Gods and strengthen the biceps of the chosen hand as he brings forth peace to the far and minds from afar to your door. There is only you, Honorable Prime Minister Sir, who can re-enact the script of the Mahabharata in giving justice to Karna of that epical era by dispensing life and justice to the Karna of the your Modi era today.