Friday 5 August 2011


Karna/ Radheya/ Suryaputra Kaunteya
After the fall of Drona on the 15th day of the disastrous Kurukshetra War, Duryodhna installed Radheya as successor Commander-in-Chief.  Radheya felt gratified for affording an opportunity to repay his gratitude to him by killing Arjuna.  Being fatalistic, he felt that destiny, right from his birth when his own mother Kunti abandoned him, may not help him, hence the fighting may not be ordinary and  fate may not be in his favour.
The fighting started  between Bhima and Dushsasana, where Bhima removed the hand that had held Draupadi by the hair 13 years earlier and threw it in the battlefield crying that he had redeemed his terrible oath.
Thereafter, Radheya and Arjuna faced each other with a determination to kill each other.  A duel was decided and commenced shortly.  Suddenly, Arjuna accelerated the fighting by using divine astras which were set off by Radheya by invoking more powerful and terrible divine astras.
Thereafter Radheya used snake-like Nagastra spitting fire. Then Krishna pressed the chariot down five fingers deep in the mud, the serpent shaft missed Arjuna’s head, but it struck off his helmet  Kiriti, which fell to the ground.
The heroes were equally matched and the field resounded with the sound Vijaya of Radheya and Gandiva of Arjuna.  But, as decided by fate,  Radheya remembered the curse of the Brahmin for killing his cow, he found the sinking of the left wheel of his chariot in marshy ground. Radheya invoked Brahmastra but could not recall it as his memory failed as per the curse of his guru Parashurama for concealing his identification as Sutaputra.
He had already donated his kavacha and kundalas to Indra, father of Arjuna, who appeared  as an old man, thereby Radheya lost his shakti.  Radheya descended from his chariot but he could not lift the wheel.  Arjuna also got down to kill Radheya. Arjuna was aware of the laws of war which say that it is not fair to shoot an unarmed warrior.
Krishna laughed sarcastically and asked Radheya whether he ever walked along the path of righteousness and followed “fair play” - when he was part of a plot when Draupadi was dragged by hair, stripped, insulted and dishonored in the court wherein he ridiculed over her helplessness. -  when the game of dice was played fraudulently and shamelessly and cheated Dharmaputra,
- when Rajmata Kunti was made to walk bare foot to the forest,
- when he conspired an attempt to kill Bhima by administering poison,
- when he acquiesced to burn Pandavas and Kunti in a palace of wax, and
- when as per pledge i.e. after completion of 12 years and one year of incognito, grant of kingdom to Yudhishthira was refused.
Krishna asked him with fury and sorrow if it was chivalry and fair play when six heroes murdered the tender boy Abhimanyu who, without weapon, was fighting with a wheel of his chariot and requested for a fair chance to fight one-by-one. 
Krishna said his demand for a fair chance is disgusting and monotonous. Krishna’s words were more stinging than the arrows of Arjuna, since he was aware that what was said was true.  Radheya hung his head in shame and attempted to lift the chariot from the marshy ground hopelessly. He was destined to be a true friend of Duryodhana and co-sinner and privy to his heinous plots.  Now he could not unweave the web woven by him and caught therein with no escape.
Krishna asked Arjuna to kill  Radheya before he mounted his chariot.  Arjuna invoked the divine astra and cut the head of Radheya.  He fell down like a giant slab crumbling.
Duryodhana cried bitterly. He  had not cried  even at the death of his eighty brothers. Radheya  pleaded with him to stop fighting as a parting gift to him.  Duryodhana emphatically said “No”.  Rather the fighting will continue for his sake.  Radheya was sinking slowly. 
Krishna bending down his ear to Radheya asked him “Kaunteya what is your last wish?” Tears came out of gratitude because Krishna himself called him “Kaunteya”.  Krishna was the first to address him as the son of a noble Kshatriya born to Rajmata Kunti Devi, on his death bed.  Radheya said that his last wish was that He should perform his last rites on virgin soil so that the sorrows he suffered in life should not sprout. 
Karna breathed his last after offering prayers to his God, Guru and father, the Sun.
Krishna came to Arjuna’s tent and saw Kunti there.  She  cried “Krishna, let me have a look at him” She looked at her eldest  son for the last time and in great anguish shed bitter tears.
Nearby was the white favourite horse of Karna.  Krishna patted the horse and laid Karna’s body on its back and came to the foot of the hill where the pyre was already arranged.  It was the last ride of Karna. With  a melancholic expression Krishna lit the pyre with a torch.
Krishna saw Vrushali, wife of Karna came near the funeral pyre.  She  touched Krishna’s  feet and entered the pyre and, as in life, so in death, joined him.
Krishna picked up the cloth which had slipped from Vrushali’s shoulder and just as he was about to throw it in the burning pyre, he found a broken piece of mud-pot which she picked up from the banks of Yamuna as a token of remembrance of their love.
 Thus Krishna graced Karna the fatalist to reach the zenith of glory and showed the depth and efficacy of his mercy.
After the victory, the Pandavas returned home, when they learnt the whole truth and secret of Karna from their mother Kunti.  So in grief they rushed where the pyre of their eldest brother was burning.  It was too late.  This way a divine light, born of divine light which once had the unique luster of kavacha and kundalas merged in the divine setting Sun, his sorrowful sire.  Suryaputra Kaunteya was great in life as the illustrious son of parents and foster-parents, greater in death as a hero and one of the greatest invincible noble-Kshatriya warrior of the Kurukshetra war.
Concisely, to eliminate a wrong it is conceit to aspire physical violence and war, since it leads to numerous wrongs resultantly Adharma increases.  Vyasa’s characterisation of Karna unfolds darker issues of human concern and complicated facts of psycho-spiritual reality.
Article by : Balakrishna Pawar
Source: Bhavan's Journal 31 January 2009
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1 comment:

  1. Mahabharat is just a story written to promote social values considered important by some at that point of time. Lot of open issues in book to consider if any such story indeed transpired. Karna was chariot son or kunti. Why can't a chariot son be as famed warrior as Arjun. Mantra kids from gods. 100 Kids of Ghandhari (even if remotely imaginable), how can they all fight war at same time... Pandav died early but not sure how long bishma and dhitharastra lived...