The Temptation of Karna Marks-10

The Temptation of Karna Marks-10

Q. Assess the character of Karna in the Temptation of Karna episode.


What idea of Karna’s moral judgment and unmoved loyalty is revealed in the Temptation of Karna episode?


Karna places more importance on his ‘bonds of love and refuses to be a traitor to his word. Analyse the character of Karna as he emerges in the Temptation Scene. Show how he becomes a victim of caste system.

Ans. The entire epic of Mahabharata is imbibed with events and situations that reflect Karna as a dignified character, one who is equally tragic in the hands of his unfortunate destiny and at the same time enormously powerful in terms of his moral sense of responsibility and loyalty and yet has always remained an invincible warrior till the time of his unjustified helpless catastrophe. The Temptation of Karna episode is just another vivid section narrating the same song of his supremacy in a deeper tone.

In terms of his own life this episode bears maximum importance since this is a juncture when his actual identity is revealed to him and he realises that the insult and negligence that he had to face in his life till date for being the son of a suta are all unjustified because he had never deserved them; rather he is very much a kshatriya and in fact the son of Sun God himself. But life plays such an ironical joke against him that even after knowing the truth which could have made him happy, he is rather sad and angry because of its sheer untimely happening. There is hardly any room for improvement in his life from here onwards.

The revelation of this truth has indeed been an untimely phenomenon because it is of no use to him anymore; rather he is informed this only with a view to making the Kaurava side weaker in the upcoming war. Srikrishna decides to inform Karna that he is not the son of the charioteer Adhiratha and his wife Radha, but of Kunti before her marriage and none but the Sun God is his father, only because Srikrishna’s peace proposal has been turned down by Duryodhana and hence the war is inevitable now. If Srikrishna somehow manages to provoke Karna to switch side from the Kauravas to the Pandavas it would be of great political importance to the Pandavas. The truth about Karna’s birth has thus been an imposed secrecy, reserved only to be used as the last resource.

However, in front of Karna’s firm character this trick of Srikrishna falls short. Karna is made of such a conviction that can forgo all earthly pleasures and glamour for the sake of his self respect and sense of gratitude and loyalty. He, however

, politely informs Srikrishna that he cannot forget the love and affection showered on him by his foster parents who have never let him know that he was an orphan. He has received the title as ‘Radheya’ too. If he were to give them up now, they would have no one left to make ancestral offering for them after their death.

Again he has certain obligations to Duryodhana too. Duryodhana had patronised and helped Karna all along anointing him as the king of Anga when everyone else rejected him as the son of a suta. Whether Duryodhana had any evil intension of applying Karna’s valour against Arjuna later on, or not is not known to Karna, but the sheer gift of friendship cannot be denied at his newly found identity of having blood relation with the Pandavas.

Moreover, now Duryodhana is depending on Karna’s skill in archery to be the prime rival of the left handed archer Arjuna in the war. It would be treachery for him to switch sides at this point. No matter whatever may be his real identity, he cannot incur the shame of a traitor for the sake of it. This passage thus shows excellent example of Karna’s sense of loyalty to his friend and benefactor.

Yet his sensibility to moral judgment is also to be observed in this episode. By virtue of his knowledge of the scriptures of law he now knows it well that Kaurava is the evil side, and on the other hand, Pandavas are on the side of truth and morality. Hence the war must be won by the Pandavas. In this context he pleads to Srikrishna to keep this new-found truth a secret to the Pandavas, because knowing Yudhishthira’s righteousness, Karna apprehends that Yudhishthira would surely hand over the reins of his kingdom to Karna as the eldest son of Kunti. But if that happens, Karna would be duty-bound to hand it over to Duryodhana. Though it would indirectly allow Duryodhana to win the war, Karna does not want his own side to win since it has deviated from moral path long back.

By virtue of his goodness in character he is attributed with the qualities of a prophet too by the author. He can almost foresee the victory of the Pandavas in the war. He knows quite well that the war is a purificatory ritual with Srikrishna as the witness and Adhvaryu as the priest to ensure the implementation of all the logistics of sacrifice. Arjuna’s bow, Gandiva, will be the sacrificial ladle and all the men fighting the war the sacrificial butter or ghee in the ritual.

Hence their death is necessary. Since the act of killing would be done by the hands of the better soul, the Pandavas, the deads would achieve heaven through a cleansing process of all their sins. He has had a dream showing that Yudhishthira, with his brothers ascending the palace with a thousand pillars. All the Pandava brothers are wearing white head dresses and white robes and are placed on white seats as if the world around them reverberates with a divinely aura. Srikrishna has thrown all the blood stained weapons into the ocean, thus making the world a peaceful abode for humans.

Thus in all respect Karna shows ample sign of a sensible man, one who is never moved at any emotional situation. He has never forgotten his duty. His sense of morality and responsibility has led him even to reject a possible seat of supremacy which he has been deprived of since his birth. Even while he is deceived by Indra by the disguise of a poor Brahmin and he had to donate his kabach kundal to him, Karna does not hesitate. Such is the gravity of a true warrior. He deserves a special seat and salutation in the epic of Mahabharata.


The Temptation of Karna Marks-10

Q. The dialogue between Kunti and Karna Throws light on his search for identity. Explain.


Assess the importance of the Kunti-Karna dialogue episode in terms of politics in the battle of Kurukshetra.

Ans. Having judged the inevitability of war Srikrishna approaches Karna to make a final attempt to save the world from war. Srikrishna lets Karna know his true identity that he is the eldest son of Kunti and that the sun God is his father. It was only due to immature fear of degradation that Kunti had at an early age abandoned Karna. By virtue of his education Karna must know that a son born to a woman before marriage is “counted the son of her wedded husband as the son she bears in marriage”. However, it should also be noted that the first three of Pandavas were all born to Kunti through some or the other Gods and not through Pandu. Hence Karna deserves to be treated as the eldest of the Pandavas and receive all due respect and recognition.

Though Karna has suffered a lot due to Kunti’s abandoning him after his birth, he remains unmoved, humble and polite to the proposal of Srikrishna and greets the latter with due respect. But at the very same time he has certain other moral obligations as well. He may not be the real child of Adhiratha and Radha, but this mere fact cannot undo their love and affection for him and cannot thus entitle him to deny his responsibility towards them. Switching to the Pandava side would indirectly recognise him as Kaunteya and this new identity would show disregard to his present parents……..



The Temptation of Karna Marks-10


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