We grew up watching the Mahabharat on the television; Sunday mornings always meant Mahabharat at home with the whole family. This constituted a full hour of complete silence where only sighs of relief or tension were let out from time to time both by both the elders and the younger ones like us. One single lesson that we learnt from this Epic was the fact that “Good wins over Evil eventually, but gradually”, that Krishna has answers to everything, also that Pandavs were right and Kauravs were terribly and obscenely wrong.
But as I grew up and started questioning every possible thing existing under the sun, I realized that not all was well under my fantasy world of Mahabharat. I realized I am not a very big fan of the supposedly “goody-goody” Pandavs. And then I read the “Yajneseni” by Pratibha Ray and the little left love and compassion for the Pandavs dwindled inside me. And hence as it is me, I started finding things against the Pandavs, started brewing in my head all wrong that they did (yeah I can get pretty obsessive like this). And in the scheme of things I comprehended that I actually like Duryoudhan and especially Karna. It is absurd, surreal for some elderly but this is the truth. I do like them, Karna more than Duryoudhan though (Probably because in my head he looks smashing HOT!!). But whatever, he was a nice guy you see.
So Karna in the Mahabharat, as we know him has been blamed of causing the war, taking the wrong sides, choosing friendship and loyalty over judging what is wrong and right. He is often blamed for not choosing his loyalties wisely. But how far can we blame him for what he was, there are many who conclude that his misfortune shaped him the way he was, his circumstances made him what he was.
Born to a young princess who decided to let go of him in a wicker basket at the mercy of the river to avoid any disdain to her and her family’s reputation, a poor couple who finds him and nurtures him with all the love affection, he grows up a to be a fine warrior. From the very beginning he knows he wants to be a warrior and also knows that he can be good at it but the teachers refuse to teach him. But he does not leave hope, so he finds another teacher. The irony of his life, the first teacher does not teach him owing to the fact that he belongs to the lower strata of the society, the other decides to teach him since he does not belong to the upper strata of the society but curses him when he realizes that secretly he does belong to the upper strata (He is after all the son of a princess, nevertheless she decided to abandon). So every time in life when he decides to move forward his past drags him behind. When he showcases his powers the mighty feels threatened by him and decide that he should leave the city. It is at this time that Duryoudhan comes to his rescue and makes him his own, for whatever selfish reasons Duryoudhan has in mind; nevertheless he gives him all the respect Karna commands and deserves. And he is ridiculed by Draupadi who calls him of the lower caste and refuses to let him participate in the competition held to choose her husband. Alright so basically there is too much going bad with this guy, don’t you think.
And eventually war is declared due to whatever reasons; Karna decides to support Duryoudhan to the best of his abilities. And what possibly is wrong with this, he would have to take sides right, he had to and he chose the side that supported, loved and fed him for all over the years. And why would not he? He is obliged to, he wants to repay them. He is but human, he wants to take revenge for all the wrongdoings done to him, he is no GOD, who would simply forget and forgive. It does not come easy to a common man does it, that too, to a person who knows he is as good as the others. Did not he take the right path, I feel he did. At times it is not very easy to take sides and much so when so many strong emotions are involved.
When eventually Lord Krishna and his mother decide to reveal his true identity to him at their own whim, intimidated by his courage and strength in an effort to dissuade him to wage a war against his own brothers, he declines the offer. And why should not he, is it not, Too little Too late. He wanted no kingdoms or wealth, he only craved for recognition and respect which all failed to give him. Accepting their offer meant letting go of his foster parents who cared for him when his own left him survive alone, in that case according to the Hindu culture he would not have been able to perform their last rites. Accepting their offer of peace and switching sides would mean betraying a friendship where for the first time he had felt accepted for who he was. Hence his decisions made sense to me.
I completely accept that the Kauravs had the courage to wage a war against the Pandavs only because they had Karna at their side, there was many times where Karna could have stopped Duryoudhan from being a miscreant. I also accept that Karna was wrong at many levels, and he did make some bad decisions, but so did many including the Pandavs. Probably the inevitable could be stopped but it is tough for many to let go of their ego and accept defeat. They fought and lost, but it is important to know their side as well. At the end of day, Goodness prevailed and the Evil were defeated, or so we believe. But it is important to look at the complete picture before we become judgmental about these characters of history. Much about a person characters can be defined if we understood their mind. Karna might have been one of the reasons for Mahabharat happened, but he can’t be made accountable for it alone, after all, It Always Takes TWO to quarrel right. And here we talk about the biggest war.
Why this post today:
There is this serial Mahabharat airing on television these days, though I don’t watch it ardently but I know that Karna is going to be killed today or in a day or two, so as he dies and many applaud to recognize the win of Good over Evil, I sit and ponder on his life, a good life gone bad for reasons we can never find answers to.