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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Karna and Shalya - Maha Bharatha Series 46



Karna requests Shalya to be his charioteer. Shalya refuses initially, but agrees later to play that role if he has the freedom to say whatever he wants about Karna. Duryodhana agrees. From then on Shalya keeps teasing Karna, probably to get him angry and thus more prepared to fight. Shalya keeps remindiing that Karna is no match for Arjuna.

In the following sections we see the duties of the four varnas clearly defined by Karna. Karna also talks about the in-groups who are virtuous and the out-groups such as the mlecchas, vahlikas etc. He says that the Panchalas observe Vedas, the Kauravas practice Truth, the Matsyas practice sacrifices and the easterners and the southerners are “fallen” groups.

 He softens his stand later and says that there are good and bad people in every part of the earth. He says that we all know other’s faults, but not our own.

Karna calls Agni as the god of the east, Yama as the god of the south, Varna as the god of the west and Soma as the god of the north. He also remembers two boons and curses he has to deal with. One was about his Brahmastra. This is a powerful weapon which he got from Parashurama by pretending to be a Brahmin. Later, one day when Parashurama was sleeping with his head on Karna’s lap, a worm started biting into Karna.  Karna bore the pain and did not move. When the teacher woke up, he noticed blood in Karna’s lap. Karna told him what happened. Since only a kshatriya could have tolerated the pain so well, Parashurama realized that Karna was kshatriya but did not disclose in order to get the Brahmastra. He was upset and cursed Karna that the weapon will fail him at a crucial moment.

Karna had acquired another weapon from Indra and was proud of it. However, he accidentally killed a calf of a cow intended for a sacrifice. The Brahmana who owned the cow cursed Karna that at a crucial moment in a battle, Karna’s car will get stuck and sink into the earth. Karna recounts these two episodes to Shalya and indicated that these two curses are the only concerns in his mind even as gets ready to be the Commander of the Kaurava army.

In a later episode Karna captures Yudhistra but lets him free to keep his promise to Kunti. He had told Kunti that his fight was with Arjuna and not with the other four and he also told Kunti that she will always have five sons (the idea being that either Karna will kill Arjuna or get killed in his battle with Arjuna)

One other interesting side-story in Book 8 is that of a proud crow and a swan. A crow happens to frequent the grounds of a rich family. He gets all the scrap from the plates of the children. Eventually he gets the attention of the family and he feels on top of the world. He gets arrogant and important. One day a bunch of swans land on a nearby lake. The crow makes fun of their flight and food. He shows them all his maneuvers and how he can climb up, swish down, make circles and dive etc. He wonders what the swan can do. The swan says that he admires all those special kinds of flights but they will not help the crow do what she can do. The crow challenges the swan with false pride. They both start flying across a vast tract of water. The swan flies with one steady motion. The crow is not able to cope with that long flight and tries to land. Of course, he cannot and is in danger of getting drowned. The swan advices the crow not to boast about his skills, takes him on his back and comes back to the shore. The moral is self-evident. 


2 comments:

Lilly said...

I thought it was Parasurama who cursed Karna for duping him about his heritage, surprised to learn it was Drona

Balu said...

You are correct. I made the corrections. Thanks for pointing it out.