Vantage point

Monday, March 03, 2003


According to me, the most fascinating character from mythology is Karna. Coincidentally, like another fascinating person from myth, Moses, he too was found by his parents in a basket floating in a river.

Karna, for me represents someone who never quite got his due. Someone who was as talented as anyone around him, but was held back by the cruel hands of fate. Though he was born a Kshatriya (the warrior caste), his mother abandoned him in the river, and he was brought up by a low caste familr of Sarathis (charioteers). Dronacharya did not deem him capable of being taught personally, but still Karna was as good an archer as Arjun, if not better. When he finally had a chance to prove himself in a duel with Arjun, the chance was denied to him because he was from a low caste.

But for me, Karna's life is also one we can take lessons from. Yes, he was dealt a hard hand by fate, but should he have gone the way he did? His actions can be justified, as have been in the bestseller "Mrityunjay", but still, I think that Karna's character shows a chink in the conscience department. Maybe this was because of the way he was brought up, but I think Karna always carried an inferiority complex within him. He had a servile streak in him, because he was the son of the charioteer of the Kaurava king.

What this means is that if someone was very good to him and did him some favours, he would be indebted to them for life. And this debt would be so heavy that even a shove from the conscience could not push it away. So after Duryodhana made him King of a small barren state, he was so indebted to Duryodhana, that he stood by him even when he was wrong. The way, I see it, Karna, inspite of this complex, knew that he was the best archer/warrior around. If not handicapped by his low caste background, he could have been a great King. He was not too ambitious though, and all he wanted was the life of a Kshatriya. He must have genuinely believed that because of his abilities, he deserved a better life than that of a charioteer. How better, I don't think he had any clue about.

So whenever his efforts at getting a small piece of the cake were thwarted by others like Dronacharya, Bhim, Draupadi, etc, he became more and more loyal to the one person who was willing to give him his due, Duryodhana. As the cliche goes, he was the right guy in the wrong team.

A really fascinating character indeed.