Tag Archives: Mahabharata

Did Draupadi Insult Duryodhana and Call him Blind ? A Vlog with references

Those Perpetrating Lies on Draupadi ji Are Continuing Duryodhana’s Legacy

In an earlier post, we had mentioned about how Fake News becomes a global narrative.  This can be observed to certain aspects of our epics also. For example, the popular ( fake ) narrative that was build around the Mahabharata  is that in the Mayasabha Duryodhana falls down into a pond mistaking it for a crystal surface. On seeing this, Draupadi says ” A blind person’s son is blind too ” Or in Hindi  “Andhe ka beta andha”   ” అంధుని పుతృడు, అంధుడే అవుతాడు” in Telugu. This fake narrative was built over centuries to establish that the reason for the Mahabharata war was Draupadi & not the ego of Duryodhana & the injustice of Dhritharashtra.

The reference in Vyaasa Mahabharata states that Bheema & Arjuna do laugh when Duryodhana mistakes the illusions for real. This pulling at each other’s leg has a legacy since childhood esp between Duryodhana & Bhima in what can be termed as sibling rivalry.  However, there is no reference to Draupadi laughter. The reference comes up when Duryodhana in order to make a strong case, at the behest of Shakuni makes up a story in which he includes Draupadi in the people who laughed at him.

Unfortunately, this lie told by Duryodhana has become the popular narrative due to many novels & especially movies that become the source of our education in later years.

  • Ayush Nadimpalli

References : The Mahabharata of Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 1


  • Sabha Parva ( Dyuta Upaparva )

  •  Section : XLVI

Vaisampayana said,—“That bull among men, Duryodhana, continued to dwell in that, assembly house (of the Pandavas). And with Sakuni, the Kuru prince slowly examined the whole of that mansion, and the Kuru prince beheld in it many celestial designs, which he had never seen before in the city called after the elephant (Hastinapore). And one day king Duryodhana in going round that mansion came upon a crystal surface. And the king, from ignorance, mistaking it for a pool of water, drew up his clothes. And afterwards finding out his mistake the king wandered about the mansion in great sorrow. And sometime after, the king, mistaking a lake of crystal water adorned with lotuses of crystal petals for land, fell into it with all his clothes on. Beholding Duryodhana fallen into the lake, the mighty Bhima laughed aloud as also the menials of the palace. And the servants, at the command of the king, soon brought him dry and handsome clothes. Beholding the plight of Duryodhana, the mighty Bhima and Arjuna and both the twins—all laughed aloud. Being unused to putting up with insults, Duryodhana could not bear that laugh of theirs. Concealing his emotions he even did not cast his looks on them. And beholding the monarch once more draw up his clothes to cross a piece of dry land which he had mistaken for water, they all laughed again. And the king sometime after mistook a closed door made of crystal as open. And as he was about to pass through it his head struck against it, and he stood with his brain reeling. And mistaking as closed another door made of crystal that was really open, the king in attempting to open it with stretched hands, tumbled down. And coming upon another door that was really open, the king thinking it as closed, went away from it. And, O monarch, king Duryodhana beholding that vast wealth in the Rajasuya sacrifice and having become the victim of those numerous errors within the assembly house at last returned, with the leave of the Pandavas, to Hastinapore.

And the heart of king Duryodhana, afflicted at sight of the prosperity of the Pandavas, became inclined to sin, as he proceeded towards his city reflecting on all he had seen and suffered. And beholding the Pandavas happy and all the kings of the earth paying homage to them, as also everybody, young and old, engaged in doing good unto them, and reflecting also on the splendour and prosperity of the illustrious sons of Pandu, Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarashtra, became pale. In proceeding (to his city) with an efflicted heart, the prince thought of nothing else but that assembly house and that unrivalled prosperity of the wise Yudhishthira. And Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarashtra, was so taken up with his thoughts then that he spoke not a word to Suvala’s son even though the latter addressed him repeatedly. And Sakuni, beholding him absent-minded, said,—‘O Duryodhana, why art thou proceeding thus’?

“Duryodhana replied,—O uncle, beholding this whole earth owning the sway of Yudhishthira in consequence of the might of the illustrious Arjuna’s weapons and beholding also that sacrifice of the son of Pritha like unto the sacrifice of Sakra himself of great glory among the celestials, I, being filled with jealousy and burning day and night, am being dried up like a shallow tank in the summer season. Behold, when Sisupala was slain by the chief of the Satwatas, there was no man to take the side of Sisupala. Consumed by the fire of the Pandava, they all forgave that offence; otherwise who is there that could forgive it? That highly improper act of grave consequence done by Vasudeva succeeded in consequence of the power of the illustrious son of Pandu. And so many monarchs also brought with them various kinds of wealth for king Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, like tribute-paying Vaisyas! Beholding Yudhishthira’s prosperity of such splendour, my heart burneth, efflicted with jealously, although it behoveth me not to be jealous.’

“Having reflected in this way, Duryodhana, as if burnt by fire, addressed the king of Gandhara again and said,—‘I shall throw myself upon a flaming fire or swallow poison or drown myself in water. I cannot live. What man is there in the world possessed of vigour who can bear to see his foes in the enjoyment of prosperity and himself in destitution? Therefore I who bear to see that accession of prosperity and fortune (in my foes) am neither a woman nor one that is not a woman, neither also a man nor one that is not a man. Beholding their sovereignty over the world and vast affluence, as also that sacrifice, who is there like me that would not smart under all that? Alone I am incapable of acquiring such royal prosperity; nor do I behold allies that could help me in the matter. It is for this that I am thinking of self-destruction. Beholding that great and serene prosperity of the son of Kunti, I regard Fate as supreme and exertions fruitless. O son of Suvala, formerly I strove to compass his destruction. But baffling all my efforts he hath grown in prosperity even like the lotus from within a pool of water. It is for this that I regard Fate as supreme and exertions fruitless. Behold, the sons of Dhritarashtra are decaying and the sons of Pritha are growing day by day. Beholding that prosperity of the Pandavas, and that assembly house of theirs, and those menials laughing at me, my heart burneth as if it were on fire. Therefore, O uncle, know me now as deeply grieved and filled with jealousy, and speak of it to Dhritarashtra.

“Sakuni said.—‘O Duryodhana, thou shouldst not be jealous of Yudhishthira. The sons of Pandu are enjoying what they deserve in consequence of their own good fortune. O slayer of foes, O great king, thou couldst not destroy them by repeatedly devising numberless plans, many of which thou hadst even put to practice. Those tigers among men out of sheer luck escaped all those machinations. They have obtained Draupadi for wife and Drupada with his sons as also Vasudeva of great prowess as allies, capable of helping them in subjugating the whole world. And O king, having inherited the paternal share of the kingdom without being deprived of it they have grown in consequence of their own energy. What is there to make thee sorry for this? Having gratified Hustasana, Dhananjaya hath obtained the bow Gandiva and the couple of inexhaustible quivers and many celestial weapons. With that unique bow and by the strength of his own arms also he hath brought all the kings of the world under his sway. What is there to make thee sorry for this? Having saved the Asura Maya from a conflagration, Arjuna, that slayer of foes, using both his hands with equal skill, caused him to build that assembly house. And it is for this also that commanded by Maya, those grim Rakshasas called Kinkaras supported that assembly house. What is there in this to make thee sorry? Thou hast said, O king, that thou art without allies. This, O Bharata, is not true. These thy brothers are obedient to thee. Drona of great prowess and wielding the large bow along with his son, Radha’s son Karna, the great warrior Gautama (Kripa), myself with my brothers and king Saumadatti—these are thy allies. Uniting thyself with these, conquer thou the whole of the earth.’

“Duryodhana said,—‘O king, with thee, as also with these great warriors, I shall subjugate the Pandavas, if it pleases thee. If I can now subjugate them, the world will be mine and all the monarchs, and that assembly house so full of wealth.’

“Sakuni replied,—‘Dhananjaya and Vasudeva, Bhimasena and Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva and Drupada with his sons,—these cannot be vanquished in battle by even the celestials, for they are all great warriors wielding the largest bows, accomplished in weapons, and delighting in battle. But, O king, I know the means by which Yudhishthira himself may be vanquished. Listen to me and adopt it.’

“Duryodhana said,—‘without danger to our friends and other illustrious men, O uncle, tell me if there is any way by which I may vanquish him.’

“Sakuni said,—‘The son of Kunti is very fond of dice-play although he doth not know how to play. That king if asked to play, is ill able to refuse. I am skillful at dice. There is none equal to me in this respect on earth, no, not even in the three worlds, O son of Kuru. Therefore, ask him to play at dice. Skilled at dice, I will win his kingdom, and that splendid prosperity of his for thee, O bull among men. But, O Duryodhana, represent all this unto the king (Dhritarashtra). Commanded by thy father I will win without doubt the whole of Yudhishthira’s possessions.’

“Duryodhana said ‘O son of Suvala, thou thyself represent properly all this to Dhritarashtra, the chief of the Kurus. I shall not be able to do so.

Vaisampayana said—“O king, impressed with the great Rajasuya sacrifice of king Yudhishthira, Sakuni, the son of Suvala, having learnt before the intentions of Duryodhana, while accompanying him in the way from the assembly house, and desirous of saying what was agreeable to him, approached Dhritarashtra endued with great wisdom, and finding the monarch deprived of his eye seated (in his throne), told him these words,—‘Know, O great king, O bull of the Bharata race, that Duryodhana, having lost colour, hath become pale and emaciated and depressed and a prey to anxiety. Why dost thou not, after due enquiry, ascertain the grief that is in the heart of thy eldest son, the grief that is caused by the foe?’

“Dhritarashtra said,—‘Duryodhana, what is the reason of thy great affliction. O son of the Kuru race? If it is fit for me to hear it, then tell me the reason. This Sakuni here says that thou hast lost colour, become pale and emaciated, and a prey to anxiety. I do not know what can be the reason of the sorrow. This vast wealth of mine is at thy control. Thy brothers and all our relations never do anything that is disagreeable to thee. Thou wearest the best apparel and eatest the best food that is prepared with meat. The best of horse carries thee. What it is, therefore, that hath made thee pale and emaciated? Costly beds, beautiful damsels, mansions decked with excellent furniture, and sport of the delightful kind, without doubt these all wait but at thy command, as in the case of the gods themselves Therefore, O proud one, why dost thou grieve, O son, as if thou wert destitute.’

“Duryodhana said,—‘I eat and dress myself like a wretch and pass my time all the while a prey to fierce jealousy. He indeed is a man, who incapable of bearing the pride of the foe, liveth having vanquished that foe with the desire of liberating his own subjects from the tyranny of the foe. Contentment, as also pride, O Bharata, are destructive of prosperity; and those other two qualities also, viz., compassion and fear. One who acteth under the influence of these, never obtaineth anything high. Having beheld Yudhishthira’s prosperity, whatever I enjoy brings me no gratification. The prosperity of Kunti’s son that is possessed of such splendour maketh me pale. Knowing the affluence of the foe and my own destitution, even though that affluence is not before me, I yet see it before me. Therefore, have I lost colour and become melancholy, pale and emaciated. Yudhishthira supporteth eighty-eight thousand Snataka Brahmanas leading domestic lives, giving unto each of them thirty slave-girls. Beside this, thousand other Brahmanas daily eat at his palace the best of food on golden plates. The king of Kambhoja sent unto him (as tribute) innumerable skins, black, darkish, and red, of the deer Kadali, as also numberless blankets of excellent textures. And hundreds and thousands and thousands of she-elephants and thirty thousand she-camels wander within the palace, for the kings of the earth brought them all as tribute to the capital of the Pandavas. And, O lord of earth, the kings also brought unto this foremost of sacrifices heaps upon heaps of jewels and gems for the son of Kunti. Never before did I see or hear of such enormous wealth as was brought unto the sacrifice of the intelligent sons of Pandu. And, O king, beholding that enormous collection of wealth belonging to the foe, I can not enjoy peace of mind. Hundreds of Brahmanas supported by the grants that Yudhishthira hath given them and possessing wealth of kine, waited at the palace gate with three thousands of millions of tribute but were prevented by the keepers from entering the mansion. Bringing with them clarified butter in handsome Kamandalus made of gold, they did not obtain admission into the palace, and Ocean himself brought unto him in vessels of white copper the nectar that is generated within his waters and which is much superior to that which flowers and annual plants produce for Sakra. And Vasudeva (at the conclusion of the sacrifice) having brought an excellent conch bathed the Sun of Pritha with sea water brought in thousand jars of gold, all well adorned with numerous gems. Beholding all this I became feverish with jealousy. Those jars had been taken to the Eastern and the Southern oceans. And they had also been taken on the shoulders of men to the Western ocean, O bull among men. And, O father, although none but birds only can go to the Northern region Arjuna, having gone thither, exacted as tribute a vast quantity of wealth. There is another wonderful incident also which I will relate to thee. O listen to me. When a hundred thousand Brahmanas were fed, it had been arranged that to notify this act every day conches would be blown in a chorus. But, O Bharata, I continually heard conches blown there almost repeatedly. And hearing those notes my hair stood on end. And, O great king, that palatial compound, filled with innumerable monarchs that came there as spectators, looked exceedingly handsome like the cloudless firmament with stars. And, O king of men, the monarchs came into that sacrifice of the wise son of Pandu bringing with them every kind of wealth. And the kings that came there became like Vaisyas the distributors of food unto the Brahmanas that were fed. And O king, the prosperity that I beheld of Yudhishthira was such that neither the chief himself of the celestials, nor Yama or Varuna, nor the lord of the Guhyakas owneth the same. And beholding that great prosperity of the son of Pandu, my heart burneth and I cannot enjoy peace.

“Hearing these words of Duryodhana, Sakuni replied,—‘Hear how thou mayest obtain this unrivalled prosperity that thou beholdest in the son of Pandu, O thou that hast truth for thy prowess. O Bharata, I am an adept at dice, superior to all in the world. I can ascertain the success or otherwise of every throw, and when to stake and when not. I have special knowledge of the game. The Son of Kunti also is fond of dice playing though he possesseth little skill in it. Summoned to play or battle, he is sure to come forward, and I will defeat him repeatedly at every throw by practising deception. I promise to win all that wealth of his, and thou, O Duryodhana, shalt then enjoy the same.’”

Vaisampayana continued,—“King Duryodhana, thus addressed by Sakuni, without allowing a moment to elapse, said unto Dhritarashtra,—‘This, Sakuni, an adept at dice, is ready to win at dice, O king, the wealth of the sons of Pandu. It behoveth thee to grant him permission to do so.’

“Dhritarashtra replied,—‘I always follow the counsels of Kshatta, my minister possessed of great wisdom. Having consulted with him, I will inform thee what my judgment is in respect of this affair. Endued with great foresight, he will, keeping morality before his eyes, tell us what is good and what is proper for both parties, and what should be done in this matter.’

“Duryodhana said,—‘If thou consultest with Kshatta he will make thee desist. And if thou desist, O king, I will certainly kill myself. And when I am dead, O king, thou wilt become happy with Vidura. Thou wilt then enjoy the whole earth; what need hast thou with me?’”

Section : XLIX

“Ascertaining the opinion of Vidura, Dhritarashtra the son of Amvika, calling Duryodhana told him again in private—‘O son of Gandhari, have nothing to do with dice. Vidura doth not speak well of it. Possessed of great wisdom, he will never give me advice that is not for my good. I also regard what Vidura sayeth as exceedingly beneficial for me. Do that, O son, for I regard it all as for thy good also. Indeed, Vidura knoweth with all its mysteries the science (of political morality) that the illustrious and learned and wise Vrihaspati, the celestial Rishi who is the spiritual guide of Vasava—had unfolded unto the wise chief of the immortals. And O son, I always accept what Vidura adviseth. O king, as the wise Uddhava is ever regarded amongst the Vrishnis, so is Vidura possessed of great intelligence esteemed as the foremost of the Kurus. Therefore, O son, have nothing to do with dice. It is evident that dice soweth dissensions. And dissensions are the ruin of the kingdom. Therefore, O son, abandon this idea of gambling. O son, thou hast obtained from us what, it hath been ordained, a father and a mother should give unto their son, viz., ancestral rank and possessions. Thou art educated and clever in every branch of knowledge, and hast been brought up with affection in thy paternal dwelling. Born the eldest among all thy brothers, living within thy own kingdom, why regardest thou thyself as unhappy? O thou of mighty arms, thou obtainest food and attire of the very best kind and which is not obtainable by ordinary men. Why dost thou grieve yet. O son, O mighty-armed one, ruling thy large ancestral kingdom swelling with people and wealth, thou shinest as splendidly as the chief of the celestials in heaven. Thou art possessed of wisdom. It behoveth thee to tell me what can be the root of this grief that hath made thee so melancholy.

“Duryodhana replied,—‘I am a sinful wretch, O king, because I eat and dress beholding (the prosperity of the foes). It hath been said that man is a wretch who is not filled with jealousy at the sight of his enemy’s prosperity. O exalted one, this kind of prosperity of mine doth not gratify me. Beholding that blazing prosperity of the son of Kunti, I am very much pained. I tell thee strong must be my vitality, in as much as I am living even at the sight of the whole earth owning the sway of Yudhishthira. The Nipas, the Chitrakas, the Kukkuras, the Karaskaras, and the Lauha-janghas are living in the palace of Yudhishthira like bondsmen. The Himavat, the ocean, the regions on the sea-shore, and the numberless other regions that yield jewels and gems, have all acknowledged superiority of the mansion of Yudhishthira in respect of wealth it containeth. And, O Monarch, regarding me as the eldest and entitled to respect, Yudhishthira having received me respectfully, appointed me in receiving the jewels and gems (that were brought as tribute). O Bharata, the limit and the like of the excellent and invaluable jewels that were brought there have not been seen. And O king, my hands were fatigued in receiving that wealth. And when I was tired, they that brought those valuable articles from distant regions used to wait till I was able to resume my labour. Bringing jewels from the lake Vindu, the Asura architect Maya constructed (for the Pandavas) a lake-like surface made of crystal. Beholding the (artificial) lotuses with which it was filled, I mistook it, O king for water. And seeing me draw up my clothes (while about to cross it), Vrikodara (Bhima) laughed at me, regarding me as wanting in jewels and having lost my head at the sight of the affluence of my enemy. If I had the ability, I would, O king, without the loss of a moment, slay Vrikodara for that. But, O monarch, if we endeavour to slay Bhima now, without doubt, ours will be the fate of Sisupala. O Bharata, that insult by the foe burneth me. Once again, O king, beholding a similar lake that is really full of water but which I mistook for a crystal surface, I fell into it. At that, Bhima with Arjuna once more laughed derisively, and Draupadi also accompanied by other females joined in the laughter. That paineth my heart exceedingly. My apparel having been wet, the menials at the command of the king gave me other clothes. That also is my great sorrow. 

Narada Muni

There are many devatas and rishis who are wrongly depicted in movies and modern books. The roles of nArada, Yama, Indra, Chitragupta are the usually portrayed by comedians.
Laughing at any jokes, nay, even the mere act of watching these silently means you have accumulated sin.
In reality, we must forever be indebted to these devatas.

The etymology of the name nArada is — “nAram j~nAnam dadAti iti nAradaH” — bestower of wisdom and thus nArada. Most of the important literature that Hinduism rests on today has
a contribution from nArada. The first shloka of Ramayana starts with — tapaswAdhyAya niratam, tapsi vAkvidAm varam*, nAradam paripappracha vAlmikirmuni pungavam.

Observe that the first proper noun that occurs in Ramayana is that of nArada’s. Observe also the adjectives that are used for nArada- “ever engrossed in study of vedas and meditation”, “excellent among knowers of veda”, “eminent among sages”. Hindu literature gives a lot of importance to the mangalacharana shloka — no wonder then, that by taking the name of nArada in its first shloka
Ramayana has outlived all history books in the world and will be there for as long as the Sun and Moon. In the conversation that takes place, Valmiki asks nArada questions
and nArada preaches Valmiki the story of entire Ramayana. The first 100 shlokas of Ramayana which describe this condensed conversation are popularly called as Baala ramayana.
In one of the versions of how the robber Ratnakara got transformed into sage Valmiki, it is nArada who teaches “mara mara” to Valmiki.

It is nArada again who requests VedaVyAsa to compose BhAgawata purana. In the same BhAgawata, nArada describes his own story of a previous birth.

ucchiṣṭa-lepān anumodito dvijaiḥ
sakṛt sma bhuñje tad-apāsta-kilbiṣaḥ
evaṁ pravṛttasya viśuddha-cetasas
tad-dharma evātma-ruciḥ prajāyate

Highlighting the importance of good company and serving the wise rishis. nArada was a servant boy and served the rishis with a pure heart. The rishis blessed the boy with spiritual knowledge.

nArada was the guru of both prahlAda and dhruva. prahlAda is taught by nArada even while he in his mother’s womb. The child grows up to be a great bhagavadbhakta when he is born.

In the case of Dhurva, nArada first tests dhruva’s resolve and then gives the mantropadesha of Om Namo Bhagavate VAsudevAya.

on the instruction of Lord viSHnu, nArada also leads the ignorant and tAmasic souls to further ignorance . e.g nArada puts a doubt in Kamsa’s mind that any of the children born
to Devaki could be the cause of Kamsa’s death This makes kamsa develop further hatred for the lord and commit child killings. Many mistake this as a cruel act of nArada.
In reality, nArada has only brought out the true colors of kamsa.

The popular satyanArAyana kathA found in skanda purANa starts with nArada approaching viSHnu and asking for a simple solution for people on earth especially of kaliyuga.

In summary, devarishi nArada’s role in origins of Itihasas and Puranas, spread of namasankirtana, mentoring of other bhaktas is truly an act of benevolence upon
those who are on the path of spiritual progress.

The next time you or your well-wishers watch a movie and see any of our spiritual gurus being depicted in wrong light, just change the channel or lodge a protest if possible.
May nArada bless us all with sadbuddhi and take us on the right path. Jai Sriman Narayana.


-Arun Harnoor




Bhima defeating Karna

Sympathy with the underdog is natural. But it is a modern fashion to overblow this sympathy into a romanticised image of the underdog, to the point of adulation, aping and even following. Such is the case with Kara and occasionally Rāvaa (especially in the Eastern and Southern parts of India). This post attempts to restore balance to sympathetic minds by recounting the many flaws in Kara’s character, while acknowledging his occasional nobility Kara had learned the skills of a kshatriya, but could not maintain with consistency the nobility and balanced vision that were supposed to guide kshatriyas through their lives.



 The very entry of Kara into Mahabhārata reveals this flaw. Drona was holding a closed demonstration of the skills of his pupils. Kara entered uninvited. This was unseemly. If his object was to gain admiration for his skills, he could have done so by showing them off. He need not have challenged Arjuna to a duel. This showed impropreity.

 Kara must have been older to Arjuna by 4-6 years at least, since he was born before Kunti’s marriage and Arjuna was the third son of Kunti after marriage. If Dharmaraja was 16 at the time of the exhibition, Arjuna could not have been more than 14, and Kara would have been 18-20 years in age. Thus, his very advent shows a full grown man – Kara, challenging a young boy (Arjuna). This was improper and not noble. But Kara in the heat of anger would often do what was improper.

 Impetuosity is a character flaw that is lethal to kshatriyas in battle. For this reason, Bhīshma rated Kara as only half a rathin when the battle with Pandavas was in the offing.



 The small mindedness of Kara comes to the fore in another episode. When Duhsashana dragged Draupadi to the court, Vikara argued that a gentlewoman should not be treated in this manner and could not be enslaved. Kara not only opposed him, but he induced Kauravas to degrade Draupadi by saying:

 “The wife of five husbands is no better than a strumpet. There’s nothing wrong in dragging her to the men’s assembly. She and her husbands are all nothing but slaves now. They do not own even the clothes they are standing in. Strip them of their finery”

 Until he spoke, none of the Kauravas had thought of this. There was no reason for Kara to intervene in a quarrel between cousins, other than personal jealousy. For this petty emotion, he staked the honour of a woman. This also showed his impetuosity. Under stressful situation, he could forget all humane considerations.



 Much is thought about Kara’s friendship with and loyalty to Duryodhana. While he himself flaunted this friendship, it did not prevent him from running away from the Gandharvas and hiding in a village while Duryodhana was imprisoned by them. At length, it was the Pandavas who rescued and set Duryodhana free. No wonder when Kara asked Bhīshma about the king, he answered bitterly:

 “Those loyal to the king don’t live to ask whether the king be alive. How could you think of your own hide with the king in danger? Your much vaunted love of the king is nothing but pretence.”

 The overweening pride of Kara also often came in the way of his loyalty and duty towards Duryodhana. For one, he withdrew from battle as long as Bhīshma was leading it (although in some versions, this was due to a condition stipulated by Bhīshma). After becoming the general, he forced King Shalya to serve as his charioteer. This was from misplaced pride. Worse, when King Shalya tried to provoke his warlike spirits by taunting him saying, “Don’t boast now, for I know that you shall lose heart on seeing Arjuna” – he responded by insulting the women and people of his kingdom. This injudicious to say the least, since Shalya was driving his chariot.

 Again, it was overweening pride that made him change his horses to white, to imitate Arjuna before the crucial battle. And he went through his own army insulting Arjuna while Arjuna was engaging the kauravas in battle. The net result was that by the time he reached Arjuna, the latter had the time to kill Kara’s son before his eyes. This must have been demoralising.

 It was his pride that made him ignore Shalya’s warning that his nāgastra was aimed too high. As it was, the astra hit Arjuna’s crown. Although it is said that Sri Krishna brought Arjuna’s chariot down by two feet, this seems implausible, since in that case the arrow would have flown over Arjuna’s head. It is more likely that as Shalya had warned, Kara was aiming too high. Shalya himself might have warned Kara because he must have known that Kara, unlike Arjuna and Bhīshma, was not well versed with the finer points of charioteering (in spite of being fostered in a suta family).

 It was overweening pride that made Kara give away the natural armour that he was born with to Indra. Kara used armour in all his battles, and knew that he would need this armour in battle. He fought his battles for Duryodhana, and so loyalty and friendship would demand that he hold on to the natural armour. He did not do so. At best this was misplaced generosity, which came in the way of his duty.

 Droa also knew this flaw in Kara’s character, when he supported Bhīshma’s evaluation by saying:

“Karna is headstrong, shows misplaced kindness, runs away from battle and makes mistakes in judgment. And so I would not give him full marks as a warrior.”



 Overweening pride and jealousy drove Kara into extreme selfishness which often led him to forget his duties to his friend Duryodhana. For instance, when Kunti invited him to rejoin his natural family, he turned down the invitation with an offer to kill none but Arjuna. This offer showed that no higher feelings dominated his mind at the time.

 By agreeing not to kill the other brothers, he was hurting Duryodhana’s cause, which required him to fight all the Pandavas. In fact, all the kauravas were killed by Bhīma and not by Arjuna, most frequently by arrows (Bhīma was quite the archer, although not possessed of divine weapons or astras). Thus, the offer showed that he placed his individual dislikes above friendship with Duryodhana.

 The offer was not prompted by love for his natural mother Kunti or her sons either. He had no pity for Kunti who was his unwed mother, as his bitter words showed. His offer to fight Arjuna alone was prompted by his pride, since he thought Arjuna alone was fit to fight him. This showed a misplaced contempt for the other brothers, especially for the formidable Bhīma who singlehandedly brought down all the children of Gāndhāri.



 His bad judgement came to the fore at the fatal moment when his chariot wheel sank into the blood soaked soil of Kurukshetra. Chariots were breaking down, horses were getting killed every day. We often read of warriors transferring to a different chariot. Kara  being the general of Kaurava army could easily have done so. For some strange reason, he chose to get down and lift the wheel out of the rut. Possibly he was confused by having seen his son killed before his eyes, and missing Arjuna with his divine astra. He compounded his difficulties by speaking of ‘dharma’ of battle to Arjuna. This gave the cue to Shri Krishna who reminded Arjuna that Kara had no right to claim the protection of dharma after having killed Abhimanyu on foot and inciting the disrobing of Draupadi. Arjuna who might have hesitated otherwise, was precipitated into ending Kara’s life.



 For all his flaws, Kara was not without his moments of nobility and greatness. The fortitude with which he bore the pain of an insect boring through his thigh to avoid waking his guru is one such instance. His best moment came when Shri Krishna revealed the secret of his birth to him, and asked him to rejoin his brothers. As Irawati Karwe so well puts it:

 “By accepting Krishna’s offer, he would have become at once a Kshatriya of the highest rank, and a king.    The Pandavas, his hated rivals, would have waited on him as their eldest. All this he gave up, and easily, without saying one harsh word to Krishna. 

 He said, “What you ask is impossible. My whole life has been spent among the sutas.   Myself and my sons have married among them. I cannot now break away from them. Any kingdom that I win I would present to Duryodhana.   Do not try to persuade me.” “So be it,” said Krishna and turned away.  

 This shows Karna to be a noble person, a true friend, a man tied to his foster family by love and duty, an incorruptible vassal.  By spurning for the sake of his friend what he had coveted always, he reached moral grandeur.”



 Unfortunately, he did not continue to dwell in the heights that this moment of self-revelation and clarity scaled. Very soon he reverted to the pettiness with Shalya, and forgot his love for Duryodhana in his jealousy for Arjuna as the episode with Kunti reveals.

 All in all, Kara can only be described as a tragic and truncated hero. His life is a story of what might have been.

 By Dr.Rahul Shastri, 

Based on and inspired by Yugānta: The End of an Epoch, Irawati Karwe, 1968, Poona

Ramayana and Mahabharata – History and not myths

The new chairman of ICHR argues that faith and reason can go hand in hand in the writing of history.



The media describes him as an RSS man and the author of the Mahabharata Project, but very little is known about the mild-mannered historian from Telangana in academic circles.Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, the new chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), describes himself as a colonial historian and argues that faith and reason can go hand in hand in the writing of history.

You have lashed out against Marxist historians and their interpretation of history. Why is the writing of history a Right vs Left debate?

I think it is time to think about India’s history from an Indian perspective. For the last 60 years, our writing and understanding of history has been influenced by the West. Indian research has been far too dependent on the West to write its own history. We are dependent on their translations and interpretation. And, these are my personal views, history writing in India is Euro-centric and imperialistic. The ICHR, I understand, is in the process of acquiring digital records from centres of history in the US and Europe. This will not only give us access to our own records but will also aid us in writing history from our perspective.

You have been appointed by the BJP government. Don’t you think institutions such as the ICHR should be free of politics?

The MoU (memorandum of understanding) prepared by the founding fathers of ICHR gave the powers to the government to appoint heads of social and historical institutes. I have no qualms in admitting that these appointments are political. Have previous heads of social institutes been questioned about their appointments? Why are these questions asked only about me? The government has been formed by a democratic process. It has been elected by the people. To question that is to question democracy itself. Unlike other social institutes, the ICHR attracts a lot of attention because history is an important subject. But history belongs to the people. We have not shown or written a comprehensive history of India to the people of India. History is by the people, for the people and of the people.

You are the author of the Mahabharata project? What is the project about?

There is a certain view that the Mahabharata or the Ramayana are myths. I don’t see them as myths because they were written at a certain point of time in history. They are important sources of information in the way we write history. What we write today may become an important source of information for the fut­ure in the future. When analysed, of course, they could be declared to be true or false. History is not static. It belongs to the people, it’s made by the people. Similarly, the Ram­ayana is true for people…it’s in the collective memory of generations of Indians. We can’t say the Ramayana or the Mahabharata are myths. Myths are from a western perspective.

What does that mean?

For us, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are true accounts of the periods in which they were written.

But shouldn’t the writing of history be rooted in historical evidence and research?

Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history. We can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing civilisation. To look for evidence would mean digging right though the hearts of villages and displacing people. We only have to look at the people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For instance, the Ramayana mentions that Rama had travelled to Bhad­ra­chalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search for material evidence. In continuing civilisations such as ours, the writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We have to depend on folklore too.

Are you for correcting the writing of history?

I won’t put it that way. But real history has to come through. I am a follower of truth. The ICHR should encourage research about India and Greater India—from Southeast Asia all the way to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. There is enough archaeological evidence to show the connect of our civilisation there.

What is your view on Ayodhya?

Is it not a fact that mosques as structures came to be in India in 1000 AD? Is it not a fact that the mosque was built by a lieutenant of Babur? A historian can only enlighten people on the facts of history. Historians can at best say evidence of earlier remains of a Hindu structure are there. Conflicting views are created by political leaders. If Ayodhya is not the place of Ram, where did he live? Looking at the present structures in Ayodhya, we can see people still living the way that finds a mention in the Ramayana. Historians can only give their opinion to enlighten people.

Doesn’t correcting history pose a problem? Why only cast it in the context of two communities? How about Dalits and untouchability?

The question of untouchability is relatively recent, as recent as 3,000 years. And it has its basis in the economy. It was not based on social status. Did we hear of untouchability before this period of 3,000 years? Let me give you an example. Sage Vishwamitra went to a Dalit hut and asked for dog’s meat as he was hungry. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are replete with instances of different castes, did we find a mention of untouchability there?

As a historian, are you trying to give a religious interpretation to history?

I am a Hindu and a Brahmin. To be a Hindu isn’t a religion. In my personal practices, I can adopt religious practices of the community to which I belong—as a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite. But that is not what being a Hindu is about. Reli­gi­ons are recent manifestations. I feel the­re’s only Sanatana Dharma. There was no conflict between communities or on religious lines as there was only one sanatana dharma. Now there are several reasons for conflict to take place. Besides, Muslims are the only ones who have retained their distinct culture. Can Christians or Muslims say all religions are one? A Hindu can say that. There was no conflict when there was sanatana dharma, Conflict or contests came about when temples were destroyed and mosques built on the sites in medieval times.

Didn’t Hindus destroy Buddhist monuments?

I agree. But Buddhism was on the wane then, in decline. But were thousands of people killed as they were in the raids to the Somnath temple? I won’t use the word corrections here. But the real history has to come up