The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 4/Lectures and Discourses/The Mahabharata
(Delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, February 1, 1900)
The other epic about which I am going to speak to you this evening, is called the Mahabharata. It contains the story of a race descended from King Bharata, who was the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Maha means great, and Bharata means the descendants of Bharata, from whom India has derived its name, Bharata. Mahabharata means Great India, or the story of the great descendants of Bharata. The dispute was over the region of the north western India. So the region of the quarrel is not very big. This epic is the most popular one in India; and it exercises the same authority in India as Homer's poems did over the Greeks. As ages went on, more and more matter was added to it, until it has become a huge book of about a twenty thousand couplets. All sorts of tales, legends and myths, philosophical treatises, scraps of history, and various discussions have been added to it from time to time, until it is a vast, gigantic mass of literature; and through it all runs the old, original story. The central story of the Mahabharata is on Karna and his brothers whose heroism and glories were spread all over Bharatvarsha that time. They conquered the Aryavartha at different periods of time and subjugated many old nations, kingdoms and republics of the great ancient India! The core of the story is on the control over the empire of India and mainly Hastinapur. The story's hero comes from the Suta tribe and his name is Karna, the possessor of all qualities and also known as Vasusena who gets into the Kuru family and becomes the backbone of the Kurus. Out of the brothers, Karna and Yudhisthira were on the verge to sit on the throne of Hastinapur whereas the rest characters were subordinates and supporters of them. The irony in this situation is that Yudhisthira does not know that Karna is his eldest brother and the rightful heir to the throne though Karna knows it but at the play of destiny, he was bound to side against Yudhisthira and the rest Pandavas. As I told you in the Ramayana, Bharat despite being the 2nd eldest brother sits on the throne, in the Mahabharata also Yudhisthira sits on the throne. However just like every ancient Indian text, the ending of the epic will not be tragic one but will be in the heaven where the 106 brothers unite and Karna being the eldest brother will be crowned as the king of the Aditya Lok. In the Ramayana also, the ending was not tragic, Rama united with his brothers and was crowned as the king of Ayodhya. The positive ending in ancient epics by the authors and writers of times immemorial is to show that the life is 'unending' and should be always taken as a positive aspect to move forward in life and finally attain the highest goal which is the 'salvation'. Unlike Buddha's teachings, these pieces of history teach us heroism, the way to live. Despite being the eldest brother, Rama and Karna did not get their right to the kingdom. Both were firmed by their oaths but finally they united with their brothers and lived happily in the heaven. Both the epics teaches brotherhood. Today in India, Yudhisthira and Bharat are seen as ardent brother devotees and that is what everybody should learn from, today Rama and Karna's glories are heard in each and every home because their brothers were devoted to them and worshipping elder brother next to god since ages has been a practice. Till now we see in Ramayana, the brahmins sing praises of Rama who was a king but for the first time in the Indian tradition we saw a hero from a lower tribe to rising upto become the world-conquerer despite facing so many challenges in life. He went to Drona's Ashram to get basic knowledge of weapons along with other Pandavas and Kauravas. Karna was the illegimitate son of Kunti who was thrown in the river. He was born with an impenetrable armour protecting him always. This event in our texts shows us how advanced technology we had thousands of years ago and the baby was born in Shukla paksha which lies in October-Novemeber. A couple from a Suta tribe Adiratha and Radha took him in care and gave all the motherly love and care.The couple thought the child was magical as he wore an armour and cannot be the son of an ordinary human being. They took the child to munis and consulted them, they said the child is the son of sun and in future he shall conquer the earth,he will conquer the wealth of all worlds and he shall be named Vasusena therefore. Vasusena means the one who is born with wealth. At Vasusena's birth, the devas celebrated this auspicious moment and blessed the child and proclaimed, "The handsome child will win the hearts of millions and will conquer the entire earth, the child will be ever-favourite of the ladies" and showered flowers at his birth. The Yakshas, Gandharvas and Apsaras shouted, "Victory to Vasusena! Hail the Aryvartha conqueror! " Poor Suta parents were delighted having the baby and when the boy grew up enough, Radha told him that he was the son of sun but Karna promised that he shall never leave his parents at any cost. Meanwhile Kunti got married to Pandu and Dhritarashtra married to Gandhari. Dhritarashtra had a hundred sons, and Pandu had only five. After the death of Pandu at an early age, Dhritarashtra became king of the Kurus and brought up the sons of Pandu along with his own children. When they grew up they were placed under the tutorship of the great priest warrior, Drona, and were well trained in the various material arts and sciences befitting princes. Karna went to Drona's aashram and he wanted to learn use of weapons. Karna's direct antagonist was Arjuna which brings Arjuna in light in the epic despite being not the eldest Pandava. Karna saw Drona favouring Arjuna more than other students, he quietly went up to Drona and asked about the knowledge of "Brahmastra" which Drona refused. Karna started feeling dejected as he was not from a royal family and didn't
have any other teacher he could get. His parents never helped him in any sort of bribing the gurus to train him as themselves were now old. Karna was now alone and didn't have a god-father like others. He took some courage and went up to the master of all the teachers Bhargava Parshurama and lied of being a Brahmin. Here, we need to learn something that if someone is helpless, he takes up the path of lies. Parshurama gets to know about him not being a Brahmin as Karna remained still when the insect bit his thighs. The insect was no other than Indra, father of Arjuna. Karna leaves Bhargava's Ashram. A rangbhoomi contest is held in the Hastinapur where the entire India with acharyas, gurus, munis and their students including the Kuru and Panchala princes with their parents had come to display their skills. Kings like Jarasandha, Shishupala, Rukmi had also come to watch their sons' skills. All the acharyas, kings praised their sons' performance in archery and mace. Bhima and Duryodhana come to fight. Bhima fights Duryodhana but is stopped by Ashwathamma, the son of Drona. Now Arjuna enters and displays his valour to the audiences and praises are heard from the audience side. Dronacharya declares Arjuna as the best archer in the entire world. At this time, the gates open up for the emergence of a new hero of the Aryavartha history-Karna enters the ground and the audiences turn away to Karna and there is a deep silence, Karna performs all feats and even exceeds Arjuna. Arjuna feels insulted and was extremely angry. Karna then asks for a duel with Arjuna but Kripa didn't allow it. Insulted Arjuna then spoke harsh words to Karna and threatened him to kill him in the battle but Karna smilingly spoke and said that he doesn't hate Arjuna and just want a duel at which audiences clapped for Karna. Arjuna again was insulted. Arjuna was mad with insolence and arrogance. The hatred between Karna and Arjuna sparked at the Rangbhoomi itself. Duryodhana was also delighted at the insult of Arjuna and he made Karna, the king of Anga. Karna swore to remain on the side of Duryodhana and when it was sunset, Karna and Duryodhana walked out of the arena leaving Arjuna and the other princes insulted. Drona narrates a story to his pupils of his insult in the hands of Drupada. The Kaurava and Pandava princes together go and bring back Drupada at the feets of Drona. Yudhisthira, the most righteous and virtuous one of the 5 Pandavas is then crowned the king of Hastinapur. Duryodhana then thought of his marriage so that the son of his takes over the kingdom before Yuddhistira's son.
Karna along with Duryodhana went to abduct Bhanumati from her Swayamwara.The Swayamwara was held at the kingdom of Kashi where mighty kings of their time like Shishupala, Jarasandha, Rukmi and many others were there. When Bhanumati passed Duryodhana rejecting him, Duryodhana was furious and abducted her with the help of Karna. Karna defeated all the mighty kings present there. Bhanumati was a shy princess and unlike Karna, she never faced any hardship in life but eventually Karna and Bhanumati became good friends and story brings Bhanumati in light who was an ardent friend devotee of Karna. Karna being a gifted speaker would talk more and Bhanumati would listen his orders like a humble friend. The relationship was of a devotee and also of a friend. This relationship actually shows that the ancient society was open for women also and won't restrict women from befriending males. Karna,Bhanumati and Duryodhana were talking about politics of Hastinapura once. Karna was the leader of the Kauravas, Duryodhana before making any plan would seek approval of him though the righteous Karna would advise him to not use the method of deceit but Shakuni, the maternal uncle of Kauravas would always advise the method of deceit. Karna advised the 100 brothers and Shakuni, king of Gandhara that the Kaurava should attack the Pandavas and destroy their enemies but Shakuni instigated Duryodhana for deceit. Dhritarashtra put Yudhishthira, the eldest of the sons of Pandu, on the throne of his father. The sterling virtues of Yudhisthira aroused jealousies in the hearts of the sons of the blind king, and at the instigation of Duryodhana, the five Pandava brothers were prevailed upon to visit Varanavata, on the plea of a religious festival that was being held there. Then the children of Dhritarashtra got hold of the kingdom. The five Pandava brothers had fled to the forest with their mother, Kunti. They lived there by begging, and went about in disguise giving themselves out as Brahmana students. A swayamwara was also organised at the Panchala kingdom. At a Svayamvara there was always a great feat of arms or something of the kind. On this occasion, a mark in the form of a fish was set up high in the sky; under that fish was a wheel with a hole in the centre, continually turning round, and beneath was a tub of water. A man looking at the reflection of the fish in the tub of water was asked to send an arrow and hit the eye of the fish through the Chakra or wheel, and he who succeeded would be married to the princess. Now, there came kings and princes from different parts of India, all anxious to win the hand of the princess, and one after another they tried their skill, and every one of them failed to hit the mark. Finally Karna stood up and easily strung the bow, all the kings were amazed at this. Karna took 6 arrows and was about to shoot at the aim but then Draupadi stood up and said that the she wouldn't marry a "Suta". Karna glanced at the sun and threw away the bow at the place. Arjuna then stood up among the Brahmins and hit the mark and then married Draupadi.The five brothers now returned home to Kunti with the princess. Brahmanas have to live by begging. So they, who lived as Brahmanas, used to go out, and what they got by begging they brought home and the mother divided it among them. Thus the five brothers, with the princess, came to the cottage where the mother lived. They shouted out to her jocosely, "Mother, we have brought home a most wonderful alms today." The mother replied, "Enjoy it in common, all of you, my children." Then the mother seeing the princess, exclaimed, "Oh! what have I said! It is a girl!" But what could be done! The mother's word was spoken once for all. It must not be disregarded. The mother's words must be fulfilled. She could not be made to utter an untruth, as she never had done so. So Draupadi became the common wife of all the five brothers. The Pandavas returned to Hastinapur and were given Khandavaprastha. Then the four younger brothers went out with armies on a conquering expedition, each in a different direction, and brought all the kings under subjection to Yudhishthira. The 4 brothers had to reconcile with many kingdoms just for the Rajsuya Yagya. So, to this Rajasuya sacrifice all the liberated kings came, along with those conquered by the brothers, and rendered homage to Yudhishthira. King Dhritarashtra and his sons were also invited to come and take a share in the performance of the sacrifice. At the conclusion of the sacrifice, Yudhishthira was crowned emperor, and declared as lord paramount. This was the sowing of the future feud. Duryodhana came back from the sacrifice filled with jealousy against Yudhishthira, as their sovereignty and vast splendour and wealth were more than he could bear; and so he devised plans to effect their fall by guile, as he knew that to overcome them by force was beyond his power.
Meanwhile Karna was building his kingdom in Anga and Duryodhana, Bhanumati, Dushashana returned from the Rajsuya Yagya and went to meet Karna in Anga. Karna was making up his kingdom of Anga and Bhanumati adviced him to burn like the Khandava forest was burnt but Karna didn't go against his principles and was known as Vrisha meaning- one who follows dharma, one who speaks truth, one who serves the Brahmins. Bhanumati also helped Karna building the kingdom of Anga whereas Duryodhana along with his friends was touring Anga. Karna and Bhanumati also spent time gossiping. One day,Karna was resting in the lap of Bhanumati and lots of asuras sent by Indra tried to ruin the kingdom. Karna takes up the bow and destroys all the maya of the demons but the demon gets taller and taller due to his magical powers. Bhanumati advices Karna to take a seat on her arms and fight with the demons. Karna and Bhanumati defeats all the asuras and both finally emerge as victorious. This story in our epics tells us how in the ancient society women was also equal to men and could also serve as a helping hand even for that a man who himself is the greatest warrior of all time. There is also a story when king Dashratha,father of Rama with Kaikeyi as his charioteer defeated the enemies and the charioteer saved his husband's life a lot of time in the battle. These stories show how in a society women was considered equal to men. Bhanumati said to Karna that she did this to have the fragnance of Karna spread in her body. Duryodhana and Dushashana later came at the spot and all of them after building the kingdom went to Hastinapur. Duryodhana was jealous of Yuddhistira and then Shakuni adviced him for a match of dyuta. Bhishma,Vidura and Drona all adviced the blind Dhritarasthra and there was a political discussion held in the court. Vidura said that the kingdom of Hastinapura is safe and Duryodhana shall not commit bad deeds but Shakuni convinced all of them for the match of dice.Shakuni and his party had made false dice. So Yudhishthira lost game after game, and stung with his losses, he went on with the fatal game, staking everything he had, and losing all, until all his possessions, his kingdom and everything, were lost. The last stage came when, under further challenge, he had no other resources left but to stake his brothers, and then himself, and last of all, the fair Draupadi, and lost all. Now they were completely at the mercy of the Kauravas, who cast all sorts of insults upon them, and subjected Draupadi to most inhuman treatment. At last through the intervention of the blind king, they got their liberty, and were asked to return home and rule their kingdom. But Duryodhana saw the danger and forced his father to allow one more throw of the dice in which the party which would lose, should retire to the forests for twelve years, and then live unrecognised in a city for one year; but if they were found out, the same term of exile should have to be undergone once again and then only the kingdom was to be restored to the exiled. This last game also Yudhishthira lost, and the five Pandava brothers retired to the forests with Draupadi, as homeless exiles. Karna and Bhanumati played a game of dice and Duryodhana was not present there. Seeing her husband come in, Bhanumati immediately stood up as a mark of respect. Karna, whose back was facing the door, did not realize this and misconstrued her intent, thinking that she was leaving because she was on the losing side. Karna, before realizing his friend's arrival, grabbed Bhanumati's shawl and pulled her towards him. His action leads her pearl ornaments to scatter, making it more inappropriate. Her veil also slipped along with the shawl, so she was half-dressed. Karna was the person of all virtues and he was called "Purushni" meaning the ultimate human of all the worldly qualities.Karna, following Bhanumati's stunned gaze, turned around to see Duryodhana observing them both carefully. He stood in shame, embarrassment and guilt, considering the wrath and inevitable punishment he was going to face from his friend. He was sure Duryodhana would immediately accuse them of impropriety. However, much to both their surprise, Duryodhana looked past Karna, and addressed his wife, "Should I just collect the beads, or would you like me to string them, as well?" Bhanumati and Karna could only look at each other in shock, mutely, feeling ashamed at the way they had both severely misjudged him. He had implicit faith and great love for his queen, and even greater was his faith in his friend Karna. Not for a moment did he suspect that the man he had considered his brother would ever betray him, and only quietly picked up the pearls trustfully.This story also describes an ideal friendship between a woman and a man. The story also describes an ideal friendship of Duryodhana and Karna. The character of Karna in the Vyasa's Mahabharata is of a person who has all the qualities and a Purushni and he was sinless and never committed any crime, certainly he was the hero of Mahabharata. After this game of dice, the story of Bhanumati ends and after this, she has no role in the story of Karna.Later she again becomes the part in the story of marriage of Karna which is shown after the war. Continuing with our story. Duryodhana was feeling uncomfortable at the words of Vidura and Bhishma. Vidura was removed from the kingdom and was again brought in. Bhishma,Drona and Vidura along with Karna,Duryodhana,Dushashana and Shakuni discussed in the court of Hastinapur.Bhishma ridiculed Karna and adviced to reconcile with the Pandavas.Karna along with Duryodhana and his well-wishers left the court hearing this. Karna then adviced Duryodhana to mock the Pandavas in the forest by camping in the forest. Duryodhana took permission from Dhritarasthra and Shakuni made the excuse of cattle-inspection and that is why this was called Ghosh Yatra. Some practiced hunting and comforted themselves by doing some activity.All were having a pleasure time and drums were beaten to make Pandavas jealous of how they were enjoying the luxuries and riches which was once of Yudhistira. Some Kauravas got into a verbal duel with the Gandharvas which turned into a war and Karna,Dushashana and Shakuni had to enter. The Gandharvas made all flee but Karna stood there and killed thousands of Gandharvas but Karna was intoxicated and that is why when Chitrasena,the king of Gandharvas used magical powers, Karna had to leave the battlefield on Vikarna's chariot.This was also Indra's plan.The 4 pandava brothers freed Duryodhana. Duryodhana saw his life as waste as he was favoured by the Pandavas. Duryodhana took sanyasa in the forest, Karna came up to him and said that "By good fortune,you all defeated the Gandharvas.I couldn't balance myself and had to leave." Duryodhana told about the exact story that happened and said that the Pandavas had freed them and Duryodhana vowed to starve till death. Dushashana touched his brother's feet and requested him to come back Hastinapur but Duryodhana refused and ordered Dushashana to rule Hastinapur. Shakuni also tried to convince Duryodhana and said-" Those servants were intended to serve the masters and they have done their duty for which you should reward them." but Duryodhana still didn't get up. Karna also tried to convince but even he failed,seeing Karna failed in convincing Duryodhana,all went to Hastinapura. Danavas took Duryodhana in a cave while he was penancing and told that the Pandavas will surely be destroyed. Duryodhana enquired about who will destroy his enemies. They said that Karna will destroy all your enemies, he is born to kill the Pandavas.He will slay Arjuna and Krishna in a fierce battle. He doesn't deserve any boon, he possess all the qualities and all the valour. He himself is a boon to you and the world but beware of the cruel Indra, he always plots against Karna.He will come to ask Karna's armour which will make him vulnerable in battle.Duryodhana was now confident and stood up and received blessings from Danavas. He again went to forest and meditated. The next morning,Karna again came from Hastinapura but this time alone. Duryodhana seeing Karna remembered Danavas words and he saw Karna as the destroyer of the Pandavas and now was fully confident with Karna but when Duryodhana and Karna reached Hastinapura. Bhishma and Vidura trolled Karna and Duryodhana. All of them trolled Karna and then the news of defeat of Karna in the hands of Gandharvas reached the entire India.Karna decided to do Digvijaya yatra and would trounce the entire world showing his valour to the entire world. He first subjugated Drupada and collected tax from him and then all other kings under Drupada themselves surrendered. He also defeated Matsyasa,Angas,Triagarta and the king Susharma was also brought under subjugation.Karna also conquered the north direction by defeating all the demons like Bhagdatta.The encounter of Bhagdatta and Karna was a terrible one but Karna eventually defeated him. Karna also defeated Chitrasena who was the king of Gandharvas.He also reconciled with Dwarka and collecting lots of taxes and armies from Dwarka. Conquering all the directions,he returned to Hastinapura and all the kings greeted him. Gandhari blessed Karna as he was his own child. Duryodhana and Karna now performed the Vaishnava yagya, the greatest yagya ever which was atleast 3 times the Rajsuya Yagya of Yuddhistira.The yagya was never done before in the history of Indian kings except the Vishnu himself. A suta made this possible for the first time in the history of Aryavrata. Hastinapur became the centre of India because of Karna. Almost all kings were under Hastinapura. Karna became the centre and the backbone of Kurus but still Bhishma ridiculed Karna. Duryodhana performed the Vaishnava yagya at which the devas showered flowers on him. Duryodhana followed all the sacred texts and priests to perform the sacrifice. Pandavas were also sent invitation but they angrily refused. There were some people in the court who sided the Pandavas and uttered bad words against Duryodhana and Karna. Hearing this Karna took a vow that until he doesn't kill Arjuna, he won't wash his feet. Hearing this vow, everyone clapped and this news was delivered to the Pandavas. Yuddhistira got very scared and decided to leave the forest.A story of their forest life, I shall tell you here. One day the brothers became thirsty in the forest. Yudhishthira bade his brother, Nakula, go and fetch water. He quickly proceeded towards the place where there was water and soon came to a crystal lake, and was about to drink of it, when he heard a voice utter these words: "Stop, O child. First answer my questions and then drink of this water." But Nakula, who was exceedingly thirsty, disregarded these words, drank of the water, and having drunk of it, dropped down dead. As Nakula did not return, King Yudhishthira told Sahadeva to seek his brother and bring back water with him. So Sahadeva proceeded to the lake and beheld his brother lying dead. Afflicted at the death of his brother and suffering severely from thirst, he went towards the water, when the same words were heard by him: "O child, first answer my questions and then drink of the water." He also disregarded these words, and having satisfied his thirst, dropped down dead. Subsequently, Arjuna and Bhima were sent, one after the other, on a similar quest; but neither returned, having drunk of the lake and dropped down dead. Then Yudhishthira rose up to go in search of his brothers. At length, he came to the beautiful lake and saw his brothers lying dead. His heart was full of grief at the sight, and he began to lament. Suddenly he heard the same voice saying, "Do not, O child, act rashly. I am a Yaksha living as a crane on tiny fish. It is by me that thy younger brothers have been brought under the sway of the Lord of departed spirits. If thou, O Prince, answer not the questions put by me even thou shalt number the fifth corpse. Having answered my questions first, do thou, O Kunti's son, drink and carry away as much as thou requires"." Yudhishthira replied, "I shall answer thy questions according to my intelligence. Do thou ask met" The Yaksha then asked him several questions, all of which Yudhishthira answered satisfactorily. One of the questions asked was: "What is the most wonderful fact in this world?" "We see our fellow-beings every moment falling off around us; but those that are left behind think that they will never die. This is the most curious fact: in face of death, none believes that he will die! " Another question asked was: "What is the path of knowing the secret of religion?" And Yudhishthira answered, "By argument nothing can be settled; doctrines there are many; various are the scriptures, one part contradicting the other. There are not two sages who do not differ in their opinions. The secret of religion is buried deep, as it were, in dark caves. So the path to be followed is that which the great ones have trodden." Then the Yaksha said, "I am pleased. I am Dharma, he God of Justice in the form of the crane. I came to test you. Now, your brothers, see, not one of them is dead. It is all my magic. Since abstention from injury is regarded by thee as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all thy brothers live, O Bull of the Bharata race." And at these words of the Yaksha, the Pandavas rose up.So, after the term of the twelve years' exile had expired, they went to the kingdom of Virata in different disguises to spend the remaining one year in concealment, and entered into menial service in the king's household. Thus Yudhishthira became a Brahmana courtier of the king, as one skilled in dice; Bhima was appointed a cook; Arjuna, dressed as a eunuch, was made a teacher of dancing and music to Uttara, the princess, and remained in the inner apartments of the king; Nakula became the keeper of the king's horses; and Sahadeva got the charge of the cows; and Draupadi, disguised as a waiting-woman, was also admitted into the queen's household. Thus concealing their identity the Pandava brothers safely spent a year, and the search of Duryodhana to find them out was of no avail. They were only discovered just when the year was out.Indra worried about his son Arjuna comes to Karna begging his armour and earrings and Karna in return demanded Shakti weapon and Indra agreed. Karna cut his armor out his body and gave it to Indra and therefore he was known as Vaikartana meaning "belonging to the Surya's race".
The old Indian customs of the Kshatriyas were observed in it. Duryodhana took one side, Yudhishthira the other. From Yudhishthira messengers were at once sent to all the surrounding kings, entreating their alliance, since honorable men would grant the request that first reached them. So, warriors from all parts assembled to espouse the cause of either the Pandavas or the Kurus according to the precedence of their requests; and thus one brother joined this side, and the other that side, the father on one side, and the son on the other. The most curious thing was the code of war of those days; as soon as the battle for the day ceased and evening came, the opposing parties were good friends, even going to each other's tents; however, when the morning came, again they proceeded to fight each other. That was the strange trait that the Hindus carried down to the time of the Mohammedan invasion. Then again, a man on horseback must not strike one on foot; must not poison the weapon; must not vanquish the enemy in any unequal fight, or by dishonesty; and must never take undue advantage of another, and so on. If any deviated from these rules he would be covered with dishonor and shunned. The Kshatriyas were trained in that way. And when the foreign invasion came from Central Asia, the Hindus treated the invaders in the selfsame way. They defeated them several times, and on as many occasions sent them back to their homes with presents etc. The code laid down was that they must not usurp anybody's country; and when a man was beaten, he must be sent back to his country with due regard to his position. The Mohammedan conquerors treated the Hindu kings differently, and when they got them once, they destroyed them without remorse.
Then Yudhishthira sent an ambassador to Dhritarashtra and demanded that half of the kingdom should, as their share, be restored to them. But Duryodhana hated his cousins and would not consent to their legitimate demands. They were even willing to accept a single province, nay, even five villages. But the headstrong Duryodhana declared that he would not yield without fight even as much land as a needle's point would hold. Dhritarashtra pleaded again and again for peace, but all in vain. Krishna also went and tried to avert the impending war and death of kinsmen, so did the wise elders of the royal court; but all negotiations for a peaceful partition of the kingdom were futile. So, at last, preparations were made on both sides for war, and all the warlike nations took part in it.
Returning to our main story,Krishna took Karna on his chariot and tells Karna about his birth and asks Karna to join the Pandavas. The Pandavas will readily accept Karna as their king but Karna refuses as he had several obligations he has in his life which needs to be fulfilled in this birth only.Then Kunti comes to Karna and she asks Karna to grant life to his brothers but Karna promises that he shall not kill the 4 pandavas except Arjuna .
Krishna gives Arjuna the wisdom and knowledge of Gita. Arjuna rose up to fight Bhishma and after 10 days of war, Bhishma lies on bed of arrows with the help of Shikhandi. Karna kills Ghatotakacha in a fierce battle using up the Shakti weapon. Drona becomes the commander in chief and is slain making him weaponless by Dhristhadyumna,son of Drupada. Karna then becomes the commander in chief, he defeats Arjuna on the 16th day and spares his life. The next day, he defeats the 4 pandavas and spares their life. He also trounces Yuddhistira but spares him though he could have made him captive. Insulted Yuddhistira went to the Pandava camp. On the 17th day, Karna trounced all the commanders and brought his Vijaya bow in the battle. Karna then launches a terrible weapon on the Pandava army in front of Arjuna. Arjuna seeing Yuddhistira rushed to the camp, left his army to die and ran away from Karna. Yuddhistira ridiculed Arjun a lot. Arrogance of Arjuna was completely shattered. Now here, I am going to focus on Arjuna. Arjuna was a person who wanted knowledge without any condition. He was an ideal student but also he was very arrogant. He was not humble enough to admit the fact that Karna was his superior despite Yuddhistira and Krishna both truthful ever had declared Karna as the greatest warrior. When Yuddhistira ridiculed Arjuna, Arjuna unable to tolerate his insult took up weapons against Yuddhistira. We also need to learn from this scenario that arrogance often leads to conflict. Krishna with unsurpassed wisdom was humble and made Arjuna calm down and then Arjuna along with Krishna went to the battlefield. Karna and Arjuna came face to face and then there was a fierce duel, Karna made Arjuna unconscious many times, cut 11 strings of Arjuna. He shot an arrow which made Arjuna lose his crown.Everyone thought that Arjuna was slain but then Karna's chariot got stuck and while lifting the chariot Arjuna took a fatal arrow and shot on Karna severing his head. Duryodhana was now filled with grief. Shalya was made the commander because he got the opportunity of being the charioteer of Karna. Shalya wanted to take revenge from the Pandavas and all the remaining commanders now fought to avenge Karna's death. The next day, Shakuni and Shalya were also killed. Duryodhana was also killed by Bhima in an unfair fight because Bhima hit below the waist of Duryodhana which was against the rules of conduct of mace fight.
Well! There are more stories regarding Karna's sons and wives which I am not going to recount today. Then Yuddhistira was made the king of Hastinapura and later Kunti told the Pandavas that Karna was her illegitimate son at which Pandavas sorrowed over Karna's death. Yuddhistira felt the most and decided to denounce the kingdom and go to Kailasha(near Chardham).Everyone tried to pacify him but he did not pay heed to even Krishna with great wisdom. Then Narada with other saptarishis ascended from the heaven to narrate the stories of Karna.Vyasa also came at the spot. Narada sang the story of Karna from his birth and told everything about Karna. All Pandavas and Krishna along with their well-wishers listened the story of Karna from beginning to the end. It was sang by their followers too and generations after generations, then Vyasa decided to write this epic on the request of Yuddhistira which he called "Jaya". Vrishaketu and wife of Karna was also brought to Hastinapura and then Yuddhistira performed the Ashwamedha yagya on the name of his elder brother. Vrishaketu took the horse all over the Indian sub-continent. After then, Vrishaketu was given the kingdom of Indraprastha and Anga. The Pandavas and Draupadi then left for the Kailash and one by one died there,only Yuddhistira with his mortal body reached heaven. Karna finally united with Yudhisthira and his rest brothers both Pandavas and Kauravas. He was crowned the king of the Aditya Lok by Surya himself and happily lived ever after with his brothers.
Stories of Karna and Rama has been told since ages by brahmins. My mother also used to tell me the tales of these heroes and how their brothers respected and loved them despite so much tragedy in their lives. Human beings such as Rama and Karna were the possessor of all qualities and were an example of heroism, chivalry and charm.