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Karna and Arjuna
by Dr. Madhu Guptan Bookmark and Share

Karna and Arjuna are the two greatest warriors of the Mahabharata. The contrasting personalities and mutual antagonism of these two titans is one of the main reasons for the striking power of the Mahabharata storyline. It is the final war between Karna and Arjuna which is the most cataclysmic and awesome of the great epic. The warriors on the battlefield and the Devas in Swarga watched the battle in speechless amazement and terrified admiration of the strength and skill of these greatest of the Atirathis. An Atirathi was a warrior capable of fighting with 60000 men at the same time and defeating them. At the time of the Mahabharata there were only five Atirathis on the face of the earth and they were-Bhishma, Drona, Krishna, Karna and Arjuna.

It is extremely interesting and instructive when we see the different roles of these two Heroes of the Mahabharata. Karna deserves our sympathy when we see the cavalier and shabby way in which he is treated by most of the other personalities especially his own mother.

Though really born as a divine prince, he is reviled as a suta putra all his life. What prevented Kunti from acknowledging the radiant Karna as her long lost eldest son when he appears as a majestic youth at Drona's arms exhibition? Then although he is among the mightiest of warriors he is underestimated and insulted by Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Ashwathama.

Karna carried this bitter wound of unrecognized greatness in his heart all his life. The many insults he had to bear because of his supposedly low class birth led to a lifelong quest for recognition as the mightiest Kshatriya of his age and this fuels his feats of great heroism, his bitter rivalry with Arjuna and his ultimately self destructivedaanveerta. That was also the reason why the blazing sun Karna was among the dark clouds of the Kauravas.

Unfortunately for him, he could never win any battle against his supreme foe Arjuna. It was as if the curse of his guru Parashuram dogged him throughout his life. The wheels of his life were stuck in misfortune much before the wheels of his chariot stuck in the bloody quagmire of Kurukshetra. Karna however is worthy of the greatest respect and admiration for his glorious personality and indomitable courage, his undisputed might and skill as a warrior and most of all for his never say die attitude to life.

The tragedy of Karna should not detract us from the greatness of Arjuna. Arjuna is the ultimate hero of the Mahabharata being an incarnation of Nara, the heroic masculine power of Lord Vishnu . King Pandu and Kunti purified themselves by severe austerities to Indra for one year before he was born. No other birth except Krishna's was celebrated by the devas, sages and apsaras.

However his real achievement lies in his pursuit of perfection all his life. Though born into the great Bharata race he is not content to rest on the strength of his family fame and exerts himself until he becomes the greatest warrior on earth. He is the embodiment of Kshatriya manhood . His status as the pre eminent warrior is emphatically established by his single handed defeat of Bhishma, Drona, Karna , Kripa and Ashwathama in the terrible battle of the Viratas. He bears all the injustices of the Kauravas with courageous fortitude and yet hesitates to kill them when they are arranged before him for war.

It is this purity and kindness of heart which makes Arjuna truly great. As C Rajagoplachari puts it, he never abuses his immense power and ever shrinks from an unworthy act. These qualities make Krishna choose him as his dearest friend and disciple. Arjuna is the role model for the young man aiming at perfection and he achieved ultimate victory in both the material and spiritual battlefields of his life with the Lord Himself as his Guide.   

More by :  Dr. Madhu Guptan
Views: 14452
Article Comment To those Arjuna's fans who often advises others to read the original Mahabharata. 1.Whether their ancestors had ever seen the original Mahabharata written by vedvyas himself?
Article Comment Karna was the greatest warrior then arjun. We know that if krishna was not there arjun would have been easily defeated. Actually between karna and bhima yudh, karna first defeated
bhima but didn't kill him due to his promise given to kunti. After that also karna was in power
but because of becoming tired and bhima's raging power he was losing, but still he couldn't
kill karna. On 11Th day there was also a battle between abhimanyu and karna and karna defeated him. But didn't kill him, because he didn't wanted to waste time. Also bhishma didn't take him in war because if he would have came then pandava's could have been defeated very quickly. Also karna was the only single man who defeated 4 pandava's without
the help of any maharahthi(drona and bhishma)
Article Comment Krishna himself said that if he was not there, karna could have easily killed arjuna....in the original texts it is said...Krishna" o phalgun(Arjun) ! the son of radha (karna) is invinsible. he can alone defeat the whole worriors on this earth including the gods of the three world with his Vijay dhanush and his strength and determination..(Vijay dhanush is given to karna by parshuram who himself got it from lord shiva it is said that a worrior could not be defeated until he holds it...parshuram did not give it to bhishma but gave it to karna cause he believed karna his formost student....)..., krisha further said "o dhananjay his arms are big his chest is broad he is the true hero r the hero of heroes kill him until he is engaged with that chariot otherwise u will not be able to kill him....in the final war against karna and arjuna karna broke arjuna's bow string many times....when arjuna shot arrows karna's chariot moved 10 step backwards when karna shot arrows arjuna's chariot moved 2 steps back then Krishna praised karna for his strength so arjuna asked"madhav this is unfair " then Krishna said u are just pushing a chariot on which he is standing but he is pushing a chariot on which the weight of the whole universe is centered even hanuman is on the flag of your chariot it is impossible for a human to even shake it......moreover karna defeatad the whole world he conquered all the kingdoms in all direction and made them pay tribute when he retuned hastinapur after conquering all the kingdom in all direction he brought with him that much wealth the world had ever witnessed....dhritrashtra said" o son you have done that even bhishm pitahma could not do you are indeed the undefeatable worrior in the world.
Article Comment The Dharma versus Adharma theory has to be a later addition of ignorant translators and interpreters of the Mahabharata to suit their own religious bias. God does not concern himself with good and evil , in fact he welcomes both so that the conflict between the two within each character and within each of us will inevitably lead us back to him through renunciation.
I am very suspect of the despoiling of the characters of Duryodhana and Karna by later Mahabharata writes and poets.
To say that Arjuna "single handedly" defeated Bhishma, Drona and Karna is a joke surely. Each was defeated by the deceptions of Krishna.
The real question that the Mahabharata should raise is what was Krishna's motivation in taking sides . It was certainly not because of Dharma and Adharma.
I would suggest that it had a lot to do with what was needed top happen to bring on the Kali Yuga. After all, the advent of the Kali Yuga was the big picture story of the time. Dabbling with who was good and who was evil is of very minor and quibbling relevance.
Mac Hawk
Article Comment Karna was best warrior.. People say that Arjuna defeated karna many times but they do not mention that every time Arjuna used his Gandeev bow whose weilder is impossoble to defeat owing to the qualities of the bow.. Karna also had a divine bow named Vijaya but he used it only once in mahabharat war when he became commander of the Kaurava army and on these two days he was impossible to defeat.. So its up to you to decide who is more powewrful...
Article Comment No doubt, Karna was a great warrior but was the most selfish among the warriors prevailing during that time. His only aim was to kill Arjuna at any cost. Pl.consider these points.
1. He lied to Parasurama about his cast to learn Dhanurvidhya with an aim to defeat Arjuna.
2. Even after knowing that Pandavas were his own brothers, he did not reveal it to Duryodhana
as he wanted to kill Arjuna and he was overconfident that he could kill him and accomplish his
life long ambition.
3. Had he revealed the truth, Pandavas could never have continued the war. May be Duryodhan could have made Karna as the Emperor of Hasthinapur or Karna could have handed over the kingdom to Duryodhna himself with the consent of Pandavas and all could have lived in peace and thousands of remaining warriors might have been saved from the war.
4. Many a times he left the battle field after severely injured/defeated by the enemy knowing that he can not be killed untill he bears the Kavach and Kundle on his body..
5. His Dharma was at stake when he joined other warriors to kill Abhimanyu.He should have resisted.He can not be called as Sura,Veera Karna.
6. Knowingly, he gave away his Kavach and kundle to Indra with the knowledge that his life will be in danger without them because he wanted to prove his Dana guna.
7. His behaviour during Drupathi's Vastrapaharan is diplorable and comparable to that of Duryodhana. With such a character, he can not be compared to Arjuna. Arjuna, in spite of the misdeeds by Kauravas was hesitant to start the war and kill them.
Article Comment Arjun was strong with astra when he got boons from Shiv and Durga thats why Karna was beatable in Virat yuth and Gandharva''s attack. But the same way when Karna was strong by later came with Lord Indra''s and Naga Dhaksha''s boon to him with astra''s.Karna was the strongest than arjun while the kurukshetra came to end and Arjun saved by lord krishna and Hanuman.

Pasupatha Astra is boon given to use it only once by Arjuna and Indra Astra is only once use by Karna. But Naga Daksha astra is the outstanding power weapon made karna outstanding in war than Arjun . But the fate won with Dharma by Karna''s sacrifice.

It''s all about Astra''s/weapons boon power difference between both Arjun and Karna. The time and situation of getting astra boon difference made the circumstances of strength/victory/defeat differences between Arjun and Karna.

Both are best of best in Archery.
Article Comment karna is the greatest archer than arjuna.In 17th day of mahabharata war the challian insults karna during the war against arjuna so karna would sacrifice the chariot and downwards to the earth then he told to arjun for sacrifice your chariot and battle to me.but krishna stops arjun.because he knows even if arjun sacrifice the chariot the karna will easily defeat the dhananjaya.so he stop him.
keerthi vasan
Article Comment Although Bhishma, Karna are great warriors.. (i too like these persons) they both are nice human being, good hearted fellows, etc but the only one mistake they done was they was in adharma's side....and indirectly support kauravas for their personal reason (bhishma to save hasitnapur and karna the only reason he was recognized by duryodana
Article Comment first before commenting on this,comment based on what is said or written according original author ved vyas,to prove arjun's superioty over karna,not even arjun needed his son and student is enough 1) karna was defeated by bhima 2) karna was defeated by abhimanyu even nearly killed 3)again karna defeated by satyaki 4)again defeated by drupad during gurudakshina 5) karna this time fled on fear of life against gandharwas who were musician by professional whereas arjuna defeated easily 6)karna defeated twice by arjun in virat yudh where whole kaurava warriors with army where support to karna now let us see what even pithamah can't do but arjun did 1)his win over daityas as gurudakshina for his father indra which even combined effort of devas can't be achieved and for arjun superiorty best unbreakable and inarguable fact is lord mahadev parameshwar's words on partha that arjun is sin-less,he was touched by lord shiva and got his true darshan with mata parvati and arjun's brave courage is any kshtariya can't match then his prowess and strength even is eaual to mine these are said by lord shiva the above poits which i mentioned are general topics which comes to our mind if we go even detaily then we know how inferior karna to arjuna? hail arjuna hail lord shiva hail lord vishnu two source of power with arjun! the best warrior in our mytthology and if anyone can match or defeat arjun is only three person 1)lord shiva 2)lord vishnu and 3)lord shiva's student indrajeet who defeated great para aathma lord vishnu's avatar ram and his true servant lord laxman twice
Article Comment ARJUNA is the greatest archer ever born after lord rama.karna was defeated by drupada during drona's gurudakshina,he was unsuccesful at draupadi swayamwar,during ghosha yatra also karna was defeated by gandharwas n fled away from battlefield leaving his dearest friend duryodhana.he was unable to stop arjuna during abhimanyu's death revenge.he was even defeated by satyaki,abhimanyu,bheem in archery during kurukshetra n he was the first one who fled away frm warfield during virat yudh
vamshi sai chand
Article Comment Karna is the best, by the way Krishna is Mahamaharathi and Karna along with Arjuna are AthiMaharathis take a look at the below list

Mahamaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 24 Atimaharathi warriors simultaneously. No warrior has attained this status, not least because there have never been 24 Athimaharathi warriors at the same time, but, warriors who can be called Mahamaharathis are Shiva, Vishnu and his incarnations, like Rama and Krishna, Shakti, Brahma, Skanda, Ganesha, Narsimha,Hanuman, Indra, Devas,andParshurama.
Atimaharathi: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Maharathi warriors simultaneously.Vali, Kartavirya Arjuna, Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Narakasuran, Jambavan, Bhisma, Karna, Arjuna, Dronacharya, Jarasandha, and Indrajit were Atimaharathis.

Arjun never had to be at the receiving end of insult, he had the guidance from the likes of Bhishma, Drona and Kripa whereas Karna always had to put up with the insults from the society all his life. Even when he became a king he was not considered an equal among his peers, though he is of far high birth and is far too strong from others. He did not had the help of Krishna, he was cursed by his own Acharya,

We all know about the extent of his Daana guna, where knowing that Indra was going to ask for his Kavach and Kundal, he gave them up without a second thought just for the sake of his principles.

Coming to some of the above comment that Arjun has Bhramhastra but not Karna, Here is the list of characters in the Mahabharata who has Bharmahshira in their arsenal, A weapon which is four times more powerful that Bharmhastra.
Only Bhishma, Arjuna, Ashwatthama, Drona and Karna possessed the knowledge to summon the Brahmashira. - Source Wikipedia

On an equal ground, facing one to one with their born qualities and without any external interference Karna will beat Arjuna any given day or night. Karna is greater than Arjuna in each and every aspect. Anyone thinking otherwise is just kidding themselves.
Article Comment Karna was superior to arjuna.
In case of virat yudh, we knw that the warriors of that time fought with divya weapons.. which upon stiking with each other, harmed the vicinity (neighbourhood).. In virat war, arjun was using divya astras, but to counter them, Karna was NOT using divya shaktis and astras becuz there were cows near the battlefield, he didnt want to harm them..
also if arjuna was superior then why hanuman and krishna had to protect him, and why did indra took his golden armour? why ? why ? why ? why ?
Article Comment @Mr. Anand shankar...
you're wrong buddy, Karna is the greates warrior ever born... He promised kunti that he'll kill only arjuna and spare rest pandavas..
In the battle, he defeated all other 4 pandavs but didnt kill them..
And in case or war with arjuna... everyone knows how karna was killed.. He was killed when he was unarmed..
many guys say that arjun defeated karna many times and blah blah blah.. guys seriously you think that if arjun had defeated karna many times b4, then still lord krishna and hanuman would protect arjun frm karna's arrows!
Just read it whole guys..
Krishna saved arjun from karnas arrows many times, on 16th day of battle, ever krishna was unable.. Karna tied arjuna with his arrows and was going to shoot the final one to kill arjuna, but just then, the sun setted, and the war had to be stopped then..
dont believe, read original mahabharata...
even krishna accepts that, wid karna's kavach and kundal, he also cant defeat karna.. wht else proof should i give to u
Article Comment karna is the greatest warrrior then any one else...

in the real epic story of vyasar

it says karnan has the power to kill the lord also (krishna)

lord know about this...
Article Comment Many people think that karna was superior than arjuna but it is not so .... according to the original verses of mahabharata arjuna was the greatest warrior and defeated karna many times while karna never actually defeated him even once ... the problem is that many of us think that what is shown in tv serials is true but it is not so and there are over 1000's of versions of mahabharata in which only some books are authentic ... if u get to read a truly authentic version and research the text ...u'll know that in the kurukshetra battle ARJUNA & KARNA ASSAULTED EACH OTHER 35 TIMES WITH NUMEROUS, THOUSANDS & LAKHS OF ARROWS ………8 TIMES THEY NULLIFIED EACH OTHER ARROWS ,12 TIMES BOTH KARNA & ARJUNA PIERCED EACH OTHER BUT THE REMAINING 15 TIMES ARJUNA PIERCED KARNA IN EVERY PART OF HIS BODY & KARNA’S LIMBS,YOKE,STANDARD,STEEDS,CHARIOT WERE RIPPED APART & KARNA WAS LEFT MANGLED BATHED IN BLOOD & KARNA HAD NO ANSWER FOR ARJUNA’S ARROWS.... so pls before expressing your views read the mahabharata by ved vyasa and in the narayanam shloka which is the most important shloka of mahabharat .. we sing arjuna's praise not karna's praise ... so pls read the original epic.
Article Comment Being called 'The Mightiest' neeeds a lot of perfection. In Mahabharata ,ofcourse, Lord Krisna is the central figure.But when looked among humans Bhisma,Arjun, and Karna enlighten the migtiest side.. When choosen among them,in my opinion, The one who was closest to God,The most admired warrior,the mightiest archor and warrior,the most obidient student of all times known for his dedication,knowledge,ekagrata,concentration and dharma, heroic masculine power of Lord Vishnu..the ultimate hero of the Mahabharata..ARJUNA ...A role model for the young man aiming at perfection and he achieved ultimate victory in both the material and spiritual battlefields of his life with the Lord Himself as Guide. He is Incredible...................... -
Shivani Singh
Article Comment I believe Bhishma is the most mightiest character of Mahabharata. He sacrificed his whole life to establish Dharm. Bhishma is the most influential character of Mahabharata. He is unique,and after Bhishma there comes Karna
Himanshu Singh
Article Comment The greatest and the most influential characters in mahabharata is Bheshma and Karna bcz bheshma sacrificed his so many things and karna also. Karna's bad luck was his mother. To kill karna krishna had planned and trapped him from the childhood,he is been cursed thrice 1.you will die at the time when u r helpless 2.You will forget all the archery skills at your most required time 3.Your wheel will stuck in the ground as tightly as you pressed to take out the ghee from the earth. leaving these on the 16th day of war he knows about his true mother, gives away his shield to indra as daan, promises kunti he will not kill all the brothers except arjuna, on leaving all these he fights with arjuna knowing he is his brother, He was unable to betray his friend, lord krishna and lord hanuman help arjuna in the battle in incognito mode, lord krishna saved arjuna twice in the battle field, all these resulted in the death of karna.I bet you nobody can lead such a horrible life.But karna was very strong and we can learn from him that never give up easily and also gives msg that casts are made for no use. The mighty worrier. If karna was on the right side then even for gods also it is difficult to kill him.
Article Comment Karna has a great ideology in entire of his life. Because he had beard all his misfortune in his life alone himself. Nobody was standing by him to share his sorrow. Even Durudhana also used his power only for his own purpose and many times he used to emotionally blackmailed Karna.
Though Pandava too had faced many injustices and grief yet they had faced all those things all together. And also Mother Kunti was always beside them. What needed more for them. But the same was not occurred with Karna. So we can learn from his how to live life.
Pranjal Pratim Borgohain
Article Comment On the basis of evidence from the Mahabharata itself, Arjuna emerges as the greatest warrior among all followed by Bhishma, Drona and Karna . Arjuna humbles Karna many times in the Mahabharata in episodes like Draupadi Svayamvar, Virata war and in the killing of Jayadrath. Karna , in spite of all his boasting, is neither able to save Jayadrath from Arjuna nor Duhshasana from Bhima. In the Virata war, Arjuna single handedly defeats the entire Kaurava army. Arjuna also has a greater character than Karna who is consumed by his unreasonable hatred and envy of Arjuna and the Pandavas. He is unable to grasp real Dharma and unable to surrender before the Lord. And so he too falls in the Kurukshetra ranayajnam . However Karna too has great and admirable qualities, as mentioned in my article like friendship, loyalty and charity. That is the beauty and complexity of Mahabharata.
Madhu Guptan
Article Comment Arjuna is superior than Karna. Arjuna never used Pasupatha or Brahmasheer astray at Karna in the battlefield. The battle would have come to end in the first itself if he exercised them.
Article Comment real hero of mahabharat is beeshma.....none other
and among arjun n karna ......karna is the best
arjun always get helps from load krishna ....kripa....drona...beeshma.....and all pandavas......
were as karna only get help from duriyodana....
hari krishnan
Article Comment Sir,

After reading your article still i am in confusion who is great worrier of Mahabharata between Arjun and Karna. Many people says that Arjuna would have killed by karna if krishana would have not saved him. is it true ...?.

Prashant Mohite
Article Comment There were also some other atirathis in Mahabharata war. According to Mahabharata, Bhima, Abhimanyu, Satyaki and Dristidyumna were also atirathis. So it can be said that there were only five atirathis on the face of Earth. Bhima and Satyaki defeated even Karna and Drona on their day.
Anand Shankar
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