BACKGROUND ON KARNA
Karna is one of the central characters in the epic Mahabharata, from ancient India. He was the King of Anga. Karna was one of the greatest warriors whose martial exploits are recorded in the Mahabharata, an admiration expressed by Krishna and Bhishma within the body of this work. Karna was the son of Surya and Kunti. He was born to Kunti before her marriage with Pandu. Karna was the closest friend of Duryodhana and fought on his behalf against the Pandavas in the famous Kurukshetra war. Karna fought against misfortune throughout his life and kept his word under all circumstances. Many admire him for his courage and generosity. It is believed that Karna founded the city of Karnal. Many believe that he was the greatest warrior of Mahabharata since he was only able to be defeated by Arjuna along with a combination of three curses, Indra's efforts and Kunti's request.
Karna's father was the solar deity Surya and his mother's name was Kunti. Karna was born before his mother's marriage to prince Pandu. The story of Karna's miraculous birth is this: When Kunti was a young woman, a wise though irascible old man, the sage Durvasa, visited her father's palace, where Kunti served him with utmost care for an entire year. Pleased by her service and hospitality, the sage foresaw that Kunti would have difficulty having a child after her marriage to Pandu, and granted her a boon to overcome this difficulty. By this boon she could call upon any god of her choice, and receive a child through him.
Out of curiosity, Kunti still being unmarried, she decided to test the power of the mantra and called upon the god Surya. Compelled by the power of this mantra, Surya appeared before her and handed her a son, who was as radiant and powerful as Surya himself. The baby was wearing armour ('Kavacha') and a pair of earrings ('Kundala'). Though Kunti had not physically given birth to the baby, she was unwilling to be accused of being an unmarried mother and so with the help of her maid Dhatri, she placed the baby Karna in a basket and set him afloat on 'Ashwa' a tributary of the holy river Ganges, the Ashwanadi, in the hope that he would be taken in by another family.
CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION
The child Karna was found by Adhiratha, a charioteer of King Dhritarashtra of Hastinapur. Adhiratha and his wife Radha raised the boy as their own son and named him Vasusena. He also came to be known as Radheya, the son of Radha. The name Karna, however, denotes 'ear', because Karna was born with divine earrings. The emotional bond between Karna and his foster parents would remain strong throughout his life, filled with love, respect and affection. Karna happily performed his duties as their son, but as he grew up, he became more interested in the art of warfare than in merely being a charioteer like his father Adhirata. Karna met Dronacharya, who was an established teacher in the art of warfare. Dronacharya taught the Kuru princes, but refused to take Karna as his student, since Karna was a son of a charioteer and Dronacharya only taught Kshatriyas, or warriors. After being refused by Dronacharya, Karna sought his brother Shona's help. But according to Indian culture, to learn an art you must have a guru (teacher), so Karna appointed the sun god as his guru, learned to wield his weapons during the day by gathering information about the various ayudhas (weapons) and practiced with them after sundown. Such was the life ok Karna, valiant, courageous and above all generous.
KARNA AND THE BATTLE OF KURIKSHETRA
Battle at Kurukshetra forms a vital part of the great epic of Mahabharata which was believed to have continued for eighteen days. The battle dates from 5561 BC to 800 BC and it is based upon the astronomical and literary information from the epic itself. The mythology of the Kurukshetra war is also traced to the Battle of the Ten Kings which is also described in the Rig Veda. As per Aryabhatta, the...
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