Wednesday, November 5, 2008

PDE Mahabharata: Karna and Indra

Reading Guide. When Karna was born, his body was clad in golden armor and he had earrings that were a token of invincibility. Indra, Arjuna's father, is anxious to protect him from Karna, so Surya warns Karna that Indra will try to take his celestial armor and earrings. Indra does indeed manage to take these from Karna, but Karna will get something in return.

SourceMyths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [400 words]

Gandharvas | 48. Karna and Indra | Jayadratha

Now all the sons of Kunti had had gods for their fathers, and Arjuna's father was Indra. And Indra, seeing that Karna wore natural armor and earrings, became anxious for the protection of Arjuna. For it was ordained in the nature of things that one of these two must slay the other.

And it was known of Karna that, at the moment when after bathing he performed his morning worship of the sun, there was nothing that he would not, if asked, give away to a mendicant. Indra, therefore, one day, taking the form of a brahmin, stood before him at this hour and boldly demanded his armor and earrings.

But Karna would not easily part with the tokens of invincibility. Smiling, he told the brahmin again and again that these things were part of himself. It was impossible, therefore, for him to part with them. But when the suppliant refused to be satisfied with any other boon, Karna suddenly turned upon him and said, "Indra, I know thee! From the first I recognized thee! Give me something in exchange, and thou shalt have my armor and earrings!"

And Indra answered, "Except only the thunderbolt, ask what thou wilt!"

Then said Karna, "One invincible dart! In exchange I give thee my armor and earrings."

And Indra answered, "Done! I give thee, O Karna, this dart called Vasava. It is incapable of being baffled, and thrown by me returns to my hand to slay hundreds of enemies. Hurled by thee, however, it will slay but one powerful foe. And if, maddened by anger, while there still remain other weapons or while thy life is not in deadly peril, shoot this arrow, it will rebound and fall upon thyself!"

Then taking the blazing dart, Karna, without wincing, began to cut off his own coat of natural armor and his own living earrings, and handed them to the brahmin. And Indra, taking them, ascended with a smile to Heaven. And news went about that Karna was no longer invicible. But none knew of the arrow of death that he treasured, to be used once upon a single deadly foe.

Gandharvas | Karna and Indra | Jayadratha

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