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Why Karna’s death has lessons for modern society

Ask any ten followers of Mahabharat, who their favorite character is, invariably, most of them would say “Karna” – the valiant warrior who possessed all qualities of five Pandavas together. He had moral values of Yudhisthir, physical strength of Bhima, archery knowledge of Arjuna, good looks of Nakula, and knowledge of Sahadeva.

Being raised in a low-caste household, he was a victim of caste-based discrimination all his life. Abandoned by his princess mother, discarded by so-called virtuous teachers such as Dhrona, and even after becoming an accomplished archer, rejected by the society just because of his lineage, Karna’s story indeed generates a sense of anger and helplessness. And perhaps that is why we tend to ignore his wrongdoings, and make him our favorite and most-loved tragic hero.

Credit: artlemi-stories.blogspot.in
Credit: artlemi-stories.blogspot.in

Karna’s life actually teaches us about choices we make in our life, and how a bad choice can inevitably lead to the final fall. When Duryodhan made him the king of Angha, he was aware that Duryodhan’s support was selfishly motivated. Nonetheless, so blinded Karna was to prove that he was a better archer than Arjuna, he was ready to be with the “dark side”. He created his own illusion of “Dharma”- and his new self-made “Dharma” was to blindly support Duryodhan because in Karna’s mind, Duryodhan was the only person that had ever shown him kindness, and thus he was indebted to Duryodhan.

It is noble to be loyal; however, if one chooses to support an immoral act in the name of loyalty, is not that person also liable for that act? Worse, Karna used prejudice against him by others as an excuse to justify his acts. Be it the conspiracy to kill Pandavas in the house of Lac, the game of dice, or the killing of young Abhimanyu, he supported Duryodhan whole-heartedly, and kept justifying his acts by giving excuses of him being treated unfairly by others and how Duryodhan supported him. And the worst kind of sin he committed when he “whole-heartedly” and “actively” participated in assaulting Draupadi – the wife of Pandavas.

A special mention has to be made about how Karna’s role in assaulting Draupadi was more wrong than that of Duryodhan, Dushasan and Sakuni. Unlike the other three, Karna was a righteous man. He had power and sense of mind to ask Duryodhan not to insult a woman. In that courtroom, it was only “righteous” Karna whose words Duryodhan would have listened to. Instead, it was Karna who started the assault by calling Draupadi “a prostitute”, and suggesting “a prostitute can have no honour or dignity.” His statement actually led to a collective idea of stripping Draupadi naked in front of all. He justified this act as Draupadi had earlier rejected to marry him and called him “suta putra” (son of charioteer/ son of a low-caste man).

Some of us might argue that it was Draupadi who insulted Karna; however, I still wonder how it is any different from one of those jilted lovers who decide to throw acids on girls’ face because they are not able to accept the rejection. Draupadi had every right to choose her husband, and she wanted to marry Arjuna. It was her desire to marry Arjuna and her fear that Karna could win the competition made her announce that she did not wish to marry a “low-caste” man. Perhaps, her justification was wrong. Perhaps, she could have given some other reasons. Nonetheless, it was still Draupadi’s choice whom she wanted to marry.

So enraged Karna was with Draupadi, in his mind, he thought it was acceptable to insult her by making her naked in the courtroom attended by all male members of her  family. Nothing can justify Karna’s act when it comes to what he did to Draupadi. And in today’s world, when violence towards women is so rampant, it is even more important to highlight how wrong Karna was. (On a side note, all noblemen that witnessed the disrobing of Draupadi on that day were wrong, including the Pandavas. The only man who reprimanded till the end was Vidhur, and he was not a warrior. Or else, warriors like Bhisma, Drona, Arjuna, and Bheema could have easily challenged Duryodhan and his cohort to rescue Draupadi (even if it meant challenging the Kingdom of Hastinapur). Alas! No one raised voice, not even her husbands because loyalty to the Kingdom was more important than a woman’s honor, be it the Queen of Indraprast.

Whatever said and done – we have tendency to support Karna, perhaps because he met with a tragic end. Perhaps we have answers for his faults. Some stories report that he was remorseful about his deeds . However, we as ardent fans of Karna, should be able to acknowledge that Karna was wrong in many ways. And perhaps the karmic balance justifies his tragic end.

Credit: api.ning.com
Credit: api.ning.com

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64 thoughts on “Why Karna’s death has lessons for modern society

  1. While the Mahabharat does a phenomenal job of portraying complex characters, I disagree with the lessons it seems to teach.

    Perhaps it is because I am an atheist Buddhist, but I am not a fan of this whole “eye for an eye” business: she insulted my social status so I will support her molestation, he dragged me by my hair so I will decorate it with the blood from his chest, he told my wife to sit on his thighs so I will break them and kill him, they murdered my father so I will murder their children, etc etc. These are all fueled by ego-driven hatred.

    I feel sad knowing that there are people who think Draupadi deserved to be molested.

    I feel sad knowing there are people who rejoice in the slaughter of the Kauravas.

    I am not saying the Kuru court should not have been punished, but why punish them with death? Just as a woman should not be molested to make a point about casteism, why should thousands of soldiers be sacrificied and their wives made widows just to make a point about “righteousness”? Righteousness is not something that can be forever instilled in society just by getting rid of certain royal men with questionable morals. Why not punish sinners by allowing them to live and reflect on their actions, like Yudhisthir had to do when the Pandavas and Panchali went into exile? He committed the terrible deed of treating his wife as an object in a dice game, but he repented for his sin, learned from it, and became a good king. Had Yudhisthir been killed for gambling away his wife and allowing her molestation, he would not have been able to learn from his mistakes.

    Facing one’s own guilt is a punishment in and of itself – and one that does not require either party to lose any humanity. When we mentally or physically hurt someone without any mercy, they are in pain. When we show compassion towards everyone, both victims and criminals, we create love.

    Do we want to spread love in the world or pain?

  2. No one said Draupadi’s right in insulting Karna or Duryodhan. But retributive slut-shaming, dishonoring and disrobing a woman, to make a point about castism and arrogance? Karna’s behavior is like that of a high-school kid – if she said something nasty to me, I will make sure she learns a lesson – and let me do that by molesting her in front of the entire mankind.

    People really need to get over the whole – Draupadi got a free pass, she needs to be taught a lesson, she was too proud and deserved it! This is a prime example of regressive sexism that has plagued India for centuries. Truth is that Draupadi lost the most in the war – her pride, her youth, her dignity, her children and her place in the society as queen for the longest time. I strongly recommend we all analyze our own bias and inherent sexism. If we say arrogance or misspoken words should be corrected with rape, molestation, disrobing of women – there’s something really wrong with our interpretation of justice and equality for women.

  3. There have been many myths about Goddess Draupadi, many are mis-interpretations, base-less. She is considered a grama devetha and kula devatha for many people. There are many shrines for Goddess Draupadi, spread in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. One of the shrines, where She is a Grama-Devatha and Kula-Devatha to many, is located in one of the small villages of Tamil Nadu.

    The village is named KONDAL, Mayiladuthurai Taluk, Nagapattinam District, Nidur P.O, Tamil Nadu. There are more details about Goddess and way to the shrine at:

    http://blog.thitherwards.com/draupadi/

    Draupadi Amman Thunai – May Her blessing be always on you all!!

      1. Draupadi is not an interesting character to read about.In fact, Suryaputra Karna was..If u really want to read Mahabharata Science, I have some URLs..Share ur mail ID, will send u few..

      2. Thank you for your comment. That’s a subjective opinion – who is more interesting – Karna or Draupadi. I believe Draupadi’s character is central in Mahabharat. Had she not been the famous queen she was, Mahabharat would not have happened the way it did.

  4. hai mahabharata innersoles i have small doubts about. Whose son was Dharma raju?whose son was Yemadharmaraju? whose Son was Karna? Both yema and Karna was sons of Sun God. Why parsurama cursed Parsurama. He is realy Brahman Kshetraya or Sudra. He is belongs three No other god even Krishna Didn’t done this Part. Some Gods Son’s are treated has Brhmans example Bhrmas Sons. So he is defineatly Brahmin he is Unfortunate Kunties Son So kshetriya and radha’ s Son So he is Sudra We all Celled Ramana has Ramana Brahma. His father was Brahmin. So we think like that he is Defnetly Brahmin. Parsurams Cursed a Brahim. Inhis Think he is Sudra. Becauce he was raised by Sudra so he cursed. Another Thing we all think Krishna The Maighty God Did Every thing right. LOrd Krishna was just an Human not a God he is also thinking that Kshetriyas and Brahmins are only Superiors Not Sudra. After knowing that he was Kshetriya Son he didn’t live like Yedava(Nanda ‘s Son). If lord Krishna Offers Karna the Queen and the Kingdom he refused it. If he was sinner why Lord Krishna offered Kingdom. Another most important thing was in Dropadi Swayamvar who rejected and make low able on others to say you are Sudra not fit for this. Here Character was most important thing not Caste. Krishna Knows everything here what happens why he didn’t rescue it to Stop. In the case of Doupadi Vastraparana who was insulted by Doupadi he take Same thing what happens in Swayamvar. He was just a human not a God. He as all affections ,hate ,sorrow and all other things. He Unfortunately kills Cow at the time before Doupadi Vastraparana Episode. Before all the Gods Know about this he was definetly go to wrong. Is it Arjuna did all rights. Who is ekalavya who kills Ekalavya.No arjuna did so many wrong things. He is offered Kandava Dhanam In that trees and So many Small Creature were Died. Karna kills only Cow unfortunately. But Arjuna Did by knowgly. He kills so many thing For own beneficial. That was right. that was not a Sin. He that sin Agni Dev offered Rath. Indra gave devine weapons and Shiva gave Pasupathy Astra. In that thing we clearly know that even gods did Wrong things that was right. Karna was the only Son we respect his adopted mother and Own Mother at a Same time. Otherwise all are political issues. Krishna was great Poltician who manuplate everything in the Mahabharata. So we all think like that krishna was first poltician and Karna was First son giving birth by Cruel Mother Kunthi. She knows how the Dutarasta, Panuraj , Vidunadeva Born. who is vedavyasa. how was happens Vedavyasas Birth. One thing Clear cut who is winner hemade rules and regulations in the name of Dharma and manuplates everything. SO karna Soul was Wrickled Soul. I admitted.

  5. Well, I am not defending Karna. But again all the characters in Mahabharata had both positive and negative shades.
    All I am trying to say is that a man’s self respect and dignity is as important as a woman’s modesty.
    Also don’t you think comparing him to jilted lover is a bit extreme??

  6. first of all most of us have some wrong knowledges about mahabharata and especially about disrobing of draupadi. Karna never called her prostitute. It is B.R Chopra and star plus who have changed it to make more catchy and TRP increasing. The thing is draupadi asked to every person present in that hall specially to bhisma,drona,vidura,dhritarashtra and other old guys that ‘being a “KULAVADHU” do i deserve this type of humiliation?’. Then karna said that a kulavadhu can never have sexual relation with 5 men. She is not at all chaste to be called as KULAVADHu. This was his comment. He never called her as a whore. And one thing. u guys have asked that karna had 2 wives.then he sould also be called a male prostitute and again u are saying at that time society was very much critical about caste systems.So draupadi was no wrong calling karna suta putra. then i can say at that time many kings had mutiple wives but according to society no woman should have more than 1 husbands. abiding to the law of society if draupadi was right then karna was also. he din call her whore just called her unchaste to be considered as KULAVADHU like SHITA aur GANDHARI.

    1. Hi Sudipta. Thanks so much for your comment. Here’s my take on it. Karna was an instigator – regardless of whether he called her a whore or not. He knew what he was doing – he had intense hate for Pandavs and Draupadi and clearly he emotions got the better of him and he also did nothing to help Draupadi but hurt her instead. Now about the whole Kulvadhu interpretation. Again, his interpretation was wrong. He had no business judging Draupadi’s Kulvadhu status in the mahasabha. Questioning a woman’s sexual equation with her husbands is completely different than Draupadi or anyone else calling Karna a Soothputra. I am not sure why you feel compelled to justify his actions? If he would be on the right side of history he wouldn’t have died the death he did.

      1. Whenever anyone mentions Draupadi’s pride, you accuse them of siding with Karna. It seems there is some miscommunication going on (which is understandable). I also think Panchali was arrogant, but that absolutely doesn’t mean I think she deserved to be disrobed. Just by stating someone’s mistake does not mean we support every single bad thing that happens to them. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. Draupadi did not deserve to be molested. Karna was 100% wrong in supporting her molestation.

        (Perhaps your problem is that people seem to be focusing more on Draupadi’s one casteist remark instead of Karna’s many sins. If this is your issue, then let me know.)

        It is not okay for anyone to make an offensive comment, regardless of who they are. It was not right for Karna to call Draupadi a whore and it was also not right for Draupadi to insult Karna because of his caste. Nobody is saying that Draupadi is the only arrogant person in the entire Mahabharat, either. Karna, Arjun, Duryodhan, etc were all equally arrogant. That is why I SPECIFICALLY stated that neither men nor women should be arrogant – yet you accused me of supporting “retributive justice dictated by men against women who speak their mind”. Are you telling me that if I say no person has the right to insult another, I’m somehow oppressing women? I am a girl myself, and I’m pretty sure that promoting kindness towards all people is promoting human equality.

        You also said to me earlier, “If we say arrogance or misspoken words should be corrected with rape, molestation, disrobing of women – there’s something really wrong with our interpretation of justice and equality for women.”

        Firstly, who the heck said Draupadi’s mistake should have been corrected with rape or molestation?? Please do not put words in my mouth. I think Draupadi’s mistake should have been corrected with someone telling her, “Don’t be casteist. A person’s worth does not lie in their social status”. Instead, she was molested and lost her sons, brother, and father. As you can see, I think Panchali was way too harshly punished for her one mistake. But still you thought I was being sexist against her??

        I am just suggesting to teach people not to insult each other based on gender, social status, spouses, etc. Nobody should be molested and nobody should be insulted.
        Is there something wrong in what I am advocating??

        Honestly, I’m not sure what we are arguing about. 🙂

        We are all in agreement that Draupadi did not deserve to be disrobed…
        If you still have any doubts, I will be happy to clear them up!

  7. The issue of the vastra haran always makes me think that : NONE of the 6 sons of Kunti respected women truly.

    People talk of how Karna is better than Arjuna and vice versa at archery and I always feel both were cut from the same cloth: when it came to the real test of morality, both failed. While one fails to protect his wife because he is sworn to follow his brainless elder brother in all his shameless gambling glory; the other calls a woman a whore just because she has five husbands (bear in mind that the great Karna himself had 2 wives, the hypocrite) and supports the great molester Dussasan in his act of disrobing.

    Morally both of the great ” heroes” of mahabharat are despicable.

    If anyone ever deserves praise in this entire hypocritical & chauvinistic humiliating episode, it is Vikarna who goes against his entire family & fights for what is right.

  8. If Draupadi had every right to call Karna a ‘Suta putra’, who had no right to compete for her hand in marraige, then how is Karna wrong in calling Draupadi a prostitute?
    A man’s self respect and dignity is just as valuable as a woman’s modesty.

    1. Your reply is everything that is wrong with India.

      So Draupadi did not want to marry a sutputra. big deal. As I understand it was her marriage: she had every right to decide who she wanted to marry. She had every right to say who could participate in her own swayamvara.

      Just because a girl rejects you, does NOT give you the right to call her a whore nor to support her disrobing. This is like those acid attack cases of jilted people.

      Also for people who say that since Draupadi had five husbands, karna had a right in calling her a whore; well Karna himself had 2 wives. So what should I call him?

      Just because Karna is a man, he cannot be excused from the blame of polygamy.

      1. I disagree strongly – retributive justice dictated by men for women who speak their minds is regressive and must not be encouraged. You’re making excuses for Karna’s poor judgement and lack of dignity as a warrior. As Krishna said, all those men deserved harsh punishment for their deeds – and they got that…including Karna.

      2. Karna was wrong for calling Draupadi a whore. And Draupadi was wrong for insulting Karna based on caste. Nobody is saying she had to marry him if she didn’t want to; she could’ve just said, “I don’t want to marry you”. What was the need to bring Karna’s social status into it? It would be like me saying to someone: “I don’t want you as my friend because of your race.” I have every right to choose my friends, but I don’t need to insult anyone who doesn’t make the cut??

        Karna is even worse when it comes to arrogance. His behavior during the dice game was shameful. Just because a woman insulted him once does not mean she should be molested and disrobed.

        Both characters made an error, with Karna’s sin being much worse. We should defend Draupadi because she was a helpless victim of sexual assault, but we shouldn’t defend her arrogant comment. It was clearly casteist, just as Karna’s behavior was 100% completely sexist.

        Again, obviously the actions of Karna were much worse than the one time mistake of Draupadi.

      3. You’re missing the point. You say Draupadi had every right to make a casteist remark. Then BY YOUR LOGIC, Karna had every right to make a sexist mark. If everyone should be allowed to speak their minds and be arrogant, then both Karna and Draupadi were right in insulting each other.

        But this logic is wrong, in my opinion!

        Neither one had the right to insult the other. Why is it so hard for people to acknowledge that both Karna and Draupadi made a mistake? Draupadi absolutely did not deserve to be molested, nor did Karna deserve to be the object of casteism.

      4. “So Draupadi did not want to marry a sut putra. Big deal.”

        So you don’t think casteism is a big deal? Draupadi could’ve just said that she didn’t want to marry Karna. What was the need to insult his social status?

        Nobody is saying she deserved to be molested for her remark. That would be a disgusting idea of justice. But I am surprised that you think her arrogant remark was perfectly okay?? You could at least acknowledge that she should not have insulted someone for their caste. Being insulted for your social status can feel as painful as being called a whore. Both are quite wrong.

        However, I 100% agree that just because a woman rejects you, whatever her reason may be, does not give you the right to support her disrobing.

  9. Oh and yes, for true Dharma lets all look to Ramayana !! I guess all women kidnapped and raped in this country should have foster care home , inspite of having a home , because , Dharma Says, kick the wife out because her ” chastity ” is in question .!! she is impure and not the virginal item we all want inside our homes ! and yes , because Revati aunty, shekhar uncle, Bittu mamaji, Babloo chacha ji said so !!
    Next time ( and yes please dont get your knickers in a twist because it might seem personal ), next time your wife is made a pass at, or groped, or molested or sexually harrassed, please dont forget to first get an HIV test , secondly, irrespective of the results , please switch to a new wife because , Babloo Mamaji said so and thirdly because that is the true DHARMA !!

    1. Well we definitely agree with the spirit of the comment. Ramayana does a disservice to women who are expected to fall in line just because Sita was forced to, or willingly went through with the Agni Pariksha. No Dharma in what Ram did, or what Ramayana advocates.

  10. Wow !! thank Jesus ( well almost all Hindu Gods find their manifestation or resemblance in one or the other character of MB, thought it was better to go with the Shepherd from Bethlehem) that they didnt have last names in those times. Imagine a Bhim “Sinha” or a Dropuadi Kumari . Man, people would just get one more stone to hurl calling them BS or D**K ( enumeration of DK ). !!
    But first things first , Pandavas having lost everything including themselves in the gamble , had no right morally or legally ( well if we assume there were indeed some kind of rules governing the society back then ) to have bet Dropuadi in the first place. So as far as men are concerned , its very hard to ascertain whose culpability weighs the maximum amongst , the silent spectators, the gamblers, the hair pullers, the aspersion casters.
    As far as judging a woman based on the fact that she had 5 husbands and terming it a sin , to me it seems self destructing when you vouch for religion in the same breath. Well, unless you are Deepak Chopra and the dichotomy of religiosity restricts itself to the faith in self, the god. because you see, if you hate Dropadi for that reason, you might as well start to hate , Krishna, VIshnu, Shiva, Indra, Bramha and pretty much everything your mommy said, you should be dying out of hunger and thirst for every monday, saturday, friday :!!
    The argument is ridiculous. She was happy with 5 husbands, they were all happy with Droupadi as their wife ( certainly the original MB doesnt elaborate on any feud between Bheem and Nakul because the former was a hercules in bed and latter a gentle lover and Dropuadi was into sadomasochistic pleasures, hence by default preferring the ” Gadadhari ”
    On the contrary , for a woman to be wed to 5 husbands and hold her place with such unequivocal authority in a society stinking of patriarchy ( ok, for the very luminary ones, dont get me started on the Dusshhala wedding story , oh , by the way, she was Duryodhanas sister, married to Jayadratha ) needs to be saluted.
    Also, Karna was plagued with a duplicitous and rather ambivalent approach to his ” soot putra” ridicule. Duryodhana could have cared less about Karna , he just used him initially as a pawn that challenged the mighty Pandavas to showcase his skills by the virtue of his self professed brilliance. ! The sheer audacity was a sign for the Kuru Kumar to drag him into his camp . Karna stood by the moral of friendship when he should have stood by and for what was right.
    To molest a woman for making a joke , sounds hmmm pretty much like the road side romeo in UP that torn a woman’s blouse because he would stare at her and she asked him to go look at his face in the mirror !! W
    Drona Vadha ?? Seriously ?? If i have read the relic correctly , Satyaki, Abhimanyu, Lanvajyama, SriHardhuntha, all great Pandav warriors were killed ,having breached every single moral thread that was supposedly woven to fight the battle in all fairness …!! and yeah, they were all killed much much before Drona !
    Dropuadi was a fierce woman , a queen and unless one is patriarchal to an extent that, if she wont accept my valentines day card i will gang rape her , there is not one single reason to question her character , aura, persona or stature.
    Karna , with all his great qualities was a fractious and internally scarred soul that his blind loyalty didnt inhibit him to be a willing party to the unambigiously biggest sin of all MB, the Cheer Haran , hence, unceremoniously robbing him of anything that was worthwhile in him !!

    1. We agree so strongly with this statement “Dropuadi was a fierce woman , a queen and unless one is patriarchal to an extent that, if she wont accept my valentines day card i will gang rape her , there is not one single reason to question her character , aura, persona or stature.”

  11. The entire Mahabharat is filled with nothing but depravity and sin, there is no “dharma” or righteousness in any of it! It is nothing but of bunch of self-righteous fools, all convinced they are righteous but all of them equally guilty and immoral.

    The so called “righteous” pandavas gambled away their kingdom and threw a woman into the gambling pot as if she was a sex toy not a human! They all “married” / fornicated with one woman, including the “righteous” Yudhishthir who simply lusted after his brother’s wife and used any silly excuse to force himself into their marriage. If Kunti said something without looking, Yudhishtir could simply clarify it! This is not dharma and this is not marriage! Marriage is between one man and one woman who love and support each other, not FIVE men taking turns on a woman.

    The “dharmic” lady Draupadi is equally selfish, greedy and unrighteous, discriminating on caste, status and money, calling Duryodhan blind and making fun of his poor father’s disability without provocation, insulting Karna again for no reason as mentioned above, and throwing temper tantrums and arrogance on the weak and vulnerable. She didn’t deserve to be molested, but she certainly deserved a tight slap or two!

    The Kaurava’s are of course all very evil as well, publicly molesting a woman, tricking pandavas into gambling etc. but it is not black and white, pretty much all characters are black!

    Even the “god” Krishna is basically renowned for having an affair with an older married woman, fornicating with half the village, and lying / tricking / cheating his way throughout the story and encouraging others to do the same, for example killing Dronacharya by treachery by lying about his son. Anyone can claim to be God and many liars and frauds in this day and age do, that doesn’t mean it has to be true! Look to anyone’s actions to see if they are truly honest, selfless and divine, and these were not Godly actions.

    If anyone is looking for true Dharma, look to the Ramayan, not this later book of nonsense and villany written by a pervert, that worked it’s way into Hinduism and corrupted the idea of Dharma. Just because it is “accepted” doesn’t mean it’s it “true”. Use your own judgement and conscience that God gave you,

    1. Clearly there’s a lot of judgement in your comment. I would like to take the opportunity to address a few items:

      1. Marriage and the constraints of a marital arrangement are largely dictated by the society. Back then, most royal people had multiple wives and even lovers / husbands. Nto sure what why being with 5 men or how many ever men is relevant to this. On the contrary, we strongly think that Draupadi willingly married the 5 brothers because she wanted to be a Maharani. She loved her husbands and the husbands seemed to be happy with the arrangement too.

      2. We really appreciate the character of Draupadi, who was strongly independent, open minded, and fierce. She is the central character of Mahabharat. Making fun of a man and rejecting a man, is something a lot of women have done. I don’t think it’s the worst sin on the planet. A much worse sin is to disrobe a woman, molest here, and even insult her with sexually abusive language – I am sure you get what I am trying to say!

      3. About Krishna – he was a master strategist. I am not sure why you focus so much on everyone’s sex lives. I mean that was their decision and they had a fulfilling loving relationship with people – I am not sure why that’s a problem. He didn’t claim to be God, that’s how he was treated – as a God. You are not obligated to see him as such.

      4. As far as Ramayana is concerned – again, you take what you take from the book! I can speak for myself, and I appreciate the human side of all the character in Mahabharat and the book is a great learning lesson for everyone.

      1. Thank you for your reply, I would like to address your points below:

        1. Yes society has often had wrong mores, but the whole point of religion is to correct them and uphold a universal truth. If polygamy / multiple partners is so healthy and moral, how would you feel about your husband / partner having multiple partners alongside you? What then is the point of “marriage”, if it is simply a matter of whim who one shares sex with, why even have an institution that implies loyalty to one?

        One can add interpretations in retrospect to anything, but the fact is that Draupadi was not consulted even once on her marriage to 5 men, it is clearly stated that Kunti and Yudhistir initiated it, then the rest of the Pandavas simply jumped on the proposal and forced it on Arjuna and Draupadi. The book is quite clear that Draupadi was never once consulted. This is not a great example of “independence”, it is in fact one of being violated. It would be different if the book stated that Draupadi was consulted, she agreed and was happy with it, but this is clearly not the case.

        2. Yes I mentioned the Kaurava’s crimes were greater, that does not make Draupadi’s flaws disappear. One cannot argue that since there are serial killers in this world, then a simple rapist is a good person “by comparison”. This is a false dichotomy. Kauravas were clearly wrong. Draupadi was arrogant and mean, not an example to look up to. Again as I said, Sita is a better ideal, or many other examples across many religions and faiths. Drupadi was just a human, and not a very good one.

        3. I focus on sex lives because I have objectively seen nothing but misery arise from people sharing many or infinite sexual partners. There is no love in such an arrangement, regardless of what people pretend or the convoluted kaliyuga logic people impose on it to make it sound healthy or divine. It is anything but divine.

        Even if we assume multiple sexual partners is healthy or acceptable, what about having sex with other people’s wives (Radha etc.)? Is this also not immoral? Of course, I’m sure like all other wrongs, some convoluted Kaliyuga logic can be conjured up to make this sound good and godly too, yet these same kaliyuga people will cry with heartache when their wife / husband cheats on them. It is only divine in books, but when disciples get influenced by these books and actually emulate it in real life, that is different! No, it’s only good when Krishna does it, and we should read his story every day, and pray to be like him, and when it happens, we cry for the misery of it!

        Also the entire book of Geeta is basically one giant monologue about Krishna claiming to be God and how everything is him and he is all powerful etc., so I don’t know about the second part of your statement. He very much claimed to be God, all the while committing treachery, dis-honor, lying, fornicating etc.. Yes, as with all other things, wrong can be packaged as right by calling it “master strategy”, but then why even deride the kauravas, or hitler or anyone for doing dishonorable things for their own benefit, they too are nothing more than “master strategists”. If there is no objective wrong and right, and anything is acceptable to win, then everyone is justified!

        4. I think Mahabharata is a good story to see the flaws of human character and the pitfalls of Kaliyuga logic. The problem is that the story is held as a divine example to be inspired by, and worshipped, and guide our daily lives. Anyone guiding their lives on the morality in the Mahabharata is sure to find misery, as I have seen MANY people find. Many marriages I have seen broken with the husband justifying cheating as “being a kanhaiya”, but then being incredibly sad once actual divorces happened and he lost his family. Similar goes for women following Draupadi’s example.

        Yes, I sound judgemental, but it is not my aim to judge people, only ACTS i.e. karma. People are all good and creatures of God, but we can be misled. Judgement of right and wrong ACTS is essential to our spiritual well being, if we abandon this judgement we are sure to taken for fools and find misery in life, but if we consciously choose right karma, then we will find it’s happiness blossoming in our spirit. This is what Dharma is actually about, and I am glad I choose to weigh and judge every choice and idea placed before me, as we all must and God has given us faculties to.

      2. So I am going to respond to your comments one by one, kindly bear with me.

        1. The definition of marriage has evolved over time. Our own Indian society has gone through several iterations of this institution. It’s not an institution that was made by heavens, so the way we chose to interpret the institution the way we want to. Just because monogamy exists today – doesn’t mean it will by the time we all die. Change is real my friend. My issue is with your interpretation – you seem to have a big issue with Draupadi taking on 5 husbands, but you don’t seem to have a problem with other kings taking on multiple wives. Instead of calling Draupadi a “not so good human being” maybe you should call her progressive, who wanted to be treated as an EQUAL!

        2. Read the initial versions of Mahabharat and I am sure you will read that Draupadi was actually a willing Maharani – no one forced her. She was ambitious and wanted to rule an empire. And sorry to say, it doesn’t make you a bad person, or an immoral person if you want to be a wife / girl friend to more than one man. That’s a choice someone makes. It may not work for you, but hey, it worked for Draupadi very well.

        3. Krishna was a brilliant strategist and single handedly crafted the entire fate of Mahabharat. Everyone is free to hate on Krishna, but we are big fans of his character and the Gita. It might help to look beyond the whole – Krishna said he was God bit! We all are divine, you and me and even Krishna – one in all and all in one. You might have a problem with him sleeping with Radha, but he didn’t force himself upon her – so what’s the issue here? And says who she was married? They were childhood buddies, maybe they didn’t even sleep with each other – you know a man and woman can just be friends…it does happen…A LOT!

        4. If you don’t think having sexual partners works for you, then don’t sleep with many people. Stick to one person. But don’t expect us to hand you medals for that. If someone else is sleeping with billions of people, let them. That’s their choice.

        5. We refuse to advocate Ramayana and Sita and Ram as model citizens, because in our interpretation, Ram and Sita did more harm to the status of women in India than any one else did. You don’t just leave your wife pregnant because some god forsaken washerman said that “oh, your wife cheated dude, you must leave her.” And Sita clearly thought that suicide was easier than giving Ram a piece of her mind! Unacceptable. We like Draupadi much better – she’s the real SHERO = SHE HERO!

        Thank you and keep the comments coming.

      3. Thanks again, my points below:

        1. You do not agree that marriage is divine or has any spiritual significance, yet it is intricately tied into the religious and spiritual traditions of every human culture ever borne. Yes, polygamy has existed in many of these cultures, including ours, at various points, but it has always been a vast minority. The very fact that the sex ratio in nature is set to roughly 50:50 is a very indicator that a ratio of 1:many marriage in society is unsustainable. Also I disagree with rajas having many ranis just as much as I disagree with Draupadi having multiple husbands. I don’t know what gave you the impression that I supported one form of polygamy over another, I clearly disagree with it in principle.

        2. Draupadi was a willing Maharani but she nowhere is it mentioned she wanted 5 husbands or even if she showed love or care towards any of them but Arjuna, she was making the best of her situation. Show me one quote of her loving or showing affection towards any of her many husbands.

        3. It is written in the Puranas that Radha was already married to a man named Chandrasen at the time of Raslila. And the whole “we are all gods so everything we do is fine” bit is of course blind mortal arrogance. I’m sure the Delhi gangrape rapists also thought they were gods, welcome to India, the land where everyone is God and no one is answerable for their actions.

        4. Of course, you are free to believe having 5 husbands or 500 boyfriends or sleeping with everyone from the boss to the peon to the milkman is fine, that is your belief but do not expect any medals for this either! I am sure you are quite happy with that belief. However, if complications or heartbreaks arise in such situations, perhaps it may be better to re-analyze this point of view. Or not. As you said, people are free to believe as they wish and lead their lives as they choose, I only wished to put my point across in case it may help people looking for another perspective.

        5. Of course you do, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sita led a happy life as a queen but the great sheroine Draupadi was humiliated in court, caused a war, and spent time in hell with her husbands as detailed in the Mahabharat itself if you believe it. By all means, continue to idolise the brave modern feminist heroine, it would be surprising to expect otherwise in this day and age.

        Also, the whole episode about Rama rejecting Sita because of a washerman is clearly debated as not being a part of the Ramayana at all … most historians have analyzed the texts and concluded that the final chapter where all this happens is clearly written in a different language, sanskrit style and prose than the rest of the Ramayana i.e. a forgery tacked on at the end to destroy it’s otherwise beautiful spiritual character. Even when you read the Ramayan you can already tell it is needlessly dragging on the story after it has already finished.

      4. Hey Sunil,

        Sorry I just couldn’t resist replying. Thanks however so much for keeping the discourse sensible and issue based – appreciate it!

        1. I still say that marriage is an institution – and cannot survive as it exists. Yes, as humans we might have the need to co-habitate and raise children, but personally I don’t think monogamy generally works when seen on the large scale. If you see, divorce rates are rising, single mothers / fathers are on the rise. A majority of western countries are going through that transition already. I am not at all saying it’s good or bad – it’s just hard for humans to stick with 1 person all their lives, especially if they are unhappy. So having 1 partner I think is rather unnatural and a recipe for disaster in the long-run.

        2. I strongly recommend reading Hindus – the banned book by Wendy Doniger. There are multiple versions of Mahabharat in countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia (Bali), Burma, Bhutan…each one of them has a different interpretation. Same for Ramayana – do check out the Essays by A.K. Ramanujan. I am sure you must have read 300 Ramayanas.

        3. Going by your logic, there is no evidence I can cite that Krishna and Radha had a torrid love affair. In fact they are remembered for their pure divine and sacred love. Either way, it’s a non-issue as to what exactly happened to between them. I don’t think it’s your or my business.

        4. Agree with you on this one – to each his own. Thankfully India and the US are free countries and we have the freedom to express our sexual desires!

        5. Sita did not lead a happy life – the lady was miserable throughout! She had to leave the palace right after her wedding, she didn’t get to be the Maharani, and she pretty much for forced to commit suicide because of how badly her life ended. Draupadi was humiliated, but she came out the CLEAR winner – she was avenged and the kingdom was hers and her husbands to enjoy! Not sure why she would spend time in hell with her husbands. On the contrary, depictions of Draupadi talk of her as a valiant and magnanimous woman. She cared for Dhitrashtra and Gandhari after the war ended.

        The whole championing a weak woman like Sita to put down a strong fierce woman like Draupadi is just plain wrong!

        However, do know that we appreciate your participation so much. I have pretty much put my views on this subject and have nothing more to add. Thanks!

        3.

      5. As I mentioned, my stance on Sita comes from believing the last chapter including the Agni pariksha, suicide etc. are all forged by Tulsidasa in “Ramacharita Manas” in the Mughal era, not in the original Ramayana by Valmiki. This is common knowledge among most historians, do look it up, but unfortunately the common man is deceived into thinking that both are the same and Sita was some tortured soul, where in reality the Ramayana was pretty much a happily ever after story after Sita’s rescue.

        Also, the “complications” I mentioned in having as many partners as one pleases are STD’s, pregnancies, abortions, heartbreaks, jealousy and violence related to it, divorce, bitter custody battles, suicides, etc. Of course, these are all “normal evolutions” of marriage and sexuality in the modern world as you say, how blessed we are to live in this great age in India and the US. Surely we must never question these actions or lifestyles!

        Either way as you say it has been a good discussion and thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

      6. I agree with almost everything you’ve said here, except for calling Sita weak. Just because she did not speak her mind like Draupadi does not make her weak. You said that championing a weak woman like Sita to put down a strong, fierce woman like Draupadi is just plain wrong. In my opinion, putting down any woman who has suffered a lot, is even more wrong.

        I, too, prefer Panchali, but both her and Sita have their pros and cons. Draupadi was intelligent and fearless, but she had an arrogant streak and a casteist viewpoint. Sita was the epitome of compassion, but she was too submissive and did not stand up for herself enough.

        It is still an insult to call Sita weak, as she was able to live in a forest in exile and raised her children as a single mother! Is that not independent? And by the way, Sita did speak her mind against Ravana – it was Rama whom she was the most submissive to.

      7. I agree with your analysts here Blair. Calling Sita weak is not fair and I don’t think accurately and deeply reflects the understanding about Ramayana. Also there are many parallel interpretations of Ramayana that describe Sita as a wonderfully strong woman – very different from Valmiki’s Ramayana here. Perhaps more analysis needs to be done and more to be learnt. Thanks for your comments!

      1. Karna was generous because he also knew that was the only way he could redeem his sins. He knew what was coming his way – he knew he was wrong by supporting Kauravs (for wealth, kingdom, renown) and for disrobing and insulting Draupadi. He had the option of leaving the Kaurav camp, but he couldn’t get over his own issues of rejection and pain etc. Let’s not forget he killed Abhimanyu in the most unbecoming way too. We love Karna, because he’s like a Bollywood angry-young-man – but clearly that’s not what makes a true warrior.

      2. Healthy discussions are always welcome in this forum. Thank you for your participation- enjoyed reading your points and I hear your sentiments. I remember I was working in rural villages of Bodhgaya/ Nalanda when I wrote this blog. Bodhgaya is the place where Lord Buddha was enlightened. Around that time, there was a case of a married woman in a village being taken out of her house, striped naked and raped by several men in public. The village head ordered so because she was having an affair with another married man. So she needed to be shamed publicly. This incident made me angry, disturbed and delusional. The case was very similar to that of Draupadi, and unfortunately instead of punishing the village head, people were debating if this married woman should have or should not have an affair with another man. Debate was more about her extra marital affair, nobody cared to talk that more than 20 men publicly raped this woman. That’s the main problem that we still face..I guess that’s why I justified the violent death of the character I love the most. I hear your points, and share your sentiments, but I have to confess that I always get a sense of satisfaction knowing the violent ending of the Kauravas, including Karna. Thank you for reading and contributing. Truly appreciate.

      3. Hi! Could you kindly let me know if you want to keep the comments or delete them? I will be happy to do either. Actually, this is a very safe forum for discussing such stringy issues and we strongly encourage the debate. Trust me, this has been a very active thread – issues about Draupadi, Karna, role of Pandavs and Kauravs.

  12. Hai,
    i want to know whether Pandavas can discriminate others based on caste system. Is it dharma. Can any woman marry five husband and then defend it dharma. why pandavas and draupadi were not punished for these sins.

    People who support draupai and pandavas say caste system was practised in the past.

    Then dasi system was also practised in the past.
    Krishna ignores wrong of pandava’s just because they are his relatives

    1. I’m not sure why you have a problem with a woman having five husbands. Draupadi had every right to marry as many people as she wanted. Since when does the number of spouses reflect anything about your character?

      As for casteism – yes, indeed the Pandavas and Panchali were arrogant in this regard. However, I think they certainly suffered for their superiority complex…. They lived in exile for 12 years, lived like slaves in Matsya Desh, lost many family members during the war, etc. Draupadi lost her five sons and was molested, for crying out loud. I think that was MORE than enough punishment for her!

      1. Deepti wrote this blog so she can best answer your questions, but we applaud Draupadi for selecting her lifestyle. 5 or 10 or none husbands – that’s not relevant at all. No one can take away Draupadi’s brilliance and strength. Not all women have the guts to stand in front of men who claim to be big-shots and fight for her dignity, her right, and for what’s just for women around the country. Most women rather shut up and pretend to play by the book when they’re around men – especially their husbands and brother in laws etc who are behaving poorly – like Gandahari and Kunti chose to do. Sadly as we saw, even the women didn’t stand for Panchali – which is a real shame – therefore they suffered too. What goes around comes around – Panchali and Pandavs were totally out of line with their arrogance and honestly did suffer because of their deeds too. In the end Buddhist principles apply – we all bow to Karma 😉

  13. Draupadi questioned the injustice of Yudhistra wagering her after he had lost himself in the court. She pleaded for intervention to every single person present in the court, but Karna. She was well aware that Karna was the only one who could come to her aid, and Karna was well aware that Draupadi had this knowledge. Because, if she asked Karna for protection, he would not refuse. But she chose to ignore him out of pride. This is what led to Karna’s infuriation and subsequent insults. Though, not pardonable, it is the complete picture and in that context, understandable.

    1. Thank you for your comment Srikant.

      I think, this is even worse. “Because the victim did not ask for my help, she deserves to be molested.” Rather than pleading, Draupadi questioned every men in the room including her husbands and other noblemen. She challenged all, and that infuriated Duryodhan and Karna further. It is no secret that Draupadi was “no Sita”. She was a proud and strong woman. And that did not go well with Duryodhan and others. Thus, they decided to insult her. If a woman of her stature could be dragged to the court and molested, one can imagine the condition of other women. As you said, not at all pardonable.

      1. Replying to your response from June 5, 2014. I think Draupadi’s insult by Duryodhana/Karna/Dushasan in the court was targeted as much at the Pandavas as it was at Draupadi. I do not think Draupadi being strong is an issue for Duryodhana or Karna. Rather, it is her arrogance and her jibes at them in the past that rubbed them the wrong way. There is no other instance where they insult or humiliate a woman. Again, like I mention in my earlier post, there is a context to the courtroom drama. It was a despicable act nonetheless.
        I do have a question. Krishna comes to Draupadi’s aid when she seeks for it. Had she not sought his help, would Krishna not have come to her aid?

      2. Are you sure there are no other instances when Duryodhan and Karna and Dushassan didn’t insult a woman? Are we just going by the BR Chopra version of MB? Because there are many interpretations of him trying to rape Gandharva women. Ved Vyas might have chosen to omit that, but then again Ved Vyas was his grandfather. And so just because a woman makes fun of you, you attempt to molest her? I don’t get the point of this comment? Are you trying to justify Karna / Duryodhan / Dushassan and dastardly other’s actions?

      3. Also, earlier versions of Mahabharat state that Dharma rescued Draupadi, Vidur might have saved her, maybe it wasn’t Krishna at all. I think Ved Vyas deliberately kept things a bit vague. I think he was trying to protect his clan – the Kuru clan to a certain extent and also weaving a story of incredible warriors, often at the cost of a woman’s dignity. He seems to highlight the fact that Draupadi made fun of these men – but he really doesn’t talk in detail about Kuru brothers who opposed Draupadi’s molestation saying it was the inexcusable and just plain ADHARMA!

    2. The point of my post was to contest your argument that Duryodhana and Karna could not tolerate a strong and proud woman. They were envious and hateful of anything related to the Pandavas. Had it not been Draupadi but a pet dog dear to the Pandavas that was wagered. They might have gone ahead and maimed the poor thing. The ultimate humiliation to Draupadi was done by Yudhistra himself, who staked her…akin to selling her. He was her husband for crying out loud.

    3. @the person who said that “Karna was the only person who could help Draupadi “:

      Who said so?
      There were many other people who could have helped her at that point but didn’t: bhishma, dhritrashtra, gandhari (Gandhari only comes at the right point to plead for her sons at the end. Where was she during the whole disrobing episode?)

      Also, Draupadi never begged Karna for his help. The entire disrobing episode she tries to win her own case by logic, morality and her own wits. First she questions Yudhisthira’s right to gamble her away like chattel (he had no right to: a wife is not a piece of land to gamble away).

      Next she asks: did he gamble himself away first or me?
      In this rhetoric questions, she says that a man who has lost himself has no right to anything & hence no right to further give away anything, much less another human being.

      Then, when the dogs on the throne & council are still struck dumb as brutes, she pleads with the King to consider that she is the Kulvadhu.

      In no part does she specifically beg Karna or anywhere even address or look at him for help.

      In that entire episode, she alone comes through it with her virtue intact. The rest have all lost their dignity & shame.

  14. Personally i dont think the events at the game of dice really happened. It is difficult to imagine that such events really took place and there appears a lot of symbolism. The actual historical events could have been different. For instance it is quite likely draupadi was called names, yet quite unlikely she was dragged into the court even as the elders looked on. If Duryodhana and team were so evil, epic would have talked some place about atrocities on people subjects, on rishis and women. The whole episode seems approx 30 pc factual and 70 pc added symbolism.

    1. Well I think that’s entirely based on personal belief, but that’s an interesting argument. We personally think that most of the incidents must have happened and some might have been changed a bit to describe the events modestly. Thanks!

  15. Yes, no doubt that Karna was wrong in assaulting Droupadi, but equally were wrong the all other so called great warriors present there, but always we have some excuses to support them. We are talking about the Karna’s self illusion of DHARMA, but why not to think that this very self illusion plays in every other’s mind to hold themselves from protecting an woman’s honor.

    1. Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right. We are very clear that all men in the room were to be blamed. In this blog, we focused on analyzing one character- Karna. In our upcoming blogs, we plan to analyze other characters as well. We have recently highlighted about Yudhisthir’s obsession with gambling, and the consequences. You can check the blog here:
      https://vidamanejo.com/2014/04/12/mahabharat-misses-an-opportunity-to-highlight-gambling-as-a-social-problem/

  16. I had decided I won’t comment further after being blocked but I thought one last shot can always be pardoned…every story has villains MB would not be such a great epic without its villains and the righteousness of the Pandavas would not be proven without their victory over Kauravas and Karna..So they had their victory…and righfully so and Karna met his justified fate.fighting in the battle for his friend.. and yes the jilted lover part is also extreme …nobody would harm somebody they really love… throwing acid on a girls face to maim her for life is not justifiable even under extreme provocation…and I really don’t see an analogy here…which is why Srikrishna is the greatest…he ran away from battle for the welfare of everybody and did not pick up arms in the battle …and he also had 1 girlfriend and 102 wives ..

  17. Nice interpretation of Karna’s life. I enjoyed reading you (DnM)… However, my disagreement in comparing Karna with modern day jilted lover…

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. But I think there was an element of jealousy and the need to put Draupadi down after she made fun of him. He could have stopped her disrobing, but he egged everyone on. What do you think? Also, if there’s any other character you’d like us to profile, please let us know.

      1. Clearly, Draupadi was arrogant or you could say proud . Is it right to make fun of someones’ low birth?? Is it??
        Draupadi made fun of his caste, humiliated him infront of everyone. Why didn’t Lord KRISHNA intervene?? Why didn’t he raise his voice or for that matter anyone who was present there?? You dont want to marry a person is ok but you don’t have the right to call that person names, poke fun of his caste, creed etc!!!!!

      2. So I am not sure how that is relevant to this discussion. I always get confused when people say oh she was so proud and arrogant. So what if she was? Does that mean Karna had the right to call her a prostitute who could be stripped in front of the entire sabha? And doesn’t that make Karna equally proud, arrogant and a criminal who ordered the molestation of a woman? Don’t you think it would be have been more sensible to just let the issue go like adults do? Or perhaps Karna and Duryodhan could have made fun of her too like other 2 year olds do and just let the matter go? Oh wait, but then of course because she’s a proud and arrogant woman, the strong Indian men of the society must teach her a lesson in modesty by stripping her of her clothes…of course!

      3. “Naham Varaami sutputram” I do not want to marry a sutputra

        This is ALL she ever says in the swayamvara . Go read before you judge.

        She has a right to say who she does not want to marry.

        Nowhere in the text is it mentioned anywhere that she later taunts and mocks Karna further.

        For this Karna takes such offence that he calls her a whore??? And supports her disrobing??

        And when you call Draupadi proud, what of Karna ‘s pride which he was so quick to defend each n every time??

        Do only men have the right to pride???

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