As a teenager Karna was never interested in his traditional occupation of being a charioteer like his father Adhiratha. He had always been more interested in the art of warfare. One fine day, he mustered enough courage to approach Dronacharya, the guru of the Kuru princes and requested him to take him as a student and teach him as well.
Drona refused to do so citing the fact that Karna was not a kshatriya and that he only taught kshatriyas who were the only caste of people who deserved to learn warfare. Although he was dejected at this, Karna did not lose heart and set upon teaching himself the various forms of warfare. After learning various forms of martial arts, he once again approached Drona to teach him the advanced skills of archery, especially the ability to use divine weapons known as astras. Drona once again refused to teach Karna.
It was then that he decided that he would approach the great warrior sage Parasurama, who had taught Drona himself and request him to take him as a student. However, faced with the fear of rejection due to his birth, Karna represented himself as a brahmana and requested Parasurama to take him as his disciple.
Parasurama accepted Karna as a disciple and trained him in the various methods of warfare. As a result of his dedication, hard work and commitment to learning, Karna quickly learnt all that his guru had to teach him, and in a short time he had reached such proficiency that his guru declared him to be his equal in the art of warfare and archery. In fact he was so overcome with joy at his pupil’s efforts that he went ahead and taught him the method to invoke the elusive and extremely powerful Brahmastra.
All of these events were closely being followed by Indra, Arjuna’s celestial father. He had vested interests in ensuring that Karna did not become stronger or more skilled than his son Arjuna and he was looking for an opportunity to somehow thwart Karna’s efforts in this direction.
One fine day, toward the end of Karna’s training, he offered his lap to his teacher to have a quick nap. While Parasurama was sleeping, Indra saw an opportunity to cause some mischief. He took the form of a bee and stung Karna’s thigh. Despite the pain caused by this sting, Karna did not want to disturb Parasurama’s sleep and therefore quietly bore the pain without moving an inch. Not to be outdone, Indra, as the bee stung and bore deeper into Karna’s thigh causing him to bleed. Even then, Karna did not move or even make a sound.
When Parasurama awoke and saw the blood oozing out of Karna’s thigh, he was immediately overcome with his infamous rage. Looking at Karna, he said “Dear pupil, you are surely not a brahmana. Only a kshatriya can remain unmoved under such bodily torment which causes so much physical pain. Tell me the truth.”
Karna’s silence at this statement confirmed his guru’s suspicions. Parasurama’s rage overcame the love he had for his pupil and he cursed him “Since you have deceived your guru, the Brahmastra that you learnt shall fail you at the moment you require it the most. Your brain will atrophy and you will not be able to invoke the most powerful and potent of all astras when the hour comes.”
When Karna told the truth about him being a charioteer’s son and not a kshatriya , Parasurama’s anger subsided a little. However, since his curse was irrevocable, he gifted Karna with a celestial weapon called the Bhargavastra and his own bow, Vijaya, for being a diligent student.
This post has been written for Velvet Verbosity’s 100 Words # 352 prompt where the post had to include the word atrophy. I know my post is more than a 100 words, but this story couldn’t possibly be narrated in 100 words, could it.