Karna – The curse of Parasurama


Courtesy : Ashish Khare
Courtesy : Ashish Khare

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.

parashurama-incarnation-of-vishnu-QN41_lIt 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.

1368773637_Karna3One 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.

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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.

The vengeful Ashwatthama


Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet
Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet

During the combat of maces, the Gadhayuddha between Bhima and Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was enraged when Bhima cheats to defeat Duryodhana. The act of Bhima striking his opponent’s thighs which was clearly a violation of the rules of the Gadhayuddha made him extremely angry and he swore revenge on the Pandavas for this.

This incident further fueled the fire that Ashwatthama had for the Pandavas when he had found out that the illustrious Yudhisthira had lied (or at least hidden the truth) about killing an elephant which bore his name, which led to his father, Drona, laying down his weapons on the battlefield [Link to my earlier post on this story]. This act of deceit by the eldest Pandava had led to his father being beheaded by Dhristadyumna and had given Drona a dishonorable death.

That night Ashwatthama went to the injured Duryodhana and made a vow to kill the Pandavas by any means. “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed” he swore.

That night when he was planning his vengeance, he noticed that an owl which had been attacked by a group of crows in the morning was now in turn attacking and killing the crows in the night. The owl was playing to its strength, the ability to see in the darkness. Suddenly an idea struck him and his plans for fulfilling the vow were formed.

He crept into the Pandava camp at night and first killed Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi and other Pandava warriors in their sleep, all the while muttering “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed”.

He then beheaded the Upapandavas, Draupadi’s five sons believing them to be the Pandavas themselves, once again uttering the same words “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed

It was only after he took the five heads to Duryodhana that he realizes that he had not killed the Pandavas and his vow was incomplete.

Ashwatthama who upto this point believed that his vengeance was valid as the Pandavas had used deceitful means to kill his father Drona and wrong his friend Duryodhana, suddenly realized the magnitude of his mistake. By attacking the Pandava warriors at night, when they were unarmed and helpless, he had broken many laws that were held sacrosanct by Kshatriyas of the time.

He therefore took refuge in Veda Vyasa’s ashrama and sought salvation for his sins committed on that one fateful night when his anger, passions and thirst for vengeance turned him into a lunatic.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. We give out themes for creative writing each weekend for Indian bloggers.

The prompt was that the post had to include the same sentence repeated at least thrice and the said sentence has been highlighted separately in this post.

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This post has been selected as one of Blogadda’s WoW picks of the week.

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Did Yudhisthira lie ?


Image courtesy : hushbabies.com
Image courtesy : hushbabies.com

Every once in a while you come across a personality who has the courage to do the right thing irrespective of the consequences. Yudhisthira’s insistence on following the path of righteousness was an example of such a personality.

On the 15th day of the Kurukshetra war, Drona was at his unconquerable best. Using years of experience and all his divine knowledge, he was wreaking havoc on the Pandava army. Knowing that Drona loved his son Ashwatthama dearly, he asked Bhima to kill an elephant with the same name. Obeying Krishna, Bhima killed an elephant and loudly proclaimed that he had slain Ashwatthama, so as to make Drona believe that his son was dead.

Image courtesy: urday.in
Image courtesy: urday.in

Not believing Bhima, Drona approached Yudhisthira, who was known never to lie and asked him as to whether his son was truly slain in battle to which he replied “Ashwatthama is dead, but, I am not certain whether it was a human or an elephant.

Knowing fully well that Yudhisthira would be unable to lie to Drona on his face, Krishna ensured that the second part of this sentence was completely deafened out to Drona by asking the remaining Pandava warriors to loudly blow on their conches and trumpets.

Hearing only the first part of the reply, Drona dropped down his weapons and sat down in the battlefield in meditation. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Dhristadyumna (who was ordained to take Drona’s life) beheaded Drona thus tilting the advantage in the war on the Pandavas’ side.

Image courtesy: thebravesandsmarts.com
Image courtesy: thebravesandsmarts.com

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This post has been posted for Write Tribe’s 100 words on a Saturday – 6 prompt. The prompt was to write a post with exactly a 100 words using the term “Every once in a while”, but I took the liberty of writing 250 words with the prompt.