26-May-04 (Created: 26-May-04) | More in '05.10-Letters To My Daughter'

On being generous : How Karna hands over his natural shield to Indra

The princess

1. Once upon a time there was an infinitely demanding sage.
2. On one occasion he was visiting the kingdom of which Kunthi was the 16 year old princess.
3. She was humble for a princess
4. She was wise for her 16 years
5. The king has assigned Kunthi to attend to the demanding needs of the sage.
6. Kunthi served the sage with infinite care and attention
7. She served his meals
8. She helped him with his beds and sleeping arrangements
9. She listened to every one of his words
10. The sage was charmed by the extraordinary royal princess that is kind, humble, and wise
11. The sage when he left gave her an extraordinary gift
12. He said that Kunthi would be able to ask of a favor of any of the heavenly gods any time she wishes. 
13. Such Gods would be bound by his word and may not refuse her invitation

The Gift

1. Soon after the sage had left, Kunthi, being a 16 year old, was curious of gift she now has
2. She decided to test it on Surya: the most luminous inhabitant of the heavens
3. Momentarily suspending the circum navigation, goaded by his seven horses his Chariot arrived with great speed at her presence
4. The Illustrious Surya said: "Most precious, beautiful, and deserving princess, what do you wish for?"
5. "Matching your brilliance, indefatigable in war, a baby boy I wish for", Kunthi spoke in a trance.
6. And thus Karna, the eldest and the most generous of Kunthi, was born to this princess of Bhoj when she was merely 16
9. Surya gave the boy two gifts at his birth. 
10. The first is an unpenetrable shield beneath his chest
11. The second is a pair of brilliant orbs on his ears so no enemy may stare at him in time of war

The decission

1. She was only 16
2. She wouldn't know how to care for the infant
3. She choses to let the infant go

The parting

Heart heavy and feet reluctant 
Eyes but a flood of tears
Her prize to her bosom
Her head in bow
The sorrowful 16 year old descended the bathing steps

As nature wept in sad ness
while permeating sorrow
and unsurpassing gravity calmed the waters
Not a ripple, not a wave 
but a rare stillness in the river
awaiting the greatest burden

She places Karna in an ornate cradle
Places the cradle in a decorated box
She gently places the box in the waters
She watches the river carry the box until she can no longer see it


The gentle waves carried Karna to another Kingdom
And to the bathing Radha the wife of a horse trainer
Radha to her joy discovers the smiling baby with the brightest ear rings
Radha calls this bundle of Joy Karna

With her mother Radha's love by his side 
Karna grows up to be a formidable archer
In the lands of the Kuru and Pandava princess
In the lands where Krishna played out his Lilas
and in the lands where a mighty war is to be fought
in honor of his mothers love
Karna calls himself Radheya
The proidgal son of Radha

The cousins

At the same time there is the royal house 
of Kauravas and Pandavas 
the first cousins and heirs to the legend and kingdom of Bhishma
the grand old man of this long tale

The first of the cousins
100 of them, they were caleld Kauravas
Headed by the proud Suyodhna
the crown prince of the dynasty

The second of the cousins
5 of them, they were caleld Pandavas
of which Arjuna is the middle
the most learned and feared for his
knowledge and art of weaponry
An incomparable archer

The cousins are always at war
for land, and for power

The test

In this royal court 
there was organized a test of skill
Uninvited, yet Karna challenges his equal 
the mighy middle prince of the 5 pandavas

Pandavas object 
for Karna owns no kingdom
And a mere trainer of horses

Suyodhana offers and
crowns Karna the king of Angarajya
And paves the way for the rivalry of the ages
Arjuna on one side, and Karna the other

The surprise

Fate shall have it that 
the pandavas were in fact the sons of Kunthi

Who but the God of Lila, Krishna
Knower of the past, present and future
should know the truth

The final battle

In time the cousins
shall meet at kurukshetra in the final war
As pandavas claim their right to their portion of the kingdom

Arrayed on one side is the house of Kauravas
supported by 
Bhishma, old, yet the supreme and adroit warior, invincible in batle
Drona, the royal teacher of Arjuna himself
And Karna, the invincible archer

Arrayed on the other side by the house of Pandavas
Arjuna the mighty warior that never lost a battle to a man
And his mighty pandavas
And there is Krishna, the creator himself
Nevertheless, with a promise not wield a weapon
But a driver of Arjuna's chariot

The generosity

Unbeknowest thus far, Kunthi gave birth to Arjun 
from the good graces of Indra, the lord of the heavens
as shed begotten Karna from Surya

Krishna decided to favor victory to the pandavas
He revealed to Kunthi that Karna is her own son

Kunthi visited Karna in the battlefield
Karna promised her that he should not harm
any of her sons but reserved Arjuna for his judgement
For he had promised his king and friend Suyodhana
that he would defend him despite his life

It was not his life or his fame
that Karna should see as his duty
But his word, his kindness, and his humanity

Arjuna could not win 
as long as Karna possessed his 
natural defenses 
the shield and the orbs

Indra laid out a plan
to visit Karna as an old Brahmin
in disguise
at the mid hour that Karna
Usually offers his prayers to Surya

Surya reveals the atrocity
to Karna in a dream

As planned the begger Brahmin visits
Karna at the appointed hour
Karna as his vogue offered him
whatever he wished for
Indra, the very lord of the heavens,
revealed himself and wished
for his shield and his orbs

Gladly Karna obliged
His orbs he handed over

His shield, is that not a different matter!
Even for the fearless of the war
Karna should cut open his own chest
And retrieve the shield 

True to his word no act should 
deter him in his duty to his word
Krishna should have his shield

He reveals, in the process
to Devendra (the king among Gods) the Godliness of a man
The man that is destined to
have the first seat among the Gods
The light for the future


Abandoned after his birth
Not an ounce of animosity he held for his Kunthi

Not his own mother
Yet immortalized his Radha with his name

His own brother,
Yet he Reserved Arjuna for his final battle to honor his Suyodhana

Despite his doom
Honors the King of Gods with his life

All should stand
at the pass of his shadow
Mighty, kind, and generous
His name should be for ever known
as Generous, Brave and Mighty Karna