Karna’s Wife: The Outcast’s Queen is a Tribute to a Great Warrior

In our area, there is an unwritten prohibition for not keeping the book Mahabharat in the home. The popular belief is that who keep Mahabharat in their house, they unwittingly invite quarrels and struggles in their own families. Superstition has no logic. So, people read it in bits and pieces. My acquaintance of Mahabharat was also through the commentary written on it by Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari in my university days. I have always felt this book should be read as there is hardly any aspect of machination, deviousness, deception, fraud, cheating, craftiness, cruelty, cunningness, compassion, pity, valour, bravery, devotion, magnanimity, and sacrifice is left untouched in it.
Contrary to the popular concepts and beliefs, I have found that two characters of it stood out taller than others and they were Karna and Duryodhana. While the first one was the victim of injustice through and through from beginning to end, Duryodhana was always painted as an evil incarnate, which he was not.
During this Corvid period, I have read another book is ‘‘Karana’s Wife: The Outcaste’s Queen’ by Kavita Kane, which brings a whiff of fresh air to the mythical mega story. It is such an engrossing novel that one finds it difficult to put it down before finishing it. One cannot but admire the linguistic clarity with small sentences, style, and message. The sequence of her presentation is superb, to say the least. Ms Kane can be put in the league of Amish Tripathi, another writer of mythical stories. She resigned from the job of the Assistant Editor in the Times of India to become a full-time writer. Thus the loss of journalism is certainly a good gain to the literature.
We all have been fed from our childhood that Karna, born out of wedlock Kunti and Sun-god was abandoned by his mother at birth. He was born with resplendent and radiant Kavach and Kundal, which made him invincible by his enemies. Karna was thrown in the river by his biological mother and was found flowing in the river by the Charioteer Adhirath, who brought him to his house. His wife Radha, who was childless till then was mighty pleased to find this supernatural child. Karna had so much respect for this foster mother that he always preferred to be called Radheya. Karna was wronged at every stage and he grew up with extreme insult and humiliation at every stage. It was Duryodhana, always described as a vile, crooked, mean and overambitious person, who recognised his valour and gave honour and respect to Karna in the big crowd assembled in a theatre by making him the king Angadesh. Karna rightly deserved that honour and it immediately resulted in an unseverable life-long friendship between them. Thus, Duryodhana’s character was by far better than those of Guru Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Bhishma Pitamah, and even Sage Parasuram and Shrikrishna. How could a seer like Guru Dronacharya be so cruel as to refuse to teach and make a disciple to Karna or Eklavya on the basis of their birth in the lower rung of the society? It was the most contemptible, despicable and irreligious act on the part of Guru Dronacharya.
This book has, in a way, attempted to present the personality of Karna in the proper perspective through his second wife Urvi, who was the charming princess of Pukeya. She was the lone daughter of king Vahusha. She possessed the exceptional divine quality of healing to any wounded or injured person. Her mother Shubhra was the childhood friend of Kunti, the mother of Pandavas. Kunti was sure that Uri would marry Arjuna but in the teeth of opposition from all quarters, she garlanded the low-born Sutaputra Karna as her husband, although he was already married to Vrushali the daughter of a charioteer. Karna was then the king of Anga, courtesy Duryodhana.
Karna had stopped attending the Swayamvaras after the taunts, insults and humiliations from Draupadi but this time he could not say no to the invitation extended by King Vahusha of Pukeya because his daughter had prevailed upon her father to send an invite to Karna as she had been highly impressed with courage, conviction and bravery and the archery of Karna in the rang mahal of Hastinapur, where the partiality of Guru Dronacharya towards Arjuna was reflected in the most abominable form. So when Duryodhana conferred him the kingship of Angadesh without batting an eyelid, he rose sky-high in the eyes and the heart of Karna Evidently, Duryodhana was by far better connoisseur of talent and valour than Dronacharya and Bhishma Pitamah. However, he never got an appreciation for this sterling quality of extreme dedication and capacity to win friends.
In fact, Karna was defeated by deceit and duplicity. He was never judged fairly and impartially. This exemplary courage was found only in Urvi, who openly denounced Draupadi, Kunti, Bhishma Pitamah in their face for the injustice that they brazenly meted out to Karna, who stood tallest among all the heroes and warriors of Mahabharata.It was Urvi, who told Kunti in her face that blood of Kuruvamsha did not flow in the veins of any one of the successors. Bhishma Pitamah was the last person, who could have claimed to be in the line of Kurus. His stepmother Satyawati, was a Matsyagandha and had a child, Ved Vyas, who was born out of wedlock from Rishi Parashar, who made her a Yojangandha i.e. woman with far and wide fragrance before consummating with her in a boat while crossing the river. Satyawati had extracted a promise from King Shantanu before marrying him that only her son will inherit the kingdom. That was the occasion when Bhishma Pitamah, the eldest son of Shantanu born from the Goddess Ganga, vowed never to marry at all. She bore two sons- Chitrangad and Vichitraveerya. Chitrangad died young. Bhishma kidnapped two daughters of Kashinaresh- Amba and Ambalika to marry his impotent half-brother Vichitravirya. After the sudden death of Vichitravirya, Satyawati wanted Bhishma to perform Niyoga with her two queens, which he stubbornly refused. Desperate for an heir to carry on the Kuru dynasty Satyawati sent for her illegitimate son- the Sage Ved Vyas to do Niyog with Amba and Ambalika. Ironically, none of the three sons conceived through the sage Ved Vyas- Dhritrashtra, Pandu, and Dasi Putra Vidura were of the Kuru blood. So Urvi told Draupadi that if she had accepted Karna as her son even before the war of Mahabharata started, there would not have been any Mahabharata. Even otherwise her sons- Yudhisthir, Bhima, And Arjun and two from Madri – Nakul and Sahdev had no lineage of Kuru blood.
Thus we find that Karna died due to six reasons, all were like blots of Adharmna. First was the curse of angry Brahmin, who was unknowingly killed by Karna, when he was making love with his wife in the form of deer and mother earth, who became unhappy because he has squeezed milk from her to give it to a girl, which had fallen from her hands. The second was the curse of Guru Parashuram that he would forget the incantation of Brahmastra when he needed it most. The third was the robbing of his Kavach and Kundal by Indra by deceit. The fourth was Kunti, who revealed the truth of his birth before the war, which crippled him from killing other brothers except for Arjuna as she had obtained a promise that he would not kill anyone except him. The fifth was the king Shalya, the reluctant Charioteer of Karna, who not only discouraged him at every step in the battlefield but also refused to help him to take out the chariot, when it got stuck. To top it all, it was Krishna, who conspired to make sure that Karna was killed when he was labouring to take the chariot out from the earth.
Karna will, however, be remembered for eternity for his being an unparallel danveer (a donor), a matchless warrior and a devoted friend, a loyal son to his father Adhirath and mother Radha, and an honest husband, brother, and family man. The writer has thus paid an excellent tribute to Karna through his wife Urvi, who despite all odds and oppositions preferred to be the wife an outcast in those days.