Does Draupadi rejects Karna saying that Karna is a Sutaputra? Is it true or not. Does Karna participates in Draupadi’s Swayamvar or not. If he does then, is he failed in the task?
Whoever has some knowledge of Mahabharata should be aware of the most popular version of this story. In this version, Karna is among the group of participating kings in the Swayamvar.
When Karna’s turn comes, Draupadi stops him from participating in the contest saying that he is a Sutaputra (or Sutputra).
Some important points to know:
- Swayamvar was the practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age.
- Karna is the adopted son of a charioteer (Adhiratha), who is of Suta or Souta caste. That’s why he is addressed as Sutaputra.
- According to Manu Smriti, the people who have a Kshatriya father and Brahmin mother are of Suta caste (charioteer class)
This famous version is also mentioned in Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s English Translation of Mahabharata named “The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa“.
But seeing Karna, Draupadi loudly said, ‘I will not select a Suta for my lord.’ Then Karna, laughing in vexation and casting a glance at the Sun, threw aside the bow already drawn to a circle. – SECTION CLXXXIX
Now the problem is that there are many retellings of Mahabharata which are sometimes contrasting in nature. Due to this confusion arises among scholars and common people.
What does BORI’s Mahabharata say on this issue?
To remove the confusion, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) came up with the idea of a critical version.
This critical edition will contain the oldest shlokas, thus removing the part which is later added to it.
They collected and compiled the most authentic & oldest shlokas from all the versions of Mahabharata prevalent in different parts of the subcontinent.
After extensive research of 60 years, they came up with “The Critical Edition of the Mahabharata”.
They discovered during their research that the popular rejection sequence in which “Draupadi rejects Karna” appears only in the newer versions of the manuscripts.
Vishnu Sitaram Sukthankar, General Editor of BORI disclosed that Draupadi’s rejection was found only in 6 out of 1259 Sanskrit manuscripts. The ones which contained the rejection were relatively newer and inserted evidently after the work of Vyasa (author of Mahabharata).
Most scholars consider BORI’s Critical Edition as the most authentic version of Mahabharata.
In BORI’s version, Karna takes part in the Swayamvar but failed in the task.
Thus the popular story that in which “Draupadi rejects Karna” is later added to the narrative.
MUST READ: How Karna died in Mahabharata?
Some passages from BORI’s critical edition and their meaning which proves whether Draupadi rejects Karna or not:
(1) ADI PARVA – SECTION 177:
धृष्टद्युम्न उवाच|| दुर्योधनो दुर्विषहो दुर्मुखो दुष्प्रधर्षणः | विविंशतिर्विकर्णश्च सहो दुःशासनः समः ||१|| युयुत्सुर्वातवेगश्च भीमवेगधरस्तथा | उग्रायुधो बलाकी च कनकायुर्विरोचनः ||२|| सुकुण्डलश्चित्रसेनः सुवर्चाः कनकध्वजः | नन्दको बाहुशाली च कुण्डजो विकटस्तथा ||३|| एते चान्ये च बहवो धार्तराष्ट्रा महाबलाः | कर्णेन सहिता वीरास्त्वदर्थं समुपागताः ||४||
As above highlighted, it is clear that Karna attends Draupadi’s Swayamvar along with other kings including Duryodhana, Durvisaha, Durmukha, etc.
This means that Karna is invited in the Swayamvar. It also indicates that Drupada (Draupadi’s father) does not consider Karna unqualified for the Swayamvar.
(2) ADI PARVA – SECTION 179:
वैशम्पायन उवाच|| यदा निवृत्ता राजानो धनुषः सज्यकर्मणि | अथोदतिष्ठद्विप्राणां मध्याज्जिष्णुरुदारधीः ||१||
In this section, Vaishampayana says that Jishnu (or Arjuna) get up from the group of Brahmanas to take part in Draupadi’s Swayamvar when all the kings gave up and failed in the task.
Now section 177 says that Karna was among the participants (kings) & section 179 says that all the kings failed in the task. It clearly indicates that Karna also failed in the task as he is one of the kings.
यत्कर्णशल्यप्रमुखैः पार्थिवैर्लोकविश्रुतैः | नानतं बलवद्भिर्हि धनुर्वेदपरायणैः ||४|| तत्कथं त्वकृतास्त्रेण प्राणतो दुर्बलीयसा | बटुमात्रेण शक्यं हि सज्यं कर्तुं धनुर्द्विजाः ||५||
It means that if kings like Karna and Shalya who are world famous and well versed in the Dhanur Vidya (archery skills) failed in the task, then how this weak Brahmin (referring to Arjuna) who has no knowledge of weapons succeed in the test?
The word for word Meaning:
यत = If
कर्ण = Karna
शल्य = Shalya
परमुखै : = foremost
पार्थिवै = King
लॊकविश्रुतैः = world famous
नानृतं = could not
बलवद्भिर = have great strength
धनुर्वेदा = archery
परायणैः = well versed
तत = that/ this
कथं = how
तव अकृतास्त्रेण = No knowledge of the weapon
पराणतॊ = succeed
दुर्बलीयसा = weakling
बटु मात्रेण = Brahmana
शक्यं = can
साज्यं कर्तु धनुर = string the bow
दवीजा: = O Brahmanas
If still in doubt, you can check the English meaning of Sanskrit words from here: http://spokensanskrit.org/
For all Adi Parva Shlokas, click here.
Conclusion – Whether Draupadi rejects Karna or not:
From the above discussion, we can conclude that Karna participated in Draupadi’s Swayamvar and failed in the task.
It further establishes the fact that if Karna failed in the task, then there is no point of Draupadi rejecting him saying that he is a Sutaputra.
Now again a question arises that if this is the case that why all the popular versions of Mahabharata & T.V. shows like the famous B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat or its recent 2013 remake on Star Plus named Mahabharat sticks to the popular storyline?
One answer could be the mindset of the audience.
Our audience is familiar with the popular version of the story in which Draupadi rejects Karna. They do not want to mess with it for the sake of authenticity.
Another reason could be due to TRP (Television Rating Point).
Because if Draupadi does not reject Karna, then people do not sympathise with Karna. Also, there would be less drama which is bad for makers of the TV show as, without drama, it is very difficult to keep the audience engaged.
If you like this article, then please share it on your facebook and in WhatsApp groups so that more and more people are aware of the authentic Mahabharata. Because if we don’t understand our own books in the correct manner, then who does.