Suryaputra Karna Death – How Karna died in Mahabharata?

Suryaputra Karna

Suryaputra Karna Death – How Karna died in Mahabharata? How Arjuna defeats Suryaputra Karna when Karna was more powerful than him? Let’s see the complete story that what happened during the Kurukshetra war.

Two curses on Suryaputra Karna:

Karna is cursed by his guru Parashurama and a Brahmana which has impacted his life during the battle in Mahabharata.

Click to Read: How two curses on Karna impacted his life in Mahabharata

Indra’s trickery to Suryaputra Karna:

Indra, king of devas realized that Karna would be invincible and nobody will be able to kill him as long as he had his Kavach (armor) and Kundal (earrings).

Indra approaches Karna as a poor Brahmin and asked his Kavach and Kundal as alms. Surya, the father of Karna already warned Karna of Indra’s intentions but Karna explained to him that he is bound by his word and could not send anyone from his door empty-handed.

On left hand side: Indra as Brahmin asks for Karna's Kavach and Kunal On right hand side: Indra gifts Vasavi Shakti (Indra Shakti) to Suryaputra Karna
On the left-hand side: Indra as Brahmin asks for Karna’s Kavach and Kunal
On right-hand side: Indra gifts Vasavi Shakti (Indra Shakti) to Suryaputra Karna

So when Indra approaches him as a Brahmin, he already knew that it was Devraj Indra. Still, he gave his Kavach and Kundal to Indra.

Indra after seeing this feel embarrassed and asked him to accept a gift in return. Karna initially refused the offer saying he did not give charity expecting anything in return.

But after the request of all Gods, sages, and celestial beings, he asked for Vasavi Shakti (Indra Shakti). Indra granted the boon with a condition that Karna could use this weapon only once. 

Krishna’s offer to Suryaputra Karna:

Krishna requested Karna to fight from the side of Pandavas by revealing his true identity.

He reveals to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti. His true is Surya (Sun God) himself. He is the eldest brother of Pandavas. 

Krishna reveals Karna's true identity
Krishna reveals Karna’s true identity

Krishna implores him to change sides in the assurance that Yudhishthira will give his crown to him. Draupadi who rejected him earlier will be his wife. Also, Duryodhana will be happy seeing his friend getting the crown.

But Karna refused the offer saying that for him Duryodhana’s friendship is more valuable over everything. Duryodhana helped him when nobody does. He cannot betray Duryodhana. 

Krishna is saddened, but appreciate Karna’s loyalty and accepts his decision. He also promises Karna that he will not reveal his true identity to the Pandavas.

Kunti’s emotional blackmail to Suryaputra Karna:

Krishna failed to lure Karna to fight from the side of Pandavas. So he approached Kunti and ask her to emotionally blackmail Karna. She has to choose between her 5 sons and Karna.

Kunti's emotional blackmail to Karna
Kunti’s emotional blackmail to Karna

Kunti in desperation approach Karna and reveal his true identity and emotionally blackmail him as he is fighting with his own real brothers. Kunti asked him to join the Pandavas.

Karna became emotionally weakened but rejects her offer. Kunti knows as Karna is fighting with Arjuna in order to kill him. Nothing can stop Karna from doing that.

So she asks Suryaputra Karna to promise that he will not kill any of the Pandavas except Arjuna. Also, he will not use the same celestial weapon twice against Arjuna. This will led to the death of Karna in the war against Arjuna.

Karna in return requests her mother to keep their relationship a secret till the end of the war. Otherwise, Pandavas knowing that he is their eldest brother will not fight with him in the Dharma Yuddha.

She promised Karna that at the end of the war, she still has five sons, the fifth being Arjuna or Karna himself.

Events that lead to the death of Suryaputra Karna during the war:

Karna kills Ghatotkacha:

During the dark hours of the 14th day, Ghatotkacha, Bhima’s half Asura son destroyed the Kaurava force and also injured Dronacharya.

Suryaputra Karna kills Ghatotkacha

He was able to do so as Asuras gained extraordinary power during night time.

Karna becomes enraged and uses Vasavi Shakti against Ghatotkacha, killing him. Krishna is relieved with the fact that Karna could no longer use this weapon against Arjuna.

Karna fight with all Pandavas except Arjuna:

On the 16th day, Karna fights all the Pandavas except Arjuna. He defeated all of them in direct combat but spared each one of them after insulting them.

He spared their lives because of his promise to Kunti that he will not kill any one of them except Arjuna.

Krishna saved Arjuna:

After defeating the four Pandava brothers, he ordered his charioteer Shalya to move towards Arjuna. Karna arms himself with Nagastra. 

Shalya tells him to aim at Arjuna’s chest but he ignored his advice and aimed at Arjuna’s head. Krishna saved Arjuna from death by lowering their chariot wheel into the earth and the arrow strikes Arjuna’s helmet instead of his head.

As promised to Kunti, Karna used a celestial weapon only once against Arjuna. Regaining the upper hand, Karna has a chance to kill Arjuna but spares the latter as the sun was about to set. 

In some versions, it is said that Krishna himself caused the Sun to set prematurely otherwise nobody will be able to save Arjuna from death.

Krishna’s plan to defeat and kill Suryaputra Karna:

Krishna made plans to kill Karna by trickery and revealed this plan to Arjuna. He told Arjuna that a time will come during the fight when Karna would be defenseless and unarmed, that was the time for Arjuna to strike.

Arjuna and Suryaputra Karna – face off:

On the 17th day, Arjuna and Karna are face to face. Karna uses Bhargavastra against the Pandava army. Arjuna is not unable to counter this weapon.

So Krishna told him to withdraw temporarily. They visited Yudhishthira who was outside the battlefield, wounded by the weapons of Karna. 

But after insulted by Yudhishthira for retreating, Arjuna returned to the battlefield. Now both of them are face to face with each other once again.

suryaputra karna vs arjuna

Everyone including Devas, celestial Rishis, Apsaras, Gandharvas, and all the beings in the higher realms witness this battle between two of the greatest warriors.

The fight started between Arjuna and Karna. Both are equally capable warriors. As the battle intensified, Arjuna pushed back Karna’s chariot 10 steps backwards every time but by the energy of the arrows. But Karna was only able to push Arjuna’s chariot 2 steps backwards.

Krishna praised Karna and admired the skill of Karna. When questioned by Arjuna, Krishna said it is impossible for any human ever to push his chariot backward because the chariot of Arjuna contains both Hanuman and Krishna, thus holding the entire weight of the universe.

Krishna said no human ever had or ever will attain this feat as it is impossible to even to shake the chariot.

Curse of Brahmin, Parashurama and Mother Earth to Karna begin to fructify:

During the war, suddenly Karna’s chariot wheel was trapped in the mud as a result of the curse that he had received earlier from Mother Earth.

Karna still defended himself, but forget the incantations to invoke Brahmanda Astra due to the curse of his guru Parashurama. 

Karna asks Arjuna to pause as he gets down from his chariot to free the wheel. He reminds Arjuna of the etiquette (शिष्टाचार) of war.

But Krishna encourages Arjuna to attack Karna against the rules of the war. Arjuna attacked Karna when he was trying to lift the wheel of his chariot. 

Karna somehow defended himself and invokes Rudra Astra, hitting Arjuna on his chest. Arjuna’s bow Gandiva for the first time fell down as he loses his grip on it.

Following the rules of the war, Karna did not try to kill unconscious Arjuna but instead use this time to lift the wheel.

Suryaputra karna attacked by Arjuna

Arjuna recovers and uses the Anjalika weapon against Karna. Though it is prohibited to attack a weaponless warrior or to attack an enemy from the back according to the rules of the war.

Now the curse of that Brahmana fructifies that he (Karna) will be killed by his enemy when his attention is diverted in the middle of combat.

Arjuna attacked weaponless Karna from the back and killed him as suggested by Krishna. One should remember that Karna did the same thing to Abhimanyu (Arjuna’s son).

The two curses do impact Karna’s fate, but ultimately it was his deeds that resulted in his fall and death in the Kurukshetra war in Mahabharata.

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