Karna The Unsung Hero of the Mahabharata

By Umesh Kotru, Ashutosh Zutshi

Then, the exquisitely handsome body of Karna of generous acts, who should have been worthy of perpetual happiness, let go of that refulgent head with the kind of extreme reluctance evinced by a wealthy person in leaving his own prosperous home, or by a saintly one in forsaking virtuous company. [The Mahabharata, Karna-Parva; 91.53-54]

In these lines of evocative pathos, the Mahabharata pays its ultimate tribute to Karna, who has hardly a rival in world literature to match his credentials as a uniquely nuanced heroes’ hero – towering above Hector in righteous valour, above Arjuna in generosity, and above all else in conscientious attachment to the principles of noblesse oblige.

This is the intriguing story of a hero who, despite being born to royalty was, like the Biblical Moses, cast away by his mother. Brought up lovingly by a lowly charioteer and his wife, his whole life was one great struggle against cruel destiny, and against all the odds placed in his way by the inequities of his time. In the process, he blazed a new trail of glory, emerging as the adorable exemplar of purushakaara (manly effort), with tremendous achievements both as a man and also as a warrior.

Yet society never gave him his due, despite being as upright as Yudhishthira, as strong as Bhima, as skilful as Arjuna, as handsome as Nakula and as intelligent as Sahadeva. Rebuffed and insulted by society at every step, he developed some flaws engendered by a defiant spirit and nurtured by association with the evil designs of Duryodhana, his benefactor prince. But those very contrarieties seem to enhance and enliven the dramatic appeal of his character as one of the brightest stars of the Mahabharata’s star cast.

Written in an engagingly flowing style and with an imaginative transcreation of the epic storyline, Karna: the Unsung Hero of the Mahabharata should strike a responsive chord in the minds, specifically of today’s Mahabharata aficionados and generally of all lovers of exalted human drama.

Umesh Kotru, Ashutosh Zutshi
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Umesh Chandra Kotru, a specialist in accounts and finance of the Government of India, retired in 2010 from the Ministry of Power, after a distinguished career spanning years of professional work in the Ministry of External Affairs; Indian Embassy in Washington; Ministry of Finance; and Ministry of Environment & Forests. An avid reader of books on Philosophy, Religion, Mythology and Fiction, and a passionate aficionado of Sports, Umesh now divides his time between his two pursuits of the mind and the body. Living in Noida with wife, also retired from Central Government Service, they have a daughter who is a doctor and a son who is an engineer with MBA, both married. Email: umesh_kotru@rediffmail.com Ashutosh Zutshi, like-minded nephew of Umesh Kotru, is a technocrat with a difference. An electronics & communication engineer, Ashutosh is engaged in higher-level corporate management as General Manager of a Japanese MNC in Delhi. At the same time, an inner urge for self-actualisation drives him to find some time – mostly in the weekends – to pursue his other interests, in music, in singing and of course, in serious reading. Ashutosh too lives in Noida with his wife, who works with the United Nations and two sons who are in school. Email: zutshiash@hotmail.com