A lot of people blame Karna’s fall from grace on Kunti. Many people feel that if Kunti had not experimented with the mantra that was given to her by sage Durvasa, Karna would have been born as a prince and everything in his life would have been perfect. His life would have been perfect and he would have been the ideal hero of Mahabharata.
Let those who have never made a mistake in their life, especially as a teenager, cast the first stone at Kunti.
She was young. She was inexperienced. She was a hormonal adolescent like all adolescents. Why not blame Durvasa, a wise sage, for giving the powerful mantra at a wrong age and time to Kunti ? Why not blame Surya, a divine being who could have stayed the execution of the childbirth till a more convenient time. Or, Surya could have looked after the child as Ganga looked after Bhishma.
There is a Sanskrit saying that “People’s characters are decided not by when or how they are born, but by their speech and their deeds. Heroes are not born with lotus in their hands and villains are not born with horns on their head. But your speech betrays who you are.”
Karna was arrogant, mischievous, mean spirited, boastful and rude. His language betrayed his mean nature and low nurture. Before people write to me to say – see, it was Kunti’s fault and his nurture was dictated to by Kunti’s mistake, lets not forget, others in Mahabharata also suffered abandonment at young age and others were also bought up in less than salubrious surroundings. Yet not all of them let such things affect them.
For example, Kunti herself was given up at an early age by her biological father to her foster father. Yet her speech was always guarded and respectful. Like Karna, Krushna was also abandoned at birth and brought up amongst poor herdsmen in rural setting far from urban comfort of princes. Yet Krushna used that childhood experience to enrich his life. Bhishma was bought up by a single parent and has less than ideal childhood. He used that to strengthen his love for the family. Pandavas were born in the jungle and raised in an austere ashram till their father died and they came back to Hastinapur. They let that be a formative experience and learned to be empathetic as a result. None of these people let such past affect them. Why should Karna use his childhood as an excuse to be bitter ?
Some people blame Pandavas for causing the animosity with Karna by calling him names, especially by calling him suta. These people forget that Karna gatecrashed graduation ceremony of Kuru princes without any reason or invitation. He constantly rubbed the Pandavas up the wrong way without any prior reason to hate them. He was always bitter towards them on account of Duryodhan, but that is not enough of an excuse for his pathological hatred for them. His desire to prove himself to be better than Arjun was understandable, but his method of trying to do this was unacceptable. Arjun had proved his mettle in more than one battle and Karna should have tried to improve his skills rather than constantly look for chances of one-upmanship.
At her swayamvar, Druapadi had the right to chose who takes part in the contest to win her hand. She chose not to be Mrs Suta and denied Karna to take part in the contest. It was her swayamvar and it was her prerogative to say who she wants to marry. Her words were few, matter of fact and to the point. Karna let those words rankle in his mind all his life.
Let those who have never said anything hasty or nasty in the heat of the moment cast the first stone at Pandavas or Draupadi for insulting Karna.
Many people say that it was the taunt of being a “suta” that made Karna speak bitter words towards the elders or have a pathological hatred towards Pandavas and their wife. Krushna was taunted as a cowherd and a coward yet Krushna never let such taunts and name calling affect his serenity. Karna, Kauravas and others taunted and upbraided Krushna on account of his upbringing, his Yadav heritage, his running away from Jarasandh, living on an island, having innumerable wives etc etc. They insulted Krushna all his life at all functions, great and small. Krushna never let such words hurt him or his relationship with anyone. Infact, he kept being on good terms with one and all till the last day of their lives.
Karna was rude to elders of Kuru court despite knowing that he wasn’t as talented or as experienced as them. His insults were particularly barbed and he often uttered words no one else would dare utter in public. There was no excuse for his rudeness except that he followed Duryodhan’s lead. Infact everyone uses the excuse that Karna was “just being a loyal friend” to Duryodhan and hence should be absolved of all his guilt. But as a good friend, why did he never give good advise to Duryodhan ? Karna was more a “follower” than a friend. He was Duryodhan’s “yes man” and never stood firm on any good advise he gave him.
Karna’s ego was so great he wanted to humiliate any and every kshatriya he could to prove that he was better than them despite his humble upbringing. In his eagerness to put others down, he never lost a chance to insult Bhisma, Drona, Pandavas and others. During the final war, he even insisted that King Shalva become his charioteer to humble him. Instead of collaborating with Shalva and using his battlefield experience to fight the Pandava army, Karna insisted on making him his charioteer and thus reduced the effectiveness of his own side.
It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have in life. Its how you use what you have that gives the best proof of who you are, what you are in life. Karna did not use his talents appropriately and infact misused them. It is this which makes him a tragic villain of Mahabharata.