And no, he did not wear Raymonds. He wore his trademark kavach and kundals which were with him since birth. And giving them away was one of the steps in his downfall.
Well, unless you are Sanil, I think I would have lost you by now.
And if you still want to stay with me, best I start at the beginning....
- Raymond’s (India’s leading formal garments manufacture) commercial since the 80s positions the man who wears Raymonds as the The Complete Man
- The man I am talking about who per me is the Complete Man did not wear Raymonds
- Because that man walked these lands eons ago when Raymonds suits were not really in fashion or even heard about
- And many would argue that this complete man I am talking about does not really exist
- He is not a movie character or a fictional book character
- He is a person from Indian mythology. And I say ‘person’ not ‘character’ as I believe that Indian mythology stories are real
- If I have you still with me, let me divulge that the Indian mythology I am talking about is the great and one and only- Mahabharat
- And the reason I referred to Sanil at the onset is because, besides me, he the only person I know who can listen to Mahabharat tales over and over again
So if by now you have not guessed where I am leading, then I recommend you stop reading. As you would not relate to anything from now onwards in this post.
The complete man (and my dream man) is Karna.
There was no one like him. And I don’t think there ever will be anyone like him.
For the uniformed, life of Karna in a nutshell. (Actually I tried to do it a nutshell but it was simply not possible to do justice to his story. So its definitely more than a nutshell.)
Karna was the illegitimate eldest son of Kunti. Kunti whose claim to fame in life is that she is the mother of the Pandavas- who basically are the heroes of the Mahabharat. 5 brothers- all righteous, brave, handsome and courageous. Kunti gave up Karna when he was born as she was unmarried (think of it like a modern teenage pregnancy).
Karna’s Formative Years
Karna was adopted by a chariot driver (think chauffeur). He had a modest upbringing but he always knew he was meant for bigger and better things. So he went to Guru Parshuram to learn the Art of War. The Guru only taught Brahmans (the equivalent to elite kids), so Karna lied to him that he was a Brahman.
Legend goes that one day his Guru (teacher) was sleeping on his lap and a scorpion bit Karna on his back. The sting was great that blood was dripping down his body. But Karna did not budge lest his Guru’s sleep got disturbed. But the hot blood spilled on the Guru and he woke up with a start. When he saw the scorpion’s bite on Karna’s back he was furious. He knew that a Brahman could never bear such pain. And thus he confronted Karna about his lie. Karna admitted to the truth- he was a Kshatriya (warrior) not a Bharman. The Guru was angry and cursed him that because he lied to his teacher, all his teachings would fail Karna when he needs them the most. 2nd reason for Karna’s downfall.
Karna was shocked to be kicked out of the school and as he was walking home, he killed a cow purely by error. The cow’s owner cursed him (it was really not a good day for Karna) that just the way Karna killed a cow when she could not defend herself, he too one day would be killed when he was defenceless. 3rd step in his downfall.
At this juncture I would like to pause and remind my readers that curses were HUGE on Indian mythology. Almost every major event in Mahabharat can be attributed directly towards a curse. Think after the debacle of Mahabharat, the Gods decided to not allow the use of curses so freely. Can you imagine if you and I had the power to curse someone? OMG! Disaster would strike! Every time a client rejected a script, someone would curse someone- it would just not be pretty!
This was the turning point in Karna’s life. He was the best archer in the country. Yes, he was better than Arjun! It’s a little known fact that when Kuru princes- Pandavas (good brothers) and the Kauravas (their evil cousins- 100 in all- don’t ask how!) had come together to showcase (show off is more like it) their skills, Dronacharya (the royal teacher) did not let Karna compete because he knew Karna would kick Arjun’s ass.
So Dornacharaya questioned him about his parentage and when he revealed that he was a charioteer’s son, he was disqualified from the championship. This was when Duryodhan stepped him and made Karna the king of Angad and offered his hand in friendship.
Karna never forgot this grand gesture and vowed to be Duryodhan’s friend for life. And thus Karna became a part of the bad guy’s camp.
Lord Indra who was Arjun’s God tricked Karna into giving up his kavach (shield- which Karna never took out as it had magical powers to protect him). Karna knew it was Lord Indra disguised as a beggar asking for his kavach. But as it was a request he received right his morning bath and prayer, he complied- as Lord Indra knew he would. That’s why Karna was known as “Danveer Karna” (the generous one). Lord Indra was so impressed with Karna’s generosity and principles that he gave him a weapon that would never fail. But it could only be used once. Karna had always intended to use this weapon against Arjun as it was an infallible weapon.
Karna owed his allegiance to Duryodhan even though he knew in his heart that Duryodhan was in the wrong. Karna’s anger towards the Pandav clan for not accepting him and his enmity with Arjun in particular were his only failings. So even though Karna knew he was fighting on the side of evil, he took Duryodhan’s side in the great war of Mahabharat.
During the War
• Krana lived up to his promise to Kunti. He had an opportunity to kill each one of his half-brothers (except Arjun) but he let them go.
• He was saving his infallible weapon for Arjun- as that would guarantee him victory. But when Ghatorkaj (Bheem’s half-demon son) was killing off the Kaurava army by the hundreds, Karna could not bear to watch the poor soldiers die like that. So he used the infallible weapon gifted to him by Indra on Ghatorkaj.
• And then came the fateful day...
Even the Gods had stopped to watch the archery war between the 2 greats- Arjun and Karna. And at the height of the clash, the wheel of Karna’s chariot got stuck in the mud. Karna got off his chariot to get the wheel out.
And now came that moment which brings up the question which is older than Mahabharat itself- Do the ends justify the means?
Krishna instructed Arjun to kill Karna while he was ‘nihatha’ (weaponless) even though rules of war state that no warrior will raise his arms against an opponent who is without his weapon. But Krishna knew that in a fair war, Arjun would not be able defeat Karna. His rationale was that killing Karna was critical to win the war and hence a necessary evil.
Also the 2 curses worked against Karna too:
1) His guru’s teachings failed him when he needed them most
2) He would be killed when he was defenceless just like he had killed the cowherd’s cow
And Arjun raised his bow and shot an arrow that pierced Karna’s heart.
I cry whenever I read this part of the story. It’s so sad! Poor Karna! Not many people were left to grieve him either. So that was the end of Karna’s tragic life story.
And now to the topic of this post- Why is Karna the complete man?
1) His Looks
We all know how important those are! Karna was supposed to be very handsome. More so than even the Pandav brothers- Nakul and Sahdev-who have been said to be most handsome amongst all the 5 Pandav brothers. Tall, board shoulders, radiant face and a winning smile (OK I added the winning smile bit, as there are not many Karna images available with him smiling. But my heart knows he had one!)
2) His Scruples
Karna was a very principled man. Truthful, honest, forthright, courageous, generous and most important loyal. His loyalty was a double edged sword though. As even though his loyalty towards Duryodhan was rightly placed as a friend, it led him to fight on the side of evil.
3) His Personality and Character
Karna never got his dues- not as a son, not as a warrior, not as a King. But he never gave up. His entire life from birth to his demise was a struggle. At every turn he had to fight for his right. Nothing ever came easy to him. But that never made him bitter against humanity. He was truly a noble sprit who constantly strived, but seldom achieved. He is still idealized as an inspiration for struggling humanity to not lose heart.
4) Simply the Best
It is said that when Drupadi was once praying for a husband, she asked that her husband be:
1) Righteous and good
2) Strong and brave
3) A great warrior
4) Good looking
Lord Shiva told her that no one man can have all the 5 qualities. But as Drupadi (who was extremely stubborn) would not relent, Lord Shiva granted her wish. Except she had to be the wife of 5 brothers- each Pandav brother had one of the qualities she desired. Yudhistra (righteous and good); Bheem (strong and brave); Arjun (a great warrior); Nakul and Sahdev (good looking/handsome).
However it is said, Karna had all these 5 qualities- he was after all technically the eldest of Kunti’s son. He simply had the best of all the 5 Pandava brothers rolled into 1.
5) The underdog
Finally Karna always has had everyone sympathies- as he was the underdog. He is the classic rags to riches story (well almost). He fought, he strived and he paid a heavy price for it all. He never got the love and the respect that he carved for all his life. And his achievements were glorified and his noble spirit honoured, only after his death.
...Karna symbolizes lost love. He was someone who had so much to give, but had no one to give it to. There was no one who would accept him for what and who he was. He was charming, loving, principled, generous. He was the simple nice guy, but with the edgy attitude. He stood his ground with an élan that befits a true hero.
Karna is my dream man. And if he walked the earth today, I so hope he will find his way to me.
For more on Mahabharat