How Karna was tricked into giving away the one thing that could’ve saved his life

·3-min read

Karna was born with a kavach and kundal or a divine armour and earrings, which is to say they were as much a part of his body as a hand or a leg. They protected him against any and all kinds of attacks. This made it impossible for Karna to be killed in battle or combat.

As you know, by now, Karna was also known to be an extremely generous king, giving away anything that was asked of him by anyone who approached him. On one occasion, he even broke down the main door of his palace so Krishna and Arjuna, dressed as brahmins, could get dry sandalwood.

RELATED READ: The little known story of Karna’s generosity

Karna (Screenshot from Youtube)
Karna (Screenshot from Youtube)

When it became evident that a bloody war was unavoidable, kings and princes of the land were forced to pick sides. Some chose to stand by Kauravas, whereas others stood by Pandavas. But it wasn’t just the mortals who were picking sides, gods were too.

Karna’s father is the Sun god. When Kunti decided to try out the mantra that the sage Durvasa had taught her, she ended up summoning the Sun god and bearing a child with him. 

That child was Karna.

Years later, to provide her husband Pandu a son, Kunti summons Indra and bears a child with him. 

That child was Arjuna.

RELATED READ: Was Karna a better archer than Arjuna?

As the two prepare themselves for the ultimate battle, even gods decide to intervene. And so one morning, as Karna is on his way to the river for his ritual bath, Surya, the sun god arrives to warn him that someone may try to steal his armour and earrings. 

He reminds his son that they’re the only two things that can prevent his death on the battlefield. Karna thanks his father but says that should someone ask them off him, he wouldn’t have any choice but to give it to them for that is what he had vowed. Surya knowing fully well what was to follow but he’d done his duty and so he blesses his son and goes away.

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Predictably, the next day, a brahmin approaches Karna and asks for alms. Karna says he had nothing to give him at that moment since he was on his way to the river for a bath. The Brahmin shrewdly points out that he did indeed have something he could give away, should he chose to and points to the armour and the earrings.

Karna realises this was the moment his father had warned him about. Wordlessly, he takes out a dagger and peels out the divine armour and the earrings from his body and hands it to the brahmin. While giving he tells the brahmin that he knows his true identity but that he had vowed to give whatever was asked off him and he was merely following his principles.

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At this point, the brahmin reveals that he is in fact a god. As he shows his real avatar, Karna sees standing before him Indra in his full glory. Indra thanks him for the armour and earrings and says he was merely driven by the desire to protect his own son the battle, Arjuna.

And it is thus that Karna is tricked out of an armour that could have saved his life but gives it away anyway to a god who was trying to save his own son.


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