Monday, 13 January 2014

Did Karna Really Pay His Debt?

I wrote this in my Facebook page on 31 December 2013. It is regarding Karna and the Red Rice Debt...

(read further after the words in Yellow Italic)


Most of you would know the song "Ullathil Nalla Ullam" from the movie Karnan. Nobody can ever replace the late Sivaji for that role.

This is part of the lyric:

Senchottru Kadan Theerkka

Saeraatha Idam Sernthu
Vanjathil Veezhnthaayada Karnaa
Vanjagan Kannanadaa
Karnaa, Vanjagan Kannanadaa

Do you know what is meant by "Senchottru Kadan Theerkka"?

Well this is referring to Red Rice Debt. 

Back during ancient times, cooked rice will be spread in front of the king.

The king will then roll it into small rice balls and give it to the warriors with his own hand. Warriors who eat the rice ball from the hand of the king will swear that they will protect the king with their own life. 

If the king dies or get slain in the battle, they will all commit suicide. It was one of the many ritual suicide or harakiri of ancient Tamil warriors.

Why is it known as Senchoru (Red Rice)? Probably because it will be mixed with the blood of a sacrificed animal.

The Thirumurugatruppadai, an ancient Tamil poem also mentioned that rice balls mixed with the blood of ram is given as offering to Murugan.

So in this song, Senchottru is used as a metaphor for loyalty. That is the beauty of Kannadasan's lyrics.

Karna was very loyal towards his friend Duryodhana. Despite knowing that the Pandavas were his brothers, despite knowing that Duryodhana was wrong, he stood by his side.

In the end, he died as a tragic hero due to his loyalty but he paid the red rice debt

In this post, I mentioned that Karna paid his debt but a telephone call which I received later made me to rethink about it.

So who called me? Who else if it is not the grand master himself, Dr.S.Jayabarathi.

As usual, our conversation did its 'travels'. We spoke about many things. There were reference to Cholas, their Solar lineage and many other things which I will write on another day.

Back to Karna.....

Dr pointed out a few other things which could possibly mean that Karna did not pay his debt.

For a start, he did not kill Arjuna in the battle. Arjuna was his brother but also the enemy of the Kauravas. Since Karna fought on the Kaurava's side, he has the moral duty to vanquish the enemy.

You see what happened was he made several promises to his mother, Kunti. He promised not to harm any of the Pandavas except Arjuna. He also promised not to release the arrow more than once at him and that too only by aiming the head and not the chest.

So when Karna took to battle and released the arrow, he aimed it towards Arjuna's head. Krishna, the master of Maya, then easily protected Arjuna. 

Karna will then refuse to release another arrow which could have killed Arjuna and ensured Kaurava a victory. The charioteer will also ask Karna to release the arrow but all those will fall on his deaf ears. 

Why? Because he could not break the promises made.

In the end, Karna will be slain. The Kauravas will loose the battle. A battle which could have been won only if Karna did not make any promise to Kunti.

Was it wrong to make such promises to his mother Kunti? It was actually an injustice to Duryodhana.

You see, Karna was wrapped in a cloth, put inside a trunk and dumped into the river by Kunti when he was a newborn. Karna was raised by charioteers.

So during an archery competition, Karna will be denied the right to participate. Because he does not know his parents and being a person who is unsure of his own ancestry, he was disqualified to compete with the princes who were Kshatriyas.

Varna could be changed. It is not hereditary.

At that point of time, Duryodhana steps in. Takes Karna as his own, gives a potion of his land and qualifies him into the Kshatriya varna. 

He saved Karna's honor and that made Karna indebted to him.

So was it right for Karna to make such promises to Kunti when it is a treachery against Duryodhana? Perhaps the Mahabaratha enthusiast who is reading this can discuss.

Did Karna really pay his debt? 

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