Appendix 2: Karṇa Cursed
When Karṇa attained manhood he approached Droṇa in order to learn the secrets of the
Burning with anger, Karṇa bowed before Droṇa and left for the Mahendra mountain, where he knew he would find Paraśurāma. When he found the sage, Karṇa bowed at his feet and said, “I am a Brahmin from Bhṛgu’s race. Kindly instruct me in weaponry. I desire to know the
Paraśurāma received him kindly and agreed to teach him. Karṇa then lived at the sage’s
Once, while hunting, he accidentally slew a Brahmin’s cow. Distraught, he went at once to the Brahmin and told him what had happened. Dropping to the ground before the sage, he said in a tearful voice, “O best of men, I have killed your cow quite against my will and desire. Forgive me! Please allow me to make some recompense.”
But the Brahmin, seeing his beloved cow lying dead, was filled with anger. His face turned red and he took hold of his sacred thread, signifying his intention to curse Karṇa. “O wicked one, you deserve death for this crime. You will suffer the fruit of your foolishness even in this life. When you finally meet in battle with your mortal enemy, your chariot will be swallowed by the earth. As you have carelessly cut down my cow, so will your head be cut off by your foe. Go now, O vile man!”
Karṇa tried to appease the Brahmin, but he would not relent. “My words will not prove false,” he replied. Finally Karṇa went away, hanging his head in sorrow.
Karṇa remained in Paraśurāma’s
One day, the sage took a walk in the woods, taking Karṇa with him. After some time, he became tired and lay down to rest on a grassy slope, placing his head on Karṇa’s lap. As the
After some minutes his warm blood ran onto Paraśurāma’s face and awakened him. When he saw the eight-legged insect on Karṇa’s leg, he melted it with his glance. A Rākṣasa suddenly rose into the sky and addressed Paraśurāma with folded palms. “O best of ascetics, you have saved me from a hellish existence. Formerly I lived in the higher planets, but one day I assaulted Bhṛgu’s wife, who cursed me to become an insect. When I begged for mercy, he told me I would be released from the curse when I came in contact with Rāma, the son of Jamadagni. You have rescued me. Thank you, O sage. I will now depart.”
The Rākṣasa vanished, leaving the
Trembling, Karṇa replied, “O lord, I am Karṇa and I have been born in the
Paraśurāma smiled through his anger. Looking down at Karṇa, who had prostrated himself on the earth with folded palms, the sage said, “Greedy for weapons, you have lied to me. Therefore, I say this: When you face your greatest danger and desperately need your most powerful celestial weapon, you will not be able to remember the
Karṇa went shamefacedly away and later joined Duryodhana in Hastināpura.