Mahabharata Stories: 23 – A Curse Poorly Deserved

There are times when we may have to conceal our identity from others. It may be for the good or otherwise; sometimes it may simply be because we are ashamed of who we really are. And we get to feel ashamed of who we are because we are aware of the social stigma attached to our identity.

Now imagine a person who is noble even godlike by birth and is endowed with the noblest of virtues yet has to be ashamed of himself simply because he is unaware of who he really is! All through his life there was one who felt lowly, lost and a misfit in all situations: Suryaputra Karna.

Born of child Kunti, who put to test sage Durvasa’s sacred mantra in a play-like way and subsequently abandoned him, Karna was brought up in a charioteer’s home by the ever-loving Radha. Hence, he is known as Radheya, Radha’s son. He grew up as a Suta, one who is a half-Brahmana and half-Kshatriya by blood. Radheya, however, was a complete Kshatriya by virtue.

Radheya wanted to undergo formal training in the use of arms and so went to the great master Dronacharya but was turned down because of his background. Determined to learn he sake the tutelage of Drona’s master, the great Bhargava, well known as Parasurama, the hater of the Kshatriya race. He appeared before Bhargava as a Brahmana and begged of him to be his teacher. Bhargava accepted and Radheya soon endeared himself to the teacher by his behaviour and dedication to learning. He even learnt to use the powerful Brahmastra and the devastating Bhargavastra.

One day towards the end of Radheya’s learning, while out in the forest, it so happened that Bhargava felt faint and wanted to rest. Radheya offered his lap to his teacher as headrest. Bhargava soon fell asleep. A worm then crawled up Radheya’s thigh and bit him hard. Fearing that his master might be disturbed, Radheya held on without moving a wee-bit. The worm bit through and through and bored his thigh, yet he moved not the slightest!


Suddenly, feeling something warm flowing by his ear, Bhargava woke up and saw Radheya’s clothes soaked in blood. He saw the immense wound and was surprised at the endurance of his pupil. His doubts were now aroused.

He told Radheya: Only a Kshatriya could bear with such immense pain and never a Brahmana!

Anger rising, Bhargava told: You have lied to me! You are a Kshatriya! Tell me the truth!

Radheya tried to tell his master that he was desperate for knowledge and that he indeed was a half-Brahmana but Bhargava was implacable.

He uttered: May all that you have learnt from me leave you when you need them most!

Thus it is that Radheya, who gave all, had to sacrifice even his hard-earned knowledge when he required it most!


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