13 Different Names of Karna And Stories Associated With Them

Suryaputra Danveer Angaraj Karna
13 Different Names of Karna
He was unarguably the best among Pandavas and Kauravas, yet he struggled to prove his worthiness. He was Danveer. He was Karna.

According to one of the tales associated with the Mahabharata, Krishna asked Sahadeva, what should be done to stop the Kurukshetra war. On which, Sahadeva replied, Krishna and Shakuni must be tied down and all Pandavas along with Duryodhana must be sent to the forest while Karna must be made the emperor of the world.

Krishna, eventually, offered Karna to become the King of Kuru Kingdom after disclosing identities of his real parents, Kunti and Surya. But Karna refused to switch sides because of sudden revelation and he remained loyal to his best friend Duryodhana.

It is said, upon the death of Karna, Duryodhana cried inconsolably and want to die along with his friend Karna. But after pacifying words from Shakuni, he decided to complete his Kshatriya Dharma and fought the war on the eighteenth day mindlessly.

During her tutelage under sage Durvasa, Kunti earned a boon to evoke Gods and gain a child from them, for her extreme dedication. Eager to test her new found power, the young and restless, Kunti evoked the Surya and was handed a son wearing Kavacha and Kundala.

Afraid for her and her family reputation (being an unwed mother), Kunti abandoned her son and secretly set him afloat on a river. The boy was later found by a childless couple Adhiratha and Radha, and they gave him the name, Vasusena, someone who is born with wealth.

Karna's mother Radha played an important role in his life, and it was her who instilled the qualities of the truthfulness, loyalty, and generosity in him.

It is said, at his deathbed, he refused to be called the son of Kunti and wished to be remembered as the son of Radha, i.e. Radheya.

Angaraj Karna (Source: Gita Press)
After completion of the education of Kuru princes (both Kauravas and Pandavas), Dronacharya organized a friendly tournament to showcase their skills. In this tournament, Pandavas emerged better than the Kauravas, and Arjuna being the best.

However, Karna, uninvited, turn the table and proved himself better than Arjuna and anyone else. But because of his low caste, he was ridiculed and even compared to a stray dog.

But Duryodhana saw this as an opportunity and offered his hand of friendship to acknowledge his supreme skills (or to ridicule better-skilled Pandavas) and made him the King of Anga. Therefore, he came to be known as Angaraj.

It is also said, as crowned Prince of Hastinapura, Duryodhana made Karna, the King of Anga, as a part of the strategy to protect their colony, Anga, from the invasion of Magadha.

Karna means 'the peeler' or 'the cutter'. There are two theories behind this most recognizable name of Vasusena.

First, a logical one, it is said Karna approached Drona to accept him under his tutelage, but Drona refused because of his compliance with Bheeshma and Kuru Kingdom. Karna questioned him for this indifference, and for that Drona was unable to give a proper answer. It is then, pleased by Karna's dedication, Drona asked his father Adhiratha to call him Karna, the cutter of orthodoxy.

The second and much popular interpretation of the name, one who peeled off his Kavacha and Kundala. It is said Indra to make his son Arjuna win, assumed the form of a poor Brahmin and asked for Kavacha and Kundala, and Karna happily gifted them to Indra, even when he was warned by his father, Surya.

Vaikartana also means 'the peeler', one who has peeled off his skin-like Kavacha and Kundala.

After the death of the Ghatotkacha, Krishna revealed to Arjuna, how Karna has given his Kavacha and Kundala in alms to Sakra (Indra). Krishna said, "Indeed, because Karna, cutting off his (natural) armour and his brilliant car-rings, gave them unto Sakra, it is for that he came to be called Vaikartana."

Karna is also known as Vrisha, because he remained truthful in speech, engaged in penances, observant of vows, and kind even to his enemies, just like Shiva.

Vrisha is also one of the names of Shiva.

The master of the Vijaya. Vijaya is the celestial bow of Karna, which was gifted to him by Parshurama, and to Parshurama by Shiva (through Indra).

It is said, Vijaya was specially made by Vishwakarma for Shiva to destroy three cities of Mayasura, combinedly called Tripura.

Karna used Vijaya only once, on the seventeenth day of the Kurukshetra war, against Arjuna.

He came to be known as Danveer because of his charitable nature.

It is said, once Arjuna asked Krishna, why he calls Yudhisthira Dharmaraj and Karna Danvver. On which, Krishna asked Arjuna to assume the form of a Brahmin.

Krishna and Arjuna, first, asked Yudhisthira for sandalwood for their yagna. Yudhisthira did respond to their request, but due to heavy rain, failed to fulfill their wishes and showed his inability.

Now, Krishna and Arjuna turned to Karna and requested for the sandalwood for their yagna. To which, Karna also responded but despite heavy rainfall, fulfilled their wishes. After not able to find dry sandalwood, he tore down the gate of his palace (which was made of sandalwood) and gave it to the Krishna and Arjuna.

Karna came to be known as Adhirathi because of his foster father's name Adhirath.

As he was the child of Surya, he is, therefore, called Suryaputra.

The name 'Sutaputra' simply means "son of a charioteer", as his foster father Adhiratha was a charioteer.

It was used as an abuse by many to ridicule and demoralize Karna, including Bheeshma, Drona, Shalya, Draupadi, and Pandavas.

Along with Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna, he is known as Kaunteya, the son of Kunti. But he refused to be called by this name and want to be known forever as Radheya.

In popular culture, Karna is also known as Rashmirathi, the one who rides the chariot of light. It was popularized by famous Hindi essayist and poet, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar with his epic poem Rashmirathi, first published in 1952. The poem explores the inner life of Karna. The poem was later adapted into a play of the same name.

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