Indra Asks for Charity

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That same morning a majestic and solemn Brahmana arrived and asked to speak to him.

The noble Karna, as he did with all distinguished guests, offered him the puja and addressed him with courteous words of respect. Then he asked him if he had any wishes to make.

“Yes, there is one thing you could do for me,” replied the Brahmana, “but since I have never been able to tolerate rejection, you must first tell me if you are ready to give me anything I ask for or if you will set limits.”

Karna, smiling said:

“Everyone knows that I never put limits on charity; you can therefore easily ask me what you aspire to.”

“When you were born you had an armor and a pair of earrings of divine origin that were part of your body. Give me those. Nothing else will satisfy me.”

“Oh, Brahmana,” Karna retorted, “as I have already promised you, I am ready to grant you anything, but reconsider your request. I can give you gold, lands, villages and entire cities instead of the armor and earrings that are the source of much of the skill with which I protect the citizens of my kingdom. Don’t deprive me of them. Accept anything else.”

“You said you would grant me anything I asked for. I want nothing more than that. So bestow me the object of my wishes.”

Understanding that the Brahmana was determined in his intention, Karna, happy to keep his vows even at the cost of depriving himself of his most valuable things, in front of the admiring gaze of his interlocutor, cut off the armor and the earrings from his body and handed them to him.

“You knew that I am Indra,” he said then, “and you were also aware of the reasons that prompted me to come to you. Nevertheless, you did not hesitate to give me the most precious things you had: the protection of your life and the certainty of victory. You gave up all of that to keep your vows. You are an extraordinary man. As a token of my admiration, I will now give you something of mine that you really wish. What boon can I give you?”

Remembering what Surya had suggested in his dream, Karna said:

“I want the shakti, your favorite weapon.”

“I will grant you that powerful energy,” Indra replied, “but know that you can only use it once.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he stated, “I don’t need it more than once. I’ll use it when I’m in front of my greatest enemy.”

Indra laughed, almost mockingly.

“Karna, you are deluded if you believe you can kill Arjuna. He is invincible because Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is at his side and protects him personally. Do not therefore believe that you can do what is impossible for anybody. I myself couldn’t defeat them when I challenged them some time ago, in Khandava,” Indra stated.

“I know who Krishna is, and I also know the relationship that binds them to each other,” he replied, “but despite that, I think I will have enough chances to try it. There is one more thing I wanted to ask you. The mystery of my birth has conditioned my existence and you are one of the few who can clarify it; I ask you, please, to reveal to me how I was born and who my parents are.”

“I can’t tell you, but I assure you that soon you will know everything.”

Having spoken these words, the Deva of the rain disappeared.


This is a section of the book “Maha-bharata, Vol. 1”.

To buy the complete book, click above

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