Karna is a very important character in Mahabharat still remembered for all his valor, strength and unconditional offerings and donations. Being a Maharathi, Karna possessed all the qualities but fate had different plans for him and this is the reason inspite of getting warnings from Lord Krishna he stood with his friend Duryodhana, though he knew he would be crowned the king of Indraprastha if he sided with his brothers the Pandavas. (Krishna had revealed this truth to him before the Kurukshetra War so that he joined his brothers army)
The Start of Karan Vadh – When Karna Donates His Natural Armors to Lord Indra
Following this failed peace negotiation, Lord Indra (the father of Arjun) fears that Karan would be invincible in the battle. He therefore plans to meet Karna to ask his Kavach and Kundal during his prayer time early in the morning – The time when Karna refuses no one, no matter what they ask for.
Though Lord Surya warns Karan in advance, he simply donates his Kawach and Kundal to Lord Indra in disguise as a Brahmin. He knew it is none other than Lord Indra still he donates his natural armor to him as can’t disappoint anybody even if that meant he can lose his life.
In The Kurukshetra War
Bhishma is appointed as the Commander-in-Chief and doesn’t allow Karan to be in his army. Duryodhana wants Karna to fight the battle from the very start. However, Bhishma threatens that if he fights he won’t participate. Duryodhana thinks of appointing Karna as Commander-in-Chief. However, he knows since Karna is of low birth not many kings would fight under him. So Karna decides he won’t fight till the fall of Bhishma.
Karna Joins the Kurukshetra War on the 11th Day
After the fall of Bhishma, Karna visits him and this is the time when Bhishma reveals that he too knew about his birth. Bhishma explains Karna about his previous behaviors (why he didn’t want him to fight the battle against Pandavas as they were his brothers) and blesses him for the war. Bhishma also praises Karna for his prowess and valor. Next, Drona is made the Commander-in-Chief and Karna joins the army.
On the 16th Day
Karna has promised to Kunti that he would not kill any of his sons except Arjuna so he spares them all and moves towards Arjuna. He removes his Nagastra to kill Arjuna and Shalya (Karna’s charioteer) tells him to aim at Arjuna’s chest. Fed up of Shalya’s insults throughout the war, Karna thinks that this too would be a bad advice and so he aims at Arjuna’s head instead of aiming at his chest. However, the Nagastra hits Arjuna’s helmet and not head, sparing Arjuna’s life. Later, Karna has full advantage and is about to kill Arjuna but he sees the sun is about to set and spares Arjuna for the day.
The Karan Vadh
On the 17th day Arjuna and Karna comes once again face to face of each other. Karna performs brilliantly in the war until his chariot gets struck in the mud. He gets off from his chariot and asks Arjuna to pause reminding him the rules of the war. Arjun obliges.
However, Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna the cruelties of Karna and the way he insulted Draupadi. He even reminds him the death of Abhimanyu. This instigates Arjuna and he attacks Karna. Karna defends himself by using Rudraastra. This hits Arjuna and he loses his grip on his Gandiva. Arjuna becomes unconscious. Following the rule of the war, Karna doesn’t hit the unconscious Arjuna, instead he tries to utilize the time to remove his chariot from the mud. However, Arjuna recovers and using the Anjalika weapon kills the defenseless Karna.
Though both, killing a weaponless warrior and killing from back is forbidden in Kurukshetra war, Arjuna kills Karan by the forbidden way only on the insistence of Lord Krishna. This is how Karan Vadh happens in Mahabharat where the great warrior dies at his brother’s hand by wrong means.
Image Source – Snapshot of Star Plus Mahabharat