‘I think Draupadi is to blame for her Vastraharana’ declared one of my esteemed friends. Obviously, he was a Karna fan (or I would say a devotee). ‘Had she asked Karna for help instead of his inferiors, she could have been rescued!’ he continued.
Mahabharata has many complex characters with Karna being one of them. One of the darkest spots of his character was his behaviour at Draupadi Vastraharan. Yet many people post-reading Mrityunjaya defend Karna quoting that Karna wanted to save Draupadi when Dusshasana was dragging her. However, she did not beg for his help. Eventually, the blame goes to Draupadi that she asked Karna’s ‘inferiors’ for help rather than Karna.
Firstly, I am not sure who was inferior to Karna and yet commanded more respect from Draupadi? Whether it was Bheeshma? Or it was Dronacharya? Was it Kripacharya? Or the great Vidura? Stressing my memory, was it Dhritarashtra or the Pandavas themselves? Who amongst the above was inferior to Karna. It is true that devotion takes away sense and logic.
However, one must remember that this fictional idea that Karna wanted to help Draupadi comes from the bestseller Mrityunjaya(unfortunately). Notwithstanding the fact this the novel is a beautiful work of literature, it can never replace Mahabharata. Yet, let us give Karna benefit of the doubt. However, let us first state the real actions of Karna since, actions speak way louder than words.
Let me state a fact. Although it was Duryodhana who ordered Draupadi’s disrobing and Dusshana was the executioner, the sick idea was Karna’s brainchild.
To recount the events, after Yudhishthira lost Draupadi in the unfortunate game of dice, Dusshasana, at the behest of Duryodhana, dragged her by her hair into the hall of dice, when she was in her periods and in a single cloth. Everyone in the hall was deeply distressed. At this juncture, one of the Kaurava brothers named Vikarna stood up against the horrible treatment meted out to Draupadi. With one of the brothers dissenting against Duryodhana and Dusshasana, every well-wisher of the Pandavas and Draupadi found a ray of hope. However, it was short-lived since Karna rose up and haughtily uttered the following words:
Or, if thou thinkest that bringing her hither attired in a single piece of cloth, is an action of impropriety, listen to certain excellent reasons I will give. O son of the Kuru race, the gods have ordained only one husband for one woman. This Draupadi, however, hath many husbands. Therefore, certain it is that she is an unchaste woman. To bring her, therefore, into this assembly attired though she is in one piece of cloth–even to uncover her is not at all an act that may cause surprise. Whatever wealth the Pandavas had–she herself and these Pandavas themselves,–have all been justly won by the son of Suvala. O Dussasana, this Vikarna speaking words of (apparent) wisdom is but a boy. Take off the robes of the Pandavas as also the attire of Draupadi.
Take a careful look at the last line. It was Karna who incites Draupadi’s disrobing. Reference to the text is here.
The vanity and ego of Karna.
Now, let’s assume it to be true that Karna was willing to help. What next? Let’s take an analogy. Suppose, there’s a beggar in a very pathetic condition. Your heart is wrenching for him. You want to help. But, the beggar bypasses you without asking you for alms. Then, what would you do? Mock him? Kick him for hurting your fragile ego? Any sensible man will avoid saying anything. However, Karna did the exact opposite. He mocked and derided Draupadi.
However, I am much more concerned with the mentality which our youth carry (as in case of the ‘esteemed friend’). However, this regressive mentality is seen even to this day, where women are objectified and worthless comments are thrown by leaders and lawyers of the society. For instance, in the horrible Nirbhaya rape case, the lawyers of the convicts laid the blame on the girl for venturing out late at night with her boyfriend.
It’s high time that such thoughts are discouraged for a more stable society in the long run. Moreover, it’s important to take books like Mrityunjaya in a fictional sense so that appropriate lessons are derived from history. Lastly, always remember that Mahabharata is always greater than Mrityunjaya.