Wikipedia cites the following story to show how strong the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana was. But what's the origin of this story? Did Karna really play dice with Duryodhana's wife, Bhanumati, according to Vyasa's Mahabharata?

Act of Friendship

Duryodhana's wife Bhanumati and his close friend Karna were playing a game of dice. The stake between them was substantial. As the game progressed, it was evident that Karna was winning and Bhanumati was losing. Just then Duryodhana entered his queen's chamber. Seeing her husband coming, she was about to stand up. As she was just rising, Karna, thinking that she was trying to get away from the embarrassment of certain defeat in the game, snatched at her drape, studded with pearls. Tugged at by Karna's powerful hands, the thread snapped and all the pearls rolled on the floor. Queen Bhanumati was stunned and did not know what to say or do. Seeing her shocked state, Karna turned around and saw his friend Duryodhana. Karna was embarrassed; here he was, in the royal chamber, playing a game of dice with his friend's wife and, as if this was not enough, he had the audacity to catch her clothes. Surely, Duryodhana would not tolerate such immodesty. He readied himself for the inevitable punishment. As both she and Karna look down sheepishly, unable to meet Duryodhana's eyes, the Kaurava scion only asks:

"Should I just collect the beads, or string them as well."

Both Bhanumati and Karna had misjudged him. He had implicit faith and great love for his queen and greater was his faith on his friend Karna. He does not suspect or get angry with Karna but instead helps him in picking up the pearls.[15][16]

2 Answers 2


This story is nowhere mentioned in the Vyasa Mahabharata.

However, southern versions like Perundevanar's Bharata Vemba, Pampa's Vikramarjuna Vijaya and Villiputturar's Bharatam do mention this incident.

The only source I found was Mahabharata and Variations Perundevanar, Pampa and Nannayya a Comparative Study(page 49) by Acharya Kambalur Venkatesa, a Shodhaganga research paper, as I don't think the above versions of Mahabharata have ever been translated to English.

Bharata Vemba gives the story thusly:


Karna explains to Kunti, how such help Duryodhana has done to him. When he was a man without any identity Duryodhana differed him a crown, made him the King of a state and respected him more than his own brothers and many other kings. Duryodhana loved him to such an extent that he ate-.How can I desert a friend who ate with me with love*

Finally Karna reveals an incident which speaks volumes of the confidence and sincere friendship of Duryodhana for Karna.

One day Karna was playing a game of dice with the queen. She lost the game. When she was about to go without paying the stake Karna caught hold of her sari. The bracelet of the queen gave way and the precious diamonds in large number fell helter skelter. Just while this happened King Duryodhana entered the chamber. Karma was stunned. Duryodhana said smiling "Shall I help picking up the diamonds?".

Should Karna desert such a friend? No, he would happily die in the service of such a great King.

Karna's narration of the incident is there in two vembas and an intervening prose passage. The explanatory prose passage name the Queen as Lekshasai".

Pampa's Vikramarjuna Vijaya(page 103) gives a similar encounter (which isn't described by the author) but gives a few details that further answer your question.


Another beautiful variation common in Perundevanar and Pampa is the description of a game of dice between Karna and Duryodhana's queen which has already been referred to in detail in the previous chapter. The only difference in making use of this incident is that Karna narrates the incident to Krishna in Pampa, whereas it is narrated by Karna to Kunti in Perundevanar.

Duryodhana’s queen is a character that is almost neglected by Bhagavan Vyasa. He does not even mention the name of the queen of Duryodhana anywhere. Even when something has to be said about Duryodhana's wife, Bhagavan generally uses expressions like Lakshmana's mother, Dhritarashtra's daughter-in-law or Rajaraja" wife and invariably avoids mentioning her name. Especially the name of "Bhanumathi” as the spouse of Duryodhana does not appear in Bhagavan Vyasa's text.

Perhaps Bhattanarayana is the first writer to introduce the character of Bhanunati and to glorify it in his drama Venisamhara. But even in Venisamhara we do not come across any description of the intimacy between Bhanumati and Karna. If it is not entirely a creation of Perundevanar it might have originated from ancient legend or folklore songs.

Anyway Perundevanar is the first poet to give it an honourable place in the Bharata poem. The second poet to incorporate it in the Bharata poem is Pampa. If there is no common source for both of thern Pampa must have copied it from Perundavanar. The same episode is found in Villi Bharatham. The description of the incident by Perundevanar Pampa and Villi is similar in many respect.


No. Karna did not play any game of dice with the wife of Duryodhana. Second of all Duryodhana's wives are not named in Mahabharata. None of them are called by their names. The name Bhanumati is not mentioned in the Mahabharata.

Duryodhana had at the very least two wives, one from Kasi and one from Kalinga. At Bhishma's deathbed he talks about how karna abducted a kasi princess for Duryodhana, and at the Shanti Parva, Narad muni mentions Karna's biography and narrates how Duryodhana abducted a kalinga princess, karna defended duryodhana.

Neither of the princesses had their names mentioned in the Mahabharata. Only Mahabharata is authentic, not Puranas, Harivamsa, Bhagavatam etc.

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