In popular belief, Karna is usually viewed as a strong warrior, perhaps even stronger than Arjuna. But my question is, does Hindu scripture ever describe Karna as a weak warrior? (I'm not asking about events that answerers may subjectively characterize as weak or strong, I'm just asking about scriptural statements that explicitly say he's weak.)

And if Hindu scripture does explicitly say that he's weak, does it give a reason for his weakness?


5 Answers 5


I felt obliged to answer this Question, as many people misunderstood my this answer. I no way projected Karna as a weak warrior. But there was never an opportunity to express that. Thanks for reopening this thread.

The answer is NO.
In fact Karna was considered one of the strongest.
On the backdrop of Ghatotkacha's death, Krishna describes Karna's warring greatness in following ways:

  1. With Kavacha-Kundala, he was invincible; Sudarshana chakra even cannot kill him
  2. Without Kavacha-Kundala, but with Indra's dart (divine weapon), he was indefeasible
  3. Without any of above, he was still indefeasible by anyone except Arjuna; Even Arjuna also might have to adopt some deceit to vanquish Karna

Drona Parva:

Vasudeva said, ..., O Dhananjaya, that Karna, his dart being baffled through Ghatotkacha, is already slain in battle. The man does not exist in this world that could stay before Karna armed with that dart and looking like Kartikeya in battle. By good luck, his (natural) armour had been taken away. By good luck, his earrings also had been taken away. By good luck, his infallible dart also is now baffled, through Ghatotkacha. Clad in (natural) coat of mail and decked with his (natural) ear-rings, Karna, who had his senses under control, could singly vanquish the three worlds with the very gods. Neither Vasava, nor Varuna the lord of the waters, nor Yama, could venture to approach him. Indeed, if that bull among men had his armour and ear-rings, neither thyself, bending the Gandiva, nor myself, uplifting my discus, called Sudarsana, could vanquish him in battle. For thy good, Karna was divested of his ear-rings by Sakra with the help of an illusion. Similarly was that subjugator of hostile towns deprived of his (natural) armour. ... But though deprived of that dart, O sinless one, I swear to thee that hero is still incapable of being slain by anybody else save thee. He is incapable of being vanquished in battle by the gods ... When his car-wheels will sink in the earth, availing thyself of that opportunity, thou shouldst slay him in that distressful situation ...

  • 2
    Welcome back on main site. It is not about your previous answer on karna. Your previous was comparing with arjuna. So, when compared, he is. The OP already has a prejudice on Karna. Intact he has a blog which has an article about the defeats of Karna. He posted all that content directly as a question here. So your previous answer will/should not be blamed for this question. Jun 5, 2017 at 11:00
  • @SreeCharan, thanks, though it's intended only for this answer as of now :-). Actually in my previous answer there were few people who felt that my answer was disgracing Karna. To refute my answer, some users even posted answers, which were later converted comments. If we see Quora, or other media, there are many "Karna fan clubs". Similarly there are "Arjuna fan clubs" too. "Arjuna" supporters usually bring down Karna based on his stand on Dharma. Similarly "Karna" followers bring down Arjuna on warring abilities. Though we may find it funny, those people are quite serious about it.
    – iammilind
    Jun 5, 2017 at 11:45

Is Karna described as a weak warrior in Hindu scripture?

NO, contrary to that this is what Indra said about Karna in Mahabharata:Svargarohanika Parva:

17 कर्णश चैव महेष्वासः सर्वशस्त्रभृतां वरः स गतः परमां सिद्धिं यदर्थं परितप्यसे

18 तं पश्य पुरुषव्याघ्रम आदित्यतनयं विभॊ सवस्थानस्थं महाबाहॊ जहि शॊकं नरर्षभ

वरः (varaH) = excellent

सर्वशस्त्रभृतां (sarvashastrabhRitaam) = among all the wielders of weapon

Karna, the mighty bowman, that foremost of all wielders of weapons for whom thou art grieving, has also attained to high success. Behold, O puissant one, that foremost of men, viz., the son of Surya. He is in that place which is his own, O mighty-armed one. Kill this grief of thine, O chief of men.


Karna lied to Parashurama that he was a brahmana in order to study under him, since Parashurama had taken vow to teach only brahmanas and not kshatriyas.

One day Rama of great intelligence, while roving with Karna in the vicinity or his retreat, felt very weak in consequence of the fasts he had undergone. From affection begotten by confidence, the tired son of Jamadagni placing his head on Karna's lap, slept soundly, White his preceptor was thus sleeping (with head) on his lap, a frightful worm, whose bite was very painful and which subsisted on phlegm and fat and flesh and blood, approached the presence of Karna. That blood-sucking worm, approaching Karna's thigh, began to pierce it. Through fear of (awaking) his preceptor, Karna became unable to either throw away or kill that worm. Though his limb was bored through by that worm, O Bharata, the son of Surya, lest his preceptor should awake, suffered it to do its pleasure. Though the pain was intolerable, Karna bore it with heroic patience, and continued to hold Bhrigu's son on his lap, without quivering in the least and without manifesting any sign of pain. When at last Karna's blood touched the body of Rama of great energy, the latter awoke and said these words in fear, 'Alas, I have been made impure! What is this that thou art doing, Tell me, casting off all fear, what is the truth of this matter!' Then Karna informed him of that worm's bite. Rama saw that worm which resembled a hog in shape. It had eight feet and very keen teeth, and it was covered with bristles that were all pointed like needles. Called by the name of Alarka, its limbs were then shrunk (with fear). As soon as Rama cast his, eyes on it, the worm gave up its life-breath, melting in that blood which it had drawn. All this seemed wonderful. Source

One day, when Parashurama was resting on Karna's lap, Karna patiently withstood immense pain of an insect bite so as to not wake up his guru. Parashurama woke up and realized no Brahmana could withstand such pain. After finding out the truth, he cursed Karna that in crucial moments of fight, he would forget astra mantras.
So, in 3 major fights (Draupadi Swayamvara, Virata Go-grahana, Mahabharata), Karna couldn't win.

Nevertheless, there could be another aspect to his weakness, when compared to Arjuna.
Both in Ramayana & Mahabharata, the amshas or sons of Surya (Sugriva, Karna) and Indra (Vali, Arjuna) fight against each other.
Indra is stronger than Surya in parakrama e.g. Vali is stronger than Sugriva and Arjuna is stronger than Karna.

But, as Bhagavan clearly demonstrates, the side he is on will win irrespective of strength of fighter :

  • Ramayana - Sugriva (Surya's son) + Rama defeat Vali (Indra's son)

  • Mahabharata - Arjuna (Indra's son) + Krishna defeat Karna (Surya's son)

Source : Padma Purana Srishti Khanda Chapter 14. The See verses 40 to 73

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    "Karna is Surya's son" - Mahabharata is the source..
    – ram
    May 19, 2017 at 0:13
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    You cannot put a single link in your answer to support one conclusion and then go on to add 10 other things with no citations. This is what I meant. May 19, 2017 at 0:42
  • 2
    the other things that were added are not claims, they are all part of mahabharata.
    – ram
    May 19, 2017 at 0:56
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    Citing 90% of things requires one to cite several pages from Mahabharata. Nobody has the patience to go read them. People who are familiar with Mahabharata know these things without reference. None of the claims are unsupported, what i've presented are just facts
    – ram
    May 19, 2017 at 1:14
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    @ram You should add sources for many points: 1) " in 3 major fights (Draupadi Swayamvara, Virata Go-grahana, Mahabharata), Karna couldn't win." 2) " the amshas or sons of Surya (Sugriva, Karna) and Indra (Vali, Arjuna)" 3) "Indra is stronger than Surya in parakrama e.g. Vali is stronger than Sugriva and Arjuna is stronger than Karna."
    – The Destroyer
    May 20, 2017 at 6:04

Yes, Karna is described as a weak warrior because he has been defeated many times. Several Kshatriya's considered Karna as a weaker warrior. Characters considered karna to be weak and just a braggart:

SECTION CLVII of Drona Parva, (English translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli)

  • "Thou boastest much, O Karna, in the presence of the Kuru chief, but thy prowess is seldom witnessed, nor, indeed, any result (of thy boastful speeches). Many a time have we seen thee encounter the sons of Pandu in battle. On every one of those occasions, O Suta's son, thou hast been vanquished by the Pandavas. While Dhritarashtra's son was being taken away (as a captive) by the Gandharvas, all the troops fought on that occasion except thy single self, who was the first to fly away. In Virata's city also, all the Kauravas, united together, including thyself and thy younger brother were vanquished by Partha in battle. Thou art not a match for even one of the sons of Pandu, viz., Phalguna, on the field of battle. How then canst thou venture to vanquish all the sons of Pandu with Krishna at their head? Thou indulgest in too much brag, O Suta's son!"*

Here Karna's own guru (Kripa) is claiming he is no match to the strong Pandava's.

  • Is Karna's Guru Kripa? When did Karna learn under Kripacharya? Oct 12, 2019 at 10:55
  • Kripa was a tutor of Karna: "And having acquired all the four kinds of weapons from Drona, Kripa, and Rama, he became famous in the world as a mighty bowman." sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03307.htm might bowman weaker than drona, satyaki, ashwathama, abhimanyu, arjuna, bhima, ghatotkatcha, drupada, bhisma and suvraja. Oct 14, 2019 at 8:39

Yes he (Karna) is. Many people degraded Karna. Bhisma considered Karna weak.

As regards this thy ever dear friend, this one who is always boastful of his skill in battle, this one who always urgeth thee, O king, to fight with the Pandavas, this vile braggart, Karna, the son of Surya, this one who is thy counsellor, guide, and friend, this vain wight who is destitute of sense, this Karna, is neither a Ratha nor an Atiratha. Without sense, this one hath been deprived of his natural coat of mail. Always kind, he hath also been deprived of his celestial ear-rings. In consequence of the curse of Rama (his preceptor in arms) as also of the words of a Brahmana (who cursed him on another occasion), owing also to his deprivation of the accoutrements of battle, he, in my judgment, is only half a Ratha. Having approached Falguni (in battle), he will not certainly escape with life!'

Drona considered Karna weak.

Hearing this, Drona, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, said, 'It is even so as thou hast said. That is not untrue! He boasteth on the eve of every battle, but yet he is seen to retreat from every engagement. Kind (out of season) and blundering, it is for this that Karna, in my judgment, is only half a Ratha!'

Krishna considered Karna weak.

The Suta's son Karna, a lesser warrior, encountering Partha, came to his end on the second day, like an insect encountering a blazing fire. After the fall of Karna, the Kauravas became dispirited but lost all weakness.

Everyone should know this by now.enter image description here

Source: http://sacred-texts.com/hin/m05/m05169.htm

  • Tu alag nhi maan raha? Nov 5, 2017 at 3:14
  • When you copy something from a site, provide proper attribution.
    – The Destroyer
    Nov 5, 2017 at 3:21
  • okay i'll show the sources by editing my answer Nov 5, 2017 at 13:46

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