Comparing the two scenarios:

Secnario 1: Rama has destroyed all of Ravana's weapons, chariot etc..and has him completely unarmed. However Rama sends him back to come the next day stating that it is not Dharma to fight an unarmed enemy.

Scenario 2: Karna's chariot wheel is stuck to the ground and is unusable. Karna asks Arjuna to hold a bit till the wheel is recovered. Arjuna agrees. Krishna insists that Arjuna kill Karna then and there, and when questioned by Karna as to the Dharma aspect of it, Krishna gives a long discourse on how Karna and his friends had always ignored Dharma and therefore do not deserve to speak on Dharma.

Granting that both Rama and Krishna are equally Divine and are therefore infallible to human-like passions etc..and therefore couldn't possibly be party to Adharma, how do we reconcile the above two scenarios ?

  • 1
    You are comparing two different scenarios and not similar scenarios. Rama and Krishna lived in different eras, different situations. It is not right to compare both. It is a hypothetical question. Sep 4, 2018 at 10:16
  • 1
    I do not agree that these are not comparable. What is common is the key point of fighting/killing an unarmed enemy. As for it being two eras, are you implying then that Dharma has completely changed between these two times ?
    – Lotus
    Sep 4, 2018 at 10:32
  • 2
    Dharma changes with Yuga(time) and it's not fair to compare Dwapara Yuga Dharma with treta Yuga Dharma. Krishna also uses "tricks" to uphold Dharma and hence it is Dharma Yuddha.
    – The Destroyer
    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:00
  • @The Destroyer: If Dharma changes so radically between Yugas then it must be admitted that we can learn very little (let alone try to emulate personalities) from itihaasas and puranas which have stories taken place many Yugas ago ! My point is: If what can be learnt from scenario 1 is not applicable to scenario 2 because of Dharma change then what is the point of it all ?
    – Lotus
    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:20
  • @TheDestroyer, Mahabharata was Dharma Yuddha, because Yudhishtira was fighting for the Pandava's rights, which were not given them despite all the compromises they made. Also, lord Krishna didn't use "tricks". Possibly the spectators of Mahabharata (the Kaurava side), analysed Krishna's actions as unjust, but discounting their own actions. Only instance, I remember where Krishna used any 'trick', was the killing of Jarasamdha. However, that was only to get entry to his palace as Brahmana-s. Later the fight was fair.
    – iammilind
    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:41

4 Answers 4


There are lot of dissimilarities between these 2 scenario, hence we may not be able to reconcile them trivially.

  • Ravana was a mix of Brahmana & Raksha blood line; Karna was mix of deity (sun) and Kshatriya
  • By birth Ravana was of higher order (varna) than Rama, hence Rama didn't want to indulge in a unjust Brahmana-hatya at whatever cost; Arjuna & Karna were of same order of Kshatriya by bloodline
  • Rama was actively participating in the war; Krishna was passive in the war
  • Ravana possibly didn't indulge in any cheating during the war (AFAIK); Karna was active participant in the killing of Abhimanyu, just few days before his own death
  • Both the eras were different; While Rama-Ravana war was important to save the dignity of maa Sita, Mahabharata was a much bigger war where there were lots of stack-holders

Besides, Rama was also involved in the unjust killing of Vali. See: Why did Lord Rama strike from behind to kill Vaali?

And also refer, why Karna's life was ended in such situation: Why did Lord Krishna end Karna's life in such a way?

At times, to restore Dharma, some of the supreme characters have fiddled with the rules.

  • "Karna was mix of deity (sun) and Kshatriya"... I hv seen in your other answers that you don't consider Kunti to be Kshatriya......so who is Kshatriya here??
    – YDS
    Sep 9, 2018 at 12:45
  • You are talking about this answer. @YDS, Kunti was adopted by a Kshatriya king & married by a Kshatriya king. A woman's class changes according to the affiliation to her family. Yes, I have found various sources, which strongly suggest that she was born into a family with Vaishya lineage, may be Royal. This is a topic of research.
    – iammilind
    Sep 9, 2018 at 13:07
  • 'unjust killing of Vali' - the question you linked itself has an answer proving it's just-ness.
    – ram
    Mar 12, 2019 at 2:31
  • your answer fails in the last line why supreme character fiddled with the rules that is the question @iammilind
    – Prasanna R
    May 3, 2019 at 12:12

People need to understand that the Mahabharata states that Karna was killed in a fair manner. He fought till the very end, had his bow in his hands, was armed, and not holding onto any chariot wheel. Read the authentic bori Mahabharata.[enter image description here]


This is what happened.

  1. Karna countered a astra of Arjuna using Varunastra.
  2. Arjuna counters Karna’s astra with the Vayavyastra.
  3. Arjuna cut off the flag of Karna’s chariot.
  4. Then Arjuna took out the anjalika arrow to slay Karna.
  5. Arjuna made a speech and then released the arrow at the armed Karna.
  6. Karna was not holding his chariot wheel when Arjuna launched his anjalika arrow.
  7. Karna had his head cut off.

The source of this screenshot is from the Bori Mahabharat supported by the government of India. The translator is Bibek Debroy. Bori mahabharat

Karna Parva Section 67


Rama is the one who fights against the wrong thing, here Ravana is completely wrong he kind-napped a wife and hence needs to be punished. Ravana did something which is wrong as per the law and hence is also wrong as per the Dharma.

But Krishna is the one who shows that even though whatever the kauravas are doing is right as per the law, but its wrong as per the dharma. They(kauravas) did win the game, but what they were doing was adharma(in justice).

So try to understand Krishna sees the intention of the person and not the action and Rama works directly on the action.

Both the incidences to show that you should not do wrong things (rama) and to you should not even have a bad intention(krishna).

So Rama came when direct injustice is happening and krishna came when injustice was in hidden form.

Ravanas intentions was clear from his actions, he did not hide anything, he did what he thought. He thought wrong and did wrong.

What karuravas were doing, they were showing we are great person and we are doing everything as per law, so that is why they got this kind of treatment. So its all about intention.

Both of these epics collectively shows that your intentions are more important than your actions.

  • You are simply contrasting Rama and Krishna. This is in no way answering my original question which is: In very similar circumstances Rama and Krishna seem to have acted in opposite ways. How do you reconcile this ? This has nothing to do with what Ravana did or what Kouravas did or what Karna did or whether Karna was indeed better than Arjuna or a million other questions !!
    – Lotus
    May 4, 2019 at 16:01
  • I will try to explain Again, Rama is a person who is straight forward does this in a straight order, have straight strategies and have straight reasoning, he does not twist things or modify them or turn them around, just simple thinking and straight forward execution. This is about how people generally are, both kind of persons are around us and inside us, we have given a choice, we can choose path of Rama or Krishna, its about contrasting our own behavior, whatever a person can choose for himself. May 9, 2019 at 5:51
  • Both the ways and strategies and ways are shown to us as a human being, you can do great things and be a great human, this is what is the intent of both of these incarnations, Its a message from the universe you can choose any path, both can be correct in their own way, both are justified, both qualify for the greater good. Its about seeing your inner self and finding about what you most relate to, its about your way of thing, its about nothing is absolutely right or wrong, its situations and circumstances which come in our life and how proceed May 9, 2019 at 5:54
  • You say "... you can choose any path, both can be correct in their own way, both are justified, both qualify for the greater good ...." Please see that we are not talking here about a choice of what to eat - Apple or Banana. Both are good, both have their benefits etc etc..Here Rama says "Killing an unarmed enemy is Adharma". You cannot say what was Adharma to Rama became Dharma to Kriahna - because If so - Dharma is not absolute and changes radically with time - If so there is nothing for us to learn from this epic.
    – Lotus
    May 9, 2019 at 10:17
  • Please note that I am not some kind of a non-believer trying to force my way in here. I have not found any satisfying reconciliation.
    – Lotus
    May 9, 2019 at 10:17

Actually people needs to understand that the facts presented in the oldest Sanskrit scriptures written atleast 2800 years ago doesn't paint the picture of events of Mahabharata completely similar to that of latter Sanskrit retellings,regional folklores, novels and entertainment media. Here's the episode of Karna's death by Arjuna present by Mahabharata CE which is certified as the most authentic Sanskrit version of Mahabharata by orientalists/historians :-

                 कर्ण पर्व, अध्याय क्र.६७ श्लोक क्र.८ - श्लोक क्र.२६

8 तं समीक्ष्य ततः कर्णॊ बरह्मास्त्रेण धनंजयम अभ्यवर्षत पुनर यत्नम अकरॊद रथसर्जने तद अस्त्रम अस्त्रेणावार्य परजहारास्य पाण्डवः

9 ततॊ ऽनयद अस्त्रं कौन्तेयॊ दयितं जातवेदसः मुमॊच कर्णम उद्दिश्य तत परजज्वाल वै भृशम

10 वारुणेन ततः कर्णः शमयाम आस पावकम जीमूतैश च दिशः सर्वाश चक्रे तिमिरदुर्दिनाः

11 पाण्डवेयस तव असंभ्रान्तॊ वायव्यास्त्रेण वीर्यवान अपॊवाह तदाभ्राणि राधेयस्य परपश्यतः

12 तं हस्तिकक्ष्या परवरं च बाणैः; सुवर्णमुक्ता मणिवज्र मृष्टम कालप्रयत्नॊत्तम शिल्पियत्नैः; कृतं सुरूपं वितमस्कम उच्चैः

13 ऊर्जः करं तव सैन्यस्य नित्यम; अमित्रवित्रासनम ईड्य रूपम विख्यातम आदित्यसमस्य लॊके; तविषा समं पावकभानु चन्द्रैः

14 ततः कषुरेणाधिरथेः किरीटी; सुवर्णपुङ्खेन शितेन यत्तः शरिया जवलन्तं धवजम उन्ममाथ; महारथस्याधिरथेर महात्मा

15 यशश च धर्मश च जयश च मारिष; परियाणि सर्वाणि च तेन केतुना तदा कुरूणां हृदयानि चापतन; बभूव हाहेति च निस्वनॊ महान

16 अथ तवरन कर्णवधाय पाण्डवॊ; महेन्द्रवज्रानल दण्डसंनिभम आदत्त पार्थॊ ऽञजलिकं निषङ्गात; सहस्ररश्मेर इव रश्मिम उत्तमम

17 मर्मच छिदं शॊणितमांसदिग्धं; वैश्वानरार्क परतिमं महार्हम नराश्वनागासु हरं तर्यरत्निं; षड वाजम अज्ञॊ गतिम उग्रवेगम

18 सहस्रनेत्राशनि तुल्यतेजसं; समानक्रव्यादम इवातिदुःसहम पिनाक नारायण चक्रसंनिभं; भयंकरं पराणभृतां विनाशनम

19 युक्त्वा महास्त्रेण परेण मन्त्रविद; विकृष्य गाण्डीवम उवाच सस्वनम अयं महास्त्रॊ ऽपरतिमॊ धृतः शरः; शरीरभिच चासु हरश च दुर्हृदः

20 तपॊ ऽसति तप्तं गुरवश च तॊषिता; मया यद इष्टं सुहृदां तथा शरुतम अनेन सत्येन निहन्त्व अयं शरः; सुदंशितः कर्णम अरिं ममाजितह

21 इत्य ऊच्चिवांस तं सा मुमॊच बाणं; धनंजयः कर्णवधाय घॊरम कृत्याम अथर्वाङ्गिरसीम इवॊग्रां; दीप्ताम असह्यां युधि मृत्युनापि

22 बरुवन किरीटी तम अतिप्रहृष्टॊ; अयं शरॊ मे विजयावहॊ ऽसतु जिघांसुर अर्केन्दुसम परभावः; कर्णं समाप्तिं नयतां यमाय

23 तेनेषु वर्येण किरीटमाली; परहृष्टरूपॊ विजयावहेन जिघांसुर अर्केन्दुर समप्रभेण; चक्रे विषक्तं रिपुम आततायी

24 तद उद्यतादित्य समानवर्चसं; शरन नभॊ मध्यग भास्करॊपमम वराङ्गम उर्व्याम अपतच चमूपतेर; दिवाकरॊ ऽसताद इव रक्तमण्डलः

25 तद अस्य देही सततं सुखॊदितं; सवरूपम अत्यर्थम उदारकर्मणः परेण कृच्छ्रेण शरीरम अत्यजद; गृहं महर्द्धीव ससङ्गम ईश्वरः

26 शरैर विभुग्नं वयसु तद विवर्मणः; पपात कर्णस्य शरीरम उच्छ्रितम सरवद वरणं गैरिकतॊय विस्रवं; गिरेर यथा वज्रहतं शिरस तथा

Translation :-

Karna Parva, Section No.67, Verse No.8 - Verse No.26

“On seeing this, Karna again invoked brahmastra against Dhananjaya. He showered down arrows and tried to extricate his chariot. Pandava countered those weapons with his own weapons. Kounteya then released another weapon, beloved of the fire god, towards Karna. It blazed fiercely. Karna pacified the fire through a varuna weapon. He covered all the directions with clouds and it was as dark as a rainy day.

Pandaveya was not frightened. While Radheya looked on, the valiant one used the vayavya weapon and dispelled all the clouds. The supreme one’s standard had the marks of an elephant’s housing. It was decorated with gold, pearls, jewels and diamonds. It had been crafted by excellent artisans over a long period of time. It was expensive and beautiful in form.

It always inspired your soldiers and terrified and frightened the enemy. It was renowned in the world and blazed like the sun and the moon. Kiriti used a razor-sharp arrow that was gold-tufted and pointed. With that, he brought down the handsome and blazing standard of the great-souled maharatha, Adhiratha’s son. O venerable one! When that standard was uprooted, fame, dharma, victory and everything that was dear to the hearts of the Kurus also fell down. Great sounds of lamentation arose. ‘ “To ensure Karna’s death, Pandava took out an anjalika arrow. It was like the great Indra’s vajra, or like a rod that was made out of fire. It blazed in its rays, like the one with one thousand rays. 800 It was capable of penetrating the inner organs and smearing itself with blood and flesh.

It was extremely expensive and was like the fire and the sun. It could destroy men, horses and elephants and was three cubits long, with six tufts. 801 It travelled straight and possessed a great force. In its energy, it was like the vajra of the one with one thousand eyes. It was as difficult to withstand as predatory beasts. It was like the pinaka and Narayana’s chakra. It was fearful and destructive of living beings.

He invoked mantras and affixed that supreme and great weapon to Gandiva. He loudly said, ‘I am grasping this great weapon, which is in the form of an arrow. It is extremely difficult to withstand and is capable of destroying the body. If I have tormented myself through austerities and have satisfied my seniors, if I have listened to what my well-wishers have told me, through that truth, let this arrow slay my armoured enemy, Karna, and bring me victory.’ Having said this, for the sake of Karna’s death, Dhananjaya released that terrible arrow. It was as fierce as rites performed by Atharvan and Angiras. It blazed and was impossible to be endured in a battle, even by Death itself. Kiriti cheerfully said, ‘Let this arrow bring me victory.’ Wishing to slay Karna, bring about his end and convey him to Yama, he released the arrow, which was as radiant as the sun and the moon. Cheerfully, so that he could be conveyed towards victory, the one with the diadem and the garland shot the arrow. It was as radiant as the sun and the moon. He harboured feelings of enmity and wished to slay his enemy. That weapon, blazing like the sun, was shot. Like the sun, it lit up the earth with its radiance. The head of the commander of the army was severed. Like the sun, with a red disc, it seemed to set. The body of the one who performed generous deeds was always reared in happiness.

Like a person who is reluctant to leave a house filled with great riches, the head parted from the body with great difficulty. Without the armour, the body was mangled by arrows and lost its life. Karna’s body was severed and fell down.

So according to original Mahabharata The last activity done by Karna was to cover the cover the who battlefield using his arrows after shooting Varunastra and furthermore the previous military record of Arjuna also says that Karna wasn't that worthy opponent for Arjuna.!

  • 1
    Please split the paragraphs and write. Currently its so congested ! Mar 21, 2019 at 2:45
  • @Akshay S it's done Mar 21, 2019 at 4:59
  • Actually I was trying something else while uploading the image..... it wasn't intended to attach the image with the answer..... I was trying to put that image in the cover of my profile Mar 21, 2019 at 9:05
  • 1
    @SagarMishra okay thanks.u cd delete from here and go to edit profile and add it there:)
    – user17294
    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:10
  • Actually I did tried to delete it from the answer but failed to do so..... it's my very first answer in the website so I will remember it while writing next answer Mar 21, 2019 at 10:24

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