Why always Arjuna is considered as Supreme archer instead of Karna in Mahabharata? We can see his attribution in Who gave weapons to Shri Krishna and Balarama and how? and in many other articles. When we all know Karna clearly had edge on Arjuna.

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    One reason might be that Karna Gained his knowlegde on the basis of a false(lie) statement to his guru Lord Parshurama.
    – Yogi
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:04
  • 2
    In that answer you linked to, I was quoting Prabhupada's translation of the Bhagavad Gita: vedabase.com/en/bg/18/78 But if you look at the original Sanskrit, Arjuna isn't described as the supreme archer, he's just described as "dhanur-dharaḥ", or wielder of the bow. So at least that quote doesn't say that he was the best one. Nov 28, 2014 at 17:47

7 Answers 7


There are few instances when Arjuna defeated Karna.

  1. In the virata parva Arjuna defeated Karna and the Kuru army single handedly.
  2. Also at the time of Draupadi's svayamvar he withheld the force of Karna.

These incidents show that Arjuna was a superior archer than Karna, there is no such incident in the Mahabharata where Karna became victorious against Arjuna.

In the battlefield Karna loses his power to launch the weapons due to the curse of his guru Parashurama for hiding his identity and faced similar curses from a brahman, bhoo devi which ultimately led to his downfall.

Karna is no doubt a great archer. If he had fought for the right cause he would have emerged victorious.


Shrimad Bhagawat Geeta has your answer.

Shrimad Bhagawat Geeta

SBG Lord Krishna says this Chapter 9/30

Api Chetsuduracharo Bhrajate MamannyaBhak
Sadhurevsamantavyah samygvyasito hi sah

means any person who worships me is gentleman even though he is worst by deeds.

Arjuna says in SBG Chapter 10/17 that he continuously worships Lord Krishna in his mind every moment.

Katham Vidhyamaham Yogistavam sada parichintayan....

Every energy is divine form of Lord Krishna only, whether he is Karna or Arjuna, they all are form of GOD Only,

Chapter 9 Verse 29

Samoham Sarvabhuteshu..

Means I am equally disposed in every living being...

Arjuna or Karna both are form of Hari(Lord Krishna) only... But Lord Krishna told Arjuna that Lord Krishna is Arjuna in Pandavas.

SBG Chapter 10 Verse 37

Vrushinam vasudevosmi pandavanam dhanamjaya...

Means in Yadava density I am vasudeva, and in Pandavas I am Arjuna..

Even after Lord Krishna's death Arjuna was unable to string his bow.

Lord Krishna is knowledge. Because of Lord's will only Arjuna got knowledge of archery, similarly Karna got from Parshurama.

If it is Lord's will to put this knowledge then only because of his will, one will get fame and the other will not.

Fame is not made of materials, it is eternal.

Karna "one strongly willing to get the fame of BEST ARCHER"

According to SBG, one who does not free desire of fruit, can not be best.

SBG Chapter 2, Verse 47

Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Faleshu Kadachana

Arjuna has nothing to do with fruits. He was just a believer of belief that "I will do only (work)karma, and GOD will give me fruits".

So Arjuna was following is heart only, where as Karna was full of "Jealousy" and "Moha of fame".

According to Chapter 18 Verse 43,

Man reaches perfection only following his heart.

That is why Arjuna reached Perfection.

Guru's blessings

Guru Drona blessed Arjuna that he will be the best archer. Guru's blessings are surety for any student, no doubts.

Please share your doubts/feedback/ideas.

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    While I find your answer believable, I have sincere doubt on this statement : So Arjuna was following is heart only, where as Karna was full of "Jealousy" and "Moha of fame". If I recall it right, Arjuna was not just following his heart, rather he was following what his mentor (Krishna) told him to do which was to fight all his relatives/dear ones and not so dear ones alike for the sake of Dharma. Karna was surely fond of fame (or glory, rather) for all he wanted was, to not to be known as someone who left his friend when he needed him the most.
    – Zen
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:04
  • Who is the best archer in the Mahabharata? When did drona bless arjuna that he will be the best archer? I know he said I will make him the best archer in tv serials but that does not mean he blessed him
    – user20919
    Apr 9, 2021 at 20:13

Karna praised by Lord Hanuman During final encounter, Karna fired many divyastra and Arjuna failed to counter most of them. As per result, all divyastra fell upon chariot of Arjuna. Hanuman held upper portion and Krishna held lower portion of chariot using illusion powers. After Kurushetra war, Krishna - Arjuna! Take your Gandiva and quiver and get down the chariot. Then I will get down. Accordingly Arjuna got down the chariot. Krishna kept the reigns on the chariot and got down. Anjaneya (Hanuman) along with his band of demons, had flown away from the top of the chariot. Immediately, that chariot was reduced to ashes. Arjuna was astonished. Hanuman appeared before Arjuna Arjuna - Hanuman ji, what is this! “Krishna! what is this! Fie fie this is untruth ! Why my chariot is burnt? Kindly tell me” asked Arjuna. Krishna - “Arjuna! you have so far been thinking that you won the battle out of your own prowess, vigour and valour. It is not correct. Your chariot had already been burnt away with the power of all divyastra launched by Karna. As I am driving your chaiot and Hanumana was viewing the battle from the top of the chariot, your chariot is in tact. Otherwise, it would have been burnt away long back.” Hanuman - Sorry Krishna ! my lord ! I have managed to protect this chariot of lord bramha from the divyastra of all warriors but divyastras of karna were so powerful even I couldn't protect chariot. However I have obtained boon of Bramha so that divyastras of karna couldnt harm me but Chariot was burnt into ash. Really, o lord ! I have never seen superior warrior like Karna in my life

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    @Pratheebhan You should cite sources for your answer. Nov 28, 2016 at 9:36

There were four main and powerful archers in mahabharata at that time,

  • Ganga Putr Bhishma,
  • Acharya Drona,
  • Ang Raj Karna And
  • Arjun

These men were perhaps the four greatest warriors of the era and were also well learned and had firm principles by which they lived.

Among them Karan and Arjun are great competitors of each other, It is very tough to compare all warriers,because every warrier has different different strength,limitation and situations.

They lived their life by different values and their lives came to very different ends.

In fact no one can beat any one among them,

Karan Though even Karan was a Great Archer,He is famous as a Great Donor

Karna was a great warrior, in many ways greater than Arjuna. They may have been equal as archers, but physically, Karna was by far the stronger of the two. And even in sticking to one’s principles, Karna appeared more steadfast compared with Arjuna.

But in Karna’s life there was one fatal flaw. He made his friendship and loyalty to Duryodhan higher than anything else, even higher than right and wrong, and even higher than God. While loyalty is a great value in such cases when it overrides a sense of dharma and even the direct calling of the Divine in the form of Shri Krishna, such loyalty leads one to a tragic end.

Karna used all his strength to serve his friend Duryodhan, without even one selfish thought for himself. However, his loyalty was so blind that he would even follow his friend when he was doing something totally wrong, selfish and harmful to others.

This shows that loyalty to another person can lead even a great man to a tragic end. Dharma, and the call of God, must always be greater than loyalty to another. Karna knew what he was doing was wrong and paid the price for it.

Karna put loyalty to Duryodhan as his highest loyalty. His tragic story warns us to choose loyalties wisely. Only Krishna deserves such unflinching loyalty.

same situations with another two masters(drona and bhishma),they retained their duty, they also knew that they stood in behalf of Ungodliness(adharma),but they chosen death by performing their duties.

Arjuna was a great man. Yet he had weaknesses that were actually absent in Karna, Bhishma and Drona. He was in some ways foolhardy, saying and doing several stupid things that could have landed his brothers and himself in serious trouble.

This story illustrates that while Arjuna was far from perfect, he had one over riding quality which sets him above and apart from the others. To Arjuna, it was Krishna’s words that were absolute.

He would follow Krishna’s words even at the expense of other principles or promises that he held dear. Therefore he had the grace and favour of Krishna’s guidance throughout his life.

Therefore, Arjuna’s fate was to be the hero of the era in place of karan and others.

This shows to human beings that you have great energy,talent and strength but you uses theses at wrong places or negatively then your strengths become useless for you.

Source: www.hinduhumanrights.info/why-did-krishna-choose-arjuna-instead-of-karna-drona-o-bhishma/

Karan,Bhishma and Drona were right on their point of view where they stood, but when you have two right ways you have to choose one of them which is best of two right ways,They chosen the another one which way is also right but it was In protest of Religion.

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    You shouldn't just copy and paste text from some website without giving the source and putting the copied text in block quotes. Otherwise it's plagiarism. Nov 29, 2014 at 16:54
  • Well I'm an atheist here and Hinduism has a place for atheists as well, so Karna choosing loyalty over God is the part which is bit odd for me. Karna opted loyalty with Duryodhana as his Dharma then how can you say that he overridden the Dharma if it is his Dharma on the first place? Your sentence 'Only Krishna deserves such unflinching loyalty.' on which basis you're saying this? Just because of his supreme being? And about choosing Arjuna among four of them, putting it in simple words we can say Arjuna was easily manipulable for Krishna comparatively others.
    – 1binary0
    Nov 30, 2014 at 19:41
  • perhaps my next answer will help you Dec 2, 2014 at 11:21

Your argument befit.

See, we all perform our duties and it is our 'dharma'. Infact according to our religion it is every-ones responsibility, but it does not possible in every time and within every situation to perform our duties or our point of views are pure religion oriented.

In case we are watching specially in Indians movies, the police inspector kills his own brother or father or one of his family member or his friend. This shows the society that a man should prefer his duty first. In this case he chooses his duty and it is his religion.

Karan was not a bad person. He was a great, excellent and donors person. He was also a great warrior like Arjun, but unfortunately he was in side of Duryodhan who was Libertine and immoral person.

Even Lord Krishna knew it very well. Once he went to explain Karan and tried to convince him, but he refused and told to Lord Krishna that "I know that I am in behalf of untruth, and at the end of the day I will loss everything but I have to Endure my friendship."

It is not only that The Krishna was a supreme human but he was in behalf of truth, morality and religion. Pandawas were on the way of morality, religion and truth so Krishna was with Pandawas.

Krishna was a supreme human though he did not participate in war, he just become a guide of arjun and we all know that karan was not a bad person but his side was wrong, we all have respect for karan.


I feel like in this discussion we are shifting slightly into the realm of personalized Dharma. Dharma is uniform for all situations.

Karna met the same fate that everyone who supported Adharma met. Dharma is not defined by paternal emotions or loyalties toward a friend or even one's own wishes or vows. Dharma for a Kshatirya which Karna was, is to uphold societal harmony and protect those being faced with injustice at no cost. As a Kshatriya his should have never allowed the Pandavas to be driven from their lands and even more so protected them from Duryodana's miscreants. He failed to do so. However, in the end even Karna says that he knows Duryodhana is Adharma but he would rather not be considered a traitor to his friend than be called for supporting Adharma. That was a choice he made like Bheeshma, Drona, Krupa and the lot.

Mahabarata is a story of that very same duality in life of overcoming personal ambitions and affiliations for the greater good. Which is where the bagavad gita comes into play in defining the scope of Dharma. In fact in Rajatantra Sastra is well defined that relations maybe sacrificed for the sake of the betterment of the nation. A village maybe forfeit if that would mean the rest of the country would be safer and so on.

In the Ramayana, Ravana was a supreme being with enormous knowledge of the Vedas and extreme virtuosity as a ruler. However, Adharma in the form of hindering Sages in their work and besieging the Devas repeated for sadistic pleasures earned him the fate he did. Even he in the end accepts his misdeeds but says i would rather die with the fame that vishnu himself had to come to dispose of me but i will never give up in war. That was a choice he made.


Because Arjuna is the Supreme Archer. Karna was definitely more skillful only when it was about showing his skill (like he did in the Rangshala when he first challenged Arjuna) and not when there was a real battle. In a real battle he lost and ran away from the battlefield quite a number of times and hence he was rightly termed as ardha-rathi (half a rathi) by Bhishma.

skill by definition means "the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance"

A Kshatriya learns wielding weapon to protect his subjects and to win wars. This is the real test of a Kshatirya's skill. So that means he is not so skillful since he could not use his knowledge effectively where its most required as would be shown by the instances i have listed below.

Karna was defeated not just by Arjuna but also by other warriors as mentioned below, so how can he be termed superior to Arjuna who never lost a battle and who even defeated the Lord of Lords - Mahadeva himself!

  1. Karna losing to Drupada (& his army) and running away from the battlefield. And he was not alone fighting with Drupada but with all the Kauravas. Compare this with Arjuna and Bhima togather winning from Drupada and army.

    adi-parva - sambhav-parva Chapter 137.21 - 22 and 25 (gitpress gorakhpur edition)

    The Kauravas, then, O Bharata, beholding the battle become frightful, broke and fled wailing towards the Pandavas. (Sambhava Parva SECTION CXL)

  2. Karna couldn't even strung the bow during Draupadi Swayamvar (Swayamvar-parva, 186.15, gitapress edition) Swayamvara Parva, SECTION CLXL and we all know Arjuna won Draupadi.

  3. Karna losing to the Gandharvas and Arjuna & Bhima came to the rescue of Duryodhana. If somebody can run leaving his sworn friend behind it speaks a lot about the skill, courage and spirit of the person. So it clearly shows he didn't have an edge. I think it would be better you give some example of his real skills which shows his edge over Arjuna.

  4. Karna losing to Arjuna in the Virat war at the end of 13 year ajnat-vasa. And not to mention all the other great archers where also there to fight with Arjuna.

So after all these things and many more not listed, how could he be considered more skillful than Arjuna. So Arjuna is rightly the supreme-archer.

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