First of all, I am a great admirer of Karna and can prove that he is the only person in Mahabharata epic to follow dharma in his entire life but the only question I have is why did he ran from the battle with Chitrasena abandoning Duryodhana?

His first dharma was protecting Duryodhana. Why did he flee saving his own life (which was not necessary as he had Kavacha-Kundala with him). Karna fans argue that he was drunk at that time and was not in a position to use his full capabilities. But I'm not convinced. If a drunk person commits a crime he is still a criminal. Moreover, it is not mentioned (in Sacred-Texts.com, from where I read it) that he was drunk.

Having Kavacha-Kundala on him, Karna was invincible still he fled from the battle abandoning the friend whom he promised to protect him against any cause, if required with his life, why he fled away? Did he want to protect his prestige of not becoming captive to any power or remain undefeated throughout his life? Even if it is so, running from a battle would also be considered a defeat. What is the truth? Did he run or not? If he did, why did he do that? Is Sacred-Texts.com legitimate? For I know Karna would never flee for his life abandoning his best friend Duryodhana.

All the Gandharvas then, desirous of slaying Karna, rushed together by hundreds and thousands towards Karna. And those mighty warriors, desirous of slaying the Suta's son, surrounded him on all sides, with swords and battle-axes and spears. And some cut down the yoke of his car, and some his flagstaff, and some the shaft of his car, and some his horses, and some his charioteer. And some cut down his umbrella and some the wooden fender round his car and some the joints of his car. It was thus that many thousands of Gandharvas, together attacking his car, broke it into minute fragments. And while his car was thus attacked, Karna leaped therefrom with sword and shield in hand, and mounting on Vikarna's car, urged the steeds for saving himself.

Source: sacred-texts.com - The Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Sec. CCXXXIX

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    Karna ran away from battle field many times and not just during the fight with citrasena. Please read the kurushetra battle field sections from Mahabharata. Karna was defeated by Bhima and Karna had to flee from kurushetra battle and then returned. – user808 Sep 2 '15 at 10:28
  • That was due to Sammohana weapon. It was highly prohibited in any war. The weapon was a boon from lord Indra to Arjuna. The boon was if the weapon is used in a war it will hypnotise all the warriors and make the fall asleep. It was imminent to flee from such situation. Bheeshma knew the neutralize the Sammohana weapon bud did not want to used against his beloved Arjuna. Anyway that weapon does not show any archery skill. If Indra gave it to Shakuni he would be greatest warrior in that war. It was rather a tactic used by Indra to protect his son. I would say Arjuna showed cowardice using it. – Maroof Mandal Sep 2 '15 at 10:41
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    You havent read my comment properly. Please read it again. Also, who said samohana astra was prohibited? Dont write your own commentaries, please. Moreover, i am not even comparing Karna with Arjuna. I am just saying that Karna lost number of times and ran away from battlefield. – user808 Sep 2 '15 at 10:49
  • Be happy in Karna syphocancy world. You havent yet said which scripture says sammohana astra is prohibited? Wow, Karna went for recovery when defeated by Bhima, that too in batle of archery. This incident is sufficient to prove that Karna was not a great archer as many sycophants of his advocate. – user808 Sep 2 '15 at 11:08
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    "can prove that he is the only person in Mahabharata epic to follow dharma in his entire life" - you must write your own version of Mahabharata then. – ram Sep 16 '17 at 18:21
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I posted the same question on Quora and got the answer:

"the Kuru prince, surrounded by thecowherds, began to # sport and wander cheerfully. And the citizens also and the soldiers by thousands began to sport, as best pleased them, in those woods, like the celestials. And the herdsmen, well skilled in singing and dancing and instrumental music, and virgins decked in ornaments, began to minister to the pleasures of Dhritarashtra's son. And the king surrounded by the ladies of the royal household began cheerfully to distribute wealth and food and # drinks_of_various_kinds amongst those that sought to please him, according to their desires (this passage clearly mentions they were drunk )

Duryodhana and others were making merriment there, they were celebrating a party. Duryodhana, surrounded by the Kuru ladies, distributed wealth, food and various types of drinks among his followers (i.e. Karna, Sakuni, and other Kuru princes).


Duryodhana and others were celebrating a party there, so it is obvious that the drinks that they were taking was not water or milk. [Lol... were Karna and Duryodhana children that they would drink milk in a party?]


Karna, Duryodhana and others were drinking

wine .


"And the king, attended by # all_his_followers , began also to slay hyenas and buffaloes and deer and gayals and bears and boars all around. And the king, piercing by his shafts those animals by thousands in deep forest, caused the deer to be caught in the more delightful parts of the woods. Drinking # milk and # enjoying, O Bharata, various other delicious articles and beholding, as he proceeded, many delightful forests and woods swarming with bees inebriate with floral honey and resounding with the notes of the peacock, the king at last reached the sacred lake of Dwaitavana."


Vana Parva: Ghosha-yatra Parva: Section CCXXXVIII


Here it is written that Duryodhana, along with all his followers (including Karna, Sakuni and others) were enjoying and drinking milk. This is complete insanity to think that Kauravas were celebrating a party by drinking milk. Obviously they drank some kind of wine (made from milk and other objects).


Conclusion:- Karna and others were drinking wine, obviously they were partially (if not ompletely) drunk during their encounter with the Gandharvas. This contributed greatly to their defeat in the battle against the Gandharvas.

why Karna fled where Arjuna succeeded against Gandharvas in full detail :

"when the Gandharvas were so commanded by Chitrasena, they rushed weapons in hand, towards the Dhritarashtra ranks. And beholding the Gandharvas impetuously rushing towards them with upraised weapons, the Kuru warriors precipitously fled in all directions at the very sight of Duryodhana."


Point-1: The war started here.


Point-2: The whole of the Kuru army fled (including Duryodhana, his 100 brothers and Sakuni), seeing the Gandharvas rushing towards them with various weapons.


"And beholding the Kuru soldiers all flying from the field with their backs to the foe, the heroic Radheya alone fled not."


Point: The whole of the Kuru army fled, only Karna remained on the battlefield.


"And seeing the mighty host of the Gandharvas rushing towards him, Radheya checked them by a perfect shower of arrows. And the Suta's son, owing to his extreme lightness of hand, struck hundreds of Gandharvas with Kshurapras and arrows and Bhallas and various weapons made of bones and steel. And that mighty warrior, causing the heads of numerous Gandharvas to roll down within a short time, made the ranks of Chitrasena to yell in anguish."


Point-1: Karna alone checked the whole force of the Gandharvas, and within a short span of time, he slew hundreds of Gandharvas.


Point-2: While fighting with the Gandharvas, Karna effectively used various types of arrows and various types of other weapons. And while using those weapons, he displayed his extreme lightness of hand.


Point-3: Karna alone checked and overwhelmed the vast Gandharva host.


"And although they were slaughtered in great numbers by Karna endued with great intelligence, yet the Gandharvas returned to the charge by hundreds and thousands. And in consequence of the swarms of Chitrasena's warriors rushing impetuously to the field the earth itself became soon covered by the Gandharva host."


Point-1: Karna slew a very large number of Gandharvas.


Point-2: In spite of Karna's continuous onslaught, the Gandharvas continued to rush towards him in great numbers.


Point-3: The Gandharva army was much larger than the Kuru army. The Gandharvas were so many in number that the earth seemed to be filled with the Gandharvas. Karna alone withstood that vast force.


"Then king Duryodhana, and Sakuni, the son of Suvala, and Dussasana, and Vikarna, and other sons of Dhritarashtra, seated on cars the clatter of whose wheels resembled the roars of Garuda, returned to the charge, following the lead of Karna, and began to slaughter that host. And desirous of supporting Karna, these princes invested the Gandharva army, with a large number of cars and a strong body of horses. Then the whole of the Gandharva host began to fight with the Kauravas. And the encounter that took place between the contending hosts was fierce in the extreme and might make one's hair stand on end."


Point-1: When Duryodhana beheld that Karna alone had checked the vast Gandharva force, he returned to the battlefield, along with his brothers and the Kuru army.


Point-2: Karna thus got a strong back-up, and continued to fight.


Point-3: A general war commenced between the Kuru army and the huge Gandharva host.


"The Gandharvas, at last, afflicted with the shafts of the Kuru army, seemed to be exhausted. And the Kauravas beholding the Gandharvas so afflicted sent up a loud sound."


Point-1: In the general engagement, the Kuru army led by Karna completely overwhelmed the Gandharvas.


Point-2: At this point of the battle, the Gandharvas were nearly exhausted, and were on the verge of defeat.


"And seeing the Gandharva host yielding to fear, the angry Chitrasena sprang from his seat, resolved to exterminate the Kuru army. And conversant with various modes of warfare, he waged on the fight, aided by his weapons of illusion."


Point-1: When Karna, supported by the Kuru army, had nearly vanquished the Gandharvas, and the Gandharvas were struck with fear, Chitrasena (king of the Gandharvas) entered the battlefield.


Point-2: Chitrasena didn't engage in a duel/single combat with Karna (or any other Kuru warrior). And, he used neither any ordinary weapon nor any celestial weapon against the Kuru army. He directly used an illusion against the Kuru army. He knew that he wouldn't be able to defeat Karna in a single combat. He also knew that if he had used any weapon (be it ordinary or celestial), Karna would have baffled it with ease. So he directly used an illusion.


Point-3: Chitrasena was a Gandharva. Gandharvas possessed illusionary powers, and were well-acquainted with illusions (and illusionary warfare). But Karna and others in the Kuru army were humans, who didn't possess illusionary powers. According to the rules of war, a warrior/warriors possessed of illusionary powers should not use illusions against him/ those who doesn't/don't possess illusionary powers, and if he/they does/do so, that is considered as 'deceit' and 'violation of rules of war'. Chitrasena used illusions against Karna and the Kuru army (who were humans), and thus violated the rules of war.


Note-1: Some people may ask where I have found that using illusions against those who didn't possess illusionary powers is a violation of the rules of war. I would suggest them to read the narratives of the duel between Abhimanyu and Alamvusha on the 9th day and the duel between Karna and Ghatotkacha on the 14th night. In these duels Alamvusha and Ghatotkacha (both of whom were Rakshasas, and possessed of illusionary powers) used illusions against Abhimanyu and Karna (both of whom were humans, not possessing illusionary powers) respectively and both of those Rakshasas were marked as 'deceitful' for their acts (i.e. using illusions against human warriors).


Note-2: If a warrior possessed of illusionary powers use illusions against another warrior possessed of illusionary powers, then that's not a violation of the rules of war. (In case of Rakshasa vs Rakshasa, Naga vs Naga, Gandharva vs Gandharva, Naga vs Rakshasa, Gandharva vs Rakshasa etc. scenarios)


"And the Kaurava warriors were then all deprived of their senses by the illusion of Chitrasena. And then, O Bharata, it seemed that every warrior of the Kuru army was fallen upon and surrounded by ten Gandharvas. And attacked with great vigour, the Kuru host was greatly afflicted and struck with panic. O king, all of them that liked to live, fled from the field."


Point-1: In consequence of Chitrasena's sudden illusionary attack, all Kuru warriors (including Karna) were deprived of their senses. Karna and others were nearly unconscious.


Point-2: Beholding the Kuru warriors (including Karna) almost unconscious owing to the terrible illusion of Chitrasena, the nearly defeated Gandharvas attacked them with greater vigour. This was another violation of the rules of war, because attacking (or striking) unconscious warriors was against the rules of war, but the Gandharvas violated this rule also.


Point-3: Being thus attacked, large part of the Kuru army fled from the battlefield. Only Karna, Duryodhana, Duryodhana's brothers, Sakuni, and a smaller portion of the Kuru army remained on the battlefield.


"But while the entire Dhritarashtra host broke and fled, Karna, that offspring of the Sun, stood there, O king, immovable as a hill. Indeed, Duryodhana and Karna and Sakuni, the son of Suvala, all fought with the Gandharvas, although every one of them was much wounded and mangled in the encounter."


Point-1: As Karna and few other Kuru warriors (who remained in the battlefield) were almost unconscious, the Gandharvas used the opportunity to mangle and wound them badly.


Point-2: Though nearly unconscious and exceedingly wounded, yet Karna stayed on the battlefield, and fought to the utmost of his power.


Point-3: Karna lost his back-up force, as all of them were almost unconscious, practically useless.


At this point, let me clear some doubts that often arise.


Doubt-1: Why did Karna fail to counter Chitrasena's illusion?


Answer: Chitrasena used the illusion suddenly. At first he wasn't in the battlefield. When Karna had nearly defeated the Gandharvas, he suddenly entered the battlefield and just after entering, used a terrible illusion to make Karna and others unconscious. Chitrasena did it without any warning or challenge. He used deceit to defeat Karna and others. Also people may question why Karna didn't use any celestial weapon to counter the illusion (as though he was nearly unconscious, yet he wasn't completely senseless). The answer is Karna was already drunk (though not completely, but he drank wine just before the war, so it is obvious that he was partially drunk), and when Chitrasena used illusion, he became almost unconscious, and in that condition, it wasn't possible to invoke into existence celestial weapons as in order to shoot celestial weapons complete concentration is required (and it is completely foolishness to expect that a drunk and almost unconscious warrior could have complete concentration). So, this is the reason why Karna had failed to counter Chitrasena's illusion.


Doubt-2: Karna possessed his impenetrable armour and ear-rings during Gandharva War. Then how was he defeated?


Answer: Karna's armour and ear-rings had made him immortal/unslayable, but it hadn't made him invincible/undefeatable. Karna's armour and ear- rings used to protect him from mortal/lethal/ deadly threats only, not from defeat.


Doubt-3: How did the Gandharvas manage to mangle Karna exceedingly as Karna possessed his impenetrable armour at that time?


Answer: Karna was exceedingly mangled, but it is not mentioned in which parts of the body he was mangled. So, it can be assumed that the Gandharvas mangled those parts of Karna's body which were not covered by his armour (forehead, neck, hands, thighs etc.). Karna also used the same technique to mangle Abhimanyu on the 13th day of the Kurukshetra War, when the latter was encased in an impenetrable armour.


Doubt-4: Karna failed to counter Chitrasena's illusion, so was he a poor warrior?


Answer: No, not at all. Karna failed to counter Chitrasena's illusion owing to some specific factors (Karna's being drunk, his being almost unconscious, use of deceit by Chitrasena). But when Karna fought with the same Gandharvas during his digvijay, he successfully countered their illusions and defeated them easily. Also Karna successfully countered hundreds of terrible illusions created by Rakshasa Ghatotkacha.


"All the Gandharvas then, desirous of slaying Karna, rushed together by hundreds and thousands towards Karna. And those mighty warriors, desirous of slaying the Suta's son, surrounded him on all sides, with swords and battle-axes and spears. And some cut down the yoke of his car, and some his flagstaff, and some the shaft of his car, and some his horses, and some his charioteer. And some cut down his umbrella and some the wooden fender round his car and some the joints of his car. It was thus that many thousands of Gandharvas, together attacking his car, broke it into minute fragments."


Point-1: Though Karna was almost unconscious and exceedingly wounded, yet he continued to fight with the Gandharvas, slaying many of them.


Point-2: Considering Karna as their main threat, the Gandharvas concentrated their attack on Karna.


Point-3: Many thousands of Gandharvas, armed with various kinds of weapons, together attacked on Karna's chariot.


Point-4: An exceedingly wounded, almost unconscious and intoxicated Karna failed to counter this fierce group attack.


Point-5: Karna was not using his celestial Vijaya bow and his celestial chariot during this war. He was using an ordinary bow and an ordinary chariot at that time. Some Gandharvas cut off Karna's bow, some slew his horses, some slew his charioteer, some cut down his standard, some cut down his umbrella, some cut down his flagstaff, some cut off the yoke of his chariot, some cut off the shaft of his chariot, some cut off the wooden fender around it, and some cut off the joints of it. This was the most ferocious and brutal group attack in the whole Mahabharata.

The original answer was posted at http://www.quora.com/Why-did-Karna-fled-from-battle-with-Chitrasena-Gandharvas

Chitrasen war was an unfair war. If the unfair part is not written in any scriptures, there is something called common sense. Arjun was Indra's son.

Sammohana weapon was given to Arjun by Indra. He used it in Virata war. We can't declare Arjun win the war because Bhishma was conscious but he preferred not to fight his beloved Arjun. Though we can declare Karna lost this one.

The Kurukshetra war was unfair to Pandavas as they had fewer soldiers. But as fact goes, Bhima never defeated Karna in Kurukshetra. In fact, it was otherwise. If you read deeply, Karna defeated each of the 5 Pandavas once during the war. Arjun defeated only Karna once and which had resulted in his death. And we all know what worked in Arjun's favor in this war and against Karna. 7 of them are mentioned below.

  1. Krishna as charioteer and guide

  2. Hanuman's presence in his chariot

  3. Durga presence in his chariot

  4. Karna's promise to Kunti of not killing other sons, except Arjun

  5. Indra's disguised and took his Kavach and Kundal

  6. Curse on Karna of chariot getting stuck and resulting to his death

  7. Curse on Karna by Parshuram of forgetting the knowledge of using celestial weapons

All in all, Karan and Arjun never had a fair fight to decide who was a better at archery. And all the war Karna lost, there is one thing is common Indra.

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources, preferably Hindu scripture, in your answers. Please take a look at Guidelines for new users for answering questions and other FAQs. – sv. Dec 23 '16 at 1:14
  • A war is a war. Did Karna think that he was going to play in the war? He underestimated Gandharvas.Who told Karna not to get a better charioteer? Not to use divine weapons? Was he not aware that he was fighting Arjuna? What happened when he used the Vijaya bow? There was no curse on Karna for forgetting divyastras. He defeated all pandavas? Did you answer by watching a movie? Did Hanuman fight on behalf of Arjun? No. Karna couldn't withstand Partha and he chose to fight against innocent soldiers rather than Arjuna.1/2 – Sarvabhouma Apr 2 '17 at 3:43
  • Arjuna earned every astra by hard penance. Why didn't Karna use his bow from his first day? He underestimated his opposition.Arjuna defeated Karna even with Kavacha and kundala in Virata war. When Kauravas suspected that there would be Arjuna in Virata, did Karna and others think that Arjuna would let them win? You are surely answering by watching Mahabharat serial. Arjuna defeated all the warriors in Virata war. Bhishma and Drona too. Bhima defeated Karna. He flee from the battle field. When you are going to a war, you should be ready for anything. Karna didn't do that. 2/2 – Sarvabhouma Apr 2 '17 at 3:47

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