What happened right before and after the birth of Karna?

What happened right before and after the birth of Karna?

What happened right before and after the birth of Karna?

A chronological narration of events leading to Karna’s adoption by Adiratha. (Based on BORI critical edition and Geeta press edition)

  • Pritha was Yaduvanshi Shurasena’s first born who had been promised to his cousin Kuntibhoja. At Kuntibhoja’s home, as his daughter, she waited upon Durvasa for a whole year.
  • Durvasa knew of the challenges awaiting her in the future and he gave her the boon of summoning any god she wished using the mantra (he taught her) from the Atharva text.


  • Pritha attains puberty a little while after the boon is given

  • Pritha is in her room, and suddenly gifted with divine sight, she sees all gods in their divine forms. Attracted to the rising sun, she invokes Surya out of curiosity.
  • Surya appears and initially asks her what she wishes for, then he says that he will give her a son.
  • A shocked Pritha repeatedly talks about her father’s honour and says she cannot bear a son as she is an unmarried maiden.
  • But Surya does not agree. He finally says that he will not go without impregnating her and if she does not agree, he will curse her father and the brahmana


  • Pritha is afraid of the curse now, she seeks to protect her father, the kingdom, the brahmana and she agrees BUT she also seeks to protect the child. She asks for kavacha kundala.

  • In time, Pritha has the son. She puts the baby in a basket carefully water proofed, with soft blankets spread inside and she sets the basket afloat on the Ashwa river
  • She prays to gods and sends spies after the baby
  • Adirath and Radha find the baby in the river.
  • WHO IS ADIRATHA- Friend of Dhritarashtra? Was he a poor charioteer or royal?


  • Radha gets her servants to fetch the basket and she finds the baby inside. They see the golden armour and earrings and believe that this is a divine child.
  • The child is named Vasushen owing to his golden armour and earrings.


  • Subsequently Radha has many other sons too.
  • Karna grows up in Anga, where Adiratha is the younger prince and later he is sent to Hastinapur, either to learn from Kripa or after Drona arrives, to learn from him. Pritha has spies sent after the baby and she knows where he is growing up.


  • Karna’s age difference- He is around 20 years older than Yudishtira. (Read my post on the age difference calculation- link at the bottom)
  • At Drona gurukul, Karna befriends Duryodhana and always tries to harm the Pandavas. He has a special dislike and jealousy towards Arjuna.