When Bhima vowed to kill Karna

Strange as the title may seem, it is true that it was Bhimasena who vowed to kill Karna, through Arjuna of course. Similarly, it was Bhimasena who vowed that Shakuni will be killed by Sahadeva.

Popular legends have it that Bhima, during the game of dice, vowed to break the thigh of Duryodhana and drink the blood of Dushashana. It is also wrongly assumed that Arjuna at the same time vowed to kill Karna and Sahadeva vowed to kill Shakuni. The TV serials also show events in this way. But what actually occured was completely different.

It was Sri Madhvacharya, in his magnum opus Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya,  who highlighted the fact that it was Bhima who made all the three vows just after the game of dice. Even the original Mahabharata has the same story. Unfortunately, Mahabharata has been diluted and distorted significantly and this very important aspect has been twisted.

During the game of dice, Bhimasena is the only who protests against the crime (from the Pandavas side of course – along with Vidura from the Kauravas). In fact, he gets extremely upset over Yudhishthira and asks Sahadeva to bring some fire so that he can “burn the hands of Yudhishtira”. When Arjuna objects, Bhima tells him that when elders commit mistakes, insulting them by words is equal to punishing them. The same principle is mentioned by Lord Krishna later during the 17th day of the war when Arjuna intends to kill Yudhishthira (yes, Arjuna tries to kill Yudhisthira! – more about this in another article)!

Later, when the Pandavas lose the game of dice a second time and start to move out of the palace, Dushashana and Duryodhana, aided by Karna and Shakuni, start to heap insults on the Pandavas. At that time, Bhima once again reiterates his vow concerning Dushashana and Duryodhana. And then, he makes two very interesting vows. I quote from the translation available at sacred texts.

I will slay Duryodhana, and Dhananjaya will slay Karna, and Sahadeva will slay Sakuni that gambler with dice. I also repeat in this assembly these proud words which the gods will assuredly make good, if ever we engage in battle with the Kurus, I will slay this wretched Duryodhana in battle with my mace, and prostrating him on the ground I will place my foot on his head. And as regards this (other) wicked person–Dussasana who is audacious in speech, I will drink his blood like a lion”

It is only after this that both Arjuna and Sahadeva take their vows. They both acknowledge Bhima and tell the audience that, as directed by Bhima, they shall slay Karna and Sahadeva.

In the Mahabharata, truly, while Lord Krishna is the “director”, Bhimasena is the “screenplay writer” who ensures that the events unfold as per Krishna’s plans.

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37 Responses to “When Bhima vowed to kill Karna”

  1. Smartboy Says:

    Bhimsen was very logical and practical in his life.
    He told Yuddhistir not to show any sympathy towards Duryodhan,when the latter was captured by Ghandharvs.
    Which could have surely save millions of lives.

    He also lambasted Arjun ,when they forgived Jayadrath.
    And he was main reason for Abhimanyus death.
    He didn’t allow any help to reach to Abhimanyu.

    But his anger got the best of him many times.

  2. Smartboy Says:

    Bhimsen was very logical and practical in his life.
    He told Yuddhistir not to show any sympathy towards Duryodhan,when the latter was captured by Ghandharvs.
    Which could have surely save millions of lives.

    He also lambasted Arjun ,when they forgived Jayadrath.
    And he was main reason for Abhimanyus death.
    He didn’t allow any help to reach to Abhimanyu.

    But he was first one to insult Karna and his father harshly without no reason this incident laid the seed of Bitter relation of Karna and Pandavs

  3. Smartboy Says:

    Bhimsen lost not only to Karna but to many others also.
    If anybody reads the Mahabharat through an open eye and without any bias,
    only Lord Krishna was Invincible.

    Bhimsen defeats are many.

    And if someone reads the last few lines of Lord Krishna at Duryodhan death where he mentioned
    Bhisma, Drona and Karna were league apart from others.

    • Niraj Says:

      Some one please correct me if I am wrong. Doesn’t the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam mention Bheeshma Drona and Karna as timingila fish ?

    • Anand Shankar Says:

      If you follow Krishna then you might have read this verse of Gita where Krishna says that ‘vrishninam asmi vasudeva pandavanam asmi dhananjayah’(I am vasudeva among vrishnis and dhananjaya among pandavas). You might have also read this verse of Gita- ‘yatra yogeshwarah krishnah yatra partho dhanurdharah, tatra shri vijyo bhuti dhruva nitir matir mam’. What other evidence of Arjuna’s greatness you need ?

      • Niraj Says:

        Karna was not a pandava. In any case if this makes Arjuna superior to Karna it makes him superior to bhima as well. Dont know about you but the honourable sri hariprasadji and some of my madhava brothers who dont think highly of me may not agree with arjunas supremacy over bhima either.

        • Anand Shankar Says:

          Karna was a great atirathi and we must accept this. According to Mahabharata he had done some mistakes, but he had many good qualities as well. Though Karna is a great charecter of Mahabharata, yet there are many charecters in Mahabharata that are either equal or superior to Karna. I do not support Arjuna, Bhima, Bhishma or any other charerecter blindly. I only admire the positive qulities in them. I only try to find out truth. I would accept anything in favor of Karna or Drona if that is a fact.

          I am only trying to say that we can not say on the basis of what is given in Mahabharata that Bhishma, Karna and Drona were superior to everyone in Mahabharata.

          Everyone has his favorit and there is nothing wrong in it. I respect madhva brothers. I would say that Bhima was as consistant performer in mahabharata as Arjuna, if not better than him.

          • Raghvendra Verma Says:

            bhimsena is the only character in mahabharat who was a real “Man”. He is the only character who does what he says. When he fought against Karna in battle at that time Karna had taken 20 brothers of duryodhana with him to help him in fighting aganist bhima and bhimsena though was alone but he faced karna and twenty brothers of duryodhana alone and killed all those brothers of duryodhana before the eyes of karna. and also compelled karna to ran away. More over BEFORE FIGHTING with karna, bhima had also fought with dronacharya ,ashwathama and kritverma, and was already wounded and tired.

          • harry Says:

            No bhima defeated karna inwar karna his fell his charioteer save karna frm bhima.. but bhima followed karna on the way he saw the dhusyasan then bhin turn to dhusyasan

  4. Anand Shankar Says:

    Some people say that Bhishma, Drona and Karna were invincible and they were superior to Bhima and Arjuna in prowess. This is absolutely wrong. These three people were great warriors but not greater than Bhima and Arjuna. That is why they could not defeat pandavas. Arjuna had blessings of lord Shiva and Krishna.

    These so called invincible kaurava warriors lost many times. In the battle of virat, Arjuna defeated all these greats. Bhishma, Drona and Karna were unable to save Duryodhana’s brothers from Bhima. Bhishma and Drona always said that pandavas can not be defeated in war. Bhima, Arjuna and Satyaki were able to stop Bhishma’s advance at some occasions. Arjuna did not want himself to slay Bhishma and Drona.

    Drona was unable to defeat mighty panchalas on his own. So he asked kauravas and pandavas to capture Drupada. Bhima and Arjuna defeated panchalas. Drona himself accepted that he can not capture Yudhishthira in the presence of Arjuna. Bhima once made Drona unconscious with fifteen arrows. Drona again lost to Bhima and Styaki on 14th day. Even Dristidyumna and Yudhishthira gave tough fights to Drona. Yudhisthira cut down Drona’s bow many times and neutralized even brahmastra of Drona. Dristidyumna sent Drona in to swoon on 3rd day with a powerful arrow. He neutralized all the celestial weapons including brahmastra of Drona on 15th day of war.

    Bhima had brought Karna under his sway at the time of rajsuya yagna. Karna lost to Drupada(not very old then), gandharva Chitrasena and Arjuna before the kurukshetra war, when Karna had his kavach and kundal with him. He lost to Arjuna twice in kurukshetra before their final war. Bhima defeated Karna repeatedly on 14th day of battle. Satyaki also defeated him that day. Karna lost to Arjuna and failed to protect Jayadratha that day. Bhima defeated Karna on 17th day as well and killed Duhshasan in front of him.

    • Ram Sridhar Says:

      Get this straight. Bhishma, Drona and Karna could not prevail over Arjuna or Bhima because they were fighting for adharma and Lord Krishna was with the Pandavas who were with Dharma. Karna’s kavach and kundal were taken away by Indra, else he alone could have wiped out the entire Pandava army save the Great Lord Krishna. Even without his armor and earrings, he nearly killed Arjuna with the Nagastra. Bhishma, Drona and Karna had to defeated by unfair means beause these warriors are invincible in fair battle. Had Krishna not been there, the battle would have ended on day one. I still stay this – Arjuna and Bhima were not superior to these three, but Lord Krishna and Dharma ultimately made the difference.

      • Anand Shankar Says:

        If Karna was invincible, then why couldn’t he defeat Arjuna in Draupadi’s swayamwar and virat war when he had his ‘kavach and kundal’ ? He lost to gandharva Chitrasena as well with kavach and kundal on. No kavach and kundal can be superior to the blessings of Lord Shiva and Maa Durga. Only Arjuna and not Bhishma, Karna and Drona could greatify lord Shiva and Krishna.

        Arjuna defeated all kaurava generals including Bhishma, Karna and Drona. Arjuna had an upper hand in his encounter with Bhishma in kurukshetra as well. Bhima and Arjuna defeated Karna repeatedly in kurukshetra. Satyaki also defeated him on 14th day. Bhima defeated Drona twice in kurukshetra. Satyaki also defeated him. I accept that Karna gave a tough fight to Arjuna after Vrishsena’s death on 17th day but same day he lost to Bhima and Yudhishthira made him unconscious for a moment with a deadly arrow. If we see the over all performence of Arjuna and Karna in their entire career as warrior, Arjuna seems much superior to Karna. Karna himself said to Shalya that though Arjuna is invincible in war he want to fight with him.

        Only Arjuna had pashupat astra. He could have easily killed Bhishma and Drona, if he wanted to do so. But Arjuna did not want to kill them. All great persons of that time including Krishna, Vyasa, Bhishma and Drona praised Arjuna. Krishna says that ‘vrishninam asmi vasudeva pandavanam asmi dhananjah’(I am Vasudeva among vrishnis and Arjuna among pandavas). You might have read the verse of Gita that says ” yatra yogeshwarah krishnah yatra partho dhanurdharah tatra shri vijayo bhuti dhruva nitir matir mam”. Only Krishna and Arjuna were invincible in kurukshetra war. Bhishma, Karna and Drona were great warriors but they were not invincible.

      • Jaganniwas Iyer Says:

        Karna’s so-called superiority over Arjun is mostly fiction, concocted by the modern-day admirers of Radheya. He was ignominiously put to rout by Vaayuputra Bhimasen, more than convincingly defeated by Arjun, Satyaki and Abhimanyu and nearly met his end at Ghatotkach’s hands. If one waxes eloquent about his Nagastra, the sheer armoury of divyastras – especially Lord Shiva’s Pashupataastra – at Arjun’s command would have wiped out a million Karnas. That Arjun did not even contemplate using them to settle individual scores speaks volumes of his pure and lofty character – unlike Karna, who wouldn’t have minded masaccaring millions of innocent human beings by using the Brahmastra against Arjun, if he had managed to learn it. Thank Lord Parashuram, that he did not allow this liar to learn the most potent of astras. Much is made of Karna’s supposedly “invincible” and “impenetrable” kavach (armour) and kundalas (earrings). Evidently, his invincible armour could not prevent his defeats at Kampilya (against Drupada) and Arjun (at Kampilya again, at Draupadi’s swayamvar and at Viratnagar, where Arjun truly inflicted a most ignominiuous defeat on him (Karna had his famed coat of armour still on then), apart from putting to rout the other Kuru warriors, aka, Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and Ashwatthama.

        • Niraj Says:

          If Lord Shivas pashupat astra is so superior to any weapon then its Lord Shiva who is supreme. Arjunas regular failure against naryana weapons like vaishnav astra bhargava astra and narayana astra is also leaves some food for thought. If arjuna did not fire pashupat astra at kurukshetra and it gives him a clean chit then karna did not fire bhargava astra at virata yudha or any other celestial weapon.

          • Niraj Says:

            Not that I am a very strong advocator of K. M .Ganguly but its widely accepted that his translation is more or less closest to accuracy. Let me quote an incident which clarifies that in Mahabharata Pashupat astra was NOT most powerful weapon

            “ Whatever feats Drona performed for vanquishing the son of Kunti, were all counteracted by Arjuna’s performing similar feats. When Drona failed to gain any ascendency over the son of Pandu, the son of Bharadwaja, that warrior acquainted with the course of all weapons, invoked into existence the Aindra, the Pasupata, the Tvashtra, the Vayavya, and the Yamya weapons. As soon as those weapons, issued from Drona’s bow, Dhananjaya destroyed them quickly. When his weapons were thus duly destroyed by Arjuna with his own weapons, Drona shrouded the son of Pandu with the mightiest of celestial weapons. Every weapon, however, that Drona shot at Partha from desire of vanquishing the latter, was shot by Partha in return for baffling it. Seeing all his weapons, even the celestial ones, duly baffled by Arjuna, Drona applauded the latter in his heart. That chastiser of foes, O Bharata, regarded himself superior to every person in the world acquainted with weapons, in consequence of Arjuna having been his pupil. Thus resisted by Partha in the midst of all those illustrious warriors, Drona, struggling with vigour, cheerfully resisted Arjuna (in return), wondering all the while. Then the celestials and Gandharvas in thousands, and Rishis and bodies of Siddhas, were seen on all sides in the welkin. Filled with (those as also with) Apsaras and Yakshas andRakshasas, it once more seemed that the welkin”

            My observation – Here we see the Pasupata weapon fired by drona and arjuna standing up to it. But Arjuna could not stand up to the naryana weapons and bhargava astra. He did not make any comment on dronas pasupata as he made on karnas bhargavastra. He could stand up to pasupata weapon but not naryana weapon. Hence Arjuna did not use Pasupat weapon as it was very dangerous and hence cut a sorry figure is an invalid excuse and Pasupat being the most powerful weapon too is invalid purely going by MB as Arjuna stood up to Pasupat but could not stand up to the narayana weapons and bhargavastra.

          • Jaganniwas Iyer Says:

            Lord Shiva’s supremacy is a given – it is unquestionable. The “failure” against the Narayana astra, as you say, was NO failure of Arjun at all. He simply obeyed Maha Vishnu’s (in Shri Krishna form then) command to not oppose the astra and simply bow in reverence to it. The reason is simple, Krishna is the Supreme Narayana, Arjun is his Nara, an inseparable part of Narayana. The question of failing against their own astras is ridiculous. Arjun was blessed by Lord Shiva with the supreme and unvanquishable knowledge of Dhanurveda. This blessing of Shiva comes ONLY after the bhakti of Shri Maha Vishnu, the Supreme. Arjun’s bhakti of Vishnu won him the bhakti of Shiva, i.e., combined blessings of Shri Harihara, and was blessed with the supreme Dhanurveda, which resides only in Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Such a one is truly invincible, a thousand Karnas notwithstanding. Arjun did not fail against Bhargav astra or any other astra Karna despatched against him. Dhananjay had an answer to all of them. The reason for Karna not using more powerful celestial astras was not his “goodness”, but because he did not posses the proper knowledge of those astras. Lord Parasuram (and Dronacharya before him) wisely denied him this knowledge. Given Karna’s nature, those great acharyas were right. Moreover, Karna was soundly defeated by Vayuputra Bhimsen, and made to flee the battlefield five times. He managed one small victory against Bhim, and this was sufficient for him to crow about, as though he’d won the war for the Kauravas ( a feat he clearly was incapable of).

            • Niraj Says:

              Sri Jaganniwas Iyer
              “ Lord Shivas supremacy is given its unquestionable. “ “ with the supreme Dhanurveda, which resides only in Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva” Ie my comprehension says that you consider Lord Shiva on Par with Lord Vishnu. If so As a humble devotee of Lord Shiva I am actually thrilled to hear this. Humbly request you to prove from our Vedas puraanas ( satvik ) or Upanishads this statement that Shiva is supreme or on par with Sri Vishnu me and my descendants will be indebted to you for life.

              • Jaganniwas Iyer Says:

                Niraj, I am a humble devotee of the Supreme One, in His Manifestation in the Forms of Shiva and Vishnu (Brahma too, but the Pitamaha isn’t much worshipped in the Kali Yuga). I do not claim any scholarship. However, since you are a fellow devotee of Lord Shiva, permit me to offer a few humble offerings at the Lord’s feet. The Shri Shiva Mahapurana explicitly FORBIDS comparisons like “Shiva is greater; or Vishnu is greater”. Such comparison-mongers are guilty of sowing divisions amongst the adherents of Sanatana Dharma and destined for Narak, i.e., hell. The Shri Mahavishnu Purana says “Mahavishnu ev Mahashiva” (Vishnu is verily Shiva). I don’t have the exact shloka numbers and references right now, but will obtain them and post them later. The Mahabharat is our fifth Veda. Its Van Parva (the episode of the Pandavs’ 12-year exile), narrates Arjun’s successful tapasya of Lord Shiva, and is blessed with His Divine Darshan (after the Lord puts him to test by doing battle with him) and Shiva’s Pasupataastra. In his obeisance, Arjun sings the praises of the Lord thus: “अजेयस्त्वं त्रिभिर्लोकै: सदेवासुरमानुषै: । शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिव रूपिणे ॥” Lord! Thou art completely invincible for all the worlds; completely unconquerable for any one amongst the devas, asuras or humans. Lord, Thou art Shiva in the Form of Mahavishnu! And Thou art Mahavishnu in the Form of Shiva! Thou art the Supreme Lord of all Creation. I bow to Thee!” Shiva is the foremost Vaishnav and Mahavishnu is the foremost Shaivite. Shri Mahavishnu in his Shri Ram Avtar says (Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas), while worshipping Lord Shiva at Rameshwaram, before setting forth to Lanka: “लिंग थापि विधिवत करि पूजा। शिव समान प्रिय मोहि न दूजा॥ शिवद्रोही मम भगत कहावा। सो नर सपनेऊ मोहि न पावा॥” “Of all, Shiva is most dear to Me; he who turns away from Shiva can forget about attaining Me”. Need we say anymore? Jai Shiv Shankar! Jai Shri Narayan Hari!! May the Blessings of Shri Harihara be upon all of us.
                Jaganniwas Iyer

  5. vijay Says:

    bhima many times fight with karna and karna ran away from bottile field

  6. RAGHAVENDRA Says:

    NAMSAKARA,
    SIR PLEASE ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND WHAT EVER(MAHABHARATA,BHAGAVATA,PURANAS,RAMAYAN) YOU READ
    WILL LEAD YOU TO CONFUSION SOMEWHERE SOMEHOW. JEEVOTTAMA VAYU AVATARA SRI MADHVACHARYA HAS GIVEN GUIDELINES TO UNDERSTAND AND INTERPRET THESE PURANAS.”HARI SARVOTTAMA AND VAYU JEEVOTTAMA.” ANY THING THAT IS CONTRADICTORY TO THIS IS FALSE AND DONT BELIEVE THEM. BHAGAVAN VEDA VYSA HAS WANTEDLY WRITTEN LIKE THAT TO GIVE WRONG KNOWLEDGE TO TAMASIK PEOPLE.
    BHEEMASENA IS INVINCIBLE.AND IS SUPERIOR TO ALL EXCEPT KRISHNA.
    AND KRISHNA AND BHEEMA HAVE 100% UNDERSTANDING.NOT A SINGLE MIS UNDERSTANDING.
    WHAT EVER KRISHNA WANTS TO DO THAT ONLY IS CARRIED OUT BY BHEMASENA,
    100% VAISHNAVA. BHEEMASENA SAMONASTI SENAYOR UBHAYO RAPI
    PANDHITYAECHA PATUTVECHA SURATVEPI BALEPICHA.
    PLEASE DONT HAVE SLIGHTEST OF DOUBT IN THIS
    NAMSKARA


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