Once there lived a woman named Kunti. She served sage Durvasa for a full year when he was a guest at her father’s palace. Pleased with her service, he gave her a boon that allowed her to bear a child from a God of her choosing. Kunti, who wanted to test the boon before even getting married, immediately worshipped the Sun God and used the boon to get a child in His image. A boy was born with golden armour and earrings attached to his body. He was named Karna. He also had the strength and radiance of his father. But since Kunti only wanted to test the boon and never really wanted a son, she abandoned Karna by setting him afloat on a river.
Baby Karna was then picked up by Dhritarashtra’s charioteer, Adhiratha (Shudra by caste). Karna was raised by Adhiratha and his wife Radha and hence Karna is also known as Radheya. Though Karna knew he was adopted by them, he never stopped loving them as his own parents. Once Karna grew up, he wanted to become a warrior and he approached Dronacharya. But Dronacharya refused to teach him, as Karna was a Shudra. Karna then knew his caste would hinder his path to becoming a warrior. So, he approached Parashurama, who taught Brahmans to become warriors. Karna went under the guise of a brahman and started to learn under Parashurama. Soon, he learnt everything and in fact exceeded Parashurama in terms of skill. But one day Parashurama came to know of Karna’s true identity and planned to keep a hidden test. He asked Karna to get a pillow so that he could sleep. Instead Karna offered his own thigh as a pillow and Parashurama agreed. Once he was asleep, an insect came and bit Karna’s thigh, but he did not flinch, in order to not disturb his guru’s sleep. But, the blood which flowed from the wound, woke Parashurama up. He then knew Karna was a kshatriya by caste and cursed him (because Parashurama hated kshatriyas and only taught brahmans) saying that he would forget the spell to call upon his weapon at the most needed time. Karna then pleaded with Parashurama saying that he was a Shudra and that any student would show such dedication towards their guru. Parashurama being unable to remove the curse, instead offered his personal bow, Vijaya and also told him that he would achieve everlasting honour.
On the way back to his home, Karna shot and killed a cow by accident. The brahmin who owned the cow, came and cursed Karna that during the most important battle in his life, his chariot wheel would get stuck and he would be open to attack from the enemy. Karna then went back home and informed his parents about the training he had undergone.
Karna now set out to join the court of Hastinapura. There, in a tournament, he faced difficulty to compete as he could not state from which clan he was. This was when Duryodhana stepped up and offered Karna the kingdom of Anga, so that he could compete in the tournament. Karna was overjoyed and asked Duryodhana as to how he could repay him. It was then that Duryodhana