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The coronation of Karna

I made an attempt to translate one of my favourite scenes from the movie Daana Veera Shoora Karna. There could be a few words that I have not translated, but overall, I think I managed to convey the spirit of the dialogues, especially the ones by Suyodhana.

Scene: The Court of Kaurava king Dhritarashtra. The court opens on to a ground. The Kaurava and Pandava princes, the elders of the clan, and other courtiers are present. The public is seated around the ground, where an exhibition of skills has been going on. Arjuna has emerged as the best fighter among all.

Drona: In the entire Bharata Khanda, my favorite disciple, the third Pandava prince Arjuna is the best and the incomparable among the archers; he is best warrior in the entire world.
Arjuna twangs his bow.
Suyodhana (Duryodhana) is unhappy but doesn't have an answer to this claim.

Drona: In the science of archery, on this entire landmass surrounded by the four oceans, there is no one who can compete against Arjuna. No one ! No one !

Enter Karna saying: There is (some one) ! There is ! There is !

From the gallery, Kunti looks at Karna and recognizes him immediately.A mix of happiness and worry cloud her face.

Drona: Who are you?
Karna: O Drona, the teacher famous for harming his disciples ! Have you already forgotten who I am ? Ask the right thumb of Ekalavya, that which you cut in the guise of Guru Dakshina (gift for the teacher).It will remind you who I am.
Drona: You have dared to compete against Kshatriya princes. What is your name?
Karna: Karna
Drona: Who are your parents?

Karna is silent.

Bheeshma: Brave one ! Speak up ! who are your parents?
Kunti is aghast.

Karna looks around and says: It is my dharma to respectfully mention my parents who are like Gods to me.
Takes a step forward. "I am the son of Radha."
Kunti hides her face.She is in tears now.
Karna: I am the son of Atiradha.

Drona: Your caste?
Karna: I am a charioteer.Born in the carpenter caste.
Drona: People from your caste are not eligible to fight against Kshatriyas.

Kunti is grief stricken and faints into her seat.A hurt Karna turns and starts to leave.

Suyodhana: Stop ! stop there !

Karna halts and looks at Suyodhana. The eldest Kaurava prince walks up the steps towards the throne where the high courtiers are sitting near the king.Drona is among them, standing upright and looking at Karna in contempt.

Suyodhana (chuckling loudly) : Acharya (teacher) ! What, what did you say ?
Are you saying that because of his caste he can't stand and compete with us? What a (silly) statement !

This is a test of Kshaatra (skills of warfare), not a test for Kshatriyas. Are you saying its wrong, and it is a test based on caste? How was your father Bharadwaja born ? What about the disgusting manner of your own birth? Weren't you born in a clay pot ? What is your caste, then?

(laughs, turns and walks towards Bheeshma and other elders of the clan)

Looking at Bheeshma: Why all this talk? Isn't this great grandfather of ours, the son of King Saantana, born in the womb of river Ganga ? What is his caste?(Continues to laugh and snigger)

Why are you making me say all this ? Isn't the progenitor of our clan, the sage Vashista, born to Urvasi, the prostitute of Gods?

And then, Vashista married a dalit girl Arundhati to give birth to Shakti. This Shakti mated with the daughter of a graveyard keeper and Parasara was born. This Parasara married a village belle Matsyagandhi and our grandfather Vyaasa was born.And this Vyaasa mated with widows - he had my father with Ambika and my uncle Pandu with Ambalika; and he even went to bed with a slave of the royal household to give birth to Vidura here, whom all of you praise as the very incarnation of 'Dharma'.

On so many occassions and for so many expediencies, our Kuru clan made either the Kshetra (egg) or the bija (sperm) as the primary line (primogeniture), and has become a mongrel of castes long back.

And after all this, why are we making an empty argument, on caste?

Bheeshma (gets up now ): My son, Suyodhana !
Su: Yes, grandfather !
Bheeshma: Much water has flown, and it is not in our mandate to discuss the origins of great rishis.

Suyodhana laughs irreverently in response.

Bheeshma: You are absolutely right that this is a test of warfare and not a test of caste. All those with an aptitude for warfare become Kshatriyas. But only those who have a kingdom can be called Kings. This, then is a competition among kings.Only a king can compete in this council of Kuru clan.

Suyodhana: O ho ! Is it monarchical trappings that decide eligibility of an individual, then ?

Ponders this complication, twirls his moustache, and comes to a decision.Starts walking down the steps and into the centre of the court.

Suyodhana: Then, I am declaring and crowning Karna as the king of Anga (parts of modern day Bihar), the land that is fertile and wealthy.

Brother Dussasana, get me a crown encrusted with nine types of diamonds.Make it fast !
Uncle Sakuni, the king of Gandhara (modern day Afghanistan), please bring a throne made of pure gold and all kinds of gems !
Royal valets ! Please bring vessels filled with water from the holy river Bhagirathi (old name of river Yamuna/Jamuna) !

Musicians ! Let the auspicious sounds of celebration be heard by every one !
Royal Usherers ! Sing the praises of emperor Karna !

Pious women ! Get Karna ready by applying tilak on his forehead, and sandal paste on his body. Let his glow and aroma create desires and awe the crowd !

And I, Suyodhana, amid this august gathering of learned and the brave, amid the public that has gathered here, want to declare an end to this ugly pest called caste ! Not once, but with force enough for a hundred and a thousand deaths to this evil called caste ! Not just for now, but for ever in this land !

Karna looks up in awe and admiration at the young, radical, social reformer prince. Kunti is shedding tears of happiness.Karna has become a king and Suyodhana has earned a friend who will stand by him till death.And even after.


This scene (in Telugu) is available here :
N.T.Rama Rao played three roles in this film - Suyodhana, Karna and Sri Krishna. He also directed the film, apart from giving creative inputs into the dialogues and screenplay.


Anonymous said…
Dear Kumar,
Heartfelt thanks for this post. God bless you and yours.
Vivek Iyer
Kumar Narasimha said…
Dear Vivek,

My pleasure.Thanks for visiting my blog.

Satya said…
Never quite liked NTR the politician but he is without doubt an actor par excellence! This movie in general and this scene in particular show why he is such a versatile actor as well as the command he had over Telugu! Good translation, by the way. Neat job!
Dear Mr Kumar,
I am a researcher on Karna, and am presently writing on Karna in Hindu Mythology and the character's impact on Cinema. The Tamil and Telugu celluloid interpretations are extremely important here, I have been told. I have been trying to get someone to translate DVSK in English for me to understand for a very long time, since I do not speak either Tamil or Telugu. Thanks for your excellent write up. Can you please help me understand some other scenes as well? If it is okay, can you please send me an email at deepamjee at gmail dot com, so that I can get in touch?
Warm regards,
Deepam Chatterjee
Kumar Narasimha said…
Thanks, Satya. Yes, even NTR's worst detractors as a politician will have to agree that he is one of a kind as an actor, especially in Puranic films.Makes me proud to be a Telugu.


You can write to me at my gmail id: narasimhakumar.

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