Bala Devi Chandrashekar premieres
Karna - Destiny's Child
Dec 18, 2015 - Jan 7, 2016 South India

November 18, 2015

This December season, Bharatanatyam dancer Bala Devi Chandrashekar presents KARNA – DESTINY’S CHILD. Bala Devi is the artistic director of Shree Padma Nrityam Academy of Performing Arts based in New Jersey.

KARNA is one of the most fascinating characters of Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic written  two millennium ago.  Karna was invincible, supreme warrior with immense strength and valor. He was known for his generosity and is among the most popular and complex characters in the Mahabharata, showing both nobility and unjust behavior over the course of the epic.

Karna was the reincarnation of a demon Sahasrakavacha - "one of a thousand armors" who had caused immense suffering to helpless people. Before he could be cleansed of his impurities completely, he took refuge in Surya who was compelled to shelter him. Karna had to take a bodily form to complete his karmic journey. Karna fought against misfortune throughout his life and kept his word under all circumstances.  Karrna was chained in the bond of his own actions and its result.

This production explores all hues of Karna’s emotions trapped in moral dilemmas, the angst and the conflict with which he grew up all his life. Karna was the first-born son of Kunti and abandoned at birth as he was conceived before Kunti’s marriage. The child was found by Adhiratha, a charioteer and his wife Radha who raised Karna as their own son and named him Vasusena. He was also known as Radheya - the son of Radha. Karna was naturally inclined to the art of warfare and approached Dronacharya. Drona refused to take Karna as his student, since Karna was not a Kshatriya.  Karna was determined to learn advanced skills of archery and hence he decided to learn from Parashurama.  Guru Parasurama flies into a rage and curses Karna after finding out he is not a Brahmin but a Kshatriya; Karna also invokes a Brahmin's curse killing a cow.

In the Mahabharata war, Karna was obliged to fight from the side of Duryodhana as Duryodhana recognizing his merits had made him a king and adopted him as a close friend. Karna fighting from Kaurava's side was a great worry of Pandavas as he was reputed to be unconquerable in war. At the behest of Lord Krishna and with cunning deception Indra takes from Karna his armour and earrings (a protective shield that he was born with) so that Karna would be defenseless against Arjuna in the Kurukshetra battlefield. Karna’s mother Kunti  extracted a couple of promises from Karna including that he will not kill any of the Pandavas except Arjuna and against Arjuna he will not use the same celestial weapon twice.

Karna exhibited godly traits – much like the sun – of dazzling brilliance and unending generosity, but in Karna’s life there was one fatal flaw. He made his friendship and loyalty to Duryodhana at the cost of being unrighteous. While loyalty is a great value, when it overrides a sense of dharma and even the direct calling of the divine in the form of Shri Krishna, such loyalty leads one to a tragic end. Karna’s end was the culmination of holding on to adharma, resulting in Parasurma's curse,  Draupadi's humiliation,  Abhimanyu’s treacherous killing,  Karna’s complex relationship with Bhisma clearing up only on Bhishma's deathbed and Shalya's betrayal at a crucial time in the battle. 

At the time of battle, it was not possible to kill Karna.  Lord Krishna explained to Arjuna that the Dharma devata herself was protecting Karna from death because of the good karma Karna earned by giving charity during his lifetime. Krishna said wherever Dharma is present there is victory and this time Dharma was with the side of Karna. So Krishna went down from his chariot and appeared as a Brahmin and asked for Karna’s good karma to him as charity.  Karna offers all his good karma at His feet for redemption.   Krishna rewards Karna with the Vishwaroopam.

Ultimately Karna was a hero in the truest sense - an almost free beautiful and pure soul with only a huge baggage of good deeds acquired by his vast charity. This would have compelled him to take another birth, but Lord Krishna’s last act of taking it all away freed him of that too. The story of Karna exhibits the qualities of friendship, charity and valor. Karna attains veeraswargam as a true Kshatriya. Karna's life will remain as an eternal beacon of light in the world until the sun, moon and the five elements are there.
Concept and Chorography: Bala Devi Chandrashekar
Compiled by: Umayalpuram Jagadeesan
Script: Pappu Venugopla Rao
Music: Rajkumar Bharathi

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