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Karna's Three Promises From Krishna
Karna was one of the bravest warriors in the Mahabharata. Though he fought from the Kouravas' side, yet he was very dear to Lord Krishna because of his innocent heart. He was a righteous man and a brave warrior. One of the masters of archery, he had to suffer various hardships right from his childhood.
Armor From His Father
Karna was the son of Kunti, who was also the mother of the Pandavas. Being born as a blessing from Lord Surya Dev, he is today known as Surya Putra Karna (the son of Sun). Stories abound telling about his bravery. His own father Surya Dev had given him a Kavach (armor), by the virtue of which nobody could ever defeat him. However, the stories about his generous heart too are not less popular. Because of this, he is also known as Danveer Karna - the brave donor Karna.
Surya Dev Warned Him
According to one such story, he used to water the Sun God every day. It is said that he would give away anything he might ask him for, as a donation. We know that Arjuna and Karna were enemies in the battle of Mahabharata. Both of them were equally good in the art of warship.
But because of the Kavach that Sun God had given, Karna had an edge over him. With a fear in his heart, Lord Indra Dev decided to appear before Karna while he would be offering water to Sun, the next time and ask him for the Kavach as a donation.
When Surya Dev came to know about Indra Dev's intentions, he tried to warn Karna and told him not to offer him water the next time. But Karna would neither agree to break his principles nor be the one to not pay respect to Sun God by choosing not to offer him water, for the fear of donation.
Indra Dev Disguised As A Brahmin
He again reached the banks of the river early morning and there Indra Dev disguised as a Brahmin (priest) came to Karna, after he had finished offering the water to Sun God. Indra Dev asked him for his Kavach, which Karna happily gave away. However, Indra Dev was impressed by his generosity, in return of which he gave a divine Astra (weapon), which he could use for his protection but only once.
Karna Defeated At The Hands Of Arjuna
This incident became a major factor for his defeat at the hands of Arjuna. While fighting the battle, Karna used the divine weapon given by Indra Dev, much before he got the chance to fight with Arjuna. Hence, he faced defeat at Arjuna's hands. However, his devotion for the Almighty, his good deeds throughout his life and his dedication for righteousness were unparalleled, which became the major cause why he was so dear to Lord Vishnu.
Krishna Blessed Karna
Hurt at his defeat, Lord Krishna appeared before him and asked him for his last wishes. Karna asked him for three promises, which were as mentioned below.
The Three Promises
1.According to the first promise, he asked that the differentiation on the basis of caste and creed should be ended. He was born as a blessing given to Surya Dev to Kunti, when she was unmarried. Her being a mother in an unmarried status might have raised questions at her character, fearing from which she hid this son of hers from the eyes of the society. Because of his secret upbringing, Karna was known as the Sut Putra (belonging to a lower caste). He had to suffer from bias at various places due to this. The biggest bias being when Guru Dronacharya denied to accept him as his student. He wanted this bias not to trouble any man in the future.
2.The second promise he took from Lord Krishna was that Krishna's next birth should be in his (Karna's) state. Whenever he takes another incarnation, the place should be that which Karna also belongs to.
3.The third promise was that his (Karna's) cremation be done at a place where no paap (misdeed) has ever taken place. It should be a place pure of sins and free from it. Since there was no such place left after the battle of Mahabharata, it is said that Lord Krishna made his cremation be done in the palms of his own hands.