CHENNAI: The greatness of the Mahabharata is second only to the Vedas because of the subtle presence of Vedic teaching throughout this epic. Whatever is written in this text about the four goals of life — righteousness (Dharma), wealth (Artha), desire (Kama) and liberation (Moksha) — is only replicated in other texts and what is not given here will not be found anywhere else. Human emotions such as pride, anger, affection, loyalty, envy, etc. — that affect all beings across birth, status, scholarship, etc. — are etched in the narrative. The chief objective of the Mahabharata is defining righteousness and explaining it.

In a lecture, Dr. Sudha Seshaiyan pointed out that the war though fought according to the code of law and righteousness, also brought to the fore many instances when both the sides threw caution to the winds and engaged in wrong and sinful deeds.

Karna was doomed to live with a sense of insecurity because of his anonymous parentage. Karna is equal to Arjuna in valour and archery. He is determined to kill Arjuna, and though he could have easily done away with the rest of the Pandavas, stood by his promise to Kunti. When Karna took over as the commander-in-chief for the Kauravas, he made Duryodhana provide him with as skilled a charioteer as Arjuna's.

King Salya was a valiant and experienced warrior and Duryodhana had manoeuvred to win King Salya, the uncle of the Pandavas, to his side by providing excellent hospitality. Karna knew Salya as an experienced and valiant warrior and asked Duryodhana to make Salya his charioteer. Salya accepted to do so after much persuasion but also extracted a promise that Karna would listen to him.

At the crucial moment of the Karna-Arjuna confrontation, the much-awaited moment in Karna's life, when Karna decided to aim the Naga-astra at Arjuna, Salya gave a timely warning to target Arjuna's heart and not his head, as he expected such a strategy would be effective at this juncture. But Karna's habitual sense of insecurity that slighted this intervention and doubted the validity of this advice led him to his doom.