Karna’s Wife, The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane is the story of the second wife of Karna, Uruvi. Since the plot is an imagination/fictional reasoning of The Mahabharata, which no one really knows happened or not. But here, I will consider The Mahabharat as history and this book an extension of it, though from the point of view of a less important character.
Uruvi, the princess of Pukeya, has been in love with Karna ever since she set her eyes on him at the archery contest in Hastinapur. Adorned with a glistening armor and earrings, Karna looked godly to the pubescent Uruvi. Immediately giving away her heart to the young man, she held on to her desire to wed the man one day, until it actually happened years later, even though she had to throw tantrums and behave like a spoilt brat with her parents for their permission. The reluctance of her parents and their words of caution did not matter to her, for she was a woman in love, believing that she could take on everything that comes her way if she got her man, the sutputra Karna. She had her wish realized at her swayamwar, choosing Karna over the favorite Arjuna, in turn infuriating the whole kshatriya clan.As Karna’s second wife, Uruvi wonders if she brought distance between Vrushali, his first wife, and him. Living in his modest palace in Anga, Uruvi began enjoying marital bliss, trying to turn a deaf ear to wagging tongues about her supposed fall from disgrace because of her marriage to a pariah. It was not long before that Karna too, fell in love with his new wife, and to such an extent that he started spending all his time with her. Though Karna was not respected because of his lowly caste, it was Duryodhan who had been with him, giving him the respect he deserved. But since Uruvi had known Duryodhan from her childhood, she warned, at times begged Karna to dissuade himself from the Kuru prince. Karna, with his unwavering loyalty and friendship towards the prince, refused, each and every single time, though deep down he knew he wasn’t on the right side, he could not cheat the one person in the whole world who didn’t mind his company, despite him being of a low caste.What follows is the predictable turn of events, the setting up of Indraprastha by Pandavas, the Rajsuya Yagya, the showcasing of their palace by Draupadi and her insult of Duryodhan eventually leading to the fateful dice game and her molestation by the Kauravas in the royal court of Hastinapur. The Pandavas and their wife vow to return to take back what is their’s after their exile, and if not given their right, to wage a war. When Uruvi comes to know the truth behind the shameful incident, she confronts Karna, who was responsible for inciting the Kauravas for doing what they did to Draupadi. Unable to bear to look at her husband any longer, Uruvi decides to leave for her father’s palace with her unborn child. Karna comes to take her back, asking for her forgiveness for what he did to Draupadi in his momentary hate, for Draupadi had insulted him at her swayamwar for being a lowly person. Uruvi, as expected refuses, punishing herself more than Karna by staying away from him. Everyone, from her parents to Kunti try to reason with her, but true to her nature, she stays put, though she agrees to return only after the birth of her child to avoid any scandals. After the birth of Vrishkethu, Uruvi finds herself at her husband’s palace, still not able to forgive Karna and dying a million deaths because of being away from him. Realizing that she had been too harsh on Karna, even though he regrets his actions, Uruvi finally forgives him and goes back into his embrace.As time passes, Vrishkethu grows into a lovable child, whom Kunti adores, and soon it is the time for the Pandavs to return. Despite several peace negotiations from their side, the haughty Kuru prince dismisses them and it is agreed to fight it out on the field of Kurukshetra. Uruvi does her best get Karna distance himself from the impending war, but he refuses her over and over, saying that he can’t leave his friend Duryodhan in his hour of need, and also, he would finally love to battle it out with his arch-rival, Arjuna, to whom he had vowed to kill. Karna’s benevolence was known to everybody, that he never refused a charity at noon after he had paid his respects to the sun god. As a way to make his son win, Indra, Arjuna’s father, disguises himself as a brahmin and asks Karna for his kavach and kundal (armor and earrings), to which Karna obliges. Moved by his generosity, Indra gifts Karna a boon of a weapon. On knowing of Indra’s deceit, Uruvi rages and urges Karna to stay away from the battle, since it would mean his downfall. As usual, Karna refuses and tells her about the result which he already knows, The Pandavs are supposed to win and he, die. Karna reveals a truth about himself to Uruvi, the curses given to him by his Guru Parshuram, that he will forget all his knowledge of warfare when he will need it the most, the villager, that he will die as helplessly as he had killed his cow and the Bhoomidevi, that she will harm him as he had done to her. Hearing this, Uruvi gets shocked but still couldn’t accept.Krishna, as a last measure to stop the war, tells Karna about his parentage – Kunti and the sun God being his birth parents and asks him to side with the Pandavas, but as a righteous man, Karna refuses yet again for he can’t swindle his friend. Kunti does the same, yet with the same result but she manages to take 2 promises from Karna, that he won’t kill any other Pandava except Arjuna and he won’t use any divine weapon twice. On knowing the truth, Uruvi’s temper knows no bounds, and she starts to hate Kunti for her maliciousness. And the 18-day war, thus starts, with the confrontation of Karna and Arjuna on the 17th day, which results in Karna’s death, true to the curses. The Pandavs vanquish the complete Kauravas and emerge victorious. When they are told the truth about Karna’s identity, they are sincerely heart-broken, Arjuna being the most guilt-ridden for killing his brother. But nothing can change what had happened. Uruvi, now mature enough from the tragedies that had befallen, forgives everyone and dedicates her life to bringing up her son and looking after her aged in-laws, just as Karna had wanted.
This book is a detailed acknowledgment of Uruvi’s thoughts. She is portrayed as a headstrong woman throughout the story, as a princess adamant on marrying Karna, as a wife, trying to steer her husband clear of the evil Duryodhan and Shakuni, and as a mother, bringing up her child single-handedly and renouncing the throne of Hastinapur. Her vivaciousness reminds of Draupadi. Uruvi’s love for Karna is the strongest characteristic of her, which is aptly brought out to the readers. Another character that stood out was of Kunti, shown to be having questionable morals. What do you think, could the course of history been altered had Kunti not abandoned Karna or at a later stage, before the war, made it public that he was her son? It is difficult to answer such questions, of what could have happened and whatnot. Having shown Kunti n a light that puts her under the scanner, for somehow abetting the war, the author stirs up a new viewpoint. There are parts that seem to draw inspiration from another book on The Mahabharata, The Palace of Illusions, especially concerning Draupadi and related aspects. Needless to say, Karna’s Wife is a well researched and written book, consolidating all the facts/theories about Karna together. At times, it felt that the descriptions and discussions/arguments were too long (between – Uruvi and her father, Uruvi and Kunti) and the plot seemed to drag on. The book is a good read for all those who have an open mind to accept a parallel explanation of a character or of a situation, and that, a historic man/woman, who has long been a do-gooder/baddie might not be as good or bad as they have been perceived, in fact, mostly all people are grey, white and black are way too perfect for humans.