When we think of Kauravas, the names that immediately come to our mind are those of Duryodhana and Dushasana. They are infamous for their ill deeds and the torture that they did to the Pandavas. These two were the eldest and there were 98 Kauravas of which little is known about. In fact, it is a rare occurrence to find even the names of the other Kauravas that played a vital role in the Kurukshetra war. However, one of the Kauravas managed to make a mark except for the two well-known Kauravas – Vikarna.
Vikarna is a portmanteau of Vina (without) or Vishala (large) and Karna (ears). The meaning of his name is in two possible variants. The first meaning being a person who does not listen to anyone else but only himself and the other meaning being that a person who listens to everyone and has a lot of wisdom. It is interesting to note that the two meanings go perfectly with the character sketch of Vikarna. Vikarna stood up against his own brothers and not hearing their ideas often and he was also wise enough to know that Pandavas were right in their pursuit of the kingdom.
Vikarna was an excellent archer and was only inferior to Arjuna in terms of skills and valour. He tried to capture the palace of Drupada as Gurudakshina to Drona but failed. He had to retreat from the palace and the palace was conquered by Arjuna.
Vikarna’s greatest move was that of his stance against the wrongdoings of his brothers. He warned Yudhishthira against the game of dice and was openly against the cheerharan of Draupadi. He even tried to stop Dushasana from committing the heinous crime of Draupadi’s cheerharan. He said that the insult of their sister in law is an insult to the kingdom and a stain on the reputation of Hastinapur. His words were paid no heed and he was shut down by Karna and Duryodhana.
Ever since day one, Vikarna knew that Pandavas were right in what they sought and he supported them openly. The incident at the court during the game of dice was evidence of that. However, he was also a staunch follower of Dharma who believed that it is his moral duty to follow his brother’s orders. Thus, he participated in the war from the Kauravas’ side and fought with full dignity, honour, and sincerity.
It is thus a mark of honour when Bhima, who had taken a vow to kill all the Kauravas for the insult of his wife wanted to spare him because of his righteousness. Bhima had great respect and admiration for Vikarna and was reluctant to kill him when he was given a chance. Vikarna sensed this hesitation and he openly said to Bhima that he should kill him. Both the brothers have to obey their elder brother’s orders and they should have no hesitation to follow their Dharma. Thus, Bhima killed Vikarna but he lamented and mourned the death of such a dignified and righteous fellow.
No wonder that Vikarna is considered a parallel to Kumbhkarana who fought for Ravana knowing Ram was on the right path.