Who has the rights over the last rites of Karna after his death? 

Is it the Pandavas- who after his death, came to know that Karna was their brother?

Or is it Duryodhana- whose Chief commander and the best friend was Karna?

Mahabharata is the source of several dilemmas and questions which can rattle your brain. The episodes and events in the Mahabharata are fertile grounds for arguments. both pro- and contra-.

Is there a better way to learn arguments and lawyering?

                                                       PART 1: KARNA’S DEATH


Karna was born to the Queen Kunti prior to her marriage out of an ‘accidental contact’ with the Sun God. Fearing political, moral and social backlash-Kunti decided to abandon the newborn in the River Ganga.

As destiny would have it, the child did not perish but was rescued by a childless charioteer downstream, who with his wife Radhe raised him as his own. 

As a result- the son of Kunti (Kaunteya) was known to the rest of the world as the son of Radhe (Radheya).

In a feudal setup such as that of India- Radheya faced many humiliations at the hands of the royal class despite him being a warrior par excellence. His parentage was insulted whenever he sought an easy comparison to Arjuna – one of the Pandavas and arguably the best warrior of the times.

Oblivious of his royal lineage, Karna faced insults, humiliations and rejections until Duryodhana- one of the Kauravas, the cousins of the Pandavas and a sworn enemy of theirs, decided to take Karna under his wings and anointed him the King of a small area called Anga Desha.

Karna never forgot this favour and gesture of friendship by Duryodhana and devoted his life to supporting him in all his acts- good or evil.

This was all very convenient till the arrival of the great war-the Mahabharata, when Lord Krishna revealed to Karna, his real identity. Though shocked, he decided to stay loyal to Duryodhana and fight on his side.

Arjuna and the rest of the Pandavas and even Duryodhana had no inkling of Karna’s true identity till the day he was killed in the battlefield at the hands of Arjuna.


Picture this!

The dead body of Karna on the battlefield.

On the one side are the Pandavas, who have recently learnt that they have ‘accidentally’ killed their own brother.

On the other side is Duryodhana, who has lost a friend and has also come to realise that Karna, despite knowing that the Radheya was a Kauntey, still fought and died for him.



Who has the rights over the last rites of Karna after his death? 

Is it the Pandavas- who after his death, came to know that Karna was their brother?

Or is it Duryodhana- whose Chief commander and the best friend was Karna?


Pandavas can claim the right over Karna’s body on the basis of their filial relationship, him being their real brother, in keeping with the Hindu tradition and religious practice.

Duryodhana can claim the same right on the basis of Karna being his army’s Chief commander and his best friend.


The pertinent question is: Who was Karna at the last moment of his life?

If he was a Kaunteya- the claim of Pandavas would weigh heavy.

While if he was a Radheya, Duryodhana’s rights are more legitimate.

Let us ask Arjuna:

  • Who did he shoot his arrow at- Kaunteya or Radheya?
  • Whom did Arjuna kill- Kaunteya or Radheya?

The answer obviously is – Radheya.

Similarly, the rest of the world (most of), including Duryodhana knew Karna as Radheya. 

This is called as Cognizance– whatever one is Conscious of.

As per Sec.3 of Indian Evidence Act, Fact means and includes —-

(i) Anything, state of things or relation of things, capable of being perceived by the senses. 

For example—-

a) A, a man, saw something, it is a fact

b) B, a woman, said some words, it is fact.

c) C, a man, is riding on a horse, it is a fact.

d) Some chairs are arranged in a certain order in a certain place, it is a fact.

(ii) Any Mental condition of which any person is conscious.


As Karna was Radheya, a friend of Duryodhana and the Chief commander of his army within the cognizance(conscious knowledge) of the parties to the dispute, in his lifetime till the last living breath, the rights of Duryodhana over him after his death finds more merit.

PS- Incidentally, this is exactly what Lord Krishna decided as per the Mahabharata.

Hope you appreciate the merits of the arguments and are impressed by the vast wisdom of the Mahabharata, correctly referred to as the Fifth Veda.

Please feel free to counter or add new arguments in the comments section.

I intend to keep this series alive and look at other such dilemmas from the Mahabharata.

Adv.Sidharth Arora 
Supreme Court of India 
A-1/121 Janakpuri, New Delhi. 

DISCLAIMER: Through this article, we wish to help those who are in genuine need of help and are willing to understand the law. This is not a solicitation, advertisement or a substitute of professional legal advice. It does not create any client-attorney relationship.


  1. Thank you so much sir for this wonderful article filled with the wisdom of mahabharat and your lucid yet interesting way of telling this story.
    I am lucky to be studying under you as per the Unacademy plus course.
    Thanks a lot for your existence sir ji..The God of Indian POLITY.

    Thanks and regards,


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