Mahabharata character
Family Dhritarashtra (father)
Gandhari (mother)
Relatives Duryodhana, Dushasana, 97 other brothers and Duhsala (sister)

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Vikarna (Sanskrit-विकर्ण) is a Kaurava, a son of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari and a brother to the crown prince Duryodhana. Vikarna is universally referred to as the third-most reputable of Kauravas. Usually, he is also indicated as the third-oldest son, but in other sources, the "third-strongest" reputation remained and it is implied that Vikarna is just one of Gandhari's 99 children (after Duryodhana and Dussasana). Vikarna was the only Kaurava who questioned the humiliation of Draupadi, the wife of his cousin Pandavas, after they lost her in a game of dice to Duryodhana.


The word Vikarna has two meanings. Basically it is made from two words. First word is vinā (विना)(ವಿನಾ) or vishāla (विशाल)(ವಿಶಾಲ), while second word is karna (कर्ण)(ಕರ್ಣ). vinā means 'without' and vishāla means 'large'. And karna means 'ears'. So this name contains two meanings. Either it is 'the one who is earless' or 'large eared'. This could say something about his character. It is possible that the name Vikarna basically came from his character of either not listening to anyone(self-esteemed) or who listens and captures wisdom through his (large)ears.

Growing up

Vikarna trained under Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Kripacharya. Like Arjuna, he was proficient in archery.

On completing their training, Drona asked the Kauravas to bring him Drupada as a guru dakshina. Duryodhana, Dushasana, Yuyutsu, Vikarna, and the remaining Kauravas with the Hastinapura army attacked Pañcāla. Their attack was repelled. Vikarna and his brothers were forced to leave their chariot and abandon the field on foot.

Game of dice

During the infamous dice game of the Mahabharatha, Vikarna raised his voice against the game as a whole, and specifically, at the mistreatment of Draupadi, his sister-in-law. Vikarna echoed the questions Draupadi had already asked the Kuru elders, demanding that her questions be answered. His protests were met with silence, even from wise elders like Bhishma and Dronacharya.

In the silence, and depending on the version of the story, Karna later rebuked and taunted Vikarna for his outburst. Vikarna quietly replied:

Sister-in-law's insult is an affront to the entire Kuru clan. If her questions are not answered, our line is doomed.

Vikarna, [1]


Despite his misgivings, Vikarna fights for Duryodhana during the Kurukshetra War. Bhishma names him as one of the great warriors on the Kaurava side. Mentioned throughout the war, Vikarna has a few notable moments. On the fourth day of the war, he attempts to check Abhimanyu's advance, and is severely repulsed. On the fifth day of the war, he attempts to break the King of Mahismati's defense of the Pandava formation, and is unsuccessful. On the seventh day, he covers the retreat of his brothers from Bhima's rampage. On the tenth day, he attempts to prevent Arjuna and Shikhandi from reaching Bhishma, but is counter-checked by Drupada.

On the thirteenth day of the war, depending on the version of the story, Vikarna is either a silent bystander or a willing participant in the slaying of Abhimanyu. On the fourteenth day, Arjuna navigates the chakravyuha of Drona, in order to reach and kill Jayadratha before sunset. Around midday, Bhima, trying to reach Arjuna, is making progress through the Kaurava ranks. Duryodhana sends Vikarna to check Bhima's advance. Bhima, who had sworn to kill all of Dhritarashtra's true-born (100) sons, calls Vikarna a man of dharma and advises him to step aside. Vikarna replies that even knowing that the Kauravas would not win a war against a side with Sri Krishna on it, he cannot forsake Duryodhana. Pleadingly, Bhima reminds him of the dice game, where Vikarna had criticized his brother. Vikarna replied:

That was my duty then, and this is my duty now. Fight me, o son of Vayu!

Vikarna challenging Bhima, [1]

Bhima kills Vikarna after a mace-fight. His death brings tears to the eyes of Bhima. After his death, Bhima laments:

Alas, O Vikarna, you were just and knew what was dharma! You fought in loyal obedience to the call of duty. Indeed this battle is a curse upon us wherein men like you...have had to be slaughtered.

Bhima upon Vikarna's death


Vikarna is somewhat comparable to Kumbhakarna from the Ramayana. Both Vikarna and Kumbhakarna acknowledged that their elder brother's actions are against dharma but ultimately they remained loyal to Duryodhan and Ravana respectively. Yuyutsu had the same ideology and mindset that of Vikarna. Yuyutsu also feels that Duryodhana's actions are wrong; however, he defected to Pandavas at the onset of Kurukshetra war; Yuyutsu's equivalent in the Ramayana is Vibheeshana.[2]


  1. 1 2 Rajagopalachari, C. (1974). Mahabharata. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  2. Critical Perspectives on the Rāmāyaṇa. Jaydipsinh Dodiya Sarup & Sons, Jan 1, 2001 - Hindu literature, Sanskrit - 297 pages
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