By some accounts, it is believed that one of the people who egged on Duryodhana into the Kurukshetra war was Karna. At a time when Bhishma and Vidura were trying to mediate so the two sets of warring cousins could come to some sort of a peaceful arrangement, Karna is believed to have suggested the idea of an out-and-out war to end all wars.
Even though Karna’s behaviour was always above reproach, the Pandavas never lost an opportunity to take a dig at him and his low birth. It isn’t entirely implausible that Karna was looking for an opportunity to get back at the cruelty that the Pandavas meted out to him his entire life. It is also likely that that he could’ve been smarting at the three times he was humiliated by either one or all of the Pandavas on the battlefield.
Indeed Kurukshetra wasn’t the only time that the Pandavas humiliated Karna. You will remember the time the Kauravas and Pandavas went to war with Drupada on the orders of their teacher, Drona. Karna accompanied the Kauravas who were bitterly defeated by the mighty king and it was left to the Pandavas to complete the task.
There was also the time when Chitrasena, the gandharva beat him in a battle just a few years before the Kurukshetra war and kidnapped Duryodhana. Yet again, it was Arjuna who came to the rescue, defeated Chitrasena and delivered Duryodhana back to his people.
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But in both these wars, Karna didn’t face-off with any of the Pandavas. They both had a common enemy and Pandavas humiliated him by proving to be better warriors. There was, however, one battle in which Karna took on a Pandava head on. This was long before the Chitrasena incident and much after the Drupada battle.
You will remember the time that the Pandavas escaped an assassination attempt on their lives but let the world believe they were dead and lived under the radar. During this time, Arjuna won the hand of Draupadi in an impossible-to-win challenge and unwittingly revealed his true identity.
Following this, Vidura urged Bhishma to invite the Pandavas back and between the two, they convinced Dhritarashtra to part with half the kingdom so as to maintain peace. The Kuru king followed the advice, albeit unhappily and awarded them Khandavprastha, where the Khandava forest stood.
After turning the forest into a thriving capital, the Pandavas proceeded to expand the boundaries of their new kingdom. Yudhishthira performed the Rajasuya yagya, a sacrifice that would pronounce him the king of kings and towards that sought alliance with other kingdoms through friendship or war.
He dispatched Bhima to Anga, the kingdom that was awarded to Karna and sought his subordination. Obviously, Karna refused and a full-on war broke out between the two. After much struggle, Bhima defeated Karna and tried his best to kill him.
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However, Karna was born with a kavacha and kundala that protected him against attacks of all kinds and made it impossible to kill him in a combat. Ultimately, Bhima gave up and walked away but Karna was, for all practical, purposes defeated in this battle. Anga continued to swear allegiance with the Kauravas and it would be some time before Karna got to fight against the Pandavas.