Abhimanyu Of Mahabharat

Abhimanyu

 

Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra is one of the most celebrated heroes of the Mahabharata epic.

 

Abhimanyu's birth

The Pandavas had got half the kingdom. 

They had settled down at Indraprastha. 

Arjuna went on a pilgrimage. Krishna was his friend. 

He met Krishna at Somnath. 

Krishna took Arjuna to Dwarka. 

Arjuna was well respected and taken care of at Dwaraka.

There, he saw Krishna’s sister Subhadra and was attracted towards her. 

He expressed his desire to marry her to Krishna.

Those days, swayamvara was a widely prevalent practice for marriage among the Kshatriyas. 

But Krishna told Arjuna that he was not very sure whether Subhadra would make the right choice during a swayamvara.

Another method of marriage permitted for the Kshatriyas as per dharma-shastra was abduction of the bride. 

Krishna told Arjuna to abduct Subhadra and take her to Indraprastha.

Accordingly, Arjuna abducted Subhadra from the holy Raivataka Parvata which Subhadra was visiting to perform puja.

It was love at first sight for Subhadra as well.

Even though the Yadavas were enraged initially, Krishna convinced them and they reconciled. 

Everything became normal.

Later, Subhadra gave birth to Abhimanyu at Indraprastha.

 

Click below to listen to Arjuna Krita Durga Stotram 

 

Arjuna Krita Durga Stotram

 

Childhood

Abhimanyu became the favorite of Krishna.

He learned the Vedas.

From his father, Abhimanyu learned the four padas of Dhanurveda.

Dhanurveda has got four padas or four types of arrows:

मन्त्रमुक्तं पाणिमुक्तं मुक्तामुक्तं तथैव च।

अमुक्तं च धनुर्वेदे चतुष्पाच्छस्त्रमीरितम्॥

  1. Mantramukta - Arrows shot by chanting mantras. They can not be withdrawn
  2. Amukta - There is no physical shooting of the arrow. Their mere presence will make the enemies run away.
  3. Muktamukta - Arrows are shot and withdrawn with the help of mantras.
  4. Panimukta - Arrows are shot using a bow.

Then he learned the ten Angas (parts) of Dhanurveda:

आदानमथ संधानं मोक्षणं विनिवर्तनम्।

स्थानं मुष्टिः प्रयोगश्च प्रायश्चित्तानि मण्डलम्।

रहस्यं चेति दशधा धनुर्वेदाङ्गमिष्यते॥

  1. Adana - techniques of taking the arrow out of the quiver.
  2. Sandhana - keeping the arrow on the bow.
  3. Mokshana - the shooting of the arrow towards the target.
  4. Vinivartana - after shooting, if it is realized that the opponent is weak or weaponless, then calling back of the arrow with the power of mantra.
  5. Sthana - identifying the exact center of the bow and bowstring.
  6. Mushti - the technique of holding three fingers together.
  7. Prayoga - using two fingers to hold the arrow.
  8. Prayaschitta - protecting oneself from the recoil of the bowstring.
  9. Mandala - hitting a moving target.
  10. Rahasya - hitting a target only with the help of the sound it makes.

Then he learned the use of regular weapons such as swords and also the divine weapons. 

Abhimanyu also learned the science of the making of weapons. 

Upon completion of his training, Arjuna became happy that his son had become equal to himself.

 

Abhimanyu’s Qualities

  • Invincible
  • Broad shoulders like a bull
  • Broad face like the hood of a serpent
  • Proud like a lion
  • Valor like an elephant in musth
  • Voice like thunder
  • Face like the full moon
  • Equal to Krishna in courage, valor, and physical beauty

 

Wedding

 

After twelve years of vanavasa, the Pandavas spent one year of ajnatavasa at the palace of King Virata. 

Uttara was King Virata’s daughter. Arjuna disguised as a eunuch taught her dance and music. 

At the end of ajnatavasa, when the identities of the Pandavas became known, the king requested Arjuna to marry Uttara. 

Arjuna refused saying that a teacher’s position was like a father's.

Instead, Arjuna agreed to accept her as his daughter-in-law. 

Thus wedding of Abhimanyu and Uttara took place in the presence of Krishna and other relatives.

Even though the marriage lasted only for six months, they were most affectionate towards each other.

When Abhimanyu died, Uttara was pregnant with Parikshit, the only descendent of the Kuru Vamsha.

 

Abhimanyu in Kurukshetra war

Ahead of the war, it was decided that Abhimanyu would handle the Kosala King Brihadbala and Duryodhana’s son. 

 

Day 1

Abhimanyu faced Brihadbala, one of his prime targets on the first day itself. 

Brihadbala, King of Kosala was the descendent of Lord Rama. 

Isn’t it a paradox that the descendent of Lord Rama who not even deviated once from dharma, now was an ally of the Kauravas? 

Brihadbala could manage to cut down Abhimanyu’s flag. 

Abhimanyu retaliated by killing the guards and charioteer of Brihadbala, cutting his flagpost, and injuring Brihadbala himself with nine arrows.

Bhishmacharya was leading the Kaurava army from the front. 

He was unleashing death upon the Pandava side. Abhimanyu broke open Bhishmacharya’s protective cover and charged at him. 

Maharathis such as Shalya, and Kritavarma tried to stop him. 

They failed. 

Abhimanyu injured Bhishmacharya with nine arrows and also cut his flagpost.

Bhishmacharya had to resort to the use of divine weapons to protect himself from Abhimanyu.

 

Day 2

Abhimanyu attacked Lakshmana, Duryodhana’s son. 

Duryodhana himself had to intervene to save his son from Abhimanyu.

 

Day 4

Arjuna attacked Bhishmacharya. 

Duryodhana, Kripacharya, Shalya, Vivimshati, and Somadatta came to protect Bhishmacharya. 

Abhimanyu joined his father. 

It looked as if there were two Arjunas fighting together. 

Within a short span, they eliminated 10,000 enemy soldiers.

Abhimanyu saw elephants of Magadha charging at Bhima. 

He cautioned his uncle by shooting an arrow at the leading elephant and killing it.

Bhima killed the rest of them.

 

Day 5

Abhimanyu fought with Bhishmacharya, Dronacharya, and Shalya. 

On the 5th day, Abhimanyu had killed the most number of Kaurava soldiers.

A fight between Abhimanyu and Lakshmana took place again. 

Lakshmana was severely wounded by Abhimanyu’s arrow. Shalya had to rescue him.

 

Day 6

Bhima and Dhrishtadyumna were caught up alone in the middle of the Kaurava army.

Bhima had gone there alone and Dhrishtadyumna also joined him. 

Seeing this, Yudhishtira sent Abhimanyu for their help. 

Abhimanyu made a formation that looked like a needle and pierced the enemy ranks.

Seeing Dronacharya killing Dhrishtadyumna’s horses and smashing his chariot, Abhimanyu rescued him and took him into his own chariot.

A terrible fight between Abhimanyu and Vikarna also took place on the 6th day.

 

7th day

Abhimanyu resisted the advance of Dusshasana, Vikarna, and Chitrasena together.

Three Karuva brothers attacked Abhimanyu together. 

He broke their bows, killed their charioteers, and horses. 

Abhimanyu spared their life because it was Bhima who should kill all the Kaurava brothers as per his vow.

On the 7th day also Abimanyu faced Bhishma and stopped his movement.

 

9th day

On the 9th day, when Abhimanyu charged at the Kaurava army, they had no option but to turn back and run for their lives. 

Abhimanyu was ruling the battlefield. 

He pushed back Dronacharya, and Kripacharya who attacked him together.

 Ashwatthama and Jayadratha could not even go near him. 

Alambusha, the Rakshasa on the Kaurava side came. 

He started fighting invisibly. 

He created darkness around the Pandava army making them all blind. 

Abhimanyu dispelled the darkness with a divyastra.

Abhimanyu destroyed Alambusha’s magical power. He became visible. The Pandava princes attacked him. He had to flee.

Abhimanyu and Arjuna together attacked Bhishmacharya. 

Half of Dhritarashtra’s sons had to line up to defend Bhishmacharya from them.

On the 9th night, the Pandavas visited Bhishmacharya.

At that time, Bhishmacharya told Arjuna: Your son, Abhimanyu, what a marvel he is. 

I sometimes think, he is smarter than you, or at least he will become. 

You are a lucky father.

 

10th day

Abhimanyu and Dhrishtadyumna together had attacked Bhishmacharya. 

It was on this day Bhishmacharya fell down.

 

11th day

The Kauravas had formed a Shakata-vyuha on this day. 

Abhimanyu easily broke it and killed a hundred soldiers while doing it. 

Jayadratha had to run away from Abhimanyu to save his own life.

Shalya shot an arrow with flames at Abhimanyu. 

He caught it with his hand and shot back at Shalya. 

It killed Shalya’s horses and charioteer.

Shalya attacked Abhimanyu with his gada, but Bhima intercepted and diverted him.

 

12th day

Bhagadatta had an elephant as huge as a mountain and as fierce as death itself. 

Even Bhima had to hide under the elephant’s own belly to escape from its attack. 

This elephant destroyed Abhimanyu’s chariot.

 

13th day

This was the fatal day for Abhimanyu. 

The day he became also famous as an equal to Arjuna and even Lord Krishna.

It was the third day after Dronacharya became the Senapati of the Kaurava army. 

He ordered the formation of the dreaded Chakra-vyuha.

 

Features of Chakra-vyuha 

  • It looked like a spinning wheel.
  • Duryodhana was at its center.
  • All the brave kings and warriors on the Kaurva side were present inside the Chakra-vyuha.
  • Lines of princes stood in the place of its spokes.
  • They had all taken an oath not to turn away from fighting.
  • The flagposts of all the chariots were golden in color and the flags were red. Everyone wore red clothes and ornaments.
  • Dronacharya guarded the Chakra-vyuha from outside. To approach the Chakra-vyuha, first Dronacharya’s resistance should be broken.
  • The Chakra-vyuha moved as a whole towards the Pandava army consuming everything that came it's way.

 

What did the Pandavas do?

Bhima was at the head of the Pandava army. 

Yudhishtira, Nakula, Sahadeva, Ghatotkacha, and the rest of the Maharathis led hundreds of thousands of soldiers towards the vyuha. 

But they could not even go beyond Dronacharya. 

As the vyuha advanced towards them, thousands of Pandava soldiers lost their lives.

Only four people knew how to break the Chakra-vyuha.

Krishna and his son Pradyumna.

Arjuna and his sona Abhimanyu.

Where was Arjuna?

Arjuna was fighting the mercenaries (suicide soldiers) that the Trigarthas had engaged to kill him. 

It was a planned strategy of the Kauravas to keep Arjuna and Krishna away from the Chakra-vyuha.

Yudhishtira told Abhimanyu to go ahead and penetrate the Chakra-vyuha.

Abhimanyu was excited. 

He was going to bring glory to the vamshas of his father and mother.

But he said: I know only how to break it and go inside. 

I don’t know how to come out.

Yudhishtira said: Don’t worry. 

We are right behind you. 

You only have to break it open. 

We will guard you from behind.

How did Abhimanyu break the Chakra-vyuha?

Abhimanyu knew the vulnerable points at the perimeter of the Chakra-vyuha. 

He charged straight ahead. 

His charioteer cautioned Abhimanyu: Please think about it. 

It is the formidable Dronacharya who is ahead.

Abhimanyu said: Forget Dronacharya, even Indra on Airavata or Rudra will not be able to stop me today. 

This entire Kaurava army is just one-sixteenth of my power.

Drona and his warriors resisted him for two muhurtas (48 minutes) but then Abhimanyu went past him and broke into the Chakra-vyuha.

But then…

Jayadratha immediately sealed it again.

The Pandavas could not get inside, Abhimanyu was left alone.

How could Jayadratha do that?

He had a boon from Lord Shiva that if Arjuna and Krishna were not there, he could single-handedly resist the rest of the Pandavas.

 What happened inside the Chakra-vyuha?

  • The veterans of the Kaurava army surrounded Abhimans bow. 
  • He then killed Vasatiya.yu from all sides.
  • Abhimanyu injured Vrishasena’s horses and cut hi
  • The warriors of the Kaurava side again surrounded Abhimanyu.
  • Abhimanyu started killing them in hundreds. Severed heads and limbs were seen strewn all around.
  • Abhimanyu killed many rulers who were allies of the Kauravas.
  • The way he was blazing at the center of the Chakra-vyuha, nobody dared to even raise their eyes and look at him.
  • Abhimanyu went around taking lives like the God of death himself.
  • He was churning the whole Chakra-vyuha.
  • Abhimanyu killed Satyashrava. Many Maharathis who were with him attacked Abhimanyu. He finished them all like how a whale would consume a large number of fish with one gulp of water.
  • Whoever went towards Abhimanyu never came back.
  • The whole Chakra-vyuha was shaking like a ship caught in a storm.
  • Shalya’s son Rukmaratha attacked and injured Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu took his head.
  • Abhimanyu beheaded hundreds of princes. Duryodhana got scared seeing this. Duryodhana attacked Abhimanyu but within moments he had to run away with hundreds of arrows struck to his body.
  • The mouths of the Kauarva soldiers dried up. Nobody wanted to fight any longer. They were only looking here and there where to run.
  • Dronachrya, Ashwatthama, Brihadbala, Kripacharya, Duryodhana, Karna, Kritavarma, and Shakuni together pounced upon Abhimanyu. They all had to run away from him.
  • Lakshmana, son of Duryodhana unable to assess the danger involved faced Abhimanyu. Duryodhana came back to protect his son, along with the other Maharathis.
  • Abhimanyu told Lakshmana: Take a look at the world one last time. I am going to send you to Yamaloka. Saying this, Abhimanyu severed Lakshmana’s head with a serpent-shaped arrow.
  • Duryodhana screamed: Kill him, kill him. He has killed my son.
  • The six Maharathis: Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Karna, Ashwatthama, Brihadbala, and Kritavarma surrounded Abhimanyu.
  • Abhimanyu chased all of them away.
  • Then he turned towards Jayadratha. 
  • The soldiers of Kalinga, the Nishadas, and Krathaputra blocked Abhimanyu’s path with their huge fleets of elephants. Abhimanyu dispelled those huge elephants like how wind shatters clouds in the sky.
  • As Krathaputra attacked Abhimanyu, Dronacharya and the other Maharathis returned and fought with Abhimanyu again. Abhimanyu killed Krathaputra. Seeing this, the others ran away.
  • The six Maharathis once again surrounded Abhimanyu.
  • As Abhimanyu went on shooting arrows all around, everyone froze wherever they were.
  • Abhimanyu pierced all the six Maharathis with arrows.
  • He injured Karna badly on his ear.
  • He killed the horses and guards of Kripacharya and injured him in the chest.
  • He then killed Vrindaraka.
  • He injured Ashwatthama with twenty-five arrows.
  • All of them retaliated and the fight continued.
  • Abhimanyu killed Brihadbala, one among the six Maharathis.
  • Then he killed ten thousand more kings who were allies of the Kauravas.
  • Abhimanyu shot fifty arrows at Karna and injured him again on the ear. Karna also shot him with an equal number of arrows. The clothes and armors of both Abhimanyu and Karna turned red with blood.
  • Abhimanyu killed six ministers of Karna and injured many others.
  • Abhimanyu killed the prince of Magadha, Ashwaketu.
  • He then killed Bhoja, the king of Martikavata.
  • Dausshasani, son of Dusshasan injured Abhimanyu’s horses and charioteer. Abhimanyu retaliated saying: Your father like a coward has run away. It is good that you know how to fight, but you will not go back alive from here.
  • Abhimanyu then fought with Ashwatthama and Shalya.
  • He then killed Shatrunjaya, Chadraketu, Meghavega, Suvarcha, and Suryabhasa.
  • Shakuni attacked Abhimanyu with three arrows and told Duryodhana: Before he kills us all one-by-one, let us all together finish him.
  • Karna asked Dronacharya: He is going to kill us all. Tell us how to kill him
  • Dronacharya said: Abhimanyu’s fighting is flawless. He is a threat to my own life, but it is such a pleasure to watch him. I don’t see any difference between him and Arjuna. 
  • Karna was again hurt by Abhimanyu’s arrows. He once again told Dronacharya: I am not running away because I am dutybound to stay put. His fire-like arrows have pierced my chest.
  • Upon hearing this, Dronacharya smiled and said: Abhimanyu's armor invincible. I have taught Arjuna how to wear armor. He must have learned it from his father.
  • Then Dronacharya told Karna how to kill Abhimanyu.

 

The dastardly act of cowardice

The first chapter of Bhishma Parva vide shloka nos. 27 to 32 gives the rules of engagement mutually agreed upon by both the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

रथी च रथिना योध्यो गजेन गजधूर्गतः।

अश्वेनाश्वी पदातिश्च पादातेनैव भारत॥ २९

यथायोगं यथाकामं यथोत्साहं यथाबलम्।

समाभाष्य प्रहर्तव्यं न विश्वस्ते न विह्वले॥ ३०

एकेन सह संयुक्तः प्रपन्नो विमुखस्तथा।

क्षीणशस्त्रो विवर्मा च न हन्तव्यः कदाचन॥ ३१ 

  • Someone on a chariot can attack only an opponent who is also on a chariot. Similarly for those on elephants, and horses also. Someone on the ground can be attacked only by someone on the ground. Similarly, an attack with a sword should be done only if the opponent also carries a sword. Similarly, for other weapons also. 
  • The fight should be between equals in terms of strength and arms.
  • Someone whose weapons are lost or damaged should not be attacked.
  • Someone not wearing armor should not be attacked.
  • Someone should not be attacked from behind.
  • Someone who is already engaged in combat with another should not be attacked.

 

The instructions that Dronacharya gave to overpower Abhimanyu were in blatant violation of these rules.

This is clear from Chapter 48.

अथैनं विमुखीकृत्य पश्चात् प्रहरणं कुरु

Attack him from behind - a clear violation of the rule विमुखो न हन्तव्यः (you should not attack from behind)

Karna did exactly that. 

He slid behind Abhimanyu and cut his bowstring with an arrow from behind.

अभिषूंश्च हयांश्चैव तथोभौ पार्ष्णिसारथी।

एतत् कुरु महेष्वास राधेय यदि शक्यते॥

विरथं विधनुष्कं च कुरुष्वैनं यदीच्छसि।

Kill his horses, kill his guards, destroy his chariot, destroy his bow. 

Thus after disarming him you will be able to kill him. 

A clear violation of the rule that क्षीणशस्त्रो न हन्तव्यः.(someone who has lost his weapons should not be attacked)

शेषास्तु च्छिन्वध्न्वानं शरवर्षैरवाकिरन्।

त्वरमाणस्त्वराकाले विरथं षण्महारथाः॥

Seeing his bow broken, the six Maharathis together showered arrows upon Abhimanyu.

Violation - Abhimanyu had lost his bow. He should not have been attacked with arrows.

Then, Abhimanyu picked up his sword and shield. 

He was flying around like Garuda.

Dronacharya cut his sword into two pieces with an arrow. 

Karna shattered his shield with arrows.

Violation - Abhimanyu only had a sword and shield with him. 

He should not have been attacked with arrows.

Abhimanyu picked up a wheel from his broken chariot and rushed towards Dronacharya. 

He was still roaring like a lion. 

He looked like Krishna with his Sudarshana chakra.

The Maharathis together shattered the wheel to pieces.

Abhimanyu picked up a gada and attacked Ashwatthama. 

Seeing that, Ashwatthama went back three steps in his own chariot. 

Abhimanyu’s hit with the gada killed Ashwatthama’s horses and guards.

All six Maharathis attacked Abhimanyu together. Brihadbala, one of the original six Maharathis has been killed. 

He was replaced by Dusshasana’s son, Dausshasani.

With the gada, Abhimanyu smashed the chariot of Dausshasani, Dusshasana’s son. 

Dausshasani also retaliated with his gada and a fierce fight took place between the two.

 At one point, both fell down on the ground.

Dausshasani got up first and smashed Abhimanyu’s head with gada.

Abhimanyu fell dead.

Mahabharata concludes the episode of the killing of Abhimanyu saying:

एवं विनिहतो राजन्नेको बहुभिराहवे।

Thus in the war, a single warrior was killed by many. 

As Krishna told Vasudeva later:  If they had fought with him one-by-one even without a break, he would have killed them all. 

Why them, even Indra could not have defeated him.

Before his life ended, Abhimanyu had killed thousands of kings, soldiers, elephants, and horses. 

He had also destroyed eight thousand chariots all by himself.

Why Abhimanyu had to die at such a young age

Abhimanyu was an incarnation of the son of Chandradeva. 

He had come to assist Lord Krishna in eliminating evil At the time of sending him to earth, 

Chandradeva had told him that he should return on the sixteenth year.

 

Abhimanyu ascends to Swargaloka

Sage Vyasa came to the uncles of Abhimanyu who were mourning his death. 

He told them that Abhimanyu had already reached Swargaloka.

 

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