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Abhimanyu, the Great Mahabharata Warrior
As an unborn child in his mother's womb, Abhimanyu learnt the knowledge of entering the deadly and virtually impenetrable Chakra Vyooh from Arjun. The epic explains that he overheard Arjun talking about this with his mother Subhadraa from the womb. Arjun explains to Subhadraa in detail, the technique of attacking and escaping from various Vyooh (an array of army formation) such as Makar Vyooh, Koorm Vyooh, Sarp Vyooh etc. After explaining all the Vyooh, he explains about the technique of cracking Chakra Vyooh. Arjun tells how to enter the Chakra Vyooh. When he was about to explain how to exit from the Chakra Vyooh, he realizes that Subhadraa is asleep, so he stops explaining about the Chakra Vyooh further. In return, the baby Abhimanyu in the womb did not get a chance to learn how to come out of it.

Abhimanyu spent his childhood in Dwaarakaa, in his mother's town. He was trained by Pradyumn, the son of Shree Krishn, and by his great warrior father Arjun, and brought up under the guidance of Krishn. His father arranged his marriage to Uttaraa, daughter of King Viraat to seal an alliance between the Paandav and the royal family of Viraat, in light of the forthcoming Kurukshetra War. The Paandav had been hiding incognito to live through the final year of their exile without being discovered, in Viraat's kingdom of Matsya.

Being the grandson of Lord Indra, god of mystical weapons and wars, Abhimanyu was a courageous and dashing warrior. Considered an equal to his father owing his prodigious feats, Abhimanyu was able to hold at bay great heroes like Drone, Karn, Duryodhan and Dushaasan. He was praised for his audacious bravery and absolute loyalty to his father, his uncles and to their cause, even by Bheeshm on the very first day of MBH war. Abhimanyu took part in the war of Mahaabhaarat and killed important personalities such as Lakshman, the son of Duryodhan and Brihadbal, the king of Kosal of the Ikshwaku dynasty. On the 13th day of the battle, the Kaurav challenged the Paandav to break a circular battle formation known as the Chakra Vyooh. The Paandav accepted the challenge since the knowledge of how to defeat such a formation was known to Krishn and Arjun.

However, on that day, Krishn and Arjun were dragged into fighting a war on another front with the Samsaptak (mercenaries who vowed only to return from battle fields only upon victory or their death) attempt to take Arjun from from the battlefield so that Drone could arrest Yudhishthir and finish the war. Now the Paandav were in a flux because nobody among them knew the Chakra Vyooh at all. Seeing in flux, Abhimanyu proposed to go there. Although they were not ready to send the child Abhimanyu in his father's absence but they had no choice except to attempt to send him there who had knowledge on how to break into the formation but none other whatsoever regarding how to break out of it. To make sure that Abhimanyu did not get trapped in this endeavor, the remaining Paandav brothers decided that they and their allies would also break into the formation along with Abhimanyu and assist the boy in breaking out of it. It is important to note that the plan was hatched well after Arjun and Krishn had been distracted away by the Samsaptak army led by Susharmaa, because in Paandav army only Krishn and Arjun had the full knowledge of the Chakra Vyooh, and Drone could arrest Yudhishthir only in their absence. One of the reasons was that he did not expect Abhimanyu there, but when he saw him, he let him go.

Using his knowledge of the Chakra Vyooh Abhimanyu successfully broke into the formation. The Paandav brothers and their allies attempted to follow him inside the formation, but they were effectively cut off from coming in by Jayadrath, the Sindhu king, who made use of a boon from Shiv to that enabled him to hold off all Paandav except Arjun for a day. Abhimanyu was left to fend for himself against the entire Kaurav army.

Abhimanyu commanded his charioteer to lead his chariot towards Drone. The charioteer, thinking it was not wise to do so, raised objections and requested that 16-year old boy to take time to think about it before he began the battle. He pointed out that Abhimanyu had grown up amidst great love and comforts and he was not a master of the battle arts as Drone was. But laughing aloud, Abhimanyu said to his charioteer - "What is this Drone or even the entire world of Kshatriya to me? I can fight even Indra himself, mounted on his Airaavat, along with all the gods. Why, I can fight in a battle even Lord Rudra himself, to whom the entire world of beings pays homage! This battle that I am going to wage today does not bewilder me in the least. This entire army of enemies is not equal to even one sixteenth of my power."

With no great joy in his mind, the charioteer took his master forward and Abhimanyu broke into the Chakra Vyooh. In a mighty battle that followed, he slaughtered ordinary enemy warriors and mighty heroes alike. Abhimanyu fought valiantly single-handedly slaying several warriors who came in his way including Duryodhan's son Lakshman. Among the others who were killed there, were Ashmak's son, Shalya's younger brother, Shalya's son Rukmarath, Deerghlochan, Kundavedhee, Sushen, Vasateeya, Krat and numerous other great warriors. He wounded Karn and made him flee, making Dushaasan faint in the battlefield such that he had to be carried off by others.

Upon witnessing the death of his beloved son, Duryodhan was incensed and ordered the entire Kaurav force to attack Abhimanyu. Continually frustrated in attempts to pierce Abhimanyu's armor, Karn on Dronaachaarya's advice shattered Abhimanyu's bow by firing arrows from behind him. His chariot broke shortly after, the charioteer and horses were killed, and all his weapons were laid to waste. He attempted then to fight off the bow wielding warriors sitting on horses and elephants with a sword and using a chariot wheel as a shield. Dushaasan's son engaged in fierce hand to hand combat with Abhimanyu. Ignoring all rules of war, the Kaurav all attacked simultaneously with him. He held his own until his sword broke and the remaining chariot wheel shattered into pieces. Abhimanyu was killed shortly thereafter when Dushaasan's son Durmarshan crushed his skull with a mace. However, Abhimanyu killed him with his own mace before dying.

It is said that it is Abhimanyu's death that marks the end of the adherence to the rules of war. Krishn cited the despicable manner in which Abhimanyu was killed to incite Arjun to kill Karn. This, said Krishn, was a reason to kill Duryodhan.

Arjun's Great Revenge
News of the despicable acts committed on Abhimanyu reached his father Arjun at the end of the day, who then vows to kill Jayadrath the very next day by sunset, and failing to do so, to commit suicide by self-immolation immediately.

So the Kaurav army, the next day, places Jayadrath farthest away from Arjun, and every warrior was warned about Arjun that he should not come even near to Jayadrath in any case. But on that day Arjun literally hacks through the Kaurav army and kills more than a hundred thousand soldiers and warriors in a single day. However, almost by sundown, Arjun's chariot is still nowhere near Jayadrath's. Arjun becomes despondent because he realizes that failure is imminent, and starts getting mentally prepared to self-immolate. Krishna being the almighty god uses his powers to temporarily to create an eclipse. The Kaurav and Paandav alike believe that indeed the Sun has set and the war stops according to the rules. Both sides come to watch Arjun self-immolate. In his haste to see Arjun's death, Jayadrath also comes to the front. Krishn sees the opportunity that He has effectively created, and the Sun comes out again. Before the Kaurav can take any corrective action, Krishn points out to Arjun and asks him to pick up his Gaandeev and behead Jayadrath.

Arjun's unerring arrows decapitate Jayadrath, and his vow to kill Jayadrath by sunset that day and avenge Abhimanyu's death is fulfilled. The reason for creating eclipse is also suggested at many places as a plot to save Arjun from death, because Jayadrath had got a boon from his father that whoever would cause Jayadrath's head to fall onto earth would also die immediately. So Lord Krishn wanted everything to happen in this way so that Jayadrath would be on an easy aim. When Arjun beheads Jayadrath, he does it so skillfully that the head falls straight into the lap of his father who was sitting under a tree in meditation. His father is shocked and stands up, causing Jayadrath's head to fall to earth. Thus his father is killed immediately.

Explanation of Abhimanyu's Death
Abhimanyu is the reincarnation of Varchas, the son of the Moon god. When the Moon god was asked to let his son incarnate himself on Earth by the other Devtaa, he made a pact that his son will only remain on earth for 16 years as he could not bear to be separated from him. Abhimanyu was 16 years old when he died in the war. His son, Pareekshit, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the Mahaabhaarat war, and carries on the Paandav lineage. Abhimanyu is often thought of as a very brave warrior on the Paandav side, willingly giving up his life in war at such a young age.

Abhimanyu and Ashwatthaamaa
Abhimanyu is often quoted as an example for his partial knowledge about Chakra Vyooh. Since, he knew how to penetrate the Chakra Vyooh, but did not know how to exit from it during the time of danger contributed to his death. Similarly, Ashwattthaamaa too had a partial knowledge in the context of Brahm Astra. He only knew how to invoke it. But did not know how to withdraw it. This contributes for him to get cursed by Krishn at the end of Mahaabhaarat war. It was only Arjun who had complete knowledge of both Chakra Vyooh (to break and exit from it) and Brahm Astra (to invoke and withdraw it).

Abhimanyu was believed to be an incarnation of a demon named Kaalayavan. The thing was, he has now taken birth in a very good family (Paandav). If he is not killed in the Mahaabhaarat war, then he will become invincible. No one will be able to defeat him later including Krishn. Hence, Krishn who was aware of this and being the Guru of Abhimanyu (via Pradyumn) in Dwaarakaa, sees to it that Abhimanyu is ignorant about "how to exit from Chakra Vyooh". Hence, even though Abhimanyu was curious to know the way to exit from a Chakra Vyooh, Krishn does not tell this secret, but instead insists him to seek that knowledge from Arjun. It so happens that Abhimanyu never gets a chance from his father as he was in exile.

Further, Abhimanyu is such a hero that none from the Kaurav side (except Bheeshm) could kill him in a one-on-one combat (Dwandwa Yuddh). Hence, on the 13th day of the battle field, when the Chakra Vyooh is launched by Dronaachaarya, he defeats all the Mahaarathee on a one on one battle. Jayadrath could hold back four Paandav by the boon from Shiv Jee, but perhaps he did not know Abhimanyu and as he let him come considering him a child, he made a big mistake. He was heavy on all Mahaarathee from Kaurav side, such as Drone, Karn, Dushaasan, Duryodhan etc. And thus, if not Paandav, their son Abhimanyu really proves very expensive for the entire Kaurv forces on that particular day. Hence, sensing the danger by his presence, the Kaurav Mahaarathee merge together to kill him after making him weaponless. This was the only way by which Abhimanyu could attain Moksh. Hence, he plays a very great role on the 13th day of Mahaabhaarat war.

In case of Ashwatthaamaa, Dronaachaarya does not trust Ashwatthaamaa the manner in which he trusts Arjun. Hence, he teaches Ashwatthaamaa only to invoke Brahm Astra, but does not teach him how to withdraw it. If an archer is aware of both the invocation and withdrawal of Brahm Astra, then he can invoke it as many times as he wants. Hence, to avoid Ashwatthaamaa from invoking Brahm Astra multiple times, Dronaachaarya only gives a partial knowledge about it.

Factors that Contributed to Abhimanyu's Death
(1) Abhimanyu's partial knowledge of Chakra Vyooh.
(2) Krishn who does not teach Abhimanyu as 'how to exit from "Chakravyooh", since his soul belonged to Raakshas.
(3) Absence of Krishn and Arjun when Dronaachaarya launches the Chakra Vyooh.
(4) The boon granted to Jayadrath by Lord Shiv to hold all the Paandav except Arjun for one day isolates Abhimanyu from the Paandav in Chakra Vyooh.
(5) The Kaurav Mahaarathee violation of the war rules.
(6) The ignorance of the remaining Paandav to enter Chakra Vyooh.
(7) Abhimanyu kills Duryodhan's son Lakshman
(8) The late arrival of Ghatotkach.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 5/27/04
Modified on 03/22/13