Saturday, June 12, 2010


Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna, a young warrior as brave and skillful as his father, probably the youngest warrior on the battlefield, but one who made a name for himself by his valorous deeds.

Arjuna was married to Subhadra, the sister of Krishna. He enjoyed relating to her, tales of his days at the gurukul, and she was always an interested listener. One day, while she was pregnant, Arjuna started relating to her the story of how he had learnt the secret of the army formation – the Chakravyuha – the wheel-like formation which is extremely difficult to penetrate, but even more difficult to exit! Subhadra was tired, and after a while, she dropped off to sleep while Arjuna continued to talk. However, the child in her womb was interested in his father’s words, and continued to listen, absorbing the information, and learnt the secret of entering the formation. Unfortunately, Arjuna just then realized that his wife was asleep, and stopped. The child was upset, and kicked, waking up his mother, but it was too late, for Arjuna would not continue. Thus, the child, who grew up to be Abhimanyu, learnt the secret of entering the Chakravyuha, but he did not know the method of exit.

Abhimanyu grew up at Dwaraka with his maternal family, since the Pandavas were in exile in the forest. Once the period of exile was over, they spent a year incognito in the kingdom of Virata. At the end of the year, the king of Virata, overjoyed at making the acquaintance of the Pandavas, offered his daughter Uttara in marriage to Arjuna. However, Arjuna, who considered Uttara as his daughter, accepted her as his daughter-in-law – Abhimanyu’s wife. Thus was Abhimanyu married at an early age, but he scarcely had time to spend with his father or his new bride, for war was declared between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The young warrior refused to stay home, and chose to fight in the war, against scores of warriors older and more experienced than him!

Abhimanyu fought bravely and won the admiration of those much older than him. He was a serious threat to the Kaurava army. The thirteenth day of the battle dawned with Arjuna busy in a far corner of the battlefield, while Dronacharya, the Kaurava commander arrayed his army in the Chakravyuha formation, well aware that none but Arjuna would be able to break the formation. Yudhishtra was at a loss, not knowing how to cope with the situation, knowing that his inability to break the formation would lead to massive losses for them. As a last resort he turned towards Abhimanyu and asked him to lead them and enter the Chakravyuha.

Abhimanyu replied, “Uncle, I will be happy to lead the army and enter the formation, but there is just one thing. I do not know the secret of exit, and once inside, I will be unable to come out. I am not worried about losing my life, but I will not be able to contain the army single handedly.” Yudhishtra was happy with his brave nephew’s answer, and said, “Son, you will not be alone, for all of us will be right behind you and enter the formation after you succeed in breaking it. Even though we do not know the way out, we shall fight together and somehow manage to escape after wreaking havoc within the enemy ranks!”

Thus encouraged, the brave young lad took charge and led the army straight towards Dronacharya at the head of the formation. He charged into the formation, breaching it effortlessly, but the Kauravas had been prepared for just such an assault, and they succeeded in closing the breach almost as soon as it opened. Abhimanyu was left all alone inside the formation, surrounded by the best warriors among the Kauravas – Karna, Duryodhana, Dushasana, Dronacharya, Ashwatthama, and many others.

The young warrior met them all in battle single-handedly with bravery that drew even the seasoned warriors’ grudging appreciation. He made the best use of all the arts he had learnt from his uncle, Krishna, and managed to oppose the best of the Kaurava forces.

Duryodhana was wild when he saw the skill of his sworn enemy’s son, and even more angry at Dronacharya’s appreciation of his mastery over the art of war. He reminded Dronacharya of his duty towards the Kaurava forces and egged him on to perform his duty and defeat the enemy. Much against his will, Dronacharya brought all his experience and skill to the fore, and systematically broke down Abhimanyu’s resistance.

Surrounded by warriors on all sides, Abhimanyu did not give up, but fought even more spiritedly. When he lost his chariot, he descended on the ground and faced his opponents bravely. When his bow was broken, he picked up a sword and shield. When the sword broke, he took up a mace and then a spear. Even when all his weapons were lost, he picked up one of the wheels of his broken chariot and used it like a discus, facing many enemies at once!

At last, the wheel too broke, but Abhimanyu was not yet through! He engaged Dushasana’s son in mortal combat, where, against all rules, his opponent carried weapons, while he had none. It was so that he ultimately met his end.

Abhimanyu died on the battlefield on the thirteenth day of the war, but his name lives on, as an example to bravery and perseverance in the face of all odds. His story teaches us to face obstacles bravely and perform our duty with diligence and perseverance.

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