Monday, 11 November 2013

Abhimanyu – The lone warrior

His association with the Mahabharata war started when he was still in his mother’s womb. I have heard this story many times from my childhood and always wondered if this could be true. Recently, a study has revealed that babies start learning to recognise words while still in their mother’s womb. The joy at having got the proof has prompted me to narrate the story of Abhimanyu.

Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra and the nephew of Lord Krishna.
Arjuna, in the presence of the mighty Lord narrated the various battle formations and how to conquer them, while Abhimanyu was still in his mother’s womb. Unfortunately, just after Arjuna narrated the strategy of entering the Chakravyuh, Subhadra fell asleep. Not wanting to disturb her sleep, Lord Krishna and Arjuna left the place.

Later, Abhimanyu grew up learning warfare techniques from Pradhyumna, Lord Krishna’s son. Being the son of a great warrior, Arjuna, young Abhimanyu was eager to learn more and Lord Krishna, realising the boy’s potential, appointed two more gurus for young Abhimanyu. Two great warriors Kritavarma and Satyaki, who served Lord Krishna, taught young Abhimanyu many more skills, but none realised that Abhimanyu’s knowledge of Chakravyuh was not complete!

In the Mahabharata war, Abhimanyu fought very bravely. His charm and valour made even his enemies respect and adore him at the same time. He displayed tremendous skills at dvandva yudha or a one-to-one combat. Finally, he shattered the Chakravyuh formation and entered it with the four Pandava brothers following him closely. But Jayadhrada, the King of Sindh, cut the four Pandava brothers quickly, as they did not know the strategy. The strategy of entering the chakravyuh was known only to Arjuna, Krishna and Pradyumna. The three of them, though, had been cleverly drawn to the opposite end of the battle field by Samsaptaka’s army led by Susarma. 

Knowing that he was trapped alone in this formation, and that his father and uncle were not around to help him, Abhimanyu was determined to fight fairly and win the war for his side. Single handed, he succeeded in almost destroying a formation called as the Akshauhini that was made up of several chariots, elephants, cavalry and infantry.Even when he was surrounded by great warriors like Karna, Dronacharya, his son Ashwathama, his grand uncle Shakuni, he remained calm and brave and fought them with honour and dignity. 

Duryodhana understood that it would be impossible to challenge this young man in dvandva yudha and ordered all his warriors to attack him simultaneously. Young Abhimanyu argued with his uncle and the others. Duryodhana was not in a mood to listen. He mocked the young lad by asking him how he was planning to escape when the Chakravyuh had been closed. 

Abhimanyu, the brave heart that he was, calmly replied that escape routes are for cowards and he had stepped into the battle field to fight and not to escape. When an army of great warriors attacked him ruthlessly, he fought them without breaking the rules that governed battles then. He left Duryodhana injured and chariot less. Abhimanyu then killed Lakshmana, Duryodhana’s son. Duryodhana was not only angered by this, he was also jealous of Abhimanyu as Dronacharya and Kripacharya, who was Dronacharya’s brother-in-law, were in awe of Abhimanyu’s bravery. 

Every single warfare rule was broken by Duryodhana and he killed a lone soldier with the help of seven great warriors. Duryodhana, by doubting the abilities of the other warriors made them fight more bitterly with Abhimanyu. Karna made the young lad weapon less while Kripacharya killed his horses and charioteer.Yet Abhimanyu fought on, shielding himself with the wheel of the broken chariot and using this as a weapon, attacked the enemies. Once the wheel also was broken, Abhimanyu picked up a mace and battled on with Dushasana, who finally killed him.  

Once Abhimanyu was killed Duryodhana, his brother Dushasana and the rest of the army danced joyously around the lifeless body of the fallen hero.This single episode became the turning point in the entire Mahabharata war. Lord Krishna and Arjuna were angered beyond words and paid every single act of Duryodhana in his own coin.

The only consolation to this unfair, gory killing of Abhimanyu came from Vrishasena, Karna’s son. After the battle Parikshit and Vrishasena were the two contenders to the throne of Hastinapur. Vrishasena was the eldest son of the eldest Pandava, but gave up his right to the throne and made Parikshit, son of Abhimanyu, the King !

What happened in this epic war after Abhimanyu's killing provides useful insight into the ways of the world. The Pandavas were kind at heart and good in deed. Arjuna did not want to fight his cousins as he respected and honoured relationships more than power. In fact, he was good to a fault. Lord Krishna, one may feel, was helpful and happy to a fault. But when they were irked by the constant abuse of power by Duryodhana and his dishonest ways, they became unstoppable.