|Uttara pleads to Abhimanyu as he leaves for the war.|
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Abhimanyu (Sanskrit: अभिमन्यु abhimanyu [अभिमन्युः]) was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra and his life story is documented in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the nephew of Lord Krishna and was married to Uttarā, the princess of Matsya. Abhimanyu was killed on the thirteenth day of the Kurukshetra war. His son Parikshit was born after his death in the Mahabharata war.
Abhimanyu inherited both courage and fighting ability from his father, Arjuna, and his grand-father, Lord Indra. He was considered to be an equal to his father owing his prodigious feats. Abhimanyu participated in the Mahabharata war when he was sixteen years old. During the Mahabharata war, Abhimanyu held at bay great warriors such as Drona, Karna, Duryodhana and Dushasana. It was felt that the only warrior on the Kurukshetra battlefield that could best him was Bhishma.
Abhimanyu was the most illustrious of the Pandavas and Kauravas of his generation. By his virtue and capability, he was deemed to be the most eligible and qualified heir to the throne of Hastinapura. Abhimanyu's son, Parikshit became the sole heir to the Pandavas empire and succeeded Yudhisthira to the throne. It is also for King Parikshit, that the Bhagavata was first recited.
Birth, Education and War 
Abhimanyu's education began while he was still in Subhadra's womb. He overheard Krishna telling Subhadra the secrets of how to enter, exit, and destroy various battle formations. Of these, it is of note, that he only heard how to enter (but not exit or destroy) the secret of the Chakravyuh formation as Subhadra fell asleep and thus Arjuna could not complete his explanation. [Krishna], realizing that if Abhimanyu learns the entire strategy, he would tilt the balance entirely in favor of the Pandavas, stops Arjuna from continuing the lecture, thus Abhimanyu learns only how to enter the Chakra Vyuha.
Abhimanyu spent his childhood in Dwaraka, his mother's city. He was trained by Pradyumna, the son of Sri Krishna, as well as Krishna's kinsmen Kritavarma and Satyaki. He was also influenced by his great warrior father Arjuna, and brought up under the guidance of Krishna and Balarama . His father arranged his marriage to Uttara, daughter of King Virata to seal an alliance between the Pandavas and the royal family of Virata, in light of the forthcoming Kurukshetra War. The Pandavas had been hiding incognito to live through the final year of their exile without being discovered, in Virata's kingdom of Matsya. Once the Pandavas disclose their identity, then King Viraat wishes Uttara to marry Arjuna. Arjuna being the guru of Uttara considers her as his daughter, but suggests her wedding with Abhimanyu. Thus, Abhimanyu weds Uttara.
Abhimanyu’s Dilemma 
After twelve days of war, of which Abhimanyu is most recognized for destroying the banner and checking the advance of Bhishma on the first day of the way, Abhimanyu's short but eventful life gains the most prominence on the thirteenth day of the war when he is made to enter the powerful 'Chakravyuh' battle formation of the Kaurava army. Drona had made this contraption in order to capture Yudhishthira. On the side of the Pandavas, only Pradyumna, Krishna, and Arjuna were aware of the secret technique to break this seven-tier defensive spiral formation used by Dronacharya. As they are elsewhere on the battlefield, it falls on Arjuna's son to invade the Chakravyuh with his partial knowledge of entry (but not exit). The 16-year-old obliges to keep the honour of his kinsmen, but is killed before he can get out.
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 Drona, Karna, Duryodhana and Dushasana. Determined to exit the Padmavyuha by shattering it from within, Abhimanyu goes on rampage, reaching the heart of the trap. Fighting with such ferocity, none from the Kaurava side can best him in a one on one combat (dwandva yudha), Bhishma being the only Kaurava warrior who could have done so. Proceeding, Abhimanyu defeats all the Maharathis on a one on one battle, highlights including Abhimanyu piercing the armor of Karna, injuring Salya, the king of Madra so badly he cannot sit, and killing Brihadbala, the king of Kosala of the Ikshwaku dynasty. Abhimanyu really proves very expensive for the Kaurava army, destroying 3/4 of an Akshouhini army single-handedly. Incensed at the admiration those like Kripa and Drona express for Abhimanyu, Duryodhana attacks the boy. Sparing him so that his uncle Bhima can fulfill his oath, Abhimanyu leaves Duryodhana chariotless and weaponless, bleeding all over. He also kills Duryodana's son Lakshamana, who had come to defend his father. Enraged, Duryodhana orders all the Kaurava Maharathis to attack Abhimanyu, who with disgust counters all their attacks. Stung by Duryodhana's doubts in his abilities, Drona suggests that Abhimanyu could only be killed through illicit means. His comments are not met with disagreement, and Karna snaps Abhimanyu's bow while Drona and kripa kill Abhimanyu's horses and charioteers. Abhimanyu draws a sword and shield and continues to wreak havoc on the Kaurava army, only to be disarmed from afar once again. Drona destroys the hilt of the sword and Karna destroys the shield. The Kaurava forces team up and kill a defenseless Abhimanyu, who famously uses the wheel of a broken chariot to fend of attackers in lieu of his weapons. The wheel is broken into thousands of fragments by the kaurava kings. Abhimanyu picks up a mace and pounces at Ashwathama. Ashwathama leaps back to avoid Abhimanyu. Mace battle between son of Dushasana (Durmashana) and Abhimanyu ensues. During this mace battle, both of them are thrown to the ground. But Durmashana rises first and hits the crown of Abhimanyu's head as the latter was in the process of rising up from the ground. It takes time for Abhimanyu to raise from the ground because he is already fatigued by the numerous arrows piercing him. This was the only way by which Abhimanyu could attain Moksha.
Arjuna's Great Revenge 
News of the despicable acts committed on Abhimanyu reached his father Arjuna at the end of the day, who vows to kill Jayadratha the very next day by sunset, and failing to do so, commit suicide by self-immolation immediately.
The Kaurava army the next day places Jayadratha furthest away from Arjuna, and every warrior including the Samshaptakas (mercenaries to vow to return from battlefields only upon victory else death) attempts to prevent Arjuna from reaching anywhere close to Jayadratha. Only bypassing Dronacharya's chariot with his permission, Arjuna hacks through the Kaurava army and kills more than a hundred thousand soldiers and warriors in a single day. With the aid of Satyaki and Bhima, Arjuna is able to advance to the end of the Kaurava's formation, only to see Jayadratha being guarded by seven maharathis. Distracted by the coming sundown, Arjuna is unable to break through. Lord Krishna being the Almighty God uses His powers to temporarily create an eclipse. In his haste to see Arjuna's death, Jayadratha abandons his protection and comes to taunt Arjuna. Lord Krishna removes the eclipse He has effectively created, and the sun comes out again. Before the Kauravas can take corrective action, Lord Krishna points out to Arjuna and asks him to pick up his Gandiva and behead Jayadratha. Arjuna's unerring Pashupathastra decapitate Jayadratha such that his head lands in his father's Lap (Jayadratha was bless with boon that the person who will cause his fell on earth after killing him will die immediately) who is meditating and this unexpected action shocks him and Jayadratha's head fell from his lap causing him death, and his vow to kill Jayadratha by sunset that day and avenge Abhimanyu's death is fulfilled.
His son, Parikshit, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the Mahābhārata war, and carries on the Pandava lineage. Abhimanyu is often thought of as a very brave warrior on the Pandava side, willingly giving up his life in war at a very young age. Abhimanyu was praised for his audacious bravery and absolute loyalty to his father, his uncles and to their cause.
Abhimanyu and Ashwatama 
Abhimanyu is often quoted as an example for his partial knowledge about Chakravyuha. Since, he knew how to penetrate the Chakravyuha, but did not know how to exit from it during the time of danger contributed to his death. Similarly, Ashwatthama too had a partial knowledge in the context of Brahmastra. He only knew how to invoke it. But did not know how to withdraw it. It was only Arjuna who had complete knowledge of both Chakravyuha (to break and exit from it) and Brahmastra (to invoke and withdraw it).
In case of Ashwatthama, Dronacharya does not trust Ashwatthama the manner in which he trusts Arjuna. Hence, he teaches him only to invoke Brahmastra, but does not teach him how to withdraw it. If an archer is aware of both the invocation and withdrawal of Brahmastra, then he can invoke it as many times as he wants. Hence, to avoid Ashwatthama from invoking Brahmastra multiple times, Dronacharya only gave a partial knowledge about it.After the battle of kurukshetra Ashwatthama killed the sons of Droupadi. After knowing that Pandavas were alive and actual dead were pandavas' offsprings, Ashwatthama invoked Brahmastra to kill Pandavas. Arjuna also did the same to counter it.
The life of Abhimanyu is made into dramas and films in different languages. Some of them as part of Mahabharata story, while others are done exclusively his story beginning from his birth and to his death in War.
- Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 1.
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