Uttara pleads to Abhimanyu as he leaves for the war
Abhimanyu(Sanskrit: अभिमन्यु Abhimanyu) was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra. His life story is documented in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the nephew of Lord Krishna and was married to Uttara, the princess of Matsya Kingdom. Abhimanyu was also very close to his step-mother Draupadi. Abhimanyu was killed on the 13th day of the Kurukshetra War.
Abhimanyu inherited both courage and fighting ability from his father, Arjuna, and his grandfather Lord Indra. He was considered to be an equal to his father owing to his prodigious feats. During the Mahabharata war, as a sixteen-year-old, Abhimanyu held at bay many great warriors such as Drona, Karna, Shalya, Kripa, Ashwatthama and Duryodhana inside the Chakravyuha.
According to some stories, Abhimanyu is the reincarnation of the son of the moon god. When the moon god was asked to let his son incarnate himself on earth, 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 is also a scion of the Lunar dynasty and heir to the legends of such men as Bharata, Ajameedha, Kuru, and so on. His mother is Subhadra, a Yadava princess, on whose side too his ancestry could be traced to Yadu, the founder prince of the Yadava line and through him to the same legendary Puroorava, Nahusha and Yayati. And, beyond all this, he is the nephew of Krishna himself.
After six days of war, Abhimanyu is most recognized for destroying the banner and checking the advance of Bhishma on the first day of the war, Abhimanyu's story comes to prominence on the thirteenth day of the war when he is made to enter the powerful chakravyuha 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. Seeing Yudhishthira's panic, Abhimanyu reveals that while he doesn't know how to exit the formation, he will be able to break into it. A plan is formulated that the Pandava forces will enter the chakravyuha after Abhimanyu, and shatter it from within. But as soon as Abhimanyu enters the Chakravyuha, Jayadrathaa stops the four Pandavas from entering it.
Considered an ace archer, Abhimanyu was able to hold at bay great heroes like Drona, Ashwathama, Karna, Duryodhana, Dushasana, Shakuni, and many other great warriors from the Kaurava side. Determined to exit the Chakravyuha by shattering it from within, Abhimanyu goes on rampage, reaching the heart of the trap. Fighting with such ferocity, none from the Kaurava side could beat him in a one-on-one combat(dwanda yudha). Proceeding, Abhimanyu defeats all the maharathis in a one-on-one battle, highlights including injuring Shalya so badly which causes him to faint, killing Shalya's younger brother, piercing Drona and Kripa, injuring Dushashana badly, piercing Karna and cutting off his bow, killing Karna's younger brother, and decapitating Brihadbala, the king of Kosala. Abhimanyu really proves very expensive for the Kaurava army, destroying 3/4 of an akshouhini army single-handedly. Incensed at the admiration that those like Kripacharya and Drona express for Abhimanyu, Duryodhana attacks the boy. Sparing him so that his uncle Bhima can fulfill his oath, Abhimanyu leaves Duryodhana chariot-less and weaponless. With a single arrow, he also kills Duryodhana's son Lakshman Kumara. Enraged, Duryodhana orders all the Kaurava maharathis to attack Abhimanyu, who with disgust, counters all their attacks. He then attempts to arrest Duryodhana. Following the orders of Duryodhana, the Kauravas unitedly attack Abhimanyu. Karna cuts off Abhimanyu's bow. Then 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. As a last resort, Abhimanyu famously uses the wheel of a broken chariot to fend off attackers; soon, the wheel is broken by enemy fire. A mace battle between Durmasana, the son of Dushasana and Abhimanyu ensues. During this mace battle, both of them are thrown to the ground. But Durmasana rises first and hits the crown of Abhimanyu's head as the latter was rising, killing him instantly.
News of the despicable acts committed on Abhimanyu reached his father at the end of the day. Arjuna vows to kill Jayadratha the very next day by sunset, and failing to do so, would commit suicide by self-immolation immediately. On the fifteenth day of battle, Arjuna ravages the Kaurava army, and in the end, decapitates Jayadratha with the Pashupathastra.
His son, Parikshit, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the Mahabharata 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 and his uncles.
Abhimanyu & Chakravyuha
Abhimanyu is often quoted as an example for his partial knowledge about Chakaravyuha. Since, he knew how to penetrate the Chakravyuha, but did not know how to exit from it during the time of danger, he could not exit and was killed brutally. It is said that when Subhadra was pregnant, Arjuna told her the techinque to enter in Chakravyuha and child Abhimanyu listened in mother's womb. But before Arjuna would tell her the way to get out she fell asleep and the child could not listen to it. This is often quoted as an example on how much partial knowledge can be destructive to an individual and society.
The life of Abhimanyu is made into dramas and films in different languages. Some of them as part of the Mahabharata story, while others are done exclusively to tell his story beginning from his birth till his death in war.
- Media related to Abhimanyu at Wikimedia Commons
- Small story showing Abhimanyu's Valour
- Mahabharata Online