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This chapter gives us a glimpse of the Great Mahabharata War. It contains an account of Vir Abhimanyu’s death and the way this death was avenged by Arjuna. It is taken from an adaptation of The Mahabharata as retold by S.B. Srivastava, a reader at Rani Durgavati University, Jabalpur.
Abhimanyu– Arjuna’s son
Arjuna– a Pandava, son of Kunti and Indra
Duryodhana– the eldest Kaurava
Krishna– Arjuna’s charioteer and the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu
Yudhishthira– the eldest Pandava
Jayadratha– the king of the Sindhus and the husband of Duryodhana’s sister
Karna– a mighty warrior who was the son of Kunti and the Sun god
Bhishma– a wise warrior related to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas
Bhima– another Pandava who was Kunti’s son
Drona– the teacher of the Pandavas and the Kauravas
When Bhishma fell, Karna was chosen to take his place as the Commander-in-Chief of the Kaurava army. But he turned down the offer in favour of Drona who was older and more experienced. Duryodhana requested Drona to plan the war strategy in such a way that Yudhishthira might be arrested. On the eleventh day of the war, Drona went to the battlefield, determined to capture Yudhishthira.
Arjuna knew Drona’s intentions and was cautious. In order to keep Arjuna away from Yudhishthira, Susharma’s sons launched an attack on Arjuna. Arjuna fought on two fronts, his attention and energy divided. Drona took advantage of this situation and tried to capture Yudhishthira. Luckily, Bhima came to the rescue of his elder brother.
On the thirteenth day of the battle, Arjuna requested Krishna to drive his chariot to the place where Susharma’s sons had assembled. While Arjuna went to fight them, Drona arranged his army in the shape of a wheel known as Chakravyuh. Only Arjuna, Krishna, Pradyumna and Abhimanyu knew how to pierce through it.
Because Arjuna and Pradyumna were fighting far away and Krishna would not fight, Drona tried to trap Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira called Abhimanyu and he agreed to lead the army and pierce through the Chakravyuh. But Abhimanyu knew only the art of entering the Chakravyuh and not the way out of it.
Abhimanyu asked his charioteer to drive towards the Chakravyuh at the gate of which Drona was standing. Yudhishthira sent others to help Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu broke the rings of the Chakravyuh. But the Kauravas surrounded him and stopped the other warriors from reaching him. Surrounded on all sides by warriors such as Drona, Karna, Duryodhana, Dushahsana and Jaydratha, Abhimanyu fought with courage and skill.
The Kaurava warriors found it difficult to subdue the lonely Abhimanyu. So, they tried to disarm him first. His bow was cut into pieces, his sword was broken and his club was shattered. He fought with the wheel of his chariot until it was torn into pieces. Unarmed, the Kaurava warriors killed him. The cruellest killing blow was given by Jayadratha, the king of the Sindhus and the husband of Duryodhana’s sister.
The sun set. Truce was announced. All the warriors returned to their camps. Arjuna came back after destroying Susharma’s sons. Arjuna and the other Pandavas and Krishna cried and wept bitterly when the dead body of Abhimanyu with its limbs severed was brought. Arjuna came to know the role played by Jayadratha in his son’s death. He vowed to kill Jayadratha the next day by sunset or kill himself.
When Jayadratha and the Kauravas came to know about the vow of Arjuna, they panicked. Jayadratha was scared and wanted to run away. Duryodhana said the entire forces of the Kauravas would protect Jayadratha. If they succeeded in protecting Jayadratha, Arjuna would commit suicide. This would mean the Kauravas would win the war.
Jayadratha was surrounded and protected by the Kauravas so that Arjuna could never reach him. Arjuna fiercely attacked the Kauravas that day. He met with tough resistance at every step. With very great difficulty, he managed to pierce through the heart of the army. But suddenly Duryodhana challenged him to a duel.
Arjuna made repeated attacks on Duryodhana but couldn’t harm him because he was wearing a magic armour. Arjuna then started aiming his arrows at the unprotected limbs of Duryodhana and exhausted him.
It was going to be evening soon. But before the sun set, Krishna covered the sun with a thick mist so that none could know when the sun set that day. The fighting continued and at last Arjuna managed to reach the centre of the army formation where Jayadratha hid in great terror.
Arjuna shot his arrows with terrific speed at Jayadratha. They slashed his head from his body. Thus, the death of Abhimanyu was avenged and Arjuna fulfilled his vow. Jayadratha, with all the care and protection given by the Kauravas, could not be saved.
Through this story, we get to know about the might and courage of the Pandavas. Abhimanyu displayed intense skill and bravery but was unfairly killed by the Kauravas. But finally, Arjuna avenged his son’s brutal death on the battlefield.