had defeated Yudhishthira in a game of dice and sent the Pandavas to the forest. He had to
give back their kingdom after they had completed twelve years of life in the forest and
one year incognito.
But he refused.
Yudhishthira did not want to fight with his cousins. He was worried that millions of
people would die, and thousands of families would be ruined, if a war were fought. So he
said he would be content if Duryodhana gave them just five towns; Krishna himself carried
the message to Duryodhana.
Duryodhana did not agree. "I will not give them even land enough to fix a needle.
Let them fight and take it, if they want to," he said.
The two armies met in a vast field called Kurukshetra. Both the Pandavas and the
Kauravas had the support of many kings. The Pandavas had an army of seven Akshouhinies,
the Kauravas had eleven Akshouhinies. (An Akshouhini was an army consisting of 21,870
elephants, 21,870 chariots, 65,610 horses and 1,09,350 foot soldiers.) On both - sides
were warriors who were the very embodiment of bravery. The chief of the Kaurava army was
Bheeshmacharya, the grandfather of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and the son of the
divine Ganga. He was like Yama, the God of Death, to the enemies in the battle,
Dronacharya who had taught the skill of archery to the Kauravas and the Pandavas, was
another elder in the Kaurava army. His son Ashwatthama was another great hero.
Duryodhana's friend Karna was an archer who commanded many fearful missiles. Duryodhana
and Dusshasana were themselves warriors who could make enemies tremble. Shalya, an uncle
of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, was another great warrior.
Among the Pandavas, Bheema's mace made the enemies tremble; the enemies were terrified
even in their dreams at the mention of the Gandiva, Arjunas bow, and his arrows.
Krishna himself was the charioteer for Arjuna. Dhrishtadyumna was the chief of the Pandava
army. Bheema's son Ghatotkacha was an expert in magic, Mayavidya. Such mighty heroes
gathered at Kurukshetra.
The war began. There were streams of blood. Dead horses and elephants piled up.
Kurukshetra was filled with the dead bodies of warriors. The injured elephants trumpeting
in pain, the dying soldiers screaming and weeping and the clash of chariots and the
weapons clanging--all these filled the air with deafening sounds. Countless crowns of
kings rolled in the mud slushy with blood.
It was a fierce war; it was war in which very great heroes like Bheeshma, Drona, Karna,
Ashwatthama, Shalya, Bheema, Arjuna, Dhrishtadyumna, Ghatotkacha fought; hundreds of other
kings who had already taken part in many battles also fought here; and it was in such a
war that the very young Abhimanyu fought. He fought so well that even among all those
great heroes, it is impossible to forget him. And he justified his name 'Abhimanyu'
one who always defended his honor.
It was the ninth day of the war. Abhimanyu's arrows threatened the enemies like the
darts of death. Wherever he set foot, Kaurava soldiers sank to the earth. Kings, who at
first thought he was just a boy and lightly tried to stop him, had all to kiss the ground.
Brave men like Kripa, Ashwatthama and Saindhava faced him, but even they could not stop
his darts. Dronacharya himself, who had taught archery to Abhimanyu's father then stopped
him. Even he was amazed at Abhimanyu's skill. The enemies could never make out when his
fingers moved, when he took out arrows from his quiver, when he set them to the bow, or
when he shot those darts at the target. They could only realize that arrow after arrow
pierced their bodies. Sometimes we see a halo around the orb of the sun; the quick
revolving bow made a similar halo around Abhimanyu's head. The Kaurava soldiers were
amazed; they wondered whether there was one Arjuna or two of them in Kurukshetra. They
perspired in fear. Men like Drona, Ashwatthama and Kripa also shuddered.
Duryodhana saw this and sent a mighty giant called Alambusa to kill Abhimanyu. Alambusa
showered thousands of arrows on the enemy. Fear spread in the Pandavas army and soldiers
began to run away. Draupadi's sons, the Upapandavas, rushed to fight with the giant. He
killed their charioteers and their horses. Abhimanyu went to their rescue. A terrible
battle followed between Alambusa and Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu's pointed darts made the giant
reel. But Alambusa created darkness with his magical power. Abhimanyu swept off the
darkness with his dazzling Suryastra, the sun-missile. Alambusa ran away, Abhimanyu moved
freely in Kurukshetra and wiped out the enemies like an excited elephant roaming about in
a lotus lake trampling upon all the flowers. Then Bheeshmacharya himself faced Abhimanyu,
to protect the Kaurava army. He showered arrows all around Abhimanyu. But Abhimanyu cut
all his arrows. Arjuna rushed there to help his son. As the battle raged on, it grew dark
and both the armies retired to their camps. The Kaurava army was shuddering at the very
mention of Abhimanyu.
On the eleventh day of the Mahabharata war, Abhimanyu again shook the Kaurava army.
There was a very brave king Paurava by name. He faced Abhimanyu. When Abhimanyu shot an
arrow to kill him, Paurava cut his bow and arrows with his darts. Abhimanyu threw away his
bow and fell on him with his sword. He caught hold of his hair and threw him on the
ground. At that moment, another famous hero Jayadratha rushed to the spot. He was also
called Saindhava since he was the king of the country called Sindhu. He hated Abhimanyu
very much. Abhimanyu and Jayadratha fought with their swords. Their skill and their
flashing swords dazzled the onlookers. The bodies of both were dripping with blood.
Jayadratha's sword struck Abhimanyu's shield and pierced it. When he pulled it back, it
broke down. Jayadratha retreated six paces, climbed into his chariot, and went away.
Shalya used an arrow, which emitted fire over Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu caught that arrow like
a Garuda, which catches a snake falling from above, and threw it back. It hit Shalya's
chariot and the Charioteer fell dead. Shalya jumped down from his chariot and fell on
Abhimanyu with his heavy Mace. Abhimanyu also took his mace. By then, Bheema himself came
to help him. Abhimanyu insisted on fighting with Shalya alone. But at the end he yielded
to his uncle and moved away. Bheema then fought Shalya.
It was the Twelvth Day of the Mahabharata war. By then Bheeshma had given up his bow
and lay on a bed of arrows, renouncing war. Dronacharya was in command of the Kaurava
forces. Grieved that his army was being defeated, Duryodhana went to Drona, told him of
his sorrow, and also reproached him. Drona was much pained, and said: "Arjuna defeats
us. If he is drawn elsewhere on the battlefield, I shall defeat the Pandavas." There
were in Duryodhana's army five picked soldiers, the Samshaptakas, who had sworn either to
win or die in the battle. They now invited Arjuna to fight- with them.
The next day, which was the thirteenth day, Arjuna went in his chariot to fight with
those sworn soldiers. Krishna himself was the charioteer.
Dronacharya arranged the Kaurava army in a particular pattern known as the Padmavyooha
or the Chakravyooha. To pierce this and go inside and fight was very difficult. Only Shri
Krishna, his son Pradyumna and Arjuna knew how to enter and come out of the Padmavyooha.
Abhimanyu knew only how to get in. Yudhishthira, Bheema, Nakula, Sahadeva, Dhrishtadyumna,
his father Drupada - all of them tried to break the formation of the Kaurava army, but in
The Pandavas army was in distress. What could they do if they could not go near the
enemy's army? The brave Samshaptakas had engaged Arjuna and detained him. Yudhishthira did
not know what to do. It was a shame to the Pandavas. Bheema, Nakula and Sahadeva -- all of
them bent their heads in shame and sorrow. The Pandavas army was full of confusion and
The brave Abhimanyu saw his uncle's plight. He went to him and said, "I will find
my way into the Chakravyooha. Do not worry."
Yudhishthira wondered very much at the courage of young Abhimanyu. But his heart would
not consent to send the boy on such a dangerous task. He said, "My boy, you are very
brave and possess strength and courage beyond your age. But there are experienced warriors
in the Kaurava army. Can you face them? This adventure is not for you."
"Uncle, I am not afraid of anybody in the battle. I will defeat them all,"
Yudhishthira tried to pacify him and said, "Only Krishna, Pradyumna and Arjuna can
enter the Chakravyooha and come out of it safely. You can only go inside."
"Please permit me, I will overcome Drona's Vyooha," said Abhimanyu.
Yudhishthira thought Abhimanyu was right. He felt that after defeating the
Samshaptakas, Arjuna might come and reproach them if they all remained helpless. So he
decided to permit Abhimanyu and said, "It will be enough if you just enter the
Vyooha. Bheema, Satyaki, Dhrishtadyumna, the Panchalas, and I myself will be right behind
you. As soon as you break it and make a way, we will all rush in."
Abhimanyu felt happy. He said, "I will bring honour to my parents," and bowed
to Yudhishthira. He put on his armour, tied up his quiver, and took his sword. He put his
bow inside the chariot and bowed to his mother Subhadra. His wife Uttara performed
'Arati', wishing him success. The brave young hero entered his chariot.
Abhimanyu's charioteer was full of sympathy for his daring. He said: "Think it
over. You are taking on yourself a great responsibility. You are still a boy, grown up in
comfort and not much experienced in warfare. Drona is a great master of missiles and has
won many battles."
Abhimanyu laughed and said, "Does the wind sweat? Does a spreading fire fear the
snow? Am I to be afraid of the Kaurava army? I do not fear anybody in a fight. Whether it
is the Lord of the Universe or my own heroic father confronting me, I will not be
With a heavy heart, the charioteer drove forward. like a lion ounching on herds
of elephants. Abhimanyu fell ont he armies of many brave men. Mighty
warriors of the Kaurava army tried to stop him. But it was useless. It was
like trees trying t stop advancing flames. Abhimanyu pierced the Chakravyooha
and entered inside, right in front of the unequalled archer Dronacharya. Duryodhana
and others were shocked and astonished at the prowess of this young hero. As the
Kaurava soldiers watched him, their tongues went dry, their eyes grew unsteady and their
hair stood up with fear. As Abhimanyu's arrows began to fell the soldiers, the
Kaurava army stated to flee. Duryodhana saw this and himself came to fight with
The very word 'Duryodhana' means 'a fierce warrrior'. Even expert archers found it
difficult to face him on the battleground. Seeing Duryodhana poised before
Abhimanyu, eminent warriors like Drona, Kripa and Kama rushed in their chariots to help
him. Jayadratha stopped Yudhishthira, Bheema and others who tried to penetrate the
Chakravyooha behind Abhimanyu. Lord Shiva had granted Jayadratha a boon that for one day
he could check all the Pandavas except Arjuna. Thus Abhimanyu had to remain alone inside
the Chakravyooha surrounded by the enemies.
Hit by Abhimanyu's darts, Duryodhana tottered. Drona, Kripa, Ashwatthama and others
came to his rescue and feel on Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu stopped all of them single-handed.
With one arrow he pierced Karna's shield. With three more he killed Sushena,
Deerghalochana and others. Shalya, known as the bravest of the brave, crumpled up in his
Chariot when Abhimanyu's arrows hit him.
The Kaurava army ran helter-skelter because of the boy's arrows, right before
Dronacharya who had taught archery to Arjuna and Duryodhana. He was amazed, and praised
him saying that he had not seen such a brave lad till then. Duryodhana was angry that
Drona praised an enemy. He called Dusshasana and other warriors and said,
"Dronacharya has great affection for Arjuna. He will not kill Arjuna's son. You must
yourselves defeat him and put him to flight."
Dusshasana said, "I will kill Abhimanyu. If Abhimanyu dies, Arjuna will die of
grief. Krishna will not live after that. Nor will the Pandavas live thereafter."
After the game of dice between Yudhishthira and Duryodhana, Dusshasana had dishonored
Draupadi in the open court. The Pandavas hated him intensely. But he was a very strong
warrior. Abhimanyu, however, did not fear him. "I got you at last - you cruel,
wicked, boastful fellow! Now you will get the punishment for your wickedness. Suffer it
before the eyes of both the armies. If you don't run away, you will die today at my
And he aimed his arrow. The dart struck Dusshasana's heart. Blood gushed out. Abhimanyu
shot another arrow and Dusshasana fainted. His charioteer sped away the chariot.
Seeing Dusshasana's plight, Karna rushed to confront Abhimanyu. Very few persons could
equal Karna in an encounter with the bow and arrow. It was impossible for anyone's dart to
make a dent in his coat of mail. He was the disciple of Parashurama who had made all kings
tremble. He was a hero who could face Arjuna. He showered a hundred arrows on Abhimanyu.
Abhimanyu easily cut his bow itself into two. His arrows brought the flag on Karna's
chariot to the ground, and cut Karna's darts in midair. Karna's horses ran away. Seeing
the chariot of the mighty Karna himself speeding away, the Kaurava army shivered with fear
and the soldiers began to run away. They fell before Abhimanyu's arrows like straw burnt
With the Kaurava army thus shaken, Yudhishthira, Bheema, Satyaki and others again
surged forward to help Abhimanyu. But they could not get into the Padmavyooha formed by
The Kaurava heroes saw the plight of their army and again surrounded Abhimanyu.
Jayadratha, who had a boon from Lord Shiva, stopped all the brave warriors of the Pandavas
army, so that Abhimanyu remained alone inside. Yet Abhimanyu killed the Kaurava soldiers
like a whale killing the fish, Seeing his soldiers crumbling like withered leaves in the
wind, Duryodhana was furious and again Opposed Abhimanyu. Drona Ashwatthama, Karna and
others encircled Abhimanyu to help a master. Duryodhana's son Lakshana rained numberless
arrows on Abhimanyu.
The fight again grew fierce. Abhimanyu faced the Kaurava hero like a lion's cub
fighting with trumpeting elephants attacking him. He shot various missiles. Arrows struck
one another in mid-air and fell down burning. Horses ran hither and thither, unable to
bear the pain. At last unable to bear Abhimanyu's arrows, which struck him like fire,
Duryodhana also took to his heels. Abhimanyu's arrows cut off Lakshana's head. Drona,
Ashwatthama and Karna turned their chariots back. The Kaurava army was in utter panic.
Karna said to Drona, "Acharya, how are we to conquer this brave lad?" The
Acharya said: "Karna, is it possible to face him and win? His fighting skill is
flawless. This gifted son of Arjuna is a lion among men. Arjuna is really fortunate. See
how nimble Abhimanyu's hands and fingers are and how he himself moves about like
lightning. As his chariot moves, we can only see his bow in circular form and nothing else
- we do not see him pull the string, we do not see him shoot the arrow. I am suffering
pain all over my body because of his piercing arrows. This youngster humbles me. And yet
the skill of his hands fills me with happiness."
"It is cowardice on the part of a warrior to run away from the battlefield and
that is why I am still here," Karna confessed. "Wherever his arrows have struck
me, it is like a ball of fire."
Drona: "Abhimanyu is still a boy, but he is a very great hero. It is impossible to
rip his armour. We can win only if an expert can cut his bow. If you wish to do it, you
must strike when he turns back, When he has his bow in his hands, no one can face him and,
overcome him. Break his bow, and then, from behind, smash his chariot."
From behind Abhimanyu, Kama shot sharp arrows aimed at the lad's hand. Abhimanyu's bow
was broken. Simultaneously Bhoja killed his horses. Abhimanyu's chariot could not move.
Kripa slew the guards. Six mighty warriors - Drona, Karna, Kripa, Ashwatthama, Brihadbala
and Kritavarma surrounded the young hero and attacked him. Abhimanyu had no chariot and no
bow. And there was no one at all to help him.
But the brave Abhimanyu did not fear or despair. He jumped out of his chariot holding
his sword and shield. Even as he jumped, Drona and Karna broke his shield. Abhimanyu
jumped to the ground, pulled off his chariot wheel and with it attacked Dronacharya. The
enemies all around him rained arrows on him. The wheel was broken into pieces and the
fragments scattered around. Abhimanyu picked up his mace from the chariot and pounced upon
the enemies. The brave boy was standing on the ground; and yet the warriors in the
chariots had to retreat before his onslaught. Dusshasana's chariot and horses were
crushed. Dusshasana's son took his mace and confronted Abhimanyu who was smashing the
encircling enemies with his mace. Both were young, heroic and determined. The fight was
terrible like the clash of two maddened elephants.
Both of them fell down, unable to bear each other's blows. Abhimanyu was already tired,
having fought with many an enemy hero for along time all through the day. Dusshasana's son
recovered earlier and got up quickly. Even as Abhimanyu was getting up, his enemy hit him
with his mace. Unable to bear the blow,
Abhimanyu fell down. The soul that supreme hero left his lovely young body. Blood
spilled all round and his strong body became covered with mud and dust. But his fame lives
and Abhimanyu has become another word for boundless daring.