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Abhimanyu is holding a bow shooting arrows with a war scene in the background

Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra in the Mahabharata. He is famous for his destruction of the Kaurava chakravyuha on the thirteenth day of the Kurukshetra War. Abhimanyu was able to kill thousands of warriors. In the end, he was surrounded and brutally slaughtered by the Kaurava maharathis. He was also the father of King Parikshit.

Family

  • Father: Arjuna
  • Mother: Subhadra
  • Half-Brother: Shrutakirti (Shrutakarma), Babruvahana, Iravan
  • Wife: Uttaraa
  • Son: Parikshit

Birth: Arjuna Abducts Subhadra

This story is told in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 211-213

Arjuna driving his chariot with one hand and holding Subhadra with the other

At the end of his pilgrimage, Arjuna arrived at Dwarka. Lord Krishna and the Yadavas welcomed him. A few days later, the Yadavas had a festival on Mount Raivataka. At the festival, Arjuna was walking with Krishna. At that time, he saw a beautiful woman. She was Subhadra, the daughter of Vasudeva (Krishna’s father) and Rohini. This meant that she was Krishna’s sister. Arjuna immediately fell in love with her.

He told Krishna, “If she becomes my wife, I will be blessed. Tell me, how can I marry her? I will do anything I can!”

“Kshatriyas must marry women in swayamvaras, in which the bride chooses a suitor. However, we don’t know if she will chose you. Kshatriyas are also allowed to abduct for marriage. Hence, you should abduct her,” Krishna said. After obtaining Yudhishthira‘s permission, Arjuna prepared himself. He selected a strong chariot, armed himself, and abducted Subhadra at Raivataka.

Abhimanyu’s Birth

All the soldiers rushed to Dwarka and told the Yadava leaders what had happened. The enraged Yadavas started getting ready for battle. But Balarama calmed them and said, “Yadavas, we cannot do anything before we hear Krishna’s opinion.” He turned to Krishna, who said, “Arjuna has not committed any sin. He knows that we will not give Subhadra away in exchange for gold. Along with that, he doesn’t know if she will chose him in a Swayamvara. That is why he abducted her, and it is completely fine. The match is perfect. Subhadra is beautiful, and Arjuna is the most powerful warrior on Earth. Go call Arjuna here.”

The Yadavas agreed and found Arjuna. Afterwards, Arjuna and Subhadra’s marriage was celebrated with pomp and grandeur. Having finished his twelve-year pilgrimage, Arjuna returned to Indraprastha. The Yadavas also came there and enjoyed with the Pandavas.

Arjuna, dressed as a hermit, looks at Subhadra in the forest
Arjuna and Subhadra

Soon, Subhadra gave birth to a son. He was named “Abhimanyu”. Abhi means extreme and manyu means anger. He was named thus because of his aggressive nature. He was also commonly known as “Soubhadra”, meaning the son of Subhadra. When he was born, Yudhishthira donated ten thousand cows and gold coins to Brahmins.

Abhimanyu’s Education

This story is told in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 213 and Vana Parva, Chapter 224

From his birth, Abhimanyu was a favorite of Krishna. As he grew up, Arjuna taught him the Vedas and Upanishads. Abhimanyu was also taught Dhanurveda (the art of warfare). Abhimanyu became a powerful warrior. He was fierce and brave in battle. Arjuna was extremely pleased.

A couple years later, the Pandavas were defeated by the Kauravas in the gambling game. They were forced to go on a 13 year exile, with the last year being an incognito year. During that time, Subhadra and Abhimanyu lived in Dwarka. The five Draupadeyas (sons of Draupadi and Pandavas) also lived in Dwarka. Subhadara and Rukmini took care of them. Meanwhile, Krishna taught them various weapons.

Abhimanyu Marries Uttaraa

This story is in the Mahabharata, Virata Parva, Chapters 66-67

At the end of their incognito year, the Pandavas revealed their identity to King Virata. Thereafter, Virata requested, “I am truly blessed to be in your presence. I would like my daughter Uttaraa to marry Arjuna.”

“Uttaraa will be my daughter-in-law,” Arjuna said. Upon hearing Arjuna, Virata became upset. He said, “Why can’t you marry her?”

“Throughout this year, I lived with Uttaraa as her teacher. I taught her music and dance. I am like her second father. How can I marry her? Instead, Uttaraa can marry my son Abhimanyu,” Arjuna proclaimed.

Virata agreed, and the marriage preparations began. Abhimanyu, Subhadra, Krishna, and the Yadavas came from Dwarka. King Abhibhu of Kasi, King Govishana of Sivi, King Drupada of Panchala, the Draupadeyas, and many other Pandava allies arrived for the marriage. After the guests arrived, the marriage ceremony was conducted. Everyone gave each other gifts, donated to the Brahmins, and enjoyed themselves.

Abhimanyu and Uttaraa hugging each other as Abhimanyu goes to war
Abhimanyu and Uttaraa

Kurukshetra War

This story is told in the Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva and Drona Parva

After the marriage festivities were over, the Pandavas and all their allies began the war preparations. Abhimanyu obviously fought on the Pandava side in the war. He fought various wars throughout the days of the battle. On the first day of the war, he fought Bhishma. They rained arrows at each other, but neither of them could defeat their opponent. In the end, Bhishma injured Abhimanyu, but didn’t want to kill him. Bhishma was impressed with Abhimanyu’s skills. He also fought Ashwatthama, Vikarna, Lakshmana, and others.

The Chakravyuha Death Trap

On the thirteenth day, the Kaurava commander Drona formed a chakravyuha. A chakravyuha is a disc formation with multiple defensive lines. It is extremely difficult to attack and counter. Meanwhile, Arjuna was taken away from the battlefield by the Sampshapatakas, warriors who had vowed to kill Arjuna or die.

When Yudhishthira saw the chakravyuha, he turned to Abhimanyu and said, “You are the only warrior here who knows how to break the chakravyuha. Krishna, Arjuna, and Pradyumna also know how to break it, but they are not here. Please enter the chakravyuha and destroy the Kaurava army.

In progress…

List of Warriors Killed by Abhimanyu in the Kurukshetra War:

Warrior KilledDay KilledKingdom/Territory
Satyasharwa13thAnga
Dhanusha13thAnga
Prabahu13thAnga
Bhoja13thBhoja Territories
Vrihadvala13thSouth-Central Kosala
Meghavegha13thSouth-Central Kosala
Vasatiya13thVasati
Vasatika13thVasati
Son of Ashmaka King13thAshmaka
Chandraketu13thUjjayani
Rukmaratha13thMadra
Shalya’s Brother13thMadra
Kalikeya13thGandhara
Shatrunjaya13thSindhu
Jayatsena13thMagadha
Maghadaraja4thMagadha
Dirghalochana13thRakshasa
Ashvaketu13thMagadha
Suryabhasa13th
Pratardhana13thBahlika
Lakshmana13thKuru East
Vikarna II6thKuru East

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