All is fair in war and love it is said. It seems so obviously true, yet there is a certain discomfort that keeps lurking in us when we come across details that move us to the quick. Then, we wonder, where does justice go? Is everything still fair?
Subhadra was due for confinement and Arjuna was talking to her. He was keenly telling her the details of breaking into the difficult Lotus formation. Subhadra, exhausted due to her present condition, soon fell asleep. But Arjuna, unaware of this fact, continued to describe the tactics of the breaking in procedure. As Arjuna paused at the end of the description he was summoned to attend to a matter of urgency and he left forthwith. However, it is not true that no one had been listening.
A few days later, Subhadra brought to bed a beautiful boy child and he came to be called Abhimanyu. When he was barely four years old, the Pandavas went into exile. The young Abhimanyu was trained in archery by his noble and valiant mother. With his father? daredevilry running in his blood and his mother’s character embedded in his core, he grew up fearless and strong.
The Pandavas finished their period of exile when he was seventeen and he was married to Uttara Kumari, the daughter of King Virata and Arjuna’s student.
Shortly thereafter, the great war of Kurukshetra began. Until the twelfth day, all of the Kauravas’ attempts to capture Yudhishtira failed making Duryodhana impatient. As he expressed his ire to Drona, the master told: I have already told you that as long as Yudhishtira has Arjuna for protection, it is impossible to capture him.
It was then planned to engage Arjuna in a fierce battle with the Samsaptakas (suicide squads whose motto was ‘do or die’ of the Trigarta clan who had earlier been conquered by Arjuna) and he was drawn to another part of the battlefield. Thus, on the thirteenth day, with Arjuna away, the master arrayed the army in the impregnable Lotus formation.
The Pandavas, led by Yudhishtira, approached Abhimanyu and said: Dear son, in your father’s absence, only you have the wherewithal to break into this formation. Please do so!
Abhimanyu said: Dear uncle, I shall break into the Lotus but please remember that I am not yet enlightened on the method to come out of it. Hence, if you do not follow me close, I shall be trapped.
Yudhishtira said: Do not worry, child for we shall be right behind you and you shall face no danger! Bhima supported Yudhishtira’s proposal. Abhimanyu, encouraged, turned to his charioteer Sumitra and said: Now look straight at the master’s flag and ride the horses on!
Sumitra said: Dear master! You carry a great burden indeed on your young shoulders! Though valiant, you are not the acharya’s equal in age and experience.
Abhimanyu said: Forget not that I am Sri Krishna’s nephew and Arjuna’s son! Now ride on! Faster! Faster!
Sumitra rode on fiercely and the Lotus was pierced. The army was stunned at the ferocity of the young warrior but Jayadratha, Dhritarashtra’s son-in-law, with quick acting, sealed the puncture. The Pandavas were stopped and Abhimanyu was inside the Lotus, all alone!
Abhimanyu wreaked havoc inside the array. He was the unpredicted hurricane that uprooted all things that came in its way. He was indomitable. All the great warriors on the Kaurava front including Drona, Salya, Karna and Aswatthama had to beat retreat. Finally, at the behest of Drona, it was decided to attack the formidable youth from behind.
And so it was a boy of seventeen shamelessly attacked by a horde of veterans from the rear! His horses and charioteer were killed, his bow was broken and he stood on the ground with sword and shield in hand. He then swirled around so quick that his feet were scarcely seen touching the earth! Drona and Karna disarmed him and the youth, undaunted, took up a chariot wheel and swung it around and he seemed to the others like Vishnu with the discus.
However, the boy was overpowered by the combined attack of the Kaurava army. Finally Duhsasana’s son killed him with a mace. The lone flower bud lay in a bloody pool in the midst of the impregnable Lotus!