The Indian epic poem, Mahabharata, is the embodiment of exemplary secular and religious values of righteousness, heroism, fortitude and gallantry. It entails a divine concept of the path of righteousness and how neglect can ruin lives. The Kurukshetra War witnessed many valorous warriors. One of them was Prince Abhimanyu, the son of Prince Arjuna of Hastinapur and Princess Subhadra of Dwarika. He belonged to the Kuru Dynasty of Lunar ancestry. Every member of the clan was hence called a ‘Chandravanshi’.
Abhimanyu was the beloved of the Pandavas. He is considered to be the favourite of Draupadi despite of the fact that she didn’t birth him. His birth was celebrated lavishly and ebullient charity work was done. He was one of the youngest warriors on the Pandava side though endowed with the exceptional warfare abilities. Throughout his lifespan of 16 years, he was trained in military and combat by the superior warriors of his time. The prince is known to have exhibited unsurpassable courage in the battlefield that earned him much respect.
Here is a list of interesting facts about Abhimanyu that you might want to know:
1. His Parents were Cousins
Abhimanyu’s father Prince Arjun of Hastinapur was the son of Princess Kunti. She was the adopted daughter of Kuntibhoj. She, originally named Pritha, was the biological daughter of King Shurasena who fathered Prince Vasudev. Prince Vasudev was the father of three: Lord Krishna, Prince Balram and Princess Subhadra. This way, Prince Arjun was a cousin brother to Princess Subhadra. Prince Balram had planned to marry her off to his favourite student, Prince Duryodhana of Hastinapur.
2. Son of Subhadra
Being the son of Princess Subhadra, Abhimanyu came to be known by the names of ‘Soubhadri’ and ‘Subhadranandan’ meaning ‘the son of Subhadra’. He was told from the very beginning that he shall avenge the wrongs done to his parents by the sons of King Dhritrashtra.
3. An Incarnation of Varchas
Abhimanyu is believed to be an incarnation of ‘Varchas’, the son of Soma, the Moon God of Hindu Mythology. This aspect of his life has a significant importance as he was born a ‘Chandravanshi’. According to the legends, the Moon God couldn’t be parted away from his child Varchas for long, so he only allowed to let him live on earth for 16 years. Hence, his lifespan was only 16 years.
4. Kuru’s Descendant
Abhimanyu was the 12th generation of the Kuru lineage. Being the eldest of his generation, he was leading his younger brothers in the battlefield and had sworn-in to protect them throughout the battle.
5. Trained by Superiors
When Princess Subhadra was carrying Abhimanyu, the five Pandavs along with Draupadi went into exile for 13 years. Meanwhile, Indraprastha was taken over by Kauravs and Princess Subhadra was taken care of by her brothers Krishna and Balram in Dwarika, her ancestral home. Abhimanyu grew up there with his maternal cousins and was trained by Lord Krishna, Balram and Prince Pradyumn, the son of Lord Krishna. He learnt warfare strategy and combat skills there. When he reached adolescence, the Pandavs and Draupadi returned from exile.
Prince Abhimanyu was showered with great love and compassion by his immediate family. His father, Prince Arjun, a superior warrior himself, taught him archery and Vyuh formations. He gained the knowledge of all four Veds: Rigved, Samveda, Yajurved and Atharvaved and six vedangs: Shiksha, Chhanda, Nirukta, Vyakaran, Kalpa and Jyotish. Veds are known to bestow the knowledge of the whole universe.
7. Chakra-Vyuh Issue
Many believe that the prince had learnt much about Chakra-Vyuh (a type of strategic army formations made in battleground) when he was in his mother’s womb. However, it is just an exaggeration of saying that he learnt a very difficult skill at a very young age from his father. He only knew, however, to understand the structure of the formation and to enter it.
8. Possession of Special Weapons
Prince Abhimanyu earned 2 celestial weapons namely, Aindrastra and Agneyastra. Aindrastra was the weapon gifted by Lord Indra which was of both low and high capacity. Lower capacity Aindrastra would diminish a target whereas a higher capacity weapon would emit thousands of arrows at the same time and kill as many. Agneyastra was a lethal fire weapon, which if not neutralized in time would easily kill lakhs of soldiers in one go.
9. His Weapon
In Mahabharat, many warriors used destructive weapons, some for righteousness, while others against it. And like his father, Prince Abhimanyu grew up learning the skill of archery. He specialized in Combat Archery which is why his preferred weapon throughout his life remained a bow and arrow.
Prince Abhimanyu was known by the name of ‘Raudradhari’ meaning ‘the one who possessed/carried Raudra’. He was blessed with a divine bow called ‘Raudra’ by his teacher Prince Balram.
11. A Beautiful Chariot
Abhimanyu’s chariot was decorated with the Karnikar tree (Pterospermum acer folium). The tree has big broad leaves and bears delicate white flowers which a sweet fragrance. The fruit grows in the shape of a big capsule that takes more than a year to mature and once dried, releases winged seeds.
12. Status of Maharathi
Abhimanyu was a ‘Maharathi’ as he had mastered many skills and weapons compared to his uncles Prince Yudhisthir, Prince Bheemsen, Prince Nakul and Prince Sahdev who were ‘Rathis’. A Maharathi was capable of fighting 720,000 warriors simultaneously.
13. Fell in Love with a Princess
Prince Abhimanyu fell in love with Princess Vatsala who was the daughter of Prince Balram (his guru) and Princess Revati. Balram had trained Prince Duryodhan of Hastinapur in excellent mace-fighting. He had decided to marry his daughter Princess Vatsala to the son of his beloved student Duryodhan, Prince Lakshman. However, with the help of his paternal cousin, Prince Ghatotkach, and the power of persuasion, Abhimanyu could woo the princess. Hence, he became the son-in-law of Prince Balram.
14. Duryodhan’s Rage
After Princess Vatsala decided to marry Prince Abhimanyu instead of Prince Lakshman, Prince Lakshman felt humiliated and swore to never marry again. The humiliation along with his son’s decision angered Prince Duryodhan very much.
15. Fought Till the Last Breath
Prince Abhimanyu, could fearlessly penetrate into the Chakra-Vyuh but was caught up inside the core. On Pandav’s side, only Lord Krishna, Prince Arjun and Prince Abhimanyu knew how to tackle such formation. In the absence of the two, Abhimanyu decided to save the day and entered the formation that was specially designed to kill him. He was followed by his uncles. Unfortunately, his only weakness was not knowing how to come out of a Chakra-Vyuh and the Kauravs inside surrounded him and killed him to death on the 13th day of the war.
Abhimanyu is known to have given them a tough time in combat and fought till he lost all his energy and senses, unarmed. His death was a turning point in the war. Had he not put his life in danger, the Kauravs would have won the battle that every day in the absence of Lord Krishna and Maharathi Prince Arjun. The formation would have engulfed the remaining army of Pandavs. Upon the death of their beloved son, the Pandavs fought very fiercely for the following days.
16. Killed Up-Kaurav Brothers
On the 13th day of the battle, when Prince Abhimanyu was the only one left on the Pandav’s side to tackle the Chakra-Vyuh, he killed Princes Lakshman, the son of Prince Duryodhan and another son of Prince Dushaashan in the process.
17. Defeated the superiors
Prince Abhimanyu was able to defeat the High ranking Kaurav warriors like Bheeshma, Drona, Kripacharya, Duryodhan, Ashwathama, Dushaashan, King Shalya multiple times.
18. The Undefeatable
Prince Abhimanyu was stabbed multiple times by Kaurav army officials and Kauravs when he was defenseless. Guru Dronacharya, the then Commander-in-General had sensed the superior abilities of Abhimanyu and he conveyed to Prince Duryodhan that Abhimanyu couldn’t be defeated until he has his bow and arrow and was protected in his chariot. Guru Dronacharya dismantled his chariot and killed his charioteer Sumitra and then fought him off along with others.
19. His Son’s Rebirth
Guru Dronacharya’s son King Ashwathama used Brahmaastra after the battle was lost, to destroy all the future generations of Pandav brothers. He also killed the 5 sons of Draupadi. The weapon terminated the ability of all the Pandav wives to bear children. Not only that, but it also targeted and killed the unborn child of Prince Abhimanyu, who was carried by his first wife Princess Uttara of Vidarbha. The baby was brought back to life by Lord Krishna and was named ‘Parikshit’ meaning ‘the one who was tested even before he was born.
20. His Son Became the Next King
Prince Abhimanyu’s son Parikshit was thus the only surviving heir of the Pandavs after the mass destruction. He was made the Crown Prince of Hastinapur. Prince Yudhisthir became the king right after the war ended and after a reign of 36 years, Parikshit has crowned the king. It is believed that Parikshit witnessed the advent of Kaliyug.