Outnumbered and weaponless, the young warrior surveyed the battle field of Kurukshetra grimly.
The day had not fared as well as he would have wished for it. The Kauravas, his enemies, had created a chakravyuha. There were only three people in the Pandava army who knew how to break into the formation: his father Arjuna, his grandfather Drupada, and himself.
The knowledge of entering into this complex wheel-shaped vyuha was imparted to him by his uncle, Krishna, while he was in his mother’s womb. However, his mother had fallen asleep while her brother was imparting the knowledge on how to get out of it. And so, he had never learnt it.
His chariot had been broken by one of the greatest archers in the world, Karna. The horses and the charioteer were killed by his father’s guru, Dronacharya.
His enemies were mocking him. Sixteen, he thought, was too young an age to die. And he was just about to do that. Die.
According to the rules of the war (incidentally created by his great-uncle Shakuni, who was also his enemy), a soldier who is weaponless should not be attacked. A warrior should be attacked only by an individual. A warrior who is willing to surrender should not be attacked. Well, and his enemies were breaking all these rules.
“Why, young Abhimanyu, your father never declined a challenge. Are you going to make him feel ashamed of you?”, mocked Dusshasana, his father’s evil cousin.
He knew Dusshasana and his brother, Duryodhana, was enraged as he had killed the latter’s son, Lakshmana. Even when he was left weaponless, he had taken the wheel of his chariot and had fought valiantly. Now, even that was broken.
“Fight with my son, Durmashasana, if you dare,” sneered Dusshasana.
Abhimanyu smiled grimly. War etiquette demanded you never decline a challenge. While he was thoroughly exhausted, his cousin, Durmashasana, was bubbling with energy. While the latter was backed by hundreds of war veterans, Abhimanyu had no one to back him up.
Without any other choice, he accepted the challenge. Then began the tussle. Though Abhimanyu was exhausted, he seemed to have inherited his uncle, Bhima’s super-human strength. The same was true of Durmashasana, whose uncle, Duryodhana was even more powerful than Bhima.
The two wrestled each other. They pushed and heaved, jumped on top of the other, tried to tear their opponent apart. The Kauravas jeered at Abhimanyu, laughed at him, mocked at him. In the heart of their hearts, they knew that if Abhimanyu had regained even half of his valor and vigor, Durmashasana would be no match for him.
A strong gale started to blow. In a moment of weakness, Abhimanyu fell down, but not before pulling Durmashasana along with him.
Then Kauravas watched with bated breath. The first to rise would be the first to strike the other, leading to victory. Then, as the gale continued to blow, a figure rose. Recognizing it to be of Durmashasana’s, the Kauravas raised a cry of triumph.
As Durmashasana rose to strike, Abhimanyu thought of his life. Just sixteen years long.
In that moment of reflection, Abhimanyu looked around himself. He could hear the cries of fallen soldiers, as vultures pecked their entrails. The scavengers screeched in the sky, looking for more bodies to feed on. So many lives were being taken in the battlefield. The neighing of horses, the rumble of the chariot wheels, the sound of conch shells, all of these clogged his ears.
He then thought of his pregnant wife, Uttara Kumari, and how she would react to his death. He thought of his father, Arjuna, who was always proud of his valiant son. He thought of his mother Subhadra, who would grieve for the loss of her one and only child. He thought of his eldest mother, Draupadi, who, though she didn’t give birth to him, loved him more than his mother. At last, he thought of his uncle, Krishna, who was believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself.
He smiled. Though he knew that his family would grieve his death, he was sure they’d be very proud that he had died a brave and valorous death, for something worth dying for. He would die, he thought, making his family proud. And that made him happy.
Then, his cousin smote the final blow on his chest. And with the thought of the Lord, Abhimanyu’s life went out softly, blown away like a candle.