Uttarā pleads to Abhimanyu as he leaves for the war
WeaponBow and arrows, sword
Vatsala (according to some folktales)
ChildrenParikshit (from Uttara)
RelativesPaternal uncles Maternal uncles
Step-mothers Half-brothers Cousins

Abhimanyu is a legendary warrior from the ancient Hindu history Mahabharata. He was born to the third Pandava prince Arjuna and the Yadu princess Subhadra, who was Krishna's younger sister. The Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva states that he was an incarnation of Varchas, son of Soma.[1] Soma was reluctant to part with his son, agreeing to do so solely on the condition that Varchas would return to him after he turned sixteen.

Abhimanyu was raised by his mother and her relatives as his father Arjuna, along with his brothers and their common wife Draupadi, had been exiled for thirteen years. After his father's return Abhimanyu married Uttarā, the princess of the Matsya Kingdom.

During the Kurukshetra War, Abhimanyu fought for the Pandavas. On the thirteenth day of the war, the mightiest Kaurava warriors came together and formed the Chakravyuha to trap the Pandavas, Arjuna having been enticed to another side of the battlefield. The young Abhimanyu was able to break through the circle, but Jayadratha prevented the others from following him through the breach, and Abhimanyu found himself facing the Kaurava warriors all by himself. Even so, he proved too great an archer to be faced by any one warrior, and thus, against the canons of war, he was attacked by six great warriors simultaneously, and died young as the other gods had promised Soma.

Abhimanyu's posthumous son Parikshit saved the Kuru lineage from extinction, and became a legendary monarch celebrated both in the Mahabharata and in the Bhagavata Purana.[2]

Etymology and epithets



Abhimanyu was born to Arjuna, the third Pandava, and Subhadra, the sister of Sri Krishna. After the Pandavas Yudhishthira lost the game of dice, all the Pandavas along with Draupadi were sent to exile for 13 years. Subhadra, during this period, stayed with her brothers in Dwarka, where she, along with her family members, raised Abhimanyu. He was trained in arms and warfare by Pradyumna, Balarama and Krishna. Abhimanyu was given the Raudra bow by Balarama.

After the Pandavas finished their exile, Duryodhana didn't agree to return their wealth and fortune. Thus, the Pandavas had to fight a battle to get their rights back.[2]

According to folklore, when Abhimanyu was in his mother's womb, he heard about the Chakravyuh and gained half the knowledge to enter the Chakravyuh.[3] However, in the epic, Abhimanyu learns to enter Chakravyuh from Arjuna.[4]


Before the war of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas stayed with Virata, the king of Matsya. He asked Arjuna to marry his daughter Uttarā, but Arjuna refused as he had been her teacher, thus in the position of a parent, during their year in disguise. However, he proposed the marriage of Uttara with Abhimanyu, with the wedding being held in Upaplavya.[5]

While there is no such story in the Mahabharata, the Telugu folktale Sasirekha Parinayam claims that Abhimanyu married Sasirekha, the daughter of Balarama, before his marriage to Uttarā. The tale narrates that Abhimanyu fell in love with Sasirekha or Vatsala (as per Tamil tradition), but her father, Balarama wanted her to marry Laxmana Kumar, the son of Duryodhana. Wanting to help his cousin, Ghatotkach took the form of Vatsala and injured Laxmana Kumar's arm. After the incident, Laxmana broke his marriage to Vatsala. Meanwhile, the real Vatsala was in a forest along with Abhimanyu where they married.[6]

The Kurukshetra War

In the war, Abhimanyu fought for his father's side. He displayed great bravery in the battle, even though he was a youngster. He killed warriors including Rukmartha, Brihadbala, Laksmana (Duryodhana's son), Dushmanara (Dushasana's second son), six counselors and sons of Shalya, etc.[7] He also fought and resisted many mighty warriors including Drona, Karna, Ashwatthama, Kripa, Shalya, Duryodhana, Dushasana, Vrishasena, etc. Before the 13th day, he exclusively attacked other warriors in group formation with the other 8 or 9 Pandava maharathis. He also fought mighty warriors such as Bhishma and Bhagadatta.[2]

Heroic Death

Abhimanyu is trapped into the Chakravyuh
Abhimanyu is trapped into the Chakravyuh

On the 13th day of the war, Arjuna was diverted to the South by Susharma and the Trigartas. Taking advantage of his absence, Duryodhana and his allies made a plan to trap Yudhisthira so that the war can be stopped quickly and without losing many armies. The army of Kauravas, under Dronacharya, formed Chakravyuha. Abhimanyu knew how to enter it but didn't know how to exit. He went into the trap, followed by his paternal uncles. Near the edges of the Chakravyuha, Abhimanyu ends up killing Laxmana, the son of Duryodhana. Outraged by the killing of his son, Duryodhana orders Dronacharya to change the plan to kill Abhimanyu, but the remaining four Pandavas followed Abhimanyu. However, the four Pandavas were stopped by Jayadratha. Jayadratha defeated all four of them; Drupada too was stopped and trapped. Ashwathama and Kritavarma defeated Dhrishtadyumna and the Upapandavas, leaving Abhimanyu all alone. Before reaching the center, Abhimanyu killed many other warriors like Rukhmartha, Brihadbala, Shon, etc. After Abhimanyu reached the center of the trap, he was attacked by Drona, Dushasana, Ashwatthama, Karna, Shakuni, Duryodhana Kripa, Kritavarma, Vrishasena and Drumasena (Dushasana's son), and many other warriors with a small contingent of the army he arrived inside with.[8] He dies in battle grossly outnumbered.

Abhimanyu fighting, using a wheel
Abhimanyu fighting, using a wheel

Outside Indian subcontinent


Abimanyu wayang (puppetry) figures in Indonesian culture
Abimanyu wayang (puppetry) figures in Indonesian culture

In Indonesia, in Javanese wayang culture, Abhimanyu (Indonesian: Abimanyu ) is an important figure. His figure in Indonesian - Javanese culture, has developed and is different from the version in India.

Abhimanyu is also known as Angkawijaya, Jaya Murcita, Jaka Pengalasan, Partasuta, Kirityatmaja, Sumbadraatmaja, Wanudara and Wirabatana. He is the son of Arjuna (one of the five Pandava warriors) with Dewi Subhadra (daughter of Prabu Basudewa (ruler of Mandura) with Dewi Devaki). He has 13 other siblings, namely: Sumitra, Bratalaras, Bambang Irawan, Kumaladewa, Kumalasakti, Wisanggeni, Wilungangga, Endang Pregiwa, Endang Pregiwati, Prabakusuma, Wijanarka, Anantadewa and Bambang Sumbada. Abhimanyu is the beloved of the gods. Since in the womb, he has received "Revelation Hidayat," which can make him understand everything. It is said that because of his solemn asceticism, Abhimanyu received the Revelation of Makutha Raja, which is a revelation stating that his descendants will be the successors to the throne of the ruler of Astina.

In the wayang, Abhimanyu is told as a character who is gentle, well-behaved, honest, firm-hearted, responsible, and brave. His father taught his military education directly, while he got mysticism from his grandfather, Bagawan Abiyasa. Abhimanyu lived in the Palangkawati knighthood after defeating Prabu Jayamurcita. He has two wives, Dewi Siti Sundari, daughter of Prabu Kresna, king of the Dwarawati state with Dewi Pratiwi. The story of Abhimanyu's marriage to Siti Sundari was performed in a leather puppet show with the title Alap-Alapan Siti Sundari or Jaya Murcita Ngraman. Dewi Utari, daughter of King Matsyapati and Dewi Ni Yutisnawati, from the country of Wirata, and the son of Parikesit. The story of Abhimanyu's marriage to Utari was performed in a wayang kulit stage with the title Putu Rabi Nini or Kalabendana Gugur.

Laksmana Kumara shoots arrows at Abimanyu
Laksmana Kumara shoots arrows at Abimanyu


The Death of Abhimanyu, a painting at the Neka Art Museum in Ubud, Bali
The Death of Abhimanyu, a painting at the Neka Art Museum in Ubud, Bali

Abhimanyu died in Baratayuda, the battle between the Kauravas against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra field. At that time, only three knights from the Pandavas were on the battlefield and mastered the war strategy, namely Bhima, Arjuna, and Abhimanyu. Ghatotkacha left because Karna stretched out Kunta Wijayadanu's weapon. Other knights lured Bima and Arjuna from the Kauravas to get out of the battlefield, so Abhimanyu was the only one that the Pandavas relied on at that time.

After all his brothers died, Abhimanyu forgot to set up the battle formation. He advanced alone into the middle of the Kauravas line and was trapped in the deadly formation his enemy had set up. The Kauravas rained weapons on Abhimanyu's body until Abhimanyu fell and fell from his horse—in the wayang, the wounds of charcoal from the basket are depicted (a lot of them). Abhimanyu looks like a hedgehog because of the various weapons stuck in his body. According to the story, the incident was a risk of taking an oath when proposing to Dewi Utari. Abhimanyu once swore that he was still single and stated that if he took a perjury oath, he was ready to die being beaten and impaled by various weapons of his enemies. Abhimanyu took a perjury oath because, at that time, he had already married Dewi Siti Sundari.

With various weapons stuck all over his body, Abhimanyu could no longer walk. However, Abhimanyu did not give up. He even managed to kill the future crown prince of Astina, namely Lesmana Mandrakumara, son of Prabu Duryodana, by throwing the Pulanggeni kris after penetrating the bodies of four other soldiers. At that time, the Kauravas knew that killing Abhimanyu required cutting off the langsang in his chest. In the end, Abhimanyu was killed by the mace of Kyai Glinggang or Galih Asem belonging to Jayadrata, a knight from Banakeling.[9][10][11]

In popular culture

Modern assessment

In 1974, a base named INS Abhimanyu was established symbolizing the character of Abhimanyu. On 1 May 1980, the Premier Chariot Base in Mumbai was commissioned as the permanent base for the unit. The Indian Maritime Special Forces (IMSF) is based with INS Abhimanyu.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 1: Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva: Section LXVII".
  2. ^ a b c Mani 2015.
  3. ^ "Abhimanyu and the Battle of Kurukshetra". Radha Krishna Temple in Utah. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  4. ^ Vyasa, Krishna-Dwaipayana (25 March 2014). THE MAHABHARATA of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa: Complete 18 Parvas. Darryl Morris.
  5. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 4: Virata Parva: Go-harana Parva: Section LXXII".
  6. ^ Indrajit Bandyopadhyay (29 October 2008), "A Study In Folk "Mahabharata": How Balarama Became Abhimanyu's Father-in-law", Epic India: A New Arts & Culture Magazine, archived from the original on 17 February 2012
  7. ^ "Abhimanyu and the Battle of Kurukshetra". 29 November 2009.
  8. ^ "Mahabharata and Abhimanyu Vadh: How did Arjuna's son Abhimanyu die and what happened after his death?". www.timesnownews.com. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  9. ^ Sri Guritno, Purnomo, Soimun HP (2002), Karakter Tokoh Pewayangan Mahabrata Seri v((citation)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Agus Kurniawan, Mengenal Tokoh Wayang: Belajar Mengenal Tokoh Wayang Kulit "Seri A"
  11. ^ Amrih, Pitoyo, Tokoh Wayang Inspiratif
  12. ^ "Indian Navy Marine Commandos (MARCOS)". Boot Camp & Military Fitness Institute. 10 February 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  13. ^ "INS Abhimanyu | Indian Navy". www.indiannavy.nic.in. Retrieved 8 September 2019.


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