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Chapter 80: The Death Of Abhimanyu

THE Pandavas, proceeding according to plan, had closely followed Abhimanyu when he broke into the Kaurava formation. But Dhritarashtra's son-in-law Jayadratha, the gallant king of the Sindhus, swooped down upon the Pandavas with all his forces and enabled the breach in the formation to be effectively and solidly closed up, so that the Pandavas found it impossible to force their way in.

Yudhishthira hurled a javelin and cut Jayadratha's bow. But in an instant, the Saindhava took up another bow and sent unerring shafts at Dharmaputra.

Bhimasena's arrows made deadly work, crashing down the canopy and flagstaff of Jayadratha's car. But the Saindhava, was alert and rearmed himself, each time his equipment was broken. He killed Bhima's chariot horses, and the latter had to go into Satyaki's car.

In this manner, Jayadratha, with stubborn valor, prevented the Pandavas from entering in Abhimanyu's wake. The young hero was thus isolated and surrounded by the Kaurava forces.

The son of Subhadra was however undaunted. He attacked all the warriors around him and slew them in great number. Like rivers losing themselves in the ocean, the soldiers that went to attack him, disappeared before his arrows. The Kaurava army reeled under Abhimanyu's onslaughts.

Duryodhana's son Lakshmana, a gallant young warrior, then charged on Abhimanyu. When they saw this, retreating soldiers came back and supported Lakshmana, showering arrows on Abhimanyu, like rain falling on a hill.

Still, Arjuna's son was undaunted and, his shaft came swift and shining, like a serpent fresh-sloughed, and pierced Lakshmana. The handsome youth, with beautiful nose and eyebrows and hair, lay dead on the field and the Kaurava soldiers were filled with grief.

"To hell with the wicked Abhimanyu,"

shouted Duryodhana, and the six great warriors, Dorna, Kripa, Karna, Aswatthama, Brihatbala and Kritavarma closed upon Abhimanyu.

"It is impossible to pierce this youth's armor," said Drona to Karna. "Aim at the reins of his horses and cut them off.

Disable him thus and attack him from behind."

The son of Surya did accordingly.

Abhimanyu's bow was broken by a shaft discharged from behind. His horses and charioteer were killed. Thus disabled, the young warrior stood on the field, with sword and shield, facing his enemies.

As he stood dauntless like kshatriya dharma incarnate, he filled the warriors around with amazement. Whirling his sword, he held his own against the numerous warriors who had surrounded him, with a skill that confounded them.

It seemed to them as if his feet did not rest on earth and he was on wings, in the air.

Drona sent a shaft that broke Abhimanyu's sword. Karna's sharp arrows tore his shield into bits.

Then Abhimanyu bent down and taking up one of his chariot wheels and whirling it like a discus, stood up facing all the enemies that surrounded him.

The dust from the chariot wheel covered him and the poet says it enhanced the natural beauty of the young hero. He fought fiercely like a second Vishnu with the discus.

But soon, the combined onslaught of the warriors that surrounded him overpowered him. The chariot wheel was shattered to pieces. The son of Duhsasana came up then and closed with him in mortal combat.

Both went down together but Duhsasana's son rose again and, while Abhimanyu was struggling to his feet, struck him with his mace and killed him.

"Subhadra's son who, like an elephant in a lily pond, single-handed worked havoc in the Kaurava army, was thus overpowered by numbers and killed cruelly," said Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra.

"And, having killed him, your people danced around his dead body like savage hunters exulting over their prey. All good men in the army were grieved and tears rolled from their eyes. Even the birds of prey, that circled overhead making noises seemed to cry 'Not thus!' 'Not thus!' "

While there was blowing of conchs and cries of victory all over the Kaurava army, Yuyutsu, the son of Dhritarashtra, did not approve of all this. "This is ignoble," he angrily cried.

"Soldiers, you have forgotten your code.

Verily, you should be ashamed but, instead, you shout brazen cries of victory.

Having committed a most wicked deed, you revel in foolish joy, blind to the danger that is imminent."

So saying, Yuyutsu threw his weapon away in disgust and left the battlefield.

This young son of Dhritarashtra feared sin. His words were not sweet in the Kaurava ears, but he was a good man and spoke out his mind.