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  1. Many on one - Abhimanyu was a Maharathi or something - I believe they can be attacked by many at the same time.

  2. He fought till the end and never surrendered.

  3. The Kauravas didn't come looking for him - he went looking for them. When he penetrated their Vyuha, were they supposed to go into meditation like Drona at the time he was killed?

  4. Arjuna exacted revenge for this only from Jayadratha who only blocked the escape route and not from any of the warriors who actually killed him - it was plain vengeance and not reprisal for Adharma. Abhimanyu took youthful risk and paid for it - that's all there was to it.

Nothing seems Adharmic about his killing to me.

Did Bhishma on the arrow-bed chide Drona for this?

Why is the killing of Abhimanyu included in the litany of Adharmic acts of the Kauravas?

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    They all ganged up on him. – Ikshvaku Feb 8 '19 at 21:42
  • When you have already added the Mahabharata tag, what is the use of Mythology? Remove that redundant tag – Rickross Mar 17 at 6:21
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How exactly did the killing of Abhimanyu violate the agreed-upon rules of war?

To know the answer first it is necessary to know the what were the set of rules that were setup before war. There were certain rules mentioned in Mahabharata, Book 6: Bhishma Parva: SECTION I.

Then the Kurus, the Pandavas, and the Somakas made certain covenants, and settled the rules, O bull of Bharata's race, regarding the different kinds of combat. Persons equally circumstanced must encounter each other, fighting fairly. And if having fought fairly the combatants withdraw (without fear of molestation), even that would be gratifying to us. Those who engaged in contests of words should be fought against with words. Those that left the ranks should never be slain. A car-warrior should have a car-warrior for his antagonist; he on the neck of an elephant should have a similar combatant for his foe; a horse should be met by a horse, and a foot-soldier, O Bharata; should be met by a foot-soldier. Guided by considerations of fitness, willingness, daring and might, one should strike another, giving notice. No one should strike another that is unprepared or panic-struck. One engaged with another, one seeking quarter, one retreating, one whose weapon is rendered unfit, uncased in mail, should never be struck. Car-drivers, animals (yoked to cars or carrying weapons) men engaged in the transport of weapons, players on drums and blowers of conches should never be struck.

When looked on the part in bold it clearly says that only one warrior will fight with another not the second. But Abhimanyu was killed by seven maharathis. It also says one should not be attacked whose weapon is rendered unfit. This rule was also violated. So this act of Kauravas was henious and unrighteous by every mean.

The rule is broken in Mahabharata, Book 7: Drona Parva: SECTION XLVI.

Hearing these words of the preceptor, Vikartana's son Karna quickly cut off, by means of his shafts, the bow of Abhimanyu, as the latter was shooting with great activity. He, of Bhoja's race (viz., Kritavarman) then slew his steeds, and Kripa slew his two Parshni charioteers. The others covered him with showers of arrows after he had been divested of his bow. Those six great car-warriors, with great speed, when speed was so necessary, ruthlessly covered that carless youth, fighting single-handed with them, with showers of arrows. Bowless and carless, with an eye, however, to his duty (as a warrior), handsome Abhimanyu, taking up a sword and a shield, jumped into the sky.

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    he didn't surrender - had an improvised weapon and fought till the end and didn't retreat. He was engaged one on many from the beginning. he paid a just price for his impetuosity. Did he complain about one on many when he thought he could win? – S K Feb 8 '19 at 17:15
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    @SK Yes he didn't surrendered and he had improvised weapon and fighting one on one from beginning but when Kauravas realised that he cannot be defeated in one on one fight they attacked in group and break the agreed rule. – Triyugi Narayan Mani Feb 8 '19 at 17:17
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    @SK, ahimanyu's head was smashed by dushasana's son when abhimanyu was 'just about to' rise. sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07046.htm. the rule is you must not strike a person who is down on the ground or without weapon in hand, in other words, wait till the batsman is ready before bowling. – ram Feb 8 '19 at 18:24
  • Karna met his end similarly – Narasimham Feb 8 '19 at 18:43
  • You explained the rule fine, but don't you have to show how the rule was violated? Who violated? Isn't the title of the question "How exactly did the killing of Abhimanyu violate the agreed-upon rules of war?" – sv. Feb 8 '19 at 21:17
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Abhimanyu was killed in a fair war if we read the scenario of whole war. He had a lot of advantage in the war. Let's read about his advantages and later we I crush the misconception regarding the war.

Advantages of Abhimanyu

  • He was under the protection of a celestial armour protecting him from the attacks of warriors.

Abhimanyu is young, his prowess is great. His coat of mail is impenetrable. This one's father had been taught by me the method of wearing defensive armour. This subjugator of hostile towns assuredly knoweth the entire science (of wearing armour).

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI

  • He had a boon of being invincible in war for a day

And, indeed, your portions, ye celestials, shall fight, having made that disposition of the forces which is known by the name of the Chakra-vyuha. And my son shall compel all foes to retreat before him. The boy of mighty arms having penetrated the impenetrable array, shall range within it fearlessly and send a fourth part of the hostile force, in course of half a day, unto the regions of the king of the dead. Then when numberless heroes and mighty car-warriors will return to the charge towards the close of the day, my boy of mighty arms, shall reappear before me. And he shall beget one heroic son in his line, who shall continue the almost extinct Bharata race.' Hearing these words of Soma, the dwellers in heaven replied, 'So be it.' And then all together applauded and worshipped (Soma) the king of stars.

Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva: Section LXVII

Apart from this celestial bow and chariot was also with the Abhimanyu. Now it's the time to crush misconception of his death.

Misconceptions of war.

  1. Abhimanyu was alone inside the chakra vyuh.

Mahabharat tells us that he had an army killed by Karna.

Karna with rage and desirous of doing good to thy son, rained showers of sharp arrows on the invincible Abhimanyu. And the heroic karna, as if in contempt of his antagonist, also pierced the latter's followers on the field of battle, with many excellent shafts of great sharpness.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XXXVII

2.Group attack on Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu faced the group attack but he was not killed in a group attack. This group attack was only for disarming him. He was taking that much advantage so I think that it was not a cheating.

Hearing these words of the preceptor, Vikartana's son Karna quickly cut off, by means of his shafts, the bow of Abhimanyu, as the latter was shooting with great activity. He, of Bhoja's race (viz., Kritavarman) then slew his steeds, and Kripa slew his two Parshni charioteers. The others covered him with showers of arrows after he had been divested of his bow. Those six great car-warriors, with great speed, when speed was so necessary, ruthlessly covered that carless youth, fighting single-handed with them, with showers of arrows. Bowless and carless, with an eye, however, to his duty (as a warrior), handsome Abhimanyu, taking up a sword and a shield, jumped into the sky. Displaying great strength and great activity, and describing the tracks called Kausika and others, the son of Arjuna fiercely coursed through the sky, like the prince of winged creatures (viz., Garuda.). 'He may fall upon me sword in hand,' with such thoughts, those mighty bowmen, were on the lookout for the laches of Abhimanyu, and began to pierce him in that battle, with their gaze turned upwards. Then Drona of mighty energy, that conqueror of foes with a sharp arrow quickly cut off the hilt, decked with gems, of Abhimanyu's sword. Radha's son Karna, with sharp shafts, cut off his excellent shield. Deprived of his sword and shield thus, he came down, with sound limbs, from the welkin upon the earth. Then taking up a car-wheel, he rushed in wrath against Drona. His body bright with the dust of car-wheels, and himself holding the car-wheel in his upraised arms, Abhimanyu looked exceedingly beautiful, and imitating Vasudeva (with his discus), became awfully fierce for a while in that battle.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI

See, they not attacked him but only disarmed him. Group attacks we're common in the entire Mahabharat. Even Abhimanyu was a master of group attack.

And foot-soldiers and steeds and cars and elephants, belonging to thy army and numbering by hundreds, all accomplished in smitting rushed to the spot where Karna was frightening (his assailants). Then Dhrishtadyumna, and Bhima and Subhadra's son, and Arjuna himself, and Nakula, and Sahadeva, began to protect Satyaki in that battle.

Drona Parva: Dronabhisheka Parva: Section XXX

All warriors including Abhimanyu attacked Karna for protecting Satyaki.

"Sanjaya said, 'The Parthas then, headed by Bhimasena, approached that invincible array protected by Bharadwaja's son. And Satyaki, and Chekitana, and Dhrishtadyumna. the son of Prishata, and Kuntibhoja of great prowess, and the mighty car-warrior Drupada. and Arjuna's son (Abhimanyu), and Kshatradharman, and the valiant Vrihatkshatra, and Dhrishtaketu, the ruler of the Chedis, and the twin sons of Madri, (viz., Nakula and Sahadeva), and Ghatotkacha, and the powerful Yudhamanyu and the unvanquished Sikhandin, and the irresistible Uttamaujas and the mighty car-warrior Virata, and the five sons of Draupadi,--these all excited with wrath, and the valiant son of Sisupala, and the Kaikeyas of mighty energy, and the Srinjayas by thousands,--these and others, accomplished in weapons and difficult of being resisted in battle, suddenly rushed, at the head of their respective followers, against Bharadwaja's son, from a desire of battle. The valiant son of Bharadwaja, however, fearlessly checked all those warriors, as soon as they came near, with a thick shower of arrows. Like a mighty wave of waters coming against an impenetrable hill, or the surging sea itself approaching its bank, those warriors were pushed back by Drona. And the Pandavas, O king, afflicted by the shafts shot from Drona's bow, were unable to stay before him.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XXXIII

Abhimanyu attacked Drona with 22 warriors and Drona defeated all of them single handedly. There are many other group attacks organized by pandavas then why only Group attack on Abhimanyu is so much overrated.

3.Abhimanyu was attacked by Duhsasan's son when he was tired and unarmed.

Proceeding next towards the car of Dussasana's son, he crushed the latter's car and steeds, pressing them down into the earth. The invincible son of Dussasana, then, O sire, taking up his mace, rushed at Abhimanyu. saying, 'Wait, Wait!' Then those cousins, those two heroes, with upraised maces, began to strike each other, desirous of achieving each other's death, like three-eyed (Mahadeva) and (the Asura) Andhaka in the days of old. I ach of those chastisers of foes, struck with the other's mace-ends fell down on the earth, like two uprooted standards erected to the honour of Indra. Then Dussasana's son, that enhancer of the fame of the Kurus, rising up first, struck Abhimanyu with the mace on the crown of his head, as the latter, was on the point of rising. Stupefied with the violence of that stroke as also with the fatigue he had undergone, that slayer of hostile hosts, viz., the son of Subhadra, fell on the earth, deprived of his senses.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVII

Read here. Abhimanyu himslef attacked Duhsasan's son with a mace and killed in a fair war. Kauravas allowed Abhimanyu to fight him with Duhsasan's son and not interfered between the war. So he was killed fairly.

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Abhimanyu's killing was totally dharmic.

Indian TV depicts his killing in a grossly untruthful manner But the truth from KMG's translation shows a largely Dharmic way Abhimanyu was made to pay for his youthful hubris:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07046.htm

We can discuss the many-on-one early phases of the combat - including cutting away the chariot wheel - but

the final combat is a fair one-one-one combat with equal weapons

It is possible that Abhimanyu was more fatigued than Dusshasana's son - but AFAIK there is no warrior code that you have to let your opponent rest between rounds. If he doesn't surrender and has weapon in hand or is reaching for one , he is fair game.

He went in of his own choice, could have surrendered any time (IIRC, one Kaurava warrior does say "let us take him prisoner") - and the Kauravas killed him fairly, for their self-preservation, given how devastating he had been.

With the end of his locks waving in the air, with that supreme weapon upraised in his hands, his body became incapable of being looked at by the very gods. The kings beholding it and the wheel in his hands, became filled with anxiety, and cut that off in a hundred fragments. Then that great car-warrior, the son of Arjuna, took up a mighty mace. Deprived by them of his bow and car and sword, and divested also of his wheel by his foes, the mighty-armed Abhimanyu (mace in hand) rushed against Aswatthaman. Beholding that mace upraised, which looked like the blazing thunderbolt, Aswatthaman, that tiger among men, rapidly alighted from his car and took three (long) leaps (for avoiding Abhimanyu).

He makes Ashwatthama run away

Slaying Aswatthaman's steeds and two Parshni charioteers with that mace of his, Subhadra's son, pierced all over with arrows, looked like a porcupine. Then that hero pressed Suvala's son, Kalikeya, down into the earth, and stew seven and seventy Gandhara followers of the latter. Next, he slew ten car-warriors of the Brahma-Vasatiya race, and then ten huge elephants. Proceeding next towards the car of Duhsasana's son, he crushed the latter's car and steeds, pressing them down into the earth.

He Is still powerful and dangerous.

The invincible son of Duhsasan, then, O sire, taking up his mace, rushed at Abhimanyu. saying, 'Wait, Wait!' Then those cousins, those two heroes, with upraised maces, began to strike each other, desirous of achieving each other's death, like three-eyed (Mahadeva) and (the Asura) Andhaka in the days of old. I ach of those chastisers of foes, struck with the other's mace-ends fell down on the earth, like two uprooted standards erected to the honour of Indra. Then Duhsasana's son, that enhancer of the fame of the Kurus, rising up first, struck Abhimanyu with the mace on the crown of his head, as the latter, was on the point of rising. Stupefied with the violence of that stroke as also with the fatigue he had undergone, that slayer of hostile hosts, viz., the son of Subhadra, fell on the earth, deprived of his senses. Thus, O king, was one slain by many in battle,--one who had ground the whole army, like an elephant grinding lotus-stalks in a lake.

The text doesn’t say if Abhimanyu had his weapon or not when he was killed. Duhsasana’s son was faster to rise and in the heat of the moment, he might have committed a minor infraction, in case Abhimanyu had not yet picked up his weapon. Nothing in the text suggests he bludgeoned a supine, weaponless semi-conscious opponent to death, or that Abhimanyu was not in the process of resuming the combat after picking up his weapon. And as far as I know, the endless repetition of the "adharmic killing of Abhimanyu" doesn't mention that Dusshasana's son didn't wait for Abhimanyu to pick up his weapon before hitting him.

Sanjaya shows whose side he was on but also says

one who had ground the whole army, like an elephant grinding lotus-stalks in a lake.

As Shakespeare would say - the Abhimanyu partisan doth protest too much, methinks.

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  • as HSE community would say - SK doth protest too much, methinks – ram Mar 21 at 3:38

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