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

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

How exactly did the killing of Bhishma violate the agreed-upon rules of war?

  1. One (or maybe two) on one - Bhishma was a Maharathi or something - I believe they can be attacked by many at the same time.

  2. Was there a rule that he was not supposed to fight a man ? Because Shikhandi, the challenger was a man when he challenged. Bhishma had a random self-imposed rule that he won't fight a man who used to be a woman before. Sounds kinda sexist/gender-ist.

  3. Pandavas didn't go scheming to place Shikhandi in front of Bhishma - Bhishma himself advised this method to Yudhishtira. None - Not Krishna. Not Arjuna. Not even Shikhandi schemed this. When a challenger challenges a Kshatriya to a fight, he is supposed to. Just because Bhishma had some mood problems, were the challengers supposed to go into hiding in a lake like Duryodhana did before he was killed ?

  4. Jayadratha was punished by Pandavas for insulting another man's wife. Unable to understand this simple dharma, he exacted revenge on the Pandavas using a boon from Lord Shiva. It was plain vengeance and not reprisal for Adharma. Bhishma had a suicide wish and paid for it - thats all there was to it

Nothing seems Adharmic about his killing to me.

Did Bhishma on the arrow-bed chide Arjuna or Krishna or Yudhishtira or Shikandi for this ?

Why is the killing of Bhishma included in the litany of 'adharmic' acts of the Pandavas ?

The acts done by Duryodhana, Shakuni et.al. (poisoning a child and throwing him into a river, trying to burn down house, cheating during dice , , refusing to give rightful land back) were bestial and would be called terrorism in modern terminology.

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    You need to cite some sources for your answer – Rickross Feb 8 '19 at 17:10

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:


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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