Karna and Abhimanyu’s death

How much Karna was responsible for the death of Abhimanyu?

This was indeed very important question given the gray area regarding Abhimanyu’s death.

Lets see the events –

Fact -1 Karna asked Drona the ways to kill Abhimanyu –

“Hearing these words, Karna, afflicted with the shafts of Arjuna’s son, once more said unto Drona, ‘Exceedingly afflicted with the shafts of Abhimanyu, I am staying in battle, only because (as a warrior) I should stay here. Indeed, the arrows of this youth of great energy are exceedingly fierce. Terrible as they are and possessed of the energy of fire, these arrows are weakening my heart.’” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI]

Fact – 2 Drona told the ways to defeat Abhimanyu –

“The preceptor then, slowly and with a smile, said unto Karna, ‘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). With shafts well shot, you can, however, cut off his bow, bow-string, the reins of his steeds, the steeds themselves, and two Parshni charioteers. O mighty bowman, O son of Radha, if competent, do this. Making him turn back from the fight (by this means), strike him thenWith his bow in hand he is incapable of being vanquished by the very gods and the Asuras together. If you wish, deprive him of his car, and divest him of his bow.’” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI]

Points to be noted –

  1. Abhimanyu was wearing impenetrable coat of mail
  2. Drona asked Karna to cut-off his bow and bow-string.

Fact – 3 Karna’s action on Drona’s word-

“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.” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI]

Points to be noted –

  1. Karna attacked Abhimanyu when he was fighting probably with some other warrior and cut-off his bow.
  2. It has to remember cutting-off someone bow is very basic thing warriors do when fighting. No good archer would need such guidance from anybody. Karna made many attempts to fight with him and failed.
  3. Drona probably asked Karna to break Abhimanyu’s bow when he was not fighting with him. Abhimanyu must be fighting with some one else when Drona – Karna conversation was going on. So Karna must have attacked Abhimanyu suddenly and broke his bow.

Fact – 4 Six Maharathis attacked him together.

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.” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVI]

Points to be noted

  • I would try to possibly find who were those Maharathis – Kripa, Kritavarman, Drona, Karna are the sure shot ones who participated in the joint attack as mentioned above.

Fact -5 Here Yudhishthira clearly mentions the name of Six Maharathis who jointly carried out the attack –

Then Drona, Kripa and Karna and Drona’s son, and the king of the Kosalas, and Kritavarman, these six car-warriors surrounded the son of Subhadra. Having surrounded that child all those great car-warriors–too many for him although he was contending to the utmost of his power, deprived him of his car. After he had been deprived of his car, Dussasana’s son, though he himself had a hair-breadth escape, succeeded, as chance would have it, in making Abhimanyu, meet with his end.” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section LXXIII]

Then Drona, Kripa and Karna and Drona’s son, and the king of the Kosalas, and Kritavarman, these six car-warriors surrounded the son of Subhadra. Having surrounded that child all those great car-warriors–too many for him although he was contending to the utmost of his power, deprived him of his car. After he had been deprived of his car, Dussasana’s son, though he himself had a hair-breadth escape, succeeded, as chance would have it, in making Abhimanyu, meet with his end.” [Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section LXXIII]

Points to be noted –

  1. Drona, Kripa and Karna and Drona’s son, and the king of the Kosalas, and Kritavarman, these six car-warriors surrounded the son of Subhadra. Remember all six were Maharathi or above category.
  2. Dussasana’s son killed him.
  3. It was a misconception that Duryodhana, Dussasana or Shakuni participated in that attack. Duryodhana must have approved and enjoyed the attack.

Fact- 6 King of Kosala was slain by Abhimanyu

“The king continued, ‘Having in the first instance, slain in battle hostile princes, resembling snakes of virulent poison, the son of Arjuna hath then given up his life. Having slain ten thousand warriors, viz., the king of the Kosalas, Abhimanyu, who was even like Krishna or Arjuna himself, hath assuredly gone to the abode of Indra.”

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVII]

Points to be noted –

  1. King was kosala (Bridhabala) was slain by Abhimanyu.
  2. So out of six Maharathis Abhimanyu killed at least one.

Fact – 7 It was Son of Dussasana who killed Abhimanyu –

“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. Each 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. ” 

[Ref – Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva: Section XLVII]

Points to be noted –

  1. Both Abhimanyu and son of Dussasana fell on the ground but latter struck Abhimanyu with the mace on the crown of his head.

Fact – 8 Karna’s deeds on that day according to Krishna –

Unable, O Partha, to stay in that battle before Abhimanyu’s face, mangled with the shafts of Subhadra’s son, deprived of consciousness, and bathed in blood, Karna drew deep breaths, inflamed with rage. At last, afflicted with arrows, he was obliged to turn his back upon the field. Eagerly desirous of flying away and becoming hopeless of life, he stayed for some time in battle, perfectly stupefied and exhausted with the wounds he had received. At last hearing those cruel words of Drona in battle–words that were suited to the hour–Karna cut off Abhimanyu’s bow. Made bowless by him in that battle, five great car-warriors then, well-versed in the ways of foul warfare, slew that hero with showers of shafts. Upon the slaughter of that hero, grief entered the heart of everyone. Only, the wicked-souled Karna and Suyodhana laughed in joy. 

[Ref – Karna Parva: Section 73]

Points to be noted –

  1. Karna cut-off Abhimanyu’s bow after listening to Drona’s word. Karna was not able to fight Abhimanyu face to face and fled from battle.
  2. Five Maharathis attacked him together. Earlier it was said to be six. Krishna must have not counted King of Kosala here.
  3. Karna and Duryodhana enjoyed after killing Abhimanyu. Everyone else was in grief.

Fact – 9 Not only that – Even later Karna suggested Duryodhana to kill Satyaki in same way –

“He is encompassed on all sides by many heroic and foremost of car-warriors. If we can slay Satyaki and Dhrishtadyumna, the son of Prishata without doubt, O king, victory will be ours. Surrounding these two heroes, these two mighty car-warriors, as we did the son of Subhadra we will strive, O king, to slay them,viz., this son of Vrishni’s race and this son of Prishata.”

[Ref – Drona Parva: Ghatotkacha-badha Parva: Section CLXX]

Points to be noted –

  1. So what ever they did with Abhimanyu can’t be taken as exceptional case.
  2. They tried to do same thing with Satyaki and Dristadyumna.

So if we summarize now –

  1. Drona was the main planner of Abhimanyu’s death.
  2. Drona, Kripa and Karna and Drona’s son, and the king of the Kosalas aka Bridhabala, and Kritavarman attacked Abimanyu together and made him car-less and destroyed all weapons of him.
  3. Dussasana’s son killed Abhimanyu with mace when the latter got tired and unable to stand up quickly.

Post Author: Arnab Gosh

Trying to analyze logically the greatest epic ever told -> Software Engineer by profession, I love photography, traveling. Interested on thriller, mythology, crime, war (specially 2nd world war), historical films/books.

3 thoughts on “Karna and Abhimanyu’s death

    Lakshmi Seshu

    (January 7, 2019 - 11:47 am)

    Abhimanyu is every one’s hero and I am not at all questioning his courage or skills. Always had a question about the unfairness of this battle. Breaking his bow from behind is not fair. But 6 people battling him should not be unfair? Correct?

    After all, he is a atirathi/Maharathi and should be capable of fighting multiple warriors alone

    Ofcourse disrespecting him after he died is definitely a henious act

    Pl. share your thoughts

    Arjuna The Victor

    (January 15, 2019 - 4:46 pm)

    In my fair opinion – Attacking on Abhimanyu by 6 or more Maharathas can be taken as heinous act as per the war rules. But I cant imagine when someone blood has been dropped from his body and that person can think that its appropriate or inappropriate in the war. That’s what was the condition of Kaurava warriors. They all were pierced badly by Abhimanyu and no one were finding themselves to stop him.

    I can imagine the situation of Duryodhana after when Lakshaman was slain. We have exemple of Arjuna, Yudhisthira, Drona and others.

    Arjuna was attacked so many times in group, Bhishma also faced the same, Karna and Drona as well. Bhima also faced the same and so was Satyaki.

    What I think is an inappropriate, was killing to unconscious warrior by Dushashana son. All others were fair at some points and unfair at some points, I mean on different views.

    Lakshmi Seshu

    (January 17, 2019 - 12:07 pm)

    If multiple people attacking a maharathi warrior is against the rule, lot of people broke the rule in both Pandava side and Kaurava side. If it is such a heinous act, why did Arjuna left them and went after Jayadhrata ? OK, he already has a oath against Karna and Drona is guru. Why leave the others?

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