Chakravyuh of Mahabharata

Chakravyuha

On the thirteenth day of war of Kurukshetra , Dronacharya devised the Chakravyuh to capture Dharmaraj Yudhisthira,the leader of Pandavas .Meanwhile Arjuna along with Krishna were distracted to another part of war with Samshaptakas and Abhimanyu along with four Pandavas were protecting Yudhisthira from the Chakravyuh.

Lacking the presence of Arjuna and Krishna the four brothers were clueless about the deadly formation of the trap . Seeing these circumstances , Abhimanyu forces Yudhisthira to let him enter the trap . He was allowed and the Pandavas followed him . But as soon as he entered the entrance of Chakravyuh was closed by Jaydrath. And Abhimanyu fought against lakhs of warriors single-handedly with great valour and bravado but was ultimately killed by the treacherous attack of Kaurava warriors.

What is the chakravyuh?

Chakravyuh refers to the puzzled arrangement of soldiers who are in constant motion in the form of a spinning wheel. When seen from above it looked like a spinning disc.It is a multilayer defensive formation. The layers are formed by normal soldiers and as one keeps entering inside ,he comes across more invincible warriors . It can be considered as a formation that engulfs a warrior by keeping him in illusion.

As one keeps moving inside the trap it feels as if his moving at the exit of it . At last when he reaches at the middle of the trap ,he realizes that he is captivated . This strategy was applied during prehistoric days. The component even if heavily guarded, cannot escape the web of a chakravyuha.

Such deadly was the trap of Chakravyuh that only few talented warriors like Krishna, Arjuna, Drona, Bhisma and Pradyumna knew the way to break in and come out of it.

Fighting inside the deadly spiral formation is very damaging mentally and the psychological impact of Chakravyuha on the body and mind is very huge. Hence, thousands of soldiers were killed in a relatively short span of time due to the psychological impact of the rotating formation.

structure of the trap

LAYERS OF CHAKRAVYUH

The trap generally consists of seven layers with its innermost layer containing the strongest warrior.This concept was used to physically and mentally exhaust the opponent till he reached the most skilled and armed warriors. The soldiers were in constant rotatory motion, so if one of them was killed ,his place was occupied by other one thus blocking the entry of other opponent. Weak and strong warriors are strategically placed in each of the layers, either to inflict the maximum damage to the opposing warriors or to defend the attacks from skilled warriors of the enemy.

POSITION OF WARRIORS

The purpose of this trap was to keep the invading warriors trying to defend themselves rather than attacking the soldiers in the formation. Infantry were tightly massed so as not to allow the incoming chariot to breach the layer easily. Skilled archers in armored chariots, cavalry and elephants on the inner layer would easily fire arrows over the heads of infantry on outer layer to kill the infantry of enemy warriors. This formation ensured the safety of the infantry from enemy warriors who are trying to breach the Chakravyuh.

The movement of soldiers was guided by the sounds of drums and conches.One way to break the trap was to kill the drummers .But this was against the ethics of war . Hence Abhimanyu did not take this action.

HOW DOES THE TRAP WORK ?

As seen from ground the trap just seems like a simple entrance containing few soldiers. Irrespective of what one does,whether he just keep fighting the outermost layers or keeps entering inside piercing the layers, the Chakravyuha is designed to engulf the enemy, and either kill him as he goes through the maze, or spare his life, but weaken him until he’s taken captive along the route. This makes it one of the deadliest formations.

The constant motion of soldiers made it the deadliest , as it was like an illusion for the opponent . If somehow he is successful in penetrating one layer, he would end up fighting the stronger soldiers in the innermost layer. If somehow the warrior is successful in killing many soldiers of a particular layer, then he is forced to go inside another layer to get attacked by more ferocious and seasoned warriors. As a result, as he enters deep and deep inside the Chakravyuh, he keeps getting tired both physically and mentally and finally, gets pounded by the enemy.

Arjuna mentions that there is a right time and a right place to enter the formation and a right manner to do so i.e. the weak links have to be first identified, and one needs to travel along with the formation to keep creating the gap at the intended place.It needs an archer with very long shooring range and fast shooting speed to be able to create such a bigger gap before the formations moves ahead to fill the gap.

WHY WAS THE EXIT MORE DIFFICULT ?

While Abhimanyu knew how to break into the Chakravyuh, he was clueless on how to come out of it.

once the target is inside, the commander instructs the inner layers to face inside. So while exiting one needs to face warrios very much like entering, but the only catch is that once a layer is breached to go out, the warrior is faced not only by the soldiers standing before him on the outer layers, but also by the soldiers behind him in the inner layers.

Secondly. While exiting, one needs to break the innermost layer, which has the strongest warriors while staying within the shooting range of all of them, as the diameter of the ring is smaller. Thirdly, the warrior would already be exhaused in entering the formation and fighting the strongest warriors in the inner circle.

After the death of Abhimanyu Arjuna was enraged and he vowed to kill Jaydrath the next day before the sunset .In order to protect Jaydrath ,Kauravas formed multiple traps like this chakravyuh . But Arjuna was successful in killing Jaydrath with the help of Krishna.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Chakravyuh is one of the deadliest military formation and strategy used in the war of Kurukshetra. Only a extraordinarily skilled warrior could break into it and come victorious. The arrangement of soldiers exhausted the trap not just physically but also psychologically. It was very much possible for a great warrior to forget the ethics of war under such depressing situations .

But Abhimanyu , fought until his death without losing the ethics with full valour. This is why Abhimanyu is justifiably remembered as a glorious and tragic hero who lost his life while breaching the lethal Chakravyuh.

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