In the Indian psyche, when we talk about Courage, the first name and picture in our collective memory is the image of Abhimanyu from the great Indian epic, Mahabaratha.
Abhimanyu was the 16 year old son of the great archer Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharat. When Abhimanyu was in his mother Subhadra’s womb, his father Arjuna was describing the complex process of breaking a very intricate battle formation called “Chakravyuha” or the seven tier spiral formation. When she was listening to this account, Subhadra dropped off into slumber when Arjuna was explaining the trick to exit the battle formation. So the little foetus did not hear this vital piece of information.
Abhimanyu was born and grew up to be a great warrior. The enmity between the cousins Pandavas and the 100 Kauravas took a decisive turn when they went to war with each other to gain control of the kingdom. The Kauravas asked Lord Krishna, the senior statesman in the family for his army and soldiers. The Pandavas only wanted his presence as an advisor for their side of the war. Lord Krishna accepted this but said that as both sides were dear to him, he would not use any weapons or fight. He accepted to be the charioteer of Arjuna.
On the 13th day of the great Kurukshetra war, Guru Drona who was the CinC of the Kaurava army, decided to use the Chakravyuh formation to capture Yudhishtra, the eldest Pandava brother and King. The Kaurava army distracted Arjuna and took him away to fight skirmishes in another part of the battlefield. He was the only one who knew how to break this deadly. His son Abhimanyu offered to break into the formation leading the way for the rest of the Pandavas to follow him. The elders in the Pandava army knew that Abhimanyu did not know how to come out of the maze. Abhimanyu reached the centre of the Chakravyuh, but his uncles and their army were cut off and he had to face the enemy single handedly. He fought like a lion and the whole battle field stopped to see this courageous lad take on some of the biggest warriors of the Kaurava army.
However, the enemy decided to finish off Abhimanyu and all the great warriors including Guru Drona and Karna ganged up to kill Abhimanyu, when he was defenceless. The Abhimanyu death scene is not just another episode in a battle where many rules of warfare were broken and abused. He stands for a young soul who knowing that he was entering a potentially life threatening situation, decided to step forward with the hope that he would have a backup rescue team. His was not a rash decision but a courageous one taken for the greater good. He believed in the fairness of established practices and tenets only to be brutally murdered by a power hungry cackle of hyenas.
Today, the Chakravyuh is a palpably dangerous situation that repeats again and again in our lives, in our society, world of business, politics and today in the sphere of our well being. Just as the maze exists, so does the unfair battlefield of Kurukshetra. If Abhimanyu had been able to fight in single combat, if his army had been able to come behind him or if there had been the slightest regard for a young lad caught alone in the midst of his own family who gang up against him, the war would have taken on a different turn altogether. However, the epic had to go on to its final denouement and the young lad was sacrificed for saga value.
The Mahabharat is full of such stories of ifs and buts, maybes and might have been. The epic is about the unfairness and the depths to which savage human behaviour can descend. It presents tales that mirror situations in which characters cannot visualise the greater good. We too read the stories and forget them for we need to excuse and justify our behaviour…good or bad.
For reference sake, The Mahabarath has its reflection in the Iliad. The character of a courageous Abhimanyu is depicted in Achilles who was also sacrificed in the war of Troy!
This topic was chosen by Chuck for this week’s Friday Four-Now Five On One blog post topic. The other bloggers who write on the same topic are Rummuser, Shackman and Sanjana.
Please go over to Rummuser’s and Shackman, Jconmem, and Sanjanaaah to see what they have to say about Courage, a quality that we all need in the current situation!