Chakravyuh of Life

War strategies have always captured my attention, be it those used in the Trojan War or in the fictitious LOTR movies. In fact I am waiting for the war between White Walkers and Men in the next instalment of GoT because it will be exciting to see what schemes Martin comes up with. Anyways, I don’t plan to digress too much from the point, which is The Chakravyuh.

Do you know the story of Abhimanyu’s death? The famed warrior son of Arjun and a skilled archer, much like his father, was killed in the Chakravyuh, one of the finest war strategies I have come across. The initial plan in the war of Kurukshetra was for Abhimanyu to enter the Chakravyuh (since he was one of the 5 people who could breach the entry) and for the rest of the Pandavas to follow him in because Abhimanyu knew only how to enter and not emerge out of it alive. Everyone knows that it was a war strategy probably designed by Drona (there are references suggesting that the Chakravyuh was used by Bhishma before the war at Kurukshetra) to capture Yudhishthir but what it really was, is a mystery to most.

Let me explain what I know about it. It is a multi-tier defence strategy – a seven layered formation of soldiers in a constant state of unified rotation, hence in the name, ‘chakra’. If viewed aerially, it would look like a spinning wheel of human soldiers. The relentless rotations of the tiers would obviously leave one in a state of muddled perceptions because one cannot focus on one target at a time. Also, once one penetrates the first tier, it closes behind him ensuring that he is captivated within the maze.

Jayadratha, married to the only sister of the Kauravas, kept the other Pandavas at bay and prevented them from following Abhimanyu. Once Abhimanyu entered the Chakravyuh, his plan was to battle and create a path straight ahead. He kept striking down two men at once, which left a brief opening right in front of him (as the soldier right ahead would have to either step right or left to take the place of the compromised one and that’s how the ring rotated) and he managed to get through the first 5 tiers. As he moved closer to the center, he was wearing out but faced a denser pack of combatants who were relatively less wasted because they had not been in constant state of battle. Eventually he died due to a cohesive attack from multiple Kauravas! Great Story!

Many who are familiar with the expanse of Mahabharat, claim that one can find similarities between and solutions to almost all situations in life within this one prolific piece of work. Does the Chakravyuh have any relevance to everyday life?

We are all held captive in the Chakravyuh. We are blinded by the situation right in front of our eyes, a situation we cannot deal with (at least not right away). And we keep striking at it to try and breach through. But this is wide off the mark. Striking at the bigger boulder will do no good. Maybe we need to strike at the issues surrounding it, for a brief opportunity to gain a step. It is often smaller issues that build into a larger, seemingly impenetrable obstacle. Situations in life can get unnerving. Abhimanyu’s audacity in stepping up to penetrate a strategy that he did not know very well is a strong example of what virtue one must possess to take life’s challenges head-on.

While nobody knows what the future holds in store, few can boast about colliding head-on with ‘Tomorrow’.

3 thoughts on “Chakravyuh of Life”

  1. “Situations in life can get unnerving. Abhimanyu’s audacity in stepping up to penetrate a strategy that he did not know very well is a strong example of what virtue one must possess to take life’s challenges head-on.”
    Swami Parthasarathy, an exponent of Bhagavad Gita & Vedanta always says ” You may desire anything, but you will get only what you deserve”. This is very true and to be understood & accepted in the context of the famous Gita Quote ” You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action”. This is great if one understands this as one’s success in any field is not a consequence of his efforts alone, however much he may be deserving. It is supremely important to improve our skills and become deserving of success in any endeavor undertaken. Here Abhimanyu’s act is a lesson for us to not venture without proper skills. He had learnt partially the strategy about Chakravyuh as a child in his mother’s womb. Victory is not guaranteed to even a fully prepared and skilled person. Can one accept his act as virtue?

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  2. I agree that it is of primary importance that we improve our skills and become deserving of any success. But arguing form your own comment about how success is not guaranteed even to the most prepared, isn’t it of importance that one has the courage along with preparation to face something head-on? As with most issues, this is a matter of perspective. I see Abhimanyu as a skilled warrior, with as much preparation as one can draw together, enter the Chakravyuh with confidence fueled not by ignorance but with inner strength.
    In the Mahabharat, Abhimanyu entered the Chakravyuh on command from Yudhishthir himself. The Chakravyuh was primarily used by Drona to capture Yudhishthir alive. While Arjun was intentionally kept busy on a different end of the field by a special group of skilled warriors, Krishna was his charioteer. Drona, the other person who knew how to breach it was the one using it. Bhishma was wounded on the 10th day of war and unable to fight anymore by the time the Chakravyuh was initiated on the 13th day. This left Abhimanyu alone who could breach it. or at least enter it. He was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to exit it. When Yudhishthir insisted and promised Abhimanyu that the Pandava army would follow him once he breached the entrance, he agreed.
    Talking of preparation, I also think that when you don’t know what to expect, what do you prepare for? Preparation can be over-rated at times. It is easy to say that one must aim for something and work towards it. But practice in a particular skill will leave some other skill unattended. And it is not unheard of in life for paths to change course too often. I borrow my inspiration from a movie called Peaceful Warrior (adapted from a book called Way of the Peaceful Warrior) where the character, casually called Socrates, says to Dan Millman (a supremely talented gymnast), “You practice gymnastics, I practice everything!” Sometimes, it is not about victory. It may just be about facing something, irrespective of the consequences.


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