Post 6- Why did Arjuna vow to kill Jayadratha and not Karna, who cut down Abhimanyu’s bow?

Author's note: Based on the English translation of the original Mahabharatha by Kisari Mohan Ganguli.

Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu dies on the 13th day of the great war. Arjuna is at the other end of the battlefield fighting the Trigarthas and here, Drona has formed the chakravyuyha to capture Yudishtira. Yudishtira asks Abhimanyu to break into the chakravyuha and promises that Bhima will follow right behind him so he need not worry that he has not learned how to come out of the vyuha. However, Bhima is unable to follow him inside.

Abhimanyu breaks the chakravyuha, goes deep into the Kaurava forces, killing thousands of soldiers and the Kauravas are unable to stop him. Some of the best warriors in the Kaurava side return defeated but are not able to stop or scare away Abhimanyu. He is so destructive that the Kauravas are desperate to stop him in any way. Karna turns to Drona and asks him for a solution to which Drona says that no one can stop Abhimanyu as long as he has his bow in hand. He advises Karna to break Abhimanyu’s bow first and then destroy his chariot, his charioteer and horses. He warns Karna that as long as Abhimanyu is armed with his bow, even the gods and asuras cannot defeat him.

Karna, following his advice, shoots his arrows at Abhimanyu’s bow even as he is fighting the other Kauravas and breaks his bow.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva

The Karna, the son of Vikartana, 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 south of great energy are exceedingly fierce. Terrible as they are and possessed of the energy of fire, these arrows are weakening my heart.'

The preceptor (Drona) 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 then. With his bow in hand he is incapable of being vanquished by the very gods and the Asuras together.

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.

Abhimanyu is left without a bow and without his chariot in the middle of the enemy. Although he continues to fight with sword and shield against the warriors on their chariots, shooting arrows at him, he is finally killed after being attacked by many of the Kauravas together and fighting them all until he is exhausted.

When Arjuna returns from his battle with the Trigarthas who have kept him busy all day so that he cannot back to protect Yudishtira, he finds out that his son has been killed by Dushasana’s son after six warriors of the Kaurava clan (Drona, Kripa and Karna and Drona's son, and the king of the Kosalas, and Kritavarman) attacked him together. He vows to kill Jayadratha before sunset the next day to avenge Abhimanyu’s death.

Drona Parva: Abhimanyu-badha Parva

Yudishtira describes to Arjuna how Abhimanyu was killed: ‘... 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. ’

"Arjuna said,---'Truly do I swear that tomorrow I will slay Jayadratha! If from fear of death, he doth not forsake the Dhritarashtras, or implore our protection, or the protection of Krishna that foremost of men or of thine, O king, I shall assuredly slay him tomorrow! Forgetting his friendship for me, engaged in doing what is agreeable to Dhritarashtra's son, that wretch is the cause of the child's slaughter! Tomorrow I will slay him! Whoever they may be that will encounter me in battle tomorrow for protecting him, be it Drona, or Kripa, O king, I will cover them all with my arrow!

Why does he do so?? Why does he not vow to kill Karna who shot down Abhimanyu’s bow when he was fighting with someone else?

Jayadratha is the one who makes sure that Bhima and other Pandavas cannot go in after Abhimanyu. If they had followed him in, then Abhimanyu would have not been caught inside all alone. When Karna cut down his bow and when his chariot/ chariot were destroyed, if Bhima had been there, Abhimanyu would have simply climbed into his uncle’s chariot. If any of the Pandava brothers had allowed to follow Abhimanyu, the Kauravas may not have been able to kill him at all.

As soon as Abhimanyu breaks into the chakravyuha, Jayadratha fills in the gap and keeps the other Pandavas (Bhima, Nakula, Sahadeva, Yudishtira) from going in after the boy thanks to a boon he has earned from Shiva. When he learns that Jayadratha made sure his son was caught all alone inside the Kaurava army, Arjuna vows to kill him before sun set the next day and he succeeds in doing so.

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