Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Chakravyuha Demystified

As I have mentioned before, I have been fascinated by the epic tale of Mahabharata since childhood. I have frequently pondered over the numerous nuances of the story, trying to figure out how and why things happened as they did, and what was the hidden message behind it all.

One of my areas of interest has been the Chakravyuha formation used by Dronacharya to kill Abhimanyu. I have often wondered what the formation actually looked like, and why was it so difficult to breach? I have been trying to uncover the answers to some of my questions through some internet research. As with any epic that has been handed down through countless generations, the anecdotes from Mahabharata have been interpreted and presented in various ways by various people. Since I have encountered various interpretations of the Chakravyuha incident as well, I have tried to stitch together a theory that satisfies most of them.

Why was the Chakravyuha so difficult to breach?

The most plausible explanation I have encountered is as follows:-

The word Chakravyuha is made up of Chakra meaning circle or ring and Vyuha meaning formation.
Some sources describe the Chakravyuh is a formation consisting of 7 concentric circles of warriors rotating in unison[5]. This is supported by the way the formation is depicted in the famous TV series Mahabharat [7], by B.R.Chopra, as shown in the snapshots below -

Another representation of the formation is in the shape of a 7 layered rotating spiral. Images on the Wiki page for Chakravyuha illustrate this [1].

I personally feel that the spiral formation depicted in Wikipedia is more credible than the 7 ring formation, as it is also engraved in some ancient Indian temple sculptures.

The Chakravyuha was specially difficult to penetrate since the attacker is not able to focus on a still target in front as the targets keep changing with the rotation of the Chakras. Even if an attacker can penetrate one ring and get inside the Chakravyuha, the rotating nature of the vyuha makes sure that the ring he has penetrated closes behind him. As a result, the attacker is trapped within the Chakravyuha.

How did Abhimanyu come to know about the way to break the Chakravyuha?

It is well known that Abhimanyu learnt the method to enter the Chakravyuha while he was inside his mother's womb. But there is some confusion on who actually mentioned the method to Abhimanyu's mother Subhadra. While most versions mention that it was Arjun who was explaining the method to Subhadra, some versions mention that he heard the method from Krishna [6]. But the thing that is consistent across versions is that Subhadra fell asleep midway and hence Abhimanyu could not listen to the way one could exit from the Chakravyuha.

Now to the major question.

What exactly was the technique for breaking into the Chakravyuha?

Here are some of the inferences I have drawn based on my research.

The rotating Chakravyuha consisted of warriors of various caliber. The Other Pandavas were not able to breach it because of 2 reasons. 1. They attacked the stronger warriors in the ring and were repelled. 2. As soon as they started to get an upper hand on one warrior, the ring rotated and another Kaurava warrior confronted them.

Abhimanyu overcame this by attacking the warriors to the left and right of him, and not the ones directly in front. [2] . As the ring rotated, the gap he had created to his left or right came in front of him and he penetrated with Chakravyuha. He repeated the same for all the rings.
Another version of the story states that Arjuna had mentioned the "right time to enter" and the "right words to enter" the Chakravyuha to Abhimanyu [4]. This seems to indicate that there was some sort of key to the jigsaw puzzle using which Abhimanyu broke through the maze. The key perhaps indicated the weak points in the formation, which should be attacked in order to break through them.

As he broke through each ring, Abhimanyu defeated one great Kaurava warrior after another. He trounced Jayadratha, Dronacharya, Karna and Aswathama in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th rings respectively[5]. It was after he had penetrated 6 rings did all Kaurava warriors join hands to attack him in unison, that resulted in his demise.

But there are some more questions that I am yet to find answers too. Like why could Abhimanyu not apply the same method that he used to enter the Chankravyuha, to exit from it as well? What was the difference in the method between entering and exiting the Chakravuyuha? Perhaps Kaurava’s joint attack into him could be the reason, as he didn’t even get a chance to apply the same logic of entering the Chakravyuha, in getting out of it. But this is just a guess from my side.

I suppose we will never be able to get exact answers to all these questions. As it is said in the Mahabharat, only 4 people; Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Krishna and Pradyumna; knew how to breach this formation. Since Ved Vyas, who recited the great epic, himself did not know the secret, how could he mention how it was supposed to be done in the story.

I have based this blog post on the limited amount of information I have been able to rummage through the Internet. For all you know, I might be completely off the mark in my conclusions. Anyone reading this blog post who can share more information about the Chakravyuha formation in Mahabharata that can help be refine this article is welcome to post a comment here.

2. Mahabharata - A Modern Rendering - Jayadratha's Moment
4. Chakravyuha - by Adil Jussawalla
7. Chakravyuha Episode - in Mahabharat TV Series by B.R.Chopra


shoOOonya said...

The Chakravyuh, besides beinga ohysical formation, would have some mental force too. Placement of key people to create a mental stress of oncoming resistance.

Also, while going in, you had to worry about only the inner rings since the outer rings would be warding off the attach from the outside.

BUT ... while going in ... you had the outer rings trying to prevent you from going out and the inner rings trying to 'kill' you since they have nothing else to do other than concentrate on whats on int eh inside .. which would be You !! .. i mean Abhimanyu.

So getting out was definately far more complicated and 'boring' (evident the fact that Subhadra actually went off to sleep during her 'class' on breaking the Chakravyuh) ..


I personally dont remember why did Abhimanyu enter the Chakravyuh in the first place and if this Chakravyuh was so effective .. why dont we hear about it after Abhimanyu. Why wasnt it used to simply capture Udhisthir ... the war would have come to a halt with that ??? i wonder ...

Unknown said...

The reason why abhimanyu entered was to capture yudishtir only. What was happened only 5 people know to break chakravyuuh they are Bhisma, Krishna, Arjuna , Pradyumna( son of Krishna) and Drona himself. So during the thirteenth day of the war there was a group namely Samshaktaka whom were assigned specifically to distract Arjuna and remove him from the battle place. Duryodana strategised this and asked Drona to capture yudishtira. At this point Yudishtira personally asked Abhimanyu to break Chakravyuh.

Wondering Wanderer said...

I dont think getting out of Chakravyuha was any more "boring" than getting in. Subhadra was not a warrior, and was not interested in knowing the nuances of a battle formation. So she fell asleep in between.
Chakravyuha was not made again by Kauravas since they knew Arjun could pierce it. As pointed out by Sriram, it was only when Arjun could be taken away from the battle field for a substantial duration could the Kauravas use Chakravyuha to capture another Pandava. This happened on the 13th day but could not happen again.

Anonymous said...

but still something is missing....
if there was such a simple stratergy to break the chakravyuha.....why didnt abhimanyu teach it to the other pandavas who were great warriors too.....and if the rings were moving.....then it must have involved a complete force of people....and to shatter it a complete force must fight not abhimanyu alone.....can someone please tell me why did abhimanyu enter the chakravyuha???...what was the purpose???......coz in tv series i hav seen it is shown that chakravyuha is formed to trap the pandavas...but why enter it at all!!!....

Wondering Wanderer said...

Let me add some more detail to the events.
As Pandavas were gaining the upper hand in the battle, Duryodhan accused Dronacharya of being soft on the Pandavas and not making good enough plans to defeat them. So, Dronacharya decided to create the Chakravyuha formation to capture Yudhishthira. Drona knew that only Arjun in the Pandava ranks knew how to enter and escape from the formation. Hence a group of warriors called Samsaptakas were asked to draw Arjun to a far corner of the battlefield so that he could not attack the Charkavyuha. As the rotating Chakravyuha began to churn through the battlefield, large numbers of the Pandava army began to get slaughtered. Pandavas sans Arjun needed to stop the formation somehow as it would otherwise have caused irreparable carnage amongst their forces. In the absence of Arjun, only Abhimanyu knew how to
enter the Chakravyuha. Hence he was asked to enter it. But since he did not know how to break out of it, other Pandavas promised to follow closely behind him, so that the opening does not close behind him. But after Abhimanyu penetrated into the formation, Jayadratha blocked the way for other Pandavas and they could not support him from behind.

Why did Abhimanyu not teach the way to enter the Chakravyuha to the other Pandavas? Well, I have not encountered the answer to this question yet. But my guess is that the Pandavas might not have expected Dronacharya to use the Charyavyuha formation in the battle and hence might not have discussed the way to enter and exit from it amongst themselves. And when they saw the formation in the middle of the battlefield, Abhimanyu did not have enough time to explain the method of entering it to the others.

Unknown said...

The Chakravyuh was formed by Acharya Drona in order to capture Yudhisthir. This moving and rotating chakravyuh would eventually absorb and hence capture Yudhisthir's chariot if not stopped or disrupted. Someone had to do this - stop the chakravyuh and therefore disrupt the stgrategy to capture Yudhisthir. Abhimanyu did just this and halted the march and impact of the Chakravyuh for the entire day. The Kaurava army was frustrated since their plans to capture Yushisthir had failed and Abhimanyu was the cause for this - there was no way Abhimanyu could have been defeated by fighting him one-on-one, therefore multiple warriors had to gang up on him and attack him simultaneously. Since Abhimanyu had penetrated the chakravyuh knowing there were several warriors at its core, the kauravas justified their act by saying that Abhimanyu knew what he was getting into and asked for it himself.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog and ofcourse the topic. Equally interesting discussion and view points. I would like to share my thoughts about "why Abhimanyu could not come out of Chakravyuh?".

After reading/watching everything I could find about chakravyuh, I think one of the major keys to chakravyuh was to kill the warrior in front of view before moving onto the next one. Abhimanyu defeated (but not killed) various warriors like Dron, Kripacharya, Dushashan, Duryodhan, Karna and Aswatthama before reaching the center.

One law of the dharmayudh says, if you are defeated by a warrior then you can't challenge him again and hence Abhimanyu didnot (or could not) kill anyone thinking he won't need to face them later but I think he should have. He knew that he will meet them on his way out but he will defeat them once again.

Duryodhan saw that Abhimanyu single handedly stopped and almost broke their plan of capturing Yudhishthir via chakravyuh. So he asked all major warriors to leave their respective rings (vyuh) and come to center and attack Abhimanyu at once. He could afford that because Jaydrath was holding entire pandav sena at the first vyuh.

If it was Arjun then this wouldn't have happened because Arjun knows that in Chakravyuh, you cannot leave your enemy in a state of fighting back. Moreover Arjun had all the divya-ashtras (Brahmastra, Pashupatashtra, indrastra, etc...) which he could have easily used to kill all warriors of Kaurav sena at once.

So with Abhimanyu, Duryodhan could get all of his major warriors to attack him at once without worrying about anything else.

If Abhimanyu had killed all the warriors he faced before reaching the center or atleast left them in a state where they couldn't fight anymore then I think he could have easily come out of Chakravyuh but probably this is the part he didnot learn.

Ofcourse, these are my views only and I may be totally off-track with this.

Anonymous said...

Why Abhimanyu was not taught either my Arjun or Krishna how to break the vyuh??
According to Krishna, Abhimanyu is an incarnation of a demon named [Kalayvan] who is capable of killing him at a later point. Abhimanyu's only weakness is his partial knowledge about Chakravyooh. Hence, according to Krishna the Chakravyooh was indeed launched to kill Abhimanyu as this is the only way by which Abhimanyu can attain Moksha. Hence, Krishna never imparts the knowledge of "how to come out of Chakravyooh?" to Abhimanyu inspite of being his guru in Dwaraka. Thus, on the 13th day Krishna does not give any clue to Arjuna that the Chakravyooh is launched by Dronacharya inspite of foreseeing it.

Unknown said...

Hi All, this is really a great topic to research upon. however, after reading all this, My question is that why did not not kaurvas continue with the "Chakravyuha" after killing abhimanyu. when their ulitmate aim is to capture yudhisther then they should have continued with their "Chakravyuah". shouldn't they???
and then later why it was not used by pandavas as they had the Arjun & Krishna with them who knew in & out of "Chakravyuh".

Wondering Wanderer said...

Thanks for posting a comment.
I will answer your questions.

Why did kauravas not continue with the "Chakravyuha" after killing Abhimanyu?
Answer is - Abhimanyu engaged all Kaurava warriors all day inside the chakravyuha. By the time they killed Abhimanyu, it was almost sunset, when the war was supposed to stop for the day. So they could not continue using the chakravyuha to capture Yudhisthira.
You might ask another question, why did they not create the chakravyuha again the next day? This is because chakravyuha could only be successful if Arjun was not around, which was the case only one one day during the war.

Now to your second question. Why it was not used by pandavas as they had the Arjun & Krishna with them who knew in & out of "Chakravyuh"?
Answer - Perhaps because they did not need to do it. They killed all Kauravas by other means anyway. They might have thought of chakravyuha in case they were not able to beat a kaurava warrior by other means.

Unknown said...

Read your blog and loved it .But I am trying to find a few answers for my sons chakravyuha project but facing a wall for the following questions.1.How is chakravyuha related to geometry.2. Differtent Sizes of the 7rings of the chakravyuha.have checked the net and also refered to books.Would appreciate help.

Anonymous said...

Think about the Chakra vyuha not as a circle, but a spiral. Warriors keep rotating and trap the other side, like sucking through the spiral and killing.
So the entry point is specfic at the tunnel end which should be detected and Abhimanyu first entered and ended up in the center.
Once inside the spiral the warrior ends up fighting army on 2 sides and he will not know which way is going towards center or which was is the exit.
If you know the direction of the spiral and keep your eye on the sun, then a rough direction is known. But if the spiral moves then you lose track. That is why Abhimanyu knew how to enter and not to exit.
- sriram chitturi

Wondering Wanderer said...

I am searching for all these answers myself. The blog post I have made is based on my own research on the net. But as you can see in the comments, a lot of people have given various ideas about the Chakravyuha formation, many of which seem equally feasible.
I would love to know if you were able to un-earth some more information about Chakravyuha and would highly appreciate if you post the results of your research as a comment on this blog post.

katespartan said...

I'd like to add to the answer for the question - "Why it was not used by pandavas as they had the Arjun & Krishna with them who knew in & out of "Chakravyuh"?:

Planning and executing a Chakravyuh is not the same thing as breaking it. While all the five Pandava brothers have been hailed as excellent warriors, they have not been portrayed as generals the way Dronacharya has been.

The mere logistics and planning concerned with it must have been enormous, not something just anyone with the knowledge about the vyuh could do.

While the formation itself looks simple, the placement of the right warriors at correct positions would be a daunting task for a planner.

My only question is - Has there never been any other instance of usage of the Chakravyuh in ancient texts?

Unknown said...

My mom told me about this and i have even being through epics book where i have found that entering into chakravyuha was told by Lord Krishna to Subhedra not Arjun.
Breaking Chakravyuha and entering into it was very important step in Mahabaratha war of Kurukshetra. Everything was pre-planned by lord krishna he wanted Abimanyu to break it and with some purpose didnt tell him the technique to exit through it.

Rahul said...

I have a simple off the track Q -
Can Chakravyuha be used in modern day warfare?
May be with some changes?


Wondering Wanderer said...

During my research on this post, I did find instances where the Chakravyuha formation has been included in books on various war formations. I am assuming that some modified form of this formation can still be used in "ground combat". But if you look at recent instances of modern warfare as practiced by USA and NATO, the importance of ground combat has been greatly reduced as compared to areal attacks. These forces mostly believe in areal attacks that completely cripple the enemy before the ground troops move in. And I guess Chakravyuha cannot be useful in mid air so much. :-)

Wondering Wanderer said...

Well Lord Krishna knew everything. So you are right that if he wanted, he could have taught Abhimanyu the way to exit, or prevented him from getting in. But I guess he wanted Abhimanyu to die, in order to spur the Pandavas into attacking the Kauravas with all their might. Till that time, people like Arjun were still not fully convinced of the need to kill all Kauravas, including his guru Dronacharya. Abhimanyu's death was the last straw for them.

Anonymous said...

Chakravyuh has to be used very carefully. If the enemy knows it, you should not use since the losses will be significant. Abhimanyu killed 40% of Kaurav army on that single day. He killed so much that Duryodhan got terrified and demanded Karna, Drona, Ashwaddhama and others to fight together and kill him other wise, Abhimanyu would have ended the war that day.

Anonymous said...

@Sandeep Gaur:
Gr8 work done by the blogger, & thnx to all d ppl 4 sharing & spreading such knowledge.
some one asked why krishna didn't taught abhimanyu abt exit of chaktravyuh?
Smwhere I had read dat abhimanyu was chandr's (moon)son, & chandra didn't a long separation from his son. so he requested krishna to shorten d life of abhimanyu bt chandra also wanted the world to remember his son for long despite his short span of life. so krishna blessed him & said dat although abhimanyu wud b live a short life yet his name wud b remember till mahabharat wud b remembered...

If som1 want to knw more abt chakravyuh jst see d picture/image of it on wikipedia & many of your questions wouldb solved.

Thank you & Jai Hind

Newton said...

Awesome work done by author to spread awareness & knowledge of chakravyuha. I would also like to add my inferences. Might be wrong but still ....
The reason that we dont find many instances of chakravyuha formations in gr8 battles in history is bcoz:
1. U needed an excellent general to plan & execute it or else it can very easily backfire & end up confusing & decimating your own troops
2. Also the human cost involved was particularly large coz the chakravyuha (even if formed correctly) would end up taking (As well as giving) lot of lives in a very short span of time. True the war anyways ended up obliterating countless generations of warriors. But then each of them believed that the war wont take such a heavy toll & result might be decided by trading fewer lives.
As per some sites I visited, both the armies lost close to 50% of their men on the 13th day alone i.e. the day chakravyuha was formed.

Also getting out of the chakravyuha can be considered tougher just coz of the mental stress that a warrior might feel when he knows he is right in the middle of rings of his enemies' armies. Its diferent when u r breaking in & ur adrenaline & focus & talent can u get u in. Abhimanyu would have found it even more tougher coz he was facing 7-8 maharathis in the innermost ring as opposed to 1-2 in the normal chakravyuha formation.

Newton said...

As already pointed above warriors were reluctant to use Chakravyuha formation in battle bcoz of the 2 reasons mentioned above. But I also have an ideological doubt.
What I find very much glaringly unethical in Arjun's behaviour is his blaming Jaydrath for killing Abhimanyu. Wasnt Jaydrath only fulfilling his own duty when he stopped the Pandavas from entering the Chakravyuha? Werent the other Kauravas, who ganged up & killed Abhimanyu inside the chakravyuha, far more responsible for Abhimanyu's death than Jaydrath? Should Jaydrath just have rolled over & allowed the pandavas to go in unscathed & freely? I find it really hard to understand that not only Arjun but almost everybody in the Pandavas camp including Bheeshma on Kauravas side blamed Jaydrath for Abhimanyu's death!!

Wondering Wanderer said...

As with most other things in the Mahabharat, looks like we have multiple back stories for Abhimanyu's life as well :-)
You have mentioned a story about Abhimanyu being Chandra's son, while another commenter had suggested that he was an incarnation of the demon Kalayvan..

Wondering Wanderer said...

I completely agree with your viewpoint on Jayadrath, and find this section of the story very odd. The Mahabharat does not provide sufficient details about why the Pandavas considered Jayadrath to be the chief culprit for Abhimanyu's death. Perhaps some other reader of this blog post can provide some insights.

Anonymous said...

@Sandeep Gaur,
Nice Question asked by my frnd Newton. If u read abt formation of chakravyuh, u will find that once a ring(out of 7 rings in chakravyuh) is broken, the warrior can take n no. of warriors with him. Nobody should stop the following soldiers. but jaydrath didn't allow bheem & brothers & their infantry to enter the chakravyuh. Arjun & even Bhishma blamed Jaydrath because Its only because of jaydrath that pandavas were not allowed to enter & if he hadn't stopped pandavas, can you think that kauravas would have killed abhimanyu. abhimanyu was alone thats why he was killed.

& see I have read somewhere dat he was moon's son. I dont knw whether its authenticated or not, bt seems correct else why would not Krishna told the exit of chakravyuh after abhimanyu was grown up...

Jai Hind,

Anonymous said...

@Sandeep Gaur
go to this link :

Smarty said...

Lets take the chakravyuha as 7 rings of warriors rotating in unison.
It is also a offensive formation because of the rotation, the warriors are able to cover the breadth of the battlefield in a single rotation and the movement also allowed them to cover the length. What was missed by the first ring(with Drona) was finished off by the other capable warriors in a sort of an ancient Blitzkrieg.
Coming to the point, the formation may have been difficult to breach because:

1. The rotation of the ring which actually confused the opposing warriors.
2. Also the fact was that the breach quickly moved on with the rotation,making following difficult.
3. The rings were moving relativistically, again confusing the warriors.

As mentioned before, the secret of entering the vyuha was to attack the warriors on both sides, instead of front, and enter the breach.

But the secret of exiting actually depends on entering the vyuha!!!

That is, when breaching the vyuha it must be done in such a manner that at a particular time, the breaches actually unite, forming a path, which when sensed by the warrior could be used to exit the vyuha. This secret was not known to Abhimanyu and thus he died inside the chakravyuha.

Wondering Wanderer said...

@Jai Hind,
Your theory of a warrior, after breaking the Chakravyuha, being able to take any no. of warriors in with him, is really interesting. I have not heard of it from any other source before. Perhaps some more research is needed on this theory. It would be great if you can point out the source.

Wondering Wanderer said...

Thanks for you great observations.

Your theory about breaches uniting sounds feasible. The only chink I can see in it is - once a ring is broken, wouldn't the other warriors in the ring spread out to close the breach quickly? In that case, it would be almost impossible to have breaches in all 7 rings at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I have read bt dnt remember where. there is another amazing thing: once a warrior is defeated by another warrior he can attack dat warrior untill next day. yet drona, karna, kripacharya, duryodhan, dushasan, after defeating from abhimanyu again attacked him & killed him.
Ques: why pandavas were unable to defeat jaydrath???
Answer: jaydrath's father was a SHIV bhakth, he asked Lord to give jaydrath blessing dat he can't be killed by pandavas. Lord denied yet said that one particular day, he could fight with pandavas & their army singlehandledly if Krishna & Arjun are absent from there. So, duryodhan placed him at the first door of chakravyuh.

jaydrath father also asked Lord a blessing dat anyone who fall the head of his son on ground would instantly die!!!
So, when Arjun was was about to kill jaydrath, Krishna asked Arjun to cut his head in such a way dat it would fall in his father's lap who was a saint & was meditating in jungle. Arjun done that. When jaydrath's father saw his son;s head in his lap, as a shock he stood up. & as per the blessing he died instantly!!!

Such a Great epic.

Jai Hind!!!

Smarty said...

@Wondering Wanderer

Thanks so much for your comments and also for bringing to my notice the chink in my theory.

According to you, once the ring has been breached, the other warriors in the ring would have spread out and closed the breach.

My solution, as I see it, would be that if the warriors in the ring had indeed spread out, it would have caused thinning of the ranks at those positions and also would have caused the Kaurava army to fall into disarray and confusion(due to the vyuha's rotation or the hurry), which could have been exploited by the other Pandava warriors. So the Kauravas would not have applied this theory to maintain cohesion.

Wondering Wanderer said...

After some more research into Jayadratha (namely the Jayadratha's wiki page - and an episode from B.R.Chopra's Mahabharat -, I found out the following -

At a time during Pandava's exile, Jayadratha insults Draupadi, by attempting to abduct her and forcibly marry her. After Bhima chases and captures him alive, Jayadratha is saved from death by Yudhisthira, who takes him as his slave. Bhima then shaves Jayadratha's hair, making him bald. Desiring to avenge this humiliation, Jayadratha performs a tapasya to please Shiva. He asks for the power to defeat the Pandavas who instead grants him the power to hold the Pandava brothers at bay for one day in battle - except for Arjuna who was protected by Lord Krishna.

The Pandavas thought that, by stropping them from entering the Chaktavyuha behind Abhimanyu, Jayadratha had shown his ungratefulness towards them. They felt that he should have been indebted to them for sparing his life, and not stopped them from helping Abhimanyu. Perhaps that was the core reason behind Arjun's anger towards Jayadratha.

Newton said...

@ wondering wanderer
Ya may be that theory does indeed explain Arjun's anger towards Jaydratha...

Although at the cost of veering off from the topic I have another question....

NOthing to do with Chakravyuha or Abhimanyu but thought it better to ask here as I couldnt find any other blog/site with so many Mahabharata fans!! :-)

Y dint Dronacharya use his Bhramastra (Divine Weapon) to kill Ghatotkacha (Bhim's Son)?? Wasnt it really stupid to leave it to Karna to use his only divine weapon given by Lord Indra against Ghatotkacha?? Karna had already expressed his desire to use it on Arjun!! Even if Dronacharya was trying to protect Arjun coudnt Duryodhan ask/command Dronacharya to use his divine weapon against Ghatotkacha instead of pressurizing Karna to use his only divine weapon against Ghatotkacha??

Gaurang said...

Great work by author. Clap Clap..

My inference is very simple -
Incomplete knowledge could be dangerous...

Wondering Wanderer said...


I remember that the Mahabharat TV serial clearly shows Dronacharya and Duryodhana asking Karna to use the Shakti weapon on Ghatotkacha.

Some more research provides 3 possible answers to your question -

1. The wiki page on Karna has the following description -
"After Ghatotkacha defeated the commander in chief Drona and wounded him badly, Karna engaged him to a ferocious duel, which every single warrior from both the sides watched dumb stricken. As Ghatotkacha began to use his skills of dark magic, Karna had to use the Vasava Shakti, which was gifted to him by Lord Indra."
So perhaps what is shown in the Mahabharat TV series is not accurate. Perhaps Dronacharya was injured by Ghatotkacha and was not in a position to use his Divyastra.

2. Perhaps Ghatotkacha could not be killed by any divyastra. Perhaps the Shakti weapon was the only divyastra that could kill him.

3. Everyone knows that Arjun was Dronacharya's favorite student. So perhaps he did not want Karna to defeat Arjun. That is why he was happy to make Karna use his Shakti weapon against Ghatotkacha, so that he cannot use it agains Arjun.

Newton said...

@ Wandering Wanderer
Good Research!! But couple of posers frm my side
1. Could Drona be injured so badly by Ghatotkacha?? He along with Bhishma was perhaps the most skilled in use of weapons. And so, as we see, had to be beaten by use of not-so-fair means by Pandavas.

2. I cant think of any counter-argument to this point

3. I do agree Drona might be having his own ulterior motives behind not using his Bhramastra to kill Ghatotkacha there by presurizing Karna to use his Shakti. But my question remains...
Coudnt Duryodhan see this & instruct Drona to use his Bhramastra??? After all even he must be aware of Drona's extraordinary powers. It coudnt have excaped him.

Thinking over it last couple of days I also have formed a theory ....

Since Ghatotkacha was a Pandava, Drona must have been reluctant to kill him as was the case with all other Pandavas. Even with Abhimanyu,I believe he just watched from the sidelines and dint do anything to prevent it while all other Kauravas attacked him. He did not actively participate in the killing....

Do u think that can explain it??

Nikhil Kulkarni said...

This is a great analysis. I wanted to respond to a point made above that with air-warfare, Chakravyuh has lost its significance.

Chakravyuh is a warfare tactic and can be utilized in any form of warfare. As far as I understand from the above discussion - Chakravyuh involves a formation of fighters (may be fighter planes also) so that they keep moving to distract an attacking intruder which cannot focus on any one target. This formation in itself also helps maximize the attack on the intruder (one such formation was used by US using its B52 bombers; see this-

Abhishekh Singhal said...

Many Thanks to the blog creater for this blog ... this has nearly brought all the answers i wanted to have on chakravyuh...

Krishna said...

Per B.R Chopra's Mahabharat Aswathama was also aware of entering and exiting chakravyuh so to the question
Why it was not used by pandavas as they had the Arjun & Krishna with them who knew in & out of "Chakravyuh"?

Ashwathama and Bhisma were still alive. So Bhisma although injured could have transferred the knowledge to the kauravas.

Krishna said...

I do agree Drona might be having his own ulterior motives behind not using his Bhramastra:

Per B.R Chopra's Mahabharat Brahma says Drona to not use Brahmastra so he never used any divyaastra.

Subin Mohan said...

Commenting on Drona not using Brahmastra to kill Ghatotkach.

The Brahmastra is the ultimate weapon which in incomparable to none and only selected warriors know how to use this weapon. The first rule of using the Brahmastra is that, it should be used if there is no other alternative than using it. One can probably compare this weapon to the modern day nuclear missiles or atom bombs. It is so deadly that if a Brahmastra is used, it brings along with it 12years of famine and drought.

Therefore Drona did not find it appropriate to use this against Ghatotkach when there was alternatives available. Ghatotkach is also not a warrior worthy of the Brahmastra and this is why Drona did not use this. It is also to be noted that in the whole war except Karna, no one else used Divyastras to kill or win an opponent. In Dharmayudh war is fought upon own might rather than majic weapons.

I have been on the research of Mahabharata for years and if anyone has any doubts about any portions, you are welcome to contact me at and I will try to explain your queries accroding to my understanding and knowledge.
Subin Mohan

Wondering Wanderer said...

@Subin Mohan,
Thanks for your insights.
Can you also share your thoughts on some of the other questions raised here -
Why could Abhimanyu not apply the same method that he used to enter the Chankravyuha, to exit from it as well?
What was the difference in the method between entering and exiting the Chakravuyuha?

Anonymous said...

Concentric outward facing rotating rings seems a bad military move to capture anyone.

Why was this great formation not used in the last 3,000 years by anyone to capture anyone else? (before or after the advent of gunpowder).

Such formation (outward facing concentric rings) is a highly defensive formation and is used by trapped armies.

The only mobile part in such formation is cavalry (now replaced by armour) which is rushed from place to place to bridge the gaps created by attacking enemy.

The whole ring does not move or rotate because it is just waste of energy.

Probably Chakravyooha only means siege or getting surrounded by numerically superior forces.

This was used by all armies all over the world e.g. Shivaji Maharaj at Panhala or Germans at Stalingrad in WW-2 or any other siege for that matter.

This siege, in an open battlefield is executed by having a line face the enemy and mobile forces on the flanks.

As the frontal engagement wears out the enemy, the flanks move in and envelope the enemy and surround him.

This has been used time and again and probably was used on Abhimanyu too.

Some times the front deliberately caves in to entice the enemy into attack and then the sides move forward. This is classic horse-shoe trap and has been used time and again.

But any such movement does not start in concentric outward facing rotating rings.

Regardless of weapons, the principles of war have not changed.

Good combination of mobility and armour, concentration of forces, flanking / surrounding movements (either to trap enemy forces or to capture strategic objectives such as road junctions), etc. remain constant all the time.

If Mahabharat was fought on the scale it is depicted, then concentric outward facing rotating rings on a large ground must be rather improbable.

The actual war must have been fought like today's wars which spans over many thousands of square kilometers including cities, towns, hills, rivers, jungles, road networks, etc.

Chances are that Abhimanyu was shown a weak spot in the line (e.g. an unguarded road junction which was vital to keep Kaurav supply routes open), he rushed into it to capture it and then was surrounded by numerically superior enemy and killed.

Anonymous said...

Please read the above "This was used by all armies all over the world e.g. Shivaji Maharaj at Panhala or Germans at Stalingrad in WW-2 or any other siege for that matter." as "This was used by all armies all over the world e.g. to trap Shivaji Maharaj at Panhala or to trap Germans at Stalingrad in WW-2 or any other siege for that matter."

Unknown said...

<<< The Chakravyuh was formed by Acharya Drona in order to capture Yudhisthir. This moving and rotating chakravyuh would eventually absorb and hence capture Yudhisthir's chariot if not stopped or disrupted. Someone had to do this - stop the chakravyuh and therefore disrupt the stgrategy to capture Yudhisthir.>>>
@ Dinesh PC:

Couldn't not attacking the chakravyooha been the simplest solution in order to avoid Yudhishthir getting captured?

He and Abhimanyu should have just waited on the side till the Kaurav soldiers moving in circular ranks (and carrying about 20-25 kg each including weaponry and armour) got tired and broke ranks.

And moreover if the outer ring was anyway going to continue to move in circle regardless of the losses (gaps created), then why did Abhimanyu not just stand at one spot and finish the entire outer ring and then the inner one and then the further inner one?

Imagine a circle rotating in front of you and you shooting arrows (or bullets) at it. Won't the non-broken parts come in front of you after a while? Why not destroy the entire outer ring then?

May be enough damage for one day. Finish one outer ring. Next day finish the next inner ring which would have become outer ring by then (because on previous day we destroy the original outer ring).

Why create a gap and go through it if the whole ring is going to come in front of you one by one?

The war was over in 18 days. But it was not agreed at the beginning that it would be over in 18 days. May be if Abhimanyu finished one ring every day, it would have taken 24 or 30 days but he would have surely won.

Doesn't that make more military sense?

Anonymous said...

Great post, extraordinary effort to understand the concept of the formation, there are a few missing links though. For all those who have inaction & not attacking as a best military strategy, just ask yourselves what would one do in case they were posed a simple challenge that would question their very ability to perform, would anyone not stand up & face the challenge . war that has been mentioned in the epics is not on the lousy terms that america fights today. so lets admire the strategic view point with which it was written about 2000 years ago. Its a challenge from my side to the entire human race that even if the whole world unites they will not be able to script a story even to 10 percent of the elegance & lucidity of the Mahabharatha let alone ecclipse it
good job boss
try to go inward to find out the mental & internal faceat of the chakravyuh. The logical mind is lethal but has its own limitation

Deepak Y said...

@ Newton,

You asked "Why Jayadrath was targeted by Arjun after the death of Abhimanyu?"

After the end of the day's war, Jayadrath humiliated the dead Abhimanyu by kicking his head and jubilated around it.

Anonymous said...


“But it was not agreed at the beginning that it would be over in 18 days.” - As I had heard the story, following where the agreements before the war.
1. The war should be completed by 18days.
2. Out of 100 Kauravas, if anyone is left alive after 18days, they will be the winners. Out of 5 Pandavas, if any one was killed, they will be declared as losers.

Rule#2 looks very odd. But it was supported with the statement that, Duryodhana tried to hide at Dwaipayana lake till the sunset on 18th day, when he was the only survivor in the Kauravas, so that according to Rule#2, he will be the winner of the war. That’s why, Yudhishtira sends across his guptacharas(secret agents) to find the place where Dhuryodhana had hidden.

Hence, just keeping away from the chakravyuha would have meant same as losing a valuable day for Pandava side, which inturn will result in losing the battle.

- Ram

Unknown said...

Sunitha Ragavan,

"The epic explains that Abhimanyu overheard his Uncle Krishna talking about this with Subhadra from the womb.
Krishna explains to Subhadra in detail, the technique of attacking and escaping from various vyuhas (an array of army formation) such as Makaravyuha, Kurmavyuha, Sarpavyuha etc.
After explaining all the vyuhas, (by this time Subhadra was tired) he explains about the technique of cracking Chakravyuha. Krishna explains to her how to enter the Chakryavyuha.
When he was about to explain how to exit from the Chakravyuha, Subadra is asleep and stops expounding on the Chakravyuha further. As a result, the baby Abhimanyu in the womb did not get a chance to learn how to come out of it."
NOW, science tells us that irrespective of the mother being awake or asleep the child can be awake or sleeping in the womb...
and its ridiculous to think Krishna wasn't aware of this..!!
Here is where my research began..
It is said Abhimanyu is an incarnation of the Moon god's son, and was way too powerful, so much that he could single handedly kill the entire kaurava army, Pandavas and Krishna himself..if he did not end that birth on the appointed time(13th day of the war) which meant the very purpose of the kuru war(to teach the Dharma) would be defeated....and this is where our adorable krishna's manipulative working style comes into action.
1. He who knew everything did not teach Abhimanyu the way to come out of the Chakravyuh.
2. Being aware of the plot, he allowed Arjuna to accept the challenge by Samsaptaka army led by Susarma.
3. This also brings to contemplation Krishna's devotion to his devotee (Arjuna) who killed all his kin in his anger of losing his son(main lesson of Mahabarath-fight even your kin for the right path)
4. It is also worth mentioning that Ghatotkch, played a vital role in the war and saved Arjuna's life (Karna's promise to use the nagastra only once in the war, which he saved for Arjun..but had to use it against Ghatotkch).

Coming back to the Chakravyuh, one of the rules of war is one should not be attacked by more than one at a time,
One should not attack the other from behind, and one was supposed to challenge the other (warn) before they begin the fight.(Sign of manliness)
And war should end by sunset.
And many other such rules were broken.
Factors contributing to Abhimanyu’s death:
1. Krishna’s will (/plan)
2. Violation of the rules of war
3. Abhimanyuh’s thirst for glory (entering the vyuh without knowing how to come out of it)
4. Yudhistar’s inability to reject the challenge
5. Jasrath’s boon (to hold all pandava’s except Arjuna for a day in the war)

Anonymous said...

To answer the question about why Krishna did not teach Abhimanyu how to get out of Chakravyuha...

1.Since the day Shubadra was pregnant, Abhimanyu was possessed by a demon. When krishna taught Shubadra the art of entering into Chkravyuh, there , Abhimanyu heard it as well. Shubadra went off to sleep in the middle, after hearing about how to get in, but Krishna had not realized it, even though she was asleep as he started narrating the art of getting out he heard a " mmm... mmm.." as acknowledgement. this is when Krishna got to know about the demon in Abhimanyu and did not continue to teach.... Also, had Abhimanyu been successful in breaking the vyuha, the demon in him would have dominated Abhimanyu.... So have I heard ....

Unknown said...

Looking at the spiral , the formation must be closed and moving , in order to enter you need a specific time and right point to enter.From the image shown in wiki pages is open spiral which gives a clue that it has to be broken at that point only to enter directly to the 4th level.And when a warrior breaks the spiral , only he is allowed to enter as it gets closed right after that.That could be the reason pandava's could not back up Abhimanyu. Now to move out of the spiral again you need to keep track of the point where you have broken the 5th , 6th and 7th level to move out safely as you will get lost with the moving rings.

Rahul Reddy said...

I have a BIG Doubt..lets look at the formation (wikipedia) it is said that the army rotate in it...think of it ..rotation is possible if it is closed end to end (circle,ellipse..) but,see the diagram at the center is a point that starts the spiral, ,only from layer 3 rotation is possible as there is a loop..the thing is how rotation was possible? in inner layers??
2.if the army was rotating..why they dint attack the target all at once. that would for sure injure the target?
3.rotating army?? how-they had horses and people not on how would they control the horse(speed,direction) and same time hit the target

i have learnt the solution to break out the chakravyuha many many years ago..ill tell it when i recollect it..i remember.. getting out was the simplest

rajeev.giri said...

Hai all very interesting blog indeed.Well as everyone is aware that we are here discussing here something for we don't have any hardcore reference and we are giving our conclusions or assumptions based on what we know through limited sources and interrelating this with our understanding.Now going forward lets take everything one by one, and frankly speaking this is what I could make of that issue.
1.Chakravyuha as it is said can be formed only by very large armies.It is absolute show of strength and is used if you certainly want to kill a small army in a day.It is kill as many as you want for the larger army and do or die and certainly die situation for smaller army.If you are interested watch the movie RED CLIFF it is an Chinese war epic movie inspired by our mahabharat.This movie shows in great detail formation of outer spiral of Chakravyuha.
2.This Chakravyuha was not circles rather it was set of in complete spirals with broad ends on both sides.It might appear that these were closed circles but it was not.There were gaps in each spiral.For example if there are say 2 soldiers in outer spiral at a point then between these soldiers there was soldiers in second spiral and between them there was soldier of third spiral so at a given point if you want to enter the spirals then you must kill soldiers of all the spirals in that angle which was very difficult.
3.Further the soldiers of outer spiral moved slowly and say clockwise and as we would move to deeper spiral the direction of movement will change and also the speed at which they change their places increases so as deeper you move the worse it gets you must move kill faster and faster enemies who get stronger and stronger the real warriors of kauravas were in deeper circle which even makes it difficult to kill the inner spiral.
4.Q)Further dronacharya places important warrior at important places now what does that mean?
A)Dronacharya further divided the circle into say 7 quadrants and further complicated the situation by placing key warrior at each spiral so that from there the soldiers will move in clockwise and anticlockwise directions in that spiral so that warrior will remain stationary and everything around him will move further he will cover say 45 degree 45*7=315 this leaves 45 degree of open space at first spiral, this is what I will say a perfect optical illusion that will confuse everybody.

rajeev.giri said...

5.Now why that open space 45 degree at first spiral why not complete the circle completely 360 degree? and why that differing gap in between the successive spirals?
This was a optical illusion which was designed to confuse the opposing army so that they could not concentrate on a single target further and further confusing was the differing and changing gaps between different spirals making judgement very different.The key to it was by maintaining or replacing the soldiers who were killed with new ones in the same place which could only be achieved by having a point of entry and having gaps between spirals so that the soldiers move when they are guarded by the formation.
This is a perfect optical illusion and that illusion must be maintained at any cost and that could be achieved only by constant troop movement.
Further it is said that Dronacharya placed great warriors where they can inflict maximum damage this makes if we are to talk scientifically dividing the battle field into say 4 quadrants each 90 degrees and placing a warrior at the physiological blind spot(google for that if you want details you will be amazed when you get details of that)for that quadrant surely that warrior will bring hell loose on battle field.
6.Only way to break the Chakravyuha was in its formation and could be achieved by entering it and killing from inside.It might appear that upon entry one must fight soldiers on both sides and it was a confusing puzzle inside which will only lead you to center.It is not true once you are inside the outer say 2-3 spirals are still continuing that optical illusion and successively preventing the entry from outside.Once inside you must fight the main warriors in say 4th or 5th spiral.They have strategic position outside Chakravyuha but once you are inside that no longer concern you and Chakravyuha was designed to confuse the army from outside not inside and once inside the warriors are not even at your physiological blind spot and further it is difficult for the great warrior of kaurava to defend himself as he is cornerd out and he truely fighting on both side one outside preventing others entry and from inside defending his life from Abhimanyu.This explains how that kid was able to defeat all great or greatest warrior including karna but he didn't killed them which he should had.

rajeev.giri said...

7.So now it is clear that Chakravyuha can be broken only from inside and Chakravyuha did had an inlet for troop movement at right side guarded by none other then Jayadrath himself and he was great that day because of lord Shivas blessing.Jayadratha was arch enemy of Pandavas when Pandavas along with Abhimanyu moved towards the inlet as Jayadrath saw Pandavas he concentrated on the main guys the 4 guys so that Abhimanyu could slip in further mind you he knew exactly how to enter the Chakravyuha.Once he entered Chakravyuha the inlet was closed and troop movement was going on which means the illusion was failing and the kauravas warrior were themselves at danger.So Abhimanyu caused maximum damage and now you must understand that Chakravyuha can be broken only from inside.Since Abhimanyu was causing so great a destruction and all the kaurav warriors life was in limbo they attacked Abhimanyu collectively to save their life.
Because of the heavy destruction caused by Abhimanyu Chakravyuha was never formed again as it needs very big army to form and maintain the illusion.
Please note that there was no exit from Chakravyuha alive once inside.There were say 7 warriors at different points 1 guy duryodhana(kaurav main prince) at center and Jayadrath at entry point total say 9.Abhimanyu got in and soon he was cornerd by 8 warriors each at 45 degree completing the 360 degree circle and he died.So once inside I say there was no exit alive but one known to very few say Lord Krishna etc.
But once this offensive pattern of Chakravyuha was changed to kill Abhimanyu and no troop transport subsequently this means all the optical illusion of Chakravyuha later faded and many of kaurav army were killed that day even in the absence of Arjun.
Well I am not someone great to say this things happened in this way I am just using science to find answers and all these are my conclusions no offence meant for anybody as this is our mythology.

rajeev.giri said...

I personally think Chakravyuha was a masterly crafted scientifically designed troop pattern and the answer lies in geometry of its formation the placement of warriors the speed of movement of different spirals and direction of movement the rate of change of troops further additional movement like suddenly 2nd spiral or 1st spiral moving out or jumping.The soldiers in different spirals having different colour dress the possibilities are infinite and the result is Chakravyuha.
Mahabharat is filled with science like the mention of usage of Brahamastra and special mention Lord Krishna successfully explained its harmful effect to Aswathama that this will harm his son who is in his wifes womb something like atomice radiation hazards after nuclear warfare something like hiroshima nagashaki.
Another thing we know now that Lord Krishna at the same time during his childhood was stealing "makhhan" from his home and next moment was playing outside with other children's.In general terms it is we cannot tell the position of Krishna at particular juncture of time well guess what?just replace Lord Krishna with electron and do some minor modification and you have HEISINBERGS UNCERTAINITY PRINCIPLE.Good lord this guy was given Noble prize for saying this,this is like rewarding a thief with greatest honour for stealing.The list goes on will stop for now.

rajeev.giri said...

will post the final comments and real scenarios what would have been at the formation of chakravyuh and also will explain what was only way to enter the chakravyuh only after I hear some comments regarding the above post posted by me.Remember today is june 14 2011 and will not wait for the comments for long.

Wondering Wanderer said...

@Rajeev Giri,

Thanks for the fantastically detailed analysis of the Chakravyuha formation. You are right that most people are only aware of parts of information related to this formation. I agree with your opinion that Chakravyuha is a spiral formation and not a circular one, with rings rotating in different direction and different speeds. I would love to hear more from you.

Would it be possible for you to represent your analysis in terms of a diagram or a picture, that can be posted on this blog (with your name as a contributor)? It would greatly help us all in understanding the formation better.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for great research from all the people. As shown in mahabharata, Dronacharya was teaching chakrayuha to Ashwaddama in Ashwaddamas early age and that time Arjuna came and learnt it form his teacher. I believe Dronacharya son also know the formation and breaking of chakrayuha.

Deven said...

Hi Guys,

Gr8 blogs but the most important clue seems to be missing here.Chakravyuha is not an offensive mechanism.It was a purely defensive mechanism.Also the spiral and not concentric rings are rotationary in nature but still static.They dont move front or back.
The important clue is the CHALLENGE.Once the chakrvyuha is set the enemy is challenged to break it and if not then accept defeat.This was warfare ofcourse in Treta Yuga.So in the absence of Arjuna somebody from the Pandavas had to accept the challenge or accept defeat.Abhimanyu had the knowledge of breaking through and he took it upon himself so that the Pandavas didnt have to accept defeat.The Challenge is to capture the rival king and take him to their own camp ALIVE.Also to apply this formation a gr8 general is required who knows the pros and cons.This formation if breached means the end of war.This was also done in order to minimise the heavy casualties on both sides.
Bhishma himself ensured that the Pandava army was reduced to 50%.So was the case with Arjuna reducing the Kaurava army to half.Also breaching this formation couldve been known to Karna but he did not know how to actually form it.

Deven said...

This was the reason for the Chakrayuha not employed again as Drona died on 15th day of the battle.Drona however did employ this vyuha also on 14th day to save Jaydratha.Arjun had vowed that if on that day he dint kill Jaydratta he would lay his arms forever which meant the Pandavas would be surely defeated if he couldnt kill Jaydratta that day.Arjun with all his valor couldn't breach the chakra vyuha and other vyuhas simultaneously employed by Drona knowing well that he can win the war by stopping Arjun on that very day.Time taken by Arjun to breach one vyuha after another was more than what was expected which caused anxiety in Krishna's mind and he knew that unless he intervened that was the end of road for Pandavas and then he caused the solar eclipse.This clearly tells us that Dronacharya was a shrewd general and he did not give any concessions to his favoured pupil in that war.

Prassana said...

@ newton
The reason why arjun blammed jayatradh, was he controlled other 4 pandav brothers bcos of boon he received. He received tht bcos, one day pandavs insulted jayatradh by shaving his head with 5 bunch of hairs in his head; hence he prayed to shiva and got a boon tht one day he should hold 4 pandav in a battle. He made use of tht on the 13th day of the battle. Hence Arjun felt Jayatradh was the reason.

Anonymous said...

Great post. But I never understood why opposition, in this case Pandavas, had to break into the Chakravuyha. Because all the main warrios are inside the vyuha. So how can they attack Pandavas if Pandavas choose not to enter the into the Vyuha itself.

k singh said...

Why not other warriors followed to the assistance of abhimanyu once the chakravyuh is broken while entering. This could have facilitated in total destruction of the formation. A single warrior may not be good for too many of the opponents of equal magnitude even if it is not a special formation.

Mahesh Satija said...

Hi All,
A wonderful blog indeed.I was reading the comments and was given to beleive that the modern warfare techniques can use the concept of chakravyuh with modifications. Can someone please take lead in suggesting or coining an english word for the technique.

Anonymous said...

A shocking discovery has revealled that parvathama who happened to be krishna's wife's slave was waiting for a opputunity to redeem her vengence on Abimanyu. It is clearly stated in history that abhimanyu and parvathama were in love and wanted to lead a life togeather. But, parvathama's possesive attitude and her relationship with other men such as Rajkumar and her co-slaves forced abimanyu to dessert her in her own misseries. This caused a stir up in parvathama's mind that led to the formation of chakravyuh. She was the 1 who suggested dronacharya to create a vyuh. And Drona agreed to it as he was also in a reletionship with her !!!

Refer to : https://drona-parvathama/

Anonymous said...

Abhimanyu was not able to exit because all the gaps that were made in the Chakravyuha were closed because Kauravas killed Abhimanyu by not following the rules of Dharmayuddha.

Anonymous said...

i still dont understand why only one man goes in to break the can actually be done by a relatively larger army which im sure wasnt that difficult...

Agnibho Mondal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Agnibho Mondal said...

I think Chakravyuha could have been broken by a Wedge formation or Combined Arms offence.
A wedge formation concentrates force on its tip to create a gap and subsequent echeloned flanks widen it. This will continue to break the rings from outside till it reaches the center.
A combined arms approach would wear down the outer rings with missile weapons while melee troops will hold the enemy off.
I wrote a more elaborate discussion of these approaches at my blog.
But I think the principles of Dharmayuddha would prevent such approaches.

naveen goel said...

if you look closely the dual spiral picture on the top of the blog you can very quickly judge that it appears that the easiest way around is to travel through the area which is vacant or empty between the defending spirals.but if one follow that path then he will have to encounter each and every single warrior in chakrvyuh to reach the centre of it.that is why it is taken as so difficult to penetrate.also a wedge or a heavy force will not be able to enter as the position of centre cannot be judged.

naveen goel said...

now as far as i think to decode the chakravyuh means to identify the center of the vyuh and after reaching the center to exit onto the own side of the definatly there will be two strategies one to know the center and other to come out of it. Abhimanyu learnt the first strategy to know the centre.but the second strategy is different as on reaching the center due to the rotational nature and due to loss of soldiers making the formation the vyuh becomes more difficult as the exact shape has got changed and now the shape is unknown even to the maker of the chkravyuh. So there must be some thumb rules to remember while entring and to exit so that any change in the formation will not impact abhimanyu or warrior entering chakravyuh.for example keeping an eye on the Sun to know your position in respect to the battlefield.but these are all my views these could be totally off-real

Anonymous said...

forget it al.. go to sleep guys..!
nor krishna is going to cme again nor arjun nor bhima nor abhimanyu... sumthin's which cannot be correctly discovered should be left with time to un clover the mystery..! no offence to commenters.. jus a request! think about present and fuck the past! think something more powerful than tat chakravyuh.... tat wud be benificial to us al!! :)

Anonymous said...

I think after penetrating the sixth ring abhimanyu was trapped from all side because he was at that time in the most interior of chakravyuha and all wariors had surrounded him from all the directions. If he could break it then also consecutively he had to break all the circles once again in descending order to get out of it. And i think yes he could have done so if all the maharathis didnt attack him in unision. Thats my opinion i also dont know the secret of exit from it.

Roshan said...

What most people here miss is that no one fights alone.

If, for example, Leader A leads troops into a battlefield and finishes 50% of the troops in front, people would say that Leader A killed 50% of the troops of opposition.

In such terms, Abhimanyu broke in the vyuha with his units. However, other Pandavas could not bring in their units.

This is more accurate than imagining a single fighter getting in.

Nidhi Chopra said...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The labyrinth can symbolize the journey to the center or to one's self, the life journey, the path of life, or the spiritual journey -- our walk with the "Creator." Some people use the labyrinth to mark the seasons of the year and/or represent the ongoing cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth, others use it to transform or heal themselves. but i want to know, chakravyuha is a pattern of life journey or something else.....?

Czar said...

This is really an interesting post. However, I have few questions which are bothering me.
1. If it was Subhadra who fell asleep while Krishna/Arjun was explaining about the Chakravyuh how did that affect Abhimanyu from listening to it. He could have been awake.
2. If the force has to create 7 rotaing rings, i suppose they will need lot of people(Most of the Sena). Was not it a good idea for the Pandava sena to surround them from all sides and keep eradicating one ring after the other especially when all the main warriors were inside.
3. As someone already asked here earlier was it compulsory to enter it. Couldn't just they avoid it and attacked from outside(As per question 2)??

The questions may be silly but i am really curious to know about it..

Anonymous said...

why abhimanyu didnt ask how to get out of chakravyuh when he was young?

naveen said...

abhimanyu didnt ask for getting out of chakravyuh cause there are much other things to thought about and may be he even don't heard till the time (other than the time in her mothers womb)the charavyuh was implemented.

ajay said...

why to learn such a complicated strategy. why not instead use bhrama astra and completely destroy the forces simple.

Navneet said...

Thanks for great research from all the people. Well may be I am late but its better to be late than never...after reading all great stories about chakravyuh I also tried to research a bit as how many times the chakravyuh was formed in mahabharat...please see below...
In the Mahabharata story, the Chakravyuha was formed 3 times in total. Chakravyuha was once formed just before the Kurukshetra war by Bhishma to counter Arjun, who was defending the Kaurava invasion on the kingdom of Virat (insisted by Duryodhan and aimed at uncovering the anonymity of Pandavas, during their 1 year anonymous exile, following the previous 12 years exile – the success would have sent Pandavas for another 12 years exile). Arjun single-handedly defeated all Kauravas including Bhishma, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Karna, Ashwathwama, Kritavarma, Jayadratha, Shalya, Dushshashan and Duryodhan.

The second time Chakravyuha was formed to capture Yudhishthir during the 13th day of the war. Abhimanyu was protecting Yudhishthir and Arjun was distracted into another battle with Samshaptakas (mercenaries who vow to return from the battlefields only upon victory, or die) by Kaurava’s master-plan (as Arjun could easily destroy Chakravyuha). Chakravyuha was rotating along the battlefield and was destroying Pandava’s army in thousands (as Chakravyuha is hugely offensive formation as well). Lacking Arjun, Yudhishthir and other Pandavas were hopeless and without any counter-measures. Abhimanyu suggested that he can breach the vyuha, but does not know how to come out of it. Although Yudhishthir initially was not inclined to let his 16 year old nephew to lead such a dangerous counter-attack, but seeing the circumstances he agreed by having a plan of other 4 Pandavas to closely follow Abhimanyu into the vyuha and break it open from inside. However, as soon as Abhimanyu breached through the first layer, Jayadratha who was guarding the opening, shut it down from other Pandavas. Owing to a boon that he possessed from lord Shiva that no Pandavas except Arjun could defeat him for one day, he cut the connection between Abhimanyu and other Pandavas, thus trapping Abhimanyu within the Chakravyuha. The other Pandava brothers kept on fighting from outside but without any effect. Abhimanyu meanwhile defeated all of the Kauravas single-handedly as he kept on breaching the Chakravyuha till he reached the centre. Being desperate, the Kauravas resorted to unethical means (the rule of engagement in the war was one is to one battle at any point of time) by joining hands and attacking on Abhimanyu together, all at once. Abhimanyu fought with valour and bravado, but in the end was killed by combined efforts of all Kaurava Maharathis. Upon the knowledge of this shameful act on his beloved son, made a resolute Arjun take an oath that by the next day’s sunset he will kill Jayadratha (as he was the person who primarily cut down the connection unethically, while he was shown mercy previously by Pandavas), or else he would himself jump on a burning pyre.

The third time, Chakravyuha was made was in the 14th day of the war, to protect Jayadratha from getting killed by Arjun (which according to Arjun’s vow will result into Arjun’s self-immolation, and will further result into an easy victory for Kauravas). Chakravyuha (Wheel or Disc formation), Sarpavyuha (Snake formation) and Soochivyuha (Needle formation) were made to protect Jayadratha. Consequently Arjun broke all the formations with his incredible skills and bravado (and some help from Lord Krishna as well), and by the end of the day killed Jayadratha, thereby completing his vow.

Jyoti said...

Adding to the debate... Surely the circles or spiral formation cannot have outward facing soldiers and warriors... If so, once inside, Abhimanyu would be looking at the backs of the warriors on his way out... They must surely be side-facing.

Unknown said...

a very nice effort : IMHO the only logical way to explain this great formation and its deadly nature is to think of each wall made by 2 soldiers thick... the whole basis of any formation is that it can only remain in place till the weakest or the stupidest of ur soldier is able to understand an order and this the reason why the whole set of spirals is connected so all any soldier has to do in order to maintain the shape is follow the soldier on one side and the rings will be in constant motion : the motion of soldiers to maintain its shape and integrity (by filling the gaps created by soldiers dying (only one entry point required in the outermost circle to maintain constant reinforcement)), the motion on its own axis as well as any motion of the center in any direction...... and this way. even once u are inside u have to face soldiers while coming out but the nature and presence of a certain gap in each spiral with different time of rotation in different directions , u will have to precisely time and in a only one precise ever-changing direction which has resistance in only innermost three rings (knowledge of which from inside is a tedious task)but not any significant force on the outer rings... without that knowledge u are bound to encounter the kind of heavy resistance which abhimanyu destroyed on the way in but he must have been drained mentally , physically and in terms of surrounding guard around his rath as well as ammo to fight such forces again... now he cant sustain much longer when inside and now cant face all the maharathis at once....

Unknown said...

as to why enter it in the first place which baffles me too : the possible explanations :
1) as this was a plot to capture yudhishthir , it must be mobile not only on its axis but also in terms of forward motion...
2)it would be offensive as well as defensive because only very few can actually get in and whoever gets in will automatically be facing certain death as the mere confusion about which way to go would be enough and facing enemy on both sides with a maharathi somewhere nearby wrecking havoc is just too much...
3)trying a wedge formation (as suggested above) would not prove good as if ur wedge is weak at any point the army ahead of that point will be then inside the vyuh without any hope of reinforcements before another wedge can be formed... to form form a solid wedge of a sufficient size would require an army greater than the size used for formation of the vyuh (which the pandavas did not have) ...
4)surrounding the whole vyuh and killing the outer before entering is depleting as most of the maharathis inside have nothing better to do than killing ur sena, is the simple fact that there is considerable amount of force dedicated to not letting the enemy flank the whole chakravyuh from all sides.... and the presence of reinforcement point will ensure the maintenance of integrity of the vyuh..
5) the only way to deplete it is to enter it and engage the maharathi while ur unit or guard can kill as many around as possible so as to make the cost/benefit ratio of maintaining the structure too high... this requires the knowledge to navigate through it ... as we read in accounts that abhimanyu did beat all seven of them separately that means he followed the path of least resistance available which means entering to level 5 then going to 6 and 7 before coming to level 4 towards 1(center) ...

i agree with many of the views especially some of the views presented by rajeev giri ...
as to why did yudhishthir did not just simply hide till the day was over and try to keep his forces away from the movement of such a great structure as chakravyuh is very simple and lies in the basic nature of all warriors that u simply cant rule (or even dream of ruling) , if u order such cowardly acts even in the name of common sense... it is just not good for morale in a battlefield and if ur army loses morale , it is more problematic than the thought of losing ur 16 year old nephew..... who can defeat any maharathi (inside) in dvanda yudh.. yudhishthir being an honest man didnt think of such treachery...

Bhuvana said...


First of all, thanks for the great post. I'd like to point out this link to clarify several doubts that have been raised in this section. Some of the answers include Arjuna talking about formations to Shubhadra and why Jayadarta was blamed.

Unknown said...

Chakravyuha is "encirclement" and not the way it is portrayed as people standing or moving in concentric circles and someone tries to first break in and then break out.

Have you ever tried moving sideways while standing in an outward facing circle, stepping sideways and firing arrows?

War is about destroying enemy formations and not entering a maze.

Someone with no idea about military formations draw a great looking puzzle and everyone seems to be jumping on it.

If such a maze is a great military formation, why did no one else practice it for almost 2,000 years after Mahabharata (when swords, bows and arrows were still the major weapons - before guns became commonplace on battlefield).

Mahabharata description says "Yudhishtira and Abhimanyu both were trapped INSIDE the Chakravyuha and Abhimanyu broke it open from inside to allow Yudhishtira to escape."

This is description of what is called "encirclement" in military tactics.

If you want, talk to an army officer and ask him.

Unknown said...

The Indian game of kabaddi was based on chakravyuha. In that a single person is encircled by an inward facing chain and not an outward facing chain (or circle) like what you have depicted.

Encirclement has been used for ages by all great military commanders.

Unfortunately in India no army officer seems to be commenting on Chakravyuha and only amateurs draw and redraw some funny looking maze and discuss someone trying to go in and out of it!

mahesh p said...

Kabbadi is not based on chakravyooha. It is based on padma vyooha. Another formation used in kurukshetra war.

Unknown said...

Hi all, fascinating post... My findings (solely based on what is discussed here)

1. Why was Abhimanue not aware of how to get out? It was Abhimanue's destiny to die that why. Hence, Lord Krishna did not tell/teach him how to get out. This formation was the only way he could be killed.
2. Now why was the Vyuha not used against others?? I feel as much this a is not favourable against a large army......maybe against a small group...reason being the spiral arrangement.....larger attack can break this formation....imagine a head on collision of two parallel line formations and a linear formation with a curved one as in this is easier to break the latter because it is difficult to arrange reinforcements...more it is easier to attack a circular fashion from all sides to actually engulf the enemy from all sides .....which ironically is also what happens when to enter the vyuha.....Hence I believe this is why this is not an effective war strategy....rather an ambush on a small group

Unknown said...

3. Why was Jaydratha blamed? Well I feel a few people have given accurate modifications would be....True he got Lord Shiva's blessing that day...Well if that is the case why did he himself not engage with Abhimanue.....So he deliberately avoided the situation and then used his boon to fend off the Pandava support.....Secondly Lord Krishna wanted all the blame on Jaydratha....simply because he wanted to rekindle the anger in Arjun to kill him....rather than mourn over his death.....Insult on Draupadi meant all Pandavas were equally angry.....But it was Arjun's destiny to kill him....Hence the blame....Thirdly, a more logical one....The Lord did not want the Pandavas to have ill feelings about their Guru, who planned and conducted this formation...Hence a distraction was necessary....Others were not blamed because they all had their destiny to face....That is where I feel my second argument on the matter fits....
4. Why were other Pandavas not taught about this? ....Well if you look at the people who could break this formations.....All are excellent archers....The key is that Archers can engage with enemy even at a distance....They use the chariot to manoeuvre and have immense concentration to focus on a wider enemy attack...Lets take Bhima on the other hand....He would prefer a direct attack head to head...Which is this case is catastrophic.....Hence only a very good archer...with immense concentration and mobility can pierce the vyuha...Not to mention the vyuha itself rotates...

Unknown said...

5. Why didnt Abhimanue kill the Big guns?......Again each of them had their destinies written...Moreover, engaging with each of them itself prolonging the time to rescue Yudhisthira....Since no one else was around who knew how to enter he had to get in....He probably also believed that even if he did not know how to get in.....the support team could breach the formation...or maybe Arjun would join in later....The Kauravas on the other hand must have purposefully submitted to defeat since they had only one day to kill Abhimanue....They had to make sure he was deep inside to ensure his end....A obvious contradiction is how then did Kauravas lose 40% of their army... I am assuming as he went in deeper the attack became more intense...The Kauravas pressed more as he got further in...
5. Why was getting in easier and getting out tougher?
Well imagine yourself outside staring at a large spiral arrangement...your vision is limited within 180 degrees....numerically speaking say you may see 100 people....You enter the the first ring....clearing the sides.....if you rotate around you find more that 100...because the vyuha adjusts itself to reinforce the formation....Imagine this repeats when you reach the center...You deal with 360 degrees....Attack from all sides...furthermore you get to see all the soldiers surrounding you...Now this is a psychologically demotivating you want to face 100 soldiers in front of you (the outer ring).....Or say 500 soldiers surrounding you.....more than half which you cannot see directly....Additionally as you are trying to rotate the vyuha also rotates....Imagine you spinning in one direction and the world around you in some crazy way....You lose focus...get tired....dizzy....500 people around you.....Are are mentally defeated...Again a contradictory fact is how then did Arjun or the others learn to get out...Well since no one mentions it occurring before we may have to concur that that others were way better warriors than Abhimanue...Abhimanue was a better archer(in terms of multitasking....handling multiple attacks all around you from a distance) than the other Pandavas but Arjun, Lord Krishna were a class apart. And Abhimanue had limited knowledge about the formation itself which prevented him from devising the correct strategy to get out.

Unknown said...

@Wondering Wanderer: Your analysis is awesome.
When some1 asked a question as to why the Chakravyuha was not used by the Pandavas, you mentioned that they simply didnt need it because they were able to break all the Kauravas. I dont feel this is accurate. Pandavas faked the death of Ashwathama to defeat Drona, used Shikandi to defeat Bhisma. Chakravyuha would have been more honorable to use than to use these tactics. I feel they didnt use it because there was always someone on the Kauravas side who know how to break the formatio, hence it would not be successful. Do let me know your thought on this!

Wondering Wanderer said...

@M Chaitanya, Thanks for liking the post. Pandavas could not use Chakravyuha till the time Bheeshma and Drona were in battle as they could have broken it. After both of them were taken out, they did not need to use Chakravyuha as they had taken the upper hand in the battle anyway.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manjunath said...

Amazing post and superb discussion. Learnt a lot and understood several aspects of Chakravyuha that was very blur. Thanks all!

A small observation. When analyzing such a topic with limited information, we should also consider the times this must have happened. Assuming this actually happened, we are talking about several millennium BC.

The concepts of war, morality, relationships then would have been so different that it would be extremely difficult to understand them with today's social, political point of view.

If we observe, Pandavas were a much weaker force compared to Kauravas in the battle. The only way the war could have been won by Pandavas was by going 'beyond the brief' ... bend the rules.

They couldn't be the first to break the rules ... so they needed to instigate Kauravas to do it. It might sound cruel to see Abhimanyu as a scapegoat ... but it was needed for wining the battle.

The all-knowing Krishna knew this way before the war, therefore ensured that they had a hot-blooded, extremely capable warrior with incomplete-knowledge to solve a insurmountable problem.

So at the end of thirteenth day, instead of being in a near-defeat situation, Pandavas gained the upper hand for the first time in the war ... with an infuriated Arjuna, a guilt-ridden bunch of gurus and a reduced Kaurava army. More importantly, it allowed them to break the rules ... which they did in every instance ... be it Jayadratha's death ... Bhisma's death, Dhronacarya's death or Karna's death.

I think, my personal view, the death of Abhimanyu was a master-stroke from Krishna to turn tables on Kauravas.

My 2-cents


Wondering Wanderer said...

@Manjunath, thanks for the interesting perspective. The beauty of the Mahabharat is the innumerable number of interpretations we can draw from this complex story. As Ved Vyas said - What is here can be found elsewhere. But what is not here cannot be found anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

How can you quote BR Chopra's serial as 'support' or historical evidence?

Have you tried moving a chariot or a horse sideways ... that too in battle condition?

It is impossible to move a chariot sideways as shown in the photos you have posted from the TV serial.

Wondering Wanderer said...

Dear Anonymous,
The objective of the article is to try to understand how Chakravyuha might have been formed. In order to do this, an attempt was made to put together the information available in the public domain from various sources. We have no idea whether any of the sources are even remotely accurate. But all the information was shared in order to spur a discussion and better understanding.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, i have one question? Jayadratha had a boon to stop pandavas except arjuna. But y was not ghatotkacha (a great warrior by himself) was not sent with abhimanyu. Why did ghatotkacha enter late in the war.

Unknown said...

one question strike on my mind if the plan of making Chakravyuh was to catch Youdhister. and on that day Jaydharth was invincible,and they already succeeded to keep arjun out of war. Why not Jaydharth Capture Youdhister?

Unknown said...

Jayadratha was granted a boon by Lord Shiva that he would be able to stop the advance of pandavas for 1 day. with the exception of Arjun. On the battle day, Arjun was driven away as mentioned by people earlier. However due to this boon , no pandava could enter the vyuha , and jayadratha used this after abhimanyu entered the ring. hence none of the Pandavas were able to get in, due to this boon.

As far as getting out is concerned, abhimanyu had started getting out, but then kauravs went against the rules of war and killed him by engaging him simultaneously in the war.

He was unlucky that day. but he was tougher than most of the kauravas.

sunil said...

Hi,This is how to come in to the chakravyuha and coming out of the chakravhuha.

PRAVEEN said...

This chakra vyuha was created based on cosmic theory which is the basis of ceation of universe and galaxies. The nucleus of a galaxy controls everything under its magnetic field. The same pattern of moving spirals will consume anything entering in a blackhole and there is no way to escape from it. However birth of new galaxies are also possible from such giant galaxies with nucleas as bright as crores and crores of sun as nuleus controlling everything. This is aslo the principle and secret behind entering in and out of a chakra vyuha. This id mastered by very few like Arjun,Krishna,Abhimanyu and Dhrona. The entry and exit routes are not predetermined and this decided using the skill, experience and timing of decision to take advantage of lapses in formation of the chakravyuha and respective skill of warriers and their abilities.

Wondering Wanderer said...

Thanks Praveen for the new piece of information. I had not heard of this interpretation before.

Himanshu said...

Reading all the post, I think, as Abhimanyu decimated the those forming the chakravyuha, the chakravyuha must have got smaller and smaller (smaller in shape, rather than fighter rearranging to make it less dense with original size). As the weaker components of chakravyuha gets eliminated, the smaller chakravyuha, encapsuling Abhimanyu, is now made of stronger fighter in closer proximity to Abhimanyu.

Solution to exit - Start retreating once Chakravyuha has lost a critical mass, and is stronger inside than outside. It would be much easier to attack smaller chakravyuha from outside. That's being inside chakravyuha for longer period of time will turn a attacker into defender. Exact time of exit much be reliazed before its to late (its like knowing when to put your papers and move to new job)

kerai said...

Excellent post. The slaying of Abhimanyu is one of the crucial moments not only in Mahabhratha but in the entire human race; for it shows how in the midst of war and passion we break all the rules.

As far as why the Pandava's didn't learn the art of breaking the Chakravuha, the only thing that I can think of is that, since Drona never taught them this formation, they never expected to face this formation.

Unknown said...

I might be wrong, but i did some research on the same & chakravyuha formation is used by Chinese also. The detailed formation is given in the " Art of war".

"Chakra" "vayhu" or circular wind,

Search for tornado battle formation. You will find it.

My best guess the tactics for the same was taken by ancient scholars to China, who used it & documented it. We lost it because post the vedic period, we totally lost any concept of keeping written records except the religious texts provoked by religious zealots. From the time rishis & munis (scientist & researchers of the vedic period) was taken over religious Brahmans, we became little more than the Aztec sacrificing human in the name of religion.
We lost many things such as the secrets of Wootz steel A.K.A. Damascus Steel.
(Modern day reference Valarian steel "from GOT")
Gun powder was first developed in India then went to china.
The evolution of man was first given in the vedas.
1st avatar "Matsya"/ fish --> first life form ( lives in water )
2nd avatar is a "tortoise" --> amphibian
3rd avatar "boar" --> fully living in land.
4th avatar "narasimha" --> lion the predator.
5th "Vamana" dwarf human, gatherer/Neanderthals has a pot or vessel to gather food.
6th "Parashuram" --> with a axe First step to civilization, using simple tools.
7th "Rama" --> has a bow and arrow symbolizing the Hunter, becoming more organised.
8th "Balarama" --> the farmer, humans learning to grow crops to sustain them self. Next step in evolution
9th " Kirshna" --> with the flute. The humans evolved to the level of creating fine arts such as music. (current state)
10th "kalki" --> keep on guessing.

Summer said...

Thanks for an enlightening discussion. My question is, is there any other known vyuh formation other than chakravyuh. If anyone can offer more details on this that would be great.

Wondering Wanderer said...

@Kalpataru Sengupta,
That is quite an amazing analogy. I never cease being amazed at the countless parallels hindu mythology has with science and nature.

Wondering Wanderer said...

The mahabharat has mentions of various vyuhas used in war. Some of them are mentioned in this wiki post -

Atul said...

Nice to see such detailed information and elaborate discussions in this post. Guess I am a very late entrant. I got interested in this vyuha after seeing B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat and then again after seeing the recent version of this epic on Star Plus.

Somebody had mentioned above that why not ask an Indian Army officer instead of us "amateurs" trying to understand this subject by ourselves. Well, following are the reasons for not taking such an approach:

1. Indian Army may not have found the secret of Chakravyuha.

2. Even if they have found this secret, they would have marked it as confidential. Hence, no Army officer would be at liberty to discuss the same in public.

3. Sometimes the experts in the field do not explore some angles to the subject as they are constrained by their existing knowledge. In such cases, the views of an outsider become very valuable. Also, as we are not military experts and thus have no reputation to protect, we can come out with theories which may appear crazy at first but might give some vital clues going ahead.

4. This is also a fun activity which stimulates our brains. Assuming that sometime in the future, the Indian Army or some other experts discover and also disclose the secret of Chakravyuha, it will be interesting for us to see how near or far our own theories were from the actual scenario.

Atul said...

I wondered as to what would be the best approach towards understanding the Chakravyuha. Since the secret of this Vyuha is not known, I thought it would be better to focus on framing the right questions pertaining to the events which occurred before, during and after the formation of the Chakravyuha.

So, my approach has been to frame a number of questions and then try to see what theory could possibly give a credible explanation for the same.

My first question pertains to an event before the formation of the Chakravyuha: Abhimanyu's level of knowledge about the Chakravyuha.

One version says that Abhimanyu got the knowledge of entering the Chakravyuha when he was still a child in his mother's womb. He was said to be listening while his father Arjuna was explaining about the Chakravyuha to his mother Subhadra. He learnt about the method of entering the vyuha. However, his mother fell asleep before he could listen about the method of exiting the vyuha.

Q. If Abhimanyu was so talented that he could learn about the method of entering Chakravyuha while still an unborn child, then why was he not able to learn the method of exiting the vyuha in all the years from the time of his birth till the start of the Mahabharata war?

True, his father had to go to the forest for 12 years and then into hiding for 1 year as the Pandavas lost in the game of dice. However, there was still plenty of time after Arjuna returned from this exile and before the start of the war. For such a talented person as Abhimanyu, it should have been a matter of only listening to his father explaining about the vyuha and presto, within a day, he would have known everything about the Chakravyuha – both entering and exiting from it.

My theory: This story is perhaps not true and only an exaggerated version of what actually occurred. In reality, Abhimanyu must have been a highly talented person who at a very young age had been able to master several military strategies and tactics and became a skilled warrior. However, his training as a warrior was not yet complete. He had learnt only the strategy of entering the Chakravyuha (and not yet learnt about exiting it) when the war started. Hence, he had no choice but to fight in the war with only half knowledge about this vyuha.

Atul said...

The next question is regarding the lack of knowledge about Chakravyuha among the remaining Pandavas.

It is rather strange that while Arjuna knew all about the Chakravyuha, the remaining four Pandavas did not even know about the method of entering it.

If we take the example of Bheema, he had the following strengths/advantages:

a. He was a mighty warrior (apart from Arjuna, the one warrior whom the Kauravas feared the most was Bheema).
b. He had studied weapons and military strategies for years under a great guru like Dronacharya.
c. He had taken part in many battles and was highly experienced.
d. He was Arjuna's brother. Out of brotherly love, Arjuna would surely have taught Bheema about the Chakravyuha or at least clarified his doubts about this vyuha.

Yet, during the Mahabharata war, we find that Bheema had no knowledge about the Chakravyuha.

Q. Why did the other Pandavas not learn about Chakravyuha either from Dronacharya or from Arjuna? Were the other Pandavas incapable of learning Chakravyuha or did Dronacharya or Arjuna not teach it to them?

My theory: If we look at the people in the Mahabharata war who knew about the Chakravyuha – Bheeshma, Drona, Arjuna, Krishna (and Abhimanyu, who knew how to enter it), one common factor can be noticed – they were all great warriors and also great archers. This may be also a clue as to how the Chakravyuha needed to be tackled – perhaps it required a great archer (who could fire arrows from a distance) to break into the formation.

The other four Pandavas were great warriors but not great archers. Bheema was good with the mace, Yudhistir with the spear and Nakul & Sahadev with the sword. All these weapons require the warrior to be in close proximity to the enemy. Also, with these weapons, only limited number of enemy warriors could be fought at a time. Further, these weapons were no match against bows & arrows (an archer could easily defeat warriors using these weapons). This is perhaps why the four Pandavas were worried when faced with the Chakravyuha. The weapons in which they were highly skilled (mace, spear, sword) were not of much use in breaking this vyuha.

So, my guess is that Dronacharya did not teach the remaining four Pandavas (and the Kaurava brothers) about Chakravyuha because none of them attained the level of archery necessary to carry out the methods of entering and exiting from the vyuha. This was not partiality (towards Arjuna) displayed by Drona but a logical action. How can a teacher teach something to the students when the students have not become capable of learning that thing? Dronacharya may have given all of them an overview of the Chakravyuha but taught only Arjuna in detail about entering and exiting this vyuha.

It is perhaps for this same reason that Arjuna also did not (or could not) teach about the Chakravyuha to his brothers.

I feel that the other four Pandavas had only a broad, theoretical understanding of the Chakravyuha but lacked the in-depth knowledge about the vyuha and further did not possess the archery skills necessary to break it. That is why they agreed to allow Abhimanyu to lead the attack on the Chakravyuha.

sandip said...

sandip said...

Unknown said...

Hey hi, this is Prashant.
I will approach this from a rational( and non - divine) angle.

Assuming the chakravyuh to be a spiral- one way for a single warrior to enter it would be from the open outer end, attacking the enemy at both sides. So he has to fight two enemies at once. This would be difficult, but manageable for a fighter of high calibre.

But once the person reaches the centre, he will find that the spiral is almost a complete circle, and he is surrounded.

My opinion is that abhimanyu should have waited at the end of the 6th layer, and defeated whoever attacked him there. This would still mean attacking 2 fighters on the side, and one in front. But he wouldn't get surrounded by an 'almost circular' part of the formation.
This idea would be particularly significant if the centre had the best warriors.
After defeating every warrior inside one by one, he could leave the way he came- again fighting two warriors at a time.

So I guess, abhimanyu's missing knowledge was to stand at the start of the last spiral, and not enter it.

You could draw a spiral on paper to better understand my stand.

Unknown said...

..contd from above(Prashant)

Abhimanyu was a great warrior... But he may not have been the smartest tactician... Once at the last spiral, he may rush in to fight the greatest foes ... And the spiral may not allow him an entry backwards by converting into a circle. Even without a change in the spiral - the inner most layer is almost a complete circle...
His bravery may have caused his downfall.

One another point I would like to add is that the route through the spiral tunnels offered him the best chance, since he just needed to defend against attacks from the sides, and he could keep moving forward or backward without needing to defeat anyone.
Just pushing them back was enough, and he could move to the next fighters without getting tired.

Unknown said...

Why abhimanyu dint take his soldiers along wid him?

Anonymous said...

The story of mahabharatha has elements of supernatural. Chakravuya only makes sense with supernatural explanations.
points I ponder upon
1. No warrior can fight for an entire day, max 1-2 hours
2. Very young warrior is difficult to survive against so many experienced fighters
3. Having a army standing in rings, need a huge army, and is not a natural re-enforced formation.
4. Abhimanyu may have know how to enter and exit, but was attacked against the rule of the war. Seems stupid to not train all in war strategies.
5. The rules of engagement must have been well defined or else there is no reason to enter such a military formation, and that too alone.
6. The whole concept of chakravuya seems silly as I can climb a tower and see the entire vuya if required. Unless it keeps moving, still making such a large army moving exactly in complicated maze is unthinkable.
7. Why to create a trap, no one willingly enters a trap.
8. chakravuya is suppose to invite the army or warrior for entrapment and is also attacking the armys, meaning someone has to break it. This seems so ambitious, its almost impossible to manage. too many working parts.
7. As I said previously, it makes sense with supernatural elements and mano-a mano war only.

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

Actual thing was that there was actually two rings inside one and outside one inside one was always facing inside while outside one was always facing outside so if you break in to the center you need to worry about only 4 but when you reach center soilders who were facing outside till now will start facing inside which means now you have to face 2× power while you are already tired that's why it was that deadly each layer was made of batallion of many soilders not just a single one in each layer there were 3 to 10 sublayers.

Unknown said...

Actual thing was that there was actually two rings inside one and outside one inside one was always facing inside while outside one was always facing outside so if you break in to the center you need to worry about only 4 but when you reach center soilders who were facing outside till now will start facing inside which means now you have to face 2× power while you are already tired that's why it was that deadly each layer was made of batallion of many soilders not just a single one in each layer there were 3 to 10 sublayers.

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Anonymous said...

Really nice and informative post. I have also come across another interesting explanation about Chakra-Vyuha in internet. Thought I should share it here: