As a Hindu growing up listening to India’s two great and ancient rip-roaring epic tales, I have always been fascinated by each character. So how can anyone not be fascinated by the richness of the characters in Ramayana and Mahabharata? Mahabharata, especially, holds a special place in every Hindu’s heart. The Pandavas, the Kauravas, and the war for “dharma” – each character and part of Mahabharata teaches a lesson.
Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Duryodhana, Karna, Draupadi, and Lord Sri Krishna are the first ones to cross anyone’s mind when they think about Mahabharata, and rightfully so. But a young lad, who is merely half of all these legend’s age, Abhimanyu holds as much significance as any of these big names.
As I picked up Anuja Chandramouli’s “Son of Arjuna: Abhimanyu,” I wasn’t expecting anything more than ‘Son of the great Arjuna, who played a legendary role in the war alongside the heavyweights like Arjuna, Bhima, or Krishna.” I am glad this book changed my perspective on Abhimanyu. As I perused Anuja’s ‘Abhimanyu’, I realised that he cannot be confined within our narrow understanding of Mahabharata.
Abhimanyu is determined and destined to do great things, not just because he is Arjuna’s son but solely by his virtue. He ensured he was walking the right path even before he was born. His hunger for knowledge is insatiable. So he starts learning and comprehending great things that Arjuna and Lord Sri Krishna narrate even from his mother’s, Subhadra, womb.
Contrary to the most common portrayal and perception of his character, Abhimanyu is not just a fearless young warrior but a loving, compassionate, and empathetic human being. He cared about everyone in his family despite being the youngest one, who needs care and proper nurturing in his prime years.
Anuja beautifully explicated the soft side of Abhimanyu when he is with Shashirekha, his mother Subhadra, his father Arjuna, his uncle Lord Sri Krishna, or Draupadi and the Upapandavas.
Many books and anthologies highlight Abhimanyu’s adventurous and heroic acts, but Anuja’s “Abhimanyu” is probably one of the few literary collections that eloquently explain every side of Abhimanyu.
Also, the entire story revolves around the events and significant happenings of the Mahabharata instead of commenting on Abhimanyu’s adventures alone, which is another reason why it is the best read on Abhimanyu. In addition, as you progress through the story, you will notice how Anuja has highlighted Abhimanyu’s relationship with his family and other notable characters in Mahabharata.
The author has done good research in putting together the fine and intricate details about Abhimanyu and the story as a whole, as you will notice how Anuja has underscored Abhimanyu’s role in every significant event. Be it trying to talk Arjuna out of going to Hastinapur upon Dhritarashtra’s invitation for a game of Chausar or questioning Lord Krishna himself about not being present in Hastinapur on the wretched day of Draupadi’s humiliation in the dyut sabha, Abhimanyu wasn’t a mute spectator but actively questioned, sought answers, and stood by dharma’s side alongside the luminaries of the epic.
As the author interestingly highlights, the readers find Abhimanyu’s immense knowledge about politics, Kshatriya traditions, and philosophy for his young age astonishing, which makes him an even more lovable person than Arjuna himself.
Despite being at the receiving end of the humiliation when Pandava’s kingdom, Indraprastha, was unfairly annexed, Abhimanyu never loses his composure. I loved how Anuja drew the reader’s attention to how Abhimanyu, despite being the youngest in the family, consoled Subhadra all the time as she worried about Arjuna and Draupadi. Maybe Abhimanyu needs much more recognition than just for his courage or adventurous attitude because this book changes your perception of him entirely as you explore and witness every single side of his character.
No more spoilers though because no one would have ever thought that there is so much more to Abhimanyu than just barging his way into Padmavyuh, a feat only selected and lion-hearted few can achieve, until reading Anuja’s “Abhimanyu.” These are just a select few excerpts from Abhimanyu. Do yourself a favor and grab the book to dig deeper into this young lad’s unbelievable tale of bravery.