We all know Abhimanyu was a fierce warrior was killed inside Chakravyuha, but we don’t know how the Chakravyuha worked, Navin Pai, a quora user has explained it beautifully.
Mahabharat was one of the largest war ever fought. The scale to measure Armies was ‘Akshauhini’. A single Akshauhini consisted of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 cavalry and 109,350 infantry. It is said that over the course of the war, 18-20 Akshauhini armies were killed. This all happened in Kurukshetra, which is roughly 48 x 128 km in area.
Coming to the Chakravyuha, the formation was designed as a spinning wheel (Chakra) and a puzzle (Vyuh) by Drona, one of the smartest tactician on Kauravas Side.
The formation of Chakravyuha was in a constant state of rotation. The rotation may be seen as the motion of helix of a screw. The formation was also called as Padmavyuha (or the lotus formation). The inner layers were made of soldiers, each stronger than the ones on the immediate outer layer. In gaming terminology, the inner layer i.e. Level 7 had the strongest warriors while Level 1 on the outside were less effective fighters. Here is what would happen to anyone entering through the mouth. Imagine this during the war.
The warrior is constantly kept in the state of battle while the formation circles around him. He keeps getting tired, keeps moving inside and keeps facing less worn out fighters.
Chakravyuha was basically a juggernaut. A brilliant military tactic which continuously spun around the battlefield and continuously fighting. If one member of the maze was killed, there was a sliding motion that propagated from the position held by the killed man, right up to the center of the formation, thus ensuring that at all times, there existed a continuous maze.
It may seem logical to enter the maze right when the mouth is in front. As can be seen, you only have to fight 3 circles of soldiers to get to the center. The moment anyone entered the Chakravyuha, the mouth closed, trapping the person within and making him face level 4 soldiers.
What would most people do after entering the Chakravyuha is the kill the person right in front of them to breach the level but as soon as one soldier is killed, the person to his right will take his place, making the breach impossible.
Abhimanyu used a different technique which apparently he learned as a fetus. Abhimanyu, the son of the great archer Arjun took out two soldiers on the left and right of the soldier in the center in quick succession. Now what this did was, create a movement of soldiers to cover up the gaps, but for a brief period, left the position right in front of Abhimanyu open.
Now by using this technique, one may assume that he managed to get through the first few levels easily, but on the inside, as the density of warriors increased, the gap created lasted for shorter and shorter periods of time, making it more and more difficult. Also, no doubt, the constant rotation would have started playing mind games, but Abhimanyu’s strategy involved simply creating a path straight through the formation.
The original deal was that Abhimanyu creates gaps and storms in, and other Pandavas follow him. But that plan backfired because the formation regained shape quickly enough to prevent people from following Abhimanyu. Why they didn’t follow the same technique is something I simply do not know. Perhaps it took a skilled archer to take out 2 people quickly and get in through the gap, and very few people (as Drona himself is said to have acknowledged) were as skilled as Abhimanyu.
So, over time, Abhimanyu keeps going deeper and deeper, all alone.
The If’s and But’s of Escape:
Making it to the center, Abhimanyu had to face a high-density ring on the best warriors on the Kaurava side, both physically and mentally exhausted. Perhaps, he could continue with this same technique to break out as well. If the Pandavas had followed him in as planned, they would have more warriors on the inside, and breaking out would be easier. If they breached the center, then the formation may have collapsed on itself. But it’s all ifs and buts.
It is said that upon the breach, the whole formation broke and converged upon Abhimanyu, making it one man against a continuous onslaught of others. It is difficult to see how long he could survive the attack with nowhere to escape to.
And that is how it ended. Abhimanyu was brutally killed inside the Chakravyuha which was originally meant for Yudhisthira.
This beautiful explanation is a quora answer written by Navin Pai for the question How was Chakravyuha (Mahabharata) beaten?
Let us know your theories or views in comments.