Arjuna is the most powerful warrior in the Mahabharata universe. He is the third of the Pandavas in order of seniority, born after Yudhishthir and Bhimasena.
He is the last of Kunti’s children. After his birth, Kunti decides that she will summon no more gods and bear no more sons. Nakula and Sahadeva, the fourth and fifth of the Pandavas respectively, are born to Madri, Pandu’s second wife.
In this post, we will answer the question: Why was Arjuna invincible?
Arjuna was invincible because of four main reasons: (1) He was the most skilled archer in of his time, (2) He was blessed with many divine weapons that belonged to gods, (3) He was not burdened by responsibilities of a king, and (4) He enjoyed the numerous benefits that came with being the best friend of Krishna.
Read on to discover more about why Arjuna was invincible in the Mahabharata.
(For answers to all Arjuna-related questions, see Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Skill and Commitment
Arjuna is the most skilled of the Kuru cousins at wielding the bow and arrow.
The Mahabharata takes place on the Gangetic plain, where archery was considered the highest form of skill for a warrior. Though the likes of Bhima and Duryodhana display more skill than Arjuna at mace-fighting, for example, Arjuna captures all of his preceptor Drona’s attention.
(It bears mentioning that Drona is himself an archer.)
Arjuna also combines his natural flair for archery with deep commitment toward improving himself at it. One night, a gust of wind blows out the candles at the palace while he is eating food. But he notices that his right hand continued to feed his mouth despite the darkness.
He asks himself, then: Why can I not make shooting arrows in the dark a similar habit?
So he starts to train by himself in the dead of the night. During one of these sessions, Drona hears the twang of the boy’s bow and comes out of his hut to investigate. He is so impressed by Arjuna’s determination that he promises him: ‘I will make you the best archer in the world.’
That, of course, is a tall promise. Over the next few years of his life, Arjuna meets two archers who are at least as good as he is: Ekalavya and Karna. The first is cruelly decapitated by Drona; the second evolves into becoming Arjuna’s arch nemesis.
(Suggested: Was Arjuna the best archer?)
Divine Gifts – Part One
Arjuna’s invincibility grows manifold after his marriage to Subhadra, when Agni, the god of fire, enlists Krishna and Arjuna’s help in devouring the forest of Khandava.
Anticipating that Indra will seek to stop him, Agni gives Arjuna and Krishna a large number of powerful weapons so that they may fight the army of celestials when it turns up.
Chief among these weapons are the following:
- An indestructible bow with an unerring aim called the Gandiva, belonging to Soma. This becomes Arjuna’s favourite weapon from this point on till the end of his life.
- Two inexhaustible quivers which will never run out of arrows, so that Arjuna is only restricted by the dexterity of his arms.
- An indestructible chariot which is swift as the wind, and which has the blessings of Hanuman.
- The Sudarshana Chakra for Krishna, which becomes his weapon of choice thenceforward.
- Also for Krishna a mace called the Kaumodaki, which is powerful enough to kill any Daitya in the world and which roars like thunder every time it is used.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 13: Massacre at Khandava.)
Divine Gifts – Part Two
After the Pandavas have been banished into the woods for their exile, Arjuna decides that if they are to stand a chance to successfully win back their kingdom, they will have to have means by which to defeat Drona and Bhishma.
To this end, he sets out on a quest to Indrakila, where his father, Indra, advises him on how to procure a number of divine weapons.
First, Arjuna propitiates Lord Shiva and earns the Pashupatastra from him. Then, he goes to Amaravati and performs a couple of quests for Indra:
- He kills the Nivatakavachas, a certain class of Rakshasas who had taken over the abode of Varuna.
- He frees a mountain called Hiranyapuri from some Daityas who had earned a boon from Brahma that they can be killed only by a human.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 20: Adventures of Arjuna.)
In order to perform these tasks, Arjuna receives a number of divine weapons from the gods of heaven. A quick list:
- Yama gives his mace, along with the required knowledge and technical mastery to use it in battle.
- Varuna presents the son of Indra with an array of nooses.
- Kubera hands over a weapon called the Antarddhana, capable of putting one’s enemy to sleep.
- Indra gives his son the gift of divine sight.
Unburdened by Responsibilities
As the middle brother of five, Arjuna is relatively unburdened by responsibilities that engulf someone like Yudhishthir. Even Bhima, being second in command to his elder brother, is expected to take on certain administrative roles in the kingdom, but Arjuna appears to be a truly free spirit.
Immediately after the ascension of Yudhishthir to the throne at Khandavaprastha, Arjuna leaves on a twelve-year exile.
During the Rajasuya, he plays an important role in the killing of Jarasandha, and then plays his part in winning the world for Yudhishthir. But in doing so, he exercises his primary skill: that of fighting on a battlefield.
(Suggested: Was Karna better than Arjuna?)
During the exile years also, Arjuna performs various violent quests that keep his skills sharp. For instance:
- He wins the Pashupatastra.
- He goes to Amaravati and fights two major battles there.
- After his return, he has an altercation with Jayadratha when the latter tries to kidnap Draupadi.
- During the Virata Parva, he singlehandedly defeats the Kuru army and protects Matsya’s cattle.
Throughout the story, Arjuna comes across as the one character who is truly wedded to his craft of archery. And crucially, he is given the required time and space to remain at the top of his game.
In contrast, the likes of Drona, Bhishma and Karna – all of whom are comparable to Arjuna in skill – are handicapped by other demands on their respective attentions.
Friendship with Krishna
Last but not the least, what makes Arjuna truly invincible during the Kurukshetra war is the fact that Krishna is driving his chariot.
Bhishma says to Duryodhana before the war: ‘Remember how he routed us on his own on a chariot that did not belong to him, and with Bhuminjaya as charioteer. Now imagine what more he can do on Agni’s chariot, driven by Krishna!’
Not only is Krishna well-versed at the skill of being a chariot-driver, he is also perhaps the brightest strategic mind in the war. And he deigns to work tirelessly at Arjuna’s behest, giving him advice, protecting him, provoking him, and generally guiding him.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 46: Arjuna Kills Jayadratha.)
Krishna helps Arjuna during three key moments in the war:
- On the ninth day, Krishna admonishes Arjuna for being hesitant in his fight with Bhishma. This leads directly to the plan of using Shikhandi as shield on the following day.
- On the fourteenth day, with Arjuna thirsting for Jayadratha’s blood, it is Krishna who deftly manoeuvres the chariot and ensures that the deed is done by sunset.
- On the eighteenth day, during his final battle with Karna, Arjuna almost gets hit on the head by an arrow. Krishna stamps down on his chariot, deliberately causes the wheel to sink into the earth, and causes the arrow to miss.
Karna’s Vasava Dart
Going into the Kurukshetra war, despite his many advantages, Arjuna is not quite invincible. The only thing that is powerful enough to injure and kill him is the Vasava dart, in Karna’s possession.
Karna receives this weapon from Indra as a gift after having given his natural armour and earrings (kavacha-kundalas) to the king of the gods without a murmur of protest.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 49: Karna Kills Ghatotkacha.)
During the war, therefore, Krishna goes out of his way to steer Arjuna’s vehicle away from Karna’s on multiple occasions. On the night following the fourteenth day, he sends Ghatotkacha to fight Karna with the hope that the Rakshasa will be able to draw the Vasava weapon out of Karna’s armoury.
Ghatotkacha does exactly this, and with his death, Karna loses the power he has over Arjuna. Arjuna becomes truly invincible in that moment.
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