Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Samsaptakas - Warriors Sworn to Victory or Death


Samsaptaka means 'sworn warrior'. They were the bravest of the Trigartas, who, led by their King Susarman, had sworn an oath to either kill Arjuna or die in that attempt. After swearing their oaths, they performed their own funeral rites, for they well knew that their chances of victory were slim, and that death was almost a certainty.

Trigartas enmity with the Pandavas had started when their kingdom was first captured by Arjuna in his campaign to proclaim Yudhishtra as the overlord of all Kings. They were also soundly defeated when they assisted Jayadratha to abduct Draupadi. Once again, they were thwarted by the Pandavas when they attempted to drive away the cattle of King Virata.

When, during the Kurukshetra war, Drona asked for volunteers to draw Arjuna to a corner of the battlefield, to enable him to capture Yudhishtra, the Trigartas immediately volunteered. They swore the Samsaptaka oath, and performed their own funeral rites, for it was almost certain that their entire clan would be destroyed, and none would be left to offer their funeral cakes. They formed the force that drew away Arjuna to a distant corner of the battlefield, allowing Drona to set up the lotus battle array to capture King Yudhishtra. This ploy failed, but it resulted in the death of Abhimanyu, the brave young son of Arjuna.

They also tried to protect Jayadratha from Arjuna on the next day, when the Pandava warrior wanted to avenge his son's death (he believed that Jayadratha was the primary culprit), but despite their best efforts they did not succeed.

They were slain regularly by Arjuna, whenever they offered him battle, but their leader Susarman was not killed until the last day of the war. He fell at the hands of Arjuna.

[Ed. Note. The Samsaptakas are some of my favorite characters in the Mahabharata, their dogged determination to challenge Arjuna, despite knowing the inevitability of their death, made a big impression on me when I first read the epic. Also, the concept of performing one's own funeral rites after swearing the Samsaptaka oath, struck me as very pragmatic, for their entire clan was going to be wiped out in this attempt.]

Last Modified At: Thu Jun 16 21:54:27 2005