Towards the end of the 13th day of the great war the Pandavas suffered a serious setback. Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, the nephew of Sri Krishna, a great maharathi, was brutally killed in battle. Six of the big names from the Kaurava side – Drona, Krupa, Karna, Ashwathama, Bruhadbala and Krutavarma – led this adharmic termination of the Soubhadra.
The leaders pulled back their armies from war soon after this and the Pandava camp plunged into great grief. Arjuna and Sri Krishna were still away from the main battlefield fighting the Samshaptakas. Yudhisthira was inconsolable and it took a long and sagely advice from Sri Veda Vyasa himself to bring him back to his senses. Sri Vyasa narrated to him the tales of 16 great kings of yore and how, in spite of achievements immeasurable, they too still had to leave their mortal bodies.
Soon after Sri Vyasa disappeared Arjuna and Sri Krishna got back to the camp. Noticing numerous ill omens, the grieving brothers and the absence of Abhimanyu, Arjuna quickly guessed what had happened. His grief and sense of loss knew no bounds. He asked Yudhisthira to explain what had happened and the elder brother narrated all the details. Arjuna fell down unconscious unable to bear the grief.
After a while he regained his consciousness and started speaking to his family. His anger was so great no one was keen on locking eyes with him.
प्रतिलभ्य ततः संज्ञां वासविः क्रोधमूचितः |
कम्पमानो ज्वरेणेव निःश्वसंश्च पुनःपुनः ||
पाणिं पाणौ विनिष्टिष्य दन्तान् कटकटाप्य च |
त्रिशिखां भृकुटीं कृत्वा क्रोधसंरक्तलोचनः |
उन्मत्त इव रोषेण स्मयन् वचनमब्रवीत् ||
“After a while Arjuna regained his senses; He started speaking while appearing to lose consciousness due to anger; he was shaking as if out of fever; He was exhaling deeply again and again; He was rubbing his hands together, grinding his teeth forcefully; His eyebrows had three peaks and his eyes were red; He was laughing as if possessed”
Arjuna declared that he would kill Jayadratha the next day.
He would surely finish off the King of Sindhu as long as he did not quit war or did not surrender to himself, Sri Krishna or to Yudhisthira.
He called upon the divine beings and elements of nature to be witness to his oath. He wanted them to record his vow and ensure he did not get the punya-lokas that were meant for brave warriors if he did not keep up with this promise.
In order to make it clear what would be his abject condition if he failed, Arjuna elaborated the consequences of failure. What he stated is a great lesson in the concept of Pataka and Mahapapa in the Sanatana Dharma tradition.
ये लोका मात्रुघातिनां ये लोकाः पित्रुघातिनाम् |
ये गुरोर्दारगामीनां पिशुनानां च या गतिः ||
“(May I get that fallen loka which is reserved for) those who kill their mothers; the loka which is reserved for those who kill their fathers; for those who sleep with their preceptor’s wife or for those who bite in the back”
He declared that he should get the nether worlds meant for those who consume payasa, milk, vegetables, the havis of yajnas, apoopas or meat without reason. He was ready for the world that is reserved for those who condemned sajjanas, for those who fought with sajjanas, for those who cheated, for those who stole property that they were supposed to protect, for those who enjoyed the company of a woman and then blamed her, for those who killed brahmanas, for those who killed cows, for those who ate without offering the same to devatas and rishis.
वेदाध्ययनमत्यर्थं शासितं द्विजसत्तमः |
कालद्रव्यमितिं कृत्वा योsध्यापयति मूढधीः ||
“(May that nether world be destined for me which is meant for) those who use the Vedas taught by Gurus to teach others keeping time and material benefits as considerations”
He demanded that world, upon his failure to kill Jayadratha, which is meant for those who berate elders, sajjanas and Gurus. He wanted that world which is meant for those who touch a brahmana, cow or agni with their legs, to those who excrete urine or feces in flowing water, to those who took bath naked, to those who sent back guests without treating them well. He wanted Yama to punish him with a world reserved for those who lie, for those who betray, for those who sustain themselves based on the income of their wives and children, for those who consume a hearty meal without sharing it.
संश्रितं चापि यस्त्यक्त्वा साधुसद्वचने रतम् |
नैनं भरति दुष्टात्मा निन्दते चोपकारिणम् ||
“(May that nether world be destined for me which is meant for) that fallen soul who deserts a refuge seeking sajjana who always follows the path of truth”
Arjuna wanted to be punished with a stay in that cruel world which is meant only for those who condemn altruists. He was to be given a world maintained for those who did not perform Shraddha for deserving brahmanas but performed the same for a fallen soul, for those who crossed all limits of Niti, for those who are ingrateful, for those who criticize their employers and for those who drank alcohol.
The above apoorva-pratijna by Arjuna is verily a dharma-shastra of what is a pataka or a paapa.
Finally, Arjuna makes a shapatha to go with his pratijna.
इहैवं च प्रवेक्ष्यामि ज्वलितं जातवेदसम् |
गाण्डीवहस्तो राज्ञां च समक्षं पृथिवीपते ||
अनस्तमित आदित्ये न चेद् हन्मि जयद्रथम् |
यद्यस्मिन्नहते पापे सूर्यास्तमुपयास्यति ||
“If I do not kill Jayadratha before sunset, if the sun sets without Jayadratha being killed, O King, I shall enter the burning fire in front of all the rulers while still holding my Gandiva”
Arjuna was, of course, that rathika whose sarathi was the lord of maya herself. With Sri Krishna ensuring the exposure of Jayadratha at the right time, Arjuna beheaded Jayadratha with the Aindrastra and kept his vow.