In Mahabharata, during the war of Kurukshetra Kaurava’s had many commanders in chief till the end. Normally we know about Bhishma, Dronacharya, Shalya etc but there was also a commander in chief who was a mighty warrior riding his almost undefeatable elephant. He was Bhagadatta.
Bhagadatta was the King of Pragjyotisha kingdom (situated near north eastern region of India) . He was son of Naraka (Narakasura) who was slain by Krishna. This was the reason of rivalry between Pragjyotisha kingdom and Krishna and Dwarika kingdom. Bhagadatta participated in the war on the side of Kaurava’s. He was extremely skilled in using elephants in warfare. He had a huge, very strong and an almost undefeatable elephant ‘Supratika’. Bhagadatta was also known to be great friend of Indra. Arjuna defeated Bhagadatta during his campaign to get recognition from kings of all over India, during Raja-suya yagya performed by Yudhishthira. This was the beginning of rivalry between Bhagadatta and Pandava’s.
At the time of Kurukshetra war Bhagadatta was very old, probably oldest of the warriors among Bhishma and Dronacharya etc. Twelfth day became the important day for Bhagadatta when he received fame particularly for his prowess. Bhagadatta started killing Pandava’s army in huge numbers while mounted on his elephant Supratika. Bheema tried to fight with him but, even mighty Bheema found it difficult to defeat elephant. Bheema tried to injure Supratika while going underneath it but in vain. The elephant almost crushed Bheema but he was able to escape. On this day king of Dasarna kingdom tried to attack Supratika with his mighty and huge elephant but Supratika killed it in just one violent attack.
Many great warriors like Bheema, Satyaki, Abhimanyu, Yuyutsu etc tried to stop Bhagadatta but in vain. Finally Arjuna with his arrows killed the soldiers who were protecting Supratika’s legs. They both engaged in fierce battle. Bhagadatta attacked Arjuna with javelins but Arjuna neutralized those. Arjuna was able to break banner and umbrella of Bhagadatta. Then with three arrows, he broke armour of Supratika making him vulnerable. Enraged Bhagadatta attacked Arjuna with Vaishnavastra but, Krishna took it upon himself which became a garland. After this Arjuna killed Supratika by a long arrow splitting it’s head in two halves. Arjuna then attacked him with crescent headed arrow that pierced his chest. He succumbed to this injury and died on the battlefield.
Such was the might of Bhagadatta that many Maharathi’s weren’t able to control him and Lord Krishna had to intervene to save Arjuna from his Vaishnavastra!