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Ashwatthama (Sanskrit: अश्वत्थामा, Aśvatthāmā) or Ashwatthaman (Sanskrit: अश्वत्थामन्, Aśvatthāman) or Drauni is the son of guru Drona and the grandson of the sage Bharadwaja. Ashvatthama is a mighty Maharathi[1] who fought on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War. Ashvatthama is considered as avatar of one of the eleven Rudras and one of the seven Chiranjivi. Along with his maternal uncle Kripa, Ashvatthama is believed to be a living survivor of the Kurukshetra War.[2] The deceptive plot of his rumoured 'death' led to the beheading of his grieving father Drona, who was incapacitated while meditating for his son's Ātman. Ashwatthama was appointed as the final commander-in-chief of the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra War. Ashwatthama, overcome with grief and rage, manifests his latent powers as a Rudras. He slaughters most of the Pandava camp in a single night offensive. When Arjuna defeated Drupada of Panchala, Drona said that Ashwatthama is new king of panchala kingdom. After that dronacharya gave half kingdom of panchala to drupada.

Ashwatthama
Mahabharata character
Ashvatthama
Ashvatthama uses Narayanastra

Contents

EtymologyEdit

According to The Mahabharata, Ashwatthama means "the horse-voiced".[3] It is so called because when he was born he cried like a horse.[4]

Birth and Life Prior to the WarEdit

Ashwatthama was the son of Dronacharya and Kripi. Drona did many years of severe penance to please Lord Shiva in order to obtain a son who possesses the same valiance as Lord Shiva. Born a Chiranjivi, Ashwatthama was born with a gem in his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans; it protected him from hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Though an expert in warfare, Dronacharya lived the simple life of a Brahmin, with little money or property. As a result, Ashwatthama had a difficult childhood, with his family unable to even afford milk. Wanting to provide a better life for his family, Drona goes to the Panchal Kingdom to seek aid from his former classmate and friend, King Drupada. However, Drupada rebukes the friendship, claiming a king and a beggar cannot be friends, humiliating Drona.

After this incident, and seeing the plight of Drona, Kripacharya, invited Drona to Hastinapur. There, he came upon the attention of his co-disciple Bhishma. Thus, Dronacharya became the guru of the Pandavas and of the Kauravas in Hastinapur. Ashwatthama was trained in the art of warfare along with them.[5]

Role in the Kurukshetra warEdit

Ashwatthama is a notable figure in the war and engages in many battles, though not scoring any significant kills until after his father's death.

On the 14th day of the war , he killed an Akshuhani of Rakshasa and when Anjanaparvan created illusions he penetrated it by Vajra and Vayavya Astra. He also killed Anjanaparvan and defeated Ghatotkacha several times by achieving feats of defelecting enemies celestial weapon at themselves. He also stood against Arjuna several times on equal footing but was defeated by latter.

Death of DronaEdit

 
Bhima kills an elephant named Asvatthama, folio from Razmnama

On the 10th day of the war, after Bhishma falls, and Drona is named the supreme commander of the armies. He promises Duryodhana that he will capture Yudhishthira, but then he repeatedly fails to do so. Duryodhana taunts and insults him, which greatly angers Ashwatthama, causing friction between Ashwatthama and Duryodhana. Krishna knew that it was not possible to defeat an armed Drona. So, Krishna suggested to Yudhishthira and the other Pandavas, if Drona were convinced that his son was killed on the battlefield, then his grief would leave him vulnerable to attack.

Krishna hatched a plan for Bhima to kill an elephant by the name Ashwatthama while claiming to Drona it was Drona's son who was dead. Ultimately, the gambit works (though the details of it vary depending on the version of the Mahabharata), and Dhristadyumna beheads the grieving sage.

Narayanastra usageEdit

When the weapon called Narayana was invoked, violent winds began to blow, peals of thunder were heard. Then thousands of weapons with blazing mouths appeared, that continued to agitate the Pandavas. Slaughtered by the Narayana weapon, Pandavas inspired with great fright while kings started to flee away. But Kesava while stopping troops said, 'Come down on the earth, all of you from your elephants and steeds and cars and stand weaponless on the earth.' As himself being the part of Narayana he knew about the weapon, as the weapon only targets an armed person while ignores unarmed ones. But Bhima resist, saying warriors never abandons their weapons, and no man is equal to him in prowess possessing the might of the thousand elephants, who can even pull a mountain he will oppose the weapon. Then he rushed against Drona's son. After all had thrown their weapons and alighted from their vehicles, that weapon of exceeding energy fell upon the head of Bhima. Arjuna and Vasudeva manages to cover him with the Varuna weapon, and the weapon is rendered ineffective. After that weapon had been baffled, Duryodhana said to Aswatthaman, once more use that weapon speedily, desirous of victory. Then addressed by Duryodhana, Aswatthaman, replied, 'That weapon, O king, cannot be brought back. It cannot be used twice. If brought back, it will, without doubt, slay the person calling it back.'

According to the Chaturdhar compilation, the Narayana Astra destroyed one Akshauhini of Pandava army completely. After the use of Narayana Astra, a terrible war between both armies took place. Ashwatthama defeated Dhrishtadyumna in direct combat, but failed to kill him as Satyaki and Bhima covered his retreat. Terrible war took place between the warriors of both sides as Ashwatthama forced both Satyaki and Bhima to withdraw.[6] In his fury, Ashwatthama manages to kill King Nila of Mahismati.

Becoming commanderEdit

After the death of Dushasana, Ashwatthama still suggested Duryodhana that he make peace with the Pandavas, keeping in mind the welfare of Hastinapur but he refused. Later, after Duryodhana is struck down by Bhima and facing death, the last three survivors from the Kaurava side, Ashwatthama, Kripa and Kritvarma rush to his side. Ashwatthama swears to bring Duryodhana revenge, and Duryodhana appoints him as the commander-in-chief.

Attack on Pandava CampEdit

Hearing of Duryodhana's fall, he went to meet him and promised him to despatch all the Panchalas, to the abode of Yama. Along with Kripa and Kritavarman he planned to attack the Pandavas camp at night.

Ashwatthama first kicked and woke up Dhrishtadyumna, the commander of the Pandava army and the killer of his father Drona.[7] Ashwatthama strangled the half-awake Dhrishtadyumna by choking him to death as the Panchal prince begged to be allowed to die with a sword in his hand. Ashwatthama proceeds with slaughtering the remaining warriors cutting their limbs off and tearing them in two via his sword, including Shikhandi, Yudhamanyu, Uttamaujas, and many other prominent warriors of the Pandava army, he remained unharmed via all of their combined attack. Those who tried to flee from Ashwatthama's wrath were hacked down by Kripacharya and Kritavarma at the camp's entrance and those who remained were slaughtered by berserker.

After the slaughter, the three warriors go to find Duryodhana. They find Duryodhana already dead and, mourning, they perform the cremation rites.

Aftermath of the AttackEdit

The Pandavas and Krishna who were away during night, now returned to their camp the next day morning. Hearing the news of these events in the morning Yudhishthira fainted and the Pandavas become inconsolable. Bhima angrily on hearing this rushed for killing Drona son. The Pandavas, along with Krishna, went to save Bhima. They found him to sage Vyasa's ashram near the bank of Bhagiratha.

 
Narada and Vyasa came to stop Brahmashirsha astra used by Ashwatthama and Arjuna

Out of rage, Ashwatthama instead directed the weapon towards the womb of the pregnant Uttara in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. The angered Pandavas wanted to kill Ashwatthama, but Sage Vyasa reminded them of the deceitful tactics they had used against the Kauravas.

As a punishment, Ashwatthama was asked by Vyasa to surrender the gem on his forehead to Pandavas for his forgiveness. Krishna then cursed Ashwatthama for 3000 years that he will roam in the forests with blood and puss oozing out of his injuries and cry for death. Since he had no fear of death during war, death would not meet him. He will have neither any hospitality nor any accommodation; he will be in total isolation without any contact of physical communication from mankind and society. The wound caused by the removal of this gem on his forehead will not heal and his body will suffer from a host of incurable diseases forming sores and ulcers that would never heal for 3000 years.[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ K M Ganguly (1883–1896). The Mahabharata, Book 5 Udyoga Parva, Section CLXVIII sacred-texts.com, October 2003, Retrieved 2014-02-11
  2. ^ Pilot Baba. Pilot Baba and Maharishi Aswathama Retrieved 2015-02-15
  3. ^ http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m07/m07193.htm
  4. ^ http://spokensanskrit.de/index.php?tinput=azvatthAma&direction=SE&script=HK&link=yes&beginning=
  5. ^ K M Ganguly(1883-1896). The Mahabharata,Book 5 Udyoga Parva,Section CLXVIII sacred-texts.com,October 2003,Retrieved 2013-11-14
  6. ^ K M Ganguly(1883-1896). The Mahabharatha Book 7: Drona page 478-479 Aswathama defeated Satyaki, Bhima, Drishtadyumna, October 2003, Retrieved 2015-01-13
  7. ^ K M Ganguly(1883-1896). The Mahabharata Book 10: Sauptika Parva section 8 Ashvatthama killing Dhrishtadyumna, October 2003, Retrieved 2015-04-17

External linksEdit

Original text online (in Sanskrit)