Life of Ashwatthama
In the dead of the night a baby cried out during birth. The child was born to Kripi and Drona. They decided to name him Ashwatthama due to the cries he made at birth. Drona had done many years of penance to Shiva to have a son that has the same heroic traits as Shiva. Upon his birth Drona and Kripi noticed that Ashwatthama had a gem in the center of his forehead. This gem imbued him with the power over all living things that were lower than humans. This also would protect Ashwatthama from hunger, thirst and fatigue.
He grew up under the training of his father. His father trained him in many things but what he was most famous for was his archery skills. Drona told his pupils, "Whoever fills up a pot that I have given them to the top first shall be rewarded with the secret teachings of archery." He did not, however, make it fair giving his son Ashwatthama a smaller pot so that he would fill it up first resulting in him learning all Drona had to teach.
When Ashwatthama became of age he was thrown into a great war known as the Kurukshetra War. The Kauravas and the Pandavas waged war for many days but on the tenth day Bhishma would fall putting his father in charge as the supreme commander of the Kaurava army. Krishna, who had sided with the Pandavas, knew that it was impossible to defeat the mighty Drona and decided the only way to do so was through trickery. He advised Bhima that they would convince Drona that his son was dead. Once he heard of his son’s death he would be in great distress and would be thrown off guard. At this opportunity he was to be killed. Bhima went and found an elephant and named it Ashwatthama. He then slayed the elephant and with a mighty roar yelled, "I have killed Ashwatthama." In his grief over his son’s death Drona let his guard down and was killed.
It did not take long for Ashwatthama to hear about his father's death and how his life was taken through trickery. This enraged him to think his father had fallen through deception. Ashwatthama said, "I will destroy them. I will destroy them all." He went out and waged war upon the entire Pandava army. He used Narayanastra on the Pandava army in hopes of wiping them out. Krishna, however, saw him using it and yelled, "All of you bow down to the weapon so that you might remain unharmed." This would calm it and they would live. Ashwatthama red with rage used the fire of his Agni Astra. In so doing he killed three quarters of the army.
After that battle Ashwatthama and his men decided to go into the camp and kill the Pandavas while they slept. The men in camp awoke and attacked Ashwatthama. However, Ashwatthama remained unharmed for he was empowered by Lord Shiva. All those who came against him fell dead to his blade. They killed the sons of the Pandava brothers and burnt the camp to the ground. When the Pandavas returned to see this they were outraged and went to meet Ashwatthama and his men in combat. Ashwatthama in a rage yelled and fired Brahmashirsha Astras at the Pandavas. This sent showers of meteors at the Pandavas. Arjuna fired back with Brahmashirsha of his own. This would have destroyed the earth if Vyasa had not stepped in and told the warriors to withdraw their weapons. Arjuna was able to withdraw his but Ashwatthama was not. Ashwatthama felt helpless for he was never taught how. Ashwatthama said, "Curse it all. I shall use this to my advantage. I shall have my revenge." He sent the meteors to pregnant Arjuna's daughter-in-law Uttara, in hopes of ending the Pandava lineage.
Ashwatthama witnessed Krishna step in and thwart his plan. He felt like nothing he did would achieve his goal. "At every step of the way I am stopped by Krishna. Curse it all, how is this fair!!" roared Ashwatthama. Krishna became angry at the attempts of Ashwatthama and cursed him. And he took the gem that was in his head. Ashwatthama fell to his knees crushed by the loss of his gem and his brutal defeat. Krishna cursed him to walk the earth for three thousand years never to heal from any of the injuries he sustains and to have many incurable diseases from the wound on his head. He would be met with no hospitality only suffering. Thus Ashwatthama departed without his gem and wandered. He wandered for many, many years atoning for what he had done until he accepted that he was wrong for some of his actions. Ashwatthama thought, "I should not have killed so many. I should not have tried to kill an innocent child. Revenge has made my heart heavy. So I must let it go." He went into a state of meditation and in so doing cured himself from his ailments. For the rest of his days he went about doing good with his gifts for others.
Author’s Note: I decided to do a shortened retelling on the life of Ashwatthama. The original story entails Ashwatthama growing up and being thrown into a war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. His father was a leader of the Kauravas. This led to Krishna deciding to kill him through making him believe his son had been killed. This would make him unsteady in war allowing the Pandavas to kill him. His death would send Ashwatthama on a mission of revenge that would be his downfall and would get him exiled to wander in pain for thousands of years. I wanted to give the reader a deeper insight into the hurt that Ashwatthama felt for the loss of his father. I also wanted to show how he felt that even with his best efforts he was always thwarted in his plans. Ashwatthama was a great warrior that just happened to go up against an even greater one known as Krishna. Ashwatthama who was an avatar of Shiva faced off with the avatar of Vishnu. I felt bad for Ashwatthama and wanted to change the ending however. I did not feel it fair that his father was tricked resulting in his death, and at every turn Ashwatthama was met by Krishna. I wanted Ashwatthama to find some peace in the story since he had lost so much. I felt as though he should have a happier ending than to wander for three thousand years in suffering. I decided to make it to where he returns and finds inner peace and in so doing cures his ailments.
Photo Cred: Ashwatthama by HindiPanditBooking