Who doesn’t knows about “The Mahabharat”, the epic by “Maharishi Vyasa”. A well-known personality among the fighters who fought this war is the mighty Ashwatthama. He fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war. It is believed that due to a curse by Lord Krishna he became immortal. Folk stories of him being seen are quite famous among people. He is described as one of the eight immortals in Hindu Dharma.
As he was the son of Guru Dronacharya he was also known as Drauni. He was the grandson of Rishi Bharadwaja.
The name Ashwatthama means the sound of horse which is considered sacred in Hindu Puranas. It is said that his first cry as a new born sounded like that of a horse, hence the name.
He was born to Guru Drona and Kripi. After years of worship by Drona, Lord Shiva blessed them with a son who bears the courage same that of Lord Shiva. Kathas (folk stories) of Shiva Purana says that Ashwatthama is an avatar of Lord shiva himself.
Some facts about Ashwatthma we all should know:
- As said earlier he is one of the Astha (eight) Chiranjeevi (immortal) as described in Hindu Puranas. Being born with a jewel in forehead he had power over all lower living things. The jewel protected him from human needs like hunger and thirst. The simple life believes of Guru Dronacharya led him to have a difficult childhood, even unable to buy basic needs.
- In later phases he was trained with war skill, in which his archery skills were quite similar in strength to that of Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) despite of which his father’s favourite was Arjuna which led him to develop jealousy. As a friend he was quite close to Duryodhana, the eldest among the Kuru princes.
- Later he fought the Kurukshetra war alongside the Kauravas, his friends. After knowing that his father’s demise was a deception, he summoned the Narayanastra, which held the capacity to kill every armed person who lies in its way to target. To defeat such a great weapon which is a part of Lord Vishnu, Lord krishna (the sarathi of Arjuna) advised the Pandavas to drop all their weapons and surrender to it as it won’t harm the armless. later on in the war he never used the Narayanastra even when he was asked by Duryodhana, as he knew he would become his target on subsequent use.
- Ashwatthama almost killed Dristadyumna after defeating him in direct combat who later on was saved by Satyaki and Bhima, but he managed to kill king Nila of Mahismati.
- During the war he got inspired by a nocturnal (night dwelling bird) Owl snatching a Diurnal (day dwelling) bird crow. The rules of war were that they are to be fought during the day only and any night activities are unfair. Being aware of this he attacked on the Pandava’s camp at mid night with Kertawarma and Krupa who initially tried to stop him from committing this sin but later on joined him. After facing difficulty in defeating the guard creature at Pandava’s camp he asked Lord Shiva for help and received powers like Rudra. With the powers he entered the camp.
- Using the power he first killed Dristadyumna which made Srikandhi and Panchakumara (five sons of pandavas) to get up and rush to Dristadyumna’s tent. All of them were killed by Ashwatthama who also killed Yudamanyu, Utamoja and other knights. All others who tried to flee the assassination by Aswatthama were killed by Krupa and Kertawarma guarding the camp’s gates.
- Due to this action which led to end of the whole dynasty, at the end of sauptika parva (10th of 18 parvas of Mahabharat) Lord krishna cursed him exile till the end of the kaliyug (ongoing) era and to suffer from leprosy (kusth rog). Ashwatthama also had to remove his jewel from forehead which gave him an everlasting and forever bleeding wound.
Famous folklores suggest that in kaliyug his name is Suryakanta. He will always seek death but will never die. After meeting Kalki, the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu only he will find eternal sleep, death.
Here are some instances where people describe meeting and communicating with him:
- Prithviraj Raso, a book written on Samrat Pritviraj’s life states that after he lost battle of Mohammad Gauree in 1192, he left for jungle where he met an elderly person having a scar on his head. Samrat Prithviraj was a well trained medic. He offered to treat that bleeding scar but to his surprise the wound didn’t heal at all. He later understood the situation and asked the man if he is Ashwatthama to which the man replied yes and then left.
- A Vaidya in Madhya Pradesh once had a patient with a septic wound on head. When after several attempts it didn’t heal, the doctor as a joke addressed him as Ashwatthama after which the patient mysteriously vanished without taking further medications. He reported the incident to Kalyan magazine, but till date the truth to the incident hasn’t been proved.
- Another legend describes that near Burhanpur village in India there is a fort in which Ashwatthama every morning offers flower to Shivlinga.
- Pilot Baba and some other yogi Babas have claimed to meet and talk with Aswatthama, who lived with tribes in Himalayan foothills.
- A newspaper article about a retired railway employee who during his journey through Navasari jungles in Gujrat sustained a wounded man nearly 12 feet in height. He further claims to have made conversation with him in which the man said that he is Ashwatthama and also that Bheem was much taller and stronger than him.