THE LEGEND OF ASHWATHAMA
Not many are unaware of the legend of Mahabharata. But individuals like Arjun, Krishna and Duryodhan have taken much of the prehistoric limelight. A character that played a pivotal role in shaping the end of Mahabharata was Ashwathama. Ashwathama was the Son of Krupi (Mother) and Dronacharya(Father), the great teacher who taught archery and weaponry to all Pandavas (remember the forgotten Hero Eklavya?) and Kaurvas. Ashwathama fought in the epic battle of Mahabharata as the commander of the forces from the camp of Kauravas (the antagonists) against the Pandavas (the protagonists), as did his father, Dronacharya. Quite an intriguing fact about Ashwathama is that since his birth, Ashwathama had a jewel (mani) embedded in his forehead which saved him from demons, Gods, snakes and from worldly botheration of hunger and thirst. So here goes the legend of Ashwathama
Towards the end of the battle when Duryodhan was killed by Bheema, the left over Kaurav warriors (including Ashwathama) made a treacherous attempt to kill Pandava brothers. They hideously attacked Pandava’s cantonment at night and beheaded the five warriors sleeping in one of the kiosks. Hours later on Sunrise, they realised they have instead of 5 Pandava brothers they killed the 5 sons of Pandavas. Naturally, Pandavas also discovered 5 headless bodies and strode in agony and anger towards the rival camp (accompanied by ‘mortal-Lord’ Krishna, the Friend-Philosopher-Guide and charioteer of Arjuna).
Seeing the extent of approaching Pandava’s fury, Ashwatthama realised the extent of his mistake and feared his life (though he was immortal!). In his dread, Ashwathama used a blade of grass and using his knowledge of Vedas, made the deadly weapon called Brahmastra (erstwhile version of Nuclear Weapon conferred to supreme warriors by Lord Brahma). He threw this weapon at Pandavas articulating the curse “May all the Pandavas be Destroyed”. To counter this weapon and its curse, Arjun withdrew his bow and released another deadly weapon called Pashupatiastra (another version of Nuclear Weapon, named after and conferred by Lord Shiva).
Now both these weapons had apocalyptic capacities. So seeing the potential danger to Mankind, Lord Vishnu (The most supreme God) descended from heavens and commanded both the warriors to withdraw or take back their weapons. While Arjun took the Pashupatiastra back, Ashwatthama din’t know how to do so. Vishnu then asked Ashwathama to decide a single target of this weapon. Still under wrath and binded by His promise to deceased Duryodhana, Ashwathama chose the womb of the pregnant ‘Uttara’ (wife of martyr Abhimanyu- the great archer and son of Arjuna) in sense that on her delivery she will have a dead child and Pandavas will be destroyed.
As a penitence for Ashwatthama, Lord Krishna pulled out his forehead’s jewel and commanded that he will not lose his immortality and will roam around till the end of the world. And worst of all, the hollow made on his forehead by digging the jewel out will never heal and will always seep blood and Puss, thus arousing a foul smell.
So months later Uttara did begot a male child who was dead. This brought a wave of Sadness to Pandav Kingdom as they were left without an heir to their prodigal dynasty. Seeing the sentiment, Lord Krishna took the child in his lap and said something close to this “If I have never favoured the evil, If I have never lied and have never did a deed, but towards just and truth, MAY THE CHILD COME TO LIFE” and as expected, the hitherto dead boy started crying. The buy was nomenclatured on this incident. His name was ‘Parikshit’ (The Tested: through a test of God) and he ruled the Pandav Dynasty after the 5 brothers left for heaven.
So coming back to Ashwatthama, his blessing of immortality turned into a curse and he joined the league of Chiranjeevis (The timeless or extremely long live, but not necessarily immortals-other examples are Hanumana, Narada and Parshurama). Since then Ashwatthama is roaming around on earth with a bleeding forehead.
Now comes the most incredible part, Ashwatthama is claimed to be seen by some people. Here are the two instances:
a) A renowned Vaidhya (Ayurvedic Doctor) in Madhya Pradesh had a tough patient with a septic forehead. After several applications of a fail-proof potion, the wound was still afresh and bleeding. Amazed at his potions inability, the doctor wittingly said: “Your forehead’s wound seems ageless and cureless. I wonder, are you Ashwatthama.. hahaha”. At the third ha, he turned around to apply the next doze and found that the seat was empty. The patient just disappeared into thin air, sealing Vaidya’s wit with reality”
b) Legend says that in an Indian village near Burhanpur, there is an old dilapidated fort called Asirgarh,, ancient tomb in India where Ashwathama supposedly offers flowers to a Shiva-ling (pneumonic of Lord Shiva) each day.
While incidence a) was reported in Kalyan Magazine, incident b) was briefly on News channels too. Some yogis like Pilot Baba have gone as far in mentioning their encounter and conversation with Ashwathama, who was living among tribes of Bheels at Himalayan Foothills. In all such incidences, the narrators mentioned the height of Ashwathama around 12 feet.
Even if you don’t believe in mythology and religion, the idea of a 12 feet tall, 6000 year old man, witnessing history’s biggest bloodshed and living with God, is still intriguing. I really wonder, if there is a real Ashwathama or any other Chiranjeevi, can’t he come to public eye and narrate us the magnanimous battle-story of our past or is Ashwathama purely legendary?