The Indian epic Mahabharata is full of captivating stories and characters, but one that stands out is the warrior Ashwatthama. He was the son of Guru Drona, and one of the seven Chiranjeevis who received the boon of immortality from Lord Shiva. However, his immortality became a curse after Lord Krishna cursed him during the battle of Kurukshetra, and he was doomed to live a life full of sorrow and misery. According to legend, Ashwatthama is still alive, and in this article, we will explore the mystery of his existence.
Who Was Ashwatthama?
Ashwatthama was a great warrior who ruled the northern region of Panchala, being subordinate to the rulers of Hastinapur. He fought on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas in the bloodiest Kurukshetra War. He was the son of Guru Drona and the grandson of the sage Bharadwaja. Ashwatthama was also the avatar of one of the eleven Rudras and one of the seven Chiranjeevis.
The Curse of Ashwatthama
According to legend, Ashwatthama was cursed by Lord Krishna because he killed the Pandava’s sons, which enraged Krishna. The curse was meant to avenge the destruction of Pandava’s lineage, and Ashwatthama was doomed to live an unending life of pain and suffering. The curse included terrible leprosy that would haunt him for 3,000 years, and his body would be covered in horrible wounds that wouldn’t heal. Blood and pus came out of his wounds constantly, and he would have to roam the world for 3,000 years as an unloved castaway.
The Battle of Kurukshetra
The battle of Kurukshetra was a significant event in the Mahabharata, and Ashwatthama played a vital role in it. He fought on the Kaurava side and managed to kill a good number of people. He was named the supreme commander of the armies after Bhishma fell in battle. However, during the war, his father, Guru Drona, was killed by Dhristadyumna, who was the commander-in-chief of the Pandava army. This event led to Ashwatthama becoming filled with rage at the deceptive way his father was killed, and he vowed to avenge his father’s death by killing all the Pandavas.
After the war officially ended, Ashwatthama infiltrated the Pandava camp at night and killed five of Draupadi’s children in their sleep, along with Dhrishtadyumna. The Pandavas and Krishna were left devastated by the killings and rushed to avenge the deaths caused by Ashwatthama. When both the forces came face to face, Ashwatthama invoked the Brahmastra, a weapon of immense destruction, to fulfill his oath of killing all the Pandavas. Krishna, in turn, asked Arjuna to use the Pashupatastra, another lethal weapon, to protect them. The gods asked them to take their weapons back, as they could destroy the entire universe.
The Curse Takes Hold
While Arjuna knew how to recall his weapon, Ashwatthama did not, and when Krishna suggested that he redirect the weapon to an uninhabited place, he instead aimed it towards the womb of the pregnant Uttara in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. Uttara was pregnant with Abhimanyu’s son, the grandson of Arjun. Krishna intervened and revived the stillborn child, and Ashwatthama was made to give up his source of power – the gemstone in the middle of his forehead. Due to his immortality, he was cursed to live forever till the end of time with the gaping wound on his forehead.
Is Ashwatthama Still Alive?
The question remains, is Ashwatthama still alive? According to Mahabharata, yes, he must be alive. Many people in North India believe that Ashwatthama is still wandering the earth, cursed with immortality. Some people claim to have seen him in different forms. However, these are just beliefs and assumptions.
Stories of Ashwatthama’s Existence
There are several stories of Ashwatthama’s existence, some more credible than others. A doctor in Madhya Pradesh claimed to have a tough patient with a septic forehead. Despite several applications of a fail-proof potion, the wound was still fresh and kept bleeding. The doctor said that his wound seemed ageless and cureless, and he jokingly asked the patient if he was Ashwatthama. When he turned to apply the next dose, he found the patient’s seat empty. The patient just disappeared into thin air.
Some Yogis like Pilot Baba claim to have met Ashwatthama, who was living among tribes at the Himalayan foothills. It is believed that Ashwatthama offers flowers to a Shivling each morning. According to locals, a very tall man with a noticeable dent in his forehead and in the middle of his forehead visits a restaurant owner once every year, somewhere on the foothills of the Himalayas. Only once a year, he goes and eats “all” the food prepared by the owner and drinks a minimum of 100 liters of water. The villagers claim that the man then quietly disappears into the forest, only to “appear” next year.
The mystery of Ashwatthama’s existence continues to fascinate people. While there is no concrete evidence of his existence, stories and legends have kept his memory alive. The curse given to him by Lord Krishna has made him immortal, and he continues to wander the earth, suffering from the wounds inflicted upon him. Whether he is still alive or not, Ashwatthama will always remain one of the most intriguing characters of Indian mythology.