Mahabharat Episode 47: The Ugly Aftermath of War
Ashwatthama slays all the children of the Pandavas in their sleep and Arjuna seeks him out for vengeance. The aftermath of the war turns out to be uglier than the war itself.
What happened so far : In their final duel, Bhima deals his arch enemy Duryodhana a blow below the belt, upon Krishna’s instruction. Fatally wounded, they leave him to die a slow death on the battlefield. On the Kaurava side, Ashwatthama plans to take revenge by killing the Pandava brothers in their sleep. After cutting off the five heads and placing them at Duryodhana’s feet, he realizes in horror that he has actually killed the Pandava’s children.
No End to Revenge
Kripacharya had said to Ashwatthama, “A warrior must be brave, but he must also be virtuous. You must remember that Duryodhana was no king of dharma himself. He was greedy and ruthless. He humiliated the Pandavas; he cheated them out of everything they owned and banished them for thirteen years. Still they sued for peace until the last moment, but Duryodhana was unrelenting. We must not take his death out of its context or forget everything he did to the sons of Pandu. As for the manner in which Bhima struck him down, it was only as he swore he would. Perhaps you are right that the mace fight was not the occasion to do it. But that is not cause enough for us to commit the crime you want to.” Kripacharya tried to stop Ashwatthama but eventually still participated in it.
The Pandavas hear the wailing of the women in the early morning. Not knowing what happened, they come running to their camp to discover that all the five children had been killed in their sleep. No one had gone this far before. You do not kill a sleeping man, let alone children. For Draupadi, having won the war, having all her enemies killed, all she wanted has happened. But now her own five sons were dead. She screamed in rage once again, “I want Ashwatthama’s head.” Arjuna vowed to take his head, and they went for him.
Cutting off Ashwatthama’s Gem
Arjuna went looking for Ashwatthama and found him. Ashwatthama always wore a magic jewel on his forehead. That was his power. When Arjuna and the other Pandavas went there to kill Ashwatthama, a rishi stepped in and said, “There is no need to kill a brahmana. This is not a battlefield. Killing a brahmana here will not be good for you.” Arjuna decided it was better to cut the jewel off Ashwatthama’s forehead, because without the jewel, Ashwatthama would be powerless, and he would lose his mind completely. They forcefully plucked the jewel off his forehead, brought it as an offering to Draupadi, and went back to Hastinapur.
What happens after the war, usually, in most places, is worse than the war itself. And that is what started unfolding.
To be continued..
Editor’s Note : A version of this article was originally published in the Forest Flower magazine, April 2019. To subscribe online, click here.The Mahabharat series is based on Sadhguru’s talks during the one-time Mahabharat program that took place in February 2012 at the Isha Yoga Center. Through the lives and stories of the varied characters, Sadhguru takes us on a mystical exploration into the wisdom of this immortal saga.