The vengeful Ashwatthama


Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet
Ashwatthama in a Javanese Wayang shadow puppet

During the combat of maces, the Gadhayuddha between Bhima and Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was enraged when Bhima cheats to defeat Duryodhana. The act of Bhima striking his opponent’s thighs which was clearly a violation of the rules of the Gadhayuddha made him extremely angry and he swore revenge on the Pandavas for this.

This incident further fueled the fire that Ashwatthama had for the Pandavas when he had found out that the illustrious Yudhisthira had lied (or at least hidden the truth) about killing an elephant which bore his name, which led to his father, Drona, laying down his weapons on the battlefield [Link to my earlier post on this story]. This act of deceit by the eldest Pandava had led to his father being beheaded by Dhristadyumna and had given Drona a dishonorable death.

That night Ashwatthama went to the injured Duryodhana and made a vow to kill the Pandavas by any means. “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed” he swore.

That night when he was planning his vengeance, he noticed that an owl which had been attacked by a group of crows in the morning was now in turn attacking and killing the crows in the night. The owl was playing to its strength, the ability to see in the darkness. Suddenly an idea struck him and his plans for fulfilling the vow were formed.

He crept into the Pandava camp at night and first killed Dhristadyumna, Shikhandi and other Pandava warriors in their sleep, all the while muttering “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed”.

He then beheaded the Upapandavas, Draupadi’s five sons believing them to be the Pandavas themselves, once again uttering the same words “This I will do to avenge my father’s death and also to avenge the acts of deceit committed

It was only after he took the five heads to Duryodhana that he realizes that he had not killed the Pandavas and his vow was incomplete.

Ashwatthama who upto this point believed that his vengeance was valid as the Pandavas had used deceitful means to kill his father Drona and wrong his friend Duryodhana, suddenly realized the magnitude of his mistake. By attacking the Pandava warriors at night, when they were unarmed and helpless, he had broken many laws that were held sacrosanct by Kshatriyas of the time.

He therefore took refuge in Veda Vyasa’s ashrama and sought salvation for his sins committed on that one fateful night when his anger, passions and thirst for vengeance turned him into a lunatic.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. We give out themes for creative writing each weekend for Indian bloggers.

The prompt was that the post had to include the same sentence repeated at least thrice and the said sentence has been highlighted separately in this post.

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This post has been selected as one of Blogadda’s WoW picks of the week.

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30 thoughts on “The vengeful Ashwatthama

    • @Suzy, oh, I personally hate the Star TV version of the new Mahabharat quite a bit, for whatever reason it simply irritates me too much, but am glad you are enjoying my posts though 😀

    • @Kajal, yes, that is the intention of these posts, to highlight these little known stories from the great epics 🙂

    • @Richa, oh yes, UBC was just an excuse to keep writing 🙂 For sure I will write more mythology related posts, and you are not the only one hankering for more of these posts 😀

    • @Bhagyashree, glad that you enjoyed the post. I really appreciate the fact that you take time out to write a comment for almost every post that I put up 🙂

  1. That last line does not vibe with my own recollection of the Mahabharat. Aswatthama is in Ved Vyas’ Ashram hiding from the vengeance of the Pandavas. When Arjun and he face off and both invoke the Brahmasheersha Astra and Ved Vyas asks them to call them back, Aswatthama admits his inability to call it back and sends it into Uttara’s womb in order to ensure that the Pandava dynasty comes to an end. Being willing to kill and unborn fetus does not argue for any great remorse in him. It is Krishna who saves the baby, who is later the King Parikshit. (An alternative version is that he takes a twig and invokes the Astra and sends it into Uttara’s womb – here there is no face-off with Arjun in terms of both invoking the Astra)

    • @Suresh, this is precisely the reason that I look forward to you reading and commenting on the mythology related posts that I put up. Invariably you come up with an alternate version of the story that I narrate. Even I have heard of the version where Aswatthama tries to kill Parikshit who is saved due to Krishna’s intervention only. That being said, there is remorse after this deed is attempted by him, is there not?

      • Actually, the epic is ambiguous on that. Yes – he accepts defeat and surrenders a gem to Arjuna but there is no explicit remorse that is depicted for him.

  2. I just learnt about this side of the story…interesting. Moreover, as I have earlier said, it is admirable the way you bring the right story to meet the prompts.

    • @Sugandha, it helps that I have boredsuba married to me who is also interested in mythological stories and also knows a lot of them. Between the two of us, we do brainstorm a lot to come up with posts relevant to writing prompts 🙂

  3. Our epic stories are inexhaustible , and so are you takes of different prompts. Beautiful story. Jairam , your daughter is very lucky as you are a storehouse of stories and wisdom.

  4. I had watched the entire series of the epic shown before on TV on video tapes as Hindi TV channels were not available here back then. I remember this part too well. Now I am watching the serial on Star Plus and reading you and it is helping me put the pieces together. Loved the way you combined it with WOW! 😀

    • @Jyothi, be warned though, the Star Plus series is significantly different from any version that you might have seen or read so far, in fact so much so that they put up a disclaimer which clearly states that it is a pure work of fiction 🙂 That being said I am glad you are enjoying my posts so much 🙂

  5. Mahabharata was initially dubbed ‘Vijay’, but even the writers understood that the death of so many gifted individuals from both sides could be victorious for anyone.
    I think this post accentuates that idea, more than any other.

    • @Ayush, yes, I think it was first called Jaya or Vijaya, if memory serves me right. And while I didn’t think of this post in that sense, your comment makes immense sense, doesn’t it?

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