Read my earlier post [Link to post] about how Bhima defeats the demon Hidimba and marries his sister Hidimbi. However on condition that Kunti agrees to this marriage was that while Hidimbi could spend time with Bhima during the daytime, she would have to return to her forest by dusk. Hidimbi agrees to this condition and after a few months, they have a son Ghatotkacha.
Ghatotkacha got his name from his hairless head which was shaped like a pot. The sanskit word utkaca means hairless and the word for pot was ghatam, and therefore his name was Ghatotkacha, the pot headed hairless one.
Ghatotkacha was very attached to his father and his uncles and was Yudhisthira’s favorite nephew as well. When their exile was about to come to an end Kunti summoned him and instructed him that he would always be considered the eldest son by all the Pandava brothers. And on this occasion Ghatotkacha also promised that he would provide them with any assistance as and when they required it from him.
By virtue of a boon granted to him by Krishna, Ghatotkacha was unmatched with his magical abilities by anyone in this world with the exception of Krishna himself and these magical abilities were enhanced multi fold during night times by virtue of the fact that this son of Bhima was half demon. This particular trait of his would prove to be especially useful to the Pandavas during the Kurukshetra war.
During the Kurukshetra war, Ghatotkacha wrought havoc on the Kaurava forces when he took to the field. Using his formidable magical powers, he defeated and killed many Kaurava warriors and Duryodhana and his armies did not have any answer for his might and valor on the battlefield.
One incident which assumes significance in this context is that before the war, Indra realizes that Karna would prove to be invincible in battle and would not be killed as long as he wore the golden armor and golden earrings that Surya had bestowed him with. He conceives a plot to weaken Karna to enable Arjuna to defeat him in battle. He approaches Karna in the guise of a poor Brahmin and asks for his golden armor and earrings as alms.
Despite the fact that Karna had been warned by Surya of Indra’s plans and intentions, it was against Karna’s principles to refuse alms to anybody who asked him for the same. He therefore gladly parted with his armor and earrings. Shamed by Karna’s generosity, Indra granted him one time use of his most powerful weapon the Vasavi Shakti. Karna decides to save this weapon to defeat his greatest rival, Arjuna.
Coming back to the Kurukshetra war, Duryodhana realizes that conventional methods of war would not be sufficient to defeat Bhima’s son. He then requests Karna to use the Vasavi Shakti to defeat Ghatotkacha before he can inflict more substantial damage on the Kaurava army.
At this point in time Ghatotkach was using extremely unconventional tactics against the Kaurava army. Given that the war extended into the night as well after Jayadratha’s death, his magical powers were multiplied and he was flying down from the skies and using them to great effect. Understanding the gravity of the situation and unable to refuse his friend Duryodhana, Karna uses Indra’s celestial weapon against Ghatotkacha which results in his death.
While the rest of the Pandava army was shocked by this turn of events, only Krishna sported an enigmatic smile. He knew something that the rest of the Pandavas did not.
It was only a day earlier that Krishna had summoned Ghatotkacha and informed him about the fact that Karna was in possession of Indra’s celestial weapon which could be used only once. He also told that Karna intended to use this to defeat and kill his uncle Arjuna and that the only way this could be prevented was if Ghatotkacha dueled with Karna and forced him to use this weapon.
On hearing this Ghatotkacha immediately promised Krishna that he would do all that he could to ensure Karna used this weapon against him, knowing fully well that it would ultimately result in his demise. Such was his love for his uncles and the word of Krishna. The young asura son of Bhima ultimately sacrificed himself so that Karna and the Kauravas would have no possible way to kill Arjuna, the greatest Pandava warrior.