Ashwatthama: The Son of Drona

- November 12, 2021


By Dheer Sanghi Although not a central character in the Mahabharata, the story of Ashwatthama, Drona’s son, is a compelling one. Having access to powerful weapons and nearly being responsible for the deaths of millions, Ashwatthama was a warrior lacking maturity and forethought, with an inflated ego and an extremely hot head.  Early Years Born to Dronacharya and Kripi after many years of penance for a child, his birth was extraordinary. He came into the world neighing like a horse instead of crying. This ear-piercing noise was heard across the world, resulting in him being named Ashwatthama: ‘the sacred voice which relates to that of a horse.’ Accompanying his birth was a celestial voice proclaiming that Ashwatthama was blessed by Lord Shiva. Certainly blessed, the boy inexplicably had a ‘Mani’ (gem) on his forehead that protected him from evil spirits.  Training with the Pandavas Ashwatthama grew up poor until Drona was asked to teach the Pandavas and Kauravas the art of warfare. Ashwatthama learned alongside the princes and gained proficiency in battle. He had skill with the bow and arrow but was outshined by Arjun, whom Drona promised to make the greatest archer in the world. Arjun, as part of this promise, was given the knowledge of using the Brahmastra, a weapon strong enough to destroy the world.  Unknown to others at the time, the Brahmastra wasn’t only given to Arjun. Overcome by affection for his son, Drona also imparted the knowledge to Ashwatthama, even after knowing of his impetuosity. Although Drona gave clear warnings to Ashwatthama, his ego only grew after this event, even trying, in vain, to get Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra. His egotistical behaviour was not helped by the fact that he was crowned King of Southern Panchala. The Kurukshetra War Due to the position of his father, as well as his strong bond and friendship with Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was loyal to Hastinapur and fought on the side of the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war. On the tenth day of the war, Drona was made the supreme commander after Bhishma’s death. He promised to capture Yuddhisthira, to no avail. Nevertheless, Drona was too powerful to kill when armed so Krishna and the Pandavas devised a scheme to make him vulnerable. It was decided that Bheema would kill an elephant by the name Ashwatthama and then inform Drona that it was his son, Ashwatthama, who had died. The plan was success...

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