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Ashwatthama’s Gem

- May 4, 2022

By Srinidhi Murthy

According to the Mahabharata, Dronacharya was the teacher who trained both, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, in the art of warfare. He was married to Kripi, the sister of warrior Kripacharya. They both had a son, who was named Ashwatthama. Ashwatthama was born with a precious gem on his head. This gem made the wearer invincible. It eradicated hunger, thirst, disease as well as fear of weapons, robbers, rakshasas, nagas and even gods.

The Kurukshetra War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas ended with the death of Duryodhana, a close friend of Ashwatthama. Furthermore, Ashwatthama also lost his father, as Drona was killed through deception during the war. Enraged and grief-stricken, Ashwatthama entered the Pandava camp on the last night of the war, with the sole purpose of taking revenge. He killed warriors like Dhrishtadyumna, Shikhandi, Drupada and the five sons of Draupadi, while they were resting in their camp. Filled with rage and grief, Draupadi asked the Pandavas to bring her the precious jewel on Ashwatthama’s head to avenge the death of her sons.

Arjuna and Ashwatthama engaged in a terrible fight where they released Brahmashira, a powerful weapon, to destroy each other. The weapon had the potential to cause large-scale destruction and so, Vyasa and Narada intervened in their fight and asked both of them to withdraw their weapons. Both agreed to the wishes of the sages. Having obtained these weapons after severe austerities, Arjuna had the ability to withdraw his powerful celestial weapon. However, Ashwatthama could not do so, though he tried his best. Ashwatthama’s weapon was directed to destroy the future progeny of Pandavas. When he could not call back the weapon, he appealed to Vyasa for help. Vyasa then asked Ashwatthama to give the Pandavas his precious gem to compensate for his wicked act. However, Krishna intervened and declared that despite Ashwatthama’s weapon, the Pandava dynasty would continue through the unborn son of Abhimanyu and Uttara. 

Script: Margie Sastry; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The crisis averted and the Pandavas returned to Draupadi with the precious gem. Ashwatthama retreated into the forest, filled with remorse. After being presented with the gem, Draupadi gifted it to Yudhishthira.

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