Sunday, 1 July 2012

Saupthika (Nocturnal combat) parva. Ashwatthama keeps his promise to Duryodhana. Mahabharata 168

Ashwatthama, Krupa and Kritivarma take leave of the dying Duryodhana and enter a nearby forest by sunset and rest under a banyan tree after taking care of their horses. Soon it is night and a beautiful  starry one! The trio, very tired, injured and deeply distressed, lie down to sleep. Krupa and Kritivarma  manage to sleep, but an angry and troubled Ashwatthama cannot! He keeps brooding and staring at the dark forest, when suddenly a large owl swoops in and starts attacking the crows which are asleep, perched on the branches. In no time numerous crows fall, mutilated and dying and a satiated owl flies away!  Ashwatthama thinks, 'This bird has given me a lesson in warfare! I cannot destroy the strong, brave and now triumphant pandavas in a war, but I have promised my king that I will! It is possible to keep this promise only by unfair means! Anyway pandavas also have adopted unethical practices!'  Once this thought takes hold of him, he gets impatient and wakes up the other two and asks them what they think they should do!

Kripa says that they require help from above in addition to their ability and effort to succeed. He also thinks that they should consult the elders, Gandhaari, Dhritarashtra and Vidura. He feels that Duryodhana even in this condition will not listen to sound advice. This does not please Ashwatthama, his attitude has hardened with grief. He also realises that what he proposes may not be liked.'We all should change with time. And one has to follow what he thinks is right thing to do. Only then will it work. I will tell you what I want to do in this time of difficulty. The panchalas are now unworried, have taken off their armorur and are sleeping. I plan to kill them in their camp as they sleep! I will have peace only if I kill them and avenge the deaths of my father,  Duryodhana, Karna, Bheeshma and Saindhava. 

Krupa reacts. 'It is  god's will that you have this thirst for revenge. It seems no one can change it. But let us wait till tomorrow.  You have the power to kill them, but you have been awake all the time, sleep and take some  rest. We will also join you in the morning, and together let us kill them or die and go to heaven!' But Ashwatthama does not want to wait. He says he cannot sleep till he has killed Dhristadhymna, 'I can sleep only after I have killed the enemies. I have decided to kill them tonight!'

Krupa tries to dissuade Ashwatthama, tells him it is not dharma. But Ashwatthama argues that pandavas are also guilty of adharma and declares, 'I do not care if it is a sin, but I must kill Dhristadhyumna  tonight, as he sleeps unarmed, I will kill him like we kill an animal'. Gets his chariot ready and proceeds. Krupa and Kritivarma tell him that they are with him for better or worse and follow him. 

When they near the camp Ashwatthama stops and tells the other two that he will go in alone and they should take care of those who try to run away! Ashwatthama sneaks in from a side entrance, locates Drishtadhymna, kicks him. Awoken, Drishtadhyumna stands up and is lifted up and thrown down with force.  He is stamped upon and kicked all over his body, his chest,, his vulnerable and vital parts. Drishtadhyumna pleads, 'Acharyaputra kill me with a weapon so that I can go to heaven'.  Ashwatthama tells him, 'A man who killed a teacher has  no hopes of going to heaven!' and again kicks him on his vital part and kills him. The carnage continues and Ashwatthama kills many more. In this confusion elephants and horses stampede and those who managed to escape the carnage die in the stampede. A few who escape through the main gates are killed by Kripa and Kritivarma. They also set fire to the camp in a few places and those who had to die are burnt to death.

Ashwatthama is finally satisfied and joins the other two. 'We have killed panchalas, sons of draupadi, somakas and matsyakas. We have accomplished our objectives. Let us see if Duryodhana is still alive! If so, we can give him the good news and make him happy!'  And they hurry towards the place where Duryodhana was struck down!

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