Ashwathama (Sanskrit: अश्वत्थामा, romanized: Aśvatthāmā)  is the son of guru Drona and the grandson of the sage Bharadwaja in the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. Ashvatthama fought on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War. It is believed that he became a Chiranjivi (immortal) due to a curse given to him by Krishna.The deceptive plot of his rumoured death led to the beheading of his grieving father Drona, who was incapacitated while meditating for his son’s soul.

Ashvatthama was appointed as the final commander-in-chief of the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra War. Overcome with grief and rage, he slaughtered most of the Pandava camp in a single night offensive. Ashwatthama ruled the Northern Panchala being subordinate to the rulers of Hastinapura. He was one of the warriors of the Mahabharata war who crossed all limits of conduct and even misused divine weapons.

Title: Ashwathama kills Draupadi’s five sons and gets caught by Bhima

Description: In order to avenge the Pandavas’ unethical killing of his father Drona, Ashwathama brutally kills their five children in a nocturnal raid on their camp. He then takes the severed heads and displays then to the dying Duryodhana. The Pandavas and Draupadi are devastated by the news and Draupadi refuses to eat food, demanding that Ashwathama be killed and the rare jewel he wears be brought to her. Bhima hunts down Ashwathama and forces him into the forest leaving his jewel and weapons behind.

In a camp in the right centre ground the Pandavas are plunged into grief as they hear the news and then go on to attack Ashwathama. In the lower right Draupadi wears the jewel taken from Ashwathama who stands before her with his hands tied. The Pandavas stand behind him. In the upper right Ashwathama – wearing hermit’s garb – heads to the forest, hounded by Bhima in a chariot. (Text Source: Paintings of the Razmnama, The Book Of War by Ashok Kumar Das)

Source: Folio 394r – Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata

Attributed to: amal Ghulam Ali

Attributed Date: 1598-1599

Dimensions: 28 X 18.5 cm

Language: Persian

Identifier/Keywords: Ashwathama, mahabharata, folio, razmnama, draupadi, hermit, ascetic, bhima, forest

Title: Killing of Dronacharya

Description: The story is illustrated in patches. In the foreground Arjuna riding in Krishna’s chariot confronts an unarmed Drona. It is not clear if the person carrying a sword in the centre represents Yudhishtira who goes to Dronacharya and whispers “Ashwathama is Dead”. In the top left corner Drishtadramya beheads Dronacharya. It seems Dronacharya is wrongly depicted as a young prince with golden crown. He is shown ascending to heaven in a burst of flames.

Attributed to: Inscribed in the leaf – Tarah Daswant, amal Sarwan

Source: Razmnama (Book of War) – Persian translation of Mahabharata, Mapin Publishing

Ascribed Date: 1598 AD

Language: Persian

Identifier/Keywords: Dronacharya, mahabharata, yudhisthira, killing, drona, chariot, krishna, arjun

Title: The Pandavas lay down their arms for protection from the Narayana Astra

Description: Ashwathama, the immortal son of Drona, hurls the invincible Narayana Astra that engulfs the Pandava brothers and their army in flames. Krishna tells the Pandavas that the Astra’s devastating effect is rendered powerless if they dismount, disarm and submit before it. All the brothers, except Bhima, do so. And just as Bhima is about to perish due to his obduracy Arjuna drags him from his chariot, throws away his weapons and saves him from inevitable destruction.

In one of the best paintings in the manuscript the huge round mass of fire – painted in gold with a greenish irradiation – aptly expresses the tremendous firepower of this weapon of mass destruction. In the top right corner Arjuna forces Bhima to follow Krishna’s advice and throw down his weapons. Two other brothers, discarding their weapons, dismount from their chariots and stand with folded hands while Ashwathama is shown hurling the Narayana Astra from his chariot on the left.

Attributed to: Inscribed in two places on the lower margin of the leaf – tarah Lal, rangamezi Khurd / tarah Lal, rangamezi Nadir Khund

Source: Razmnama (Book of War) – Persian translation of Mahabharata, Mapin Publishing

Ascribed Date: 1598 AD

Language: Persian

Identifier/Keywords: Dronacharya, mahabharata, yudhisthira, killing, drona, chariot, krishna, arjun

Bhim killing elephant named Ashwathama, Razmnama, 16th Century

Bhim killed an elephant named Ashwathama and tricked Dronacharya to believe that his son Ashwathama is dead so the Pandavas can kill him and win the battle of Mahabharata. This was the classic incidence of half truth that Yudhisthir spoke in Mahabharata.

The above image is a miniature painting from 1598 AD during the Mughal emperor Akbar’s reign in Indian subcontinent. Akbar had commissioned a persian translation of Mahabharata with illustrations in miniature styles.

From Manmatha Nath Dutt translation of epic Mahabharata in year 1902. The Sauptik Parva (10th Book of the Night) from Mahabharata talks about the event of Lord Krishna cursing Ashwathama that he will remain immortal for three thousand years.

From SAUPTIK PARVA, Chapter XVI, Verse no. 8-12

Krishna said:

“As regards yourself, all wise men know you as a coward and a sinful wretch. Always engaged in sinful deeds, you are the slayer of children. Therefore, you must have to bear the fruit of your sinful deeds. For three thousand years you shall have to wander over this earth, without a companion and without being able to talk with any one. Alone, and without any one with you, you shall wander through various countries, O wretch, you shall have to live outside the pale of human society. The stench of puss and blood shall come out from your body, and you shall live in dense forest. Thou shall wander over the earth suffering from all diseases”.

Image Courtesy: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image Courtesy: Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Ashwathama fires the Narayana weapon (Cosmic Fire) at the Pandavas”, Folio from a Razmnama. This particular incident is from the Drona Parva from the epic of Mahabharat.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Chromolithograph pictorial label used for the advertisement and sale of bales of cloth and individual fabric lengths; printed on paper. An illustration from the Mahābhārata from early 20th Century before India’s independence. At the botton of the illustration there is a line which says – “Ashwathama propitiates Shiva before making a night attack on the Pandava camp”.

Thats why the 10th book of Mahabharata is called the Book of Night as Ashwathama went into the Pandava camp the very night Pandavas had won the war and annihilated the entire Pandava clan.

Story of Ashwathama receiving the curse from Krishna in the epic of Mahabharat T.V. Series from 90’s by B.R.Chopra