Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Ashwathama episode

Toward the end of the Kurukshetra war, Ashwathama uses the Brahmastra on the unborn child of Abhimanyu to end the Pandava dynasty. Before that he killed all the Pandavas' children in the dead of the night in stealth, breaking all the rules of war that Bhishma had framed.
His rationale for this is that the Pandava's themselves had broken several rules and they killed all the Kaurava heroes by cheating. Which is true. Drona was disarmed by a lie and killed when he had cast away his bow and arrows and was grieving for his son. Karna was unlawfully killed. So why not the upapandava's ? And why not the unborn baby ?
Krishna revives the baby and curses Aswathama to eternal pain from a festering wound on his forehead. Why ? Why ? Why eternity ?Is'nt God supposed to be merciful and ever-loving. What kind of a curse is this ? Eternity ... ETERNITY !!!
Why did he refuse to not use wepons himself and then use all kinds of trechery and devious means to kill the Kaurava warriors ? And why was Aswathama cursed so ? Why is there a Brahmastra that can destroy the universe and why is he cursed for using it ?
Why is there a right and wrong and a complex dharma defining it if at the end of it whatever 'God' does is right and most other stuff is wrong ?


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't Aswathama be Krishna and Krishna be Aswathama?

Is this just a story of the reintegration of God and the disappearance of seprateness. Eternity is immeasurable and if one is cursed for all eternity, he would not know it without an end because it would be all one continuous whole. It seems to me that all suffering is measurable and has a resolution by full integration with it by allowing it to expand to become all ecompassing so that it cannot be defined, and at that point, we have total disappearance.

How can it be defined if it is all one, for a person would need to be able to step back from it in order to analyse it.. :-)

But it seems the story has you thinking about fairness and justice and exactly what it is?

Anagha Mudigonda said...

Like you said this is more about fairness and justice.
There is this war, a huge huge one between the good guys (pandava's) and the bad guys (kaurava's). Krishna ofcourse is on the side of the pandava's(good guys). There are a lot of honourable people on the side of the Kaurava's though they are the bad guys. These honourable people (Bhishma, Drona, Ashwatthama, Karna) are on the side of the bad guys for honourable reasons too so they cannot be written off as morons ..
So anyways Krishna suggest devious and unlawful means to kill Bhishma, Drona and Karna. The pandava's break all the laws of the war and kill these people. The Kaurava's too break the laws so basically everyone is breaking laws ..
At the very end the main bad guy (Duryodhana) is defeated unlawfully (coz he's too powerful to be defeated lawfully).
So far is the context setting and not a very good one .. The Mahabharata is an epic, perhaps the best India Epic. So what I’ve done is something like summarize the Illiad in 5 lines …
Now Ashwathama kills a lot of guys on the pandava's side in the night (which is also unlawful - to kill a sleeping warrior, fighting after sunset etc) and then he uses an irrevocable power (the Brahmastra) to kill an unborn child who is the sole heir of the pandava's.
Krishna since he's God revives the baby and curses Ashwathama to an eternity of pain and suffering :(
Eternity in this context is not really forever. In the Hindu mythology there is a period of no creation, when all creation is merged in the One and there is just One. Then there is creation and four Yuga's which are four time-frames each of which is known for one characteristic, like the first Yuga is know for truthfulness. This current Yuga (Kali Yuga) is known for Anarchy :D ...
The war happens in the 3rd Yuga, so I guess the guy is cursed to live like that for 1 whole Yuga. Which is totally unfair. Even the worst of the bad guy’s Duryodhana, goes to heaven, since guys that die fighting bravely go to heaven.

Dr NJ Ganesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr NJ Ganesh said...

He will be next Vyas of Coming Yuga.



Unknown said...

I can understand what you're saying.Many people have misunderstood Krishna's actions.I agree that he was manipulative.But he mostly gave a choice.For instance,Dhrona need not have believed Yudhistira's words that Ashwathama is dead.
Bhishma could have fought Shikandi,but he chose not to.Everybody knows that Arjuna killed Karna when Karna's chariot was broken.But very few people know that the same thing happened to Abhimanyu.
As Krishna says 'Dharma is like a two-edged sword. Both its edges cut. There is no meaning in saying, ‘We shall do what we please. But you shall adhere to Dharma’. Only those who themselves do not swerve from the path of Dharma can demand similar adherence from others'.Whatever Krishna and the Pandavas did,it was nothing comparable to what Ashwathama did.He killed everyone at night when they were sleeping and were totally defenseless.Ashwathama was cursed to be a chiranjeevi and endure the pain.I too think it is a harsh punishment.

tushar said...

I belong to the vidura family.Vidhur was my forefather herefore I have some links with mahabharata.But the only doubt in my mind is that whether ashwathama was cursed by draupadi or by krishna ,if it was krishna I think hereafter I will never have faith in him.

Anagha Mudigonda said...

So long after I wrote this post, when I think of this I can only wonder how dharma changes with the yuga ..
There was Rama's time where it was perfectly reasonable and infact even a good example to turn your pregnant wife into the forest because a drunken washer man wasn't satisfied with the Agni Pariksha.
And then there is Krishna's time with all these complicated intricate definitions of right and wrong.
If we take a step back, Dritarashtra was the eldest and when Pandu decided to go to forest to do penance he became the king again albeit blind. After him his Son would be king. The Pandava's really have no case here other than they are supposed to be "good" and the Kaurava's "evil". There really is no justice other than - because Krishna said so. Nothing to really rationalize ..
Ekalavya was so heartlessly eliminated from the game. Karna was killed unlawfully. Even Duryodhana was killed unlawfully for you cannot hit below the waist in a fight with maces.
And now there is the modern definition of Dharma where one super power wants to dispense peace or war based on how it's economy is doing. Thank God for democracy that takes the edge off of people's "wisdom"
I realize I am talking all over the place and this has nothing to do with Aswathama any more but that's why this blog is called Ramblings ;)
I read somewhere that people in the North had spotted Aswathama wandering in some villages. That would be so cool if we could see him :)
So Tushar you say you are descended from Vidura. That's awesome. Do you have any artifacts dating from that time ?

Unknown said...

This is my viewpoint...

Probably Pandavas had no rights to become heir to Dritarashtra's throne and so they fighting for it is wrong and hence Duryodana's competitiveness is understandable .. hence.. hence .. hence...

But thinking about this whole episode. Dritarashtra was not a very righteous man as we can see that he succumbed to several folly during his rule. Considering that .. Dritarashtra may have never ruled his territory properly and would have made choices which satisfy his family and not the kingdom. The Lord who needs to ensure that goodness prevail may have wanted goodness .. in this case Pandavas to rule and hence the whole episode. When destiny, human choices and the nature of yuga gets mixed 'means' do get crazy and quite complicated. Mahabaratha also teaches us that the 'end is indeed more important than the means'