In Naimisaaranya, on the occasion of Satra Yaga, Sooti, the story teller, told Sounaka and other great sages and saints, the story of Mahabharata, as told by Saint Vaisampayana to King Janamejaya.
Dhritarashtra asked Sanjaya to tell him in detail, all the events that had happened, commencing from Asvathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarma, leaving Suyodhana. Sanjaya continued to say:
“O King Dhritarashtra! Asvathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarma proceeded on their chariots towards the camps of Pandavas. At that time, there was jubilant atmosphere in Pandava camps. All were singing, dancing, eating, drinking and were in a joyous and hilarious mood. Asvathama thought that it was not the proper time to enter Pandava camps. Then they proceeded towards east and stopped at a pond, near a huge banion tree.
They performed the evening rituals. Meanwhile, darkness plunged in. With the available leaves and branches, they arranged beds. They lay down on their beds for sleep. Kripacharya and Kritavarma slept. But Asvathama did not get sleep. He was sitting and looking at all sides.
He observed that innumerable crows were living on the branches of banian tree, in their nests. All the crows and their kids were sleeping in their nests. At that time, one owl, slowly, without making any noise, came near those nests, gained entrance into the nests and began to kill the kids of the crows. The owl cut the necks of some crows, broke the legs and wings of some crows. In that manner, the owl killed all the kids of the crows speedily, without making any noise.
Asvathama observed this from a distance. A wonderful idea sparked in his mind. “Yes. this is the only way to kill the enemies. The owl gave me a wonderful message through its acts. I will also kill all Pandavas, their relatives and friends, while they are in deep and sound sleep. To discharge my promise made to Suyodhana, this is the only way. Without the help of any army, I cannot fulfil this task. Without any hesitation, now I will enter the camps of Pandavas and kill the Pandavas, their sons, Panchalas, their relatives and friends and their army, while they are sleeping, mercilessly.
I should do this tonight itself. I should do it while Suyodhana is alive. Suyodhana should have his last breath, after hearing from me that all Pandavas, their sons, Panchalas their friends and relatives are dead. I will tell him that Pandavas are no more. I have to thank this owl for giving me this wonderful message. I should not hesitate whether it is good or bad, whether it is Dharma or Adharma.
So far as I know, according to the ancient scripts, enemies should be attacked and killed by attacking them face to face, by attacking them while they were in their camps, by attacking them while they were passing through a narrow path, by attacking them while they were sleeping during nights. As I am adopting Kshatriya Dharma, those rules will apply to me also. Even otherwise, Pandavas never followed any rules, principles or virtues while they were killing Bhishma, Drona and Karna. When they shamelessly adopted Adharma why should I crave for Dharma. Therefore, killing unscrupulous Pandavas while they are sleeping is Dharma and also a virtuous act.”Asvathama decided for himself.
Asvathama woke up his uncle Kripacharya and his friend Kritavarma. “Uncle Kripacharya, Kritavarma! listen to me. Pandavas, without following any principles, broke the thighs of Suyodhana. King Suyodhana is now rolling on the ground, in a pitiable condition. That wretch, Bhimasena, kicked Suyodhana, with his left leg on his head. In our presence, Suyodhana is feeling helpless. Tell me what to do.” asked Asvathama.
“Asvathama! we do not know what is passing on in your mind. Tell me what you are thinking about it. Anyhow, as you have asked me, I will tell few words. Before commencement of any work, man-made trials and God’s help are quite essential. Without any one of the above, you cannot fulfil any task. Therefore, God’s help and support is a must. If you do anything without infringing Dharma, God will certainly help you and you will get good results. In the beginning, some may get favourable results, by infringing Dharma. But, in the long run, they have to suffer. This is what exactly happened in the case of Suyodhana.
Without heeding the words of Vidura and Krishna, out of extreme wrath and pride, Suyodhana insulted Pandavas and Droupadi in open assembly. Now he is reaping the consequences. Therefore, we have to proceed further, without violating Dharma.
We will all go to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari. Vidura also will be there. We will tell them the present state of affairs. We will follow what they say. Vidura will always follow Dharma. This is my opinion. Now you are our Commander. Think for a while and take a decision.” said Kripacharya.
“Uncle Kripacharya! Dharma will be changing from time to time and place to place. What is Dharma today may not be Dharma after some time. Dharma of a poorman is quite different from the Dharma of a richest person. Therefore, what I follow is Dharma. I will follow myDharma without fear of death. Though I was born as Brahmin, due to my misfortune, I followed Kshatriya Dharma. After such a long time, I cannot revert back to the virtuous life fit for Brahmans. I will continue as Kshatriya.
One wretched fellow killed my father, violently and mercilessly. He is still alive. While the killer of my fahter is still alive, how can I move peacefully. Today I will kill him. There is a plan. Now all our enemies are in deep and sound sleep. This is fit and proper time to kill all of them. Besdies that, they are not aware of our survival. They will never entertain any idea that I will come and kill them. I will enter their camps and attack them while they are in sound sleep. I will cut their necks. I will transform their camps into burial grounds filled with deadbodies. I should see the corpse of the killer of my father amidst those dead bodies.
I will tell how I kill that wretch. I will catch the neck of Dhrishtadyumna, throw him down on the ground. I will never use any arrow or knife. I will kill him as if he is a beast. I will kill Pandavas and their sons mercilessly. I will offer their blood to my father as a ritual. This is my promise. This is my ultimate task.” told Asvathama.
Kripacharya had a patient hearing to the words of Asvathama. “Asvathama! There is nothing wrong in killing a person who killed your father. For that, you are following a specific method, for which, I have no objection. Myself and Kritavarma also will extend our cooperation and be helpful to you in this regard. Now we are all tired. Let us take rest for tonight. Tomorrow morning we ill continue our efforts. You will certainly vanquish our enemies. If you and I are in the battle field, none can stand before us. If Kritavarma is by our side, victory will be ours. Therefore, for the present, remove your armour and take rest. Tomorrow morning, we three will attack Pandavas, Panchalas and their army in the battle field. Either we kill them or we will be killed by them, something will happen. We will never return back with empty hands.” said Kripacharya.
“Uncle Kripacharya! In this world, one who is enraged with wrath, addicted to earn money, blind with lust, will never get sleep. Now my body is burning with anger. My blood is boiling when I think about my father’s death. I have to kill my enemies and discharge my promise made to Suyodhana. Till then I never get sleep. Kripacharya! we have no army. We cannot attack Pandavas during day time because they are always surrounded by Arjuna and Krishna. Therefore, tonight itself, I will massacre our enemies while they are sleeping. Kindly dont discourage me.
Tonight, while all Pandavas, Panchalas, sons of Droupadi, their troops are in deep sleep, I will enter their camps and kill all of them mercilessly This is my final decision. After informing Suyodhana about the death of our enemies. I will have sound sleep” said Asvathama.
“Asvathama! You are enraged with great wrath. You are not in a position to distinguish between good and bad, proper and improper. dharma and adharma. Kindly follow a virtuous path. Shed your anger and cruelty and listen to me carefully.
According to the existing Dharma, people who are sleeping, who discarded their arms, whose car or vehicle is broken and dismantled, and one who begs for pardon, shall not be killed. At this point of time, Pandavas, Panchalas, their friends and relatives along with their respective troops are in deep sleep. A sleeping person is equal to a dead person. Why you choose to go to hell by killing sleeping persons. You are not an ordinary warrior. You are a Maha Radha. You should not resort to such heinous acts. Let us wait till tomorrow morning to fight with Pandavas.”said Kripacharya.
“Uncle Kripacharya! you are elder than me. You can direct me as you like and I have to obey your words. What you said is perfectly correct. Kindly listen to my words also.
In the presence of one and all, while my father, after discarding his bow and arrows, was in deep meditation, Dhrushtadyumna, without thinking that it was a heinous act, caught hold of the tuft of my father and cut his head. Keeping Sikhandi in front of him, Arjuna killed Bhishma. While Karna was lifting his chariot wheel, Arjuna killed him. While Bhoorisravasa was in deep meditation, after discarding his bow and arrows, Satyaki cut his head. Above all, while King Suyodhana was hiding himself peacefully in a pond, in deep waters, Dharmaja provoked him, pulled him out and Bhimasena, in violation of all the war principles, hit him below his waist and kicked his head with his left leg. When Pandavas violated principles of Dharma to be followed during war, time and again, you did not a say a single word against them but you are directing me now to follow a virtuous path. Is it just and proper?
Uncle Kripacharya! Have you not heard the pitiable words spoken to by Suyodhana. My endeavour is to wipe out the tears of Suyodhana. I do not mind even if it is Adharma. I will kill Dhrishtadyumna, who killed my father, in an unscrupulous manner. Even if it is a great sin, I will bear it . I do not mind even if I get the body of an insect in my next birth. Nobody can stop me” So saying, Asvathama boarded his chariot.
“Asvathama! we all three have started on one mission. How can you go alone? We are also coming along with you” Kripacharya and Kritavarma also boarded their chariots.
“O Uncle Kripacharya! I am going to kill Dhrishtadyumna. I am happy you are also following me. Please follow me.” so saying Asvathama drove his chariot towards the camps of Pandavas. As Asvathama was driving his chariot with great speed, Kripacharya and Kritavarma were lagging behind.
While Asvathama was proceeding towards Pandava camps, a huge monster like demon stood in front of Asvathama. Asvathama stopped there. Enraged with great wrath, Asvathama shot many arrows, astras and sastras upon that demon. That demon swallowed all the astras and sastras. All Astras and Sastras available with Asvthama were exhausted. Asvathama took his long sword and attacked that demon. That sword was cut into pieces. Asvathama hurled tomaras and disc-like weapons upon that demon. All of them were cut into fragments. Asvathama threw a huge mace which was swallowed by that demon.
Asvathama looked behind. Kripacharya and Kritavarma were not seen at sight. Asvathama repented for his hastiness. “What Kripacharya said is correct. One should not kill Brahmins, Kings, women, friends, brothers, weak, idiot, blind, sleeping man, terrified man, an intoxicated man, a lunatic . It is agreat sin. I have disregarded the eternal path pointed by the scriptures and trying to tread in a wrong path. Hence I have fallen into terrible distress. Having born in Brahmin community, I am trying to get a bad name. Only to avoid me from committing any sin, this demon has attacked. What to do? Who will come to my rescue?” thought Asvathama in great distress.
At last he decided to worship Parama Siva with great devotion. He sat on the floor and began to praise Siva. After praising for some time Asvathama prayed Siva: “O Mahadeva, If I could get over this calamity, I will offer myself by jumping into fire.”. Asvathama looked around. He found a golden altar in front of him with blazing fire. Several Pramadha Ganas were coming out of that sacred fire.
Asvathama was worshipping Lord Siva with great devotion. But Lord Siva did not appear before him. Asvathama intended to jump into that fire. Asvathama put his bows, arrows, astras, sastras, all kinds of weapons in the fire. The fire was blazing violently.
“O Lord Siva! I am in a perplexed position. I could not decide what is good and what is bad, proper or improper, dharma or adharma. Kindly appear before me and give me sufficient strength to accomplish my desire. Otherwise, I will jump into the fire and immolate myself. Hara Hara Mahadevaaa.” Asvathama was about to jump into the fire. Lord Siva appeared before Asvathama and stopped him.
“O Asvathama! Stop . I am very much pleased with your greatest devotion and will power. Dont think that myself and Lord Krishna are different. Krishna will worship me and I like Sri Krishna. As you proceeded to kill Krishna, I foiled your attempt and delayed your attack by appearing before you as a demon. You cannot kill Krishna. You can kill others. Take this magnificent sword and massacre your enemies.” Siva gave him a powerful sword. Without the knowledge of Asvathama, Lord Siva entered into his body in invisible form.
Now Asvathama was blazed up with great courage and energy. He returned back to his chariot. All his bows, arrows, astras and sastras which were burnt in fire, were in tact. Meanwhile, Kripacharya and Kritavarma joined Asvathama. All of them proceeded towards the camps of Pandavas. While Lord Siva was blazing in the body of Asvathama, Pramadha Ganas also followed him in invisible form. All of them entered Pandava camps.
Asvathama kept Kripacharya and Kritavarma at the main entrance, and he alone entered the camp of Dhrishtadyumna. The magnificent sword given by Lord Siva was shining in his hand.First he entered the camp of Dhrushtadyumna. Dhrushtadyumna was in sound sleep. The eyes of Asvathama was burning with great wrath. At the same time he was overjoyous as he was going to kill the killer of his father.
Asvathama kicked Asvathama with his leg and woke him up. Asvathama threw him down and put his knee on his chest. Asvathama was fisting Dhrushtadyumna on his chest. Dhrushtadyumna remained speechless for this unexpected incident. Asvathama took out the thread tied to his bow and tied it around the neck of Dhrushtadyumna. Asvathama was strangling the neck of Dhrushtadyumna. Asvathama was kicking him on his chest, neck,back and thighs. Dhrishtadyumna could understand the position.
“Asvathama! kill me....kill me with all your astras and sastras. Dont kill me like a beast.” prayed Dhrushtadyumna with folded hands.
“No. No. you killed my father. You should not be killed like a hero. You should not be allowed to get higher regions after your death. I will kill you in this manner.” said Asvathama, kicking him on his chest.
By that time, other warriors sleeping in the neighbouring camps woke up. At that time, Asvathaama was fully drenched with blood. They thought that Asvathaama was a Rakshasa. Nobody came forward to attack him and rescue Dhrishtadyumna. Asvathama cruelly killed Dhrushtadyumna by kicking him with hands and lelgs and tightening the thread tied around his neck. Dhrushtadyumna was dead. Asvathama removed the thread and again tied it to his bow.
Asvathama came out of the camp of Dhrishtadyumna and proceeded towards other camps. The other warriors and soldiers who were staring at Asvathama, raised hue and cry and began to shout loudly. On hearing their cries, all the warriors and soldiers in other camps also woke up. They were in a perplexed state. They did not know what was happening. The guards posted at the camps told them: “Whether he is a Rakshasa or a human being, we know not what he is.. Having slain Dhrishtadyumna, he went that side”
On hearing them, all the warriors began to shout: “Catch him....dont leave him..kill him.... stab him...” They all ran behind Asvathama and surrounded him. With the weapon given byRudra, Asvathama killed all of them in a moment.
Then he entered the camp of Uttamouja. Asvathama caught hold of his tuft, dragged him to the ground and cut his head with the knife. Beholding this, Yudhamanyu attacked Asvathama. Asvathama cut the head of Yudhamanyu with the same knife.
Beholding this, none were dare enough to attack Asvathama. Asvathama’s body was drenched in blood. Even by staring at Asvathama, several soldiers had their last breath. Asvathama entered the camps of Princes of Drupada and killed all of them and consigned them to the abode of Yama. Asvathama massacred horses, elephants, soldiers mercilessly. He did not distinguish whether he is a man or beast. The scene was so terrific as if Mruthyu was dancing there with its full vigour.
While Asvathama was entering each and every camp and massacring the soldiers, horses and elephants, all were shouting and crying that some demon entered the camps and massacring the soldiers. On hearing those shouts, Sikhandi, sons of Droupadi, accompanied by their forces, surrounded Asvathama. Asvathama looked at them. Rudra who was in the body of Asvathama enraged with great wrath. He cut the heads of all Panchalas.
When Prativindhya attacked him, Asvathama cut his body into two pieces. Srutasoma, son of Bhima, roaring like a lion, attacked Asvathama. Asvathama cut the sword of Srutasoma and also cut Srutasoma into pieces. Beholding this, Sataaneeka, son of Nakula rushed against Asvathama and hurled his Chakrayudha (disc like weapon).Asvathama pulled Sataaneeka from out of his chariot dragged him and cut his head. Meanwhile, Srutasena, son of Sahadeva stood before Asvathama with great wrath and struck Asvathama with his huge mace. Asvathaama struck the face of Srutasena with his palm. The face of Srutasoma was crushed into pieces and he died. Even Srutakeerti, son of Arjuna, beholding the deaths of his brothers, also could not stand before Asvathama. His head was cut by Asvathama with the divine sword given byRudra. In this manner, all the sons of Droupadi were slain by Asvathama.
Now it was the turn of Sikhandi to be killed. Sikhandi, accompanied by Prabhadrakas, could stand before Asvathama for some time. There was a fiercest battle between them. But Sikhandi could not stand any longer before the supernatural powers of Asvathama. Asvathama cut Sikhandi into two pieces. Asvathama massacred all Prabhadrakas. When once the sword given by Rudra was raised, several heads were rolling on earth. In this manner, all Panchalas, their forces, Prabradhakas, sons of Droupadi, their forces, their horses, elephants were killed mercilessly, without leaving anything, alive.
But some Pandava soldiers fled away. Asvathama began to chase them. Some elephants and horses also were found running towards the main gate. Some soldiers were being crushed under the feet of running elephants. In that melee, nobody knows what was happening. The soldiers were killing each other. There was a great pandemonium. All were running towards the main entrance where Kripacharya and Kritavarma were standing. Both of them began to cut the heads of all the soldiers. horses and elephants, who were coming near the main entrance with all kinds of weapons.
It was dawn atthat time. There was a great silence. All are dead. Asvathama met Kritavarma and Kripacharya. “O Uncle Kripacharya, my dear friend Kritavarma! All the Panchalas are dead. All the sons of Droupadi are dead. All the sons of Panchala Kings are dead. The armed forces of Panchalas, Matsyas, Prabhadrakas were massacred. None remained alive. All the beasts like horses, elephants were killed. But, Krishna, Pandavas, Satyaki are alive. I could not find them. I do not where they have gone.” said Asvathama.
Kritavarma and Kripacharya acclaimed the heroic deeds of Asvathama.
“Uncle Kripacharya! I killed each every one except Pandavas. Unless I kill Pandavas, the soul of Suyodhana will not rest in peace. What is the use of killing others except Pandavas?” said Asvathama in a distressed mood.
“Asvathama! dont be distressed. In one night. you have killed Dhrushtadyumna, Sikhandi, Upa Pandavas, their armies, without leaving anybody alive. Is it an ordinary task.” acclaimed Kripacharya.
“Uncle Kripacharya! let all of us go to King Suyodhana and tell himwhat had happened. His soul will rest in peace.” said Asvathama.
All of them proceeded to the place where Suyodhana was lying on the ground.At that time, Suyodhana was rolling on the bloodstained surface of the earth, with heavy breathing. His lives were not leaving his body. He was almost at the threshold of the abode of Yama. His hands and legs were losing their strength. At that time, Asvathama hurriedly arrived there. Beholding Suyodhana, he could not control his sorrow.
“O King Suyodhana! you ruled the entire earth. Now you are rolling on the bare earth, unattended. It is nothing but fate. Your vigour, your valour, your strength, your bravery, your skills in macefight, all of them have gone waste. King Suyodhana! you are leaving this body in the holy place of Samantaka Panchaka. You will get higher regions.
Suyodhana! you are my god father. You brought me up since my childhood by giving food and shelter. You provided me sufficient funds for performing several Yagas and Yajnas. Now, you are dying while I am alive. What can I do Suyodhana? How can I serve you? You fought for a just cause till your death. We three are so fortunate in accomplishing your last wish.
When you happen to reach the higher regions, you tell my father “Dronacharya! your son, Asvathama, killed the wretch, Dhrishtadyumna, as if he was a beast.”. You hug my father, Drona on my behalf. Suyodhana you convery my best wishes to Bahlika, Somadatta, Bhoorisravasa and Saindhava, who have already adorned higher regions.
O Suyodhana! In this great anguish, I have forgotten the important matter to be reported to you. I will tell you what had happened yesterday night.
O King Suyodhana! I will tell you some words which are equivalent to divine drink, Amrutha. Yesterday night, at dawn, I entered the camps of our enemy troops. First, I entered the camp of Dhrishtadyumna and killed him like a beast. Then I killed all his friends and relatives. I also killed all the sons of Droupadi and their respective troops. I massacred all the Pandava forces. I killed all the horses, elephants and foot soldiers mercilessly. Suyodhana! I could not find Sri Krishna and Pandavas anywhere. Expecting my arrival, Krishna might have moved them to a safer place. Suyodhana! Except Pandavas, Sri Krishna and Satyaki, all are dead. Without the help of Kripachayra and Kritavarma, I would not have fulfilled this great task” told Asvathama in his own way.
With great difficulty,Suyodhana opened his mouth and said: “Asvathama! You have done a great heroic thing than what had been done by Great Warriors like Bhishma, Drona and Karna. I praised Karna and Salya as great heroes. But till my death, you are by my side and accomplished my last wish. I wish you all long life and prosperity. Let us meet again in heaven” so saying King Suyodhana breathed his last breath.
Suyodhana who was responsible for this great massacre was dead. His greediness, covetousness, aggrandizement, have taken away his life. His mortal body was lying on the bare ground filled with mud and dust.
Asvathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarma, walked around his body three times, and then left that place on their respective chariots. Next day morning, after sun rise, I left that place and arrived here to tell you what had happened.” said Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra.
In this manner, Soota, the story teller, told Saint Sounaka and other great sages and saints in Naimisaranya, the story of Mahabharata, as told by Saint Vaisampayana to Janamejaya.