In Naimisaranya, on the occasion of Satrayaga, Soota, the story teller, told the story of Mahabharata to Sounaka and other great sages and saints, as told by Saint Vaisampayana to King Janamejaya.
Next day, Dharmaja was sitting in his inner apartment, surrounded by Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva, Satyaki and Sri Krishna and was discussing about their future plans. At that time, the chariot driver of Dhrishtadyumna arrived there. Bowing his head to ground, he stood before them with folded hands.
He told Dharmaja thus: “O King Dharmaja! yesterday,
midnight, Asvathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarma entered our camps. Kripacharya
and Kritavarma took positions at the entrance. Asvathama entered the
camp of Dhrishtadyumna and killed him. Then Asvathama killed all the
brothers and sons of Dhrishtadyumna, Sikhandi, five sons of Droupadi,
while they were all in deep sleep. None could stand before him alive.
Some warriors escaped from his wrath and ran towards the main entrance.
But, Kripacharya and Kritavarma who were standing there killed all of
them mercilessly. Not even a single soldier remained alive. All the
elephants, horses were killed by those three warriors. When Kritavarma
caught me, I fell on his feet and prayed for mercy. As I am only a chariot
driver, I was left. I have come over here to report what had happened.”
said the chariot driver of Dhrishtadyuna.
“Krishna! Deaths are quite common and natural in war. I conquered all our enemies and got the triumph. Everybody is in a jubilant and joyus mood, celebrating our victory. At this juncture, all our sons, relatives and friends were butchered while they were sleeping. It is as if one died in a small canal after swimming across the ocean. Droupadi lost his father, some days ago. Now she lost her brothers and sons. How can she withstand this grief and survive. Arjuna, send some messengers to Droupadi and inform her about the death of her sons and brothers.” said Dharmaja.
At that time, Droupadi and Subhadra were in Virata City. Droupadi went to Panchala city to console her mother, for the death of King Drupada. From there, she went to Virata City to console Sudheshna, for the death of King Virata. Subhadra remained there, to proceed to Dwaraka. Droupadi returned back to Upaplavya. Dharmaja asked Nakula to proceed immediately to Upaplavya to bring Droupadi and other ladies. Immediately, Nakula proceeded to Upaplavya.
Dharmaja, accompanied by Sri Krishna and Satyaki,
lamenting for the deaths of his sons and other relatives, returned back
to the Pandava camps. Beholding his sons, grandsons, and friends all
slain in battle, the King’s soul became overwhelmed with great
grief. Senseless and trembling, his eyes were filled with tears. Sri
Krishna and Arjuna consoled him. Dharmaja performed the funeral ceremonies
for all the dead bodies. He sat there, waiting for the arrival of Droupadi.
She looked at Dharmaja. “O Dharmaja! What is this tragedy? You have got a tremendous triumph over your enemies, but you are deprived of the pleasure of enjoying with your sons. Few days back Abhimanyu was killed. Now all my sons are killed. Will there not be an end for this heart burning? How Asvathama could kill my sons brutally? O King Dharmaja! while my sons were in deep and sound sleep, Asvathama, son of your preceptor, Drona, killed them cruelly and mercilessly. There is no other way except to kill Asvathama. O King Dharmaja! I will send Bhimasena now itself to kill Asvathama. Otherwise, I will immolate myself by doing Prayopavesa.” Droupadi told Dharmaja firmly.
Dharmaja tried to console her. “O Droupadi! It is quite natural for Kshatiryas to be killed in battle. Your sons and brothers were killed in the battle. They attained higher regions in heaven. You need not grieve for their death. I know your anger will not subside unless Asvathama is killed. But Asvathama has gone to forests. Even if he is killed, how can you know about his death.” said Dharmaja.
“O King Dharmaja! I know that he got a mysterious diamond on his head, born with him. If that diamond is brought and shown to me, I believe that he is dead. Bhimasena! remember the duties of a Kshatriya! Kill Asvathama and bring the diamond. Thereis no one in this world who is equal to you in prowess. Remember the prowess you have shown while all of you were burnt alive in wax house; the courage you have shown while killing Hidimbasura; the vigour you have shown while you fought with Yakshas; the valour you got while killing Kichaka. Kill Asvathama -- the entire world will acclaim you.” Droupadi provoked Bhimasena.
On hearing the words of Droupadi, Bhimasena was enraged with great wrath. He could not control himself. He asked Nakula to drive his chariot. Bhimasena jumped into the chariot and proceeded towards Kurukshetra. Bhimasena enquired about the whereabouts of Asvathama. He was informed that Asvathama, Kripacharya and Kritavarma proceeded towards Hastinapura. From there, they returned back and proceeded towards the river Ganges. On the way, Kripacharya and Kritavarma were separated from Asvathama and proceeded in their own way. Asvathama proceeded towards the Ashram of Saint Vyasa. Bhimasena immediately proceeded towards the Ashram of Saint Vyasa.
After Bhimasena left in search of Asvathama, Sri Krishna told Dharmaja thus: “O King Dharmaja! Bhimasena alone rushed towards Asvathama to kill him. But, Bhimasena could not withhold the prowess of Asvathama. One more thing. Drona, gave a most powerful Astra called Brahma Sironamaka Astra which is capable of consuming the whole world, to his son, Asvathama. Drona also gave the same Brahma Sironamaka Astra to Arjuna also. While giving that Astra, Drona cautioned his son, Asvathama, not to launch that Astra against human beings, even when he was overtaken by the greatest danger. Besides that, Drona only imparted the knowledge of how to launch Brahma Sironamaka Astra to Asvathama but not to retrieve it. But Asvathama is a man of pride and he does not care for anybody, leave alone his father.
While you were in forests, one day, Asvathama came down to Dwaraka. He told me thus: “O Krishna! In the ancient times, Brahma gave Brahma Sironamaka Astra to Agastya. Agastya gave that Astra to my father, Drona. My father gave it to me. Now I will give that Astra to you. In return, will you give me your Chakra weapon.” asked Asvathama.
I smiled at him. I have shown him all my weapons viz., my bow, arrows, sword, mace, and Chakra Ayudha and asked him to choose whatever he likes, provided he should have such power and energy to handle them and use them in proper manner. I also told him not to give anything in return because he is my friend. But Asvathama insisted to take Chakra Ayudha. Asavathama tried to lift Chakra Ayudha with his left hand. It did not move. He used his right hand also. No use. He could not move Chakra Ayudha even an inch, by using his entire power and energy. He was tired.
Then I told Asvathama: “My friend Asvathama! I did penance on the Himalayan Mountains, along with my wife, Rukmini, by observing strict BrahmaCharya, for a period of 12 years. Then only I could acquire this weapon. With the power of this Chakra Weapon, Deva, Danava, Gandharva and other beings are no match to me. Even my brother, Balarama, my sons Pradyumna and Samba or even the yadava warriors did not aspire for this weapon. Arjuna did penance about Lord Siva and acquired Pasupata Astra. He also acquired Gandeevam, white Horses, and Kapi Dhwaja. Arjuna is my heart and soul. If he asks anything, I say no. Even then, Arjuna did not ask me about this weapon. But, being the son of a great preceptor, Drona, you are asking for this weapon. Is it proper? Asvathama, tell me for what sake and to fight with whom, you require this weapon?” I asked Asvathama.
“Krishna! if yougive me this Chakrayudha, I will convince you to fight with me. I will fight with you and launch this Chakrayudha against you. This is my wish. But you do not want to part with Chakrayudha. Keep it for yourself. In the ensuing war, I will fight with you even without Chakrayudha.” said Asvathama.
I was greatly amused at his words. As Asvathama was a Brahmin, I gave numerous presentations and gifts to him. Dharmaja! Asvathama is a man of great pride and anger, because he is having that great Astra. He is so cruel. He will mercilessly kill Bhimasena with that Astra. My intention is that Bhimasena should not suffer at the hands of Asvathama” said Krishna.
Krishna kept Satyaki and Sahadeva at their camps to protect Droupadi. Himself, Dharmaja and Arjuna proceeded in search of Bheemasena. On the way, they met Bhimasena. All of them proceeded towards Vyasa Ashram. They found Asvathama, on the banks of ganges, in deep meditation. Bhimasena was enraged with great wrath.
“O Asvathama! a wretch in Brahmin community! fake sanyasi! Having done such a great massacre last night, how can you become a saint next day morning? Can you avoid death by sitting in meditation? Get up. Fight with me.” Bhimasena roared like a lion.
Asvathama got up. Beholding Bhimasena, Arjuna and Sri Krishna, Asvathama picked up a blade of grass with his left hand. He inspired that blade of grass with Mantras and coverted it into that powerful celestial weapon, Brahma Sironamaka Astra. Asvathama uttered in wrath these terrible words “For the destruction of Pandavas”. Having said these words, Asvathama let off that weapon. A fire then was born in that blade of grass, which seemed capable of consuming three words. There was a terrible blast.
Beholding Arjuna, Krishna said: “O Arjuna! That is Brahma Sironamaka Astra. No other Astra can neutralize it except the same Astra. Time has come for the use of that celestial weapon which is in your memory and knowledge of which was imparted to you by your preceptor, Drona. For protecting yourself and your brothers, shoot that weapon which is capable of neutralising Brahma Sironamaka Astra.” said Krishna.
Arjuna got down the chariot. Took up his Gandeeva. He memorized Brahma Sironamaka Astra. “I am using this Astra only to neutralise Brahma Sironamaka Astra shot by Asvathama and also to protect myself my brothers and also Asvathama.” Then he launched that celestial Astra.
Brahma Sironamaka Astra, rose to the sky and tried to neutralize the Astra shot by Asvathama. Both Astras dashed against each other. There were terrible flames within a huge sphere of fire. Numerous peals of thunder were heard; thousands of meteors fell and all living creatures became inspired with great dread. The entire welkin seemed to be filled with noise and flames of fire.
Beholding this unexpected havoc, Saint Narada came running to Vyasa. Both of them arrived at the spot where Arjuna and Asvathama were standing.
“O Arjuna and Asvathama! So far, several Kings and Emperors were born and ruled this earth. None launched Brahma Sironamaka Astra on inhabitant areas. What act of rashness is this?” asked Veda Vyasa.
Arjuna bowed down before Vyasa and said: “O Great Saints, Narada and Vyasa! Asvathama shot that celestial astra intending to kill myself and my brothers. At the command of Krishna, with a view to neutralise that Astra, I also launched Brahma Sironamaka Astra. It is not my intention to destroy the inhabitant areas. If you desire, I will withdraw the Astra launched by me, in which eventuality, the Astra launched by Asvathama will destroy all of us. You have to think about our welfare also.” said Arjuna.
So saying Arjuna, withdrew the celestial Astra launched by him.
“Asvathama! you also withdraw that celestial Astra launched by you” directed Vyasa.
“O Saint Vyasa! I am incapable of withdrawing that celestial astra. This wretch, Bhimasena shamelessly killed my lord, Suyodhana, in a very sinful manner. Not satisfied with that, he came here in search of me and tried to kill me. As a measure of self defence, I launched Brahma Sironamaka Astra. I do not know how to withdraw the said weapon. It will certainly destroy Pandavas. I have, in wrath, done this sinful deed.” said Asvathama.
“Asvathama! your father imparted that celestial astra to Arjuna also. But Arjuna never intended to harm you. Arjuna launched Brahma Sironamaka Astra only to neutralise your Astra. At my request, Arjuna withdrew his Astra. Arjuna is possessed of such patience and honesty. You cannot kill Arjuna. Do you know the serious repercussions caused by this Sironamaka Astra. Whereever it is launched, there will be severe draught and famine in that area for twelve years. Therefore, by whatever means, you have to withdraw this weapon. Now you are a saint. Shed your anger and hatredness. You are having a diamond on your head. Give that diamond to Arjuna. Arjuna in return will forgive you. By parting with that diamond, you are halfdead. This is an amicable formula. Do as I say!” said Veda Vyasa.
“O Saint Vyasa! Are diamonds are quite new to Pandavas. They have plundered the entire wealth and treasure of King Suyodhana. Do they still require my diamond. But, O Saint Vyasa! this is not an ordinary diamond. Whoever is in possession of this diamond will never feel hunger, thrist, sleep and diseases. They are never afraid of thieves or demons. How can I give such a powerful diamond to Pandavas. But, O Saint Vyasa, I cannot go beyond your word. I am giving this diamond to you.
Now listen to me. The Brahma Sironamaka Astra, shot by me, will cause harm to all the existing pregnancies in the wombs of all Pandava women. Hence I am directing this Astra into the wombs of all the Pandava women.” said Asvathama.
“Let it be done. Don’t entertain any other purpose. Stop yourself by throwing this Astra into the wombs of the Pandava women.” said Vyasa.
Asvathama thought for a while. He could realise the flaw in his promise. For the present, none of the wives of Pandavas were pregnant. Therefore, his word will become futile.
“O Saint Vyasa! By saying “the women of Pandavas”, I mean, not only the wives of Pandavas, the wives of their sons, son’s sons and son’s son’s sons. My Astra will destroy all the pregnancies borne by all Pandava women.” Asvathama changed his word.
Krishna was observing the conversation betwen Vyasa and Asvathama. Now Krishna intervened. “Asvathama! You are already inflicted with great sin by killing all the sons and grand sons of Pandavas while they were sleeping. Now you want to destory the pregnancies of their women also. I desire to save atleast one pregnancy to continue the Pandava clan. Therefore, save one pregnancy and destroy the rest.” requested Krishna.
“Krishna, I know what is passing on in your mind. You always speak in favour of Pandavas. I know you are trying to save the pregnancy of Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. If you try to save her, I will destory that pregnancy also with my celestial weapon.” said Asvathama.
“You cannot. Asvathama! You cannot destroy that pregnancy. At any cost, I will save that pregnancy. I am giving longer life to the child lying in the womb of Uttara.” said Krishna firmly.
“It is impossible Krishna. You can do as you like” said Asvathama. Without caring for the words of Saint Vyasa and Krishna, Asvathama directed his Brahma Sironamaka Astra towards all pregnancies of Pandava women, including Uttara.
“Asvathama! The child lying in the womb of Uttara has already been saved by the words of a virtuous brahmin. One day, a virtuous brahmin of pious vows, beholding Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu, while she was in Upaplavya, said: ‘O pious lady, while the Kuru line will become extinct, a son will be born to you. He will be called Parikshit. He will rule the entire earth.’ Therefore, Asvathama, the words of that pious brahmin will never become futile. Even though the child in the womb of Uttara is burnt by energy of your weapon, I shall revive him and give him long life. Thereore, Pandava clan will never become extinct. The son born to Uttara will be the King and Emperor of Kuru line.” said Krishna.
When Asvathama was about to say some thing, Krishna, with great wrath, cursed Asvathama. “O Killer of the sons of Pandavas! You have killed children, youth and old indiscriminately while they were sleeping. Therefore, from today on wards, you will be deprived of your daily food. None will help you. The stench of pus and blood shall emanate from your body and inaccessible forests shall be your abode. Like this, you will live for 3000 years, wandering throughout the world. But the child saved by me will rule this earth for ever. His son, Janamejaya, will also rule this earth. This is certain.” said Krishna.
“O Asvathama! you were born in Brahmin community but followed Kshatriya order. You did not listen to my words. The curse of Krishna will be implemented.” said Vyasa.
“Vyasa! I am also giving you a curse. You will always live amongst humans.” said Asvathama.
Then Asvathama removed the diamond from his head and gave it to Arjuna. Then Asvathama proceeded into the forests for doing penance. Pandavas and Krishna took leave from Vyasa and arrived at the Pandava camps where Droupadi was waiting for their arrival.
Bhimasena gave the diamond to Droupadi. “Droupadi! We have completed our mission and brought the diamond. As Asvathama is the son of our preceptor, Drona, Arjuna was not willing to kill him. Hence he grabbed his diamond. Even if he is alive physically, he is dead by all means. Console yourself and console Dharmaja.” said Bhimasena.
Beholding the diamond in her hand, looking at Dharmaja,
Droupadi said: “O King Dharmaja! I feel it a great pleasure to
have this diamond in my hand. You are the proper person to possess it”.
So saying, Droupadi gave that diamond to Dharmaja. With the great devotion
and reverence he had towards Drona and Asvathama, he kept it on his
head as a mark of respect.
Dharmaja asked Sri Krishna: “O Krishna! Even in strength, power, vigour, valour and prowess, sons of Droupadi, Dhrishtadyumna and Sikhandi excels Asvathama in all respects. How could he kill all of them, over night, singlehanded. Is there any special reason. Kindly tell me.” asked Dharmaja. Krishna told Dharmaja thus:
“O King Dharmaja! I know Maha Siva very well. He has no beginning, middle and end. He creates, sustains and terminates all living beings. The entire universe acts and moves through his energy.
Once, Brahma asked Maha Siva: “Create living creatures, without delay!”.
Maha Siva said: “So be it. But to accomplish any desire, devition and tapassu are quite essential. Hence I will do Tapassu.”. So saying Maha Siva began to perform Tapassu in deep waters.
Thousands of years have elapsed. Maha Siva did not come out. Brahma lost his patience. Without the help of Maha Siva, Brahma invoked into existence another being for making him the creator of all kinds of living beings. He was called Daksha.
Daksha asked Brahma: “If there be no being born before me, then I will create living creatures.”.
Brahma replied: “There is no other first born being besides you. Lord Siva is in deep meditation in a pond. Go and create living creatures.”
Then Daksha created all living creatures but did not provide them food. Afflicted with hunger, all the living creatures were desirous of devouring him. Realising the mistake, Brahma created herbs, plants, trees, shrubs, roots and fruits as food to the living beings. Weaker creatures were provided as food for stronger creatures. All the living creatures were satisfied with this arrangement. Since then, the creation was going on uninterruptedly through procreation process.
Meanwhile, Maha Siva completed his Tapassu and came out. Beholding that the entire universe was filled with living creatures and the procreation process was going on uninterruptedly, Maha Siva was enraged with great wrath. He thought that his genital organ which is not useful for creation is unnecessary. Mahasiva caused his procreative limb to disappear in the bowels of the Earth.
Beholding this, Brahma asked Maha Siva: “What is this? Why you have done like this?” asked Brahma.
“Only for the purpose of creation of living beings, I did penance in deep waters. By the time I returned from penance, somebody else has created all these creatures. What purpose would be served by this limb of mine ” said Maha Siva with great anger. Then he left that place for Malyavanta hill for penance.
The procreative limb of Maha Siva was shining and looking beautiful. Indra and other divine bodies began to worship it. In this manner, several thousands of years elapsed.
Once Indra and other divine bodies intended to perform a great yajna. They collected all requisites for the intended yajna. They determined those amongst themselves that should have a share in the sacrificial offerings. But no share was offered to Maha Siva. The Yajna was commenced.
Maha Siva came to know about this Yajna. He grew angry. He took up a long bow and rushed to the place where Yajna was being performed. Beholding the arrival of Maha Deva, the Goddess Earth shrunk with fear and mountains began to tremble. The wind ceased to move and fire ceased to flame. Sun and moon lost their shining. All the divine bodies fled away with fear. The sacred fire ceased to blaze. The sages and saints who were performing Yajna were all terrified. Maha Siva struck that Yajna with his bow. Yajna along with the sacred fire fled away. Yajna was stopped. Maha Siva broke the teeth of Poosha and broke the hands of Savita and pierced into the eyes of Bhagu. While the divine bodies were running away, Maha Siva restrained them with his long bow.
All the divine bodies fell on the feet of Maha Siva and pleaded for mercy. Yajna and the Sacred Fire also returned back and fell on the feet of Maha Siva. Maha Siva pardoned all of them. The teeth of Pushan, hands of Savita and the eyes of Bhagu were restored to their normal position. Maha Siva threw his anger into a pond which was dried up. All the divine bodies worshipped Maha Siva and provided a share in the Yajna. Then the Yajna was performed peacefully, without any interruption.
O Dharmaja! such is the power of Maha Siva. If Maha Siva opens his third eye the entire universe will be reduced to ashes. With his blessings only, all the living beings are living peacefully. With the blessings of Maha Siva only Asvathama could kill the sons of Droupadi, Dhrishtadyumna and Sikhandi. Therefore it is not prowess of Asvathama. Not only that, all the heroic deeds done by all of you viz., striking Bhishma, killing Drona, Karna and Salya, and Bhimasena discharing his promises by killing Dussasana and Suyodhana, are nothing but divine act and not your own heroic deed. Be happy with the victory. Dont go deep into it further. ” said Krishna.