You won’t want to bump into a man who has survived a 5000 year old war and roams around with a wound dripping in blood, isn’t it?Neither me, of course!
But, what I am going to tell you is a hauntingly beautiful tale that is so bizarre that the first thing that you are going to do is-share this post with your best friend with an amusing comment!
India is a land of great contrasts.We have launched space missions, produce some of the brightest engineers, doctors and managers the world has seen but, we also live with stories that are downright unbelievable.
This is the haunting story of Ashwatthama-one of the greatest warriors in the Great War, also known as Mahabharata.
Shrouded in the mists of time, the Great War was fought among two sets of warring cousins ,the Kauravas and Pandavas on the fields of Kurukshetra, a place near Delhi.The Pandavas were five but the Kauravas were 100 in number and the size of the combined armies of the two parties was in millions. At stake was the kingdom of India.
The Pandavas were guided by Shri Krishna, one of the greatest philosophers and leaders that the world and India have seen while the Kauravas by the venerable Bhishma Pitamah and Guru Dronacharya. Bhishma was the great grandfather of the warring cousins and having abdicated the throne because of a promise to his step mother , was looked up by his family as the moral guiding force. Dronacharya was the Guru to the cousins and possessed vast skills in military tactics and leadership.
As it turned out, both the two gentlemen joined the Kauravas while Pandavas were led by Shri Krishna.
Guru Dronacharya had a son , Ashwatthama who was a great warrior too and had joined his father’s side in the war.Interestingly, there was another Ashwatthama, but, it was an elephant!
Well, the war started and the Kauravas were enjoying a strong edge in the war.It was difficult for the Pandavas to get an upper hand.
As the war carried on, it became increasingly evident to Shri Krishna that the commander of the Kauravas, Drona had to be finished.But, Drona was a tough nut to crack.So, Krishna devised a plan.He got Bhimsen , one of the Pandavas to finish the elephant.He had the power of ten thousand elephants!Once this was done, Krishna asked Yudhishthir, the eldest Pandava to declare Ashwatthama as dead. As Yudhishthira proclaimed the death of Ashwaththama, the Pandavas raised the din of their trumpets to unimaginable levels.The elder Pandava also added a question to his proclamation-Man or Elephant?Drona could only hera the first part of the proclamation, the added question was lost in the din.
Yudhishthira was the epitome of truth and everyone in the family trusted his sense of ethics.So, when Drona heard the first part of Yudhi’s proclamation, he was filled with grief- his son, Ashwatthama was dead!He laid down his arms and was immediately put to death by the Pandavas.
When,the son heard this tragic news , he was filled with rage and went on a murder spree , killing all the children of the Pandavas in the dead of the night.The children were all infants and quite obviously, the Pandavas were overcome with grief.
Krishna, thoroughly angered with this behaviour of Ashwatthama cursed him to an unending life of pain and misery, a life where no one will give him relief and a life of living dead, a spectre. Ashwatthama had a gem on his forehead that was stripped off by Krishna, leaving a perpetual wound with blood oozing out!
This war happened around 5000 years back!
Ashwaththama is back?
Asirgarh, is a quaint little place nearly in Central India and is prominent for its 1000 year old fort.It is deserted and is worn out, with weeds and jungles eating away the ancient doors and walls. A 1000 years back, it was of strategic importance as it connected the northern and southern parts of India through a narrow pass.
Nobody lives here and not a soul can be seen here .Except, for a gaunt man, with a flowing beard and tattered clothes.He has an open wound on his forehead and is sometimes accosting unsuspecting villagers around the fort for turmeric and mustard oil to dress up his wound.
In 1912, Swami Vasudevanad Saraswathi, in his autobiography, admitted meeting a person who introduced himself as Ashwaththama. His gait was different from that of a normal person so the Swami asked him, who are you?The stranger replied, I am Ashwaththama and I belong to a different time zone from yours.
There are numerous such hauntingly beautiful stories and it is tantalizing to believe all of them because of the mystery involved.If you asked me, I would neither believe nor disbelieve them.
Who could he be?The legendary fighter of the Great war?Or an impostor?