(This article is published by Santosh Kumar Raja)
In Indian mythology, I think there is no other name that evokes more curiosity, mystery and mixed feelings than that of Ashwatthama. If you punch in “Ashwatthama” in google or any other search engine, you will get umpteen sites, videos, TV channel programs and legends about Ashwatthama each describing a different aspect. But why so much of curiosity, is this because he is called a chiranjeevi or because he is still alive and many people have claimed to have seen him?
Most of us look at Ashwatthama with a negative trait, mainly because of the popular story of Krishna cursing Ashwatthama, when he has deviated the Brahmashirsha astra towards the womb of Uttara, killing the baby in the womb. They say that Krishna has ordered Bhima to pluck the Gem stone from his forehead and then cursed Ashwatthama for 3000+ years that he will roam in the forests with blood and puss oozing out of his injuries and cry for death. He will have neither any hospitality nor any accommodation; he will be in total isolation without any contact of physical communication from mankind and society. The wound caused by the removal of this gem on his forehead will not heal and his body will suffer from a host of incurable diseases forming sores and ulcers that would never heal for 3000 years.
While the above story depicts the gloomier side, let us also look at many other prominent positive beliefs associated with Ashwatthama.
It is quite a popular belief, that in order to get long life, luck, fame, health and prosperity following mantra should be recited every day in the morning
“Ashwathaama Balir Vyaso Hanumanash cha Vibhishana Krupacharya cha Parashuramam Saptatah Chirjeevanam”
Key thing to observe here is that the mantra starts with Ashwatthama and then followed by the names of other chiranjeevi’s.
Another legend is about Kumara Vyasa (original name Narayanappa), who is considered as a one of the greatest poets of Karnataka and has written Mahabharata epic in Kannada also known as “Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari”. There are many popular stories in rural Karnataka, that Kumara Vyasa has written Mahabharata, while Ashwatthama narrated the entire story to him. This version of Mahabharata slightly differs from that of Vyasa Mahabharata.
when Ashwatthama was very young, his parents did not had enough money to buy either a cow or cow milk. Youn Ashwatthama was so clever that he understood the predicament of his parents and prayed to Lord Shiva for milk. Lord Shiva was so happy with Ashwatthama’s prayer that he provided with milk that dripped on the shiva linga in the cave where they lived. This temple is called Tapkeshwar Temple and located near Dehradun.
Ashwatthama is also quoted as one of Saptarishis of the 8th Manvantara. Reference Wikipedia. The following are quoted as Saptarishis of next Manvantara (Surya’s son Savarnya will the Manu of 8th Manvantara):
Ashwatthama, Rishyashringa, Kripacharya, Galav, Shatanand, Kaashyapa and Parashurama
The following question always intrigued me that on one side they say the Ashwatthama was cursed by Lord himself for 3,000 years and on the other side they say that uttering his very name every day in the morning will bestow, good luck, health prosperity and few have gone to the extent of claiming that he will be the Saptarishi of the next Manvantara. Are these two not contradictory? So how did someone who was cursed by Lord himself could raise to this stature? Did he suffer the impact of the curse or was he able to find sapa vimochana?
Let us look at the lineage of Ashwatthama:
Paternal side: Ashwatthama’s father was Guru Drona who is son of Great Sage Bharadhwaja. (Bharadhwaja is one of the Saptarishi’s of our current Manvantara). Bharadhwaja himself was grandson of Great Sage Angirasa (Angirasa is quoted to be Saptarishi of first Manvantara).
Maternal Side: Ashwatthama mother is Kripi, who is daughter of Rishi Shardwan. Rishi Shardwan was son of Gautama Maharishi. (Gautam Maharishi is Saptarishi of this Manvantara)
Ashwatthama hails from a very strong lineage and from a family of Saptarishis both on Paternal and Maternal side.
Some other important Facts to consider about him are, both his parents were ayonij, as they were not born out of human womb. Guru Drona was born in a vessel made of leaves and hence the name Drona. Similarly, Kripi is born out of the Vitality of Sage Shardwan. Guru Drona meditated and did a severe penance to Lord Shiva to have a son who should be an avatar of Lord Shiva himself. Hence, Ashwatthama is considered as 12th Rudra by many as he is a Shivamsh. (Amsha of Shiva). When Ashwatthama was born he made a loud cry like Indra’s horses, he was named as Ashwatthama by an akashvani. He was born with a gem stone on his head, which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans; it protects him from hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Guru Drona and Kripi loved their son very much and Ashwatthama also had tremendous love for his parents. In his childhood Ashwatthama suffered severe poverty and his parents did not have enough money to buy milk for him. Though he fought on the Kaurava side, he was never been part of the wicked four (Duryodhana, Karna, Shakuni, Dusshasana) and he always advised Duryodhana to make friendship with Pandavas. He was one of the Maharathis’s in Mahabharata on the likes of Karna, Arjuna, Bhishma, Drona etc and was made the commander in chief on the last day of the war. Ashwatthama was the only warrior in Mahabharata, after Drona, who had knowledge of Narayana Astra. Ashwatthama lost his mental balance when his father was killed by his enemies by uttering a lie and when he was in a meditative posture, dropping all the arms. He could not bear this tragic event and thought Pandavas killed his father in an unfair way. After the end of the Mahabharata war he killed most of the Pandava army including upa-pandavas in the darkness of the night.
Legends on how did Ashwatthama bypass the Curse:
Legend says that Ashwatthama has approached his Parama Guru ie Parashurama (who is also incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a great Shakta and Guru of his father, Drona) for help after being cursed by Lord Krishna. Parashurama along with Durvasa Maharishi, have initiated him into Shakti Worship. Divine Mother Lalitha Devi is pure consciousness and is Śiva-śakty-aikya-rūpiṇī. She is mother of Trinity and by praying to Divine Mother, Ashwatthama was able to bypass the curse of Lord Krishna. This in line with the statement that if “God is angry with you, Guru can help but if Guru gets angry with you then even God cannot help”. SriVidya Sadhana, his dedication, Guru’s grace has helped him raise to the stature of a Great Sage.
In our Guru Parampara, Ashwatthama is considered as Maharishi who was initiated in Shakti worship by Mahasrishi Durvasa, though many people and even many lineages which traditionally practice SriVidya, do not associate or give reference of Ashwatthama with Shakti worship. Ashwatthama Guruji, has initiated our Parama Guru in Shakti worship in Himalayas and taught secrets of Mahashodasi and Sri Vidya Sadhana. He has given the divine secret of Atma Bija, replacing the 2nd Om in Mahashodasi with Atma Bija of Sadhaka for faster progress.
It is my own experience that when I invoke my Guru Mandala and do Sri Vidya Sadhana, could feel the presence of Ashwatthama Guruji and his energy many times. Another disciple had the experience of seeing his astral body clearly during meditation and hear Guruji hum “Om”.
There is a large photo of Ashwatthama Guruji at our Parama Guruji’s house, from which sacred Ash (Vibhuti) gushes out on his birthday star every year. I myself collected the sacred ash from that photo and it has a very divine fragrance and unique colour (not the regular colour of Ash). It is humanly not possible to create such a Divine Fragrance.
We invoke Ashwatthama Guruji through the following mantra and could immediately feel his presence.
ब्रह्मपुत्रोज्वलभुजः क्षिरकृष्णा अजिनांभरः।
अश्वत्थामा चिरजीवी रक्षमाम् मेंप्रभु॥
brahmaputrojvalabhujaḥ kṣirakṛṣṇā ajināṁbharaḥ |
aśvatthāmā cirajīvī rakṣamām meṁprabhu ||
Purpose: The main purpose of this article is to inspire readers to think about, what it would have taken for a man, who has been cursed by Lord himself to grow to a stature of Maharishi. It requires more than mettle, determination and Divine & Guru’s Grace. It also provides a glimpse of how powerful and supreme, SriVidya Sadhana is and how one can overcome all their difficulties.
I feel all our hurdles, problems we face (with respect to health, wealth, relations) is nothing compared to what Ashwattham Maharishi has gone through and we should also be inspired to practice surrender to our Guru and Divine mother and attain Her.
Image of Ashwatthama, from which Sacred ash gushes Ashwathama meditating for Lord Shiva (Tapakeshwar Temple)