Can you imagine a baby having a gem on his forehead? A gem that would give freedom from fatigue, hunger, thirst and all such weaknesses which are necessary for life otherwise. Can there ever be such a magical thing? If yes, who can have it and how? Well, the story dates back to the times when the Mahabharata had not yet begun.
You must have heard or read about the wonderful sage Dronacharya. He was the teacher of the Pandavas who fought in the battle of the Mahabharata from the Kaurava's side. He was a man highly respected but who had denied to accept Karna, the son of Kunti, as his student. Popularly known as Guru Drona, he performed deep meditation as part of a hard penance which he undertook to please Lord Shiva.
He wanted a son; an invincible one who would not be defeated by anybody. When pleased, Lord Shiva appeared before him, and asked him his wishes. Dronacharya expressed his desire for a very powerful son who would have no weaknesses.
Lord Shiva Pleased By His Penance
Lord Shiva fulfilled his wish by saying that his son would be a Chiranjeevi. Chiranjeevi in Hindi means "the immortal". Hence, Dronacharya's wife, Kripi gave birth to Ashwathama, who is today known as one of the Ashta Chiranjeevis (the eight immortals).
Prior to his birth his family lived a simple life, devoid of all the leisures, for his father was a sage. However, it is believed that it was the fortune of Ashwathama, after his birth, that transferred them to Hastinapur, where Dronacharya became the teacher of the Pandavas and Ashwathama learned the art of warfare while living with the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
Ashwathama As The Friend Of Duryodhana
Ashwathama was the only one who could dare to tell Duryodhana that he was wrong when he decided to wage a war against the Pandavas, for he knew the power of the Pandavas and that they will be supported by Lord Krishna, who himself is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Others feared even talking to the Kaurava prince, Duryodhana.
Ashwathama And The Mahabharata
While in the Kurukshetra Battle of the Mahabharata, both he and his father decided to support the Kauravas. Many had got killed in the battle when Duryodhana did not pay heed to his advises. However, considering himself a good friend of Duryodhana, he again suggested he should drop the idea of winning the battle.
Again ignoring his advises, Duryodhana appointed him as the commander-in-chief of his army. Now, Ashwathama was left with no option but to proceed and bring victory to the Kauravas. But all in vain, since he made three grave mistakes.
Three Mistakes Led To His Defeat
These three mistakes became a big reason for his defeat. First he killed the sons of the Pandavas while they were asleep, second, he used the Brahmastra on Arjuna and then finally he deviated the Brahmastra from Arjuna to Abhimanyu's pregnant wife. All these were no less than sins, as per the scriptures of Hinduism.
How He Met His Defeat
To avenge the death of their sons, the Pandavas shaved off his head, removed the divine gem which was the ultimate source of all his power. It is believed in the Shastras that humiliating the enemy by shaving off his head in front of all, while being held captive, is equivalent to killing him.
The Unhappy Fate Of The Fortunate Boy
Thus, the fortunate boy, who was born with the blessings from Lord Shiva and who had all the powers and no weakness, had to meet an unhappy fate because of his ill deeds, because he supported the Kauravas. This gives a big message for life. However good, great or lucky a man may be, his ultimate destiny is decided by his karmas.
He may be the most powerful on earth, or might have learned all the tactics of warfare, the ultimate goal has to be righteousness, which alone can give a true meaning to his life.