Reading Guide. You will now read what is one of the most shocking episodes in the entire Battle of Kurukshetra: Ashwatthaman, seeking vengeance for the death of Drona, will seek to kill the Pandavas while they sleep.
Source. The prose is from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913), and the verse is from Mahabharata, Epic of the Bharatas, by Romesh C. Dutt (1898). [400 words]
When night fell, the dying Duryodhana was visited on the battlefield by Ashwatthaman, son of Drona, and Kripa, and Kritavarman. Unto Ashwatthaman he gave permission to attack the Pandavas while yet they slumbered. Then Drona's son went forth in the darkness to glut his hunger for vengeance because that his sire had been slain. The pale stars looked down on the dead and the dying as Ashwatthamann crossed the battleplain and went stealthily towards the tents of his foemen, with Kripa and Kritavarman.
At the gate of the Pandava camp an awful figure rose up against the conspirators. Ashwatthamann was not afraid, and he fought with his adversary until he perceived that he was the god Shiva, the Blue-Throated Destroyer. Then Drona's son drew back, and on an altar he kindled a fire to worship the all-powerful deity. Then, having naught else to sacrifice, he cast his own body upon the flames. By this supremely pious act Shiva was propitiated; he accepted Drona's son and entered his body, saying, "Hitherto, for the sake of Krishna, have I protected the sons of Draupadi, but now their hour of doom hath come."
Then Ashwatthaman rushed into the camp and slaughtered with the cruel arm of vengeance.
Darkness fell upon the battle, proud Duryodhan dying lay,
But the slaughter of the combat closed not with the closing day:
Ancient feud and hatred linger after battle's sweeping flood,
And the father's deathless anger courseth in the children's blood.
Drona slept and gallant Drupad, for their earthly task was done:
Vengeance fired the son of Drona 'gainst the royal Drupad's son!
Sable shadows of the midnight fell o'er battle's silent plain,
Faintly shone the fitful planets on the dying and the slain,
And the vengeful son of Drona fired by omens dark and dread,
Stole into the tents of foemen with a soft and noiseless tread!
Dhristadyumna and Shikhandin, princes of Panchala's land,
Fell beneath the proud avenger Ashwatthaman's reeking hand,
Ay, where Drupad's sleeping grandsons, fair Draupadi's children lay,
Stole the cruel arm of vengeance, smothered them ere dawn of day!
Done the ghastly work of slaughter, Ashwatthaman bent his way
Where beside the limpid waters lone Duryodhan dying lay,
And Duryodhan blessed the hero with his feeble fleeting breath,
Joy of vengeance cheered his bosom and he died a happy death!