Reading Guide. One of the great moral crises of the Battle of Kurukshetra has to do with the death of Drona: the Pandavas resort to trickery in order to bring about their old guru's demise.
Source. Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [400 words]
As long as Ashwatthaman, the son of Drona, lived, it came to be believed that his father would never be conquered, for his love and hope for his son were sufficient to keep him filled with courage and energy. Bhima, therefore, being bent on the defeat of Drona, selected an elephant named Ashwatthaman and slew it with his own hands and then threw himself in his might on the Kuru front in the neighborhood of Drona, shouting, "Ashwatthaman is dead! Ashwatthaman is dead!"
Drona heard the words, and for the first time his stout heart sank. Yet not easily would he accept the news that was to be his death-blow. Unless it was confirmed by Yudhishthira, who was, he said, incapable of untruth, even for the sovereignty of the three worlds, he would never believe that Ashwatthaman was dead.
Making his way then to Yudhishthira, Drona asked him for the truth, and Yudhishthira answered in a clear voice, "Yes, O Drona! Ashwatthaman is dead!" And this he said three times. But after the word Ashwatthaman he said indistinctly each time the words "the elephant." These words, however, Drona did not hear. And up to this time the horses and wheels of Yudhishthira's chariot had never touched the earth. But after this untruth they came down a hand's-breadth and drove along the ground.
Then Drona, in his despair for the loss of his son, became unable to think of his divine weapons. Seeing, then, that the time had come, he charged the great bowmen who were about him as to how they were to conduct the battle, and laying down his own weapons, he sat down on the front of his chariot fixing his mind on itself.
At that very moment Dhrishtadyumna, the Pandava general, had seized his sword and leapt to the ground in order to attack Drona in personal combat. But before he touched him the soul of the Kuru general had gone forth, and to the few who had vision it appeared for a moment as if the sky held two suns at once. But none parried the blow of Dhrishtadyumna. The uplifted sword fell and cut off Drona's head, which was at once raised from the ground by his supposed slayer and tossed like a ball into the midst of the Kuru hosts. For a moment it seemed as if the army would break and flee. Then darkness came on, and wearily and mournfully all departed to their quarters.