How did a ciranjeevi Ashwatthama fight against the virtuous Pandavas?

by Chaitanya Charan dasJuly 28, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcriptionby-VandanaGoel and Keshav Gopal Das

Question– How did Ashwathama become chiranjeevi? Why did he fight on the side of Kauravas? What exactly was his position in the war?

Answer– The word chiranjeevi doesn’t mean eternal. Chira means for a long time. There are four levels of beings. That is martya, amara, chiranjeevi and nitya. Martya is we human beings. We have a finite and limited life span. In kaliyuga it is hundred at the most.amara also doesn’t mean eternal. Devatas are called Amara that means, as compared to human beings they live for a very long time. It is relatively seeking, it’s like immortality but it is not. Even Devatas are not.

Beyond that chiranjeevi refers to those who live for one day of brahma. That means for as long as Bramha lives, they live.

Nitya is those who are eternal. That means only those souls who go back to the spiritual world there they live eternally. Some people by their own past karmas have long life span. We see that in our life span; that some people die at the age of 20 or 30, some people may live for a age of 80-90 also, a long life. That is because of karma.

In the same way being chiranjeevi is also a result of past karma. Result of certain blessings that we have from God. Longevity of life span in itself is no indicator of virtue. It’s not that because somebody is chiranjeevi it means the person has to be virtuous.

Ashwathama is a character in the Mahabharata who is neither white nor black he is the shades of grey. But as the war progresses he moves more and more towards the black side. Yes, Drona and Ashwathama both chose to fight on the side of Kauravas and it was that both their reasons reinforced each other. In one sense Drona was the employee of the Kuru administration and he could not defect at the last moment. Because he had committed to the Kuru king, Kurumamat and KurumamatwasDuryodhana and Dhrithrashtra so he had to fight on their side.Ashwathama was friendly with the Duryodhana but that friendship was more because of a dislike for Arjuna than the like towards Duryodhana. It was not that Ashwathama was envious of Arjuna in the same way as Duryodhana was envious of Yudhishtara or Bhima. It was just that Ashwathama wanted to be the best student of Drona but Arjuna excelled him. That’s why, although he knew that Arjuna was a better warrior but still he did not like him very much.

So circumstantially both father and son fought against the pandvas but fought for the Kaurawas. Was it ___that he was chiranjeevi? What was known that he is amaharathi? He was such a formidable warrior and he fought many heroic wars. Infact Madhvaacharya says that in Madhavacharya in hisMahabharataTatparyaNirnaya says thatAshwathama was a extremely powerful warrior. And he was almost as formidable as Bhima.Madhvacharya says that Bhima to be the most fearful warrior in the Mahabharata, from his analysis.

Chiranjeevi is not something that one becomes cheeranjeevi in this lifetime. He was cheeranjeevi that was known; like that even Kripa it was known he couldn’t die. He was also having very long life span. Yudhishtra goes and asks him, allthe Kuru elders; he seeks their blessings before the war; yes, he had a difficult job of asking; and he asks them how will I kill you? All of them gave various answers. Kripacharya says, “I cannot be killed,go forth and attain victory. It’s a paradoxical answer, ‘cannot be killed, go forth and attain victory’. What he meant was Kripacharya could not himself be killed as he had blessing from his father but hedid knowcelestial weapons. So he was not a very greatthreat. He could not be killed but he could not kill too many people. So Ashwathamahe was also a cheeranjeevi like that but he was not given too many weapons by his father. His father gave him “bhramhastra” but he told him use it only when his life was in danger. He gave himnarayanastra and he gave him Agniastra. Some astras he gave and he used all of them. He was a threat but not a great threatso he was cheeranjeevi right from his birth and because of his choices he acted viciously and especially towards the end what he did was very vicious. In sauptikparva he kills all of the Pandavas’ sons and other warriors while they were sleeping unprepared.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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