Aśvatthāman

(‘one who neighed like a horse’)

One of the great heroes of the Mahābhārata war, Aśvatthāman was the only son of Droṇācārya, the teacher of the Pāṇḍava and the Kaurava princes. As soon as he was born, he is said to have neighed like a horse. Hence the name.

Though brought up in poverty he was well-trained by his father in the sacred lore, secular sciences and the art of war. His irascible temper often made him stray from the path of dharma. He earned ignominy by killing the sons of Draupadī while they were asleep and by trying to destroy the baby Parīkṣit in the womb of Uttarā, the wife of Abhimanyu and the future heir to the empire. He was punished by Bhīma, the second of the Pāṇḍavas and cursed by Śrī Kṛṣṇa to suffer from serious diseases for a very long time. Though a little odd, he has been reckoned as one of seven ‘Cirañjīvins’ or ‘those who live forever.’