Ashwatthama was the son of Dronacharya and Kripi. Drona did many years of severe penance to please Lord Shiva in order to obtain a son who possesses the same valiance as Lord Shiva. Born a Chiranjivi, Ashwatthama was born with a gem in his forehead which gives him power over all living beings lower than humans; it protected him from hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
The Pandavas and Krishna who were away during night (when Ashwatthama attacked on Pandava Camp), now returned to their camp the next day morning. Hearing the news of these events in the morning Yudhishthira fainted and the Pandavas become inconsolable. The Pandavas went searching for Ashwatthama to sage Vyasa’s ashram. On seeing the approaching angered Pandavas, Ashwatthama as a last resort, devised a Brahmashirsha astra from a blade of grass and invoked it against the Pandavas and Krishna. Arjuna invokes the same astra, which he received from Drona himself, towards Ashwatthama. Narada and Vyasa came to stop Brahmashirsha astra used by Ashwatthama and Arjuna. On seeing the two powerful astra’s heading for a head on cataclysmic (catastrophic) collision that would result in the total annihilation of the entire Earth, Vyasa stopped these divine weapons from colliding with each other by using his yogic power. He asked both these warriors to withdraw their respective weapons. Arjuna was able to withdraw his Brahmashirsha astra, while Ashwatthama could not do so as Drona did not teach his son how to withdraw it, thus limiting the power of Ashwatthama to use the astra for only one instance. Ashwatthama was given the option of deviating his weapon towards and uninhabited place, so that the astra could explode harmlessly. Out of rage, Ashwatthama instead directed the weapon towards the womb of the pregnant Uttara in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. The angered Pandavas wanted to kill Ashwatthama, but Sage Vyasa reminded them of the deceitful tactics they had used against the Kauravas. As a punishment, Ashwatthama was asked to surrender the gem on his forehead. Krishna then cursed Ashwatthama for 3000 years that he will roam in the forests with blood and puss oozing out of his injuries and cry for death . Since he had no fear of death during war, death would not meet him. He will have neither any hospitality nor any accommodation; he will be in total isolation without any contact of physical communication from mankind and society. The wound caused by the removal of this gem on his forehead will not heal and his body will suffer from a host of incurable diseases forming sores and ulcers that would never heal for 3000 years.
On the night after Duryodhana’s defeat, a very disturbed and restless Ashwatthama was sleeplessly strategizing under a large tree. An owl ambushing a group of crows caught his attention. This gave him an idea of attacking the Pandava camp at night. The three surviving warriors proceeded to the Pandava camp. Kripa and Kritavarma guarded the exits while Ashwatthama proceeded into the camp. Ashwatthama first kicked and woke up Dhrishtadyumna, the commander of the Pandava army and the killer of his father Drona. Ashwatthama strangled the half-awake Dhrishtadyumna to death as the Panchal prince begged to be allowed to die with a sword in his hand. Ashwatthama proceeds with slaughtering the remaining warriors, including Shikhandi, Yudhamanyu, Uttamaujas, and many other prominent warriors of the Pandava army. Those who tried to flee from Ashwatthama’s wrath were hacked down by Kripacharya and Kritavarma at the camp’s entrance. At this point, there are numerous different versions of the story. In some, Ashwatthama mistakes the sleeping Upapandavas as the Pandavas and kills them. In others, he knows he is killing the Upapandavas and does so because he cannot find the Pandavas. After the slaughter, the three warriors go to find Duryodhana. Again, the story has many versions at this point. In some, they find Duryodhana already dead, and mourning, they perform the cremation rights. In others, they find Duryodhana alive; Ashwatthama knows he hasn’t killed the Pandavas but lies in order to give his friend some happiness in death. Alternatively, Ashwatthama doesn’t know he actually killed the Upapandavas and just reports what he thinks is the truth. In a final version, Ashwatthama tells Duryodhana that he killed the Pandava’s children as the Pandavas were not there. There is more divergence; in some versions, this makes Duryodhana happy, as that means the Pandava lineage would die out. In others, this depresses him, as now the entire Kuru line will be defunct. In all stories, after Duryodhana dies, the trio cremate his body.
After the death of Dushasana, Ashwatthama still suggested Duryodhana that he make peace with the Pandavas, keeping in mind the welfare of Hastinapur. Later, after Duryodhana is struck down by Bhima and facing death, the last three survivors from the Kaurava side, Ashwatthama, Kripa and Kritvarma rush to his side. Ashwatthama swears to bring Duryodhana revenge, and Duryodhana appoints him as the commander-in-chief.
According to The Mahabharata, Ashwatthama means “the horse-voiced”. It is so called because when he was born he cried like a horse.
In the Bhagavata Purana, it is described that after Balarama took part in the battle causing the destruction of the remainder of the Yadu dynasty and witnessing the disappearance of Krishna, he sat down in a meditative state and departed from this world. Some scriptures describe a great white snake that left the mouth of Balarama, in reference to his identity as Ananta-Sesha. The place where he departed is situated near Somnath Temple in Gujarat. The local people of Veraval believe that in the cave near the temple place, the white snake who came out of Balarama’s mouth got into that cave and went back to Paatal Lok.
Balarama taught both Duryodhana of the Kauravas and Bhima of the Pandavas the art of fighting with a mace. When war broke between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, Balarama cared for both sides and so remained neutral. When Bhima defeated Duryodhana by striking him in the thigh with his mace, Balarama threatened to kill Bhima. This was prevented when Krishna reminded Balarama of the vow of Bhima—to kill Duryodhana by crushing the thigh he had exposed to Bhima’s wife Draupadi.
Balarama is the celebrated plougher, one of the pillars of agriculture along with livestocks with whom Krishna is associated with. The plow is Balarama’s weapon. In the Bhagavata Purana, he uses it to fight demons, dig a way for Yamuna river to come closer to Vrindavan, and pull the entire capital of Hastinapura into the Ganges river.
Balarama spent his childhood as a cow herder with his brother Krishna. He killed Dhenuka, an asura sent by Kansa, as well as Pralamba and Mushtika wrestlers sent by the king. After the evil king died, Balarama and Krishna went to the ashrama of sage Sandipani at Ujjain for study. He married Revati.
One day, Nanda requested the presence of Sage Gargamuni, his priest, to name the newborn Krishna and Balarama. When the Garga arrived, Nanda, received him well and requested the naming ceremony. Gargamuni then reminded Nanda that Kamsa was looking for the son of Devaki and if he performed the ceremony in opulence, it would come to his attention. Nanda therefore asked Garga to perform the ceremony in secret and Garga did so