The intensity of his emotions was like fire on a heap of dry leaves and all of them were touched by it. Duryodhana mumbled “O friend Ashwathma, the invincible warrior. The same restlessness affects me when I think how I am not destined to see the end of Pandavas . I know I will surely go to heaven. Because I have fulfilled my responsibility both as a warrior and a king. If only I could see the destruction of those usurpers, I could die in peace”.
The exertion of speaking was too much for him as blood oozed out of his mouth, once again. He closed his eyes and tried to subdue the massive pain that was all over his body, silently praying for the last moment to come, as soon as possible.
Ashwathama carefully put his head down on the ground from his own lap. Then standing up he walked at the feet of the fallen king and knelt down. Pulling his sword out from his sheath he held it across his body, in a ceremonial fashion.
“O mighty king Duryodhana , my friend and benefactor . I have always been your true servant and will remain so till the end of this earth. How I wish to have accompanied you on your last journey. But fate has probably something else for me. Instruct me, my Lord to destruct the enemies who have brought us to this end.”
Then with a slightly bitter tone of voice, he continued “O great son of Emperor Dhritarashtra , you have always taken my loyalty for granted . You know like everybody else very well that I am invincible on the battlefield. My father , Guru Drona has empowered me with the knowledge of Divyastras , weapon of destruction which nobody has . Not even Arjuna or Karna could match my prowess on the battlefield . But I have always been passed off as you trusted your grandfather Bhishma , friend Karna , brother Dushashana or teacher Drona more than me . Even after my father fell on the battlefield as a victim of trickery by the liar Yudhishthir , you did not anoint me as the commander of the Kaurava forces . I could have changed the course of this war by killing Arjuna and finishing off the Pandavas with my Narayan astra , the weapon of lord Vishnu himself “ He stopped for breath .
“This is not the time to blame him, Son “Kripa said as Kritavarma nodded his head , with just that little bend .
Duryodhana tried unsuccessfully to sit up. Raising a hand towards Kripa, he mumbled “Bring me some water, o great teacher “. Kritavarma immediately ran towards the lake and with his big palms clasped together brought some water.
With a weak gesture of his hands Duryodhana pointed towards Ashwathama. Kripa understood. Cupping his palms he placed it below Ktitavarma’s and took the water from him . Then raising his hand he dropped the water on the head of Ashwathama, still kneeling at the feet of the fallen king.
“O son of Drona , invincible Ashwathama , the foremost warrior born of a Bramhana , at the instruction of our Lord Duryodhana , the protector of Hastinapur and the entire Aryavarta , I anoint you as the commander of the Kaurava forces in the battle of Mahabharata . May you surpass your previous glories and be the cause of destruction for the enemy. “saying this Kripa touched the head of Ashwathama, in a gesture of benevolent blessing by an elder. He was, after all the son of his twin sister.
Kritavarma bowed “Hail the new commander. This Yadav warrior will lay his life at your command Sir. That’s my solemn promise “, he said crossing his sword in a ceremonial fashion.
Ashwathama was overwhelmed with the situation. Still kneeling he spoke in a voice, hoarse with emotion, “This son of Brahmana gives his word to you, O emperor Duryodhana. If there is anything in my life that I have earned as a reward for my acts of piety, religion, knowledge loyalty or my virtues, I dedicate that to your service. “
“O lord, you have been felled by the Pandavas with trickery and cruelty, just as they did with my own father , the great Drona and the jewel among all warriors , the hapless Karna. Swearing by truth itself, I utter these words – I will send all the Pandavas across the river of death to the hell they deserve by tomorrow, in the presence of their sole protector, Vasudeva. “his voice sounded like distant thunder.
He then stretched over the body of Duryodhana and cupped his face with his hands, in the gesture of a loving friend. Then with the slightest embrace, he stood up; raising his sword and touching his forehead, before he turned and walked away, into the darkness.
Kripa and Kritavarma followed him after saluting their king with their swords and bowing to his crumpled body on the ground. Even in the acute deathly pain, Duryodhana tried to put on a smile on his battered face as he peered weakly through his swollen eyelids. He now wanted to live , for another day more.