Ashvatthama

The play “Ashvatthama” makes a strong, topical and unequivocal statement against war.

It deals with the horror and devastation of war, and explores the agony and dread of the vanquished and the victor alike embroiled in an endless chain of retaliation, mindless violence and cruelty. The agony we witness gradually becomes our own, and in the end, becomes the agony of the whole world.

Based on an episode from the Hindu epic poem “Mahabharata”, sometimes referred to as the Iliad of India, the play dramatizes the atrocious events from the last day of the bloody and cataclysmic battle fought between two branches of the same family, the “Pandavas” and the “Kauravas”, in Northern India, for rule of the land.

In the epic, both the warring factions possess Pashupata, a magical weapon of mass destruction. Both can destroy any life on earth. The very grass trembles in fear. And that is something all of us can identify with today.

Ashvatthama, the title character, fought on the side of the Kauravas and was one of the few survivors of the war. He knew how to use the magical weapon, and was an utterly debased person; his deeds were unequalled in horror and cruelty. He was condemned to a life of eternal misery by Krishna when in the end he used the weapon of mass destruction against his enemy, the Pandavas, only for his self-defense and revenge.

The “Mahabharata” is more than a work which Hindus look upon as divinely inspired and venerate. It is a record of complex humanity and a mirror to all the faces which we ourselves wear.