By Swami Harshananda
Aśvatthāman literally means ‘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 he was named as Aśvatthāman.
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 and he earned ignominy by killing the sons of Draupadī while they were asleep. He also tried to kill baby Parīkṣit while still in the womb of Uttarā, the wife of Abhimanyu. He was punished by Bhima, the second of the Pāṇḍavas and cursed by Srī Kṛṣṇa to suffer from serious diseases for a very long time. He has been reckoned as one of seven ‘Cirañjivins’ or ‘those who live forever.’
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore