Sauptika Parva 1 - The Sleepless night of terror
Ashwatthama, Kripa, and Kritavarma spent the night in the forest, sleeping under a banyan tree. Ashwatthama who could not sleep was awake throughout the night. He saw that the tree was home to thousands of crows. As the crows slept, an enormous owl arrived there. It slaughtered the crows under the cover of night.
Seeing this, Ashwatthama decided he would kill the Pandavas at night when they slept and avenge the adharma done. Kripa advised him not to take up a task that would lead to disaster. But Ashwatthama was firm on carrying out his evil deed.
Kripa advised him to rest so that they continue the war the next day. Ashwatthama announced he would rest only when the Pandavas were slain. Ashwatthama reminded Kripa of all the adharma done by the Pandavas.
Ashwatthama saw a terrible divine being near the Pandavas camp. He hurled his weapons one by one, but the being swallowed all his weapons. Ashwatthama then prayed to Shiva and sought his blessings. Shiva then appeared and gave him a sword. The energy from the sword entered Ashwatthama who became as powerful as Rudra.
Kripa and Kritavarma stationed themselves at the entrance of the camp while Ashwatthama entered the camp alone. He entered the camp where everyone was sleeping and first entered Dhristadyumna’s abode. He kicked the son of Drupada to wake him up.
Dhristadyumna woke up and was shocked to see Ashwatthama looking like death. Ashwatthama crushed him with his feet, choking him. He pleaded with Ashwatthama to kill him with his weapon and send him to heaven. Ashwatthama refused, saying he deserves to die a dishonourable death. Ashwatthama then kicked Dhrishtadyumna repeatedly until his internal organs were crushed and he died.
The guards and women lamented seeing the Commander of the Pandava forces dead. When the guards came behind Ashwatthama, he killed them instantly using the Raudra weapon. He then killed Yudhamanyu and Uttamouja using his bare hands and feet. He roamed around the camp like death, killing everyone he saw.
When the sleeping warriors opened their eyes, they saw a fearsome Ashwatthama with a huge sword in his hand. Draupadi’s sons saw him and quickly picking up their bows released arrows at him. Unperturbed, he used his sword to slaughter Prativindhya, Sutasoma, Shatanika, Shrutakarma, and Shrutakirti.
Shikandi then attacked Ashwatthama but was chopped into two by the son of Drona. He then killed all the Panchala and Viratas in the camp. The elephants and horses panicked and ran here and there, trampling each other and dying. Those who fled were killed at the camp entrance by Kripa and Kritavarma.
…. to be continued