Arjun, the renowned warrior of the Mahabharata, was known for his exceptional valor, but he always strived to avoid violence whenever possible due to his righteous nature. This aspect of his character was vividly illustrated in a crucial incident towards the end of the Mahabharata war.
At this juncture, the Kaurava side, led by Duryodhana, was on the brink of defeat. Duryodhana himself was severely wounded, and only a handful of warriors, including Ashwatthama, remained. Ashwatthama sought vengeance for the death of his father, Dronacharya, and his friends, the Kauravas. In a misguided act, he stealthily infiltrated the Pandava camp at night while its defenders were fast asleep, embarking on a merciless rampage. Tragically, several warriors, including Draupadi’s five sons, fell victim to this brutal attack. The Pandavas, along with Draupadi and Lord Krishna, were absent from the camp during this dark night.
Upon their return to the camp, they were met with heart-wrenching devastation. Arjun, upon learning of this heinous act, pursued Ashwatthama, apprehended him, and presented him before Draupadi, who was inconsolable in her grief over the loss of her sons. Bheem, driven by rage and anguish, was determined to exact vengeance on Ashwatthama. However, Draupadi, known for her compassionate and forgiving nature, urged restraint. She emphasized Ashwatthama’s identity as the son of their revered Guru, Drona, and his status as a Brahmin, suggesting that they should extend forgiveness.
Arjun, torn by this moral dilemma, sought guidance from Lord Krishna. The Lord, in his infinite wisdom, offered a profound insight: “A Brahmin, deserving of respect, should be forgiven, even if they have temporarily strayed from virtue. However, one who approaches with deadly intent must face appropriate consequences.” Arjun comprehended the significance of Lord Krishna’s words and chose not to take Ashwatthama’s life. Instead, he took measures to symbolically reprimand him. Arjun cut Ashwatthama’s Brahmin tuft and removed the powerful jewel from his forehead, signifying his disapproval and delivering a form of punishment.
The wisdom of this decision was further underscored by the ancient scriptures, such as the Manu Smriti, which advised against quarreling with or harming various individuals, including Brahmins, who played vital roles in society.
Arjun, aware of the grave sin associated with killing one’s own kin, expressed his concerns to Lord Krishna. He noted that the Kauravas, driven by their greed and blindness to righteousness, had committed the grave error of slaying their own relatives and friends. He questioned why they should descend to the same depths when there was an opportunity to avoid such transgressions.
In this manner, Arjun’s adherence to righteousness, guided by the wisdom of Lord Krishna and the moral principles of their time, prevented the perpetuation of violence and upheld the values of forgiveness and dharma in the face of tremendous adversity.