Death of Dronacharya: Yudhisthira tells a Lie
To defeat Dronacharya Sri Krishna plans a new gimmick. On the side of Pandavas there was an elephant by the name Ashwathama. This was the name of the son of Dronacharya also. Sri Krishna tells Yudhisthira to spread the rumour that Ashwathama is dead! In effect the elephant is killed and everyone shouts, "Ashwathama is dead, Ashwathama is dead!"
Dronacharya also hears these words and suspects his lone son is killed in the battle. Gloomy at the loss of his son he approaches Yudhisthira and asks, "O Yudhisthira, I know you never speak untruth, please tell me what has happened. Is Ashwathama really dead?"
With great effort Yudhisthira says, "Yes, Ashwathama is dead"; but adds in whisper, "I do not know whether he is a man or an elephant." Dronacharya in the din and bustle fails to hear the second half of the sentence and thinking that his loving son has died gives up the fight and is then killed.
Here Ashwathama, son of Dronacharya, learnt about the trick played by Sri Krishna and Yudhisthira in killing his father. He was furious and decided to kill Arjuna. Ashwathama after great austerities and tapas had procured the most effective 'Astra' weapon known as Brahmastra that never failed. When it was aimed at a particular person that person was sure to die. But it was useful only once! Ashwathama had decided to use this Astra on Arjuna. However, Ashwathama could not do anything because by that time his father had already died and Karna had already killed Ghatotkacha.
The Great Karna Dies
After Drona, Karna took over the charge of the Karna army, and soon declared either he would survive or Arjuna. The ferocious battle left more than half the soldiers dead. The destruction was raging its death-dance everywhere. Karna with his bow and arrow was sending men after men to the Death Valley. Pandavas were terrified. Sri Krishna was also worried and decided to put an end to this mighty eldest son of Kunti.
Next day he took the chariot of Arjuna to combat Karna's onslaught. Arrow after arrows tried to find weakness in each other's skill, but no; both Arjuna and Karna were found to be equal. Then a superior arrow hit Arjuna making him lose his poise. Other arrow followed when Sri Krishna showed his might and skill to avoid damage to Arjuna. The arrow missed Arjuna by four fingers because Sri Krishna had pushed the chariot four fingers in the ground!
Now comes the crucial factor of that curse of the Guru Parashurama to Karna. As is told previously, the sage Parashurama was displeased with Karna because he had become his disciple and learnt the archery in a disguise of a Brahmin boy. At that time the Guru had cursed him that at the crucial moment he would face difficulty on the battle field which put his life I jeopardy. That moment comes.
The wheel of Karna's chariot was jammed and his chariot tilts to one side. All the efforts were of no avail to bring it on the ground level. Karna could not fight the war with ease. Sri Krishna told Arjuna to take advantage of the situation and kill Karna. But Arjuna refuses to attack the enemy in distress. He sees Karna pleading to let him remove his jammed wheel. But Sri Krishna reminds Arjuna of the laugher of Karna at the pathetic condition of Draupadi in the royal court. 'Where had Karna's modesty and sense of justice gone then?' asks Sri Krishna. Thus reminded of the insult of Draupadi Arjuna sees no point to show leniency and kills Karna also.