This story from the final part of the epic Mahabharata features Ashvatthaman, a Kaurava soldier who massacred Draupadi's sleeping sons in a loathsome and infamous manner. The Pandavas spare Ashvatthaman's life but punish him by removing the miraculous protective jewel crest that has been embedded in his forehead since birth. They also curse him to spend thousands of years in pain, shunned by humans and enveloped by the stench of decaying flesh.
Draupadi and Ashvatthaman
Draupadi and Ashvatthaman
India, Punjab Hills, Basohli, 1720-30. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Lent by a private collection.
The painting shows Draupadi sitting with her husbands, the five Pandavas, within an orange chamber, her upraised hand indicating that she is speaking. Initially Draupadi demanded the death of the murderer but finally agreed to the lesser punishment out of respect of Ashvatthaman's father. Outside the pavilion, we see Ashvatthaman skulking away with his turban bedraggled and head bleeding from the removal of his jeweled crest.

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