The three heroes, Asvatthaman, Krtavarman, and Krpa then went together towards the south, and entered a great forest and took rest under a great banyan tree. They laid themselves on the bare earth; and while his two companions, wounded and exhausted, went to sleep, the son of Drona kept awake, burning with anger and grief. As he looked, he saw that the banyan tree was covered with crows; and, as they were sleeping in security, a terrible owl suddenly and secretly appeared, and killed a large number of his sleeping enemies.
The Scheme of Asvatthaman: Witnessing this sight, Asvatthaman began to think, and resolved to secure the destruction of his enemies by a deceitful act. He then woke his companions from sleep, and they listened to his scheme and were filled with shame. Krpa tried to dissuade him from his course, but in vain; and then they followed him reluctantly to the gates of the enemy camp. Then Asvatthaman saw a strange sight, the figure of a mighty Being, endued with the effulgence of the Sun or the Moon, guarding the entrance. Drona's son exhausted all his weapons on him; and then he saw the whole sky covered with images of Janardana (Krshna). Realising that success was impossible without divine favour, he sought the protection of Mahadeva, and offered himself as a sacrifice before him. Mahadeva, seeing that the hour of the Pancalas had come, entered the body of Asvatthaman, and gave him an excellent sword wherewith to slay them.
The Slaughter of Pancalas: Drona's son then returned to his companions waiting for him at the gate. He entered the camp of the Pandavas and, striking the Panchala prince (Dhrstadyumna) with his feet, pressed him down on the earth with his hands, and killed him like a lion killing an infuriate elephant. After this he slew a number of other heroes, including the sons of Draupadi, Sikhandin, the residue of the Somakas, and the warriors of king Virata. He went about slaying all, and his two companions set fire to the Pandava camp and all of it was reduced to ashes. Then, after all were slain, a fearful silence filled the night, and Asvatthaman and his companions went away rejoicing at what they had done. It was possible for them to do all this because of the absence of the Sons of Pandu, Kesava and also Satyaki.
The Survivors of the Pandavas: All the Pancalas, all the sons of Draupadi, all the Somakas, and the remnants of the Matsyas had been slain. Only the five Pandavas brothers, Krshna and Satyaki, who were absent from the camp that night, survived.
The Gem of Asvatthaman: When the day dawned, Yudhisthira heard of the news of the havoc of the night; and Draupadi, hearing of the destruction of her sons, fell down, afflicted with sorrow and grief. When she regained consciousness, she called upon the Pandavas to wreak vengeance on Drona's son, or else she would die. But Asvatthaman had retired to a distant forest, and it was impossible to engage him in a fight. "I have heard," said Draupadi, "that Drona's son has a gem on his head, born with him. Bring that gem to me after his death in battle. I shall place it on your head, O king, and live. That is my resolve." Thereupon Bhima, who was unable to bear Draupadi's grief, got on his car, and making Nakula his charioteer, went in pursuit of Asvatthaman. Then Krshna, desirous of befriending Bhima, followed him, accompanied by Yudhisthira and Arjuna, and they soon overtook him. Then Bhima hastened to the banks of the Bhagirathi, and saw the illustrious, dark-complexioned and island-born Vyasa, sitting near the edge of the water, encircled by many Rishis, with Drona's son among them. He rushed towards him and challenged him to a fight.
The Weapon of Asvatthaman: Asvatthaman thereupon discharged his celestial weapon for the destruction of the Pandavas, when Krshna, knowing his intention, asked Arjuna to discharge his own celestial weapon to neutralize it. The battle between the two weapons was dreadful to behold, and Narada and Vyasa interposed to pacify them. Thereupon Dhananjaya withdrew his weapon, and was able to do so because he was truthful and pure. But, as Asvatthaman had discharged his weapon through fear of Bhima, he was not able to withdraw it at all. But, in order to protect the Pandavas, he threw it into the womb of the Pandava women to make them sterile, and it pierced the foetus in the womb of Uttara; the daughter of Virata and the wife of Abhimanyu. As a result of this the foetus was killed, but Krshna revived it by his divine power again, and out of it was born Pariksit, the successor of the Pandava, race.
Then Asvatthaman made over his gem to the Pandavas, and cheerlessly proceeded to the forest; and they all returned with the gem to Draupadi, and gave it to her. She gave it again to Yudhisthira to wear, and he shone with it like the mountain with the Moon above.
Then Yudhisthira asked Krshna how it was that Asvatthaman was able to slay Dhrstadyumna, before whom even Drona was unable to stand. "It was done through the power of Mahadeva," said Krshna, "he who is the beginning, middle, and end of all creatures, through whose power the whole universe acts and moves."