Mahabharata: Tale of tales
Premise: Birth of Shikandi and death
At the village well.
Ladies of the village (standing in queue to fetch a pail of water).
Lady 1: Our young king is coming of
age, isn’t it? I wonder, till how long Gangaputra will keep up his charade of ruling
the kingdom on “behalf” of the young king.
2: Sshh! don’t you dare talk
ill about the righteous Gangaputra.
3: Yes, don’t malign his
name you dim-wit. I have heard from my husband who was at palace yesterday
(with a swell of pride), for selling his famous fish pickles, that, the whole
palace is getting ready to welcome wives of the young king.
1: Indeed?! But from what I
have heard the young king is still in palace. How can he get wives from his
2: Gangaputra went to Kashi
to fetch the brides. I have heard they are the 3 daughters of the ruling king
and are a beauty equal to Apsaras.
1: Again on behalf! Isn’t
the groom supposed to get the brides? Is Gangaputra forgetting his vow?
(With a wink)Maybe, the old man
has decided that he has remained celibate long enough.
3: Insolent! Stop talking
ill about the Gangaputra. The man sacrificed his dreams to help fulfil his
father’s and this is the way, we subjects, doubt him?!
2: Correctly said. Think what you may, we will stand by
him and not allow anybody throw dirt at Gangaputra Devavrata.
At Hastinapura Palace, inner chambers for the ladies.
Amba, Ambika and Ambalika
Advise me little ones! What
should I do? Salva fought for me and I watched him defeated at the hands of
Why my Fates are so ill?! Why are
they bent on keeping me unhappy?
I am married to one with my heart and soul, but, yet forced to marry another
physically. How can I ever serve Vichitravirya, when my heart longs to see
Salva in his place?
Ambika and Ambalika (jointly): Didi!
Can you not talk to Devavrata about this situation? He may not know that Salva
fought with him for you. He might have warded it off as a Swayamvar contempt.
Amba: You show me light, sisters! Thank you. I
will seek an audience from Gangaputra immediately.
At Hastinapura Palace, courtroom
Amba and Bhishma
Bhishma: Tell me Kashiputri, Amba. What do you
require of me that this audience was requested? Is it anything, which you need
to make your stay comfortable?
I assure you, the rooms that you stay in now are temporary. A much more
befitting room will be provided, once the marriage is completed.
See! But this is not the
situation I wanted to discuss.
O son of Ganga! You are aware of what is enjoined in the scriptures. I have
mentally chosen Salva, the king of Saubala, as my husband. You have brought me
here by force. Knowing this, do what you, learned in the scriptures, should do.
Bhishma: Regrets Kashiputri, I did
not realize at the time that Salva-raja fought me over you. I admit that I
apprehended you and your sisters by force. I will hence, work to remedy this.
You will be escorted to
Salva-raja appropriately. It will be the first thing in the morning, which I
will look into.
At the palace of Saubala kingdom.
Amba and Salva.
Salva: What have you done, Amba! Bhishma defeated
me in sight of all, and carried you away. I have been disgraced. I cannot take
you as my wife now any more. Please, return to him and do as he commands.
But, I have chosen you as my
husband with my soul and heart from the very start. Do what the noble Shashtras
say and marry me. I cannot take another husband when my heart knows, it is you,
Salva-raja, whom I wish to serve.
I am also at despair,
Kashiputri. But the disgrace cannot be undone. I cannot marry you. Forgive me!
above series of events, following trail happened:
With this, Amba, returned to
Hastinapura and narrated her plight to Gangaputra. The grandsire tried inducing
Vichitravirya into marrying Amba but the young king refused to accept a woman
who has another man in her heart.
In vain, Amba asked Bhishma to marry her. But, because of the solemn vow, he
could not, sorry as was he for Amba.
After spending 6 bitter years in sorrow, Amba grew furious and directed all
hatred towards Bhishma as the cause of her blighted and unhappy life.
She roamed the country and asked
for help from all Kshatriyas to avenge her wrongs, but none came forward. The
most valiant of them were even afraid to face the great warrior: Bhishma.
At last, she prayed to Lord
Vishnu to help her get out from her plight. The Lord Appeared and presented her
with a garland of ever-blooming Lotuses and gave a boon that, “The beholder of this garland on his neck,
will be the one to kill Gangaputra”.
She again started her search for
the one, who will help avenge her. But none came forward. At last, she
requested King Drupada but he too, like others, refused her prayer. While
leaving the Drupada-raja’s palace, she hung the garland at the gates as she had
no use for it any more.
She started roaming around in
forests and told her plight to ascetics and sages. They suggested her to visit,
Parshurama, who will help her cause. Amba met Parshurama and narrated her life.
She asked him to help avenge her against Bhishma.
Fuelled by his anger for Kshatriyas, Parshurama took up arms against Bhishma.
The combat lasted many days between two greatest warriors of all time, with
Parshurama being defeated.
Consumed with grief and rage, and
kept alive only by the passion for revenge, Amba went to the Himalayas and
prayed to get the grace of Lord Shiva, now that all human aid had failed her.
Siva appeared before her and granted her a boon, that in her next birth she
would slay Bhishma.
Amba was impatient for that rebirth which would give her heart’s desire. She made
a pyre and jumped into the fire.
During that time, King Drupada
was also praying to Lord Shiva for a son. After much penance, Lord Shiva
granted him the wish that the child will attain sex change at a later stage.
By the grace of Lord Siva, Amba
was born as the daughter of King Drupada and was called Shikhandini. A few
years after her birth, she saw the garland of never-blooming lotuses that still
hung at the palace gate and had remained there untouched by anyone through
She put it round her neck. Her father Drupada
was in fear of the wrath of Bhishma. He sent his daughter in exile out of the
capital to the forest. She practised austerities and warfare in the forest and
in time was transformed into a male and became known as the warrior Sikhandi.
During the great war of Mahabharata, Kunti-putra Arjuna, with Shikhandi as his
charioteer, attacked Bhishma. But Bhishma who knew Shikhandi was born female
could not take up arms against her and so, could not counter-attack to protect
himself and succumbed to Arjuna’s and Shikandi’s arrows.
And this is how, Amba had her revenge at last on Gangaputra, Bhishma.