Lessons from Mahabharata – Bhishma, Amba

Published on Mar 06, 2014

Gopals Garden High School – Shyama Singh

The King of Kashi had organized a “Swayamvar’ (selection of a husband of her choice by a princess in public) for his three daughters. Bhishma went to the Swayamvar for his brother Vichtravirya. He defeated the rest of the Kings present at the Swayamvar and came with the three ladies and handed them over to Vichitravirya. Amba, the eldest daughter of Kashi King, told Bhishma that she had considered King Shalya as her husband, and that in the Swayamvar she was going to accept him. She also told Bhishma that as he was a pious man, he should do whatever he feels is right. Bhishma let Amba go and got Ambika and Ambalika married to Vichitravirya. After sometime Dhritrashtra was born to Ambika and Pandu was born to Ambalika. The sons of Dhritrashtra and Pandu were known as Kauravas and Pandavas respectively.

Meanwhile, Amba went to King Shalya, but Shalya rejected her saying that Bhishma had kidnapped her so he cannot accept her. Distressed and afflicted, Amba went for a deep penance to take revenge with Bhishma. Lord Shiva was pleased with her penance and gave her a boon that she would destroy Bhishma. Amba asked Shiva, “I am a weak woman, how will I defeat Bhishma in the war?” Lord Shiva said, “You will be reborn as a daughter to King Drupad and after few years you will convert into a man and will be the reason for Bhishma’s death.” Lord Shiva went away after giving the boon and Amba entered the fire in self-immolation.

In her rebirth, she was born as the daughter of King Drupad. King hid the fact that she was a daughter and treated her as a son. He became famous as Shikhandi. Shikhandi was married to Uma, daughter of King Hiranyavarma of Dasharna. After the marriage, when the secret about Shikhandi was revealed, Hiranya Varma attacked Drupad. Shikhandi was distressed and went to the jungle for devout austerity. There she met a Yaksha named Sthunakarna. Yaksha was a class of demi-Gods led by Kuber who was the treasurer of the demi-Gods. After listening to Shikhandi’s tale of woe, Sthunakarna offered to exchange his manhood with her womanhood for a predetermined period, after which Shikhandi would have to return to the forest to reverse the sex change. The transformation took place and a vigorous, strong and manly Shikhandi returned to the palace to face the test. His father Drupad made him learn archery from Dronacharya.

During the war of Mahabharata, Shikhandi fought from the side of the Pandavas. Bhishma came to know from Naradji about the story of Amba’s penance and the rebirth in the form of Shikhandi. That is why when Shikhandi came in front of Bhishma during war, Bhishma did not strike at her (as striking a woman was against the code of ethics of a warrior) and he was injured with Shikhandi’s arrows and fell on his death bed.

This way, Amba took her revenge and she became the reason for Bhishma Pitamah’s death.

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