We all know that story of Amba and Bhishma –
How Amba was abducted from her swayamvar along with her two sisters by Bhishm, how she was later sent back to Shalva, Shalva’s refusal, Amba’s fury, etc. We shall pick up the story from here.
All the beauty and sweetness inside her turned into hatred for Bhishm. She blamed him for the root of all her sorrows. She then began her quest to find a warrior who would fight and kill Bhishm. She searched long and hard but could not find any one. She then turned to Lord Shiva and prayed to help find the enemy of Bhishm. The Lord answered her prayers and gave her a garland of ever-fresh lotus flowers. One who wears the garland will be the enemy of Bhishm.
Amba went to many kings and warriors with the garland beseeching he plight and please for revenging her. But no one was ready to face the wrath of Bhishm. Bhishm was known as an invincible warrior and everyone was afraid of him. Amba was once again dejected. Finally, she went to King Drupad and challenged all the kshatriyas. When still none came to the front to wear the garland, she hung it by the gates of King Drupad’s palace and went away to the forest.
In the forest, Amba met some ascetics who advised her to go to Parashuram for help. Amba went in search of Parshuram. When she met him, she told him all that had transpired. Parashuram was moved by her plight and the lack of courage amongst the kshatriyas to champion Amba’s cause. Due to his abiding hatred towards the kshatriya race, he challenged and fought Bhishm. It was a long and equally contested battle.
Finally Parsurama accepted the stalemate and his inability to defeat Bhishm. Parashurama addressed Amba, “Dear child, I have done everything I can with Bhishm. I can ask Shalva to marry you.”
Amba replied, “I no longer have any desire to marry any one. I am filled with hatred towards Bhishm. I want to be avenged.“
The embittered Amba swore that she will be the cuase of death of Bhishm even if she had to take any number of births.
Filled with grief and rage and fed up with the kshatriyas, Amba began her penance to please Lord Shiva as all human aid had failed. Lord Shiva appeared before her and granted her the boon that she would slay Bhishm in her next life. Amba was impatient to wait for the rebirth. She lit a pyre and with the hatred in her heart hotter than pyre, she jumped into the fire.
Amba was born again as King Drupad’s daughter. She was named as Shikhandini. When she grew up and saw the ever-fresh lotus garland hanging by the palace gate. She went and wore it herself. Drupad was mortified, at the thought of incurring Bhishm’s wrath. His own daughter was to be Bhishm’s enemy. He exiled her to the forest. Amba as Shikhandini realized the significance of the garland. She was baffled that she was born again as a girl. How could she challenge Bhishm to a fight and slay him? Angry at the cruelty of fate, she began her austerities in the forest to turn into a man. After long tapasya (penance), she transformed into a man and became a great warrior Shikhandi.
During the war of Mahabharata, Shikhandi faced Bhishm. Knowing that Shikhandi was born a girl, Bhishm refused to raise his arms against a woman as was his code of chivalry. Screened by Shikhandi, Arjun was able to fell Bhishm. Bhishm as he fell was able to tell the arrows that came from Shikhandi and those that came from Arjun his favorite grandson.
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