Hiatus and back!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The last post on this blog was on June 12, 2017 where I closed the writing with the portentous words – to be continued. Trust me, I had all intentions of continuing it as well. In fact, I have a post half-written sitting in my drafts, to conclude the story on Ekalavya. However, quite a few things have happened after I wrote those words. Actually, lots of things happened last year.

1 engagement, 2 weddings, 1 huge loss, 1 birth announcement, and plenty of overwhelming emotions. It was quite a year.

By the end of the year, I didn’t even have the energy to write a year-end mandatory wrap-up. I really did want to get one out there, even if it was just for the sake of writing something and getting the fingers to mirror the thoughts. But hey, fatigue took over and all that! I think out of all the posts that I drafted (some in my head, of course) this one was really the bummer. I had gotten used to the idea of writing a year end post over the last few years recapping the years’ happenings, as well as hits and misses.

That was last year!

This year, the biggest and the most important news is the arrival of the little one, Ved, who has us all wrapped around his tiny little finger.

No, I am not going to elaborate on the entire pregnancy journey, nor about the joy motherhood has brought upon me. There are plenty of other blogs you can refer to for that. For now, I am just enjoying the journey. It is safe to say, life has changed but not too entirely. Of course, there is less sleep, more of the learning moments, more of the day’s timings revolving around what Ved does and on what he wants, but I still read, I still browse, I still buy stuff that I don’t need. I managed to watch snippets of shows I enjoy, I have gotten back to work and things are slowly settling into a routine. The post-partum hormones created a bit of ruckus for a while and though they do make an appearance every now and then, it has more or less settled down a bit.

In between all this, there is that immense learning that comes from being responsible for a tiny little person, along with the awareness that much as I want to be a super-mom, I am only human and that it is okay to ask for help when you need it and you won’t be judged for it.

So that’s that!

In all probability, this post will count as a year-end post (its mid-Nov already, where did the time go?) with the blog going back to sleep until next year, unless I manage to churn something out. Well, there are always the drafts that I can complete and post :-) And the concluding part of Ekalavya, of course.

What have you all been upto? :-) 

Ekalavya - The Mahabharata Chronicles #16 - Part 1

Monday, June 12, 2017

Govinda looked down upon the scenes unfolding below. He had to admire his cousin’s tenacity. He doubted if any of the Kuru princes would have had the guts to do that. The thought struck him that both of them, princes in their own right, standing in front of each other, were in fact third cousins, through him, though neither knew that.
His hand still bleeding, he looked at his future fallen carelessly by the side. The severed thumb seemed to be mocking at him. He was still in a state of shock. He was now wondering if his courage was nothing but foolhardiness. Which archer would give their right thumb willingly? But then for that matter, which guru would ask for such a heinous guru-dakshina?  All to save the ego of a Kuru prince? 
He had glanced at Drona, looking straight into his eyes, when the request was made. His face betraying none of the emotions he felt underneath, he had calmly taken his hunting knife, severed his thumb in one clean movement and laid it at his guru’s feet. He thought he had discerned a gleam in Drona’s eyes - regret, guilt, relief? He would never know.
Govinda climbed down from his perch. He walked over to the boy, still in shock. He sat by his side in a comradely way and touched his shoulder. Ekalavya looked up at this newcomer. His touch felt a tad familiar, like a long-forgotten memory.
They both sat in silence for some time, at the end of which, Govinda got up. He looked at Ekalavya and said, “You may not know this. But we are related. Your birth father, Devashraya, is my uncle. You got lost when you were young, just a mere boy, when a hunting trip went awry. I know now, that your father is the King of Nishadas, Hiranyadhanush and you are very happy with him. Your fathers, both of them, would be proud of you. As for whatever happened now, think of it as being for the greater good.”
Saying so, Govinda smiled enigmatically and walked away.
Ekalavya, glanced at the retreating figure. He had known about his adoption, but things were a lot clearer now. However, in place of those cleared questions, more perturbing ones arose.
Why did this have to happen?  What would he do now? How would he shoot again? What would happen to his lifelong dream? A feeling of resentment coupled with anger took over. Wasn’t he also a prince in his own might? And by this stranger, who said they were related, wasn’t he again a prince of the Yadava clan? How could he be differentiated so?  This wasn’t fair at all.
He sat there in the dark, trying to figure out and make sense of his thoughts and feelings.
At dawn, he got up, shook the caked dirt off his clothes, and in a resolute manner, walked towards his home.
Drona was disconcerted. He couldn’t believe what he had asked, or why he had asked that. Surely there was a better way he could have dealt the entire thing with. It was almost as if his mind was controlled by someone, when he said those darned words. How could he as a teacher have said something to that effect, even if he hadn’t taught the boy himself? And he couldn’t believe the fearlessness of the Nishada boy. How could he had have just severed his thumb like that? What was the matter with him?  Didn’t he know he would never be able to shoot again? Yes, he had turned the boy down when he had come to him with a request to accept him as a disciple. His hands were full enough with the Kuru princes, and the boy belonged to a lower caste. The rules of the kingdom wouldn’t have allowed Drona to teach him.
But of what point was all this now?
The boy had retreated willingly enough, understanding in his face and sorrow in his eyes at being turned down. However, who in their wildest dreams would have thought that the boy would practice in a front a statue in Drona’s form, revering him as his guru and with no proper guidance still best all the disciples Drona had ever taught.
Something shook him out of his reverie. He looked around and saw nothing. Still disturbed, he turned back to his thoughts.
And as if earlier, as in the forest, he heard himself say, “it was necessary. For the greater good.”
(to be continued)

Vidura - The Mahabharata Chronicles #15

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Na hrishyatyaatmasammaane naavamaanena tapyate
Gaango hrada ivaakshobhyo yah sah pandita uchyate
That one is wise who does not rejoice when honoured, does not become dejected when dishonoured and is not swayed by emotions under the most trying circumstances.       [Vidura Neeti 1.31]

Even as I have followed these words all my life, I sometimes feel the small stirrings of discontentment in me. I thought I had gained control over my uncertainties. Instead I find that as I am growing older, the weight of the older, smothered down resentments are catching up.
My mother named me Vidura.  I doubt if she knew what it meant, for while she was a wise woman, she was not very educated. She probably heard my father mention it in passing and remembered it. My father is Veda Vyasa, son of sage Parashara, my grandmother is Queen Mother Satyavati. My mother, Parishrami, was a maid-in-waiting to the queens of Hastinapura. Vyasa had come to Hastinapura at the beckoning of his mother, Queen Mother Satyavati, to extend the lineage of the Kurus. I was, perhaps a mishap then, for one of the queens sent my mother to serve him instead of herself. My mother, handed me over to Bhishma, I heard, as soon as I was born and slipped quietly into the shadows of the palace to resume her duties. I rarely saw her in the palace, always inconspicuous, but making sure that I had timely food and that I had nothing to complain about. I didn’t really miss her presence, having never really had the privilege of knowing her. As for my father, I heard plenty of legends about him, but I never really had the fortune to know or meet him.
In the eyes of Hastinapura, I was the half-brother of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. I was treated the same way as them, I was given the same lessons in warfare and in the scholarly arts. I was taught by Bhishma himself in the arts of weaponry and by other renowned teachers in the kingdom as well as those who visited us from far and wide. At the palace, I was never made to feel insignificant. Bhishma took care of that. Outside, it was a different story altogether. I have had people taunt me because of my low-caste, bully me and even poke fun at me. But those words that you read above, have always been my motto in life.
Today, however, I am seething with anger. I have held on to my tongue for as long as I can remember, only speaking out when it’s of utmost importance and within my duty as the Prime Minister of Hastinapura. But things have gone too far along now to stop the chain of events from transpiring. I did try with all my might and the powers vested in me, however, I couldn’t. Today, when Duryodhana insulted me in front of all present, accusing me of favouring Krishna and the Pandavas, it was then that my rightful place in the kingdom was revealed to me. My half-brother, the king didn’t speak a word during the proceedings, and just kept quiet while his eldest-born cast aspersions on my birth, my character and my role in shaping Hastinapura. He talked of me as though I was obligated to the kingdom, because of the Prime Minister’s post I held.
What Duryodhana, failed to understand, however, was that I was in no way obligated to Hastinapura. I was neither a Kshatriya nor of royal blood. I was never appointed for any specific post in the kingdom. I self-appointed myself as the advisor to the king, purely because he was my half-brother and disabled, and thus became the de-facto prime minister of the country. I only always advised the king and the sabha on matters of Dharma and the right way to do it. Whenever the righteous path was being veered away from, I strove to bring the wayward back to the virtuous path. Sometimes I failed, sometimes I succeeded. But mostly, I failed.

[Pic Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidura]
In body, I may be mortal, cursed to be only a kingmaker, never a king even while having the qualities to rule and sustain a kingdom, by Sage Mandavya, whom I punished for a transgression he did as a small boy. But in thought, actions, words and deeds, I uphold the post of Dharmaraja, the title given to me by the celestials. And it is always those that will be reflected in whatever I do. In this mortal role of a kingmaker, I, the amsa of Dharmaraja, the Lord of Justice, have always strived to adhere to the written and unwritten laws and striven to stick to a harmonious outcome, bearing no ill-will towards my kith and kin. But then, being a mortal does bring with it its own fallacies, doesn’t it? Self-doubt being one of the primary ones that rankle me.  
Maybe I was not a good enough prime minister and advisor. Maybe I failed in my dharma, or maybe Dharma failed me at opportune times, probably for a higher reason, I am not privy to yet. Maybe these turbulent times could have been averted had I learnt to keep my mouth shut when I should have and advised my half-brothers better in times of their needs and indecisiveness. Maybe I shouldn’t have let Duryodhana be pampered so much by his parents, maybe I should have more focused-on imparting what I know to my brother’ children. Maybe I should have controlled my temper, yet again, when Duryodhana provoked me, yet again. Maybe I should have expressed my interest, in spite of no pressure from the kingdom, to fight in the war. Would we maybe have won then, with my war tactics pitted against Krishna’s?  Would Krishna have maybe taken up arms and fought in the war, to counter my infallible bow? 
Everyone knows me as an intelligent man, upholder of Dharma, and a good strategist. Not many, however, know that I am also a skilled archer and that my bow, Govardhan, was a gift from Lord Vishnu himself, against which none stood a chance, not even Arjuna.
But, of course, Krishna knew that.
For today, in the Sabha, when I broke my bow against the words hurled against me and with that, cost Duryodhana this war, the war which could have gone either way, I saw him smile. This was probably one of his masterstrokes, his doings, as are many that I have heard and some, that I have seen first-hand.
Then, maybe this is all pre-ordained. Destined to be so. And we are all mere puppets in the hands of the Preserver himself. And me, I should stick to my duty of an advisor, and a listener for like the wise me before me have said, you can only take a horse to the water, you cannot force it to drink it.
Some call me a wise man. Some call me a pragmatist. Some say I am calm and collected while many others have said that I may not be what I seem.
Me? I call myself an ordinary man. One who has learnt to be content with what has been destined for him. 
For, I have learnt that “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
And so, I will always be me. 
Just as I am. 
Just as I was.

Abhimanyu - The Mahabharata Chronicles #14

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Soma looked down on the battlefield.

Today is the 12th night of the war at Kurukshetra. Soon it will be the 13th day and a much important one at that, for it is then that Varchas turns 16. The day he will come back to me. I have missed him so much these last few years.

For 16 years, I have been separated from my son. I have pined for him. I have wondered whether it was a mistake to send him down as a human, as my amsa, for the greater good.

Like I have been doing every night for the last 16 years, I peek down through the shimmery curtains, at his taut form. The warrior that he has become. Progeny of Nara. Nephew to Narayana. And trained in the martial arts by the Yadavas themselves. Does he sense my presence? Does he remember that his father is yearning for him? Or is he in all senses a true Kshatriya prince now, about to become a father himself?

Oh! How I remember that conversation with Narayana, when he came to me asking for Varchas to be incarnated as a warrior to cleanse the earth. I remember how hesitant I was. I was wondering what would be the politest way to refuse The Lord himself. I couldn’t be away from my boy for a fraction of a second, he was my favourite after all. But Narayana was insistent. He was very convincing and his persuasive powers were of course legendary. I was ready to give in, but I had a few conditions of my own.

---- X ----

Krishna looked up at Chandra. He could see the moon-god smiling in all his glory. It was evident that he was happy, for after all, his beloved son was returning home the next day.

He looked at Abhimanyu. Warrior Prince. Draupadi’s favourite son of all the Pandava offspring even if he wasn’t her own. The blood of the Pandavas and the Yadavas ran in him. He was so skilled that he could probably take on the entire army of Kauravas and disintegrate them. Married to crown-princess Uttara, he was about to father the first grandchild of two historic empires. He had so much to look forward to. And yet his life would end even before it began.

---- X ----

I saw Krishna looking up at me, his face scrunched up enigmatically. I sent his way a flutter of breeze, gently reminding him of his promise to me, and the conditions that applied to it.

When I agreed to let Varchas be incarnated, I wanted him to be born into the mightiest empire there was. I wanted the blood of Nara to run in his veins. Krishna did even better, he ensured that the boy would have the bloodlines of both Nara and Narayana himself.

I also asked for him to be returned to me after 16 years. I knew I was asking him to be returned to me in his prime, but I couldn’t let myself be away from him longer than that. Krishna agreed. He also ordained that the boy would be one of the mightiest warriors the world would see and that he would be the fulcrum for the great war that was to ensue.

I knew Varchas was in safe hands and agreed to Narayana’s words.

With a heavy heart, I sent down my son.

---- X ----

Krishna thought back to the time when Abhimanyu was conceived.

He realized that he had more than one reason to agree to Chandra’s demands, though it became clearer to him only then. Subhadra unknowingly had knocked open a box he had hidden, thereby unleashing the soul of King Kalayavan, whom Krishna had imprisoned inside. The soul looking for a place to hide, had taken refuge in Subhadra’s womb attaching itself to the foetus inside.

Abhimanyu was not yet born when he overheard Arjuna talking to Subhadra and explaining to her about war strategies. Narayana could sense his eagerness to hear more and he could see that the baby was comprehending each and every word spoken. He could see that the foetus was straining to catch every syllable so as to not miss anything. In order to thwart the knowledge falling into his hands, much before he may have been due to learn it, He used his powers to lull Subhadra to sleep, thus putting a stop to the war tactics being discussed.

Precocious child Abhimanyu was. His head was always held high, his stature tall and his demeanour a tad proud, owing to the blood that ran in his veins. After all, there were very few who could take on the combined strength of the Yadavas and the Pandavas. Inquisitive about everything, and keen to learn, he grasped mastery over weapons, war tactics and strategies much quicker than anyone I knew. The reason lay in his previous birth, when he was a much-feared king. After all, old habits do die hard. Once in a while, Krishna could discern a gleam in his eyes, a simmering anger, a sort of restlessness as though something was trying to escape him. He sensed that there was one way he could provide liberation to the trapped soul as well as fulfil Chandra’s conditions.

---- X ----

The 13th day dawned.

Hiding in the shadows of Surya, I looked down at the unfolding scene.

The time of reckoning drew near.

Promising to protect his uncle, Yudhisthira, Abhimanyu tried to break into the Chakravyuha, created by Drona, the great teacher himself. The Pandavas, unable to follow him through the momentary gap, soon found themselves crying out for him and his safety.

Nara and Narayana were occupied at one end of the battlefield, while their disciple wreaked havoc at the other end.

My son was unstoppable that day. He rampaged through the Kaurava forces, killing whoever came in his way, counting several maharathis as well as injuring the greatest of the Kaurava warriors including Karna and Duryodhana. The Kauravas were astounded by his prowess and in a fit of frustration and fury, broke one of the cardinal rules of war.

[Pic Courtesy: http://aroundtheworldin80nights.blogspot.sg/2012/07/chakravyuha-deadliest-of-formations-and.html]

Seven elite warriors, all great in their own right, attacked my son together. More rules were broken in the wake of the first one; when his bowstrings were cut from behind, his steeds killed and his charioteers too. Forced to fight on foot, protecting himself with a sword and a shield, my son raced forth. They broke his sword, and shattered his shield.  Powerless now, he looked around and picked up a chariot wheel and charged at them, but they broke that too. He picked up a mace and killed as many people as he could, displaying more strength and valour than any of the cowards around him. However, while combating with Dusshasana’s son, tired, decimated and injured beyond compare, he knocked out his opponent and fell to the ground in a swoon as well. But before he could come to, his opponent who had awakened, struck him on his head and killed him.

In those last few moments, I could see the light ebb out of my son’s eyes. The gleam dimmed, a small whiff of breath escaped him, and through that the soul of Kalayavan attained Moksha for having fought on the righteous side.

Knowing that he was now truly Varchas in form, deed and glory, Chandra remembered Nara’s blessings to Abhimanyu, when they first set out for war.

“Yashasvi Bhava”
“May you attain eternal success with no obstacles in the way of achievement.”

Abhimanyu’s heroic death would now be the pivotal point which ensured the deaths of the unrighteous because of the traitorous means engaged to slay him.

My son achieved glory as a warrior should on the battlefield. He died fighting till his last breath and he would forever be remembered as the greatest warrior who fought for righteousness and demolished a fourth of the Kaurava army all by himself. 

Another year. Another post. :) - Wrap up 2016!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I read somewhere, that a year changes you a lot. Its true. Its slow and its steady, but it does change you. The past few years have perhaps changed me a lot, but 2016 was the year that in all probability I accepted the changes in me.

When I started 2016, I was under the impression that it would be another 2015. 2015 had been awesome. 2016 at best can be termed as a mixed year. And it was. My wish for 2016 last New Year was very simple.

I wanted madness, magic and not much of the mundane.
You could say I got what I wanted, in short bursts. :) But definitely not in the way I expected.

I wanted more of the journeys, more of the fun and more of joy.
Travel was at a minimum this year, but on those short travels fun was had and there were some unexpected moments of joy.

I created a bucket list at the beginning of 2016. It was filled with some regular stuff and some out of the box stuff. 
Out of the 19 odd items in my bucket list (most of which involved travel :-/) I completed 8 items fully and 2 items in half :P  so can we  make that 9 items in total? Not good enough. I know!
I, however, struck one major item off my bucket list. Sky diving :D :D  While it was fun, I’d much rather do the bungee again. :) I have no idea why I felt that way, because sky diving has been on my list for the longest time. There just wasn’t that same satisfaction as completing the bungee. :)

There were a lot of lessons this year. Some of which made me cynical, some which has left me smiling and some which I have taken to heart and resolved to work upon. :)

You know, I always feel and this year it has been so much more stronger, that the world was a much simpler and different place when we were kids. Or maybe we just weren’t exposed to the harsh realities. For 2017, I am very skeptical of making wishes, of making a bucket list. I am not really sure why.

This coming year, I hope I am much less judgmental of everything in general. I hope I don’t cause anyone any sort of hurt, either through words or through actions. I hope I finish up whatever tasks I take up and I hope I do them to my satisfaction and not just as a half-baked measure :). I hope to read more, travel more, become a well rounded person. I hope and wish I give my family and close friends, the importance that they deserve. I hope to realize and cherish the small blessings that life passes my way.

Just some basic wishes. :) some minor ones, some major ones. But all around just the fundamental. 

For a change I am craving the mundane than the unusual. And I hope the ordinary turns into the extraordinary.

Wishing you all a Happy, Prosperous and Joyous 2017. Peace out! :)

Bhanumathi - The Mahabharata Chronicles #13

Monday, December 19, 2016

They said women aren’t allowed on the battlefield. And yet here I am! Fighting my way through the mounds of dead bodies, the stench of rotting flesh and the cawing of the vultures.
My eyes are weary of searching, my limbs are aching and a sense of dread has caught hold of my heart. I am hoping against hope that he is not here, in this blood strewn battlefield. I don’t think I can see him like this. In my heart, I know he is gone. His fate was sealed that dratted day in the sabha. And yet I hope! Maybe, I thought wrong. Maybe the gods decided to give him one last chance.
Samantapanchaka… I heard a whisper. Duryodhana lies at Samantapanchaka, the winds whisper. Or was it the spies?  I am not sure. I am not sure of anything anymore. I only know now that my feet are leading me towards the lakeshore.
I was but a naïve girl when Duryodhana abducted me. I was scared, cowering inside the chariot of the boorish man who had held me by force, furiously pegging his horses to ride faster and away from the other kings. His ally, Karna, was behind us, fighting the horde that had descended upon us. Once the dust had settled and we had crossed into the territories of Hastinapura, he had all but turned into a tongue-tied prince.
He soon put me at ease, and won over my confidence. Away from the prying eyes, he was a caring husband, a trustworthy confidant and someone who always treated me as his equal in most matters. He always asked me for my opinion, he always confided in me his worst fears. He told me stories of his childhood, of favouritism shown by the teachers, of being bullied by Bhima, of somehow always managing to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told me of his first love, Subhadra, and the story of how it ended.
Over the years that I have known Duryodhana and been by his side, I have only twice walked away from him. Once during the fateful day at the Sabha, when I was pregnant with my twins and the other when war was declared against the Pandavas.
That fateful day at the Sabha, when Duryodhana forbade me to step out of my chambers in spite of what I heard, when my maids told me in hushed whispers what had transpired, and when I couldn’t take the deafening silence anymore, I walked towards the sabha.
The sight that greeted me, shook me to my very core. I saw Draupadi, her hair loose, her clothes sullied and torn, her tear-streaked face and the look in her eyes. At that moment, I was scared. Scared for my life, for the lives of my unborn children and for the life of the man I loved. The man who now sat upon the Crown-Prince’s throne, baring his thigh! I knew not, what came over me. I rushed to Panchali, fell at her feet and begged for my husband’s life as did all the other wives whose husbands had sinned that day. I threw the most repulsed glance I could muster at Duryodhana that day and in that glance, I hoped I conveyed what I felt. I left for my father’s palace the very same day, having no wish to stay upon at Hastinapur.
Of course, I came back after much pleading and promises that everything would be set right. In my heart, I knew that the wheels that had been set in motion, could not stop what had to occur. I still came back because of the man I loved.
The second time was after war had been declared against our kinsmen. I told him what a wicked man, Shakuni mama was. He disregarded my words stating that his uncle was the only one who stood by him all through the years. I argued, cajoled, begged and pleaded trying to make him see reason. But to no avail. There was no way my words were reaching him. Gone was the man, whom I had loved once, who fathered our children, who was a fine and just king, a good son, a loving brother, a caring husband and a trustworthy friend.
In Duryodhana, I now saw a broken man. I saw a man, who was plagued by insecurities falsely planted in his mind, since childhood; who in his weakest moments turned into someone he had no control over. A man, who would lay his life down if the people he believed in asked him to do so and a man who was coerced into doing so.  My husband was a strong man, but he was also someone who was easily influenced by others. He was a fine warrior but only an amateur strategist. And hence, he was someone who could always be taken advantage of.
And now in the far distance, I see him!
Broken. Shattered. Vulnerable. Helpless. A far cry from the man that I knew of.
This image of him, I cannot bear to see.
In my mind, he will always be the swashbuckling prince who abducted me at my swayamvar. He will always be the shy gentleman, who knew not what to do with me once he had gotten me back to Hastinapur.
And in my mind, he will always be that man who walked down the path of unrighteousness and never found his way back. 

Amba - The Mahabharata Chronicles #12 - Part 2

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dusk had now turned into night. And yet, Shikandini, was entranced by the clearing and couldn’t move away. Everything seemed so familiar and yet nothing was clear. She found a smooth rock surface under a tree and sat down. She closed her eyes, in a bid to clear her mind and almost as if she had done this before, crossed her legs into the ‘padmasana’ pose and started chanting Lord Shiva’s name. The rhythm came to her naturally, the breathing settled into a regular tempo and she submitted herself completely to the consciousness.


Amba sat in penance invoking the warrior god, the commander of the devas – Kartikeya. He was the only one she knew capable of defeating Bhishma. Days passed, months passed, and years flew by. Amba’s austerities soon forced Kartikeya to reveal himself in front of her. She fell at his feet and beseeched him to defeat Bhishma. Kartikeya smiled. He gave her a garland of blue lotuses and told her that whoever wore the garland would be able to defeat Bhishma. Overjoyed, she thanked him endlessly and set out on pursuit to find the one warrior, who would wear the garland and fulfil her revenge.

Amba walked high and low, visited multiple kingdoms and yet, none dared to wear the garland. At the very end, she turned to Drupada, mighty King of Panchala. When he heard who, he had to fight, Drupada refused her, stating that he wished to live and not die. Enraged, Amba threw the garland at him, which he deflected, and it ended up atop a pillar in his palace.

Without a backward glance, she left the palace.


Shikandini opened her eyes. She was seeing things much clearer now.

She heard a noise nearby. No doubt, an animal. She stealthily approached it and was horrified to see a Yaksha caught in a hunter’s trap. The Yaksha, Sthunakarna beseeched Shikhandini to set him free. Taking pity upon him, she freed him. He thanked her and before running into the forest, told her that whenever she needed help of any sort, she just had to beckon him and he would be at her side.  

Still in a daze, about what she had witnessed during her meditation, Shikhandini walked towards the palace, wearing the garland.


Bhishma. It was amusing how one man could have changed the trajectory of her life so easily. She thought of his lean body and his toned arms. He wore his battle scars proudly. There wasn’t a man who could defeat him, she had heard. When Vichitraveerya had rejected her, she had thought Bhishma would man up and marry her. After all, she was in this situation because of him. But he hadn’t.

She remembered that day vividly.  It was etched in her mind, branded with hot coals. She had reasoned, argued and when it did not work, pleaded, begged, fallen at his feet, asking him to accept her and save her from ridicule. He hadn’t budged. She admired the tenacity of the man in spite of his rejection of her. She wondered what caused a man who was otherwise well-endowed with everything to take up such a terrible oath. She wondered how it would be to tame that iron-will and mould it with her passion. But it was all futile.

And now she was here. Back at the forest. Back at the clearing.


Shikandini was unsettled. She was feeling a multitude of emotions. Panic gripped her. She could not fully comprehend the turmoil inside her mind and yet she was unable to be calm. In flashes, she felt anger yet she knew not for what or against whom. She wanted to return to the forest. She wanted to sit on the stone in the clearing and she wanted to let her mind move of its free will.

And now she was here. Back at the forest. Back at the clearing.


Amba started her penance again with fervour. This time, she called upon the destroyer himself. She invoked Lord Shiva, practicing such severe austerities that soon she was just skin and bone. She was emancipated and she could feel her life ebbing away. Her rigorous penance made Lord Shiva appear in front of her. She prostrated herself at his feet and sobbed her heart out. Shiva heard her patiently. He lifted her up and explained to her that it was impossible for her to kill Bhishma in this lifetime. Amba was shattered. Shiva then told her that however, if she wished, she could be reborn to kill Bhishma. He told her that it wouldn’t be an easy task, for Bhishma was a great warrior. Amba had no second thoughts. She accepted it.

Shiva told her that she would be born as a princess to King Drupada, she will then realize the purpose of her life by means of the very garland gifted by his son, and take up arms to avenge herself. She would lead in the battlefield as a man, and she would be the commander to the forces of Panchal. He revealed to her that she would remember this past life and her thirst for revenge would span lives.

Amba was ready. Let down by men numerous times, first in the form of her lover and then in form of her abductor and whoever else she turned to, she vowed that she, a woman, would bring about the downfall of the mighty Bhishma.  If no man could avenge her, she would avenge herself.  

She had just one thought. She hoped that she would remember everything from this life that she was giving up. All the fear, all the hurt and most importantly, the fury.

With Shiva’s name on her lips, she stepped into the scorching pyre.


Shikandini opened her eyes with a jolt. The purpose of her life had been revealed to her. From now on, all her waking moments would be dedicated to Bhishma and how to bring his end. She summoned the Yaksha and told him what she wanted. Sthunakarna granted her wish. She discarded all her ornaments. She took her sword and chopped off her long locks. She walked back to the palace, filled with purpose.

Years hence, she would meet Bhishma on the battlefield. They would face each other once again and this time he would have to listen to her. She would make sure he did. No oath and no vow could now come between them.

She was AMBA. Reborn as a phoenix does from its ashes. As SHIKANDI. 

Amba - The Mahabharata Chronicles #12 - Part 1

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

She had just one thought. She hoped that she would remember everything from this life that she was giving up. All the fear, all the hurt and most importantly, the fury.

With Shiva’s name on her lips, she stepped into the scorching pyre.


The girl looked around furtively. No one was around. Neither her parents, nor the courtiers, not even the guards. She was prepared this time. Dragging a spear, twice her height and multiple times her weight, she poked the garland. Trying to dislodge it. She poked and prodded for what seemed like an eternity until the garland, fell – right over her neck.

Ever since she had lain eyes on them, she had wanted them. She was curious and a little bit scared, because everyone else in the palace revered it to the extent of praying in front of it. For what felt like a few minutes, she fingered the lotuses on the garland. The never-fading lotuses. A rich blue in colour. Unlike any of the other lotuses she had seen. She patted them with fondness and a sense of victory at her achievement.

Suddenly she heard a rustle. Frightened, she looked around. No, there wasn’t anyone here. Again, she heard it, stronger this time. She felt the lotuses move under her fingers. Almost as if in a daze, she held them up. The rustling grew louder. There was only word that was being repeated. She knew that word. From within the layers of her subconscious, the images flowed. She was caught in a whirlpool of memories. She knew that name.



Not knowing where to go or what to do, Amba sat down by the riverside. Returning to her father’s kingdom was out of question. There was nowhere she could go, none she could turn for solace to. She looked at the flowing river and wondered the course her life had taken. From what she was to who she was now.

Crown Princess of Kashi. The eldest born. Sister to Ambika and Ambalika. Lover of Shalva.

These were the adages one could assign to her. Her life, a fairly peaceful one, her future, a fairly predictable one but in line with what she wanted. She had been looking forward to the swayamvar. She knew who she wanted and she had been ready to garland Shalva, when a commotion broke out. She heard rumours, about Bhishma, who was also attending the swayamvar. She had heard the murmurs and the whispers of jeer directed at him, ridiculing him at showing up at a swayamvar when he had taken an oath of celibacy.

And then all hell had broken loose.


Shikandini walked around the palace aimlessly. Ever since she wore the garland, her father, King of Panchala, seems a little wary of her. He had been keeping a safe distance, unwilling to meet her eye and he kept eyeing the garland as though it may catch fire at any time.

She couldn’t concentrate on her classes, her archery or her pastimes. She had been getting flashes of regressed memories, and things were slowly becoming clearer. She now had another name to focus upon.


She tried asking her father about him, in an attempt to retrieve more memories. The lashing she received in return, shook her to her very core. She had left the palace grounds in a fit of anger, and now upon realizing that dusk had fallen upon her, she looked around to see herself in a forest clearing. She had no idea how she had ended up there, and why it seemed extremely familiar to her.


Amba was at the verge of breaking down. She was now drawing up on the last vestiges of her strength, trudging her tired and inert body from Saubala back to Hastinapura. She had been taunted and rejected by Shalva, on the basis that she could no longer belong to him or anyone else since Bhishma abducted her and her sisters for marriage to his brother, fighting and winning over the rest of assembled kings. The Kshatriya pride in him was slighted, he said.

She was ready to wed Vichitraveerya, if only to regain whatever remained of her dignity. Upon returning to Hastinapura, she found her sisters in wedded bliss, and she felt the same scornful expression emanating from Vichitraveerya, albeit under the reasoning that her heart belonged to someone else. Brushing aside her ego, she now turned to Bhishma, who was watching the proceedings. Yet, Bhishma too, refused her proposal, stating that he was bound by his vow. However, he said she could stay on at the palace. Snubbed, she left Hastinapura.

She didn’t blame Shalva, she only felt disgusted at him. As for Vichitraveerya, he was merely a puppet at the hands of Bhishma. Her wrath was only directed at Bhishma. She was in this unfavourable situation only because of him and his actions. Hell, hath no fury like a woman scorned. Her anger at Bhishma knew no bounds. The burning need for revenge kept her going.

She walked for days, foraging whatever food she could find, drifting along kingdoms asking for help to fight and defeat Bhishma. She passed by riverbanks and forests. At one of the forests, she met sages who advised her to forget the past and appease the higher powers, becoming a tapasvini. She couldn’t let go of her anger, however, she had now found a way.


(to be continued)