Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Amba - The Mahabharata Chronicles #12 - Part 2

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. 

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