Thursday, June 9, 2016

Chapter 8 - Shikhandi

Satyavathi sighed as she saw the glowering figure of the Kasi Princess Amba in the palace of Hastinapur.

As was the practice among the warriors, Bhishma had abducted the princesses of Kasi on the very day of their swayamvara and he had brought the three princesses of Kasi for Vichitraviryan. Ambika and Ambalika had married Vichitraviryan and were very happy with him.

Princess Amba.....however that was another matter.

Satyavati felt a little sorry for the princess. First she was spurned by Shalva, the man she loved, for the reason that Bhishma had defeated him and taken her away. Then Vichitraviryan refused to marry her saying that Amba had already chosen Shalva as her husband and he could not marry her now....

Because Bhishma had defeated Shalva, Amba was now forcing Bhishma to marry her....Well atleast trying to...Satyavathi thought sighing again. Amba had stayed in the palace of Hastinapur for the past six years and was trying to get Bhishma to marry her...Satyavathi smiled sadly. Bhishma was named that [Bhishma meant 'The firm”] because he had made a terrible promise of never to marry and Satyvati knew that nothing....absolutely nothing could change his mind. As far as Satyvati knew Bhishma had never thought of any woman and Satyvati was sure that Amba could not change Bhishma's mind.

But nowadays looking at Amba, Satyavathi was getting a little nervous. Satyavathi sensed that the six long years in Hastinapur and probably watching her two sisters happy with Vichitraviryan, had changed Amba irrevocably. Amba was now a woman who never smiled and gradually all the frustration she was feeling was becoming into hatred. Satyvathi realized with a growing uneasiness that Amba's hatred had found a target – Bhishma. Amba was blaming Bhishma for her misfortunes thinking that he was the reason she was not living like her sisters....Such things never boded well for any kingdom, Satyavathi realized. But she did not know what to do. She could not just have Amba thrown out of Hastinapur....

It was because of this that Satyavathi was stunned the next day to find Princess Amba missing from her quarters. A quick search revealed that Princess Amba was nowhere to be found. Satyavathi realized that Amba had left them. But Satyavathi was too shrewd to know that this definitely was not good. If Amba had left that meant that she was going to explore other alternatives to get what she wanted. And with two people as determined and stubborn as Amba and Bhishma, 'the alternatives' could not be simple or easy....

************

Satyavathi was perfectly right in her assessment of Amba. Amba was no longer the innocent young girl whom Bhishma had brought to the kingdom of Hastinapur. She was now a woman with a mission. She was going to destroy Bhishma. It was because of him that she was now being ridiculed by everybody. It was because of him and his cursed vow that she would never know the pleasures of marriage or motherhood....The man had singlehandedly destroyed her and now Amba was going to return the favour....

Amba realized that she was not powerful or trained enough to fight and win against Bhishma and that she needed someone else. Someone else who was trained and powerful and who would be willing to fight for her. And so Amba set out. She traveled all over the kingdoms to implore the princes and the kings of the other kingdoms to fight against Bhishma for her.....But it was a task easier said than done. Everyone knew of the great Bhishma and no one......not one person was willing to stand up and fight against him.

Disgusted, Amba left for the forests. The pathetic humans are all afraid. None of them had the guts to stand up against Bhishma. The Devas were the only option I have....So she decided to turn to the Gods for help. She prayed to Lord Karthikeyan focusing all her hatred towards the penance. Lord Karthikeyan appeared before her within a surprising short time.

'Lord! I need someone to fight against that wretched Bhishma and win! I want that man dead!' Amba said with utter hatred in her heart. Lord Karthikeyan realized that Amba was so lost in her hatred that she was beyond redemption. He pulled out a garland of flowers which never withered and handed it over to her. 'Take this! Whoever wears this garland would be the one who would destroy Bhishma!'

Overjoyed Amba took the garland with her and this time asked the princes to wear the garland and fight Bhishma. But Amba should have known better. None of the princes felt confident enough to take on Bhishma even with the garland. Amba last approached the kingdom of Panchala which was ruled by King Drupad.

After King Drupad also refused to help her, Amba became thoroughly disillusioned and left the garland hanging outside his palace and went back to the forests....

************

A sage from the hermitage in the forest saw the regal lady getting ready for penance. The woman was beautiful....but her eyes....they looked...the sage shivered as he studied the lady, the eyes of the woman looked dangerous to say the least.

'My Lady! Who are you? What are you doing in this forest? You look like someone who has had a royal upbringing! What are you here for?' he went to her.

The lady frowned as she looked at the sage. The sage realized that the woman's face looked like it had lost the capacity to smile 'I want a man dead!' She said so simply that the sage was shocked. 'The wretched 'brave' kings and princes do not have the guts to stand up against him...I have realized that it is useless to rely on other people so I am going to pray to the Three-eyed Lord (Lord Shiva) for a boon to destroy him!' She continued.

As the woman spoke the sage realized that the woman was not someone who could be reasoned with. The woman was beyond all that. 'Who is this man?' The sage asked inspite of himself.

'BHISHMA!' The woman snarled as the sage looked appalled at the ferocious expression of her face.

Bhishma? The Kuru Bhishma? The sage wondered. No wonder the woman had found anyone to fight against him. The man was a legend. Why there was not one person....The sage suddenly blinked as he looked at the woman. 'My Lady!' The sage stammered. 'You could ask Lord Parashurama! Sage Parashurama is in a hermitage near mine! He hates all kings and warriors and he is a brilliant warrior...Why don't you....?'

'Where is he?' Amba was on her feet, her eyes shining with hatred even before the sage finished speaking.

Mutely the sage pointed as Amba thanked him and left the place, now filled with a new purpose.

*************
Amba went to the hermitage of Parashurama and told him the entire story. Sage Parashurama who was in fact Bhishma's teacher, decided that Amba was right and accepted to fight for her.

Amba accompanied with Parashurama went to the gates of Hastinapur....

'Come out Bhishma!' Parashurama bellowed outside the palace. The guards outside tried to calm down the furious sage but it was of no use. Bhishma heard the commotion and he came out. Seeing his teacher he rushed forward happily but stopped short when he saw the ferocious expression on his teacher's face. That was when Bhishma spied Amba standing beside the sage.

Taking a deep breath he went towards Parashurama. 'Welcome to Hastinapur! I....'

'I am not here to enjoy your hospitality or listen to your flattering words Bhishma!' Parashurama yelled. Bhishma said nothing as he watched the sage. 'I am here as a representative of Princess Amba! You have wronged her!' Sage Parashurama narrowed his eyes and said in an icy cold manner. 'The only way you can right the wrong done to her, is by marrying her!'

Bhishma took another deep breath to calm himself. 'Gurudev! I am bound by my vow! I cannot marry....'


'TAKE YOUR WEAPONS OUT!' Parashurama shouted pulling out his weapons. 'We fight!'

And so they fought. Sage Parashuraman and Bhishma fought as Amba watched the entire scene with bated breath. The battles was one of the most evenly matched and glorious fights ever. Anything that Bhishma was able to come up, Sage Parashuraman was able to counter and Sage Parashuraman was not able to put any past Bhishma's defences.
The battle lasted for a total of 23 days and in the full time neither side yielded an inch. Finally Bhishma pulled out his deadliest weapon and aimed the arrow at Parashuraman.
For a moment the world stood still.
Sage Narada and the other sages appeared before the two of them. 'You cannot use this weapon Bhishma! Using this weapon would cause the world to end! The world cannot end right now!'
Bhishma relaxed his hands on the bow. The sages turned to Parashuraman. 'This fight would not have any result. Please give it up!'


Finally Parashuraman realized that the fight could go on indefinitely without any result. He went to Amba. 'I am sorry! I cannot fight and win against him!'
Amba looked at him with tears in her eyes, 'But...!'
Sage Parashuraman shook his head. 'He is a powerful man! Our fight would not yield any result....I will talk to Shalva and ask him to....'
Amba gave Sage Parashuraman a withering look. 'I do not want your pity!' She turned and saw the proud and haughty Bhishma for the last time and then walked away from there without a backwards glance.
Amba followed her original plan. She decided to meditate and pray to Lord Shiva with the same determined and single minded hatred that she had developed over the years.
Lord Shiva appeared before her. 'My Lord! I want to destroy Bhishma!' Amba said without any preamble.
Lord Shiva who knew Amba's purpose smiled sadly at her. 'In your next life, you would be the reason of Bhishma's death!'
Amba looked angrily at the three-eyed God but did not say anything. Once the God vanished from there she looked furiously around...Next life? I cannot wait to destroy his life! I will end my life now and here! The sooner I end this life the sooner my next life starts...
The woman was so muddled with her hatred that she did not really mind ending her life. Without a second thought Amba killed herself....
********

King Drupad of Panchala had a daughter.
His daughter walked outside the palace as she watched a garland of fresh flowers which always hung outside palace. Looking at it she always felt so....odd.
One day unable to take it anymore, she pulled down garland. The minute she touched the garland, she felt dizzy. A wave of memories washed through her...Amba...Shalva....Satyavathi....her sisters....BHISHMA...All the emotions that Amba had, were fed into the girl. She looked around furiously. From that time till now, no one has had the guts to wear this. Disgusted the girl pulled it and wore the garland herself.
King Drupad who saw his daughter wear the garland was scared stiff. He knew the history of the garland. This girl would bring doom to the kingdom. By wearing the garland she had invited the wrath of Bhishma. If he attacks my kingdom, I may not be able to protect it...King Drupad decided that the only way he could protect the kingdom was to banish his daughter to the forest. Without a second though Drupad banished his daughter to the forests....
The girl roamed through the forests....That her father banished her did not bother her. The old passion and hatred was back in her eyes. How on earth can I fight with Bhishma now? How can I bring about his death....

The girl there met a yaksha. There with the blessings of the yaksha the girl was transformed into a man. The daughter now became a man – a man who wore the garland of non-withering flowers....He came to be known as Shikhandi....


2 comments:

  1. Hi there,
    Nicely written.. but there's a small mistake.
    In the sentence below you should replace Amba with Bhishma.
    ... ..
    smiled sadly at her. 'In your next life, you would be the reason of Amba's death!'......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for pointing out the error. I have corrected it.

      Delete