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Shikhandi - The Voice Of The Marginalized

Shikhandi – The Voice Of The Marginalized

Mahabharata has many characters and stories that challenge the conventional ideologies and prove that the era back then was much more advanced and open in terms of thinking and mindset than they are now. One such story is the story of Shikandi, the warrior who killed Bhishma.

Shikhandi was born as Amba, the sister to Ambika and Ambalika. Bhishma saw the three princesses of Kashi as an ideal match for the crown prince of Hastinapur- Vichitravarya. Vichitravarya agreed to marry Ambika and Ambalika but rejected Amba. Amba was furious at this and asked Bhishma to marry her as he had wronged her. Bhishma rejected her because of his vow of celibacy. An enraged Amba tried to protest and even convinced Parshurama to battle Bhishma and make him agree but in vain.

Amba went in penance and impressed Lord Shiva, who gave her a boon that she would be reincarnated in a form that would enable her to take her revenge against Bhishma. Some versions also say that she was given a garland of blue flowers that she put at Drupad’s palace gate and the garland helped her to remember to take her revenge from Bhishma. She sped up her death by walking into a funeral pyre.

Amba As Shikhandi

Amba was born as Shikhandini to Drupad. Some sources also say Drupad found her in a forest. Shikandini got all the military training and became a fine warrior. She wore the garland and remembered her quest of taking revenge against Bhishma. She was considered as a son and there was no difference in the treatment that Drupad gave to her or her siblings. Drupad came to know about the garland story and was curious to check its authenticity. He did not want to become Bhishma’s enemy. Shikhandini came to know about this and fled to a forest.

She met a Yaksha in the forest and the Yaksha swapped his sex with her. This exchange is seen by the Yaksha king who curses the Yaksha that he would not get back his sex until Shikhandini dies. Shikhandini thus becomes a male – Shikhandi because of the exchange.

Later, when she comes to know about the Kurukshetra war, she approaches the Pandavas and Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna welcomes her to the army. While she is in the war, everyone else tries to stop others but she is never harmed by anyone as it is considered against their dharma to fight against women. She confronts Bhishma who refuses to attack her as she is a woman and also realizes that it is Amba reincarnated. Arjuna takes cover behind Shikhandi and showers a hundred arrows that kill Bhishma.

Shikhandi is later killed by Ashwathama on the 18th day of Kurukshetra. Thus, Shikhandi becomes the powerful representation of a gender-fluid person. Many versions attribute her as a transgender character who was the only one who could defeat the mighty Bhishma. It is incredible and amazing that stories written thousands of years ago are so considerate and powerful enough to welcome characters of all sorts and all sexes.

Click here to read about Barbarik – The Unsung Hero Of Mahabharata.

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