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Chapter 24: Amba and Bhishma

Posted by Arun Mohan ~ on ~ 0 comments

Soon after the death of Shantanu, Bhishma took the care of his father’s second wife and her two sons. Satyavati, the second wife of Shantanu wanted her sons to grow up fast, marry and to hand over the rule to her sons. They grew under the guidance of Bhishma. But the elder son of Satyavati, Chitrangada was killed in battle with a gandharva before marriage. Chitrangada was an arrogant man and he brought his own death by challenging to a duel by a Gandharva of the same name. Vichitravirya thus became the next heir and was suitably crowned king. But he was a minor, so the bhishma governed the kingdom in his name until he reached the age.

When Vichitravirya reached his adolescence, bhishma searched for a suitable bride for him. He heard that the king of Kasi was organizing a swayamvara for his three daughters - Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. No invitation had been sent to Vichitravirya as the king thought he was an unfit groom for any woman. This irked bhishma as he believed that the absence of an invitation caused an insult to the dignity of his family. He rode into Kashi and abducted the three princesses in the swayamvara ceremony. Salva, the king of the Saubala and the love interest of Amba tried to stop him, but he was defeated by bhishma and took the three princesses in his chariot to Hastinapara. He then gave the three princesses to Vichitravirya.

Amba begged both Vichitravirya and Bhishma for leaving her as she was in love with Shalva. Feeling sorry for her, Bhishma let her go to the man she loved. But Shalva refused to take back Amba, since bhishma defeated him and had taken away. Shalva was a man with right perception, so he is disgraced in taking back a girl as charity after defeat. He returned Amba to Hastinapara, but Vichitravirya sent her away as he doesn’t want to take back once given. Amba then went to Bhishma and demanded that he take her as his wife. Since she believed that bhishma is the cause for her destiny. Bhishma would hear none of this and he said her about his oath that prevents him from being with any woman. Then he said Amba to leave him and to select her own way, since neither Shalva nor Vichitravirya accepted her.

Amba was hurt with the words of Bhishma and she then spent six bitter years in sorrow and baffled hope. He then decided to take revenge against bhishma for ruining her life. She resorted to hard austerities to get the grace of Lord Subrahmanya. Due to her strict penance, the six-faced lord appeared in front of her and presents her a garland of ever-fresh lotuses and said her that anyone wearing the garland would become the cause of Bhishma's death. Amba then went to several foremost warriors in seek of fight and kill bhishma with the help of wearing this garland. But all kshatriyas feared bhishma, so they paid no heed to her appeal. Finally, she went to King Drupada, who also refused to declare a war with bhishma. Then she hung the garland of ever-fresh lotuses at Drupada's fort door and went away to forest for penance. Some ascetics she met in the forest advised her to tell her sorrow to the great warrior, Parasurama who was also the Bhishma’s teacher.

On hearing the sad story of Amba, Parasurama was shocked and instantly challenged his student to a battle. A dreadful fight followed which lasted for several days. It was a lengthy and equal combat between the two greatest warriors of the era. Finally, Parashurama gave up the battle and asked Amba that no one can kill him unless he wants to die. If this fight continues, then we want to release deadly weapons that result in the destruction of world.

Consumed with grief and fury, Amba took a vow that she would not eat or sleep until the gods grace her in killing Bhishma. She then went to the Himalayas and stood on one foot on top of a hill for days until Shiva (the destroyer) graced her. Shiva appeared in front of him and said that she would be the cause of Bhishma’s death but only in her next life. Amba was impatient for that rebirth, so she suddenly put an end to her life by leaping into a pit of fire. Later she was reborn in the household of Drupada, king of Panchala. While in her childhood itself, she saw the garland of never-fading flowers at the fort door and coiled it around her neck. Nobody touched the garland and it remained there untouched by anyone in the fear. After hearing that she put the garland in her neck, King Drupada sent his daughter in exile out to the forest for practicing austerities. But by the time passed, she transformed into a male warrior called Shikhandi.

Note: The first decision made by Bhishma in his life that went wrong was Amba's tragedy. Bhishma was a person who was blinded by his traditional beliefs, which resulted in his failure of judging right from wrong. The second sin that he did was keeping mum when his own daughter-in-law, Draupadi was getting disrobed by the Kauravas. Later he paid its result by his own death in the hands of Shikhandi.

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