Family of Shikhandi
Shikhandi is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He was born as a girl child named ‘Shikhandini’ to Drupada, the king of Panchala. Shikhandi fought in the Kurukshetra war on the side of the Pandavas, along with his father Drupada and brother Dhristadyumna.
Past life of Shikhandi
In the majority of the versions of the Mahabharat, there is the story of Shikhandi being Amba in his previous birth.
Shikhandini or Shikhandi had been born in a previous lifetime as a woman named Amba.
Vichitravirya married only her sisters, because Amba told Bhishma that she had fallen in love with Salwa, and was not ready to marry anyone else. Hearing this from her, Bhishma sent Amba with grandeur to Saubala. But Salwa rejected her as well, in shame of losing the combat against Bhishma. Amba then returned to Bhishma and demanded that he marry her according to Kshatriya dharma, but Bhishma declined due to his vow celibacy.
Her feeling of revenge
Enraged at her humiliation, she tried to persuade other kings to wage a war with Bhishma and compel him to wed her. None agreed for they were afraid of incurring the wrath of the great warrior. Amba managed to get Parashurama, Bhishma’s guru, to champion her cause. However, not even Parashurama could defeat Bhishma.
She resorted to penance and received a garland of blue lotuses from Lord Kartikeya and it was foretold that anyone wearing the garland would become the cause of Bhishma’s death. She went to the Panchal, as they were a mighty empire known for its military prowess. However, no one was willing to champion her cause, fearful of antagonizing Bhishma. Amba, in anger, hung the garland on the gates of King Drupada and left in agony.
Austerities performed by her
Amba did severe penance to Lord Shiva for a boon to cause Bhishma’s death. Eventually, her prayers were answered. But, being a woman with no military training, she asked Shiva how should would accomplish her task, and he responded that her future incarnation would be the one to actually bring about Bhishma’s demise. Eager to bring this about, Amba killed herself; in some versions of the story (to explain the time gap between the abduction at Kashi and the Kurukshetra war, Amba keeps on killing herself until she is incarnated into satisfactory situation.Amba was reborn as Shikhandini, the daughter of King Drupada
Her role in Mahabharata
In the battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma recognised him as Amba reborn, and not wanting to fight a “woman” (or an actual woman, depending on the version), avoided battling Shikhandi. On the tenth day, Shikhandi rides in Arjuna’s chariot, and together, they face Bhishma, forcing him to lower his weapons. Knowing that this would happen, Arjuna hid behind Shikhandi and attacked Bhishma with a devastating volley of arrows. Thus, Shikhandi was instrumental in Bhishma’s death.
Shikhandi was finally killed by Ashwatthama on the 18th day of battle. Dazed and confused, Shikhandi is killed in a sword fight with Ashwatthama when Ashwatthama, Kripacharya, and Kritaverma attacked the Pandava camp on the night of the final day of battle. In some versions of the Mahabharat, Ashwatthama kills Shikhandi’s lover (male or female) in front of him; in other versions, it is Shikhandini’s partner (male/female) who is butchered