The Story of Shikhandi

 The Story of Shikhandi


In the grand epic of the Mahabharata, a tale rich with valor, honor, and complex human emotions, one character stands out due to their unique and intriguing journey: Shikhandi. Born initially as a princess, transformed into a prince, and destined to play a pivotal role in the epic's climax, Shikhandi's story is one of rebirth, vengeance, and destiny.

The Birth of Amba

Long before Shikhandi entered the scene, a princess named Amba was born to the king of Kashi. She was the eldest of three sisters, and her beauty and grace were renowned throughout the land. When it came time for her to choose a husband, a swayamvara was organized, a grand ceremony where princes and kings gathered to win the hand of the princess.

At the same time, the kingdom of Hastinapura was ruled by Bhishma, the formidable warrior who had taken a vow of celibacy to ensure his father’s happiness. Bhishma attended the swayamvara to find brides for his half-brother, Vichitravirya. In a bold and audacious move, he abducted Amba and her sisters, Ambika and Ambalika, and took them to Hastinapura.

Amba’s Plight

Upon reaching Hastinapura, Amba revealed that she had already given her heart to Salwa, the king of Saubala. Bhishma, honoring her wish, sent her back to Salwa. However, Salwa, humiliated by his defeat at Bhishma’s hands, rejected her. Heartbroken and desperate, Amba returned to Bhishma, seeking justice and demanding that he marry her.

Bhishma, bound by his vow of celibacy, refused. Enraged and humiliated, Amba vowed to take revenge on Bhishma. She performed severe penances to please Lord Shiva, who granted her a boon: in her next life, she would be the cause of Bhishma’s death.

Rebirth as Shikhandini

Amba ended her life in the fire, determined to be reborn. True to Shiva’s boon, she was reborn as Shikhandini, the daughter of King Drupada of Panchala. Even as a child, Shikhandini exhibited traits that were not traditionally feminine. Her fierce nature and martial skills set her apart.

King Drupada was initially perplexed by his daughter’s behavior. As she grew older, it became clear that Shikhandini identified more as a warrior than as a princess. Drupada, though confused, supported his daughter, training her in the arts of war.

The Transformation

As Shikhandini reached adulthood, her memories of her past life as Amba grew stronger. She realized that to fulfill her destiny and exact her revenge on Bhishma, she needed to become a man. Shikhandini left the palace and undertook severe penances, seeking divine intervention to transform into a male warrior.

During her wanderings, she encountered a yaksha named Sthuna. Moved by Shikhandini’s plight and determination, Sthuna agreed to exchange his gender with her. Through this miraculous exchange, Shikhandini became Shikhandi, a male warrior, while Sthuna assumed Shikhandini’s female form.

Return to Panchala

Shikhandi returned to Panchala as a man, his transformation complete. King Drupada accepted Shikhandi’s new identity, recognizing the divine will behind it. Shikhandi, now a prince, continued to train as a warrior, earning a reputation for his bravery and skill.

The Pandavas and the Kurukshetra War

As destiny would have it, Shikhandi’s path crossed with the Pandavas, the rightful heirs to the throne of Hastinapura. The Pandavas, exiled and wronged by their cousins, the Kauravas, sought allies in their quest for justice. They found a staunch ally in King Drupada and his children, including the mighty warrior Shikhandi.

When the great war of Kurukshetra loomed on the horizon, Shikhandi knew his moment of destiny was near. The war was not just a battle for the throne; it was a battle of righteousness, where old scores were to be settled and past promises fulfilled.

The Role of Shikhandi in the War

The Kurukshetra war was a colossal conflict, with warriors of unparalleled skill and valor fighting on both sides. Bhishma, the grandsire of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas, was a key figure in the Kaurava army. His presence on the battlefield was intimidating, as he had a boon that allowed him to choose the time of his death, making him nearly invincible.

On the tenth day of the war, the Pandavas devised a strategy to bring down Bhishma. Krishna, the divine charioteer and guide of the Pandavas, knew that only Shikhandi could be the instrument of Bhishma’s downfall. He revealed the truth about Shikhandi’s past life as Amba to Arjuna, explaining that Bhishma would never attack someone who was once a woman.

The Fateful Battle

The battlefield of Kurukshetra was filled with the sounds of clashing weapons and war cries. On the tenth day, Shikhandi positioned himself at the forefront, his heart filled with a mix of determination and the weight of his past life’s anguish. Arjuna, the greatest archer among the Pandavas, took his place behind Shikhandi, ready to strike.

As Shikhandi faced Bhishma, the great warrior recognized him as Amba reborn. True to his principles and the ethics of war, Bhishma lowered his weapons, refusing to fight Shikhandi. This moment of hesitation was what Arjuna needed. Using Shikhandi as a shield, he shot a barrage of arrows at Bhishma, each one finding its mark.

Bhishma’s body was riddled with arrows, and he fell from his chariot, lying on a bed of arrows. Though mortally wounded, he did not die immediately. Due to his boon, Bhishma could choose the time of his death, and he chose to remain alive until the auspicious time of Uttarayana.

Aftermath and Legacy

Shikhandi’s role in Bhishma’s fall was a turning point in the Kurukshetra war. It demonstrated that destiny and divine will could bend the mightiest of warriors. Shikhandi’s actions ensured that Bhishma’s formidable presence was removed from the battlefield, significantly weakening the Kaurava forces.

After the war, Shikhandi’s story became a symbol of perseverance and the fulfillment of divine justice. His journey from being Amba, a princess wronged and humiliated, to Shikhandi, a warrior who played a pivotal role in one of the greatest wars of all time, is a testament to the themes of rebirth, vengeance, and the inevitable triumph of dharma (righteousness).

Themes and Significance

Shikhandi’s story is significant in the Mahabharata for several reasons:

1. Gender Fluidity and Identity:
   - Shikhandi’s transformation from female to male highlights the fluidity of gender roles and identities. It challenges the traditional notions of gender and showcases the divine intervention in human affairs.

2. Vengeance and Justice:
   - The narrative of Shikhandi underscores the theme of vengeance and the idea that wrongs will be avenged, even across lifetimes. Amba’s unwavering determination to seek justice for her wrongs drives her rebirth and transformation.

3. Fate and Destiny:
   - The story of Shikhandi exemplifies the concepts of fate and destiny. Amba’s curse and her subsequent rebirth as Shikhandi are guided by divine will, illustrating the belief that destiny will ultimately fulfill itself.

4. Ethics of War:
   - Bhishma’s refusal to fight Shikhandi, recognizing her past life as Amba, reflects the ethical and moral dilemmas faced by warriors. It emphasizes the importance of honor and principles in the context of warfare.


Shikhandi’s journey in the Mahabharata is a profound and multifaceted tale that weaves together themes of gender, destiny, and divine justice. From Amba’s initial plight to Shikhandi’s pivotal role in the Kurukshetra war, the narrative explores the complexities of human emotions and the inexorable march of fate.

In the grand tapestry of the Mahabharata, Shikhandi’s story stands out as a powerful reminder that the past and present are intertwined, and that justice, though sometimes delayed, will always be served. Shikhandi’s legacy endures as a symbol of resilience, transformation, and the ultimate triumph of righteousness.