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Story of the Birth of Shikhandi in the Mahabharata

Shikhandi, the transgender in the Mahabharata, was the cause of Bhishma’s death. The reason for birth of Amba as Shikhandi was to defeat the invincible warrior, Bhishma. The story of Shikhandi’s half-woman, half-man persona is found in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata.

Amba was the eldest daughter of the King of Kashi. She along with two of her sisters were forcibly be taken away by Bhishma from the Swayamvara to be the wives of King Vichitravirya. But on the day when the marriage was to be performed Amba informed Bhishma that she had given her mind to King of Shalva and she be sent to him.

On realizing the mistake, Bhishma sent her to the King of Salwa. But the King of Shalva was not ready to accept a woman who had entered the home of another person.

Amba had now nowhere to go. Bhishma would not marry her as he had taken the vow of celibacy. King Vichitravirya would not accept her as he was in love with someone else.

Determined to avenge her humiliation, she searched for a warrior who would stand against Bhishma. But all the warriors declined to help Amba saying that Bhishma was invincible.

She then took the help of warrior-sage Parashurama. He challenged Bhishma to a duel but it was impossible to kill Bhishma. The fight had to be stopped as both had the power to release weapons that could destroy the world.

Amba then performed intense austerities and compelled Lord Shiva to appear before her. Shiva gave her the boon that she would be the cause of Bhishma’s death in her next life.

To hasten Bhishma’s death, Amba killed herself by jumping into fire.

In her next birth, Amba was born in the palace of Drupada, the king of Panchala. She was named Shikhandi, although born as a woman; she was raised as a man. Shikhandi’s effeminate qualities made Bhishma to lower his weapons in the Kurukshetra battle. Arjuna exploited this weakness of Bhishma and shot arrows at him.

Thus Shikhandi was the reason behind the fall of Bhishma.