Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button
Linkedin button
Delicious button
Digg button
Flickr button
Stumbleupon button

Bheeshma’s bhishana pratigya and Amba

I’m currently reading ‘The Palace of Illusions’ which is the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view. It’s an interesting take on the epic and it’s got me thinking.

One of the sub-plots is the story of Amba and Bheeshma, which concludes during the war of Kurukshetra. Amba vows revenge on Bheeshma for not marrying her and redeeming her honour. But my question is what stopped Bheeshma from marrying her or why didn’t she just marry his brother Vichitravirya?

Some background: Bheeshma is the eighth son of King Shantanu and Ganga. Ganga had married Shantanu on the condition that he would never question what she does. Back then women didn’t do drastic or crazy stuff I guess so Shantanu didn’t think much of making the promise. But Ganga went on to drown seven sons she bore. At the eighth Shantanu couldn’t stop himself and questioned her. (Why did Ganga drown her sons – these were eight Vasus who had been cursed to be born as humans. Seven had been granted reprieve, so they would be released from life as soon as they were born. But it was the eighth that had master minded the stealing of the wish-granting cow Nandini from Rishi Vashishta. He would be punished with a difficult life.) Ganga did not drown her eighth son Bheeshma as she knew his destiny but she did leave Shantanu.

Shantanu went on to fall in love with a fisherwoman Satyavati. Satyavati’s father was a smart man (so I think), he knew that Bheeshma was next in line for the throne and so turned down Shantanu as Satyavati’s children would not rule. Bheeshma wanting his father to be happy promised the fisherman that he would remain celibate and that Satyavati’s children would inherit the kingdom.

Later he abducts three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to marry his half-brother Vichitravirya. On reaching Hastinapura Amba tells him she loves another King Salwa, so Bheeshma sends her off to Salwa but Salwa turns her away saying she has been in the company of another man for too long. This brings Amba back to Bheeshma asking him to marry her to save her honour. Bheeshma of course refuses on the grounds of his vow and Amba goes away vowing revenge.

Why did Amba get angry only with Bheeshma, she should have been furious with Salwa for belittling her love. Why didn’t Bheeshma marry her to save her honour. He was only vowed to celibacy, not to being a bhramacharya. And most importantly why didn’t Amba just go ahead and marry Vichitravirya who she had been abducted for in the first place?

Tagged as: