Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mahabharata/Jaya - Amba, Ambika and Ambalika

"I have taken a vow and I will never break it". Thus spoke Bhishma in 2 instances. Once to princess Amba (which would eventually result into his downfall in the great war) and then to Satyavati (which is one of the many causes for the great war).

King Shantanu passes away after the birth of 2 sons through his wife Satyvati. Chitrangada, the eldest, was an arrogant one and dies in a battles with a Gandharva (rationally would be forest tribe involved in some sorcery). Chitrangada was unmarried at the time. The second child, Vichitraveerya (name denotes strange masculinity), was a only 16 and was a weakling. So Bhishma (who is ruling as a regent) goes and kidnaps the three princesses of Kashi - Amba, Ambika and Ambalika.

Princess Amba was already in love with Prince Shalva and was planning to select him during the swayamvar. She informs Bhisma that she has accepted Shalva as her husband in her heart. As per Righteousness, Bhishma sends her back to Shalva who refuses to take her back (as per the warrior code of him loosing to Bhishma while fighting to avoid the kidnapping). Amba goes back to Vichitraveerya who refuses her sighting that he cannot accept her as she already had another man in her heart. Dejected, Amba goes to Bhishma and requests him to marry her. Bhishma then reminds her of his vow because of which he cannot marry her. Bhishma again gives importance to his vow when a woman's life could be ruined. Angry, Amba leaves him in search of a person or power to kill Bhishma. Amba is no ordinary woman but her anger is very powerful. I will delve on this when we reach the chapter of the Great War.

Vichitraveerya over indulges in sexual life, ignoring his stately resposibilities and dies an untimely death without bearing any children. Vyasa has never explained this but in my research somewhere it mentions he dies of TB. Satyavati is eager to ensure that the family line moves on as well as being the mother of kings. As per the law of niyoga dharma, any child a woman bears belongs to the husband. Citing this, she requests Bhishma to make love to the 2 princes. Bhishma reminds her of the vow he has taken, ironically to satisfy her. This again shows Bhishma's blind adherence to the words of the law rather than the spirit. Now when there is a threat that the family line can be completely over, he still does not bulge from his vow. This is a vow which has lost all meaning and purposes but he still carries it on. That is why later Krishna in someways shows us later that the end is important more than the journey (if the end is for rightful dharma, then you might have to bend a few to achieve it). Bhishma in his rigid ways will never be able to do it. Hence, he is unable to handle or foresee Shakuni's treachery in the future. He is unable to find a way out. The old value system just like his vow is meaningless. 

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