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  • Short Title WIKI.Shikhandi 
    Author Wiki 
    Publisher Wikipedia 
    Call Number 
    Repository WIKI.EN 
    Source ID S33 
    Linked to Shikhandi 

  • Shikhandi
    Kripa fights with Shikhandi (top right)
    GenderFemale turned male[1]
    FamilyDrupada (father)
    Prishati (mother)
    Dhristadyumna (brothers)
    Draupadi (sister)
    Spousea Dasarna princess

    Shikhandi (Sanskrit: शिखण्डी, Śikhaṇḍī) is an androgynous character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He is born as female named Shikandini to Drupada, the king of Panchala, however later transforms into a male. He is the brother of Draupadi, the female protagonist of the epic and common wife of the Pandavas.

    Shikhandi is the reincarnation of Amba, who was scorned by Bhishma. Shikhandi fought in the Kurukshetra war for his brothers-in-law, the Pandavas, and was instrumental in the death of Bhishma.

    In Javanese wayang tradition, Shikhandi is known as Srikandi and is born as a male, however changes into female.[2][3]

    Past Life

    In the majority of the versions of the Mahabharata,[4] there is the story of Shikhandi being Amba in her previous birth.

    Shikhandi had been born in a previous life as a woman named Amba. Amba was the eldest daughter of the King of Kashi. Along with her sisters Ambika and Ambalika, she was abducted from their Swayamvara by force by Bhishma, as punishment to the Kingdom of Kashi for not inviting Hastinapur nobility to the event. After defeating several kings, including Salwa, the King of Saubala, Bhishma returned to Hastinapur with the princesses and presented as the potential brides to his younger half-brother, Vichitravirya, the crown prince of Hastinapur.[5]

    Vichitravirya married only two sisters because Amba told Bhishma that she had fallen in love with the king of 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 of celibacy. 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 got Parashurama, Bhishma's guru, to champion her cause. However, not even Parashurama could defeat Bhishma.[5]

    According to the summary by C. Rajagopalachari, 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.[6]

    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 she 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 a satisfactory situation.[7] Amba was reborn as Shikhandini, the son of Drupada.


    In early versions of the Mahabharata, Shikhandi is still Amba-reborn, but a female. Because Panchala doesn't practice gender discrimination, she is trained to become a warrior and fight in the Kurukshetra War (this being the original reason why Amba kills herself, again and again, wanting to be born to a culture that will allow her to fight Bhishma). In most versions of the story, Shikhandi is male but born female. When Shikhandini changes her sex, she becomes Shikhandi, but is a eunuch.[4] According to C. Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata, when Shikhandini was still living as a young woman she discovered the garland of ever-blooming blue lotuses hung on the palace gate. Shikhandini put it around her neck. When Drupada saw his child wearing the garland, he became fearful of becoming Bhishma's enemy and Shikhandini was banished from the kingdom. She performed austerities in the forest and was transformed into a male named Shikhandi.[8]

    In another version of the story, Drupada desires an heir and wanders the forest to settle his disquieted mind. He comes upon the toddler Shikhandini. When Drupada picks her up, a heavenly voice tells Drupada to raise her as a man. Drupada raised his daughter as a son and had Shikhandini married to a princess of Dasharna. She complained to her father, Hiranyavarna, that her husband was a woman. When the king sent people to check this fact, Shikhandini panicked and escaped into a forest, where she met a Yaksha who exchanged his sex with her. The Yaksha King sees the Yaksha as a girl and curses him that he will remain in the form till Shikhandi dies, keeping the sex-swap in place.[9] In many versions of the story, the change results in Shikhandi being a eunuch; in others, it doesn't.[10]

    In some versions of the story, Amba is simply reborn as a male Shikhandi, sometimes whole and sometimes a eunuch. In even other versions, Shikhandi is a male but transgender, due to Shiva's boon that Amba will remember all the details of her past life.[7]

    In the Ganguly translation of the Chatahurdi compilation, Shikhandi had a son named Kshatradeva.[11]

    Battle of Mahabharata

    Bhishma refuses to fight Shikhandi

    In the battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma recognized 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, many warriors of Kaurava Army attacked and wounded Shikhandi and some stopped the Pandavas. Drona stopped Arjuna, Duryodhana stopped Bhima, Shalya stopped Yudhishthira, Vrikaasur stopped Nakula and Uluka stopped Sahadeva. Firstly, Ashwatthama attacked Shikhandi but Drupada took him, then Dussasana attacked Shikhandi but Dhrishtadyumna took him and at last Shakuni attacked and stabbed Shikhandi but Virata stopped him. Later, wounded Shikhandi rides in Arjuna's a 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, killed 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.[12] 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.[7]


    1. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 8: Karna Parva: Section 6". Retrieved 22 January 2020.
    2. ^ Studies in Indo-Asian Art and Culture. International Academy of Indian Culture. 1980. p. 283.
    3. ^ Hartana, S.S., 2017. Origins, journeys, encounters: a cultural analysis of wayang performances in North America (Doctoral dissertation).page=49[1]
    4. ^ a b Sorabji, Cornelia, and Warwick Goble. Shikhandi: The Maiden-knight and Other Stories. Bombay: Blackie and Son, 1916. Print.
    5. ^ a b "The Mahabharata, Book 1: Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva: Section LXVII".
    6. ^ Rajagopalachari, Raja (1951). Mahabharata. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 22.
    7. ^ a b c Pattanaik, Devdutt. Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don't Tell You. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print
    8. ^ Mahabharata Summary By Rajaji, Mahabharata Stories, Stories and Characters from Mahabharata, Mahabharatam in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi
    9. ^ MAHABHARAT: The king of Kashi's three beautiful daughters, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika Archived 12 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
    10. ^ Gāḍīta, Jayanta. Shikhandi. Ahmedabad: Parshwa, 1990. Print.
    11. ^ "The Mahabharata, Book 8: Karna Parva: Section 6".
    12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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