A swayamvara gone awry

What was Bhishma’s involvement with Amba? Who were the sisters Amba, Ambika and Ambalika? What part did they play in the epic?

The pendulum swings inexorably, keeping time for Destiny; Chitrangada battles a gandharva, and falls in ignominy

To the fore, came Vichitravirya as the boy-king; leading Bhishma to rule, after allegiance swearing

In time, Vichitravirya was ready to wife; and Bhishma set out to prepare for him new life

Beautiful daughters had Kasi, a neighbouring king; the fair maidens would make good wives for the new young king

The princesses’ famed beauty well known throughout the country; kshastriya princes came, to win wives, sprouting rivalry

Bhishma’s presence shocked these sons of the warrior born; forgotten his vows of celibacy, they scorned

This stoked the wrath of the finest in the Bharata Race; Bhishma rose, fought and defeated them all to lose their place

Claiming the prize for his King Vichitravirya, Bhishma took leave; to Hastinapura in triumph, with the Kasi princesses, three

One of the virgins had a secret love, the first born, Amba; her heart she had given to King Salva, who ruled Saubala

From a distance, Salva had felt the fair maiden’s choice, his heart pierced; overtaking Bhishma, the love-struck king to win her, battled fierce

Salva worsted, the Peerless prevailed, and only by Amba’s intervention; the Saubalan’s life spared, but defeat would weigh him down in humiliation

Meanwhile, Hastinapura blossomed for the betrothal of Vichitravirya; kings thronged to witness his union to sisters, Amba, Ambika, Ambalika

Flames flared, sweet scents rose, ancient mantras brought rushing, the auspicious moment; alas, the congregation shocked, witnessed Amba bemoan her fate fallen

He lives in my mind, release me from this shame or on these flames I end; the life of a maiden of the Bharata Race, for this my amend

Shame on this august assembly to give unto another, a woman unwilling; know you Scripture, O Son of Bharata, I’m your daughter, do the right thing    

A great commotion erupted, Bhishma in humility, he submitted; with royal escort, Amba to Salva’s court immediately, he conducted

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Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2020

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Next Friday: Sikhandin

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