Sarthak Pandit



Sarthak Pandit




15 mins 244 15 mins 244

Paanchaal was a powerful kingdom.

The powers, the prestige, the majesty and the wealth of Paanchaal were unparalleled to any kingdom then. For ages, the kingdom of Paanchaal had been of immense importance. It was a center of cultural and military exchange. Its strength was known far and wide and every state wished healthy relations with it. And so had been for a long time. The kings had dignifiedly held their posts and been benevolent to their subject ever-through.

Drupad, the current crowned King, held a stronghold on affairs. He was more ambitious than any of his ancestors. After his coronation, the kingdom expanded manifold. His north expedition has been vast and all the minor states that flanked beside his empire were annexed with a slight trick of money and debt game. He was a visionary and a true administrator. He kept a close watch on his empire and was heard to settle the scores of any mutiny or crime without any soul hearing about it. His military at his disposal was a strong backbone of his power. He himself was an excellent warrior though his ideals were now interfering with his abilities to pin down his enemies with which, he, once, could plant enormous fear in his opponent’s hearts.

“I wish an heir to helm the responsibilities of this empire, which my ancestors, forefathers, people and I, have built with all sweat and blood!”, Drupad said to his beloved wife, the Queen, one night when they were appreciating each other’s close proximity.

Drupad was determined to have a son so that he could discharge off from his duties and delve into ‘Sanyaas’ and other pious activities for a lifetime. Drupad was a god-fearing man and soon was enlightened to ‘Moksh’ or salvation and, therefore, wished to bring himself to an end to all his policies and material duties. Neither did he desire to dissolve his possessions nor to stop his kingdom from flourishing. He desperately craved for a son and wished no other child thereafter. He vowed to make his son a great warrior and a leader, invincible. The Queen wished to fulfill this wish of her husband. Soon she was blessed with a life growing inside her womb. King Drupad exulted on hearing this news. He announced his happiness and organized many ‘Yajna’ and other rituals for the upcoming child’s well-being. He imagined his life now, free of responsibilities. Though he was now more consumed in the thought of his heir and how would he bring him up.

Months passed by and it was time for the birth. Meanwhile, King Drupad had been away from the palace to end the war with the tribes on the border. The Queen gave birth to her first child. Alas! the midwives and Queen’s maids informed that she had been blessed with a girl-child!

The Queen was disheartened to hear this. A girl couldn’t befit a throne. She wouldn’t turn up to be the King’s heir and hence he would have to wait for more. She feared her ambitious husband’s wrath and felt he would disown the kid. She even prayed to the gods to not let King Drupad kill the innocent soul. With such a tumultuous storm raging in her mind for days, the messenger arrived with the news of the King’s early arrival from the war-front.

King Drupad had signed a peace treaty with the enemies. He was unaware of the new-born for the Queen had commanded all the maids-in-honor to not let the news of the child’s birth! The entire kingdom was still expecting their prince to born. But with the coming of the King, the cat will be out of the bag and she would have to face the consequences of heartbreak and fury. She was scared and hence consulted the priest.

The holy man advised her to think only of the good which this girl could bring and the otherwise. He informed about palm lines and heavenly alignment of mighty stars of the daughter suggest that she is born for the greater good and an important lesson to preach for eons to come. With all the good she will bring about, her life will be filled with misery disappointment, and dissatisfaction which will become to an end only days before her death. The Queen got more fearsome of the actions of the King and thought of manipulating the course of fate. She urged and prayed the priest to somehow transform the girl into a boy and hence nothing to worry about.

The priest, however, told the Queen that fate doesn’t change in the proposed manner, yet the Queen was confident that if the gender was swapped, the problems will come to an end. Agreeing, the priest proposed a ritual which will transform the girl-child into a boy-child; the only catch being the person wishing the ritual to occur, has to offer enough great and pious deeds to the gods which can transform the child. She agreed.

A five days prayer was organized in the priest’s cottage, stealthily. The prayers commenced and the Queen began to offer all her devotion to gods. Yet, it finished within a day. So the Queen, begun offering her good deeds from birth till date. They lasted for another day. Next, she thought of offering all her wit, intelligence, and wisdom. She felt confident they would last long enough for the ritual to end as she took great pride in them. But it couldn’t suffice. The fire was about to diminish and urged more sacrifices. The Queen was agitated in anxiety and couldn’t think any more of her prized possessions to offer. In a thunderous clap of a moment, she thought of her husband’s deeds to offer for he was her better-half and wives have possession on her husband’s possession.

She pledged to offer King Drupad’s pious actions. The fire blazed furiously, almost igniting the cottage and in the next moment diminished to smoke. Gone. God's wish performer’s sacrifice and other’s sacrifices are acceptable only with that person’s consent. Husband and wife are better-half of each other but don’t decide for each other. This divine voice echoed in the cottage and the ritual was hence, ceased. The girl had begun to transform but the sudden halt made her, now, neither a female nor a male!

The Queen cried bitterly; requested a remedy for this mishap. The Priest had no answer. Even if it was restarted, it will take days and by then, King Drupad will arrive. Despair filled her from within; ashamed and sorry for her child, and having lost her everything, she told the maids that the female born child will now be a man, the prince of Paanchaal! The news was announced. Celebrations commenced. King Drupad, arrived, the next morning and went to see his child and queen. But to his horror, his queen was found nowhere in the palace. The maids suggested she had fled in the night with no notice or prior indication. The King was grabbed in a convoluted knot of emotions. The worldly duties he craved to get rid off, his queen had now tied him up in them so tightly. He had now to raise his son. He went to see his son, who beamed heartily on seeing his father. Drupad snug him softly to his heart. There was peacock-like jewelry left on his head by his mother and because of this, Drupad named him ‘Shikhandi’.

Shikhandi was brought up with nerves of steel. He was made highly interested in weapons, warfare, administration, and rule of law. All stereotypical things for a prince were what he indulged in. He was denied all feminine associated chores, interests, and duties. King Drupad fed his brain and soul with motives of chivalry and war tactics. The little feminine in him had almost subsided, rather never was able to bloom. He was unacquainted with this side of his; how could he. None knew about it, save his mother and the Priest. The Priest never disclosed this fact and the Queen had mysteriously run away. The maids, who once knew that their prince was a girl, had then been assured of his manliness. They addressed him as a proper man. But a person’s identity is never concealed; at least from the person itself.

His affection, his body and his certain attributes sometimes conflicted with the false notions of the prescribed manliness. He fought with it; cried his heart out, alone, in his room. He couldn’t figure out why such emotional strings were entangling with this brave front. He bore a heavy mental trauma throughout, which he always concealed with the world. Self-realization and self-acceptance was foremost important, which he couldn’t.

Having excelled in weaponry, at the young age of thirteen, King Drupad declared Shikhandi as his army’s chief commander. Drupad had been so involved in the state affairs, after Shikhandi’s birth that he became more ambitious and passionate about his kingdom than before. His thoughts of exile had long vanished for whilst upbringing his son and preaching the art of ruling; he was heavily consumed in the kingdom’s administration. Under, Shikhandi’s command, Paanchaal’s kingdom, once again, made many successful annexations and crushed many enemies who waged war against them. Under his directions, the kingdom was flourishing and none of the mission was left unfruitful. Being a wise man, Drupad had always hidden Shikhani’s identity- to stir fear and a mystic air in the hearts of even the wisest leader. Beyond Paanchaal, none knew who the commander of Paanchaal’s army was. Far and wide, the talks of bravery and might of the kingdom became popular and that the commander-in-chief had a boon of winning every battle. Paanchaal became invincible under Shikhandi.

Gradually, the prince reached the age and matrimonial offers came pouring in. Several kings urged to hand their daughters to the great warrior and kingdom of Paanchaal. King Drupad, was fascinated by the Dasharn king, Hiranyavarn’s daughter. He accepted the proposal and the wedlocks were confirmed. The Priest, when faced with this fact, rushed to the court and met the king and the prince. There, he revealed the birth story and what mishap had occurred years back due to the lack of understanding.

Drupad was thrown in a disastrous state of shock; so as Shikhandi. Neither a male nor a female. Shattered to the core, the royal father and child, couldn’t look in each other’s eyes. The Priest affirmed that the act had the permission of the Almighty and so is destined in his providence too. They faced the reality and thought it was futile to ponder upon or curse the origin story. But the marriage was sealed, they were engaged; the wedding couldn’t be canceled nor be approved. The Priest, suggests to let the stars align and witness the game of fortunes.

The marriage was set forth and with half-feared heart, the couple was blessed to begin their matrimony. On the wedding night, the princess couldn’t figure out anything missing, she fell for her feminine genitalia’s in the male body. That queer person which was revealed to her came as a surprise but the prospect of it suddenly changed all her prior notions and dreams. She was happy with them and accepted they as her husband on one condition that she will beget a child. Shikhandi loved the beautiful princess that night and wanted to be with her. They thought of consulting the Priest for the condition and would try the best to fulfill her desire.

The matter was disclosed to the Priest, who claimed a ‘Yagna’ was capable of begetting a child by a single parent. The couple agreed to perform the prayer and get the princess blessed with a child. But the once doting father, Drupad, began to emotionally distance himself from his beloved son. He began to doubt the commander’s abilities now, for knowing to be born as a female. He felt his army’s commander was incapable of pulling the responsibility. He further felt uneasy in making a genderqueer heir sit on the throne.

Meanwhile, Dronacharya, a Brahmin teacher well versed in Warcraft and Administration, sent troops of his pupils, the princes of Hastinapur to annex Paanchaal. Recently blessed with a son, Kshatradeva, Shikhandi was requested by his father to lead the troops in defense against the Hastinapur princes. Paanchaal had no armed forces’ chief as capable as Shikhandi then and he had won all clashes in favor of the kingdom. Though a little uncertain, King Drupad had no better option at his disposal. The mighty princes- hundred ‘Kauravs’ and five ‘Pandavs’ advanced on the battlefield. Battle was on exciting levels and the Paanchaal troops were defeating the Kaurav princes. Shikhandi was on the battlefield when gradually thoughts of being a woman from the core and fighting men and inferiority complex were engulfing his confidence and valor. Soon, the Pandavs entered the ground and slowly the table turned upside down. Paanchaal soldiers were being defeated and all the captivated Kauravs were being rescued. Pandav prince, Arjun, was soon at par with Shikhandi and enraged a fearsome duel. Low in spirits, Shikhandi felt weak, for the first time, in front of Arjun. Soon Arjun defeated Shikhandi and captured King Drupad too.

The captives by Pandavs were kept in the royal palace and Dronacharya faced them. He revealed to everyone, the childhood friendship between him and Drupad during their schooling years which was mercilessly declined by King Drupad after his coronation for he considered Drona to be of no use and lower status than him. Drupad was ambitious forever, and this act gave a prominent proof to his obsession for his passions, his only malignant temperament. But Dronacharya was benevolent enough to divide Paanchaal into equal halves and give one half back to Drupad, independent and coronate the other half with his son.

A heavy blow on the reputation of Paanchaal and the esteem of Drupad. Superficially, Drupad accepted Drona’s friendship but inwards vowed vengeance against him. He now borne grudge against him so bad that he wished Drona’s mental peace, esteem and life ripped off. In his independent kingdom, half of the mighty kingdom of Paanchaal, he was worried about his plans on how to defeat his friend when Shikhandi paid a visit to his father and assured his father of his new-born son’s might to restore the dented prestige of the kingdom. It was then when King Drupad realized of having a son with the same ‘Yajna’ through which Shikhandi begot a kid. He rejects Shikhandi to be on the throne and also refuses to accept the half son.

“Further, you were a female! Never have female shed blood on the battlefield and you led men behind you! Females are incapable of the bravery and powers and you showed that you are weak for Arjun defeated you brazenly. Had it been a girl, I would have accepted you my child, but you—you’re neither a lady nor a man. You are devoid of both the world.”

King Drupad insulted and revealed Shikhnadi in the court. He left the court, shedding not a single tear, just heart-broken. This fact reverberated within a few days, affecting Shikhandi’s respect throughout the area. Drupad arranged meetings with the Priest and the ‘Yagna’ was organized. He made immense offerings to please the gods. Several sacrifices and much wealth was flooded in the prayers. Gods asked Drupad for his child’s characteristics. Drupad requested for the perfect man, a great warrior who will be destined to behead Dronacharya. Gods agreed to his request and granted him the son he asked for- Drishtdyumn. Elated to see this he was about to leave when the flame reignited. The Priest indicated the Gods have received enough offerings to offer you another child- a twin girl to his son.

Drupad was agitated to hear this and challenged Gods to offer a perfect woman, the most beautiful of times, who will be destined with all the injustice, sadness, and miseries but will be bestowed with utter reverence and piety for millenniums. Gods accepted and offered Drupad with a daughter- Draupadi.

Drupad didn’t heartily accepted her, rather took her as a burden. With Drishtdyumn, he was confident to convey Shikhandi’s post to his sibling and for Shikhandi to retire with his family, away from affairs of the kingdom. This decision created a surge of revolt against his father for he had never imagined anything more than administration and warfare for the advancement of his kingdom and now he was commanded to stay put from all his ambitions. His father hadn’t taught and instilled household chores or jobs other than reserved for princes’, men of ranks and warriors. He spoke against his father.

“You don’t deserve any of it!” Drupad said firmly, “You aren’t man enough to handle your posts and your defeat by Arjun was the declaration of it. I was captured by foolishness to allow you to lead, knowing your identity. I don’t consider you worthy. You are of no use to me. I disown you yet allow you to be within my palace but don’t interfere with anywhere you did. Once again- You are devoid of both the world!”

“I am best of both the world!” Shikhandi retaliated sternly, “If I don’t have to interfere with the State affairs and army, then I don’t wish to be within this kingdom. Bless me and I will leave with my family.”

“No wealth, no blessings, and with no respect, I command you to exit the gates and land of my Kingdom!”

Shikhandi felt humiliated to the core and flung with his family away.

Years later, the great battle of Mahabharat, was raged between the Kauravs and the Pandavs. Draupadi had accidentally married all the five Pandav brothers and disrespect shown to the brothers and then finally their sister-in-law had initiated the greatest war of times to come.

Ten days after the war had begun, as destined, Shikhandi was instrumental in confronting Mahamaheem Bhishm and forcing him to lower his weapons when Arjun, showered a volley of arrows and pinned Bhishm down. As a result of his deeds, Princess Amba of Kashi had reborn to take vengeance from Bhishm. She had requested to kill him as a lady on battlefield when his soul will be shattered and body be filled with fatigue and mind be indulged in utter guilt. She was then destined to arrive in front of him and be instrumental in ending his life. Her rebirth had been successful.

On the eighteenth day, the last day of battle, Dronacharya’s son, took avenged his father’s death from Drishtdyumn and even killed Shikhandi when finally he felt proud and satisfied in his life; pretty much as prophesized.

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