There are times when we change things our way and there are times when we go with the flow. Had Amba gone with the flow, she would have been one of Vichitraveerya’s queens. But the revelation of her love for the prince of Shalva changed things. It ended in nothing but misery for her!
When she reached Shalva, the prince of Shalva refused to marry her on the pretext that she was won over by Bheeshm during the swayamvar. His Kshatriya pride could not accept anything that was given away to him by another Kshatriya. Also, Bheeshm, who won over so many kings single-handed in the court had specifically defeated the prince of Shalva putting him to shame. At that time, Amba kept quiet and didn’t raise voice in protest. On what basis was she expecting Shalva to accept her back then?
Rejected by the love of his life, an exasperated Amba went back to Hastinapur and stormed into the court like Bheeshm had stormed into her swayamvar. She insisted that Bheeshm married her as he had abducted her from the swayamvar. She was certainly not attracted to Bheeshm; she was only finding a way to avenge her humiliation by making Bheeshm break his vow. For a man of honour, nothing is worse than taking back his word, let alone a vow! Of course, Bheeshm put down her request. Neither did his oath allow him to marry, nor did he feel he was responsible for Amba’s situation as he had already declared that he was only representing Vichitraveerya in the swayamvar! In fact, Amba’s participation in the swayamvar with a pre-decided groom was an act of insult for the other kings who were invited. But Amba was too angry to realize her end of the mistake.
Rejected from all sides, she went to sage Parshuram to seek justice. Parshuram, on hearing Amba’s story ordered Bheeshm to marry her. Bheeshm, though unconditionally reverent towards his teacher, could not agree to this order as this would mean insult to his parents and Hastinapur. He could do anything for his teacher but break his vow.
The following conversation took place:
Parshuram: If you do not marry Amba, then you will have to fight me. If you lose, you marry her. Deal?
Bheeshm: Dear Sir. You know it very well why I am not obeying your orders. Still, if you want me to fight with you, I will. The world knows that you have depleted the earth of Kshatriyas 21 times; but even you know that none of those Kshatriyas were like this student of yours. Anyway, since I have no option but to fight you, please shower me with blessings for victory.
Parshuram (with a melted heart): Bheeshm, my son! Your politeness has no parallels. Those who are put to fight their elders should always seek their approval according to Dharma. Had you not requested my approval, I would have cursed you for your irreverence. Be blessed my son! Now go and fight. And fight in a way that you make your guru proud.
A terrible fight followed for days in which both were undefeated. Ultimately, Bheeshm was about to release a terrible weapon when a cosmic voice stopped him from releasing it. Parshuram had no counter-weapon for it and its usage would have put Parshuram to shame. That would have been very unbecoming of someone like Bheeshm. Bheeshm politely stopped the fight and said sorry to his teacher. Even Parshuram could not bring justice to Amba.
An indignant Amba took the pledge that if no warrior on earth could help her, then she herself would become the reason of Bheeshm’s death. She performed strict tapasya and invoked the destructive form of God, Shiva, and asked him for a boon to kill Bheeshm. Shiva revealed that for Amba it was impossible to kill Bheeshm in her present life. He gave her a boon that in her next life she would become the reason for Bheeshm’s death. Not wanting to wait for her vengeance, Amba jumped into a pit of fire only to be reborn later as Shikhandi in the kingdom of Panchala.