03. Arjuna's son Abhimanyu was Varchas in his previous birth <-- Click here
02. Draupadi was Nalayani in her previous birth <-- Click here
01. Amba reincarnates as Shikhandini to avenge Bheeshma's death. <-- Click here

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Abhimanyu is the reincarnation of Varchas, the son of the moon god. When the moon god was asked to let his son incarnate himself on earth by the other devas, he made a pact that his son will only remain on earth for 16 years as he could not bear to be separated from him. Abhimanyu was 16 years old when he died in the war.

His son, Parikshita, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the Maha-bha-rata war, and carries on the Pandava lineage. Abhimanyu is often thought of as a very brave warrior on the Pandava side, willingly giving up his life in war at a very young age.

The demonic element in Abhimanyu is understood and highlighted in the Draupadi cult popular in northern Tamil Nadu and its neighboring areas in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Speaking of this, Alf Hiltebeitel in The Cult of Draupadi speaks of how in South Indian folklore Abhimanyu is an incarnate demon and Krishna, who knows this, schemes the death of his own sister's son by seeing that he is left alone to protect Yudhishthira while Drona attacks him with the chakravyuha.

According to one South Indian folk tradition, it is a curse from Durvasa that makes Abhimanyu a Rakshasa in his current birth. In a former life he was a gatekeeper at Rama's palace and Durvasa curses him to be born as a Rakshasa in his future life because he refused entry to the sage into Rama's court. The reason for Krishna desiring Abhimanyu's death is not exactly because he is a Rakshasa though, but because Abhimanyu is capable of killing the entire Kauravas all alone and that would make it impossible for the Pandava brothers who have taken vows of killing individual Kauravas.

According to yet another tale mentioned in the Glossary to Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Meghanadavadha Kavya, Abhimanyu's birth again is a result of a curse, though a different curse. According to this tale, the moon failed to pay due deference to the sage Garga, and sage cursed him to be born as a human being on the earth and Abhimanyu is this accursed moon god. He dies at the young age of sixteen because the sage, moved by the moon's begging for forgiveness, reduced the severity of the curse by saying that he would be killed in battle at the age of sixteen and could then go back to heaven. However, one must not dismiss the compassionate qualities of Abhimanyu. A romantic at an early age, he questioned everything. Something often mistaken as being arrogant. He was know to have a certain inborn quality of trusting people, a kind of trust that came from deep within. As few as there would have been to gain his trust, he remained forever faithful to them as they did to him, with humility.

It is however theorized in former versions of the epic, and modern scholarship that Abhimanyu's soul was in fact possessed by a vicious and deadly demon who sought to kill Krishna. Krishna realizes this and arranges Abhimanyu's killing. But then the death of a beloved hero and Arjuna's son is a strong enough cause for Arjuna to eliminate a huge portion of the Kuru army, speeding the fulfillment of Krishna's main divine mission.

His son, Parikshita, born after his death, remains the sole survivor of the Kuru clan at the conclusion of the Mahabharata war, and carries on the Pandava lineage. Abhimanyu is often thought of as a very brave warrior on the Pandava side, willingly giving up his life in war at a very young age.

Here, Abhimanyu stands as a symbol of Moon God who in turn is know to influence people on earth with his psychic and romantic powers. Full Moon and New Moon are known world wide to disturb people who are mentally ill. They are mostly fenatics and crazy in their behavior. He was truely a crazy character who could dare to enter chakravyuha in Mahabharata war without bothering for consequences. The fate and destiny makes such souls to reincarnate at such locations as demanded by the divine scripts in the never ending stories of this universe.

Kokolu Anka Rao
Date : 18/ 02/ 2009
Nagpur, Maharastra, India

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We have in the Mahabharata, the story of Nalayani yet another story of scripts lasting over lifetimes, though the script here is entirely different from that of Amba and the course it takes is at the very core of the story of the immortal epic.

Nalayani, also known as Indrasena, was the wife of an old ascetic called Maudgalya. He was a leper, impetuous, lustful, jealous, and prone to furious anger. His body was skin and bones, it was crooked and stank, his skin was wrinkled, his head bald, and, because of leprosy, his nails and skin had begun to fall off. But in spite of all this, Nalayani serves her husband devotedly. Pleased with her devotion, Maudgalya reveals his true form to her he is none of the things he appeared to be. He is neither a leper, nor impetuous or lustful. He is not aged, nor is his body crooked or ugly. In fact, he is a great sage with amazing spiritual powers who can do anything he wishes. The sage asks Nalayani what he can do to please her. And Nalayani tells him that he should assume five different forms and pleasure her sexually, for she is filled with lust. The sage does that and a long, long time passes, during which they plunge into erotic pleasures assuming different forms and living in different worlds. Eventually the sage tires of the sexual games they play and decides to go back to his spiritual practices. But Nalayani's voracious sexual hunger is still not satiated and she begs Maudgalya again and again to continue their games and not to go back to his austerities. When she insists on this repeatedly, the sage curses her that in her next lifetime she will have five husbands, for no one man can satisfy her boundless sexual hunger.

It is this Nalayani, according to the Mahabharata, that is born as Draupadi in her next birth and she gets the five Pandava brothers as her husbands. Draupadi's powerful sexuality is legendary in the Mahabharata, and in some of the epic's numerous folk versions and regional retellings, she becomes sexually insatiable.

There are several other stories about Draupadi's past lives. According to one of these, she was the daughter of an ascetic and though she was extremely beautiful, she did not get a husband. Unhappy, she performs austerities to please Lord Shiva and to ask a boon from him. Shiva appears at the end of her austerities and in her excitement, she repeats five times that she should get a husband. Shiva blesses her that she would have five husbands in her next lifetime. And it is this young female ascetic that is reborn as Draupadi.

Nalayani was Shaibya in her previous birth
The Mahabharata also tells us that in one of her earlier lifetimes before she became Nalayani, Draupadi was a woman called Shaibya Bhaumashwi Ausheenari, an extremely beautiful woman with a voice as sweet as that of the veena, which made you swoon when you heard it.

In her swayamvara, in which she had the choice of marrying anyone she wanted from the assembly of princes and kings present, she chose five brothers as her husbands: Salveya, Shoorasena, Shrutasena, Tindusara and Atisara, all sons of King Nitantu. Shaibya was the only wife of these five men whom the epic calls 'bull-like', and she had a very happy, contented life with her five husbands. According to this story it is possible that her powerful sexual script was written in this lifetime. It is also equally possible, however, that her choice of five husbands in a swayamvara was itself dictated by a powerful sexual script she carried from a still earlier lifetime, and her lifetime as Shaibya reinforced this script ( karma).

Here, Draupdi stands represented as a symbol of strong feminine character who desires and demands relentless sexual pleasures from man. Since no one man can satisfy her intense sexual desire, she takes rebirth in such an environment where she can get five husbands to satisfy her. The story of rebirth of Draupadi informs us that such a strong sensual desire make a person to reincarnate again and again endlessly till they get disgusted for such pleasures. Gautam Buddha too says that desires are the root cause for all our misiries in this world

Kokolu Ankarao
Date : 18/ 02/ 2009
Nagpur, Maharastra, India

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Shikhandi is the epicene reincarnation of Amba, who has a long standing grudge against Bhishma, the father figure of the epic Mahabharata.

Bhishma was a life-long celibate, having renounced marriage to enable his father Santanu, a somewhat concupiscent king easily susceptible to female charm, to marry a woman he had madly fallen in love with. Santanu had had an earlier escapade with the river goddess Ganga to whom Bhishma, (earlier known as Devavrata) was born. Later in life, Santanu once again lost his heart to a Koli fisher-chieftain's daughter, Satyavathi. The shrewd fisher-king said that he would give his consent to the marriage only if he were assured that only his daughter's progeny would succeed to the throne. It was not enough for Devavrata himself to renounce the throne but there should be no progeny to claim the throne later. This price of life long celibacy was paid by the dutiful son and Devavrata became Bhishma, the resolute one.

In course of time, Bhishma became the guardian of the sons of Santanu and Satyavati. Of the two sons, the elder died in battle a little after he is installed on the throne and the younger son, Vichitravirya, became king. Bhisma then had to find suitable brides for him.

Amba was abducted by Bhishma for his step-brother, but she was in love with Shalva. She ended up marrying neither and spent a lifetime trying to avenge herself by having Bhishma killed. Amba vowed to kill Bheeshma in next birth. Amba was born as Shikhandi to King Drupad in her next birth.

Amba was the eldest daughter of Kashiraj, the king of Kashi and Ambika and Ambalika were her two younger sisters. When all the three sisters were of marriageable age, the king arranged their swayamwara. Swayamwara is a ceremony in which the bride exercises her right to choose her husband from the assembled suitors.

Several kings and princes attended the swayamvara and the most prominent was Shalva, the king of Saubala. He and Amba were secretly in love and she had already planned to put her garland around the neck of Salva. When the ceremony was about to begin, Bhishma, the regent of Hastinapura, strode into the assembly of swayamvara. Since he had taken a vow of celibacy in his youth everyone was surprised to see him.

Bhishma approached Kashiraj and said, "I come on behalf of the king of Hastinapura, my younger step-brother, Vichitraveerya. For generations the princesses of Kashi have been married in the royal family of Hastinapura. By holding this swayamwara you have broken this tradition and insulted us. I am taking away your daughters with me to Hastinapura where they will be married to the king. If any in this gathering wants to stop me he is welcome to try." Saying this he left the hall with the three princesses of Kashi.

It is said that Shalva, who was in love with Amba chased Bhishma and engaged him in battle but he was no match for Bhishma and was forced to surrender. Bhishma took all the three sisters - Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to meet Satyavati, the Queen Mother. Ambika and Ambalika readily agreed for the marriage with Vichitraveerya as this was the best thing that could happen to them. Amba, however, told Bhishma of her secret love for Shalva and requested his permission to be set free. Bhishma accepted Amba's request and set her free and also arranged to go to Saubala with the respect a princess deserved.

But Amba received a rude shock at Saubala. Shalva refused to accept Amba. Salva had his reasons to refuse Ambika's love. Being defeated by Bhishma was embarrassing enough, but receiving his love in charity was like having salt rubbed on his wounds. Hence this forced Amba once again to go to Hastinapura for justice. She held Bhishma responsible for her predicament. Shalva would not have refused her, if Bhishma did not abduct her and she could not shame her father by returning to Kashi unmarried. Hence now it was Bhishma's duty to marry her to save her life. Amba demanded that Bhishma marry her, since he was the one to have won her in swaya. But Bhishma was chained by his own vow of celibacy and flatly refused to marry Amba.

Amba consulted her maternal grandfather Hotravahana, who advised her to seek the assistance of Parshurama. Parshurama had been Bhishma's guru and hence Bhishma would not disobey him. Amba sent Akrutvrana, a disciple of Parshurama to meet the great sage Parasurama. The emissary poured out tale of miserable events before Parasurama. Parshurama upon hearing the sad events of Amba agreed to intervene and summoned Bhishma. He first advised Bhishma and then ordered him, but Bhishma would not retract his decision. The two engaged themselves in a duel fight to resolve the matter and the fight lasted for several days, and both drew blood without victory for any one. Finally they were prevailed by the Gods from heaven to call off the battle.

Amba was back to square one. She then pleased Sage Subramanya with her austere penance. Sage Subramanys gave her a garland of lotuses, which never fades - saying that whoever wore that garland would become the mortal enemy of Bhishma. Amba went from pillar to post but she could not find anyone who could accept the garland and the challenge Bheeshma. In frustration she herself hung the garland on the palace gate of Drupada, the king of Panchala.

Then she went to a thick forest and undertook even more severe austerities in order to please Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva appeared before her, she asked for a boon will enable her to kill Bhishma. Lord Shiva told her that this would not be possible in her present life and she would have to wait for her next life to be the cause of Bhishma's death. Amba then there ended her life by self-immolation.

In her next life Amba was born as Drupad's daughter Shikhandini and became the cause of Bhishma's death in the battle of Mahabharata. Shikhandini who was born as a woman was brought up like a man and hence Shikhandini was also often known as Shikhandi.

Amba was re-born as Shikhandi, the son of Drupada who was also known as Yajnasena, the king of Panchala. Shikhandi was originally born as a girl child named 'Shikhandini. In this birth she had perfect recollection of her previous life as Amba. Shikhandi fought in the Kurukshetra war on the side of the Pandavas, along with his father Drupada and brother Dhristadyumna.

From her birth, a Divine voice told her father to raise her as a son. So Shikhandini was raised like a man, trained in warfare and eventually married. The child was brought up as a boy in all respects. One day while playing near the palace gates, Shikhandini saw a garland of never fading lotuses. This was the garland she had left there in her previous birth as Amba. Shikhandini put the garland round her neck. This was in accordance with the boon given to Amba that the wearer of the garland would cause Bhishma's death.

Right through Shikhandini's childhood the king and queen maintained complete faith in the prophecy of Lord Shiva that though the child was born a female, she would eventually become a male. Therefore they arranged the marriage of Shikhandini with the daughter of king Hiranyavarma of Dasharna. On wedding night, Shikhandi's wife came to know the truth about her husband to be a woman and left Shikhandi to complain the truth to her father. The entire episode infuriated the king Hiranyavarma, who felt cheated and humiliated. He decided to invade Panchala kingdom and kill king Drupada. Drupada, maintaining his full faith in Lord Shiva's prediction, insisted that his son was a male and invited king Hiranyavarma to send some of his courtesans to spend a night with Shikhandini and report on the truth of the matter. Hiranyavarma agreed.

Shikhandini realising that she was the cause of this trouble decided to go the forest and end her life. Shikhansi fled Panchala, but was saved by a Yaksha named Sthunakarna who exchanged his sex with Shikhandi. Shikhandini, who became a man now, went back to Panchala with the name 'Shikhandi' and led a happy married life with his wife and children. After his death, his masculinity was transferred back to the Yaksha.

Shikhandi, who was Amba in previous birth became the cause of Bheeshma's death
Shikhandi now in the prime of his youth, learnt the art of warfare from Dronacharya and in due course became great warrior. His sister Draupadi married the five Pandavas. Together with his brother Drishtdyumna, Shikhandi was a source of constant encouragement to the Pandavas against the injustices to them and the humiliation of Draupadi at the hands of the Kauravas.

In the Mahabharata war Shikhandi became one of the seven commanders of the Pandava army. For nine days the battle raged furiously without any side gaining the upper hand. Bhishma was fighting on the Kaurava side but was known to be partial to the Pandavas. After battle on the ninth day he proclaimed that next day either he would kill one of the Pandavas or die fighting. This was the cue for Yudhishthir to ask him how his death could be brought about. Bhishma replied that he would not fight against a woman. When Yudhishthir said that there were no women in the battlefield, Bhishma told him to take Krishna's advice.

Next day Krishna asked Shikhandi to confront Bhishma on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Bhishma recognised Shikhandi as Amba reborn, and not wanting to fight 'a woman', lowered his weapons. Knowing that Bhishma would react thus to Shikhandi, Arjuna hid behind Shikhandi and attacked Bhishma with a devastating volley of arrows. Thus, only with Shikhandi's help could Arjuna deal a death blow to Bhishma, who had been virtually invincible until then.

Shikhandi was finally killed by Ashwatthama on the 18th day of battle. After the war, when the victorious Pandava army was sleeping in their tents, Ashwatthama, a surviving Kaurava commander, beheaded Shikhandi,Drishtadyumna along with Draupadi's sons.

When Amba was reincarnated, she became a woman again. It is her strong desire in her previous birth as Amba to become the cause of Bheeshma's death and fate of events which made Shikhandini to become a man Shikhandi later enabling Shikhandi to take part in Mahabharata war, ultimately becoming the cause of Bheeshma's death. The strong desire at the time of death, makes a Soul to reincarnate at a location where it can fulfill its desires and also make it possible to remember the previous birth. Gender change and even species change is possible in rebirth so as to fulfiil their desires and as per laws of karma.

Kokolu Anka Rao
Date :09/ 02/ 2009
Nagpur, Maharastra, India

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