Kasiraja, the King of Kashi was a worried man. He had three daughters Amba, Ambika and Ambalika and today was their swayamvara. [the ceremony where the girl chooses their own husband]. The intelligence and the beauty of this three daughters had spread throughout the country and he had also invited the Kings from all over.
No. That was not what was worrying him. What was eating the King's head was that he had deliberately avoided inviting the King of Hastinapur for the swayamvara. Kasiraja had his own reasons and the most important being that Hastinapur was more or less being ruled by Bhishma. And he had taken the vow of not marrying. Vichitraviryan, the actual ruler was nothing more than the paper head. Kashiraja had no intention of his daughters getting married to someone like that.....
Kashiraj looked at his ravishing daughters and wished they would hurry up....Kasiraj did not think that Bhishma would actually come to the swayamvara because he did not think that the brother would fight for his younger brother's marriage. But then who knew.... If Bhishma should suddenly come....Kasiraja was under no illusions when it came to Bhishma's fighting prowess. He knew that all the Kings and the princes together were no match for Bhishma.
His eldest daughter Amba had now come forward with the garland in her hand. Kasiraja looked with approval as she walked towards the King Shalva. As she was about to place her garland around...there was a loud commotion outside the palace.
Everybody turned to see outside....Kasiraja's worst nightmare came true when he saw a furious Bhishma thundering inside the palace. However on seeing Bhishma, the other kings and princes jeered at him. 'Oh... the great Bhishma! He is attending a swayamvara! I guess he is going to break his promise now and get married. Wonder whether we should call him Bhishma or the name he had before this....'
Bhishma did not even falter. He looked calm and looked straight at Kasiraja.'From the time the two kingdoms of Hastinapur and Kasi have been in existence, the princesses of Kasi have become the queens of Hastinapur and you...' Bhishma looked furiously at Kashiraja, 'You did not even invite the King of Hastinapur....How dare you?' Bhishma then looked at the other Kings and princes. 'These princesses will marry the King of Hastinapur and become King Vichitraviryan's queens. I am going to take them with me....I challenge you brave people...' Bhishma said sarcasm dripping in every tone, '...to stop me!'
As Bhishma went near the three princesses, the Kings and princes came forward to attack Bhishma. Bhishma countered the attack with a flick of the wrist. The kings fell back. Bhishma clutched the hands of the three princesses. Ambika and Ambalika looked thrilled at the fight. Somebody was fighting for them....
Amba was however scared and terrified. She loved King Shalva and she was about to garland him...King Shalva had fallen back when Bhishma had countered the attack...However Shalva ferociously got back and picked up his sword. Amba watched with terrified eyes as Shalva and Bhishma fought majestically in the court of Kashiraja.
Though King Shalva was seriously outmatched he did not give up. He came back again and again and again. Looking at King Shalva, the other kings also started countering Bhishma. But even together, none of them were able to significantly even slow down Bhishma. He just took the three princesses with him and was soon near his chariot.
Once on his chariot, Bhisma commanded his charioteer to drive the horses as he started using his bow and arrow. King Shalva gave a chase and fired his own arrows.
Princess Amba watched horrified as one of Bhishma's arrows pierced King Shalva and hurt him badly. King Shalva fell unconscious. His charioteer to protect the king drove him away. The other kings and princes also slowly fell back, unable to keep up with the speed of the chariot or face the sharp arrows of Bhishma.
Bhishma kept a sharp vigil out looking for the attack of the kings and the princes. If he had not been so busy, Bhishma would have possibly noted that out of three princesses, two were thrilled and happy. The third one was however angry and scared at the same. The usually observant Bhishma failed to note the eldest princess....
Bhishma entered the borders of Hastinapur without any event. The chariot stopped outside the palace of the Hastinapur. With great care and love, Bhishma helped the three princesses out of the chariot one by one. Bhishma for the first time noticed Amba....But he was not able to fully understand the reactions of the princess. He led them inside.
'My Queen!' Bhishma called as he entered the room of Satyavati. As he was about to enter he called the guards outside, 'Ask the King to come to his mother's room as soon as possible.' The guard bowed his head and walked out As Bhishma entered Satyavati's room. Satyvati came out and first saw the three princesses and then looked at the beaming Bhishma.
'The future queens of Hastinapur! The princesses of Kasi!' Satyavati's face broke into happy laugh as she saw the three ravishing princesses. She nodded to Bhishma and then looked at the three princesses. 'Come forwards, my daughters! This is your home...Please be as comfortable....'
'My Queen! I wish to talk to you please!' Princess Amba came forward and spoke in a rush. It looked as if she had been dying to say something and had found the courage to say it only now. Satyavati nodded at the eldest princess. 'Go ahead my child! What do you wish to say?'
Amba bit her lip as she looked a little fearfully at Bhishma. Satyvati saw this and came forward and held Amba by her shoulders. 'It is ok, my child! Please! Do not be afraid!'
Looking at Satyavati uncertainly, Amba said slowly, 'I...I...I love King Shalva....I was about to garland him, when...' Amba looked at Bhishma not saying anything.
Bhishma shook his head appalled when he thought of the number of times he had hurt King Shalva. 'Why didn't you say anything before?'
Amba looked at Bhishma with fear in her eyes. 'I was afraid....' She whispered.
Bhishma sighed as he shook his head. But then he realized that there was no point getting angry at Amba. He himself was not sure whether he would have paid heed to her at the time he was attacking the kings in the court of Kasiraja.
He called the guards, 'Guards! Prepare for Princess Amba to be decked in the most beautiful jewellery and a royal chariot to send her the Kingdom of King Shalva.'
Amba looked surprised and happy. Bhishma was preparing for her to be sent to Shalva with riches, befit for a princess....
Happily Amba fell at the feet of Satyavati and Bhishma and then took off, giddy and happy. She was going to marry the man she loved....