The Legend of Shikhandi, the Transgendered Warrior Who Paid the Price of Opposing Powerful Men
Chauvinism existed even in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The ancient text depicts the legendary eighteen-day bloodbath, dubbed the Kurukshetra War, where the hero/heroine’s greatest feat was not defeating the enemy, but overcoming stereotyped prejudice.
This war was a battle between the five Pandava brothers and their cousins, the Kauravas. Bhisma, the leader of the Kauravas’ army, was a mighty war lord and it seemed as if both armies were deadlocked. Lord Krishna – an avatar of the god Vishnu – tipped the scales when he recognized the warrior skills of Shikhandi, a young male soldier, who was born a woman.
“A woman on the battlefield?” sneered all five Pandavas, somewhat conveniently forgetting that they themselves worshiped the warrior goddess Durga. Shikhandi, the soldier caught up in this debate, was born Shikhandini. She was the daughter of King Draupada and elder sister of Draupadi who married all five of the Pandava brothers. Although she was born a female, Shikhandini was raised as a man - she was taught warfare and statecraft.