When this princess had her life ruined by an unstoppable warrior, she: became a fervent ascetic for years and got a divine boon; killed herself to reincarnate faster; came back as a man; and killed the man who’d wronged her, in the stunning climax of the world’s longest epic poem.
Cut Content: Trans Representation
The Mahabharata has an inconsistent attitude towards transfolk, possibly owing to its many versions, and likely due to it being long as hell and old as dirt. While Shiva, Sikhandi, Sikhandi’s parents, and Sthuna (the yaksha [forest spirit] that Amba/Sikhandi swaps genitals with) are all totally cool with Amba/Sikhandi’s gender fluidity, Sthuna’s boss goes on a rant once he finds out what Sthuna’s done. He says, “oh, worst of Yakshas, you have done what has never been done by anyone — an unnatural, abnormal, simpleminded, underhanded act that deserves all the punishment I can think up, so no one else will ever do it.” He then “curses” Sthuna to remain a woman. Complicating the Mahabharata‘s stance on gender yet further is the fact that the main character of the Mahabharata, Arjuna, spends a year of his life undercover as a woman in a harem, and is praised in extreme details for his cleverness in doing so. So, take what you will from all that?