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the Kasi princesses

A grieving Bhishma installed the second son of Satyavati, Vichitravirya, as king. The new king was still a young boy and Bhishma himself looked after the governance and welfare of the state. As Vichitravirya grew up, Bhishma thought it was time to get him married. He had just heard that the King of Kasi had three pretty and accomplished daughters for whom he was looking for grooms.
Among kings of the warring race, Kshatriyas, there existed the practice of holding a Swayamvara, where the prospective bride would choose her future lord from among the many eligible young men who had come to the function splendidly attired to catch her eye. She would go around the hall and garland the person she chose. This was accepted by all the others with grace.
The King of Kasi organized one such Swayamvara for his three daughters. On the Swayamvara day, Bhishma reached Kasi and walked into the function hall. Already many powerful and eligible monarchs had gathered there and were waiting for the princesses to arrive. Although Bhishma was the most powerful of the princes present, nobody thought he was in the race, knowing fully about his age and celibacy vow.
The sisters, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, beautifully dressed and radiating charm, arrived at the hall and started on their selection tour. Garland in hand, they went from one prince to another. Hardly had they passed a few when an impatient Bhishma rounded them up and took them away to his chariot that was waiting outside. As Bhishma was about to drive away with his booty, the greatly incensed monarchs who were present, King Salwa of Saubha among them, chased the abductor and showered arrows on him. Bhishma stood up and warded them all off, subduing Salwa who fought fiercely. Secure in his chariot, Bhishma returned to his capital, Hastinapura, where he offered all three girls for the prince, Vichitravirya, to marry.
While Ambika and Ambalika were quickly reconciled to the situation and thought that their prayers had been answered, the eldest, Amba, pleaded with Bhishma that she had already lost her heart to the Saubha king. Not desiring to force her into marrying Vichitravirya against her wishes, Bhishma released her and sent her back to Kasi. Amba approached the Saubha king, Salwa, and expressed her desire to marry him. Salwa turned her down. He was unwilling to accept a girl discarded by another prince. Amba’s pleadings were of no avail as the Saubha king stood firm.


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