Revenge is a pervasive theme in mythology, with numerous heroes and heroines seeking to avenge their downfall. In many ancient cultures, revenge and justice were closely linked, and seeking revenge was believed to be a necessary means of divine retribution to right a wrong and create a sense of closure. Revenge was often portrayed as a way to restore honor and dignity to individuals or communities who had suffered a loss, and it was seen as a way to maintain balance and order in the world.
Ancient myths often depicted characters who sought revenge by changing their sex, which was a fascinating concept. The battlefield was the playground of men and mostly excluded women. As men held power and dominance on the battlefield, women chose to become men to seek revenge.
The tale of Shikhandi, also known as Shihandini, is an enduring legend in Indian history. In the epic Mahabharata, Bhishmpitamaha abducted Princess Amba to marry his stepbrother. However, the stepbrother refused to marry her as she was already in love with someone else. Amba’s lover, in turn, refused to accept her, seeing her as someone else’s property. Faced with social ostracism and humiliation, Amba pleaded with Bhishmpitamah to marry her and save her honor. Bhishmpitamah refuses to marry her because of his celibacy vow, which leaves Amba with no choice but to seek revenge.
Amba underwent severe penance and prayed to Lord Shiva to be reborn as a man so that she could defeat Bhishmpitamah. As a result of her penance, Amba was reborn as Shikhandi, and in the final battle of the Mahabharata, she played a significant role in Bhishmpitamah’s downfall. When Bhishmpitamah saw Shikhandi in battle, he realized that she was a woman reborn as a man. Therefore, Bhishma Pitamah refrained from attacking Shikhandi because, due to the ancient war code, men did not fight against women. Arjuna took advantage of the situation and shot arrows at him from behind Shikhandi’s back. People celebrate the tale of Shikhandi for its exploration of gender identity, revenge, and the pursuit of justice.
In Greek mythology, the story of Caeneus is another example of changing one’s sex to seek revenge. Poseidon raped Caenis, a woman and then granted her wish to become invulnerable to avoid such harm in future. Caenis changed her name to Caeneus after the transformation, and as a man, he became a fierce warrior known for his strength and invincibility. The story of Caeneus’ change of sex demonstrates the lengths individuals were willing to go to seek revenge and highlights the complex intersections of gender identity and power dynamics in ancient mythology.
Overall, the themes of revenge and gender identity in mythology provide a glimpse into the values and beliefs of ancient cultures and offer insights into how these cultures understood justice, power, and identity.