Author Ashwini Shenoy writes about warrior princess of Mahabharata

Author Ashwini Shenoy

Chennai: Mahabharata is one Hindu mythology which has been told and retold in myriad ways. While the folklore has been narrated from several key character’s point of view, little do we know about Shikhandini, the one who killed Bhishma. She turned the table during the Kurukshetra war between Pandavas and Kauravas. Hers is a role that is less explored by mythology fanatics. Fascinated by her character, author Ashwini Shenoy pens Shikhandini, a fictional/alternative mythology published by Leadstart Publishers.


In every retelling of the Mahabharata that Ashwini read, she found Shikhandini’s character very intriguing. She always felt that Shikhandini’s story was incomplete and the name is still a word uttered in hushed whispers and as a derogatory term at times.

So what prompted her to write a book? “It was forgotten, deemed unimportant or deliberately left out. But taking a closer look at the epic and the series of events, one can see that she was a very pivotal character. Without her, history would be very different from what we know today. When I realised that there is no retelling of the epic with her as the protagonist, I decided to tell her story myself,” she tells News Today.


Cover page of Shikhandini

Ashwini spent nearly a year and a half to write Shikhandini. A year before that she was defining the plot and finishing the groundwork. Asked about the research, she says, “I read several retellings and articles about the Mahabharata. I even read books dedicated to well-known characters of the epic like Draupadi and Karna. With each book that I read, I was able to understand the happenings of the epic better and was able to see and interpret Shikhandini’s story in a new light.”

According to Ashwini, the role of Shikhandini in the great war is not written about much. “Even in the few short stories written about Princess Amba and Shikhandini, it is just a collection of well-known facts.”

“The aspect I wished to highlight was her transformation from a woman to a man. The possibility that her transformation might have been a result of advanced medical science and not a magical occurring that happened overnight,” the avid reader of mythology adds.

The author admits that it was quite a task to write about Shikhandini owing to the dearth of information.


An electronic engineer by profession, she spent her travel time in writing the book. “I spent nearly three hours a day commuting and most of this time I was either reading or writing. I made it a point to write at least 300 – 500 words per day. On weekends, I outline the chapters that I would be working on for the next five working days,” she states and adds, “I first write the book in my mind and then on paper.”

On overcoming writer’s block, Ashwini says, “Apart from writing, I love painting landscapes. When I face a block, I generally put the book away for a couple of days and switch to painting. When I am back, I often feel fresh and re-energised. The bits I write, right after the block has lifted are usually my best pieces.”