Friday, 12 August 2011

Dinner with Bribu, the Pani

That the Aryas considered the Panis a despicable lot was well known in the ancient world. The Panis on their part considered the Aryas to be an arrogant, war mongering brood. That they had different customs, religious beliefs and languages, did not help either. The undercurrents of these age old prejudices seemed to be at play when Bribu, Dabhiti and Vadhryasva met over dinner. A way had to be found to replace the subtle hostility with a semblance of friendliness, if only to ensure Bribu would be more forthcoming with information.

“You speak our language well for someone who we consider as mrdhravaks (one who falters in speech)”.

“And you treat us Panis well rajan, in contrast to the other Aryas who always look down upon us”.

“From the time of my father, bringing peace and prosperity to our people has always been most important to us. The goods you bring to our land, they contribute to the well being and prosperity of our people. If for that reason alone, I should treat you well, then so shall it be.”

“I greatly admire the concern you show for your people rajan. Your reputation in this regard has spread far and wide”.

“And so has your reputation, I hear. Is it just hearsay that you presented Rishi Bharadvaja with many a gift and sought his blessings?”

Bribu, burst into laughter, more as a way of mocking himself. “We are traders rajan and we make our living by buying goods in one land and selling them in others where they are needed. How can we trade extensively in your lands if we are seen as inimical to your people? What better way to win the confidence of the sons of Nahusa, than by being accepted by the house of Bharadvajas? I am no different than you rajan, and I too am concerned about my family and clan, and for their prosperity and well being, I am willing to do anything, even it means, pay respects to those whose beliefs I do not agree with.”

This was going well, Dabhiti said to himself, Bribu was beginning to open up. It was time to interject.

Dabhiti started to pour more soma into Bribu’s cup. “It is no wonder Bribu that you are welcomed and sought after in lands far and wide. Your actions and thoughts are more noble than most Arya I have known”.

Bribu felt a nice high, unsure if it was the praise or the drink. He picked his cup and downed its content in one big gulp.

“So Bribu, pray, tell us, what is it from other lands that we should fear?” asked Dabhiti even as he poured more soma into Bribu’s cup.

Bribu, now completely loosened, looked around as if to make sure, there was no one else within earshot.

“There is much to fear, Rishivar from both your people and mine. The Vrcivans, you have much to fear them, for they have ruthlessly annihilated the Turvasas. So merciless have they been, it is unlikely, a Turvasa will ever rule again. But then it is not the Vrcivans that you should fear the most.”

Vadhryasva and Dabhiti waited silently for Bribu to quaff some more from his cup.

“Your worst nightmare, rajan, will be Kulitara, the Dasa king, who rules from his capital in Abudara”.
Vadhryasva and Dabhiti looked at each other, unsure if this was mere bravado or fact. Afterall, Bribu and his fellow Panis, came from that land and it was natural, for him to show his allegiance in good light.

Bribu sensed the disbelief in the two men. “In the name of the soma that you offer me, I speak the truth. One day, the forces of Kulitara will descend on you like the raging Saraswati and wash everything away".

This news was more than what the two Panchalas had hoped for. And certainly not what they wanted to hear. So now, it was not just the Vrcivans that they had to worry about, but the Dasas from the south-west as well.

As the night wore on, Bribu, kept talking, leaving the hosts wondering if the dinner meeting had been worth after all - the information they had obtained, far from assuaging their fears, had only heightened them.

Notes & References

Fictionalized primarily based on the following hymns and verses from the Rg Veda:

From the following verses of Mandala 6 , it is clear that the Arya did not like the Panis a great deal. They are greedy, compared to a wolf and Pusan is asked to do very cruel things to them.

Much later in Mandala 7, they are called foolish, rudely speaking, without belief etc.
The only exception seems to be Bribu, who seemed to have presented Samyu Bharadvaja, an ancestor of the Bharadvaja of our story, with lavish gifts. Thus Bribu could not have lived at the same time, nor presented the gifts to the Bharadvaja of our story, however I found it expedient to make it that way.

RV 06.051.14
Soma, these pressing-stones have called aloud to win thee for our Friend.
Destroy the greedy Pani, for a wolf is he.

RV 06.053.3
Even him who would not give, do thou, O glowing Pusan, urge to give,
And make the niggard's (pani's) soul grow soft.

RV 06.053.6
Thrust with thine awl, O Pusan: seek that which the niggard's (pani's) heart holds dear,
And make him subject to our will.

RV 07.006.3
The foolish, faithless, rudely-speaking niggards (panis), without belief or sacrifice or worship,-
Far far sway hath Agni chased those Dasytis, and, in the cast, hath turned the godless westward

Brbu hath set himself above the Panis, o'er their highest head,
Like the wide bush on Ganga's bank.

So all our singers ever praise the pious Brbu's noble deed,
Chief, best to give his thousands, best to give a thousand liberal gifts.

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