Saturday, 5 May 2012

Monsoon arrives in Arya land

The clouds had begun to gather and shrouded the afternoon in darkness.

It is said, that the Goddess Prsni, in the likeness of a cloud agreed to bear the seed of the powerful God Rudra. Out of that seed were born, the impetuous Maruts. Strong at birth, they mounted their celestial chariots and sped through the heaven and earth. Such was their utter abandon, their recklessness, that no team of goats or horses could possibly drive their chariots. They streamed forth, brilliant, at their own pleasure, unstoppable, even the mighty mountains heeding to their will. The other celestial gods watched the descent in awe - hail, the glorious, all conquering army of Indra!

The rain lashed at everything in its wake. The Ahichhatrans sought refuge inside their ill-equipped homes. But, despite the apparent threat and obvious inconvenience, they bore no grudge. After all, the torrent was but a manifestation of the Maruts and in any case, the rain would nourish the grazing lands.

They descended armed with glittering lances, a swelling band with time, so powerful that they united the separate realms of heaven and earth.

The downpour had now swelled into a torrent and the rain bore the look of a sheer wall of water. So much so that the sun had been blocked out completely and for a while, the sky and earth seemed united as one. And every once in a while, as the sun tried to break free, its light reflected off the huge rain drops, glittering as a well polished stone blade attached to the end of a lance.

Intoxicated in their own strength, they make their way loudly roaring, announcing their presence and intimidating their adversary at the same time. And along with the celestial gods, there stood the beautiful, bright Rodasi, right besides them, watching her heroes in flight and fight.

The sky lit up to the crackle of lightening, followed by a fearsome thunder that sent a stab of fear to the heart of even the most brave soldiers of Ahichhatra.

Ensconced in the relative safety of his home, Bhumanyu, did not allow himself to be distracted by the downpour outside. His mind was focused on the preparation for war and they had made good progress. Now that the rains were here, very little would get done. However, the rains would not deter him from insisting the army keep their training going. He had heard accounts of the exploits of Indra and his Marut cohorts in ancient times. He would use these to motivate his troops as well.

Vadhryasva was by the banks of the river before the deluge began. He had been reminiscing about beautiful Menaka. As the rains came down, he stood his ground, bearing the brunt, hoping, the water would help wash away his thoughts...

In far away Vrindavan, Virshika welcomed a drizzle with much delight. Through the summer months, the act of waiting was driving him mad. Crafty Bharadvaja, knew this to be one more weapon in his armoury - the long wait would mentally wear down the Vrcivans and he was sure to meet a Yadu force, tired in their minds.

At a non-descript location, outside the pale of the Arya territories, far away to the east, near the Ganges river, a visibly pregnant woman struggled to make herself comfortable. The old man besides her, reached out to help.

War was a few months away, so was the day when the woman would give birth to the special child growing inside of her.

Notes & References

Who are the Maruts?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A war machinery set in motion

Somewhere along the banks of the Drsadvati, a herd of deer made its way to the river for a drink. A few of the older deer, sensed something was not right. It was too quite, there we no humans, usually in a distance, there would be a few along with cattle and goats. Hesitant steps came to a halt, but the younger lot had already made their way to the water. Too late! A shower or arrows rained on the herd, killing most instantly. A few managed to pull themselves out and sped along the banks in either direction. Alas, the humans lay in wait in the river, submerged. On cue, they rose, out of the water and in one motion, let their arrows loose from outstretched bows. The hapless deer had no chance.

The hunters surveyed the deer with long and hard horns. It had been a good hunt – there were too many with useful horns. Too many to be carried. They decided to carry the ones that also had good, soft skin and would have younger meat. Without much remorse, they hacked the heads of the rest, horns being their primary interest. The rest, well, the wolves would feed on them, or perhaps if word spread quickly enough, people from surrounding settlements would scavenge.

Deer was a vital commodity of ancient wartime machinery. Deer horn was used in the making of arrow tips, sinew for cordage of the bow and body fat as a general lubricant. These raw materials were transported to the various capitals. So were hides of various animals, and fleece and eagle feathers.

With Dabhiti’s passing away, Bhumanyu had assumed his responsibilities. The ancient world had never witnessed a war of this scale. Bharadvaja has instructed the Panchalas to marshal an army with three thousand soldiers.

Bows, arrows, quivers, mails (leather based armours), shafts, spears, axes would need to be manufactured to arm this large force. Chariots and the very best of horses would carry the coursers – the commanders and princes and rajans – and there could be no compromise in the quality of manufacturing or the choice of steed.

Bhumanyu was in charge of the Panchala arsenal set up at the outskirts of Ahichhatra. A large shed was constructed to house all incoming raw material – deer and animal carcasses, a second shed where various parts were processed, horns and hoofs, skin carried outside the main city for drying.

In an adjoining shed, men and women, were entrusted with the task of making thick mails (leather armours) by stitching together hide. Stone and bone based needles with sinew based cordage as string in intricate patterns would make for first line of defense against enemy arrows. A chosen few were decorated with fleece.

Yet another group were engaged in making arrows - sharpened deer horn made up the arrow head, light wood the shaft, sometimes bound with cow-hide and eagle feathers making up the rear fletchings.

It was the day that Bhumanyu had planned to visit the facility where the chariots were being manufactured. It was several hours on horse ride to the north of the capital, closer to an area where there still was a thick forest cover. Trees were felled and the very best wood selected in making various components of a chariot. After inspection, the chariout would be ridden by an experienced charioteer all the way to the capital. The ones that made a smooth traverse, would make it to the army, the others kept aside for regular travel.

But, what is an arsenal without the human fighter and soldier. The Panchala army was only in name. Purumidha, the Panchala commander had the onerous task of enlisting and training thousands and getting them fighting fit in a matter of months. Actually, fighting fit was the minimum, they had to be capable of defeating the fierce Vrcivans. In his mind, Purumidha knew it would need the intervention of the Gods – let Bharadvaja worry about it. He had set out on horse with the Panchala ensign and would journey across the breadth of Panchala land to the north and west, bordering the Anu territories. From each settlement, he would enlist men, force enlist if he had to. Local training centres would have to be set up for those settlements far flung from the capital.

The horse with the Panchala ensign had another significance attached. Any settlement, opposing the entry of the horse would mean they were not allied or not accepting Vadhryasva as their ruler. It was important to know who was on your side and who was not, especially as one moved further away from the capital, allegiances could never be taken for granted.

The flurry of activities were not confined to North Panchala territories alone. Prastoka and Cayaman were rallying their people in similar preparations as well. And to the south, the Vrcivans were sharpening their already ready troops even more.

The ancient war machinery of early vedic times was in motion. In preparation for a war that humankind had never been witness to before.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Virshika accepts the proposal for the Hariyupiyah War

There were two men who did not sleep well that night. Payu Bharadvaja, inspite of all the training he had received on meditation, tossed and turned in bed. He had no idea how Virshika might react to the proposal of the Kaithal allies; even his mere being there, let alone the proposal. The man was clearly of unsound mind, erratic and ruthless, a deadly combination, enough to unsettle anyone, and Payu, for all his upbringing, was still a young man.

Virshika knew he was closer to realizing his dream. That Payu Bharadvaja would travel such far distances, there would be an outcome. The burdens of his dream would soon be shed and the mere thought pumped his entire body with energy. So, is this how the God Indra felt when he quaffed the elusive Soma?

Finally, morning came and Payu was escorted across the river by boat. As the boat neared the bank, he could see Vrindavan on the other side. It was grand, beyond comparison to any Puru settlement he had seen all his life. Well fortified and with a high gate, solders stood guard at the entrance. Payu tried hard to hide the utter awe he felt and hoped the Vrcivans would not notice.

A senior member of the Vrcivan's council met him at the entrance and escorted him to the impressive house of Virshika.

"Welcome to Vrindavan, son of Bharadvaja." Chitrarath greeted Payu. "The mighty, bull amongst men, King Virshika will join us soon. In the meantime, if you will submit yourself to a body search, at Vrindavan, we take no chances." Even before, Payu could respond, a couple of guards swooped on him, and conducted a thorough body search. Search over, they glanced at Chitrarath and shook their head, indicating they had found nothing.

"Allow us to make you comfortable while you are here. Let us know if you need anything, anything at all that you may need. And now, if you will please remain standing, as the King makes his way to the the chamber."

Then, suddenly, the imperious figure of Virshika, appeared in the room. It was not for nothing that Virshika had a fearsome reputation that had spread across the Arya land.

"Well, well, well, wise one, son of the illustrious Bharadvaja, what brings you our land, to meet us uncouth, forsaken descendants of Nahusa?"

"First, allow me to convey my respects to you, torch bearer for the peerless Yadu, my respects to Chitrarath here and to the rest of the elders of Vrindavan."

"I come here as an emissary of an alliance between the Panchala Kings, Vadhryasva and Srnjaya and Anu King Cayamana."

Alliance between the Panchala and the Anu??? Virshika and Chitrarath exchanged looks, caught completely by surprise. Why would the Anu King want to drag himself into this? This was support for the Panchala weaklings that Virshika had not considered at all. No wonder they had the temerity to send Payu to Vrindavan. Bastards!

"And what message do you carry?"

"One War, one Prize."

Now this was not going in the direction that the Vrcivans were anticipating. Virshika, could not hold back his rage. On his feet, he wagged his fingers at Payu, "You talk of war? We kill people in your settlements at will while your army hides in refuges in your capitals, and you dare to stand before me and talk of war?"

"I am but a messenger rajan, and I cannot respond to what you just said."

"Just because, your aging rulers have the backing of the young Cayamana, no doubt manufactured by your wily father, you are emboldened to even think of standing upto us in war?", Virshika was besides himself.

"Again, rajan, I cannot respond to you, all I can do is to deliver the message I carry and relay back your response."

Chitrarath decided to intervene. "What is this one war, one prize proposal you bring?"

"The prize is control over all the lands of the Panchalas and by extension the Purus and the Anu people as well. A prize you will win, if your army is able to douse the fire of Devavata on the banks of the Hariyupiyah."

"But we will crush you one settlement after another, anyway, till we raize Kampilya and Ahichhatra to ground. So why should we accept this proposal?"

"Time, rajan, time. Do you really think, your army can sweep across Puru lands and bring them in your control with no resistance? Don't you think it will be several winters before you achieve your dream?"

Payu's response was met with guarded silence. He had a point, both Virshika and Chitrarath thought to themselves. Sensing this, Payu pressed on, "The Panchalas will offer your army safe passage upto the Hariyupiyah river. There the two armies will face off. If your army is able to cross the river, and douse Devavata's fire that is the very symbol of Puru power, the prize is yours. The Puru and Anu tribes will be subjugated to the Yadu forever."

"What tricks has your father thought of entrapping us, Payu?" asked a skeptical Chitrarath.

"No tricks, respected elder, no tricks. The Panchalas will keep their word - safe passage to Hariyupiyah. The outcome will be decided on the battle field. The winner takes all."

Virshika looked at Chitrath, there was no reason to doubt the proposal, and most of all, it made sense, one war, one prize. It would be swift, Varshika felt he was so much closer to realizing his dream.


"Very well then, after the rains, the two armies shall meet. The Panchalas will send a signal at an appropriate time after the rains, and ensure your army is able make the long journey to the Hariyupiyah as guests."


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Payu prays for the Panchalas' enemies on the Yamuna

The news of Payu reaching the eastern banks of the Yamuna had spread to Vrindavan and other settlements close to the river banks on either side. Emotions ranged from the curious to awe amongst the laity and confusion within the Vrcivan royal council.

Virshika summoned Chitrarath, his Purohit, so they could determine how to deal with this unanticipated situation.

“Why is the son of Bharadvaja here? If he is here to discuss peace, I will have none of it”, thundered Virshika.

“Let us not jump to any conclusions, rajan”, Chitrarath cautioned. “Whoever has chosen to send him, have chosen well. It also means, he does not come with just a message, but with a proposal and a view to negotiate. Which then, further suggests, he perhaps comes here representing both the Panchalas, not just the Srnjayas.”

“So, it is not peace talks then?”

“Unlikely, nor talks of surrender, as we hoped our attack might trigger.”

“What proposal do you think he carries with him?”

“I am not sure, but I can say without any hesitation, that the proposal has the blessings of his father, perhaps, put together under his directions and also it has come about after proper discussions and planning amongst the Panchalas. Whatever the proposal, our response must be guarded and not delivered in haste.”

“If it not peace, then it must be war…” Virshika trailed off, “Once and for all, we can crush these vain Panchalas, who live on their past glories.”

“Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let us hear what Payu has to say”, the Purohit tried to rein in his rajan.

“Send for him immediately then”.

“No, not so soon. We must make him wait. We will meet him tomorrow and send for him at daybreak. Until then, we will also have the time to think.” Being the Purohit of an impetuous rajan was not an easy job and he did his gamely.

“Until then, we need to make sure he is treated well, cared for and brought in our presence with due respect. Even though they align with our foes, the Bharadvajas remain respected throughout the Arya people.”

As dusk set in, Payu began to put together a makeshift venue for the evening prayers. As if on cue, nearby settlers, began to provide him the material he needed. It was an event they would never witness ever in their lifetime. As the crowds gathered, they began to beg him to invoke the Gods for their well being.

Payu readily chose to cast aside his role as a representative of the Panchalas. As an individual, he had a larger role to play and that was to connect people with their Gods.

“Please gather so we may together, pray to the Visvadevas (all the Vedic Gods). Let us pray to the mighty and noble Varuna and Mitra so their eye will be ever watchful on you all. Let us call upon the Adityas, bestowers of fair homes for you to dwell in. Let us pray to them that you and your children do not fall prey to evil creatures and that they bless you at all times with proper speech and vigour.”

“Gather to pray to the Universal Gods that they may harm those that harm you unprovoked, let us ask them for homage and banish sin. Ask them to bless you with noble splendour that you may emerge through your troubles safely and with even more magnificence and piety.”

“Let the Visvadeva increase our fivefold people (this meant both the Yadu and Panchalas, not one as an exclusion over the other), give us good help, good refuge, good guidance, and protection”.

“Let Indra destroy the Pani. Let the bountiful Indra give us good paths and guard us well at home too.” By calling out only the Panis, Payu, deftly avoids bringing out the conflicts between the two Arya tribes.

So saying, Payu asked some of the local priest to join him at the altar. He then recited a prayer to the Visvadevas, a prayer composed by this ancestor, Rjisvan Bharadvaja.

Author’s note: Hymn 61 of Mandala VI composed by Rjisvan is a wonderful prayer that bears attentive reading. It is best left to the interpretation of you the reader.

Below is a reproduction of the entire Hymn (as translated by Griffitth).

RV 6.061 – Visvadevas
1. THAT mighty eye of Varuna and Mitra, infallible and dear, is moving upward.
The pure and lovely face of holy Order hath shone like gold of heaven in its arising.

2 The Sage who knows these Gods' three ranks and orders, and all their generations near and distant,
Beholding good and evil acts of mortals, Sura marks well the doing of the pious.

3 I praise you Guards of mighty Law eternal, Aditi, Mitra, Varuna, the noble,
Aryaman, Bhaga, all whose thoughts are faithful: hither I call the Bright who share in common.

4 Lords of the brave, infallible, foe-destroyers, great Kings, bestowers of fair homes to dwell in,
Young, Heroes, ruling heaven with strong dominion, Adityas, Aditi I seek with worship.

5 O Heaven our Father, Earth our guileless Mother, O Brother Agni, and ye Vasus, bless us.
Grant us, O Aditi and ye Adityas, all of one mind, your manifold protection.

6 Give us not up to any evil creature, as spoil to wolf or she-wolf, O ye Holy.
For ye are they who guide aright our bodies, ye are the rulers of our speech and vigour.

7 Let us not suffer for the sin of others, nor do the deed which ye, O Vasus, punish.
Ye, Universal Gods! are all-controllers: may he do harm unto himself who hates Me.

8 Mighty is homage: I adopt and use it. Homage hath held in place the earth and heaven.
Homage to Gods! Homage commands and rules them. I banish even committed sin by homage

9 You Furtherers of Law, pure in your spirit, infallible, dwellers in the home of Order,
To you all Heroes mighty and far-seeing I bow me down, O Holy Ones, with homage.

10 For these are they who shine with noblest splendour; through all our troubles these conduct us safely-
Varuna, Mitra, Agni, mighty Rulers, trueminded, faithful to the hymn's controllers.

11 May they, Earth, Aditi, Indra, Bhaga, Pusan increase our laud, increase the Fivefold people.
Giving good help, good refuge, goodly guidance, be they our good deliverers, good protectors.

12 Come now, O Gods, to your celestial station: the Bharadvajas' priest entreats your favour.
He, sacrificing, fain for wealth, hath honoured the Gods vath those who sit and share oblations.

13 Agni, drive thou the wicked foe, the evil-hearted thief away,
Far, far, Lord of the brave I and give us easy paths.

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

15 Ye, O most bountiful, are they who, led by Indra, seek the sky.
Give us good paths for travel: guard us ivell at home.

16 Now have we entered on the road that leads to bliss, without a foe,
The road whereon a man escapes all enemies and gathers wealth.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Payu travels to Vrindavan, capital of the Vrcivans

The occasional call of the male tittri (commonly known as teetar in Hindi or the Gray Francolin in English) was all that broke the monotony of Payu’s ride out of the South Panchala outpost (close to modern day Etah, Uttar Pradesh, India) towards Vrindavan, the capital of the Vrcivans.

The mating call indicated the onset of the summer months. But summer seemed to have entrenched itself already. The land was a brown bowl of dust, bereft of vegetation and water. For Payu and his horse, used to the forests and streams on the foothills of the Himalayas, this was unusual. Would his horse be able to make the journey? Payu had not expected such a treacherous route to Vrindavan.

The difference between the habitats of the Puru and Anu tribes settled alongside the mighty rivers was in stark contrast to these parts occupied by the Yadus. Perhaps this harshness was also responsible in part for their brutality. As that thought crossed his mind, Payu also reminded himself that he had to watch out for the elite Vricivan solders. He expected them to be camped close to the Panchala border, but so far, he saw no evidence.

The horse had now slowed down to a canter. It needed a rest and more importantly a drink. But where was he to locate water in these parts? Payu began to mutter a prayer to Indra under his breath. Soon enough, up ahead in a distance, he could make out the contours of human dwellings. Payu dismounted the horse and decided it better to walk alongside as a way to quell any fears that he may be mistaken for a solder or person meaning physical danger.

As he neared the dwellings, he realized they were desolate, perhaps abandoned due to a complete lack of vegetation, fodder and water. Might he be able to find some water for his horse? If he could only find some for the poor beast. As he looked around, he noticed a large rectangular structure that had no opening on any side, and was not tall enough to shelter humans either. He approached the structure and to his joy, discovered it contained water, very shallow and dirty, but water nevertheless.  Somehow he managed to make sure the horse was able to have a drink and he too had some from the water he was carrying in a large leather pouch.

Thirst quenched, man and horse proceeded towards Vrindavan at a gallop. So, this is how the Dasa’s stored their water! He had always heard from accounts narrated by the Pani traders, but here it was, right before his eyes. So the Yadus seemed to have figured it too, no wonder they could survive in these regions, where rivers were few and those that existed, provided water mostly after the rains.

The other thing that struck Payu was why the settlement had been abandoned. It did not appear to be a regular settlement of people – there was no evidence to suggest cow sheds and fodder. The dwellings also seemed to have been hurriedly made and could very well have been occupied by the mobile Vrcivan elite army. But why had they abandoned the settlement and where were they now?

As mid-day approached, Payu came by a major Yadu settlement. His antecedents ensured that he was greeted well and taken care of, fed, watered and rested. By evening, he reached the banks of the Yamuna. Vrindavan lay on the other side.

Notes & References
The tittri (or teetar in Hindi and Gray Francolin in English) is referred to as Kapinjala in the Rig Veda. Infact two hymns – 2.043 and 2.043 are dedicated to this bird.