Saturday, April 9, 2016

Maha Nirvani: The Warriors of Mahadeva. Part 1

A Short Story

Chapter 1: The Yogi of Arunachala

We live in uncertain times. Perhaps all times are that way to a person who is brooding. It is 4640 years since the beginning of the Yuga of Kali - the age of darkness. Or the age of cleansing, depending on who you talk to. That many years since the end of the great battle of Mahabharatha - the one event that defined all of Bharath and it's destiny till now. But now we have fallen back to uncertainty and chaos. It is not clear who is a friend and who is a foe anymore. What is right or what is wrong.

I go by the name Yogi Ramveer Nath Giri and I have roamed this great country more than three times now in my relatively short life of 25 years. Most of my years I had spent in the company of my Guru Sri Raghunatha Giri to whom, I was told, my parents gave me as a gift when I was a child of 4. My Guru has since taken care of me and taught me everything I know. The last one year of being away from my Guru perhaps is the reason for this feeling of uncertainty and doom that has been troubling me. A cloud that seems to have been cast over the entire nation. Or maybe it has always been there and only that I have been too happy to notice it.

The Kings have never been a part of our lives before. And both us and the Kings have been happier for it. That is not to say that they wouldn't want to control us Sadhus. But they never dared to. All Kings remember the story of Lord Parashurama. Of how he almost got every King in the world killed because one of them stole the sacred cow from his father's ashram. The Puranas are a powerful tool to remind people of things they tend to forget in the course of a few thousand years of peace. It is good that people remember them. But there are new rulers now. People from the far west; from beyond the mountains, who don't remember. Who have been travelling too long and fighting too much to have time to learn these lessons. They have been trying to meddle in the paths of the Yogis and have many have paid a heavy price. But because of the fighting,  all our extreme powers are known to the common people - and they all want to have them too. No longer is a child given to the Yogis so that he may become Shiva. But the child is given so that some private squabble can be settled by using the powers of the Yogis. My Guru never accepted such deals. But there are many nowadays, the whispers says, who are not above being corrupted.

The rain feels so lovely on my skin. Especially when the day has been hot. I did not move from my seat when it was hot and I am not moving when it is raining. I have been sitting in this spot under the pepul tree for almost four days now. I almost feel as if the rain is going through my body to reach the ground and if I closed my eyes, it would actually do that. That is because I have nothing. I am nothing. I have lived my life with nothing. Whatever is given to me, I give it away so that I am free to walk. To sit. To look. The only thing I carry is a tiger skin that belonged to my Guru. That was the only thing he ever carried with him.

My Guru told me that a great yogi, an incarnation, Shiva - Mahadeva - himself, is going to walk in this part of the country soon. This time for a very brief period though. Maybe a year. Maybe less. Maybe more. Only to be seen by the qualified yogis. That perhaps is the reason why I haven't moved out of the Hoysala region for more than a year. It is not our way of life to stay in a region for more than a week.

The Kumbha mela is approaching and I have to go there. I must start now, if I were to reach there in a few months. Or I have to find some mercury with which I can fly there in a few days. But my Guru never used his power of flying. He said that we need to meet people in the villages and take them along with us.  But I dread missing out on meeting the Lord of Lords. Maybe I am not qualified to meet him. Five hundred years hence, he will come again. And at that time everyone will get to be with him irrespective of their sadhana. That is what my Guru said. But my mind doesn't feel like waiting that long. And more than a thousand years back he had come. In a small town called Arunachala in the south. The legends are so eloquent about the joys of his coming. About how he makes life feels like the afternoon rain on a hot summer day. And as the water cleans everything in me and around me, my inner eye tries to reach out for a glimpse of those times. A glimpse of him. But somehow my vision stops just ahead of his coming. The inner eye that shows me much into the past and future stops short of showing him. I can't see his coming - either in the past or in the future.

And so I wait. I wait sitting in the rain that has made a small pond around the tree where I have been sitting for the past four days. I continue to sit. I sit waiting for the Yogi of Arunachala.

Chapter 2: Creatures of the Night

It is night now and the village is very different from what it was when Surya cast his powerful glance on it. The sounds, the wind, the breath - everything is different. Most humans have gone to bed. Some to sleep. The Yogi, however, does not sleep. He doesn't need to. When you are nothing, nothing tires you. My eyes continued to be open as they have always been since I met my Guru. The place I am sitting is near a cremation ground and many tantriks perform their occult rituals to appeal to  supernatural powers. Many dark powers are happy to give it to them for a price. Sometimes the price is much higher than what the seeker of greed wanted to give.  The powers of the Yogis do not come from outside. They come from within and from the grace of the Guru. From Sadasiva. Nothing has been given for them other than understanding that I have nothing to give. That I am nothing. They cannot harm me or those whom I help.

I hear the scream of a woman in the dark. Not one of fear, but a cry of victory. It could mean many things. I let it go through me and have it leave me as I was before it emanated. A couple walk by in tight embrace - not bothered about social stigma or shame. A second look and I realize that they are not human - at least the girl wasn't. She has a tight grasp on the boy's hands and is demanding his attention, praise and listening. When that isn't forthcoming, she starts seducing him. She is extremely beautiful. But knowing her kind, this is possibly a form that was taken because she knew it would entice him to give her his full attention and perhaps more. For all you know, she was hundreds of years old. And as she made love to him in the open ground, she was constantly aware of my presence. I looked into her eyes and throughout her courtship, she never looked away from mine either. Her hunger seemed to have no end. One could almost pity the depth of her un-fulfillment. I wished I could do something for her. And instantly my seat, the tiger skin on which I was sitting, fell to the ground from where it was hovering a foot above so delicately. I knew I did something wrong. I didn't know what it was though.

A that very moment a loud noise broke out in the nearby road and a procession of people could be seen walking along. At the head of the procession was what appeared to be a grandly decorated corpse. Clearly someone important for there was more than a 1000 people travelling with his body to bid it farewell. Followed by a large number of horses, elephants and so on. At the lead were 12 women - clearly the wives of the person who had died. And judging by the ash that was being strewn all over the procession, he must have been a Sadu or a Yogi. A Grihastha - a married one - though. And an extremely powerful one. The Grihastha Sadhus were extremely well respected. People envied their wealth and feared their powers. Many of them lived for hundreds of years and took on scores of wives. It was surprising to find one who looked so young. All his wives were beautiful. The youngest could not have been older than fourteen or fifteen. But she stood out from the group. 

It is quite possible that some of the women may travel along with the dead sadhu king to accompany him into his next life. It is a science passed on to very few. On how to interlock two souls that they may take their next birth together. The ignorant who don't understand it call it suicide. The women neither looked sad nor did they look happy. They had the intense look of the renunciates, but yet were decked full of jewelry like the Goddesses of the temples.

The youngest of them looked at me with a inquisitive  and at the same time amused look. I could almost sense her laughing. Her eyes seemed to question my existence from its very core. So different from the eyes of the creature I had seen earlier.. but yet carrying an immense power in it. Had it been day, people around would have been astonished by me, a Sadhu, staring into the eyes of a lady. But something in her look made me unable to move my gaze away.

Legend has it that the enlightened Queen of Madurai, Meenakshi, could awaken a person's consciousness by just looking at him or her. Hence the name Meenakshi - the one with the eyes of a fish. People wrongly assume this to refer to the shape of her eyes. But the mystics know that it refers to the story that fish could hatch its young ones just by looking at them. Such was the power in the eyes which had me locked.

Chapter 3: The Ascetic King

I woke up feeling sore in every part of my body. Never have I felt my physical body with this much sensation in my life. To just move my hand or my leg seemed like an impossible task. My mind was racing to put together my life and to give me an identity. And it was failing miserably. Who am I? Where am I? When am I? Questions that hit me from the depth of me had no answers from my memory bank. I noticed much ornate architecture and golden fittings all around me. My eyes could not focus clearly but suddenly out of the hazy surroundings, two eyes stood out and looked at me. Eyes that suddenly calmed my chaotic and panicking mind. A voice, much more melodious than anything I have heard said, said "Rest yourself. You have been through much. You will have your answers in time". The power of the voice left no choice to me but to obey them. I slipped back to sleep hoping I might wake up.

Six months have passed. I am the King of the province on Mandya. We are from the lineage of Shaivite warriors whose job it is to protect Dharma. The previous ruler of these lands had sided with the Mughals and tried to sell the women of his Kingdom to them. Two weeks later our army descended on his kingdom and in 20 minutes no trace was left of him or his supporters. Justice is swift and merciless. That is the way it has to be. Unlike the subjects, rulers deserve no mercy.

My previous life as a Natha Yogi seems almost like a dream. The only thing that links me to that life are the eyes of my beloved, Mathangi. Six months back, Bhairvaranya, a Sri Mahant of the armies of the Maha Nirvani Akhada died by poisoning but came back to life from the crematorium. That the person inside the body is from a different from the one who died is a secret that no one else knows. Sometimes I wonder if I do either. This seems more me now.

We are at war and there is no time for doubt. The Muslim invaders have strengthened their alliances. For the past few hundred years they had left the akhadas alone and hence enjoyed their freedom to rule. But our spies have news of their real plans. Which is not just to rule, but to destroy the Akhadas and impose their God and culture. This is the war that all of us have been trained for. Six hundred years ago a great visionary, Shankara, walked these very lands. He foresaw the invasion and created 13 akhadas - or armies - one in each geographical region, whose job was to defend the Sanatana Dharma. Our instructions were a closely guarded secret. We are to be in the shadows. Never to interfere in the wars of the Kings. But the moment Dharma gets threatened, that was our cue to act. If what the spies say are true, we must be in a very grave situation and this ensuing battle is going to be terrible.

The soldiers of our army are all ascetics. They don't fear death. Nor do they fear pain. Nor the next life. Their lives belong to Mahadeva and he has already decided their fates centuries ago. Each Thanedar in the army is worth more than a thousand mindless soldiers.

And I, who have never fought any creature, even a mosquito, in my life, am tasked with protecting this realm from the greatest danger it has seen. Such is the strangeness of the play of Mahadeva. I do not complain. That is not my job. My job is to do. And to be. Both at the same time. 

Today a dozen Sri Mahants from many parts of Bharath are meeting in secret in my palace. It is the time to decide on the future of the akhadas and our role in the history of this land. There are many yogis who actively side with the Musalman kings because they believe they are truer to God. I have to convince them why they are wrong. And it is never an easy task convincing the leaders. You have to make them believe that it is their idea and all at the same time. Otherwise the personal enmities would automatically make each of them take the other side. Luckily for me, my Guru had been the adviser to many smaller kings in the Maratha region. He had passed on as much knowledge of the intricacies politics to me as he did the science of yoga and mysticism.

Chapter 4: The Battle for Hastinapura

My heart is beating fast. Something I have never experienced in my earlier body. I close my eyes and get back into Samadhi - the state of oneness; with the living emptiness that is within me. My mother, Kali, who nourishes me every second of my life is there. I go to her only when I want something. But she is always waiting for me. Waiting with the love, affection and acceptance that only a mother can give. I open my eyes calm and peaceful after what seems like an eternity. Only a fraction of a second - perhaps less, I realize, has passed on the outside. I finish the insect sound signal I had started to make to the shadow on the other end of the courtyard.  The shadow moved forward.

Seven of us are now inside the compound of the palace. Each only a shadow on a different wall or corner. The guards will never see us coming in or going out. The plan is simple. Kill the emperor of Delhi and all his kin and leave before anyone sees us. This will place enough confusion in the kingdom to keep them busy for many years. Even decades. If we are lucky. The Sadhus never kill unless it is essential. In this night we would have saved a million lives from torture and suffering. But only the people who can read the future will know this.

The palaces of the Mughals are so different from the ones of the Sadhu Kings. They are extravagant without purpose. Large, but inefficient. There is a cloud of sadness permeating every space. It is almost as if we were walking through a tomb. The difference between the two palaces is the difference between life and death.

The attack started at 2 am. And we were supposed to leave within the hour. It should have been easy. But Mahadeva's plans are inscrutable. Even to the ones who mind is filled by nothing but him. Within ten minutes of scaling the walls of the fort, we reached the inner palace where Akbar was sleeping. He had twenty guards and ten wives around him. His son, a boy of 6, was sleeping in the same room. It was I who had the chance to kill him. But I couldn't. One more of the mistakes of righteousness that I made in my life. Something that would cost much in terms of suffering to the world. But at that time, it felt as if I had no choice. My blade touched the kid and moved back into the sheath. He opened his eyes and screamed. The room leapt into chaos. Arrows, blood and screams filled the air. The Sadhus never harmed the women. That was their code. But that did not stop the women from flinging their daggers at them. Trapped by their own rules all of us fell.

I had knifes and arrows in my belly and my back. The blood rushed through my wounds. I was conscious but weakening. I could heal the body if only I could find the root of the Tulasi and the leaves of the Neem plants. But I wasn't sure if I could ever heal the mind from the guilt that was suffocating it. My life was not my loss. It never was mine and never will be. But what I am, is who I had decided to be. The guardian of Dharma. And today I had failed that. That pain made me feel that death was such a sweet alternative. If I had used my mercury pellet I might have flown out of the window into the courtyard. But my will failed me and soon everything was dark.

When I woke up, I noticed a man with an empty bucket standing in front of me and water dripping from all over my matted hair and body.  The emperor was looking triumphantly at me from a safe distance. They all knew the futility of torturing a Sadhu. They wouldn't find anything except what the Sadhu wanted you to hear. And yet for some reason I was alive. I wondered why.

Chapter 5: The Mughal Yogi

Gold. The madness that takes over men. The one thing whose glitter draws even the most learned and pious. It is the collective delusion with which men are ruled by the kings. The delusion by which they believe they are safe. But one that makes their life most unsafe and miserable. That is why our Dharma tells us that God is the only one who is worthy of having Gold. The only one who is capable of having Gold. All our Gold is in our temples. Decorating the divine and singing his glory as the way it should be.  Gold. That is what the king was after. Lots of it. The earlier invaders had destroyed our temples and looted all our Gold. They had taken it back to their kingdoms and become rich. But now there were no more temples to loot. The treasury was empty and the army needed to be kept happy.  Every Islamic king knew what would happen if the army was not pampered.  Those who didn't had very short reigns and we don't know much about them.

Yogis who could transmutate copper into Gold or even produce it from the air were plentiful. But they could at most make a few coins a week. Doing anything beyond that would require them to do many distasteful things. Most would rather give up their bodies. And judging by what was happening here, it looks like many did. But I had a mission to do. And nothing was above it. I agreed to help the Emperor if he would stop attacking the Akhadas and the sadhus. He agreed without really meaning it. I could read his small mind like a piece of paper in my hand. Little did this man know about the country he was ruling and the powers possessed by the Sadhus who ran it.

The King, Jalaludin, was happy. His coffers were full. The army was pleased with him. The kingdom tottered about in ignorance and buzz like a drunk because of the gold that was dispensed liberally by the administration. I have had a chance to study the religion of these invaders. It was in some ways not that different from what the bairagis practice. But in many ways it was primitive and based on simplistic rules. The King was not entirely stupid though. He could see how running a Kingdom needed a different religion than one which was meant to produce enough conflict and rage to make an army. But he did not have the training or the depth to know how it could be done.

With the support of the king, Jalaludin, the akhadas were now armed and able to defend themselves. The Mughal armies have been ordered to not interfere in the affairs of the Sadhus. The Akhadas now are able to continue with their work. 

To be continued..

Click here for: Part 2