Joined: 10 October 2006
Rays of Hope by Jill Eisnaugle
Through each moment, indecisive
Is a glimpse of what can be
When the rays of hope, incisive
Shine for the whole world to see
These vibrant sparks come not of tinting
Made by stunning beams of gold
But are worthy of lamenting
For the kindness we behold.
The people sat glued watching Lord Shiva dancing ' Rudra Tandava' on learning Sati has given up her life by jumping into the fire of Daksha's Yagya (holy fire)'.his angry movements shook the stage, the viewers held each other's hands as the music rose matching the steps of the dancer, the elderly ladies folded their hands asking the Lord to calm down'the girl saw the opportunity, she looked around'nobody was watching her, she got up on her hunches and quietly moved into the shadows'it is too much, every year her mother forces her to keep fast on 'Mahashivratri' saying she will get a good husband, well for the last 4 years nothing good has happened and except her feeling the pangs of hunger the whole day'.this year also the same story and on top of that the people were already mocking at her and her mother, Savitri koi rajkumar nehi ayega to ask for the hand of your daughter'.now it is time you stop being so choosy'.being a mother of a daughter, you cannot be so high nosed'..
One thing she has realized, being hungry hampers your prayers but then who is going to say that to her mother, how can you pray when you are constantly thinking of it to get over and eat? Whatever happen will happen, her mother does not even have a man, her father or her so called father left them when she was born, he did not want to be a father of a daughter he had said and she cannot recall his face any longer'.without a man in their lives, mother and daughter have made it so far'..she is sure rest will also go if only her mother did not dream about getting her married to an unique man'.does such a man exist at all, she thought as she crept towards the temple, it was beautifully decorated, with flowers and lamps, done by her mother and her sometime ago and it was deserted, the people were waiting for auspicious time or the 'muhurat' and the Maharaja to come and pour the first water over the 'ling' to mark the beginning of puja, in the meanwhile they watched the programme being staged at the 'Natya Manch' across the courtyard of the temple, she looked up at the moon, it was already mid sky'she made a note of the time'hmmm about half an hour more to go, will the lord be very angry if she pours a wee bit of water a little before time? As after the Maharaja, the royal family members will pour water, followed by the ministers and their families etc etc., when her time will come, dawn will surely be breaking and she cannot stay awake for so long and hungry too'
He rose from the water, his valet came forward and rubbed his body dry, he stood still a bit absent mindedly not registering the mechanical movements of the hands till he heard being addressed'.Maharaj'..
Hmmm'focussing his eyes on the man holding two dhotis in his hands, dyed in two of his favourite colours'.crimson and blue'.he indicated the blue one, 'Neelkanth' another name of Lord Shiva, the ruling God of this kingdom too'.it is to be believed that this kingdom was founded under the direction and guidance of the Lord himself'.when one of his forefathers about 100 years back had been chased away from his tribe with few of his men, he prayed to the Lord to guide him, the Lord brought him here and appeared in his dream when they were camping to set up his kingdom at this very place'.
Once the dhoti was tied he sat down spreading his arms, his chief valet and assistants put on the various ornaments '..
Everything has not been smooth with this kingdom, like any other, it also had its share of ups and downs, attacks and counter attacks in the want of spreading it territories, since these lands were not theirs naturally and had to be conquered and frequent upheavals took place until their authority was somewhat supremely established, today they have good hold over a quite a substantial size of kingdom called Rudrapur'.the 'Someshwaras' as the royal family is called aptly named after their Lord, like their kingdom'
Running a comb through his wet hair upto his shoulders, he stood up, a fine woolen shawl was handed over to him, which he wrapped around his bare torso, stepping out from his bath area he walked into the anteroom, the royal priest cum his teacher was waiting, he went and sat down on a designated stool, the elderly man first blessed him and then picked up a cloth to tie the turban on his head '..
Somdev, I know it is a trying time for you to go out today and face your people when once again'..he went quiet'.
Ji guruji'He replied softly just to hint he was hearing him''
Guruji sighed and then kept his hands on his shoulders'..Somdev please consider the proposal of Veerpur, think over it when you pour water over the Lord, I am sure the Lord will guide you with the correct answer'
He looked up at this Guru, Shankar is a good choice, he is also eager'..
Of course Shankar is eager, we all know why but Shankar does not need it'you do'.think my child not emotionally but rationally'..Guruji's eyes bored deep into his'..
He stared back for sometime before lowering his eyes, touching the feet of his Guruji, he straightened pulling the 'angvastra' properly before stepping out '.
Maharaaj ki jai ho'Guruji wished''
She looked around, nobody was looking, she crossed the courtyard, her mother wants a man for her who will be unlike any other ordinary man without any vices, people laughed, a man without vices is something like looking for a needle in the hay'.she thought why not? She and her mother have lived by themselves, they can do whatever they want, from repairing their house to collecting flowers, making the biggest and the best garlands in the market and selling them, today they have decorated the temple, from the morning both of them had taken their bath, worn fresh clothes and got into the job, so much flowers, different varieties and colour combinations'it was looking so beautiful, after all this hard labour why cannot she pour a bit of water over the Lord first? She noticed two priests of the temple chatting and walking across, she stood still as if admiring her own work, the priests hardly took notice of her, they knew her alright, they passed by, she smiled, walking up the steps she reached the main door, it was shut but not locked'.she made a final scan'
He came and stood where his family had assembled. Without trying to be obvious he scanned them, just to note their presence, no he is not concerned as to how religious they are to their family deity but he wants to find out to what degree their allegiance is towards him' he smiled, satisfied, so they are still with him, he noted before stepping forward, the family followed him, the guards blew their horns, which echoed far and wide informing all around the 'Maharaja was ready to leave the palace''.the drummers started beating the drum, they followed the entourage towards the temple across the road, the Maharaja will mingle with his subjects today after he pays his respects to Shiva.
Sometime around end of 12th century beginning of 13th century, India was being invaded by the Muslim invaders though their rule had not been established as such, the Indian sub-region was facing changes, trade, religion and of course politically too, there were no big rulers like the Mauryas and the Guptas, the region was fragmented into many mid sized to small kingdoms, the Rajputs being very brave and prominent.
Rudrapur is one such kingdom somewhere in the central region of India, witnessing various changes as they were passage connecting north to the south, east to the west'location wise vulnerable towards both friends and foes'some wanted to make use for the strategic location to their best advantage, others wanted to capture it and make their passage through it to the other side.
Shomdev was the present ruler of Rudrapur, around 32 years of age he succeeded on the throne after the death of his father through a secret ballot, as was the system in Rudrapur, the present Maharaja was chosen by the ministers and the elite of the kingdom from amongst the sons of the previous ruler. Shomdev was around 20 when he had ascended on the throne, bypassing his elder and younger brothers, he might have got the throne by popular choice but that does not make his task easy, his siblings often liked to see their brother in a fix.
Taking out her thali from under her angvastra, she did a quick arati of the lord, reciting the slokas her mother had taught her, wondering if at all this has the power to get her a unique husband'what is unique she wondered'most of the men in her society had a number of wives, indulge in drinks, often leave their family and go off to far of lands for many days, played games of dice, is her mother really wanting the impossible for her? She stared at the 'ling' a man who will be hers solely, a man who will take care of her small and big needs, a man who will ensure she does not have to leave home before sunrise to get the best of flowers, a man who will recite and sing love poems to her specifically'.she poured the milk and water over the 'ling' immersed in her thoughts she did not hear the door open and a voice breaking into her thoughts, 'it seems somebody is in a great hurry to complete her prayers before me''..
She froze'.so did other people standing behind the king'who dares to do the abhisheka before the king'..
You got me wro'you got me wrong My Lord, She turned, I 'I just have come to check 'check out if everything is in order before you came in'..
Somdev raised his brow staring at the tumbler in her hand still raised '..
BHAAVINI HOW DARE YOU LIE TO THE KING, GET OUT OF HERE, JUST NOW'..The priest was shaking with embarrassment and anger'.
Shouldn't she be punished for her crime, My Lord, a female voice spoke from behind'.
Guards keep an eye on the girl, make sure she does not manage to escape'.another male voice added'..
Bhaavini crept out, squeezing past the king, who was standing at the doorway not bothering to make way'..
Outside she stood with her head bowed, suddenly she felt festive atmosphere had changed, everything was quiet, solemn, she raised her eyes to look, people were standing looking horrified, watching her with their mouths open wondering what has gone wrong with the girl, on top of the front steps stood her mother, speechless''watching her, the enormity of the situation started sinking in'she had committed a crime, defying the custom, defying the king and the punishment for it in Rudrapur was beheading.
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Outside she stood with her head bowed, suddenly she felt festive atmosphere had changed, everything was quiet, solemn, she raised her eyes to look, people were standing looking horrified, watching her with their mouths open wondering what has gone wrong with the girl, on top of the front steps stood her mother, speechless……watching her she, the enormity of the situation started sinking in…she had committed a crime, defying the custom, defying the king and the punishment for it in Rudrapur was beheading.
Somdev sat comfortably at one side of the Natya Manch, flanked by his family and important members of the society, they sat breaking their fast, eating fruits and drinking sura (liquor). On the stage, singers were singing bhajans, the common man after pouring the water came upto him to offer their respects, most of them carrying little presents, keeping them at his feet…for he was an incarnation of Shiva, his subjects loved to believe that….
Somdev leaned forward and shared a word or two enquiring general well being, offering a piece of fruit from his plate
Yes he smiled and he joked, inspite of his heart breaking every second, today was not a good day, first the accident in the morning and now the girl chose to offer her prayers before he could….the priest wanted to wash the whole temple once again so that they could start afresh but then he decided to go ahead….'nehi toh muhurat nikal jayega' he looked upto the temple at a distance, it is the very place where his ancestor had got the dream when he was resting under the tree, Somdev narrowed his eyes, he could see the girl standing with her hands tied leaning against a pillar, suddenly a shiver went through him…he frowned…the words of his guruji came floating back…..Somdev pulled his 'angvastra' properly and went back in accepting offerings..
Shankar finished his tumbler in one long drag and threw it on the floor, sparks flew as metal struck the stone, the tumbler spinning around for sometime stopped facing him….Shankar laughed aloud…his friends joined him….see even the Lord wants me but then Somdev tricked the ministers taking advantage of my absence….the result you see…once again Somdev has lost it…….
Maharaj Somdev returned past dawn and flopped on the bed throwing away his shawl, late winter, the weather was still chilly but the amount of 'sura' to keep him warm…in no time he was sleeping deeply….his valet came and removed his jewelry without trying to disturb him when the drapes shifted a lady entered….
Has he fallen asleep? She asked the man….
Yes Maharani, he bowed as he replied…
The lady hesitated, was in two minds and then turned to leave….
Keya baath hai Rukmini…a voice slurred from behind…..
Rukmini turned and went to sit next to the bed…she is in a lot of pain Dev….I think you should visit her once…..
Somdev turned away his face ……
Dev? Rukmini called out….turning his head towards her….
He stared back with lifeless eyes unable to focus properly…then closing it to dose off
Rukmini sighed, got up going out of the room…
From the age of 20 when he ascended on the throne he has been constantly fighting to keep abreast of all troubles and keep his kingdom intact but lately his troubles have increased, it is not only the political or administrative crises he is facing but also personal crises.
During this time, the Indian Society was quite liberal, men/women mixed freely, as such the purdah system was not prevalent, they dressed more or less in the same manner, Indians never wore stitched clothes prior to the arrival of Muslims, men also wore heavy ornaments, had their ears pierced but despite of everything you needed a male heir to succeed you and Somdev did not have one….
Like any monarch he had strategic and political weddings, two beautiful queens, one was Rukmini, his consort and the other was Devki, mother of his two daughters, on the day of Shiv Chathurthi, Devki had another miscarriage on her fourth month, Maharani Rukmini was childless……
Bhaavini noticed the temple courtyard getting empty as after completing the ritual people went home to take rest after a whole day of fast…being one of the biggest festivals of the kingdom, again from the afternoon people would come out on the streets to take part in various cultural and fun activities, this would go on for the next three days and obviously nobody will have time to see what has happened to her except for a woman who was still sitting stunned watching her with unblinking eyes…her mother Savitri…the woman who has brought her up singlehandedly and the woman who refused proposals from several men just for her….Bhaavini's heart broke to see her mother…the self respecting, hard working lady who has tried to give her the best of everything within her limited means….Hey Shivashambhu, how could I make such a blunder, just because I did not want to remain hungry for few more hours, you have punished me so badly? Are you so angry with me? Shama…shamaa….shamaaa…..
Shankardev lay slumped on his bed in an awkward position, he was too drunk to move and nobody came to put him into a right position, his servants dared not touch him for they do not know how he would react, known for his fowl temper he was capable to giving the hardest of punishment for the slightest of mistakes.
Amongst the three brothers Shankar was the eldest, he was also the military commander of the Royal Army…a position which came to him not because he was the Prince but he was indeed a good soldier, a fearless warrior and a cunning general…hence Shankardev felt cheated when he was voted out to succeed his father, instead his younger brother, a half man, a man without any personality, a man who does not know how to roar except for meek whispers was chosen over him to become the king…..Why Somdev? Many a times Shankardev asked his faithful followers, even Bhaskardev is better than Som…Bhaskar their younger brother, a man who loved music and immersed himself in liquor and his passion for various art forms the whole day would have been a better choice than Somdev but inspite of everything Somdev has been the king of Rudrapur for last 12 years…
Prime Minister Lakshman Narayan, crossed the courtyard to go to his offices in the palace, it might be festival time but then there is work to be done, as he walked past the Royal temple inside the courtyard, he noticed Guruji Chandrakant sitting with his legs folded watching the horizon lost in his thoughts….
Pranam Guruji, Lakshman Narayan offered his salutations…Guruji turned towards him, punctual as ever Lakshman, he observed,
Ji Guruji, a lot of work is pending and in the early hours I can do some work in peace….
I know Lakshman, Chandrakant sighed….he was looking sad
Lakshman hesitated and then asked how is the Maharani….
I spoke to the Vaid….well she is still in great pain, the actual damage can only be known after few months…not to speak about the mental trauma….
Have you spoken to Maharaj….did you ask him about Veerpur….
Chandrakant got up to join Lakshman, yes I did…he is yet to make up his mind…..
Lakshman Narayan stopped, What is stopping him? He does not have to worry like a common man as to where from he will upkeep his wives and family….
No Lakshman I guess that is the last thing Somdev is worried about….
Then….doesn't he want an heir of his own…..?
Who would not?
I am sorry to say Guruji but lately I am seeing Somdev to be faltering…forcing me to think that we have made a wrong choice….
You surely don't mean that Lakshman… Guruji exclaimed…..
Lakshman Narayan gave a hard stare at him then offering his salutations he went inside his office…
Chandrakant stood stunned, what is this, are people getting so disillusioned with Somdev already….running his hand over his bald head, curling his tiki (antenna) Chandrakant shook his head, turning his head towards the temple he asked the god residing there, what is in his mind…does he want to bring another revolution?
Bhaavini slumped as fatigue overtook her senses, the fast of the previous day and the sun of the morning slowly took away her energy, she could not cry out for her mother for she was guilty, all their dreams together was shattered in one single mistake, when Bhaavini felt the coldness of a tumbler thrust into her lips, she hesitated thinking it was a dream then tried to grab the tumbler with her lips….
Slowly…a female voice said…drink slowly otherwise it will choke you…..Bhaavini flickered her eyes, it was their neighbour, the lady who mocked them all the time…..that is what I was telling Savitri, if she would have got you married by now you would not have been so desperate…Bhaavini turned her eyes towards he mother, she was still sitting, another woman was trying to make her drink…Savitri turned her face away ….Bhaavini closed her eyes….she cried out 'Ma'''…tears trickled down but no sound came out….
Ho giya? I think that is enough the guard said, I cannot allow you anymore, now leave before I get reprimanded….jao idhar se….
It was not before mid-day when the palace stirred to get up, the servants scurried through the corridors going into the rooms of their masters to make the bath ready, water to wash their face, fresh clothes to be laid out….
Maharani Rukmini stretched herself, she sat up, her maid forward holding a bowl of water, she sprinkled the same onto her face, drying her face with the cloth she looked into the face of her maid….
Well she is still delirious and the maharaja is yet to visit her….
Rukmini devi lowered her eyes, a hint of smile played on her lips…
Somdev sat on the terrace attached to his room, beyond he could see the royal children playing including his two daughters, aged 4 and 6 they were running behind the sons of his brothers…a son…he has been told the foetus that was lost was male….he winched in his thoughts…not to say with Shankar breathing down his neck all the time, this was another issue becoming a concern…no it is not his fault people tell him but then it is turning out to be a curse indeed….
A servant entered, placing a stool with some refreshments and another placed some parchments for him to go through, the king is not supposed to have holidays….
Ramdin can you please ask Guruji to see me….
Ji Maharaaj, Ramdin bowed and then hesitated….
Somdev raised his brow….
Err, pardon me my Lord but I saw Guruji organizing a special Yagya to wade off bad spirits which have invaded the palace lately…..
Tell him if I can have two minutes of his time, I am sure in two minutes the spirits will not throw any new tantrums…..he added a bit sarcastically….he was the king and he needed to be obeyed…picking up a bowl of cereal his eyes went back to the garden to see the maids now taking back the children inside….
Somdev stood out, coming out of the shade under which he was sitting he looked around the palace grounds, everything looked so peaceful, so serene only he knew the turmoil inside…..
The wooden sandals of Chandrakant rang through the corridor as he walked towards the Maharaja's room…Somdev has sent for him, his favourite student Somdev, a man who seldom sent for him instead he came seeking his advice, has Somdev decided? Chandrakant wondered as he hurried through the corridors…
About 25 years ago, Chandrakant was commissioned by the King of Rudrapur to become a teacher of his children. Chandrakant belonged from Varanasi, where his father and forefathers served as the Vishwanath Temple's chief priests….Settling down in Rudrapur was not difficult for him, he soon took the three princess under his wings…Though Shankardev was already in his teens, turning out to be a ruthless and merciless man, leader amongst his siblings, Somdev he found to be an exact copy of his elder brother, while Bhaskardev did things to please his elders, just to remain in the gang…the King was worried…what kind of successors I will leave…..
Chandrakant who taught in his family run school previously observed the boys for some days..the boys having Aryan blood in the veins loved to play war games, they loved physical activities which they used more than their mental stamina but then to run a kingdom it was not enough, the king cannot go to war all the time, he needs govern his people, understand them…he made a list of his findings, how to channelize their energies in some other direction…
While Shankardev proved in was naturally good with swords, bows and arrows, he had a cunning mind too. Somdev was full of energy, a person who could not sit in one place for more than two seconds but then Chandrakant also found out given a task Somdev could forget everything in the world before he completed it while Bhaskardev was naturally artistic….
Guruji Ashirwaad..Shankardev came and bowed cutting his path, Chandrakant raised his hand,
Shankar straightened …you know Guruji you are partial to Somdev…I know he is the King but then I am also your student, aapke shishya, you don't come to bless me in my room….
Chandrakant smiled….Shankar you are naturally gifted, the Lord has been kind to you…..
Has he Guruji? How come I am not the king of Rudrapur then?
Well it is the people's choice Shankar…Chandrakant wanted cut across he knew where this conversation was going to lead….
People's choice, I gather you had a big role in that choice Guruji….Shankar was in no mood to give up….
Chandrakant sighed, as you said Shankar you are my 'shishya', a shishya is like a son, as a father I cannot be partial can I?
Shankar put his hands on his waist, over six and half feet tall, with broad shoulders he looked overwhelmingly huge, somewhat similar to an ogre, almost trampling Chandrakant with his feet….
Son, the king has sent for me and I cannot keep him waiting, I hope you understand and let me pass….he cut Shankardev
With a mocking smile on his lips Shankar stepped aside, letting Chandrakant pass…as he crossed over, Shankar called from behind…Guruji as you said the Lord indeed has been kind to me, I have sired sons unlike your king…..if he says I wouldn't mind sharing my favours with his…..
Oh my big mouth…..Shankar bowed and walked out…..
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