the oath of the vayuputras - Page 117

The fires reminded Shiva of one of the worst days of his life, the day he had destroyed Devagiri. Sati had been cremated on the same day, later on in the evening. But Shiva did not have memories of that event. He had been unconscious, having been battered by the neutron blast of the Pashupatiastra. He had been fighting for his life under Ayurvati’s care. What he knew about Sati’s cremation was from what Kali, Ganesh and Kartik had told him.

He had been told that a calm breeze had blown across the land, picking up the ashes from the ruins of Devagiri and scattering them around slowly. It was almost as if the ashes were trying to reach the waters of the Saraswati, to give some closure to the souls of the departed. Hazy specks had coloured the entire landscape around the Saraswati to a pale shade of grey.

The sandalwood pyre, lit by both Ganesh and Kartik, had taken some time to light, but once it did, it had raged like an inferno. It seemed as if even Lord Agni, the God of Fire, needed some coaxing to consume the body of the former Princess of Meluha. But once the task had begun, it must have been so painful for Lord Agni that he wanted to finish it as soon as possible.

Shiva had regained consciousness three days later, to find an anxiety-filled gathering of Kali, Ganesh and Kartik sitting next to him. After he had regained his strength, a tearful Ganesh had handed him an urn containing Sati’s ashes.

A few drops of water splashed on Shiva, perhaps from a fish swimming vigorously below. They pulled him back from the thirty-year-old memory to the present.

Shiva tarried for some more time, allowing his gaze to dwell on the lake waters. As always, he could have sworn that he saw Sati’s ashes swirling in it. Of course, it was a mirage. Her ashes had been immersed in the holy Saraswati, a day after Shiva had regained consciousness.

He remembered struggling weakly onto the boat thirty years ago, helped by Ganesh and Kartik. The Neelkanth had been rowed to the middle of the river, where Kali and he had jointly scattered some of Sati’s ashes into the water. Shiva had refused to immerse all of it, regardless of what tradition held. He needed to keep some portion of Sati for himself.

Indians believe that the body is a temporary gift from Mother Earth. She lends it to a living being so that one’s soul has an instrument with which to carry out its karma. Once the soul’s karma is done, the body must be returned, in a pure form, so that the Mother may use it for another purpose. The ashes represent a human body that has been purified by the greatest purifier of them all: Lord Agni, the God of Fire. By immersing the ashes into holy waters, the body is offered back, with respect, to Mother Earth.

He recalled the Brahmins in an adjacent boat, chanting Sanskrit hymns throughout the ceremony. One specific chant from the Isha Vasya Upanishad had caught Shiva’s attention and had been committed to memory.

Vayur anilam amritam; Athedam bhasmantam shariram

Let this temporary body be burned to ashes. But the breath of life belongs elsewhere. May it find its way back to the Immortal Breath.

‘My Lord!’ shouted Nandi loudly.

Shiva turned to see Nandi standing at a distance, two hooks where his arms used to be.

‘My Lord, everyone is waiting,’ said Nandi, keeping his voice loud enough to reach his ears.

Shiva held his hand up, signalling for Nandi to wait. He needed some more time with his memories. They had sent Nandi to call him as they knew that he had become Shiva’s favourite; he had fought bravely alongside Sati thirty years ago, losing both his hands in his doomed attempt to save Shiva’s wife.

Shiva glanced beyond Nandi and saw Maharishi Bhrigu, sitting away from the others, talking to Ganesh and Kartik. The sage seemed to be explaining something from a palm-leaf book. Both his sons listened attentively. Chandraketu, the King of Branga and Maatali, the King of Vaishali, were also listening intently to Maharishi Bhrigu.

He looked back towards the lake and took another deep breath.

Kartik saved my honour.

Kartik had chosen the moment wisely to tell Shiva how he had saved the Devagiri scientists who had the knowledge of the Somras. The Neelkanth had received the news with equanimity. Shiva was also happy that Bhrigu had been saved, as the great maharishi had had no role to play in Sati’s death. Furthermore, the India of the future would be the proud inheritor of the legacy of his immense knowledge.

Shiva had decreed that the Somras scientists be given lands in central Tibet, far beyond the expanse of Indian empires; in fact, beyond the reach of any empire. The Somras scientists had established their home with the help of Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi troops. These survivors named their new dwelling place after their original city, Devagiri, the Abode of the Gods. This new city established in Tibet was given a name with the same meaning, albeit in the local Tibetan language: Lhasa. The knowledge of the Somras, the elixir of immortality, was to be the sacred secret of the citizens of Lhasa, till such a time as India needed that knowledge again.

Shiva had also decreed that his two sons would set up the tribe that would protect Lhasa. The tribe that Ganesh and Kartik established was drawn from an eclectic mix of Chandravanshis, Suryavanshis and Nagas. They had also inducted most of the Gunas, Shiva’s tribesmen, and many other local Tibetan tribes. Veerbhadra, Shiva’s friend and loyal follower, was appointed chief of this tribe. He was given the title of Lama, the Tibetan word for guru or master. The people of Lhasa and the followers of the Lama would protect India’s ancient knowledge. Their sworn duty was to rise up and save India whenever it faced the onslaught of Evil again.

The Somras waste dump site that had been set up in Tibet, on the Tsangpo River, was dug out and its contents were removed. This waste was taken farther north, into an inhospitable, remote and mostly uninhabited part of the Tibetan plateau. It was buried there, deep into the ground, enclosed within sludgy cases made of wet clay and bilva leaves, which were further encased within boxes of thick lead. These boxes had been buried deep under vast quantities of earth, snow and permafrost. It was hoped that this poison would remain undisturbed forever. Fortunately, there would be no new toxic waste to be taken care of since the manufacturing of Somras had stopped with the destruction of Devagiri.

Shiva had also realised that, just removing the knowledge of the Somras was not enough to stop the drink of the gods. If it had to be wiped out from India, its very foundation needed uprooting. In that sense, the idea that Parshuram had had was sound: without the Saraswati, the Somras couldn’t be manufactured. Furthermore, the river’s present course was picking up radioactive waste at Devagiri and poisoning the lands farther downstream. The Saraswati emerged from the confluence of the Sutlej and the Yamuna. If these two tributaries were separated, the Saraswati water itself would not be available for the manufacture of the Somras or for picking up radioactive waste.

Shiva had decided that, in the interest of India, the Sutlej and the Yamuna would part company forever. It was decreed that the Yamuna’s course would be changed once again, back to the temporary course that it had taken more than a century before the destruction of Devagiri, when it had merged into the Ganga. But this was easier said than done. If the course of a river as mighty as the Yamuna was changed suddenly, the resultant flooding would cause havoc. The change had to be controlled.

Bhagirath, with the help of Meluhan engineers, had come up with a brilliant plan. The sides of the Yamuna were dug up and giant sluice gates were built along them. These gates, serving as locks, would be opened slowly to guide the Yamuna onto its new course in a deliberate and controlled manner, over many months. Bhagirath had named these sluice gates the ‘Locks of Shiva’. The Yamuna was thus slowly diverted onto its new course, to unite with the Ganga at Prayag. The Locks of Shiva had thereby allowed the Ganga to take its new form, gradually, without the chaos of an uncontrolled flood.