Kali didn’t have a kingdom anymore. Within a few years of her return from Egypt, she had renounced her throne and supported the election of Suparna as the new queen of the Nagas. Leaving her kingdom in capable hands, Kali, accompanied by Shiva, Ganesh and Kartik, had toured the land of India. The family of the Neelkanth had established fifty-one Shakti temples across the length and breadth of the country. Kali had also convinced Shiva to part with the portion of Sati’s ashes that he had kept for himself. She had told him that Sati belonged to the whole of India and not just to Shiva. Therefore, small portions of Sati’s ashes were consecrated at each of these fifty-one temples so that Indians would forever remember their great Goddess, Lady Sati.
Kali had finally settled down in north-eastern Branga, close to the Kamakhya temple, and devoted her life to prayer. Her spiritual presence had made the Kamakhya temple one of the foremost Shakti temples in India. Many Suryavanshis, Chandravanshis and Nagas who were inspired by the Naga queen, had followed her to her new abode. Over time, they set up their own individual kingdoms. The Suryavanshis had named their kingdom Tripura, the Land of the Three Cities, after the three platforms of their destroyed capital. The Chandravanshis, worshippers of the seventh Vishnu, Lord Ram, had called their land Manipur, the Land of the Jewel; for the seventh Vishnu was, no doubt, a crown jewel of India. Many of Kali’s Naga followers established their own empire farther to the east. All of these different peoples followed the path of Kali; proud warriors forged from the womb of Mother India. Therefore, if treated with respect, these people would be your greatest strength. If you disrespected them, then no power on earth would be able to save you.
‘I may not have a kingdom anymore, Shiva,’ said Kali, her eyes dancing with mirth, ‘but I will always be a queen!’
Ganesh and Kartik smiled broadly. Shiva just stared at Kali’s face, a splitting image of Sati’s; it reminded him of how happy his life had once been.
‘Come, let’s go eat,’ said Shiva.
As the family of the Mahadev walked back towards the bonfires, Ganesh and Kartik started speaking to Shiva about the brilliant composition that Bhrigu had just shown them; it would be known over the millennia as the greatest classic on the ancient science of astrology, the Bhrigu Samhita.
Over the subsequent years, Shiva became increasingly ascetic. He began spending many days, even months, in isolation within the claustrophobic confines of mountain caves, performing severe penance. The only one allowed to meet him at such times was Nandi. Legends emerged that the only way to reach Shiva’s ears was through Nandi.
Shiva also devoted long hours to the study of yoga. The knowledge that he developed helped create a powerful tool for finding physical, mental and spiritual peace through unity with the divine. Shiva also added many fresh thoughts and philosophies to the immense body of ancient Indian knowledge and wisdom. Many of his ideas were captured in the holy scriptures of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas, benefiting humanity for millennia.
Notwithstanding the prodigious productivity of Shiva’s mind, his heart never really found happiness ever again. Legend has it that despite repeated attempts by his family, nobody ever saw Shiva smile again after that terrible day in Devagiri. Nobody saw his ethereal dances or heard his soulful singing and music again. Shiva had given up everything that offered even a remote possibility of bringing him happiness. But legends also hold that Shiva did smile once, just once, only a moment before he was to leave his mortal body to merge once again with the God whom he had emerged from. He smiled, for he knew that the love of his life, his Sati, was just one last breath away.
Kartik’s wisdom and courage ensured that the Sangam culture in South India continued to flourish and its power spread far and wide. While Kartik continued to be adored in northern India, especially in Kashi where he was born, his influence in southern India was beyond compare. He is remembered to this day as the Warrior God, the one who can solve any problem and defeat any enemy.
Meanwhile, the adoration for Kartik’s elder brother, the wise and kind-hearted Ganesh, grew to astronomical heights in India. People revered him as a living God. A belief spread throughout the country that he should be the first God to be worshipped in all ceremonies, before all others. It was held that worshipping Ganesh would remove all obstacles from one’s path. Thus, he came to be known as the God of Auspicious Beginnings. His profound intellect also led to him gradually becoming the God of Writers; thus his name acquired immense significance for authors, poets and other troubled souls.
The Somras had had an especially strong effect on Ganesh, so he lived for centuries, beyond all his contemporaries. And Ganesh did not mind this. He loved interacting with people from across India, helping them, guiding them. But there did come a time when, enfeebled by old age, Ganesh began to think that perhaps he had lived in this mortal body for too long.
For he would have to suffer the mortification of seeing the ancient Vedic Indians turn on each other in a catastrophic civil war. A minor dispute within a dysfunctional royal family escalated into a mighty conflict which sucked in all the great powers of the day. The calamitous blood-letting in that war destroyed not just all the powerful empires of the time but also the way of life of the ancient Vedic Indians. What was left behind was utter devastation. From these ruins, as is its wont, civilisation did rise again. But this new culture had lost too much. They knew only snippets of the greatness of their ancestors. The descendants were, in many ways, unworthy.
These descendants beheld gods in what were great men of the past, for they believed that such great men couldn’t possibly have existed in reality. These descendants saw magic in what was brilliant science, for their limited intellect could not understand that great knowledge. These descendants retained only rituals of what were deep philosophies, for it took courage and confidence to ask questions. These descendants divined myths in what was really history, for true memories were forgotten in chaos as vast arrays of daivi astras used in the Great War ravaged the land. That war destroyed almost everything. It took centuries for India to regain its old cultural vigour and intellectual depth.
When the recreated history of that Great War was written, built through fragments of surviving information, the treatise was initially called Jaya or victory. But even the unsophisticated minds of the descendants soon realised that this name was inappropriate. That dreadful war did not bring victory to anyone. Every single person who fought that war, lost the war. In fact, the whole of India lost.
Today, we know the inherited tale of that war as one of the world’s greatest epics: The Mahabharat. If the Lord Neelkanth allows it, the unadulterated story of that terrible war shall also be told one day.
Om Namah Shivaiy.
The universe bows to Lord Shiva. I bow to Lord Shiva.