Who is Shiva?
‘What if I had arrived at a different answer?’ asked Shiva.
‘Then we would have known that it is not yet time for Evil to have risen,’ answered Gopal. ‘That the Somras is still a force for Good.’
‘Isn’t that rather simplistic? Did you really believe that a random, untested foreigner would arrive at the right answer to the most important question of this age? Is this the way the system works?’
Gopal smiled. ‘In truth, no. The system is very different. If I’m not mistaken, one of the Vasudev pandits has told you about the Vayuputras. Just like we are the tribe left behind by the previous Vishnu, the Vayuputras are the tribe left behind by the previous Mahadev, Lord Rudra. The institutions of the Vishnu and the Mahadev work in partnership with each other. The Vasudevs interact closely with the Vayuputras. We defer to them for the question that has been reserved by Lord Manu for them: What is Evil? And they defer to us for the question that has been reserved for us: What is the next great Good? The Vayuputras control the institution of the Neelkanth. They train possible candidates for the role of the Neelkanth and if they believe that Evil has risen, they allow the identification of a Neelkanth.’
‘Kali did tell me about this. But how do the Vayuputras engineer a man’s throat turning blue at a time of their choosing?’
‘I have heard that they administer some medicine to the candidate as he enters adolescence. The effect of this medicine remains dormant in his throat for years till it manifests itself on his drinking the Somras at a specific age. I believe the Somras reacts with the traces of the medicine already present in the man’s throat to make his neck appear blue. All of these activities have to be done at specific time periods in the man’s life if this is to happen the way it has been conceptualised. For example, if a man drinks the Somras more than fifteen years after adolescence, his throat will not turn blue even if he had taken the Vayuputra medicine as a child.’
Shiva’s eyes opened wide. ‘This is seriously complicated!’
‘It’s a means by which the system could be controlled. As you can imagine, it is only the Vayuputras who could control the process such that a man’s throat would turn blue at the appointed hour. People’s blind faith in the legend would ensure that they would follow the Neelkanth and Evil would be taken out of the equation. I must mention that for some time now we had begun to believe that the Somras was turning evil. But we do not control the institution of the Neelkanth. The Vayuputras do. And they believed that the Somras was still Good. Therefore, they refused to release their Neelkanth nominee. Even though we were convinced that it was time for the Neelkanth to appear, it did not happen.’
‘Did you present your case to the Vayuputras?’
‘We did. But they did not agree. The only alternative available to us was to try and find a solution by the Vishnu method, of creating another Good. That is what we were deeply engaged with when an event occurred that stunned everyone, including the Vayuputras.’
Shiva pointed at himself. ‘I suddenly emerged out of nowhere.’
‘Yes. Nobody really understood what had happened. We knew you were not a Vayuputra-authorised candidate. Many Vayuputras in fact believed that you were a fraud who would be exposed soon enough. Some even wanted you assassinated in the interests of the institution of the Neelkanth. But the leader of the Vayuputras, the Mithra, prevailed upon them and decreed that you be allowed to live out your karma.’
‘Why would the Mithra do that?’
‘I don’t know. That is a mystery. There was a lot of debate amongst us as well. Some of us believed that your emergence proved us right and we should use you to take the Somras out of the equation. There were others who thought that you were an unknown entity who could use the Neelkanth legend to create chaos; therefore we should have nothing to do with you. But there were also those amongst us who believed it is not our job to determine the fate of Evil. That is the sole preserve of the Neelkanth. Still others debated against us that you were after all, with due apologies, a mere barbarian, and chances were you’d arrive at an incorrect conclusion as to what constituted Evil. But the view that finally prevailed was that if the Parmatma has chosen to make you the Neelkanth, he will also lead you to the right answer. And we should, with all humility, accept that.’
‘And I arrived at the Somras.’
‘Doesn’t it make the decision obvious then? You were not marked for this task. Yet somehow, you were given the Vayuputra medicine at the right age. Furthermore, you also arrived in Meluha at the appropriate time and were administered the Somras that made your throat turn blue. You were not trained for the role of a Neelkanth. Nobody gave you the answer to the key question. We consciously refused to say anything that would create a bias in your mind. We were very careful in our communications with you regarding your task. And yet, you arrived at the right answer. Isn’t this ample proof that you have been chosen by the Parmatma, and that you are, truly, the Mahadev? Doesn’t it make my decision easy then; that in following you, we are following the Parmatma Himself?’
Shiva leaned back on his chair, rubbing his forehead. His brow felt uncomfortable.
On returning from their short tour of Ujjain, Brahaspati, Ganesh and Kartik joined Sati, Nandi and Parshuram at the guesthouse.
‘How is the city, Brahaspatiji?’ asked Sati.
‘Beautiful and well-organised.’ answered Brahaspati. ‘This city is a better rendition of Lord Ram’s principles than even Meluha and Panchavati.’
Sati turned to Ganesh and Kartik. ‘My sons, did you like the city?’
Ganesh’s tactical mind reflected in his opinion. ‘Though Ujjain is nice, what fascinated me were the elephant stables. We watched the mahouts tend to these beasts of war, each one of the five thousand of them equivalent to a thousand foot soldiers. I dare say our strength has increased manifold, given that the Vasudevs follow the Neelkanth. With these elephants on our side, we are not as precariously placed as we were earlier.’
‘Precariously placed?’ asked Parshuram. ‘Lord Ganesh, forgive me for disagreeing with you. But how can you say that? We have the Neelkanth with us. That means a vast majority of Indians will be with us. I would say that the odds overwhelmingly favour us.’
‘Parshuram, I have always admired your bravery and your utter devotion to the Neelkanth. But hope alone does not win battles. Only an honest evaluation of one’s weaknesses, followed by their mitigation, can win the day.’
‘What weaknesses can we have? We are led by the Neelkanth. The people will follow him.’
‘The people will follow the Neelkanth, but their kings won’t. And remember, the people do not control the army, kings do. Emperor Daksha is already against us. So is Emperor Dilipa. Together they have the technological wizardry of Meluha and the sheer numbers of Swadweep. That makes a very strong army.’
‘But dada,’ argued Kartik, ‘even the most capable army is of little use if it is led by incapable leaders. Do you see any good generals on their side? I see none.’
Ganesh shook his head and looked at Brahaspati and Nandi before turning back to Kartik. ‘They have the best. They have Lord Parvateshwar.’
Sati burst in angrily. ‘Ganesh, I have warned you to desist from insulting Pitratulya.’