the oath of the vayuputras - Page 28

Parvateshwar spoke softly, ‘Shreyaan sva dharmo vigunaha para dharmaat svanushthitat.’

Ayurvati smiled ruefully as she recalled the old Sanskrit shloka, a couplet attributed to Lord Hari, after whom the city of Hariyupa had been named. It meant that it was better to commit mistakes on the path that one’s soul is meant to walk on, than to live a perfect life on a path that is not meant for one’s soul. Discharge one’s own swadharma, personal law, even if tinged with faults, rather than attempt to live a life meant for another.

Ayurvati shook her head. ‘How can you be sure that this is your duty? Should you just be true to the role the world has foisted upon you? Aren’t you blindly obeying what society is forcing you to do?’

‘Lord Hari also said that those who allow others to dictate their own duties are not living their own life. They are, in fact, living someone else’s life.’

‘But that is exactly what you are doing. You are allowing others to dictate your duties. You are allowing Meluha to dictate the purpose of your soul.’

‘No, I am not.’

‘Yes, you are. Your heart is with Lord Shiva. Can you deny that?’

‘No, I can’t. My heart is with the Neelkanth.’

‘Then how do you know that protecting Meluha is your duty?’

‘Because I know,’ said Parvateshwar firmly. ‘I just know that this is my duty. Isn’t that what Lord Hari had said? Nobody in the world, not even God, can tell us what our duty is. Only our soul can. All we have to do is surrender to the language of silence and listen to the whisper of our soul. My soul’s whisper is very clear. Meluha is my faith; protecting my motherland is my duty.’

Ayurvati ran her hand over her bald pate, touching her choti, the knot of hair signifying Brahmin antecedents. She turned to look at Anandmayi and Bhagirath in the distance. She knew that there was nothing more to be said.

‘You will be on the losing side, Parvateshwar,’ said Ayurvati.

‘I know.’

‘And you will be killed.’

‘I know. But if that is my purpose, then so be it.’

Ayurvati shook her head and touched Parvateshwar’s shoulder compassionately.

Parvateshwar smiled wanly. ‘It will be a glorious death. I shall die at the hands of the Neelkanth.’

Chapter 10

His Name Alone Strikes Fear

Reclining in an easy chair, his legs outstretched on a low table, Shiva, along with Sati, contemplated the Ujjain temple from their chamber balcony. Ganesh leaned against the doorway, while Kartik had balanced himself on the railing. Shiva had just related to his family his entire conversation with the Vasudevs, including the identity of their real enemy.

The Neelkanth looked up at the evening sky before turning towards Sati. ‘Say something.’

‘What can I say?’ asked Sati. ‘Lord Bhrigu... Lord Ram, be merciful...’

‘He can’t be all that powerful.’

Sati looked up at Shiva. ‘He is one of the Saptrishi Uttradhikaris. His spiritual and scientific powers are legendary. But it is not the fear of his powers which has shaken me. It is the fact that a man of his strength of character has chosen to oppose us.’

‘Why would you say that?’

‘He is singularly unselfish and a man of unimpeachable moral integrity.’

‘And yet, he sent five ships to eliminate us.’

‘Yes. He must truly believe that the Somras is Good, and we are Evil to try to stop its usage. If he is convinced of it, could it be possible that we are wrong?’

Kartik was about to interject when Shiva raised his hand.

‘No,’ said Shiva. ‘I am sure. The Somras is Evil and it has to be stopped There is no turning back.’

‘But Lord Bhrigu...’ said Sati.

‘Sati, why would a man of such immense moral character use the daivi astras, which we all know have been banned by Lord Rudra himself?’

Sati looked at Shiva silently.

‘Lord Bhrigu’s attachment to the Somras has made him do this,’ said Shiva. ‘He thinks he is doing it for the greater good. But, in truth, he has become attached to the Somras. It is attachment that makes people forget not only their moral duties but even who they really are.’

Kartik finally spoke up. ‘Baba is right. And if this is what the Somras can do to a man of Lord Bhrigu’s stature, then it surely must be Evil.’

Shiva nodded before turning back to Sati. ‘What we are doing is right. The Somras must be stopped.’

Sati didn’t say anything.

‘We need to concentrate our minds on the impending war,’ said Shiva. ‘They admittedly have a leader of the calibre of Lord Bhrigu, along with the armies of Meluha and Ayodhya. The odds are stacked against us. How do we remedy this?’

‘Divide their capabilities,’ said Kartik.

‘Go on.’

Kartik went into his bedchamber and returned with a map. ‘Baba, would you please...’

As Shiva lifted his feet off the table, Kartik laid out the map and looked at Ganesh before speaking. ‘Dada and I agreed that their strength lies in the technological wizardry of Meluha coupled with the sheer numbers of Ayodhya. If we can divide that, it would even out the odds.’

‘By ensuring that Meluha and Ayodhya joined hands and conspired to assassinate us at Panchavati, Lord Bhrigu has played his cards well. When they realise that I’m alive, they will be compelled to treat me as a common foe and hence ally with each other. After all, an enemy’s enemy is a friend.’

Kartik smiled. ‘I wasn’t talking about breaking their alliance, baba, but dividing their capabilities.’

Sati, who had been studying the map all this while, was struck by the obvious. ‘Magadh!’

‘Exactly,’ said Kartik as he tapped on the location of Magadh. ‘The roads in Swadweep are either pathetic or non-existent. That is why the armies, especially the big ones, use rivers to mobilise. The Ayodhyan army will not come to Meluha’s aid by cutting through dense forests. They will sail down the Sarayu in ships, then up the Ganga to the newly built pathway to Devagiri that Meluha has constructed.’

Shiva nodded. ‘The Ayodhyan ships would have to pass Magadh, at the confluence of the Sarayu and Ganga rivers. If Magadh blockades that river, the ships will not be able to pass through. We can hold back their massive army with only a small naval force from Magadh.’

‘Right,’ said Kartik.

A smiling Shiva patted Kartik on his shoulder, ‘I’m impressed, my boy.’

Kartik smiled at his father.

Sati looked at Shiva. ‘We must first rally Prince Surapadman to our side. Bhagirath had told me it’s the Magadhan prince who makes all the decisions and not his father King Mahendra.’

Shiva concurred before turning towards Ganesh.

Ganesh remained silent. He seemed a little unsettled by this new development.

‘That is a good idea,’ said Gopal.

Shiva, Sati, Ganesh and Kartik were with Gopal at the Vishnu temple.

‘It should be relatively easy to bring Magadh to our side,’ continued Gopal. ‘King Mahendra is old and indecisive but his son, Surapadman, is a fearsome warrior and a brilliant tactician. And most importantly, he is a calculating and ambitious man.’

‘His ambition should make him smell the opportunities in the coming war,’ said Shiva. ‘He can use it to bolster his position and declare independence from Ayodhya.’