Dilipa looked at Daksha, who did not respond to the barb. The Swadweepan emperor turned back towards the great sage. ‘In any case, Evil will be destroyed when the Nagas are destroyed.’
Bhrigu frowned. ‘Who said the Nagas are evil?’
Dilipa looked at Bhrigu, nonplussed. ‘Then, what are you saying, My Lord? That the Nagas can be our allies?’
Bhrigu smiled. ‘The distance between Evil and Good is a vast expanse in which many can exist without being either, Your Highness.’
Dilipa nodded politely, not quite understanding Bhrigu’s intellectual abstractions. Wisely though, he kept his counsel.
‘But the Nagas are on the wrong side,’ continued Bhrigu. ‘Do you know why?’
Dilipa shook his head, thoroughly confused.
‘Because they are against the great Good. They are against the finest invention of Lord Brahma; the one that is the source of our country’s greatness. This invention must be protected at all costs.’
Dilipa nodded in affirmation. Once again, he didn’t understand Bhrigu’s words. But he knew better than to argue with the formidable maharishi. He needed the medicines that Bhrigu provided. They kept him healthy and alive.
‘We will continue to fight for India,’ said Bhrigu. ‘I will not let anyone destroy the Good that is at the heart of our land’s greatness.’
What is Evil?
‘That the Somras has been the greatest Good of our age is pretty obvious,’ said Brahaspati. ‘It has shaped our age. Hence, it is equally obvious that someday, it will become the greatest Evil. The key question is when would the transformation occur.’
Shiva, Sati, Kali and Ganesh were still in Brahaspati’s classroom in Panchavati. Brahaspati had declared a holiday for the rest of the day so that their conversation could continue uninterrupted. The legendary ‘five banyan trees’, after which Panchavati had been named, were clearly visible from the classroom window.
‘As far as I am concerned, the Somras was evil the moment it was invented!’ spat out Kali.
Shiva frowned at Kali and turned to Brahaspati. ‘Go on...’
‘Any great invention has both positive and negative effects. As long as the positive outweighs the negative, one can safely continue to use it. The Somras created our way of life and has allowed us to live longer in healthy bodies. It has enabled great men to keep contributing towards the welfare of society, longer than was ever possible in the past. At first, the Somras was restricted to the Brahmins, who were expected to use the longer, healthier life – almost a second life – for the benefit of society at large.’
Shiva nodded. He had heard this story from Daksha many years ago.
‘Later Lord Ram decreed that the benefits of the Somras should be available to all. Why should Brahmins have special privileges? Thereafter, the Somras was administered to the entire populace, resulting in huge progress in society as a whole.’
‘I know all about this,’ said Shiva. ‘But when did the negative effects start becoming obvious?’
‘The first sign was the Nagas,’ said Brahaspati. ‘There have always been Nagas in India. But they were usually Brahmins. For example, Ravan, Lord Ram’s greatest foe, was a Naga and a Brahmin.’
‘Ravan was a Brahmin?!’ asked a shocked Sati.
‘Yes, he was,’ answered Kali, for every Naga knew his story. ‘The son of the great sage Vishrava, he was a benevolent ruler, a brilliant scholar, a fierce warrior and a staunch devotee of Lord Rudra. He had some faults no doubt, but he wasn’t Evil personified, as the people of the Sapt Sindhu would have us believe.’
‘In that case, do you people think less of Lord Ram?’ asked Sati.
‘Of course not. Lord Ram was one of the greatest emperors ever. We worship him as the seventh Vishnu. His ideas, philosophies and laws are the foundation of the Naga way of life. His reign, Ram Rajya, will always be celebrated across India as the perfect way to run an empire. But you should know that it is believed by some that even Lord Ram did not see Ravan as pure evil. He respected his enemy. Sometimes there can be good people on both sides of a war.’
Shiva raised his hand to silence them, and turned his attention back towards the Meluhan chief scientist. ‘Brahaspati...’
‘So the Nagas, though small in number initially, were usually Brahmins,’ Brahaspati continued. ‘But then, the Somras was used only by the Brahmins until then. Today, the connection seems obvious, but it didn’t seem so at the time.’
‘The Somras created the Nagas?’ asked Shiva.
‘Yes. This was discovered only a few centuries ago by the Nagas. I learnt it from them.’
‘We didn’t discover it,’ said Kali. ‘The Vayuputra council told us.’
‘The Vayuputra council?’ asked Shiva.
‘Yes,’ continued Kali. ‘The previous Mahadev, Lord Rudra, left behind a tribe called the Vayuputras. They live beyond the western borders, in a land called Pariha, the land of fairies.’
‘I know that,’ said Shiva, recalling one of his conversations with a Vasudev Pandit. ‘But I hadn’t heard of the council.’
‘Well, somebody needs to administer the tribe. And the Vayuputras are ruled by their council, which is headed by their chief, who is respected as a god. He is called Mithra. He is advised by the council of six wise people collectively called the Amartya Shpand. The council controls the twin mission of the Vayuputras. Firstly, to help the next Vishnu, whenever he appears. And secondly, have one of the Vayuputras trained and ready to become the next Mahadev, when the time comes.’
Shiva raised his eyebrows.
‘You obviously broke that rule, Shiva,’ said Kali. ‘I’m sure the Vayuputra council must have been quite shocked when you appeared out of the blue. Because, quite clearly, they did not create you.’
‘You mean this is a controlled process?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Kali. ‘But your friends will know a lot more.’
Shiva frowned, reached for Sati’s hand, and then asked Kali, ‘So how did you find out about the Somras creating the Nagas? Did the Vayuputras approach you or did you find them?’
‘I did not find them. The Naga King Vasuki was approached by them a few centuries ago. They suddenly appeared out of nowhere, lugging huge hordes of gold, and offered to pay us an annual compensation. King Vasuki, very rightly, refused to accept the compensation without an explanation.’
‘And he was told that the Nagas were born with deformities as a result of the Somras. The Somras randomly has this impact on a few babies when in the womb, if the parents have been consuming it for a long period.’
‘Not all babies?’
‘No. A vast majority of babies are born without deformities. But a few unfortunate ones, like me, are born Naga.’
‘I call it dumb luck,’ said Kali. ‘But King Vasuki believed that the deformities caused by the Somras were the Almighty’s way of punishing those souls who had committed sins in their previous births. Therefore, he accepted the pathetic explanation of the Vayuputra council along with their compensation.’
‘Mausi rejected the terms of the agreement with the Vayuputras the moment she ascended the throne,’ said Ganesh, referring to his aunt, Kali.