The Immortals Siva

Land of Pure Life

Om Namah Shivāya

The universe bows to Lord Shiva. I bow to Lord Shiva.

1900 BC, Mansarovar Lake (At the foot of Mount Kailash, Tibet)

Shiva gazed at the orange sky. The clouds hovering above Mansarovar had

just parted to reveal the setting sun. The brilliant giver of life was calling it

a day once again. Shiva had seen just a few sunrises in his twenty-one

years. But the sunset! He tried never to miss the sunset! On any other day,

Shiva would have taken in the vista — the sun and the immense lake

against the magnificent backdrop of the Himalayas stretching as far back as

the eye could see. But not today.

He squatted and perched his lithe, muscular body on the narrow ledge

extending over the lake. The numerous battle-scars on his skin gleamed in

the shimmering reflected light of the waters. Shiva remembered well his

carefree childhood days. He had perfected the art of throwing pebbles that

bounced off the surface of the lake. He still held the record in his tribe for

the highest number of bounces: seventeen.

On a normal day, Shiva would have smiled at the memory from a cheerful

past that had been overwhelmed by the angst of the present. But today, he

turned back towards his village without any hint of joy.

Bhadra was alert, guarding the main entrance. Shiva gestured with his

eyes. Bhadra turned back to find his two back-up soldiers dozing against the

fence. He cursed and kicked them hard.

Shiva turned back towards the lake.

God bless Bhadra! At least he takes some responsibility.

Shiva brought the chillum made of yak-bone to his lips and took in a deep

drag. Any other day, the marijuana would have spread its munificence,

dulling his troubled mind and letting him find some moments of solace. But

not today.

He looked to his left, towards the edge of the lake where the soldiers of

the strange foreign visitor were kept under guard. With the lake behind them and twenty of Shivas own soldiers guarding them, it was impossible

for them to mount any surprise attack.

They let themselves be disarmed so easily. They aren like the blood-

thirsty idiots in our land who are looking for any excuse to fight.

The foreigners words came flooding back to Shiva. Come to our land. It

lies beyond the great mountains. Others call it Meluha. I call it Heaven. It is

the richest and most powerful empire in India. Indeed the richest and most

powerful in the whole world. Our government has an offer for immigrants.

You will be given fertile land and resources for farming. Today, your tribe,

the Gunas, fight for survival in this rough, arid land. Meluha offers you a

lifestyle beyond your wildest dreams. We ask for nothing in return. Just live

in peace, pay your taxes and follow the laws of the land.

Shiva mused that he would certainly not be a chief in this new land.

Would I really miss that so much?

His tribe would have to live by the laws of the foreigners. They would

have to work every day for a living.

Thats better than fighting every day just to stay alive!

Shiva took another puff from his chillum. As the smoke cleared, he turned

to stare at the hut in the centre of his village, right next to his own, where

the foreigner had been stationed. He had been told that he could sleep there

in comfort. In fact, Shiva wanted to keep him hostage. Just in case.

We fight almost every month with the Pakratis just so that our village can

xist next to the holy lake. They are getting stronger every year, forming

new alliances with new tribes. We can beat the Pakratis, but not all the

mountain tribes together! By moving to Meluha, we can escape this

pointless violence and may be live a life of comfort. What could possibly be

wrong with that? Why shouldn we take this deal? It sounds so damn good!

Shiva took one last drag from the chillum before banging it on the rock,

letting the ash slip out and rising quickly from his perch. Brushing a few

specks of ash from his bare chest, he wiped his hands on his tiger skin skirt,

rapidly striding towards his village. Bhadra and his back-up stood to

attention as Shiva passed the gate. Shiva frowned and gestured for Bhadra

to ease up.

Why does he keep forgetting that he has been my closest friend since

childhood? My becoming the chief hasn really changed anything. He

doesn need to be unnecessarily servile in front of others. The huts in Shivas village were luxurious compared to others in their

land. A grown man could actually stand upright in them. The shelter could

withstand the harsh mountain winds for nearly three years before

surrendering to the elements. He flung the empty chillum into his hut as he

strode to the hut where the visitor lay sleeping soundly.

Either he doesn realise he is a hostage. Or he genuinely believes that

good behaviour begets good behaviour.

Shiva remembered what his uncle, also his Guru, used to say. People do

what their society rewards them for doing. If the society rewards trust,

people will be trusting.

Meluha must be a trusting society if it teaches even its soldiers to expect

the best in strangers.

Shiva scratched his shaggy beard as he stared hard at the visitor.

He had said his name was Nandi.

The Meluhans massive proportions appeared even more enormous as he

sprawled on the floor in his stupor, his immense belly jiggling with every

breath. Despite being obese, his skin was taut and toned. His child-like face

looked even more innocent as he slept with his mouth half open.

Is this the man who will lead me to my destiny? Do I really have the

destiny my uncle spoke of?

Your destiny is much larger than these massive mountains. But to make it

come true, you will have to cross these very same massive mountains.

Do I deserve a good destiny? My people come first. Will they be happy in


Shiva continued to stare at the sleeping Nandi. Then he heard the sound of

a conch shell.


POSITIONS! screamed Shiva, as he drew his sword.

Nandi was up in an instant, drawing a hidden sword from his fur coat that

was kept to the side. They sprinted to the village gates. Following standard

protocol, the women started rushing to the village centre, carrying their

children along. The men ran the other way, swords drawn.

Bhadra! Our soldiers at the lake! shouted Shiva as he reached the


Bhadra relayed the orders and the Guna soldiers obeyed instantly. They

were surprised to see the Meluhans draw weapons hidden in their coats and

rush to the village. The Pakratis were upon them within moments.

It was a well-planned ambush by the Pakratis. Dusk was usually a time

when the Guna soldiers took time to thank their gods for a day without

battle. The women did their chores by the lakeside. If there was a time of

weakness for the formidable Gunas, a time when they weren a fearsome

martial clan, but just another mountain tribe trying to survive in a tough,

hostile land, this was it.

But fate was against the Pakratis yet again. Thanks to the foreign

presence, Shiva had ordered the Gunas to remain alert. Thus they were

forewarned and the Pakratis lost the element of surprise. The presence of

the Meluhans was also decisive, turning the tide of the short, brutal battle in

favour of the Gunas. The Pakratis had to retreat.

Bloodied and scarred, Shiva surveyed the damage at the end of the battle.

Two Guna soldiers had succumbed to their injuries. They would be

honoured as clan heroes. But even worse, the warning had come too late for

at least ten Guna women and children. Their mutilated bodies were found

next to the lake. The losses were high.

Bastards! They kill women and children when they can beat us!

A livid Shiva called the entire tribe to the centre of the village. His mind

was made.

This land is fit for barbarians! We have fought pointless battles with no

end in sight. You know that my uncle tried to make peace, even offering

access to the lake shore to the mountain tribes. But these scum mistook our

desire for peace as weakness. We all know what followed!

The Gunas, despite being used to the brutality of regular battle, were shell-

shocked by the viciousness of the attack on the women and children.

I keep no secrets from you. All of you are aware of the invitation of the

foreigners, continued Shiva, pointing to Nandi and the Meluhans. They

fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us today. They have earned my trust. I

want to go with them to Meluha. But this cannot be my decision alone.

You are our chief, Shiva, said Bhadra. Your decision is our decision.

That is the tradition.

Not this time, said Shiva holding out his hand. This will change our

lives completely. I believe the change will be for the better. Anything will

be better than the pointlessness of the violence we face daily. I have told

you what I want to do. But the choice to go or not is yours. Let the Gunas

speak. This time, I follow you.

The Gunas were clear about their tradition. This respect for the chief was

not just based on convention, but also on Shivas character. He had led the

Gunas to their greatest military victories through his genius and sheer

personal bravery.

They spoke in one voice. Your decision is our decision.

It had been five days since Shiva had uprooted his tribe. The caravan had

camped in a nook at the base of one of the great valleys dotting the route to

Meluha. Shiva had organized the camp in three concentric circles. The yaks

had been tied around the outermost circle, to act as an alarm in case of any

intrusion. The men formed an intermediate ring of defenders to repulse any

attack. And the women and children were in the innermost circle, just

around the fire. The expendables first, defenders second and the most

vulnerable in the inside.

Shiva was prepared for the worst. He believed that there would be an

ambush. It was only a matter of time.

The Pakratis should have been delighted to have access to the prime lands,

as well as free occupation of the lake front. But Shiva knew that Yakhya,

the Pakrati chief, would not allow them to leave peacefully. Yakhya would

like nothing better than to become a legend by claiming that he had

defeated Shivas Gunas and won the land for the Pakratis. It was precisely

this weird tribal logic that Shiva detested. In an atmosphere like this, there

was never any hope for peace.

Shiva relished the call of battle, revelled in its art. But he also knew that

ultimately, the battles in his land were an exercise in futility.

He turned to an alert Nandi sitting some distance away. The twenty-five

Meluhan soldiers were seated in an arc around a second camp circle.

Why did he pick the Gunas for his invitation to immigrate? Why not the


Shivas thoughts were broken as he saw a shadow move in the distance.

He stared hard, but everything was still. Sometimes the light played tricks

in this part of the world. Shiva relaxed his stance.

And then he saw the shadow again.

TO ARMS! screamed Shiva.

The Gunas and Meluhans drew their weapons and took up battle positions

as fifty Pakratis charged in. The stupidity of rushing in without any thought

struck them hard as they encountered a wall of panicky animals. The yaks bucked and kicked uncontrollably, injuring many Pakratis before they could

even begin their skirmish. A few slipped through. And weapons clashed.

A young Pakrati, obviously a novice, charged at Shiva, swinging wildly.

Shiva stepped back, avoiding the strike. He brought his sword back up in a

smooth arc, inflicting a superficial cut on the Pakratis chest. The young

warrior cursed and swung back, opening his flank. That was all that Shiva

needed. He pushed his sword in brutally, cutting through the gut of his

enemy. Almost instantly, he pulled the blade out, twisting it as he did, and

left the Pakrati to a slow, painful death. Shiva turned around to find a

Pakrati ready to strike at Guna. He jumped high and swung from the

elevation slicing neatly through the Pakratis sword arm, severing it.

Meanwhile Bhadra, as adept at the art of battle as Shiva, was fighting two

Pakratis simultaneously, with a sword in each hand. His hump did not seem

to impede his movements as he transferred his weight easily, striking the

Pakrati on his left side at his throat. Leaving him to die slowly, he swung

with his right hand, cutting across the face of the other soldier, gouging his

eye out. As the soldier fell, Bhadra brought his left sword down brutally,

ending the suffering quickly for this hapless enemy.

The battle at the Meluhan end of the camp was very different. They were

exceptionally well-trained soldiers. But they were not vicious. They were

following rules, avoiding killing, as far as possible.

Outnumbered and led poorly, it was but a short while before the Pakratis

were beaten. Almost half of them lay dead and the rest were on their knees,

begging for mercy. One of them was Yakhya, his shoulder cut deep by

Nandi, debilitating the movement of his sword arm.

Bhadra stood behind the Pakrati chief, his sword raised high, ready to

strike. Shiva, quick and easy or slow and painful?

Sir! intervened Nandi, before Shiva could speak.

Shiva turned towards the Meluhan.

This is wrong! They are begging for mercy! Killing them is against the

rules of war.

You don know the Pakratis! said Shiva. They are brutal. They will

keep attacking us even if there is nothing to gain. This has to end. Once and

for all.

It is already ending. You are not going to live here anymore. You will

soon be in Meluha.

Shiva stood silent. Nandi continued, How you want to end this is up to you. More of the

same or different?

Bhadra looked at Shiva. Waiting.

You can show the Pakratis that you are better, said Nandi.

Shiva turned towards the horizon, seeing the massive mountains.

Destiny? Chance of a better life?

He turned back to Bhadra. Disarm them. Take all their provisions.

Release them.

Even if the Pakratis are mad enough to go back to their village, rearm and

come back, we would be long gone.

A shocked Bhadra stared at Shiva. But immediately started implementing

the order.

Nandi gazed at Shiva with hope. There was but one thought that

reverberated through his mind. Shiva has the heart. He has the potential.

Please, let it be him. I pray to you Lord Ram, let it be him.

Shiva walked back to the young soldier he had stabbed. He lay writhing

on the ground, face contorted in pain, even as blood oozed slowly out of his

guts. For the first time in his life, Shiva felt pity for a Pakrati. He drew out

his sword and ended the young soldiers suffering.

After marching continuously for four weeks, the caravan of invited

immigrants crested the final mountain to reach the outskirts of Srinagar, the

capital of the valley of Kashmir. Nandi had talked excitedly about the

glories of his perfect land. Shiva had prepared himself to see some

incredible sights, which he could not have imagined in his simple

homeland. But nothing could have primed him for the sheer spectacle of

what certainly was paradise. Meluha. The land of pure life!

The mighty Jhelum river, a roaring tigress in the mountains, slowed down

to the rhythm of a languorous cow as she entered the valley. She caressed

the heavenly land of Kashmir, meandering her way into the immense Dal

Lake. Further down, she broke away from the lake, continuing her journey

towards the sea.

The vast valley was covered by a lush green canvas of grass. On it was

painted the masterpiece that was Kashmir. Rows upon rows of flowers

arrayed all of Gods colours, their brilliance broken only by the soaring

Chinar trees, offering a majestic, yet warm Kashmiri welcome. Themelodious singing of the birds calmed the exhausted ears of Shivas tribe,

accustomed only to the rude howling of icy mountain winds.

If this is the border province, how perfect must the rest of the country

be? whispered Shiva in awe.

The Dal Lake was the site of an ancient army camp of the Meluhans.

Upon the western banks of the lake, by the side of the Jhelum lay the

frontier town that had grown beyond its simple encampments into the grand

Srinagar. Literally, the
espected city.

Srinagar had been raised upon a massive platform of almost a hundred

hectares in size. The platform built of earth, towered almost five metres

high. On top of the platform were the city walls, which were another twenty

metres high and four metres thick. The simplicity and brilliance of building

an entire city on a platform astounded the Gunas. It was a strong protection

against enemies who would have to fight their way up a fort wall which was

essentially solid ground. The platform served another vital purpose: it raised

the ground level of the city, an extremely effective strategy against the

recurrent floods in this land. Inside the fort walls, the city was divided into

blocks by roads laid out in a neat grid pattern. It had specially constructed

market areas, temples, gardens, meeting halls and everything else that

would be required for sophisticated urban living. All the houses looked like

simple multiple-storeyed block structures from the outside. The only way to

differentiate a rich mans house from that of a poor mans, was that his

block would be bigger.

In contrast to the extravagant natural landscape of Kashmir, the city of

Srinagar itself was painted only in restrained greys, blues and whites. The

entire city was a picture of cleanliness, order and sobriety. Nearly twenty

thousand souls called Srinagar their home. Now an additional two hundred

had just arrived from Mount Kailash. And their leader felt a lightness of

being he hadn experienced since that terrible day, many years ago.

I have escaped. I can make a new beginning. I can forget.

The caravan travelled to the immigrant camp outside Srinagar. The camp

had been built on a separate platform on the southern side of the city. Nandi

led Shiva and his tribe to the Foreigners Office, which was placed just

outside the camp. Nandi requested Shiva to wait outside as he went into the

office. He soon returned, accompanied by a young official. The official

gave a practised smile and folded his hands in a formal Namaste. Welcome to Meluha. I am Chitraangadh. I will be your Orientation Executive. Think

of me as your single point of contact for all issues whilst you are here. I

believe your leaders name is Shiva. Will he step up please?

Shiva took a step forward. I am Shiva.

Excellent, said Chitraangadh. Would you be so kind as to follow me to

the registration desk please? You will be registered as the caretaker of your

tribe. Any communication that concerns them will go through you. Since

you are the designated leader, the implementation of all directives within

your tribe would be your responsibility.

Nandi cut into Chitraangadhs officious speech to tell Shiva, Sir, if you

will just excuse me, I will go to the immigrant camp quarters and arrange

the temporary living arrangements for your tribe.

Shiva noticed that Chitraangadhs ever-beaming face had lost its smile for

a fraction of a second as Nandi interrupted his flow. But he recovered

quickly and the smile returned to his face once again. Shiva turned and

looked at Nandi.

Of course, you may. You don need to take my permission, Nandi, said

Shiva. But in return, you have to promise me something, my friend.

Of course, Sir, replied Nandi bowing slightly.

Call me Shiva. Not Sir, grinned Shiva. I am your friend. Not your


A surprised Nandi looked up, bowed again and said, Yes Sir. I mean, yes,


Shiva turned back to Chitraangadh, whose smile for some reason appeared

more genuine now. He said, Well Shiva, if you will follow me to the

registration desk, we will complete the formalities quickly.

The newly registered tribe reached the residential quarters in the

immigration camp, to see Nandi waiting outside the main gates; he led them

in. The roads of the camp were just like those of Srinagar. They were laid

out in a neat north-south and east-west grid. The carefully paved footpaths

contrasted sharply with the dirt tracks in Shivas own land. He noticed

something strange about the road though.

Nandi, what are those differently coloured stones running through the

centre of the road? asked Shiva.

They cover the underground drains, Shiva. The drains take out all the

waste water of the camp. It ensures that the camp remains clean and


Shiva marvelled at the almost obsessively meticulous planning of the


The Gunas reached the large building that had been assigned to them. For

the umpteenth time, they thanked the wisdom of their leader in deciding to

come to Meluha. The three–storeyed building had comfortable, separate

living quarters for each family. Each room had luxurious furniture including

a highly polished copper plate on the wall in which they could see their

reflection. The rooms had clean linen bed sheets, towels and even some

clothes. Feeling the cloth, a bewildered Shiva asked, What is this


Chitraangadh replied enthusiastically, Its cotton, Shiva. The plant is

grown in our lands and fashioned into the cloth that you hold.

There was a broad picture window on each wall to let in the light and the

warmth of the sun. Notches on each wall supported a metal rod with a

controlled flame on top for lighting. Each room had an attached bathroom

with a sloping floor that enabled the water to flow naturally to a hole which

drained it out. At the right end of each bathroom was a paved basin on the

ground which culminated in a large hole. The purpose of this contraption

was a mystery to the tribe. The side walls had some kind of device, which

when turned, allowed water to flow through.

Magic! whispered Bhadras mother.

Beside the main door of the building was an attached house. A doctor and

her nurses walked out of the house to greet Shiva. The doctor, a petite,

wheat-skinned woman was dressed in a simple white cloth tied around her

waist and legs in a style the Meluhans called dhoti. A smaller white cloth

was tied as a blouse around her chest while another cloth called an

angvastram was draped over her shoulders. The centre of her forehead bore

a white dot. Her head had been shaved clean except for a knotted tuft of

hair at the back, called a choti. A loose string called a janau was tied from

her left shoulder across her torso down to the right side.

Nandi was genuinely startled at seeing her. With a reverential Namaste, he

said, Lady Ayurvati! I didn expect a doctor of your stature here.

Ayurvati looked at Nandi with a smile and a polite Namaste. I strongly

believe in the field-work experience programme, Captain. My team follows

it strictly. However, I am terribly sorry but I don recognise you. Have we

met before? My name is Captain Nandi, my lady, answered Nandi. We haven met

but who doesn know you, the greatest doctor in the land?

Thank you, Captain Nandi, said a visibly embarrassed Ayurvati. But I

think you exaggerate. There are many far superior to me. Turning quickly

towards Shiva, Ayurvati continued, Welcome to Meluha. I am Ayurvati,

your designated doctor. My nurses and I will be at your assistance for the

time that you are in these quarters.

Hearing no reaction from Shiva, Chitraangadh said in his most earnest

voice, These are just temporary quarters, Shiva. The actual houses that will

be allocated to your tribe will be much more comfortable. You have to stay

here only for the period of the quarantine which will not last more than

seven days.

Oh no, my friend! The quarters are more than comfortable. They are

beyond anything that we could have imagined. What say Mausi? grinned

Shiva at Bhadras mother, before turning back to Chitraangadh with a

frown. But why the quarantine?

Nandi cut in. Shiva, the quarantine is just a precaution. We don have too

many diseases in Meluha. Sometimes, immigrants may come in with new

diseases. During this seven–day period, the doctors will observe and cure

you of any such ailments.

And one of the guidelines that you have to follow in order to control

diseases is to maintain strict hygiene standards, said Ayurvati.

Shiva grimaced at Nandi and whispered, Hygiene standards?

Nandis forehead crinkled into an apologetic frown while his hands gently

advised acquiescence. He mumbled, Please go along with it, Shiva. It is

just one of those things that we have to do in Meluha. Lady Ayurvati is

considered the best doctor in the land.

If you are free right now, I can give you your instructions, said Ayurvati.

I am free right now, said Shiva with a straight face. But I may have to

charge you later.

Bhadra giggled softly, while Ayurvati stared at Shiva with a blank face,

clearly not amused at the pun.

Im sure I don understand what you
e trying to say, replied Ayurvati

frostily. Without further ado lets begin with the ablutionary ritual.

Ayurvati walked into the guest house, muttering under her breath, These

uncouth immigrants…

Shiva raised his eyebrows towards Bhadra, grinning impishly.

Late in the evening, after a hearty meal, all the Gunas were served a

medicinal drink in their rooms.

Yuck! grimaced Bhadra, his face contorted. This tastes like yaks piss!

How do you know what yaks piss tastes like? laughed Shiva, as he

slapped his friend hard on the back. Now go to your room. I need to sleep.

Have you seen the beds? I think this is going to be the best sleep of my


I have seen the bed, dammit! grinned Shiva. Now I want to experience

it. Get out!

Bhadra left Shivas room, laughing loudly. He wasn the only one excited

by the unnaturally soft beds. Their entire tribe had rushed to their rooms for

what they anticipated would be the most comfortable sleep of their lives.

They were in for a surprise.

Shiva tossed and turned on his bed constantly. He was wearing an orange

coloured dhoti. The tiger skin had been taken away to be washed — for

hygiene reasons. His cotton angvastram was lying on a low chair by the

wall. A half-lit chillum lay forlorn on the side-table.

This cursed bed is too soft. Impossible to sleep on!

Shiva yanked the bed sheet off the mattress, tossed it on the floor and lay

down. This was a little better. Sleep was stealthily creeping in on him. But

not as strongly as at home. He missed the rough cold floor of his own hut.

He missed the shrill winds of Mount Kailash, which broke through the most

determined efforts to ignore them. He missed the comforting stench of his

tiger skin. No doubt, his current surroundings were excessively

comfortable, but they were unfamiliar and alien.

As usual, it was his instincts which brought up the truth: Its not the room.

Its you.

It was then that Shiva noticed that he was sweating. Despite the cool

breeze, he was sweating profusely. The room appeared to be spinning

lightly. He felt as if his body was being drawn out of itself. His frostbitten

right toe felt as if it was on fire. His battle-scarred left knee seemed to be

getting stretched. His tired and aching muscles felt as if a great hand was

remoulding them. His shoulder bone, dislocated in days past and never

completely healed, appeared to be ripping the muscles aside so as to re engineer the joint. The muscles in turn seemed to be giving way to the

bones to do their job.

Breathing was an effort. He opened his mouth to help his lungs along. But

not enough air flowed in. Shiva concentrated with all his might, opened his

mouth wide and sucked in as much air as he could. The curtains by the side

of the window rustled as a kindly wind rushed in. With the sudden gush of

air, Shivas body relaxed just a bit. And then the battle began again. He

focused and willed giant gasps of air into his hungry body.

Knock! Knock!

The light tapping on the door alerted Shiva. He was disoriented for a

moment. Still breathing hard! His shoulder was twitching. The familiar pain

was missing. He looked down at his knee. It didn hurt anymore. The scar

had vanished. Still gasping for breath! He looked down at his toe. Whole

and complete now. He bent to check it. A cracking sound reverberated

through the room as his toe made its first movement in years. Still breathing

hard! There was also an unfamiliar tingling coldness in his neck. Very cold.

Knock! Knock! A little more insistent now.

A bewildered Shiva staggered to his feet, pulled the angvastram around

his neck for warmth and opened the door. The darkness veiled his face, but

Shiva could still recognise Bhadra. He whispered in a panic-stricken voice,

Shiva, Im sorry to disturb you so late. But my mother has suddenly

developed a very high fever. What should I do?

Shiva instinctively touched Bhadras forehead. You too have a fever

Bhadra. Go to your room. I will get the doctor.

As Shiva raced down the corridor towards the steps he encountered many

more doors opening with the now familiar message. Sudden fever! Help!

Shiva sprinted down the steps to the attached building where the doctors

were housed. He knocked hard on the door. Ayurvati opened it immediately,

as if she was expecting him. Shiva spoke calmly. Ayurvati, almost my

entire tribe has suddenly fallen ill. Please come fast, they need help.

Ayurvati touched Shivas forehead. You don have a fever?

Shiva shook his head. No.

Ayurvati frowned, clearly surprised. She turned and ordered her nurses,

Come on. Its begun. Lets go.

As Ayurvati and her nurses rushed into the building, Chitraangadh

appeared out of nowhere. He asked Shiva, What happened?

I don know. Practically everybody in my tribe suddenly fell ill.

You too are perspiring heavily.

Don worry. I don have fever. Look, Im going back into the building. I

want to see how my people are doing.

Chitraangadh nodded, adding, Ill call Nandi.

As Chitraangadh sped away in search of Nandi, Shiva ran into the

building. He was surprised the moment he entered. All the torches in the

building had been lit. The nurses were going from room to room,

methodically administering medicines and advising the scared patients on

what they should do. A scribe walked along with each nurse meticulously

noting the details of each patient on a palm-leaf booklet. The Meluhans

were clearly prepared for such an eventuality. Ayurvati stood at the end of

the corridor, her hands on her hips. Like a general supervising her superbly

trained and efficient troops. Shiva rushed up to her and asked, What about

the second and third floor?

Ayurvati answered without turning to him. Nurses have already reached

every room in the building. I will go up to supervise once the situation on

this floor has stabilised. Well cover all the patients in the next half hour.

You people are incredibly efficient but I pray that everyone will be okay,

said a worried Shiva.

Ayurvati turned to look at Shiva. Her eyebrows were raised slightly and a

hint of a smile hovered on her serious face. Don worry. We
e Meluhans.

We are capable of handling any situation. Everybody will be fine.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes. Please go and bathe.


Please go have a bath. Right now, said Ayurvati as she turned back to

look at her team. Everybody, please remember that all children below the

age of fifteen must be tonsured. Mastrak, please go up and start the

secondary medicines. Ill be there in five minutes.

Yes, my lady, said a young man as he hurried up the steps carrying a

large cloth bag.

e still here? asked Ayurvati as she noticed that Shiva hadn left.

Shiva spoke softly, controlling his rising anger, What difference will my

bathing make? My people are in trouble. I want to help.

I don have the time or the patience to argue with you. You will go and

bathe right now! said Ayurvati, clearly not trying to control her rising

temper.Shiva glared at Ayurvati as he made a heroic effort to rein in the curses

that wanted to leap out of his mouth. His clenched fists wanted to have an

argument of their own with Ayurvati. But she was a woman.

Ayurvati too glared back at Shiva. She was used to being obeyed. She was

a doctor. If she told a patient to do something, she expected it to be done

without question. But in her long years of experience she had also seen a

few patients like Shiva, especially from the nobility. Such patients had to be

reasoned with. Not instructed. Yet, this was a simple immigrant. Not some


Controlling herself with great effort, Ayurvati said, Shiva, you are

perspiring. If you don wash it off, it will kill you. Please trust me. You

cannot be of any help to your tribe if you are dead.

Chitraangadh banged loudly on the door. A bleary-eyed Nandi woke up

cursing. He wrenched the door open and growled, This better be


Come quickly. Shivas tribe has fallen ill.

Already? But this is only the first night! exclaimed Nandi. Picking up his

angvastram he said, Lets go!

The bathroom seemed like a strange place for a bath. Shiva was used to

splashing about in the chilly Mansarovar Lake for his bi-monthly ablutions.

The bathroom felt strangely constricted. He turned the magical device on

the wall to increase the flow of water. He used the strange cake-like

substance that the Meluhans said was a soap to rub the body clean. Ayurvati

had been very clear. The soap had to be used. He turned the water off and

picked up the towel. As he rubbed himself vigorously, the mystifying

development he had ignored in the past few hours came flooding back. His

shoulder felt better than new. His surprised gaze fell to his knee. No pain,

no scar. He then looked incredulously at his completely healed toe. And

then he realised that it wasn just the injured parts, but his entire body felt

new, rejuvenated and stronger than ever. His neck, though, still felt

intolerably cold.

What the devil is going on?

He stepped out of the bathroom and quickly wore a new dhoti. Again,

Ayurvatis strict instructions were not to wear his old clothes which were infected by his toxic perspiration. As he was wrapping the angvastram

around his neck for some warmth, there was a knock on the door. It was

Ayurvati. Shiva, can you open the door please? I just want to check

whether you are all right.

Shiva opened the door. Ayurvati stepped in and checked Shivas

temperature; it was normal. Ayurvati nodded slightly and said, You seem to

be healthy. And your tribe is recovering quickly as well. The trouble has


Shiva smiled gratefully. Thanks to the skills and efficiency of your team.

I am truly sorry for arguing with you earlier. It was unnecessary. I know you

meant well.

Ayurvati looked up from her palm-leaf booklet with a slight smile and a

raised eyebrow. Being polite, are we?

Im not all that rude, you know, grinned Shiva. You people are just too


Ayurvati suddenly stopped listening as she stared at Shiva with a stunned

look on her face. How had she not noticed it before? She had never believed

in the legend. Was she going to be the first one to see it come true? Pointing

weakly with her hands she mumbled, Why have you covered your neck?

Its very cold for some reason. Is it something to be worried about?

asked Shiva as he pulled the angvastram off.

A cry resounded loudly through the silent room as Ayurvati staggered

back. Her hand covered her mouth in shock while the palm leaves scattered

on the floor. Her knees were too weak to hold her up. She collapsed with

her back against the wall, never once taking her eyes off Shiva. Tears broke

through her proud eyes. She kept repeating, Om Brahmaye namah. Om

Brarhma namah.

What happened? Is it serious? asked a worried Shiva.

You have come! My Lord, you have come!

Before a bewildered Shiva could respond to her strange reaction, Nandi

rushed in and noticed Ayurvati on the ground. Copious tears were flowing

down her face.

What happened, my lady? asked a startled Nandi.

Ayurvati just pointed at Shivas neck. Nandi looked up. The neck shone an

eerie iridescent blue. With a cry that sounded like that of a long caged

animal just released from captivity, Nandi collapsed on his knees. My

Lord! You have come! The Neelkanth has come! The Captain bent low and brought his head down to touch the Neelkanths

feet reverentially. The object of his adoration however, stepped back,

befuddled and perturbed.

What the hell is going on here? Shiva asked agitated.

Holding a hand to his freezing neck, he turned around to the polished

copper plate and stared in stunned astonishment at the reflection of his neel

kanth; his blue throat.

Chitraangadh, holding the door frame for support, sobbed like a child.

e saved! We
e saved! He has come!


Anandmayi: Ayodhyan princess, daughter of Emperor Dilipa.

Arishtanemi: Meluhan militia, protectors of Mount Mandar and the

road to


Ayurvati: The chief of medicine at Meluha.

Bhadra, a.k.a Veerbhadra: A childhood friend and a confidant of Shiva.

He is named Veerbhadra as he single-handedly fought a tiger.

Bhagirath: Prince of Ayodhya, son of Emperor Dilipa.

Bharat: An ancient emperor of the Chandravanshi dynasty married to a

Suryavanshi princess.

Brahaspati: Chief Meluhan scientist; belonged to the swan-tribe of


Brahma: A great scientist from the very ancient past.

Brahmanayak: Father of Daksha, previous emperor of Meluha.

Chenardhwaj: Governor of Kashmir, based at Srinagar.

Chitraangadh: Orientation executive of the immigrants camp in Srinagar.

Daksha: Emperor of the Suryavanshi Empire of Meluha, married to Veerini

and father of Sati.

Dilipa: Emperor of Swadweep, king of Ayodhya and chief of the


Drapaku: A resident of Kotdwaar in Meluha.

Jattaa: An official in Hariyupa.

Jhooleshwar: Governor of Karachapa in Meluha.

Kanakhala: The prime minister of Meluha, she is in charge of

administrative, revenue and protocol matters.

Krittika: Close friend of, and attendant to Sati.

Manu: Founder of the Vedic way of life; born many millennia ago in

Sangamtamil region.

Nandi: A captain in the Meluhan army.

Panini: Associate scientist of Brahaspati at Mount Mandar.

Parvateshwar: Head of Meluhan armed forces; in charge of army, navy,

special forces and police.

Ram: The seventh Vishnu, who lived many centuries ago. He established

the empire of Meluha.

Rudra: The earlier Mahadev, the Destroyer of Evil, who lived some

millennia ago.

Sati: Daughter of King Daksha and Queen Veerini, the royal princess of


Satyadhwaj: Grandfather of Parvateshwar.

Shiva: The chief of the Guna tribe. Hails from Tibet. Later called

Neelkanth, the saviour of the land.

Tarak: A Karachapa resident.

The hooded Naga: A mysterious leader of the Nagas.

Veerini: Queen of Meluha, wife of Daksha and mother of Sati.

Vishwadyumna: A close associate of the hooded Naga figure.

Yakhya: Chief of the Pakrati tribe, opponent of the Gunas from Tibet.

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