The Immortals Siva

She Enters His Life

Chenardhwaj, the governor of Kashmir, wanted to broadcast to the entire

world that the Neelkanth had appeared in his capital city. Not in the other

frontier towns like Takshashila, Karachapa or Lothal. His Srinagar! But the

bird courier had arrived almost immediately from the Meluhan capital

Devagiri, the abode of the gods. The orders were crystal clear. The news of

the arrival of the Neelkanth had to be kept secret until the emperor himself

had seen Shiva. Chenardhwaj was ordered to send Shiva along with an

escort to Devagiri. Most importantly, Shiva himself was not to be told about

the legend. The emperor will advise the supposed Neelkanth in an

appropriate manner, were the exact words in the message.

Chenardhwaj had the privilege of informing Shiva about the journey.

Shiva though, was not in the most amenable of moods. He was utterly

perplexed by the sudden devotion of every Meluhan around him. Since he

had been transferred to the gubernatorial residence where he lived in luxury,

only the most important citizens of Srinagar had access to him.

My Lord, we will be escorting you to Devagiri, our capital. It is a few

weeks journey from here, said Chenardhwaj as he struggled to bend his

enormous and muscular frame lower than he ever had.

Im not going anywhere till somebody tells me what is going on! What

the hell is this damned legend of the Neelkanth? Shiva asked angrily.

My Lord, please have faith in us. You will know the truth soon. The

emperor himself will tell you when you reach Devagiri.

And what about my tribe?

They will be given lands right here in Kashmir, my Lord. All the

resources that they need in order to lead a comfortable life will be provided


Are they being held hostage?

Oh no, my Lord, said a visibly disturbed Chenardhwaj. They are your

tribe, my Lord. If I had my way, they would live like nobility for the rest of

thqqq1eir lives. But the laws cannot be broken, my Lord. Not even for you. We

can only give them what had been promised. In the course of time my Lord,

you can change the laws you deem necessary. Then we could certainly

accommodate them anywhere.

Please, my Lord, pleaded Nandi. Have faith in us. You cannot imagine

how important you are to Meluha. We have been waiting for a very long

time for you. We need your help.

Please help me! Please!

The memory of another desperate plea from a distraught woman years ago

returned to haunt Shiva as he was stunned into silence.

Your destiny is much larger than these massive mountains.

Nonsense! I don deserve any destiny. If these people knew of my guilt,

they would stop this bullshit instantly!

I don know what to do, Bhadra.

Shiva was sitting in the royal gardens on the banks of the Dal Lake while

his friend sat by his side, carefully filling some marijuana into a chillum. As

Bhadra used the lit stick to bring the chillum to life, Shiva said impatiently,

Thats a cue for you to speak, you fool.

No. Thats actually a cue for me to hand you the chillum, Shiva.

Why will you not counsel me? asked Shiva in anguish. We are still the

same friends who never made a move without consulting each other!

Bhadra smiled. No we are not. You are the Chief now. The tribe lives and

dies by your decisions. It cannot be corrupted by any other persons

influence. We are not like the Pakratis, where the Chief has to listen to

whoever is the loudmouth in their counsel. Only the chiefs wisdom is

supreme amongst the Gunas. That is our tradition.

Shiva raised his eyes in exasperation. Some traditions are meant to be


Bhadra stayed silent. Stretching his hand, Shiva grabbed the chillum from

Bhadra. He took one deep puff, letting the marijuana spread its munificence

into his body.

Ive heard just one line about the legend of the Neelkanth, said Bhadra.

Apparently Meluha is in deep trouble and only the Neelkanth can save


But I can seem to see any trouble out here. Everything seems perfect. If

they want to see real trouble we should take them to our land!

Bhadra laughed slightly. But what is it about the blue throat that makes

them believe you can save them?

Damned if I know! They are so much more advanced than us. And yet

they worship me like I am some god. Just because of this blessed blue


I think their medicines are magical though. Have you noticed that the

hump on my back has reduced a little bit?

Yes it has! Their doctors are seriously gifted.

You know their doctors are called Brahmins?

Like Ayurvati? asked Shiva, passing the chillum back to Bhadra.

Yes. But the Brahmins don just cure people. They are also teachers,

lawyers, priests, basically any intellectual profession.

Talented people, sniffed Shiva.

Thats not all, said Bhadra, in between a long inhalation. They have a

concept of specialisation. So in addition to the Brahmins, they have a group

called Kshatriyas, who are the warriors and rulers. Even the women can be


Really? They allow women into their army?

Well, apparently there aren too many female Kshatriyas. But yes, they

are allowed into the army.

No wonder they are in trouble!

The friends laughed loudly at the strange ways of the Meluhans. Bhadra

took another puff from the chillum before continuing his story. And then

they have Vaishyas, who are craftsmen, traders and business people and

finally the Shudras who are the farmers and workers. And one caste cannot

do another castes job.

Hang on, said Shiva. That means that since you are a warrior, you

would not be allowed to trade at the marketplace?


Bloody stupid! How would you get me my marijuana? After all that is the

only thing you are useful for!

Shiva leaned back to avoid the playful blow from Bhadra. All right, all

right. Take it easy! he laughed. Stretching out, he grabbed the chillum from

Bhadra and took another deep drag.

e talking about everything except what we should be talking about.

Shiva became serious once again. But seriously, strange as they are, what

should I do?

What are you thinking of doing?

Shiva looked away, as if contemplating the roses in the far corner of the

garden. I don want to run away once again.

What? asked Bhadra, not hearing Shivas tormented whisper clearly.

I said, repeated Shiva loudly, I can bear the guilt of running away once


That wasn your fault…


Bhadra fell silent. There was nothing that could be said. Covering his

eyes, Shiva sighed once again. Yes, it was…

Bhadra put his hand on his friends shoulder, pressing it gently, letting the

terrible moment pass. Shiva turned his face. Im asking for advice, my

friend. What should I do? If they need my help, I can turn away from

them. At the same time, how can I leave our tribe all by themselves out

here? What should I do?

Bhadra continued to hold Shivas shoulder. He breathed deeply. He could

think of an answer. It may have been the correct answer for Shiva, his

friend. But was it the correct answer for Shiva, the leader?

You have to find that wisdom within yourself, Shiva. That is the


O the hell with you!

Shiva threw the chillum back at Bhadra and stormed away.

It was only a few days later that a minor caravan consisting of Shiva,

Nandi and three soldiers was scheduled to leave Srinagar. The small party

would ensure that they moved quickly through the realm and reached

Devagiri as soon as possible. Governor Chenardhwaj was anxious for Shiva

to be recognised quickly by the empire as the true Neelkanth. He wanted to

go down in history as the governor who had found the Lord.

Shiva had been made presentable for the emperor. His hair had been

oiled and smoothened. Lines of expensive clothes, attractive ear-rings,

necklaces and other jewellery were used to adorn his muscular frame. His

fair face had been scrubbed clean with special Ayurvedic herbs to remove

years of dead skin and decay. A cravat had been fashioned of cotton to

cover his glowing blue throat. Beads, cleverly darned onto the fabric, gave it the appearance of the traditional necklace that Meluhan men sported

during times of ritual. The cravat felt warm around his still cold throat.

I will be back soon, said Shiva as he hugged Bhadras mother. He was

amazed to see that the old ladys limp was a little less noticeable.

Their medicines are truly magical.

As a morose Bhadra looked at him, Shiva whispered, Take care of the

tribe. You are in charge till I come back.

Bhadra stepped back, startled. Shiva you don have to do that just

because I am your friend.

I have to do it, you fool. And the reason why I have to do it is that you are

more capable than I am.

Bhadra stepped up and embraced Shiva, lest his friend notice the tears in

his eyes. No Shiva, I am not. Not even in my dreams.

Shut up! Listen to me carefully, said Shiva as Bhadra smiled sadly. I

don think the Gunas are at any risk here. At least not to the same extent as

we were at Mount Kailash. But even so, if you feel you need help, ask

Ayurvati. I observed her when the tribe was ill. She showed tremendous

commitment towards saving us all. She is trustworthy.

Bhadra nodded, hugged Shiva once again and left the room.

Ayurvati knocked politely on the door. May I come in, my Lord?

This was the first time that she had come into his presence since that

fateful moment seven days back. It seemed like a lifetime to her. Though

she appeared to be her confident self again, there was a slightly different

look about her. She had the appearance of someone who had been touched

by the divine.

Come in Ayurvati. And please, none of this ”Lord ” business. I am still the

same uncouth immigrant you met a few days back.

I am sorry about that comment, my Lord. It was wrong of me to say that

and I am willing to accept any punishment that you may deem fit.

Whats wrong with you? Why should I punish you for speaking the truth?

Why should this bloody blue throat change anything?

You will discover the reason soon enough, my Lord, whispered Ayurvati

with her head bowed. We have waited for centuries for you.

Centuries?! In the name of the holy lake, why? What can I do that any

amongst you smart people can ?

The emperor will tell you, my Lord. Suffice it to say that after all that I

have heard from your tribe, if there is one person worthy of being the

Neelkanth, it is you.

Speaking of my tribe, I have told them that if they need any help, they

can turn to you. I hope that is all right.

It would be my honour to provide any assistance to them, my Lord.

Saying this, she bent down to touch Shivas feet in the traditional Indian

form of showing respect. Shiva had resigned himself to accepting this

gesture from most Meluhans but immediately stepped back as Ayurvati bent


What the hell are you doing, Ayurvati? asked a horrified Shiva. You are

a doctor, a giver of life. Don embarrass me by touching my feet.

Ayurvati looked up at Shiva, her eyes shining with admiration and

devotion. This was certainly a man worthy of being the Neelkanth.

Nandi entered Shivas room carrying a saffron cloth with the word Ram

stamped across every inch of it. He requested Shiva to wrap it around his

shoulders. As Shiva complied, Nandi muttered a quick short prayer for a

safe journey to Devagiri.

Our horses wait outside, my Lord. We can leave when you are ready,

said Nandi.

Nandi, said an exasperated Shiva. How many times must I tell you? My

name is Shiva. I am your friend, not your Lord

Oh no, my Lord, gasped Nandi. You are the Neelkanth. You are the

Lord. How can I take your name?

Shiva rolled his eyes, shook his head slightly and turned towards the door.

I give up! Can we leave now?

Of course, my Lord.

They stepped outside to see three mounted soldiers waiting patiently,

while tethered close to them were three more horses. One each for Shiva

and Nandi, while the third was assigned for carrying their provisions. The

well-organised Meluhan Empire had rest houses and provision stores spread

across all major travel routes. As long as there were enough provisions for

one day, a traveller carrying Meluhan coins could comfortably keep buying

fresh provisions that would last a journey of months.

Nandis horse had been tethered next to a small platform. The platform

had steps leading up to it from the other side. Clearly, this was convenient infrastructure for obese riders who found it a little cumbersome to climb

onto a horse. Shiva looked at Nandis enormous form, then at his

unfortunate horse and then back at Nandi.

Aren there any laws in Meluha against cruelty to animals? asked Shiva

with the most sincere of expressions.

Oh yes, my Lord. Very strict laws. In Meluha ALL life is precious. In fact

there are strict guidelines as to when and how animals can be slaughtered


Suddenly Nandi stopped speaking. Shivas joke had finally breached

Nandis slow wit. They both burst out laughing as Shiva slapped Nandi hard

on his back.

Shivas entourage followed the course of the Jhelum which had resumed

its thunderous roar as it crashed down the lower Himalayas. Once on the

magnificent flat plains, the turbulent river calmed down again and flowed

smoothly on. Smooth enough for the group to board one of the many public

transport barges and sail quickly down to the town of Brihateshpuram.

From there on, they went eastwards down a well marked road through

Punjab, the heart of the empires northern reaches. Punjab literally meant

the land of the five rivers. The land of the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and

Beas. The four eastern rivers aspired to grasp the grand Indus, which

flowed farthest to the west. They succeeded spectacularly, after convoluted

journeys through the rich plains of Punjab. The Indus itself found comfort

and succour in the enormous, all embracing ocean. The mystery of the

oceans final destination though was yet to be unravelled.

What is Ram? enquired Shiva as he looked down at the word covering

every inch of his saffron cloth.

The three accompanying soldiers rode at a polite distance behind Shiva

and Nandi. Far enough not to overhear any conversation but close enough

to move in quickly at the first sign of trouble. It was a part of their standard

Meluhan service rules.

Lord Ram was the emperor who established our way of life, my Lord,

replied Nandi. He lived around one thousand two hundred years ago. He

created our systems, our rules, our ideologies, everything. His reign is

known simply as Ram Rajya or he rule of Ram. The term Ram Rajya

is considered the gold standard in how an empire must be administered, in order to create a perfect life for all its citizens. Meluha is still governed in

accordance with his principles. Jai Shri Ram.

He must have been quite a man! For he truly created a paradise right here

on earth.

Shiva did not lie when he said this. He truly believed that if there was a

paradise somewhere, it couldn have been very different from Meluha. This

was a land of abundance, of almost ethereal perfection! It was an empire

ruled by clearly codified and just laws, to which every Meluhan was

subordinated, including the emperor. The country supported a population of

nearly eight million, which without exception seemed well fed, healthy and

wealthy. The average intellect was exceptionally high. They were a slightly

serious people, but unfailingly polite and civil. It seemed to be a flawless

society where everyone was aware of his role and played it perfectly. They

were conscious, nay obsessive, about their duties. The simple truth hit

Shiva: if the entire society was conscious of its duties, nobody would need

to fight for their individual rights. Since everybodys rights would be

automatically taken care of through someone elses duties. Lord Ram was a


Shiva too repeated Nandis cry, signifying Glory to Lord Ram. Jai Shri


Having left their horses at the government authorised crossing-house, they

crossed the river Ravi, close to Hariyupa, or the City of Hari. Shiva

lingered for sometime as he admired Hariyupa from a slight distance, while

his soldiers waited just beyond his shadow, having mounted their freshly

allocated horses from the crossing-house on the other side of the Ravi.

Hariyupa was a much larger city than Srinagar and seemed grand from the

outside. Shiva considered exploring the magnificent city but that would

have meant a delay in the trip to Devagiri. Next to Hariyupa, Shiva saw a

construction project being executed. A new platform was being erected as

Hariyupa had grown too populous to accommodate everyone on its existing


How the hell do they raise these magnificent platforms?

Shiva made a mental note to visit the construction site on his return

journey. At a distance, Jattaa, the Captain of the river crossing house, was

talking to Nandi as he climbed the platform to mount his fresh horse.

Avoid the road via Jratakgiri, advised Jattaa. They suffered a terrorist

attack last night. All the Brahmins were killed and the village temple was

destroyed. The terrorists escaped as usual before any backup soldiers could


When in Lord Agnis name will we fight back? We should attack their

country! snarled a visibly angry Nandi.

I swear by Lord Indra, if I ever find one of these Chandravanshi terrorists,

I will cut his body into minute pieces and feed it to the dogs, growled

Jattaa, clenching his fists tight.

Jattaa! We are followers of the Suryavanshis. We cannot even think of

barbaric warfare such as that! said Nandi.

Do the terrorists follow the rules of war when they attack us? Don they

kill unarmed men?

That does not mean that we can act in the same way, Captain. We are

Meluhans! said Nandi shaking his head.

Jattaa did not counter Nandi. He was distracted by Shiva who was still

waiting at a distance. Is he with you? he asked.


He doesn wear a caste amulet. Is he a new immigrant?

Yes. replied Nandi, growing uncomfortable with the questions about


And you
e going to Devagiri? asked an increasingly suspicious Jattaa,

looking harder towards Shivas throat. Ive heard some rumours coming

from Srinagar…

Nandi interrupted Jattaa suddenly. Thank you for your help, Captain


Before Jattaa could act on his suspicions, Nandi quickly climbed the

platform, mounted his horse and rode towards Shiva. Reaching quickly, he

said, We should leave, my Lord.

Shiva wasn listening. He was perplexed once again as he saw the proud

Captain Jattaa on his knees. Jattaa was looking directly at Shiva with his

hands folded in a respectful Namaste. He appeared to be mumbling

something very quickly. Shiva couldn be sure from that distance, but it

seemed as if the Captain was crying. He shook his head and whispered,


We should go, my Lord, repeated Nandi, a little louder.

Shiva turned to him, nodded and kicked his horse into action.

Shiva looked towards his left as he rode upon the straight road, observing

Nandi goading his valiant horse along. He turned around and was not

surprised to see his three bodyguard soldiers riding at exactly the same

distance as before. Not too close, and yet, not too far. His glance also took

in Nandis jewellery which he suspected were not merely ornamental. He

wore two amulets on his thick right arm. The first one had some symbolic

lines which Shiva could not fathom. The second one appeared to have an

animal etching. Probably a bull. One of his gold chains had a pendant

shaped like a perfectly circular sun with rays streaming outwards. The other

pendant was a brown, elliptical seed-like object with small serrations all

over it.

Can you tell me the significance of your jewellery or is that also a state

secret? teased Shiva.

Of course I can, my Lord, replied Nandi earnestly. He pointed at the first

amulet that had been tied around his massive arm with a silky gold thread.

This is the amulet which represents my caste. The lines drawn on it

symbolise the shoulders of the Parmatma, the almighty. This means that I

am a Kshatriya.

I am sure there are clearly codified guidelines for representing the other

castes as well.

Right you are, my Lord. You are exceptionally intelligent.

No, I am not. You people are just exceptionally predictable.

Nandi smiled as Shiva continued. So what are they?

What are what, my Lord?

The symbols for the Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras.

Well, if the lines are drawn to represent the head of the Parmatma, it

would mean the wearer is a Brahmin. The symbol for a Vaishya would be

the lines forming a symbol of the thighs of the Parmatma. And the feet of

the Parmatma on the amulet would make the wearer a Shudra.

Interesting, said Shiva with a slight frown. I imagine most Shudras are

not too pleased about their placement.

Nandi was quite surprised by Shivas comments. He couldn understand

why a Shudra would have a problem with this long ordained symbol. But he

kept quiet for fear of disagreeing with his Lord.

And the other amulet? asked Shiva.

This second amulet depicts my chosen-tribe. Each chosen-tribe takes on

obs which fit its profile. Every Meluhan, in consultation with his parents,

applies for a chosen-tribe when he turns twenty-five years old. Brahmins

choose from birds, while Kshatriyas apply for animals. Flowers are

allocated to Vaishyas while Shudras must choose from amongst fish. The

Allocation Board allocates the chosen-tribe on the basis of a rigorous

examination process. You must qualify for a chosen-tribe that represents

both your ambitions and skills. Choose a tribe that is too mighty and you

will embarrass yourself throughout your life if your achievements don

measure up to the standards of that tribe. Choose a tribe too lowly and you

will not be doing justice to your own talents. My chosen-tribe is a bull. That

is the animal that this amulet represents.

And if I am not being rude, what does a bull mean in your rank of

Kshatriya chosen-tribes?

Well, its not as high as a lion, tiger or an elephant. But its not a rat or a

pig either!

Well, as far as I am concerned, the bull can beat any lion or elephant,

smiled Shiva. And what about the pendants on your chain?

The brown seed is a representation of the last Mahadev, Lord Rudra. It

symbolises the protection and regeneration of life. Even divine weapons

cannot destroy the life it protects.

And the Sun?

My Lord, the sun represents the fact that I am a follower of the

Suryavanshi kings — the kings who are the descendants of the Sun.

What? The Sun came down and some queen… teased an incredulous


Of course not, my Lord, laughed Nandi. All it means is that we follow

the solar calendar. So you could say that we are the followers of the ”path

of the sun ”. In practical terms it denotes that we are strong and steadfast.

We honour our word and keep our promises even at the cost of our lives.

We never break the law. We deal honourably even with those who are

dishonourable. Like the Sun, we never take from anyone but always give to

others. We sear our duties into our consciousness so that we may never

forget them. Being a Suryavanshi means that we must always strive to be

honest, brave and above all, loyal to the truth.

A tall order! I assume that Lord Ram was a Suryavanshi king?

Yes, of course, replied Nandi, his chest puffed up with pride. He was the

Suryavanshi king. Jai Shri Ram.

Jai Shri Ram, repeated Shiva.

Nandi and Shiva crossed the river Beas on a boat. Their soldiers waited

for the following craft. The Beas was the last river to be crossed after which

the straight road stretched towards Devagiri. Unseasonal rain the previous

night had made the crossing-house Captain consider cancelling the days

crossings across the river. However the weather had been relatively calm

since the morning, allowing the Captain to keep the service operational.

Shiva and Nandi shared the boat with two other passengers as well as the

boatman who rowed them across. They had traded in their existing horses at

the crossing-house for fresh horses on the other side.

They were a short distance from the opposite bank when a sudden burst of

torrential rain came down from the heavens. The winds took on a sudden

ferocity. The boatman made a valiant effort to row quickly across, but the

boat tossed violently as it surrendered to the elements. Nandi stretched

towards Shiva in order to tell him to stay low for safety. But he did not do it

gently enough. His considerable weight caused the boat to list dangerously,

and he fell overboard.

The boatman tried to steady the boat with his oars so he could save the

other passengers. Even as he did so, he had the presence of mind to pull out

his conch and blow an emergency call to the crossing-house on the other

side. The other two passengers should have jumped overboard to save

Nandi but his massive build made them hesitate. They knew that if they

tried to save him, they would most likely drown.

Shiva felt no such hesitation as he quickly tossed aside his angvastram,

pulled off his shoes and dived into the turbulent river. Shiva swam with

powerful strokes and quickly reached a rapidly drowning Nandi. He had to

use all of his considerable strength to pull Nandi to the surface. In spite of

being buoyed by the water, Nandi weighed significantly more than what

any normal man would. It was fortunate that Shiva felt stronger than ever

since the first night at the Srinagar immigration camp. Shiva positioned

himself behind Nandi and wrapped one arm around his chest. He used his

other arm to swim towards the bank. Nandis weight made it very

exhausting work, but Shiva was able to tow the Meluhan Captain to the

shore, just as the emergency staff from the crossing-house came rapidly towards them. Shiva helped them drag Nandis limp body on to the land. He

was unconscious.

The emergency staff then began a strange procedure. One of them started

pressing Nandis chest in a quick rhythmic motion to the count of five. Just

as he would stop, another emergency staff would cover Nandis lips with

his own and breathe hard into his mouth. After which, they would repeat the

procedure all over again. Shiva did not understand what was going on but

trusted both the expertise as well as the commitment of the Meluhan

medical personnel.

After several anxious moments, Nandi suddenly coughed up a

considerable amount of water and woke up with a start. At first he was

disoriented but he quickly regained his wits and turned abruptly towards

Shiva, screeching, My Lord, why did you jump in after me? Your life is too

precious. You must never risk it for me!

A surprised Shiva supported Nandis back and whispered calmly, You

need to relax, my friend.

Agreeing with Shiva, the medical staff quickly placed Nandi on a stretcher

and carried him into the rest house abutting the crossing-house. The other

boat passengers were observing Shiva with increasing curiosity. They knew

that the fat man was a relatively senior Suryavanshi soldier, judging by his

amulets. Yet he called this fair, caste-unmarked man his Lord. Strange.

However, all that mattered was that the soldier was safe. They dispersed as

Shiva followed the medical staff into the rest house.

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