We had assembled for the gathering- me, durmukha, maireyapayin, mUlApasmara, vAta vyAdi, mlechCha sundarI, kavargA, harir-bArava all sahakuTumba. Glad to have escaped the tIkShNa hima we settled down to reel out the yarns. The conversation drifted to the journey that we had made with kalashajA to the hills in central India, where apparently bhasmasura had placed his hand on his head. kalashajA’s mother had provided us with the contact of a pious brAhmaNa woman who was civil servant in those regions held by the Dravidian tribes. kalashajA, me, the muni and my bhima-like clansman bhojanapriya set out on the expedition. We were picked up at the forbidding station of Pipariya in the late evening by her attendents and taken to her home. We enjoyed the best food that night as though we were enjoying the bhogas of indra’s svarga. The state servants of India truely enjoyed immense opulence at public expense.
The next day we were taken by her to the immense massif of Chauragarh. Chauragarh was the capital of the great warrior queen of the Hindus– raNI durgAvati, who valiantly fought the terrible Moslem tyrant Akbar. Every step appeared to be endowed with the great history of the last Hindu struggle in central India. It was a enormous pathway up hundreds of steps leading to the crown of the great massif, atop which rested the shrine of The god. It is known as the trishUla sthala were thousands of tridents of various sizes were planted. People perform the trishUla vrata of carrying a heavy trishUla up the massif and planting it next to the shrine of rudra. Some people had heroically lifted tridents weighing over 300 kgs in weight cooperatively in their pious observance of the vrata. It is the most awe-inspiring shrine of all the shrines of mahAkAla and the mantra automatically came to our mouth:
ávocAma námo asmA avasyávaH shR^iNótu no hávaM rudró marútvAn |
It looked as though the most terrible rudra himself stood there surrounded by the maruts bearing tridents. From the heights of Chauragarh one could enjoy the finest sights in India. We felt one with the terrible pashupati, who was roaming around in the air, the waters in the plants and the animals of which he is the lord. The elemental nature of the deity known as bhava and sharva was felt in the air and to our mind came the formula: nainaM sharvo na bhavo neshAnaH | nAsya pashun na samAnAn hinasti ya evaM veda ||
After the heavy excercise of the climb we came back down to enjoy a late evening tiffin and a chat in the verandah. Everything was a pleasure to the indriyas- the food and drink (the very thought of which makes our mouth still water- the parvata of bhojana), the images of pashupati that fill the air, the cool zephyrs blowing in from the window, the rare pleasant smell of the night queen flower, the song of the parasitic kokilA bird and soft bed to sleep upon. Truely it felt like being in suvargam lokaM. We were unconscious of the time we spent in endless conversation which coursed from topics like the origin and evolution of crocodiles, the mantras of the manthAna bhairava tantra, the rahasyas of the R^igveda, the battles of durgAvatI and vIra nArAyaNa siMhadeva, the antiquity of the vedas, the origin of turtles, the relationship between lizards, synapsids, the tree of life, sexuality of slugs and snails and the tales of the purANas. There was a magical quality to the whole time we were spending.
At night I went with the muni to our shared room. I was then asked to look into a mirror and saw everything except my own image. I wondered why. I was told that the rAkshasi had sucked the image and I will see it in the rAkshasi’s mouth 16 years later.
The news of the three Kartiks reached us: #1 had died mysteriously; #2 had received the required punishment. #3 was enjoying the pinnacle of his success. (amAtya now codenamed yoni) . Yoni in the midst of the samUha of dadhnakAyA, vitarAsyA and ati-dadhnA was the only one who had lost the game of dice. The rest had pocketed their share of wealth and were wending their way confidently. Yoni asked where is my share. I too thought I had won, just like the above said. I cast the die and I thought I saw “Six”. The answer came in the mouth of the rAkShasi, also known as the burning lap of nirR^iti.