Chapter 20 – EGYPT AND KINGDOM OF AJITAB – Continuing Saga of Aryans of Bharat Varsha in Egypt – 5,005 BCE

THEME 20 – EGYPT AND KINGDOM OF AJITAB – Continuing Saga of Aryans of Bharat Varsha in Egypt — 5,005 BCE
Selected extracts from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-14- 024053 – 5
(Main Reference: Main Reference: page 783 to 831 from Return of the Aryans)
‘Let us live like humans even if we must die as beasts.’

– (From the Song,’The King that once commanded the catacomb of cutthroats’ – See page 783, Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani) –

‘If God is what I believe Him to be, I am sure He is annoyed with prayers when some duty remains neglected.’

– (Hermit-King Lugal- See page 783, Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani) –

‘Karma is above prayer and piety.’

– (Nilakantha, Arya Leader in Egypt – around 5005 BCE — See page 783, Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani –

‘It all depends, as before,
On the roll of dice – no more;
Not on the thrower’s will or tears
Not our prayers, hopes or fears.
But the unthinking dice unfolds
All that Creation’s future holds.’

– (From ‘Songs of Hutantat’, after 5005 BCE – See page 783, Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani) –
*

Ajitab and his thirty-six Aryans had fled from the hills with the grave-robbers, when the soldiers came to hunt for slaves.

After many adventures, they moved into another Egyptian kingdom. They were caught, enslaved and made to work on stone-excavation. Only four Aryans and sixteen grave-robbers remained to work with Ajitab after two years of dehumanizing brutality. The rest died, collapsing where they worked.

Ajitab organized a mass escape. Twelve guards and eighty slaves died. But Ajitab escaped with four Aryans, thirteen grave-robbers and 460 other slaves. On the way, they attacked numerous places where many slaves worked. Minor skirmishes were many and their initial success, spectacular. Their ranks swelled but their days seemed numbered as soldiers throughout the kingdom were collecting for an all out assault on them.

There was a near-revolt of slaves against Ajitab. He wanted to press on, to be ahead of the soldiers hunting them. But many slaves felt invulnerable with their increased numbers and wanted to stay back to loot, steal and fight.

Ajitab allowed defections, while he pressed on. Perhaps that saved him and his group, as battles raged against the slaves who had stayed back. He reached the hills from where they had originally fled. But the hills were no longer safe.

By devious paths, in the pitch dark of night, he reached the catacombs with 110 slaves including four Aryans and eleven grave-robbers.

The catacombs were safe but only for thieves, robbers and cut-throats. There were many hiding places, trenches and tunnels. For soldiers, it was a deadly place, not only because of the cut-throats there but also because they had a greater horror of contagion, as many lepers lived there.

Early on, Ajitab became involved in a deadly tussle with Dahzur, the chief of the catacombs. Dahzur had strangled the previous chief. He had then turned his ferocity against lepers and had them burnt alive; thereafter, he cleansed the catacombs of many old robbers who in their youth had stolen much from outside but were now dependent on charity; finally he began a reign of terror against many whose personal loyalty he suspected. At the end, Dahzur’s command was absolute. He demanded a share of loot from everyone in the catacombs and enforced the demand ruthlessly. Those who objected, somehow disappeared mysteriously. He never ventured out but gave close attention to the teams which left the catacombs to loot. His planning was faultless but some teams were caught. He shed no tears, as there were many who brought in a great deal.

Dahzur had welcomed Ajitab’s group. He recognized the grave-robbers with Ajitab and was pleased to the addition to his strength.

Soon after, a team was to be sent out to loot. One team-member was sick. Dahzur asked an Aryan to go instead. The Aryan declined. Dahzur insisted, though in good humour, ready to be gracious to a newcomer who was unaware of his power. But Ajitab intervened, ‘Enough! Did you hear him say that he shall not go!’

Dahzur exploded within. He saw it as a challenge and decided that his was as good a time as any to set an example; he motioned to three henchmen. The moved to Ajitab, one with a dagger unsheathed.

With the instinct of a hunted slave, sharpened by years of danger and adversity, Ajitab did not wait for the three to reach him. He lunged at Dahzur’s throat. The more powerful Dahzur fell at this unexpected, ferocious attack and Ajitab fell over him with a vicious grip on his throat. The man with the dagger misjudged his blow and stabbed Ajitab in a fleshy part; but the searing pain only tightened Ajitab’s grip over Dahzur’s throat. He heard a gurgle. Suddenly, with a jerk, he got up, and the three who were trying to pull him away, fell off-balance. He started hitting out, unseeing and madly.

In a flash, many from his own group rose to join the fight. But no one attacked Ajitab. Someone said quietly, ‘Dahzur is dead.’

Ajitab nodded as though he knew. He walked away slowly, bleeding but unsupported. In his shelter, four Aryans washed and bandaged his wound. Then he half-fainted.

Later, the three who sought to attack him were brought, ready to be killed. But Ajitab said, ‘Let them go. They were under orders.’

From that day, though in slow stages, they began treating Ajitab as the chief. He demanded that the lepers who entered should not be killed. Separate areas were reserved for them. Nor were the old and infirm to be eliminated. Ajitab did not demand a share; but a share was still payable, in trust for lepers, the old and infirm. The trash, dirt and garbage in the catacombs was burnt; medicine and herbal remedies were stocked. He asked them to locate and smuggle into the catacombs a slave who knew the use of these remedies.

He wanted more trenches and tunnels to hide and fight from, if ever there was an attack; a reservoir to store water; more shelters, amenities: ‘Let us live like humans even if we must die as beasts.’

Ajitab even put the oldest to light work. He used them also to go well-dressed, trailing after raiding parties, so that if the raiders were arrested, he would know where they had been taken.

Twice, he arranged their rescue, due to this ploy.

His men had located two slaves with physicians’ knowledge in a group of forty-eight. Ajitab himself led the attack and, as a result, the entire slave-group was freed and smuggled into the catacombs.

But Ajitab was astounded that these freed men were being treated as slaves in the catacombs. He tried to put a stop to it. He failed. Quickly, he learnt a bitter lesson which Dahzur knew but he did not – that the way to reach the hearts of these ruthless cut-throats in catacombs was not always through gentleness.

With the ferocity of a convert and with a savagery that Dahzur would have envied, he enforced his will and after the blood-bath, declared, ‘Anyone who enslaves another shall be chained and left outside the catacombs as a soldier’s reward.’

No one thereafter challenged Ajitab. He was the King of the Catacombs and his wish was law in this kingdom of cut-throats, murderers and thieves.

There was much that remained unsaid between Ajitab and the four Aryans with him. But each knew the anguish of the other! They thought of those innocent times, as if it were centuries ago, when they left home, singing – ‘Noble Arya onward, on . . .’ – and now they lived to loot, kill and crush, while every savage dagger, unseen, remained aimed at their hears! God! where have you guided our footsteps? And why? Is it your karma or ours?

Suddenly, astounding news filtered to the catacombs – that about a 100 miles away, the Aryans were building a temple!

A hundred miles! What could 100 miles matter to men who had traversed thousands? Yet they paused. That would be a route with danger at every twist and turn. But an old robber volunteered to carry Ajitab’s message to the temple-site – and all ex-slaves were ready too. It was decided that the old man would go with six ex-slaves carrying a coffin, as if it were being carried for burial. Nobody would attack a coffin, nor a grave, for the first twenty-seven days. Even so, the ex-slaves would go visibly armed, so that no one was tempted to attack.

At the last moment, one of the four Aryans insisted on going with them.

‘Only four of us are left,’ Ajitab pleaded. But the Arya rejoined, ‘Would it matter if none were left!’

Ajitab understood the anguish, but insisted, ‘I don’t know what our Aryans are doing there. Maybe they are captives. If they are, we must organize an attack from the catacombs to free them. Please!’

‘No, let me die; let me be a slave; but I cannot live here . . . . in this. . . ., this kingdom of yours. . . . .’ Suddenly tears came to his eyes, ‘Forgive me, brother Ajitab, but let me go . . . . . Last night I swore I would not remain here, neither to kill, nor hurt anyone . . . . . If I must remain here, you will grieve over my dead body sooner . . . . . .’

‘Go with God,’ Ajitab said.

More than the anguish in Ajitab’s heart was the revolt in his soul – ‘God, there is evil in me but I know not who needs more forgiveness – You or me!’

Ajitab embraced the Arya with tears as he left. The Arya went as the father of the child in the coffin carried by the six slaves. The old robber accompanied the group as the grandfather.

No one felt tempted to attack them all along the route; but as they neared the temple-site, a soldier suspected them. He had seen such a ploy by thieves before. He called other soldiers and demanded they put the coffin down for inspection.

The Arya knew his moment had come; he was sorry that the others too would die with him. He claimed sole responsibility, as none of the others knew anything. A soldier shoved him aside but the officer looked hard and wondered – he looks different, speaks with an accent, certainly not a local! ‘Are you an Aryan?’ the officer asked and he replied, ‘Yes, yes, I am Aryan!’ Still suspicious, the officer ordered, ‘Sing the Aryan song!’ Startled, he sang – ‘Noble Arya . . . . . onward . . . on.’

‘Enough stop! Now give me some Aryan names,’ the officer commanded.

He recited the names – ‘Nilakantha, Lugal, Himatap . . . .’

‘What about Hutantat?’ the officer asked. The Arya said nothing, not sure if it was a trap or not, for he knew no Hutantat. But the officer was already convinced that he had an Aryan before him. Still, he demanded to know what was in the coffin. The old man simply pointed to the Aryan, then to the sky and the temple-site. He pretended to be dumb so that he told no lies. The officer understood nothing but he remembered the King’s warning of the highest penalty for those that harmed the Aryans of the temple-site. He asked the Aryan’s name and at his order, a soldier rushed to the temple-site.

Four hours they waited, guarded but unharmed. And then Nilakantha, Lugal and many others arrived.

None of the Aryans at the temple-site slept that night.

At dawn Hutantat, Nilakantha and some others left with the reunited Aryan and the old robber. On the way, not only the Aryan but the old man thanked the officer and soldiers so volubly that they wondered how it was that the old man who was totally dumb the day before, could now speak. But the old man simply pointed to Hutantat for the miracle. Everyone knew Hutantat’s power of prophecy. But now some would regard him as man of miracles, too.

They all waited at a distance from the catacombs and through devious paths, the old robber went in and brought out Ajitab and the three Aryans.

Joyously, they traveled together to the temple-site. Nilakantha had no words, no songs – his heart too full with the wonder of Ajitab and four others restored to them. Tears, he often had, for the many that they had lost, but this was not the moment for those tears.

Yet Nilakantha’s joy was short-lived. Ajitab had passed only two nights at the temple-site when he flared up in a violent temper. ‘You make slaves work for you here!’

Nilakantha explained. It only led to Ajitab’s contempt. Nilakantha did not even retort that Ajitab stole, lied, even killed to save himself.

In his heart, Nilakantha realized that to hold an innocent in captivity was a sin, more heinous than any of Ajitab’s sins in self-defence. He knew also that not all Ajitab’s offences were to protect himself. But it did not occur to Nilakantha – then or ever – to list Ajitab’s sins and exonerate himself – ‘each is answerable for his sin, and not in relation to the sins of another.’

Instead, Nilakantha pleaded and Ajitab asked, ‘Is this why you led us here?’

Nilakantha pleaded, to no avail. Ajitab was clear. ‘So long as I am here, I shall try to free these slaves.’

‘We are under oath to Sage Hutantat to complete the temple,’ Nilakantha said.

‘I am under no such oath,’ Ajitab said.

‘The oath binds us all.’

‘Not me.’

Nilakantha was silent. He knew a little of Ajitab’s story. Ajitab’s father and mother had been held as slaves in Bharat Varsha, although slavery had been declared unlawful. Some time after his father’s death, when Ajitab was six years old, his mother was molested by the salve-owner. His mother shrieked. Ajitab was stricken with fear. His three-year-old sister ran to her mother. The slave-owner picked up the girl and threw her forcefully against a rock, smashing her head. In panic, the child Ajitab ran, and while running, he saw stones, and the thought even flashed through his mind that he should hurl them at his sister’s killer and mother’s ravisher. But he was much too frightened and kept running. Meanwhile, the slave-owner had calmed his passion on the unconscious mother. When she gained consciousness, she saw her daughter’s dead body; her son was missing; and in her daze she imagined that he too was dead. She jumped into the well. Ajitab came back and saw his sister and mother being cremated. He ran away again.

Since then Ajitab had died a hundred deaths. In every nightmare, he saw stones that lay unpicked and unhurled at the slave-owner and sometimes he saw fragments of his sister’s smashed head, though more often, he would see flames from the cremation of his sister and mother – flames that leapt and laughed to mock him.

A sadhu sheltered him. From the sadhu, he learnt yoga, but after a while he lost interest in it. He wanted to learn to fight, aim an arrow, throw a dagger, wield a sword. ‘Why?’ asked the sadhu.

‘Because I am a coward,’ Ajitab said. The sadhu knew he was not a coward but simply a child and did not want him to grow up thinking he was a coward. So the sadhu taught him as much as he could and then left him in charge of an old pupil who trained athletes, wrestlers and fighters.

At sixteen, Ajitab went to his old village to kill the slave-owner. But the slave-owner was dead, having been stung by a deadly scorpion.

He returned to the sadhu who asked him, ‘You did not wish to kill the slave-owner’s children?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘Only cowards kill children.’ The sadhu embraced him.

Since then, Ajitab’s life had been purposeless. He went back as assistant to his teacher to train others to fight. When the Aryans left the land, he joined them, hoping for a better land elsewhere.

But even while Ajitab was being brutalized as a slave in Egypt’s adjoining kingdom, he decided what he would devote his life to. A vague whisper of that role stirred in his heart when the forty-eight slaves were smuggled into the catacombs and his men tried to use them as slaves. He was merciless with those who did not listen to him to leave the slaves alone. Soon, however, his mind shifted to concerns of self-survival and protecting his mates in the catacombs.

But now, as he saw the masses of slaves at the temple-site, he knew what his purpose in life was to be – to free slaves, anywhere and everywhere.

Nilakantha and Ajitab sat facing each other, without speaking. In those silent moments, each understood more of the solitary anguish of the other. Both knew that their faith in finding the land of pure had dwindled and this long journey had been in vain.

Yet, both thought of how selfish they had been in their desire to seek the land of spirit for themselves, where they could live untrammeled by sorrows, tears and bloodshed, unmindful of the brutal tyranny that others faced.

Nilakantha took Ajitab’s hand and pleaded, ‘Our hearts are the same, our goals no different: freedom of these slaves and safety of our people. That is why we have to complete the temple.’

Ajitab’s fury was spent, ‘Don’t worry, I shall not interfere.’

But Nilakantha’s glow of ecstasy died, as Ajitab continued, ‘By your will, I shall leave as an Aryan.’ It sounded cruel because of the play of the word ‘Arya’ which had always meant exile and was now beginning to acquire a different connotation and mean a person who acts with nobility.

Clearly, he implied, that it was Nilakantha’s tolerance of slavery at the temple that was forcing him to go out as an exile.

‘I would rather run a sword through myself than dream of exiling you,’ Nilakantha said.

Ajitab apologized. He realized it was his inner frustration that had made him blame the gracious Nilakantha. He added, ‘No, I leave by my will. You have to look after your temple and slaves here. I shall look for slaves elsewhere.’

Perhaps only Hutantat understood Ajitab’s resolve and said, ‘Each man comes to his decision, himself. Yet a man who lives in the desert must know the source of water; a man in the high mountains must learn to protect himself against falling rocks; a man in the river must know how to avoid crocodiles.’

Nobody understood. But he explained, ‘Your heart tells you to free slaves. So be it. But your head must come to terms with that decision. What will you do when the slaves are free? Leave them to be hunted again! Where will they run and hide? In your catacombs! Today, the soldiers ignore the catacombs. But when you shelter numerous slaves there, will the King stay his hand? Each there will die in unspeakable horror. You will die happy, perhaps in the vain belief that you died to fulfill a mission – but you are the one to doom your own mission from the very start.

Ajitab glared, while Hutantat continued, ‘And what karma will you teach the slaves while they hide in the catacombs – to steal, loot, kill! Apart from arts of violence, is there any art that you yourself know? So, you will simply raise legions of robbers and murderers out of slaves, so that they rob others of life and liberty, before they too vanish into nothingness! Is that why you left your land, Arya?’

Pitilessly, Hutantat continued, ‘I suppose you will also unfurl the Aryan flag over your thieving, murdering slaves, so that the Aryan name and mission is always dipped in dishonour in the ithihasa (History) of this country, if not in yours and everywhere else!’

Ajitab shook his head but Hutantat added, ‘And finally, your achievement will be that the Aryans here too shall be wiped out for the dishonour of associating with you – you! who must be known as a great freedom fighter, ready to lay down his life for his cause, regardless of the doom of slaves and eternal dishonour to Aryans!’

‘You know that is not my purpose,’ Ajitab said.

‘No, it is only the inevitable consequence of what is in your immature mind.’

‘And you think I should happily live here like Nilakantha?’

‘No, each man must heed the call in his heart. It is beyond you, even to understand the extent of Nilakantha’s silent, living sacrifice. One day when you and Aryans like you understand, you will turn to him with tenderness and gratitude.’

‘I am ready to touch Nilakantha’s feet now,’ Ajitab joked.

‘It will be an empty gesture, like the glorious death you foresee for yourself. But remember, dying is easy. It is life that presents difficult choices and sometimes a man must condemn himself to live, when there are promises to keep and when duty inescapable beckons. What kind of a dream is it, that not only the dreamer must die, but along with him the dream itself be cursed and dishonoured by all!’

‘Sage, I understand not a word of what you say.’

‘I feared as much. Nilakantha understands; Lugal understands; many will. But certainly, it is beyond you. To understand it, you need courage in your heart and not hotheaded rashness.’

Nilakantha feared that Ajitab would explode. He did not. He was humble and contrite and said, ‘You are right, Sage. All I hear is the voice in my heart that tells me what I should go after. That voice re-echoes within me and I know I do not hear it in vain. I shall not shut it out. But for the rest you are right. I do not know how I should respond to its call. Perhaps, your words alone shall show me the way.’

Later, quietly, Hutantat clarified to Ajitab, ‘First, you will have to leave here as a renegade Aryan, unloved and despised by the Aryans here. Nor must you ever call yourself an Aryan. Second, the catacombs must not shelter slaves as that will invite massive attacks by the King’s forces. Third, there are larger areas, barren and deserted, where only lizards live, which are reachable through the mountains with paths difficult for soldiers to cross; and slaves may live there while you teach them the only art you know. Fourth, as a thief never robs from one house only, it will be folly to restrict your activity to this kingdom alone, unless you want undivided attention from the King here. You have to diversify.’

‘But other kingdoms are far away!’ Ajitab said.

‘For a man who has traveled this far, you are really very modest! And where do you think your hide-outs will be – next to the catacombs? No, you will have to go much further.’

‘But Sage, how are slaves to live in those barren areas?’

‘I am glad you asked. Perhaps a glimmer of understanding is coming into your mind – that it is easy to die but difficult to live. Yes, slaves must learn to make those areas fertile. You must learn, in order to teach!’

‘But that will take time!’ Ajitab replied.

‘What else does life have except time! From birth to death, there is only time. A fool fritters it away, the wise guard it.’

For days Ajitab remained at the temple-site. Hutantat took him to his own villages that had once been barren but now were lush and green, with freed slaves working under his protection.

‘I have a few freed slaves who have the same dream as you.’ Hutantat said. ‘If they are ungrateful and run away from here to join you, there is nothing I can do.’

Hutantat and Ajitab then spoke of faraway barren areas, the way to reach them, the method to tap water, the route to neighbouring kingdoms and the location of possible hide-outs everywhere.

Finally, Hutantat advised, ‘See my hut there! It has a great deal a thief can want. When you are ready, ransack the hut and take everything away.’

‘Steal from you?’ Ajitab asked, shocked.

‘Why not! What else will a renegade do! You will “steal” also from the Aryans at the temple-site! They must distance themselves from you.’

‘So I appear as dishonourable thief and a common scoundrel, condemned and scorned by all those I love!’

‘It is your choice, remember? The only question is: do you fight for yourself and your name alone or for your dream?’

Irrelevantly, Ajitab said, ‘My little sister died with her head smashed; my mother threw herself in a well.’

‘I know,’ Hutantat said, for Nilakantha had told him.

‘They died in vain and I shall die in dishonour.’

‘Your sister and your mother did not die in vain. Their death inspires you and your cause. You shall not die in dishonour. You shall die for a cause that is larger than your life, far above the empty pretence of honour and virtue; and you shall die only in your body; for the spirit remains alive, inspiring others to reach out for the day that is to come.’

‘Am I doing the right thing, Sage?’

‘That judgement must be yours. All I know is that whether you live or die, I shall pray for you, day and night, far more than I pray for myself and my soul.’

Hutantat and Ajitab were together often after that. Escorted by soldiers and Hutantat’s freed slaves, they traveled to far off lands. Ostensibly, the purpose was to look for materials for the king’s temple. But the real purpose was that Ajitab may see areas, routes, hide-outs and possible sanctuaries. Surreptitiously, a few freed slaves left Hutantat’s lands; and Hutantat ostensibly made anxious inquiries everywhere but shrugged his shoulders – ‘They had a right to leave. But to depart without a word of farewell!’ Many sympathized, ‘What ingratitude!’ But some said, ‘This is the result of giving freedom to the undeserving!’

For some time, Ajitab’s plans were known only to Hutantat, Lugal, Nilakantha and the Aryans who were with him in the catacombs. Later, of course, Larali came to know too.

Larali was the one who had once been nominated ‘virgin-in-waiting’ by a priest in Sumeria but was rescued. Since then, she had moved with the Aryans to Hermit-King Lugal’s domain in Assyria and thence to Egypt.

It was when the Aryans rested at the grave-robber’s settlement, on the outskirts of Egypt, that Ajitab and Larali spoke words of love to each other. Both felt in their hearts that at their next meeting they would speak of an abiding relationship.

Larali and Ajitab were to be in the first batch to move out from the grave-robber’s settlement. At the last minute, Nilakantha asked Ajitab to wait. Meanwhile, Larali moved with the first batch. They were certain that soon Nilakantha and Ajitab would race to join them. Nilakantha always led the very first batch – and in any case, the second, third and even the last batch were to follow closely.

But Nilakantha had bigger concerns on his mind. The Aryan expected to remain with thirty-five sick and injured had been showing off, jumping from hill to hill; unfortunately, he lost his footing and could not walk or ride for month. Nilakantha could not leave an injured man to look after the sick. He told Ajitab, ‘This high jumper was to look after thirty-five. Now you look after thirty-six.’

Larali’s batch went ahead. Instead of Nilakantha, someone was singing, ‘Onward, Arya, onward, on. . . . . .’ But Larali was looking not onward but backward to catch a glimpse of Ajitab following her.

Even when they were entering Egypt, Larali had not lost her anchor of faith. Despite stories told by grave-robbers of the terror in this kingdom, a hope sprang up among most Aryans that the auspicious land of their quest was not too far. It was actually one Arya’s belief that spread to many. From the grave-robbers he had learnt that here the river (later, named Nile) flowed from south to north and finally drowned in the great water. This learned Arya knew that in Bharat Varsha all rivers flowed from north to south into the sea. If a river here flowed backwards, surely this was the land of hope – he thought. Nobody knew why this man cried out that the land of glory was soon to come but his cry of faith touched them. After all, it was faith that had made them leave their homeland and their hurt over their loss of faith was very deep. Many took up his cry.

How could Larali then fear that Ajitab was lost! Even at the temple-site, her hope remained alive. But later, the chilling news that only skeletons were found at the settlement and that there was no trace of Ajitab and the thirty-six others came; and Larali who was once a ‘virgin-in-waiting’ said to herself, ‘Always, it is my destiny to “wait.” ‘

After which many asked for her hand in marriage but she declined and to herself said, ‘I wait.’

Months multiplied, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, came a lone Aryan from the catacombs, bringing the joyous tidings that Ajitab and three others were alive and safe. Yet, she feared to ask him the question that wrenched her heart. Instead, she asked, ‘How is your leg?’ for he was the one whose leg was injured in the bravado of leaping from hill to hill, forcing Ajitab to stay back at the settlement, to look after the sick. ‘My leg is fine, so also is he who looked after me and my leg – and he loves you, always, every moment, waking, dreaming, sleeping!’

What a strange way to speak of God, thought some, for none knew of the bond between her and Ajitab and yet this Aryan – for a long a co-slave with Ajitab – certainly knew. They smiled and Larali said to herself – ‘At last, my waiting is done.’

Not so. When Ajitab came, he looked into Larali’s eyes, held her hand, but the question he was to ask, to bind them forever, remained unasked. Later, Ajitab even avoided her. Is it possible for a man to contemplate marriage while he charts such a perilous path for himself! Is there hope of his survival as he tilts against kingdoms to free their slaves? He was ready to die, certain that his death would not be in vain; that someone, somewhere, would pick up the fallen torch to continue the struggle. But marriage! Out of question.

Once only did Ajitab pour his heart out to her, to speak not of love but of what lay ahead of him and she was silent. Thereafter, he would be away for weeks with Hutantat. When he came, he would be surrounded by people; but she saw only him, and in a voice that did not falter, said, ‘There was one question I forgot to ask you that day. Do you or do you not love me?’ Quietly, he too, unmindful of the others, said ‘Yes. Always.’

Her voice rose, ‘Brother Nilakantha, I shall marry Ajitab. Please perform the ceremony.’ They had no regular priest. The task to perform marriage and other rites fell on Nilakantha.

But Nilakantha was taken aback and said, ‘But Ajitab has not spoken.’ The husband-to-be always had to be the first to declare his desire to marry and, at the same time, take the five-fold marriage-vow promising his wife, ‘piety, permanence, pleasure, property and progeny.’

But Larali replied to Nilakantha, ‘My husband-to-be is simply too tongue-tied, to timid, too afraid to speak.’

Timid and afraid! Ajitab! Impossible. But Ajitab spoke now, ‘Yes, Brother Nilakantha, please, I wish to marry Larali now . . . . .’

Nilakantha pleaded, ‘Wait . . . .’ But he chose the wrong word; and Larali stormed, ‘Wait! I have waited enough! And all because of you!’

Poor Nilakantha! He knew nothing of Larali’s longings when he had asked Ajitab to stay back at the settlement but then, everyone always blamed him – and he did not know why, and everyone also loved him – and again he did not know why.

But now he was on sure ground and said firmly, ‘I never perform a marriage without taking a bath first.’ Even Larali laughed, ‘That much I shall wait.’ And Ajitab said, ‘Then hurry, Brother!’

Hutantat put his arm around Larali and drew her aside to ask, ‘Daughter, do you know what Ajitab is to do and why and where?’ And she answered, ‘I know what and why. But as to where, surely, I shall soon know as I shall always be with him.’

Gravely, Hutantat said, ‘Yet it may be a place of no return.’

In her heart she had no fear of the future. She was only afraid of the Sage who may possibly influence Ajitab, even now, not to marry, for the sake of the task he was to undertake.

But she spoke the right words when she said, ‘I have no mother, no father. Bless me Sage and give me away as the bride.’

He held her to his bosom, ‘So be it, child, if that is your destiny. My blessing you have. May your union be fruitful. But then accept, in good grace, destiny’s wounds and triumphs.’

Her reply, she formed in her heart, but did not voice, ‘I make my own destiny to meet my destiny.’

They were married.

Ajitab and Larali shared only a few nights of love. For days and weeks, he would be away with Hutantat or sometimes on his own. Many said, ‘He was a secret lover; and now a secret husband.’ Some felt sorry for Larali. What had she done to deserve such neglect from her husband?

Many even saw a more terrible aspect of Ajitab – for anxiously, he was trying to prepare himself for the role of the renegade who deserts the Aryans. He openly quarreled with Hutantat, Lugal and Nilakantha and was never respectful. Some, including the commander, soldiers and slaves, wondered: ‘Why do they tolerate him?’ But then Ajitab was held out as a master in locating and selecting the right building-materials for the temple ‘and Hutantat and the Aryans will go to any lengths, in the King’s cause, to build the best temple.’

Meanwhile Ajitab quietly visited the catacombs. Of the forty-eight freed slaves there, many left for a distant area to work on the land. Freed slaves from Hutantat’s land were already there with the necessary implements.

Four months after his marriage, Ajitab’s arrangements to move were nearly complete. ‘A few days more and we leave,’ he told Larali.

‘You must go alone,’ she replied. ‘I can wait. Your child cannot.’ He was delighted that he was to be a father. But he teased her too, ‘You said you would be careful.’

She laughed, ‘Destiny! After all, Sage Hutantat blessed our union, wishing it to be fruitful.’

Anxiously, he asked, ‘Do you want me to delay my departure?’

‘No,’ she insisted. ‘Your task remains. Let no one accuse my unborn child of delaying your purpose.’

‘Our unborn child,’ he corrected her pleasantly.

‘Yet I must speak for him, if you will not.’

Suddenly, some five months after his marriage, Ajitab disappeared from the temple-site, along with the four Aryans who were with him in the catacombs.

Every Aryan at the temple-site felt desolate at Ajitab’s apparent desertion. They had seen him in moments of joy, interrupted by quarrels with Hutantat, Lugal and Nilakantha. But how could they know that he was acting the part of one who was to desert! Their shock came when they learnt that he had even robbed a hut containing Hutantat’s valuables.

The King, who heard it from his gleeful Chief-priest, sympathized with Hutantat and learnt that the fugitive Aryan had robbed his Aryan brethren too. ‘I thought all these Aryans were honourable,’ said the King.

‘The best fruit-tree can be attacked by worms,’ Hutantat said.

‘True. If out of my nine sister-wives, two are rotten, surely these many Aryans are entitled to have a few scoundrels.’

‘Well said King. You are truly profound,’ Hutantat responded.

Pleased, the King added, ‘But I shall ask everyone to hunt for the renegade so that he meet his fate.’

‘No, King. Your words of wisdom were spoken when you said that anyone harming an Aryan will receive the highest penalty. So let him alone. If by chance he is seen, he should be allowed to go his way.’

‘But he may steal elsewhere!’ the King objected.

‘Yes, but if he is caught he must be brought to the Aryans unharmed. He has hurt them terribly. They must be the ones to punish him. How grateful they will be and how mightily they will work for you!’

‘You speak wisely, Sage Hutantat,’ said the King.

‘When I am in the presence of my King who is the fount of wisdom, what else can flow from my lips!’

The King was delighted.

No one saw it as cause and effect – for the events were separated by time and distance, but four months after Ajitab left the temple-site, attacks started on various posts to free large number of slaves.

Meanwhile, work continued on the temple-complex. The entire surface of the hill and even its sides were flattened and smoothed, as though it was all a man-made monument. Bricks to cover the top of the hill were being baked and glazed. The sides were not to be covered with bricks, as it was intended to hide their view by steps running all along the four sides, so that the hill itself appeared a ‘stepped square’. Meanwhile there were make-shift ladders to go up the ‘squared’ hilltop. Surrounding the hill, below, was to be an ornamental garden; and already areas had been cleared, a stream diverted and trees planted, with spaces earmarked for housing soldiers and slaves in artificial valleys and wide trenches, dug up for that purpose; and the aim was that from a distance, not even the hut-roofs should be seen, and the entire area should present an aesthetic appearance.

On the hill, the outer structure of the palace was ready and two out of the twenty-five obelisks had been erected.

Lugal was viewed as the creator of the temple-complex because he had originally conceived of the idea. But it was Himatap who was everywhere, supervising the digging, erecting, clearing and experimenting. Often, Himatap would run to Lugal for ideas, advice, calculations and even help and inspiration. But then he would improve on those ideas and try to erect something far more ambitious than that which Lugal had conceived. Sometimes he would have a construction demolished, only to rebuild it differently, because a better idea had come to him.

Lugal would try to stop him – ‘Brother Himatap, we build all this not for glory of God but to satisfy the vanity of a tyrant who cannot distinguish between what is perfect and what is flawed. Build well but do not seek perfection. The sooner we finish, the sooner we may be free.’

Himatap would agree for the moment, but in the joy of building would forget all else. Everything was erased from his mind except that perfection of what he built. Nothing else mattered.

At last, Lugal intervened, ‘We will be judged not by your grand conception but simply by what we promised the King. Concentrate on that and for the rest, let others worry.’

Lugal insisted that the obelisks should be erected at the end. He was the one who had boasted to the King of his ability to erect obelisks whose tips would attract the golden flow of the rising and setting sun at different times. The conception was clearly in his mind, as though he could touch the tip of an unbuilt obelisk and see the sun’s glow on his fingers. But a theoretical conception and actual construction were not the same; and Lugal remembered the first Ziggurat he had erected in Sumer – thoughtfully conceived and elegantly built – and yet it fell in the first rainstorm.

It was with this fear that Lugal had urged that the obelisks be erected last, and hopefully, the King on seeing the grandeur of the other structures, would forget about the obelisks. But Hutantat told him, ‘The King never forgets a pledge made to him.’

Himatap was delighted to be unleashed on erecting the obelisks. The idea that Lugal’s conception might not work did not even occur to him. His mind-set simply was to work on it and if it failed, he would re-calculate and begin anew. Time and effort meant nothing to him.

But fortune smiled on them. Lugal’s calculations, over which Hutantat and Himatap had also worked tirelessly, were flawless. When the first obelisk was ready, the sun’s glow shone on its top pyramidal tip, every day at the same time. They did not have to look at the obelisk. Looking simply at the sky, with the obelisk behind, Himatap would raise his hand to signal when the sun’s glow would hit the obelisk and it was indeed so!

A miracle – many said; Lugal and Hutantat agreed that Himatap was the miracle-maker. They said – the human mind can conceive anything but to bring that conception alive requires genius.

Himatap -His ancestry and descendants- and the Later Pyramids of Egypt:

Many poets have said much about Himatap’s ancestry and his life and times in Egypt. To summarize: Himatap’s grandfather was one of the 140 explorers who, in Karkarta Bharat’s time, went across the trans-Himalayas to find the source of Sindhu river. He was one of the few who survived, but he lost his eyesight from the sun’s reflection ‘leaping back from ice in the mountains.’ The grandfather never returned to Sapta Sindhu but remained in Tibet and married a local Tibetan girl. His only daughter also married a local Tibetan. Their son was named Himatap in loving memory of his grandfather (Himatap meant the heat of snow; hima – snow; tap or tapas – heat).

Later, even after most of the Aryans left Egypt to return to Bharat Varsha, Himatap remained in Egypt. He married a girl from Egypt. A hundred girls from Egypt wanted to marry him, as he had announced that his wife did not have to die and be buried on his death for as he declared, who would then pray form him, when he was no more!

To a Sindhi and a Tibetan, it was unthinkable that he should die with none to pray for him. And the belief was that it was not just a person’s karma and prayers that counted but maybe also the prayers of others on his behalf.

To the men from Egypt who argued against his stand, he even joked that his wife could not be buried with him, as he, like all Hindus, would be cremated. But still they asked, ‘Why then can the wife not be cremated with the husband?’

Himatap was revolted for he could not conceive of a more heinous sin and asked, ‘Would not such a sin damage my soul and the souls of all my children and grandchildren?’ And here the poet intervenes to add, ‘A Hindu he was, yet he also had the Tibetan belief that our sins jeopardize the souls of our children – but then the echo of that ancient thought lies in many Hindu hearts too.’

In disgust, the Egyptian men asked Himatap, ‘You will then leave you wife to be claimed by any man?’ But he said, ‘God will claim her in His own time.’

But then Himatap also rejected the marriage proposals of hundreds of Egyptian girls. As a Hindu, he said he would be married only to one wife, lifelong, and he had already selected his loving bride.

The fact is that Himatap’s wife could neither be buried nor cremated with him. She died after sixteen years of marriage after having given birth to four children and he outlived her by years. He did not remarry.

It has been said that Himatap was the direct ancestor of Imhotep who in the reign of the Egyptian King Djoser (Zoser), around 2500 BC, was a great thinker, physician and philosopher, as also the greatest of all the architects of Egypt. Imhotep built for King Djoser the first great limestone step-pyramid and exquisite monuments around it – and a poet says ‘so noble was the conception and so wonderful its execution, that it would always bear testimony of the greatness of King Djoser and his master-builder, Imhotep, of an honoured ancestry that began with the blind who found or discovered the auspicious, far off river-source in the land of Bharat and whose grandson built the first great sun-obelisk in this land.’

But others point out that apart from many such clues, there is not clear, direct link to tie up Imhotep’s ancestry with Himatap. Reference to the ‘blind’ may not be to the blind grandfather of Himatap but could be to another blind man who located another river-source. Again, the ‘auspicious’ river-source cannot be said to refer to Sindhu exclusively, as all rivers were considered auspicious. Nor would ‘far off river-source’ necessarily mean Sindhu, as the fact is that every river-source is far off; and even the river Nile stretches 4,000 miles from its remote head-stream before merging with the Mediterranean. Similarly, it is just possible that the reference to ‘sun-obelisk’ may not be to the one built by Himatap, but by someone else later. Thus the question of a link-up between Himatap and Imhotep must lie in the lap of future researchers.

The King was delighted with the obelisk that captured the sun’s glow. So visibly impressed was he that Hutantat promptly asked for more villages and more slaves to be freed.

‘Villages, I shall give,’ the King said, ‘but for slaves, wait until all the obelisks are ready. I have difficulties at the moment.’

‘How can you, King of All, have difficulties!’ Hutantat asked.

But the King spoke of mysterious attacks on slave-posts. ‘But soon, they will be found, and then you will have what you seek.’ Obviously, Ajitab had begun his attacks to free the slaves in Egypt.

Attacks on the slave-posts continued. They all seemed so senseless. There was no effort to steal anything at those posts – only to free the slaves. And how long could a run-away slave hide – and where? Detection was unavoidable, as each slave was branded on the left and right upper-arms. A slave would have to cut off both his arms in order to plead that he never was a slave. Punishment for escape was horrible and continuing. No wonder, the slave-guards were so careless and lax.

But attacks came on the slave-posts in a series and then suddenly stopped; but only to start and stop in the next kingdom; then to begin and end in another; and thus the round continued and restarted.

To begin with, it mattered little to the kings. The loss of slaves simply meant that they had to pick up others to fill their place. With the exception of those who held priestly or official titles from the King, everyone was regarded as slave – irrespective of whether or not they were branded on their upper-arms. The only difference was that the branded slave was kept for certain work at a particular place under the direct supervision of soldiers, with no freedom of movement; while all others – peasants and artisans – had limited freedom, though most of what they produced was for the King . It was certainly the unquestioned privilege of the King to have any of those peasants and artisans taken to be branded as slaves; and sometimes this was done – though not too often as the king realized that the kingdom loses by sending out artisans and peasants as branded slaves. Yet, now, with the frequent attacks to free branded slaves, peasants and artisans were being branded.

No wonder, when the King was dazzled by the second obelisk too, Hutantat asked not for slaves, but a title for all the Aryans so that they were immune from slavery, by any whim of the King’s priests and others.

As it is, the King had given the title of ‘King’s Architect’ to Lugal at their very first meeting. He now asked, ‘What title do you seek for them?’ Hutantat suggested, ‘Soldiers of the King’s Architect.’ But firmly, the Chief-priest intervened, ‘Only the King has soldiers.’

Hutantat did not care what title was given; any King’s title would prevent all future designs to brand the Aryans as slaves. He knew that some had even been given titles of ‘King’s Donkey’, ‘King’s Fool’ and ‘Carrier of King’s Shit-Pot’, and they too were immune from slavery.

Pleasantly, Hutantat said, ‘Very well, give them the title of Aryan.’ But the King asked ‘Aryan! What does that mean?’ The King thought that Aryan simply indicated the lands from which these strangers came.

Hutantat said, ‘Aryan means noblemen who work for a noble cause.’

But again, the Chief-priest said, ‘Noble! Only priests, commanders and King’s Architects are noble!’

Hutantat shouted back, ‘So I suppose your King is not noble; nor the men who work on his noble temple. Do you want me to tell these people that they work for King who is not noble? And you, eunuch, are you the enemy of the King yourself?’

The Chief-priest wilted. Anyone else would be cut down by the sword for saying that much – but not Hutantat.

Pleasantly, the King said, ‘Yes I shall give them all the title of Aryan, except one.’ And while Hutantat worried, the King pointed to Himatap to say, ‘He shall be given the title of Master Builder.’

With feeling, Hutantat said, ‘Oh King! To be in your shadow is to learn wisdom! And how I wish it could flow to your priest, as well!’ But he added, ‘Yet, it may demean and degrade your Master Builder in the eyes of all, if his commander Nilakantha is not honoured.’

Quickly, the King asked, ‘And what prevents me from giving a commander’s title to this Nila. . . . .?’

‘Nothing my King! Nothing is beyond you and your power and your Majesty!’ said Hutantat – and before the Chief-priest could interfere, Hutantat shouted to Nilakantha, ‘Kneel, dog, kneel!’

Nilakantha was bewildered, but that was the ritual for receiving a title; and Lugal too had received his title of King’s Architect with the same ritual. Nilakantha knelt and the King’s whip touched him.

With sadness, the Chief-priest intoned to the kneeling Nilakantha, ‘The Sun-god has spoken. And all shall honour you as such. Rise, Honourable King’s Commander, rise with honour.’

Himatap too knelt like a ‘dog’ but rose honoured as the King’s Master Builder. Then came the turn of the other Aryans. But they were too many, and the King’s hand was tiring. The Chief-priest said, ‘Enough for the day . . . . .’

Hutantat interrupted, ‘Yes, enough, my King; you make the ritual and you unmake it. Enough, if you flick the whip in the air, while they all kneel, and I shall leave their names with the King’s clerk’ – and he shouted to all the Aryans, ‘Kneel dogs kneel. All of you!’

Gratefully, the King flicked his whip in the air and the Chief-priest again intoned, ‘Rise, Honourable King’s Aryans, rise with honour.’

There is a poet who says that the next day Hutantat met the King’s clerk with the names of all the Aryans at the temple-site who were deemed to be honoured with the King’s title and he ‘even added five more names – of the elusive and absconding Ajitab and his four Arya companions – to the list.’ Would Hutantat be so dishonest! The poet himself says:

‘Would this man cheat and lie?
Oh! he could be low and high
Sometimes sweet and syrupy servile
But then to appear vicious and vile
Oh! this man of pure heart
Could play each and every part!’

The Aryans were completely unaware of all that came to them with the King’s titles, apart from the red bands they wore. Hutantat said, ‘All it means is that no one can ever enslave you; but then the guarantee of liberty – is it not superior even to the guarantee of life?’ No one disagreed and he added, ‘But to Himatap, King’s Master Builder, there are many rights; and even more are the rights of the King’s Commander, Nilakantha.’

Among Nilakantha’s privileges, that Hutantat mentioned, was the authority to free slaves and make them soldiers under his command.

Nilakantha pleaded, ‘Oh brother, brother, let us free every slave here and make him a soldier!’

Hutantat smiled, ‘No, that much authority you do not have. You can free only unbranded slaves.’

‘But practically all of them are branded,’ Nilakantha wailed.

‘Thirty-six are unbranded,’ Hutantat said. He knew the exact number of unbranded slaves. Those thirty-six had come later, to be branded on arrival! But Hutantat had pleaded with the commander, ‘If you brand them now, for days they will be unable to work with the pain and blisters from hot branding. Why delay the King’s work! Wait for a lull in the work.’

The commander agreed to wait – and a lull there never was. They remained unbranded. Now it was open to Nilakantha to demand that they be freed.

‘But the commander may object,’ Nilakantha feared.

‘Don’t worry,’ Hutantat said. ‘You have rights as the King’s Commander. But even so, tell him you need fifty soldiers. Surely, as King’s Commander, you can demand that pitiful number. He will hate to lose a single soldier – and then tell him that you will accept unbranded slaves, instead. He will be delighted; he may even kiss you on your cheeks.’

The commander did not kiss Nilakantha but agreed that the unbranded slaves be made soldiers. He wanted to lose not a single soldier of his.

Nilakantha was the proud commander of thirty-six soldiers who had once been slaves.

Hutantat smile, ‘Brother Nilakantha, these are your thirty-six noble deeds to count towards your karma!’

‘No, Master, this is your karma!’ Nilakantha said.

‘What will I do with karma, friend, when the Goddess that rules me is unconcerned with deeds, unmoved by intention and untouched by pleas!’

‘What kind of a Goddess is that?’ Nilakantha asked.

‘That one and only Goddess – the Goddess of Destiny.’

‘But surely, she too follows the laws?’ Nilakantha said.

‘Oh yes, hers is the inexorable, relentless law – law of dice – and by a throw of dice, she determines the future of us all.’

‘But that is no law,’ Nilakantha objected.

Hutantat shook his head and softly chanted :

‘Why not!
It all depends, as before
On the roll of dice – no more;
Not on the thrower’s will or tears
Not our prayers, hopes or fears.
But the unthinking dice unfolds
All that Creation’s future holds.’

‘You mean, the Goddess herself is not in control!’ Nilakantha asked.

‘Who can control a roll of dice!’ Hutantat said.

‘Brother, is life then nothing but a meaningless play of chance forces? That we rise from nothing to end in nothing!’

‘I don’t know what we rise from. But I am content, if it all ends in nothingness . . . . yes, eternal forgetfulness.’

Nilakantha was silent. It was not in him to quarrel with another’s faith. But suddenly he spoke in a voice broken with emotion, ‘Brother Hutantat, you are far greater that all of us Aryans.’

‘And how did you reach this profound conclusion?’ Hutantat mocked.

‘We seek salvation through good karma. You seek nothing – neither salvation nor bliss. And yet, seeking no reward or return, your karma is pure. Your soul reflects the sufferings of others. Pain of another brings tears to your eyes . . . . .’

Hutantat interrupted, ‘I suppose you will soon say that the sun rises and sets over my head! But Brother Nilakantha, think! If man had control over his thoughts and deeds, why would he ever contemplate evil? Why should he build on the shaky foundation of the anguish, despair and terror of others? If the road to salvation is as clear and unambiguous as you say, would not people perform great deed of mercy and charity?’

‘But you do!’ Nilakantha interrupted.

‘The evil I do, the good I do; the evil and good we all do; every step we take, every word we utter – they are all destiny’s roles assigned to each one,’ Hutantat said.

‘And God, the Creator, is without a role!’

‘You who will build this temple and depart – what influence will you have over the lives of those that come to occupy it? None. Perhaps God built the world and departed.’

That night Nilakantha prayed – ‘God, I pray for a soul nobler than us all – I know not what to ask – but I simply pray.’