Chapter 21 – EGYPT UNITED UNDER AN ARYAN KING – Continuing Saga of Aryans of Bharat Varsha in Egypt – 5,005 BCE

THEME 21 – EGYPT UNITED UNDER AN ARYAN KING – 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)
Ajitab’s attacks continued. One action followed another in swift succession. Each attack brought its harvest of freed slaves.

But Ajitab learnt bitter lessons too. He had hoped to convert the slaves into a cohesive force to free others and initially, they cooperated. Later, they failed in discipline. Defying order, they would pursue and attack fleeing guards even after their objective to free the slaves was achieved; they would even loot and burn slave-posts; and while returning they would attack innocent targets on the way.

The worst was that all semblance of discipline broke down when they remained too long in their areas. Then there were violent fights, for no reasons at all, except to show superiority against weaker slaves.

Ajitab’s terrible tongue-lashings had an effect, but it did not last long. His entire plan went awry. What he had hoped was to create a disciplined force of freed slaves who would not only free others, but also learn the art of peace, to till the land and be self-sufficient. But instead, these freed slaves, dehumanized and brutalized by the terror of the past, learnt not sympathy for others but a strange desire to hurt those who had never harmed them before.

Sometimes, Ajitab even saw their smoldering rage against himself when he tried to curb their violence. But he had learnt much in the catacombs and could be as brutal. Once, he ordered that four of them be hanged for beating an old man to death. Again, for a woman’s rape he had two hanged and sixteen flogged for not intervening and stopping it.

Ajitab felt unclean and soiled but he saw no way out, except a reign of terror against any crime by his men. He felt that no one would understand what he was doing. But Hutantat would have – destiny.

Where he failed even more, was to make the freed slaves tend to land or cattle. To them freedom was freedom – have we exchanged the King’s slavery for this new slavery! And their restlessness turned into senseless violence against each other, the longer they stayed back in their hide-outs.

Quickly, Ajitab learnt that he had to keep his men on the move and attack more often, if any kind of discipline was to be maintained.

His attacks on the slave-posts became more frequent than he had originally intended. But the attacks were no longer only on the slave-posts. He had to attack even the King’s granaries, as their own land was hardly productive.

Lessons of discipline during those attacks were learnt by the freed slaves, gradually and forcefully. They found that those who tarried behind to loot on their own were often caught by the King’s soldiers; and it is easy to imagine how mercilessly they would be tortured.

It did not then take long for them to turn into a real fighting force, when disobedience led to capture; and death itself was certainly preferable to being caught alive. Many lost their lives; but even so, he had far more men under his command than Ajitab had planned.

Attacks on the King’s granaries and food-stores multiplied.

The King’s men went round in all directions to probe. On the way, some commanders even suspected the location of their hide-outs. But why go into inhospitable, possibly fortified, terrain! Yet having come all the way, the commanders went extra miles to have easy pickings. And they vandalized the lands of adjoining kingdoms.

These kingdoms had already suffered from Ajitab’s attacks. Now with these attacks by commanders, their suspicion that frequent attacks to free slaves were also inspired by the same source – the vile King who was planning to have a magnificent temple built in his honour – grew into a certainty.

The fact is that the King was boasting about the temple. When he saw the first obelisk, with the sun’s golden glow at the predetermined time, his enthusiasm knew no bounds and he said ‘from one end of the earth to another, there will be no such magnificent temple anywhere.’

True, his idea about the size of earth was limited, and did not go beyond the few kingdoms around him. Certainly, for him and for his people the world ended where the ‘river [Nile] was drowned in the great waters [Mediterranean]’.

In the Egyptian mind, the land of Egypt, with its thirteen kingdoms, was then regarded as a planet on its own, unrelated to any other land, cut off as it was by a cruel sea in the north and vast, barren deserts in all other directions. The sea itself was regarded as a monstrous killer. To them, the rhythm of the river was the rhythm of life. If the sea could drown their auspicious river, what would it not do to humans! No boat would ply in the sea. Even to look at it may bring evil.

Spies and informers of other kingdoms had many tales to tell their own masters; they spoke of the visions of glory that this temple-building King suffered from. And to their kings they reported all this.

The adjoining kings gritted their teeth and made their arrangements to attack.

Ajitab’s ‘slave army’ moved into an elaborate ambush in the adjoining kingdom. Ajitab barely saved himself. One Aryan with him died and thirty of his men were killed outright. Many were wounded, and had to be left behind. That the bulk of Ajitab’s men escaped was due not only to their fighting skill, but the enemy’s failure to pursue. The carnage on the enemy’s side was frightening too, despite their superior forces.

Now, there was no doubt in the mind of the ‘victors’ that it was the ‘temple-builder’ King who was behind all such attacks. The dead Aryan was clearly recognizable. So the King had imported men beyond the deserts to mount his nefarious attacks! The dead and wounded slaves, as they saw, were all branded and this to them was a clear clue too. So this shameless King stole their slaves to fight against them! And he keeps his soldiers in reserve to strike a crushing blow at us!

Ajitab counted his losses. They were many. He did not know that a large number of his men had fled in the opposite direction, deeper into the land of the adjoining kingdom. But even if he had known, there was no way he could go to their rescue.

A scream of anguish rose in the adjoining kingdom. Most of Ajitab’s men, who had fled in the opposite direction, regrouped. They could not go back to rejoin Ajitab but they had a clear, danger-free route ahead, with almost the entire army massed far behind, celebrating their victory, torturing captives and burying their dead.

And these leaderless men, each branded with the mark of a slave, with terror in their hearts, went on to strike terror all around. When they came across a soldier with four slaves, they killed not only the soldier, but also the salves who refused to join them. For no reason at all, they killed bystanders. They ransacked huts for food but then waited also to burn them. No one knows why.

News of their violence and viciousness would reach the commanders and the King of that land but only much later; and then the number of these fugitives was so exaggerated that the commanders paused to muster larger forces before pursuing them. Some commanders even rushed in the wrong direction to give an impression of pursuit with no intention of jeopardizing their own safety.

At last, sense dawned on these leaderless fugitives – maybe there was hope since they hadn’t been caught for so long! They fled faster, without wasting time in senseless murder and mayhem and would only stop to snatch essential food and attack slave-posts to increase their numbers.

They also decided that he who killed the first guard at a slave post would be their leader, though when the attack was over, they could not agree which of the three contenders had killed first. In sheer disgust the choice fell on the fourth.

The first order that the new leader gave was to change their route. He feared that they would be caught easily if they kept going in the same direction. Away from the river, he avoided habitations and led them through deserted areas and forests. Their numbers had swollen with the newly-freed slaves, though they did not have weapons to go around.

Beyond the forest, they came upon two unsuspecting soldiers. They killed the soldiers. The slave-leader and another then put on the soldier’s clothes along with their armbands; thereafter, it appeared as though two soldiers were leading slaves on some official errand; and they went on unmolested.

Some five days later, two dead, half-naked soldiers were found with their armbands missing. Suspicion immediately fell on the slave-army. The spot where the dead soldiers were found lay on the direct route to a different kingdom, though a detour could lead to yet another.

Messages were rushed to both kingdoms, to watch out for villainous attacks from the murderous forces of the temple-builder King.

The slave-fugitives moved into a formidable trap. The slave-leader was wounded but soon he killed himself. He did not want to be taken alive and had promised himself he would die laughing for the few months of liberty that destiny had granted him.

Meanwhile, Ajitab returned to his headquarters only to find some outsiders watching from a distance. He did not know whose spies they were but quickly decided to evacuate to another area, with his entire ‘slave-army’. He had three such areas, each at a distance from the other. Through criss-cross routes he reached another area, but now the informers of other kingdoms were vigilant and news of slave-armies, moving and marching, reached the various Kings.

To what purpose were these slave-armies on the move – wondered the Kings. And they were led by the same kind of people who were building the temple for the vicious King! What else but a prelude to an all-out attack against them.

Ajitab would have been shocked to know that his slave-armies were viewed by other Kings as tools of the temple-builder King. That King would have called on the Sun itself to bear witness that he had nothing to do with that renegade Ajitab and his men. But the King hardly had a chance to explain.

The four Kings from adjoining kingdoms conferred and conspired and their armies moved from different directions. Their objectives :

” To kill the temple-building King;
” To destroy his temple;
” To kill the aliens recruited by the King from the deserts beyond, to build his nefarious temple;
” To divide his kingdom among the four attacking Kings and other kings who would join the attack.

Two more Kings joined the four Kings in their attack. It is said that this was the first time that Kings attacked the land of another without warning. But the attacking Kings were convinced that the ‘first attacks’ came not from them but from the temple-building King, with no warning, notice, parleys or provocation.

The first objective of the attacking armies was soon achieved. The King was at a resort, with two of his sister-queens and all his priests. A commander was there with many soldiers but hardly enough to halt a sudden, unexpected attack.

The dazed King was instantly beheaded. His eyes were taken out, so that whatever chance he had of seeing his way to heaven, was lost. His head was mounted on a tall spear to be immersed with his body into the monstrous sea from which none could ever ascend to heaven.

He would never be buried. The question of burying his wives, priests, or slaves, alive along with him never arose.

The sister-wives and priests were spared, for no one would dishonour women from a royal household or dare harm a priest.

No one knows what happened to the various priests of the beheaded King, but the Chief-priest killed himself by running his sword through his body, and declaring with his dying breath that he be thrown into the sea along with his dead royal master. And the poet adds, ‘. . . . . he knew that his soul in the sea would wander in hell, never achieving paradise, and never would he meet his royal master there, for each one is alone in hell and meets no one except grinning demons who poke burning stakes in every opening of your body. But then he said – let me suffer the same fate . . . . and perhaps a lonely cry will reach out to let my master know that he wanders not alone. . . . .’

After their first flush of victory, so easily achieved, the victorious Kings foresaw no future obstacles to achieving all their objectives. Their armies moved leisurely so that the lifeless head of the dead King be seen by all, for total submission to the conquerors.

Then they moved in two directions with no secrecy in their movements or objectives – one army moved to seize the King’s sons so that no pretender be left to dispute their mastery; and the second army moved to the temple, to demolish it and wipe out the alien builders there.

But the conquering Kings then decided not to destroy the temple since it would now belong to them, but only to wipe out the aliens working on it.

‘To the temple; to the temple; and kill the aliens there!’ was their shout to the army.

The armies often halted on the way. The Kings accepted the homage of the dead King’s commanders. ‘None shall be hurt or harmed,’ the Kings said. ‘Inform the populace of our rightful and righteous victory; and of the defeat, death and dishonour of him whose head is stuck on the top of the spear.’

While the Kings marched in triumph, slowly, majestically, the news of the King’s death reached Hutantat. He grieved – ‘He had the brain of a flea but he was good man, far better than the scoundrels who come now.’

Even of the Chief-priest, who had killed himself in grief over his King’s death, Hutantat said, ‘I called him a eunuch but he was not a eunuch at heart. He was a man.’

But grief could wait. What worried Hutantat was the openly announced onslaught to destroy the temple and kill the Aryans who were building it. Why, he wondered. He had no reason to suspect that Ajitab was seen as the dead King’s puppet and that all the Aryans were seen as his partners in crime.

It was time to act, not think! Hutantat went to the commander, who too had heard all, and had either to submit to the new masters or die.

Hutantat asked, ‘Of what use is your submission to them when their anger is against the temple and those that built it? Why will they spare you when you too have assisted at the temple?’

‘But I had my orders,’ the commander replied.

‘So had these Aryans. Yet they are unprotected.’

Hutantat suggested to him to flee with his soldiers – ‘Hide and resurface when things are quiet.’

‘But what will I do with the slaves here?’

‘Leave them here. Nilakantha is also the King’s Commander.’

The commander laughed, despite his worries. Yet, it was a way out. He said, ‘Sage, you are good to me.’

‘I will do even better; if the conquering Kings listen to me, I shall say that you hated the temple and all the Aryans, so that no one seeks to harm you.’

The commander hoped that every King would listen to the Sage who was honoured and respected everywhere. ‘I am grateful,’ he said.

But Hutantat said, ‘I too need something. You and your soldiers must leave most of your weapons behind.’

The commander understood the purpose of the request. ‘Sage! Gladly I shall do so. But these Aryans have no chance. Weapons would avail nothing against those formidable armies. They will all be slaughtered.’

‘I fear so too. But to some people what matters is not whether they live or die but how they live and die.’

The commander nodded. He did more than leave weapons behind. He went to the arsenal, three miles away with Hutantat. The guards there were already in a panic as terrible rumours were afloat everywhere. He dismissed the guards saying that he and his soldiers would take charge of the arsenal and granary next door, lest there be looting in these disordered, uncertain times. The guards were delighted to be relieved of a duty that would probably bring disaster to them and quickly left.

‘It is all yours,’ the commander said to Hutantat.

‘Thank you, you are really good to me,’ Hutantat said gratefully.

The commander and his soldiers left. All work on the temple stopped. Every Aryan was now engaged on removing weapons and food from the arsenal and granary to store at the temple-site.

Hutantat turned to the slaves – ‘The soldiers have left. You are free to leave.’

‘Where do we go, Master? All of us would be hunted as slaves everywhere. Let us remain as slaves here.’

‘You know the Aryan way! There will be no slaves here! They will set you free but free to do what! To die with them here!’

But really he was going too fast for them. To them it was unthinkable that a branded slave could be freed. It was as if the brand on their upper-arms was a heavenly decree that no earthly power could erase. Why! Even after death they would be recognized in the sky as branded slaves and set apart in a horrible hell. It was not only in the eyes of others that they felt degraded but in their own too.

Hutantat explained, ‘ . . . . . The freedom to depart is yours. Outside, you may have a chance. If you remain here your freedom is illusory, momentary – for die you surely shall, with these Aryans.’

‘But we are branded slaves!’

‘The brand in not in your soul nor in your heart. It is not even a birthmark. Destiny willed that someone degrades you and you felt degraded. Now destiny turns and you can escape or be free and die here!’

‘We will die here, free, Master!’

Grimly, Hutantat explained. ‘You have time to decide and each must take his own decision. But when the armies move here, the moment of decision will be gone. Then you shall be treated as soldiers here, waiting for the moment of crucifixion. The Aryans will fight to the last, but what chance do they have against the mighty armies of the conquering Kings! Be under no illusion, then. Death here is inescapable.’

‘But we will die free, Master!’ repeated a slave.

‘You can also escape free,’ Hutantat said and went to Nilakantha.

It was Nilakantha who now addressed the slaves:

‘I, Nilakantha, King’s Commander, in the absence of the departed King, hereby assume control of this temple-site, and declare you all free; I hereby order that you are free to leave any moment until the armies can be seen by the sharpest eye from this distance; further, I grant to those that remain with us, the title of Noble Aryan; and I grant to those that leave us, the title of Aryan’s Friend, so that none shall ever dare enslave them, anywhere, anytime.’

A slave asked, ‘Sage! Does he have this authority?’

Hutantat glared, ‘He thinks he has the authority. You think you are a slave. I think all here are doomed. We all think. But does thinking make it so! How easy then to think, rethink, to make, unmake and remake. Go, think for yourself!’

Nilakantha did not hold even the branch of a tree, in the absence of the King’s whip, while conferring titles on the slaves. All he had said to the slaves was at the prompting of Hutantat. But his eyes were now closed and a vision passed through his mind of a day long past, in his childhood when his eight-year-old sister held him in her arms, as Sindhu Putra was about to leave with the men of Jalta and the Silent Tribe, who had just been released from slavery; the child Nila was then only two year old, but he remembered that he was the first to hear and be blessed by Sindhu Putra with the chant of ‘Tat tvam asi’ .

Nilakantha’s lips were now moving, as though in silent communion with someone unseen. Then slowly, he spoke with a tremor in his voice and said, ‘I spoke to you in the name of the King. No, that was wrong. I speak to you in God’s name. You are free, my brother and sisters, always. You are free; Tat Twam Asi’ (Thou art That). Hutantat was standing by, ready to shout the words of the King’s ritual – ‘Kneel, dogs, kneel’, so that the ceremony of the title-award to the slaves be properly completed. He remained silent. Strange, he thought; every slave had disbelief on his face when he spoke in the King’s name. But now . . . . they seemed to believe his every word . . . . . and yet they knew that only the King could speak in God’s name, not even the Chief-priest.

Lugal said to Hutantat, ‘When Nila thinks, he thinks powerfully.’

‘His faith is powerful,’ Hutantat replied.

Farewells, laughter, tears.

Of the thirty-six slaves who were made soldiers after Nilakantha became the King’s Commander, twenty-five left. They were unbranded, with the best chance of being able to merge with the population, unrecognized as former slaves. But four returned the next day, even though no danger threatened them outside.

Of the branded slaves, the poet says, ‘One out of every eight left, with food and arms for the journey; but one of every ten that left, returned the next day and two out of every thirty-three that left returned after two days . . . . . .’ Was the poet setting an arithmetical problem or simply wanting to confuse? But maybe his poem does not survive fully.

Many freed slaves too moved from Hutantat’s villages to the temple-site.

The palace structure in the temple was now the granary and the arsenal. Hurriedly, a wall was improvised, with small openings from which defenders may watch, aim arrows, or hurl stones. Except Himatap, whose mind was still on the temple, everyone had the task of collecting stones to keep them at the site.

Lugal said, ‘Don’t let Himatap go out. He will drop everything he picks up and will even lose his way.’ He was not joking. He knew how Himatap almost ‘sleep-walked’ whenever absorbed with the problem of temple construction whirling in his mind. But later Himatap had a job too – to break each brick inside the temple to give it a jagged edge.

All around, everyone else deserted the area. The rumour that the Kings had come to destroy the temple and its builders, was now known. Nobody wished to remain where soon arrows were to fly.

To the Aryans, it was all extremely mysterious. They had never wanted the temple! They had to work on it or be slaves. All they were now seeking was to leave this land but they were not being allowed to go.

Grimly Hutantat said, ‘They will not let you go alive.’

‘But why? – and he replied, ‘There is no reason in unreason!’

‘But we want no fight,’ Nilakantha said.

‘Not a question of what you want. It is what you get; an alternative to self-defence is death by torture or the brand of a slave.’

Lugal and many others collected thorny bushes; the hill-sides, which were supposed to have had steps all round, were now filled with those sharp needles, to obstruct climbing. Day and night they worked and Lugal said, ‘Maybe we will be asleep when the enemy comes charging in.’

Lugal then organized what saddened many. The plants and trees, on the approach to the temple-site, were cut down. Lugal said, ‘Let them have no cover to hide, to aim their arrows.’ Instead, he not only had the thorny bushes spread all over but had many planted with roots.

Nilakantha said, ‘Brother, they will take months to grow!’ Lugal said, ‘Maybe years,’ and Hutantat nodded.

And an anguished voice again rose, silently, in Nilakantha’s heart – ‘Was it for this that we left our land!’

Their most tedious, back-breaking job was to store water. The diverted stream reached below the hill but it would be unreachable if the temple was surrounded. Every hut around was scoured for pots and pans, as many had deserted the area. From Hutantat’s villages too came every vessel there was to hold water. His men went around, buying, begging, stealing water-jars. They were kept, filled to the brim. Ditches were dug in the palace floor and lined with bricks to hold water.

Lugal commented, ‘We are destroying this place before the Kings reach to destroy it. But why not!’

When Himatap wondered what a man with rope-scaffolding was doing on the top of an obelisk, Lugal said, ‘See! He is bald, and he thinks the sun will glow more brightly on his head than on the obelisk!’

But the man was simply there to watch out for the army’s approach.

Everything, Hutantat wanted was completed in time. The Kings were slow in coming. Homage on the way meant much to them.

At last, the man from the top of the obelisk cried out that the army was on its way. Perhaps a few hours more and they would be at the site.

Everyone collected around Hutantat and he said: ‘There are tears in my heart, but I shall not bring them to my eyes, for I must see you all clearly, and it may be the last time we are together. So let us part smiling.’

But there were tears all round. Everyone had hoped that Hutantat would remain. But Lugal had shouted, ‘Who then will speak for you outside, while we remain holed up like rats in here!’

Hutantat embraced Lugal and whispered much in his ear. His last words were to Nilakantha, ‘I have little hope from these six jackals who call themselves Kings. But they cannot harm you if you remain firm here. Beware of treachery. Refuse to leave without arms. Refuse to leave at their timing. Refuse, unless they withdraw. They cannot be here for ever. I may not come but someone will come to tell you if they withdraw, back to their lands, or if any ambush awaits you.’

They embraced.

Hutantat paused to kiss Ajitab and Larali’s baby-daughter – perhaps his gesture to the youngest Aryan there. Then slowly he went down the heavy makeshift steps. He was the last to use those steps. Soon many descended from the temple by rope-ladders to break them, section by section.

Hutantat knew two Kings. The other Kings knew him by reputation. A King kindly said, ‘You seek mercy for these Aryans in vain. My own kingdom was ravaged by their attacks. They even stole our slaves to raise “slave-armies” to attack us.’

It took time but Hutantat at last understood. ‘But that was done by a renegade Aryan, Ajitab, who deserted them to battle on his own. The Aryans are not guilty; and the King who you killed knew nothing.’

‘Be not so foolish as to make a liar out of me,’ the King commanded. ‘I demanded an attack on the kingdom for the vileness of its King and the complicity of these alien temple-builders. Did I lie?’

‘But . . . . .,’ Hutantat began but the King warned him, ‘Take no risks with your life and liberty. Leave before I change my mind.’

The King shouted to those around him. ‘If this Sage ever approaches me or any other King, cut out his tongue and throw him out.’

Even the other Kings were surprised at such treatment of a known Sage.

But there was much on the minds of the Kings. Four sons of the dead King were caught and beheaded. The fifth and last son of the King – a six-month-old infant – was missing. A maid had smuggled him out and could not be found. Her husband was blinded and her father killed – still not clue!

The temple-defenders still had two days to enjoy the stillness beyond. With rope-ladders they could go down, bathe in the stream, replenish water, bushes and firewood. They continued to keep watch.

The Kings were in a bad mood, quarreling over division of territory and their failure to locate the missing infant-son of the dead King.

The Kings retired to a pavilion prepared for them on the river bank and more troops were sent out to hunt for the dead King’s infant.

A small battalion left for the temple to arrest everyone there. The decision on the fate of the temple, they decided, could wait.

Meanwhile, an old man and a woman with a bundle approached the temple. The man spoke the code word to prove that he came from Hutantat. A rope-ladder was sent down. He climbed up with the woman and the infant. The message from Hutantat was terse:

‘Guard this infant as you would guard my one and only son. The Kings have rejected my plea. Expect no mercy from them.’

The old man left. The woman and infant remained. Obviously, she was the mother, as she was breast-feeding the baby. A sympathetic question about the baby’s father frightened her. Maybe an unwed mother they thought, and asked no more.

Perched on a high hill, the temple stood like a fort. There was no way that the small force sent against it could succeed. But it marched with supreme confidence, expecting to instantly seize everyone inside for slaughter.

‘Brother Nila,’ Lugal said, ‘let yours be the first arrow.’

Nilakantha’s arrow sped. The attackers were far away but the arrow was aimed to warn them of the limit of their advance. Only one arrow – the attackers laughed. Their arrows came one after the other but the temple was beyond their range and the arrows fell faraway from the hill. Yet the barrage continued – it gave them a feeling of power. And they advanced beyond the spot where Nilakantha’s arrow fell.

Lugal shouted. The invaders did not hear. The defenders did. Arrows sped from the temple. The invaders halted. Four of them were hit. Their leader shouted commands and now their arrows flew without pause.

A few advanced and most ran to form a semicircle. More were hit. Another angry command from their leader; and they halted and watched their men in the front being hit with arrows and stones.

Quickly, they retreated behind Nilakantha’s first arrow. The wounded were trying to return. Nilakantha ordered his people to stop. Many stopped, but the newly-freed slaves kept aiming at the wounded.

By shouts and force, Nilakantha stopped them. Some of the injured outside were obviously dead with many arrows stuck in them. Then came the lull. Nilakantha complained bitterly against aiming at the injured.

Lugal said, ‘As commander, feel free to behead those who disobey you. But be happy that the point is well made. Expect no mercy from the attackers and show no mercy so that they fear to advance.’

Not a single enemy arrow had fallen near the temple. An Aryan said, ‘God was on our side.’ Lugal was angry, ‘God is on everyone’s side, theirs, ours, the killers and the killed!’ Actually, Lugal was annoyed, not with those that had aimed at the wounded, but with the six Aryans who were last at their posts since their prayers had not been completed. He continued, ‘If God is what I believe Him to be, I am sure He gets annoyed with prayers when some duty remains neglected.’

‘Brother, you put it differently,’ said Nila. ‘But what you say is near to our heart too – that karma is above prayer and piety.’

‘Yet there were those who forgot that and came late!’

Nilakantha nodded and looked sadly at the culprits.

Shouts came from the watchers at the wall and obelisk. Everyone rushed to their posts. The attackers were moving up, behind arrow-range, away from each other, obviously to avoid being easy targets for opposing arrows; they soon ran forward, some straight, others circuitously, hoping to reach spots from where there arrows would be effective. They failed.

And they rushed back even faster. Those among the wounded who could, were limping back painfully. Others just lay there, unable to move.

The sky was filled with vultures circling overhead. The Aryans shuddered.

The attackers now waited beyond arrow-range. Again, the watchers shouted and they all rushed to their posts.

The commander and two men approached from the enemy lines, their arms raised high. Lugal shouted, ‘Let them come, unharmed.’ They simply picked up the wounded, unmoving men and went back slowly.

The attackers now passively waited at a distance – possibly postponing reporting their failure. At last they left, well before sunset.

A grateful cry rang out in the temple. But Lugal said warningly, ‘They will come back, stronger, larger, better armed and ably led.’

Even though they were not expected to attack at night, watch was kept.

Nilakantha saw enemy arrows stuck in thorny bushes – obviously undamaged. He ordered the six Aryans who were last at their posts to go and collect them, ‘with feet, hands and legs bandaged, lest the thorns prick us.’ They had ample arrow-stocks and Lugal wondered if he was merely punishing the six. But then Nilakantha punished himself too, for he went with them. After recovering the arrows, the six were given the task of filling buckets from the stream, to be pulled up by a rope from the temple by others, to replenish the water used during the day.

Exhausted, they returned by rope-ladders. Lugal was still up and Nilakantha said, ‘We are back from our prayers.’ Lugal laughed, ‘If such are our prayers, the enemy has no chance, Brother.’

They had five days of respite. The Kings were livid. The entire kingdom was groveling at their feet. How was it possible that these miserable aliens dared to stand up to them! But since the defeated commander spoke of terrible losses, the Kings waited for their large armies to regroup.

On the sixth day, at sunrise, a formidable army marched, led by cavalry. Its commander was certain of an easy path to the hilltop. How else were so many already up there! His horsemen led and the foot-soldiers followed. But then he made the same mistake as the first commander. The horses presented easier targets; they got caught in thorny bushes, while arrows rained on them. The horsemen and foot-soldiers got trampled as arrows, stones and jagged bricks rained on them.

The commander then had a drum-beat sounded for his soldiers to return. The defenders thought it signaled another wave of attack. Their arrows flew unable to distinguish between retreating, wounded and arriving soldiers. Even the boy-drummer went forward to beat the drum, as not too many soldiers were returning. He too was hit and lay dead, his drum by his side.

The commander viewed the situation grimly. He sent for burning torches. They came. Himself, alone, he rode, within arrow range, holding two torches. He threw the torches at the dry bushes. Many horsemen then repeated the exercise. Two horsemen were hit but the bushes began burning.

‘There is water in my head but no brain.’ Lugal said. ‘Why did I not drench the bushes with water to avoid fire?’

Nilakantha promised, ‘Let the day pass; tonight we will spread more bushes and drown them with water.’

But it was not to be. Sunset came. The enemy remained. They erected tents for the commander and his officers. The soldiers remained in the open. Obviously, it was to be a siege – and then assault.

The commander kept sending out his men who would rush back as soon as a volley of arrows appeared from the temple. He was neither teasing nor courting danger but simply testing the temple’s arrow-range. He sent many men to the sides and back who tried the same ploy.

Lugal ordered, ‘Aim your arrows short.’ Only the soldiers at the back were foolishly near. The rest, prudently, remained far. But far or near, the stream below remained surrounded, no more within reach.

All night, the enemy kept up a battle of nerves. Many slept, but some galloped close, inviting arrows – maybe to see whether the defenders were on guard. They were, but in the moonlight the arrows found their mark only if they were lucky. And what would a few casualties matter to such a huge army!

Morning clarified the enemy’s planning. Long ladders were openly being built. Soldiers with spears and swords covered with animal skins were practicing with shields.

‘An assault with ladders and shields to avoid our arrows.’ Lugal said, ‘and we must fight not behind our walls but from the top.’ His fear, he kept to himself, and his ordered architect’s mind went into the steps to be taken.

The next morning, they saw the dead body of an old man, strung up on a ladder. It was the same old man who had earlier brought the woman and the infant to the temple. Apparently, he had been trying to sneak into the temple with Hutantat’s message and was caught.

But in the afternoon, they saw something more horrible. It was Hutantat’s body and the bodies of twelve others, mounted on ladders.

Something died within them all.

Later, Lugal spoke to them with calmness, ‘We weep together, we pray together, but more remains to be done.’ They understood and Nilakantha said, ‘Yes, they killed the best and noblest Aryan amongst us all. But he lives – always – in our hearts.’

The defenders saw a cavalcade that stirred the enemy lines, with decorated umbrellas and canopies. Obviously, the six conquering Kings.

Soon the enemy-commander walked up to the temple, his arms raised. He gestured for permission to ascend. A rope-ladder was thrown out to him.

The commander greeted Nilakantha coldly. Lugal sent everyone away. He did not want anyone to be recognized if they were ever to escape. He sat nearby, head down, as if he was praying.

The commander said, ‘I have been asked by the Kings to forgive you all if the infant is given to us.’

‘What infant?’ Nilakantha asked.

‘The infant which Hutantat brought here.’

‘Sage Hutantat brought no infant here.’ Nilakantha said. He was truthful. It was Hutantat’s messenger who had brought the infant.

‘Then give me all the infants here,’ the commander said.

Nilakantha shook his head. The commander said, ‘Your life, your freedom depends on it.’

‘Of what use is life or freedom without honour!’

‘You come from deserts beyond. Of what use is this infant to you?’ the commander asked.

‘Which infant?’ Nilakantha asked.

The commander looked at him with respect and said, ‘You will all die but truly shall I regret it.’

The commander left. They all rushed to Nilakantha, ‘What did he say?’

Nilakantha replied shortly, ‘He demanded the impossible.’

Lugal nodded and silenced their questions – ‘Ask no more!’ They silently wondered what terrible demands had been made that Nilakantha and Lugal would not even speak.

Left alone. Nilakantha and Lugal wondered too. Why were the Kings seeking the infant that Hutantat sent with a request to guard him like ‘my one and only son.’ Was he really Hutantat’s son from the woman who brought him to the temple? True, she shed tears when she saw Hutantat’s dead body. But didn’t they all? And why should the Kings want the dead Hutantat’s infant son! It made no sense. They gave up.

For the next two nights, the enemies continued their shrieking and galloping – forward and back – unmindful of casualties, maybe to frighten the defenders of keep them sleepless, tired and nervous. On the third night, well before dawn, Lugal took his little revenge and arrows rained on those at the back who had imprudently slept within range. Their casualties were many, but the commotion, far more. Even the enemy-commander rushed out of his tent, thinking that the defenders had come out to attack.

The next morning Nilakantha again saw the distant cavalcade of the Kings. He sadly thought of the enemy dead below the temple. ‘Those soldiers were innocent. These Kings are responsible,’ he said.

Lugal nodded, ‘Criminals are always on top. They go free. Only innocents remain as soldiers and servants to shed blood for criminals, in the vain belief that they serve a worthy cause.’

Hurriedly, the bodies of Hutantat and the twelve others were being removed by the soldiers.

Lugal concluded, ‘The assault shall soon begin. Maybe the Kings are pressing the commander to attack.’

Lugal was right. The commander wanted ten more days. The Kings gave him till the next morning.

At sunrise, the attack began. Enemy waves, protected by shields, rushed up with tall ladders. The cavalry galloped ahead of them to take the brunt of the arrows, as if the casualties did not matter, so long as the foot-soldier reached the temple hill with their ladders.

But they had only 100 ladders. The defenders were ready. Led by Lugal, more than 200 waited on the top of the wall to pounce on the ladders as they rested against the hill.

From each alternate wall-cavity in the temple, burning torches were being thrown. The other wall cavity continued showering arrows. The enemy attack was ill-conceived and hasty, with too many men trying to do too little, and only sixty ladders stood against the temple wall, to be toppled by the defenders. And the enemy cavalry itself blocked its own men from running back to safety from the burning torches.

Even so, the defenders lost twelve men, due to their own foolish enthusiasm to rush too quickly at the ladders and go down with them; and even more foolishly, to stand on the edge to strike the enemy soldiers on the ladders. But down below, in the enemy ranks, chaos and confusion and cries of the dying and the wounded sounded.

From a safe distance, the Kings saw the carnage in their ranks with all the ladders toppled and their men trapped.

The Kings left. Only then did the commander dare to sound the retreat-drum.

Much is said by the poets on the glowing victory of the Aryans over a commander who was one of the best in the land. Actually, it was due to the temple’s commanding position on the hill-top but far more, because of the folly of the Kings, who ignored their commander’s plea to give him time to prepare fully for a difficult assault.

The Kings were stern and unforgiving to the commander. He had failed to get the infant, believed to be the King’s son, hidden by Hutantat in the temple. He had failed in his attack. They replaced the commander.

But the Kings paused before ordering the new assault. They had the confession, under torture, from two captured slaves who had left the temple earlier. Clearly, the temple had an Aryan commander, appointed by the earlier King; but he had no soldiers and only untrained slaves under him; the rest were his own Aryans, who were simply builders, singers and worshippers, but not fighters.

But then the Kings wondered – if they had no real fighters, how did they cause such havoc among their troops! Obviously, it was their commander who alone planned it all and his must be the skill and inspiration, to ‘place his puppets properly to frighten our spiritless cowards who ran away.’ If they enticed away their commander would not their entire resistance collapse?

A King’s Chief-priest walked towards the temple, arms raised. ‘Refuse him entry,’ some said. Their hearts were anguished over the twelve whose bodies were scattered below.

But Nilakantha said, ‘There are others to save. Maybe he offers a way out.’ Lugal nodded. A rope-ladder was thrown for the Chief-priest.

The priest graciously bowed, ‘It is by command of the six Kings that I request you to meet them.’

‘Why? What do they want?’ Nilakantha asked.

‘What can Kings want! Nothing. They desire that you leave the temple to them and be in peace, free to remain to work for them or free to leave with honour, as you wish.’

‘But that is all we want – to leave.’

‘So be it. The Kings will even pay handsomely for the work you did on the temple.’

‘There is no demand for an infant?’

The Priest laughed, ‘That was a foolish mistake. No, all your people – infants, men women – go with you.’

‘Good. What guarantees of our safety have we?’

‘The six Kings will themselves give you their oath.’

‘Then why did so many have to die, before?’

The Priest smiled, ‘Now the Kings fully believe what they suspected before – that this temple holds the power of the Sun-god and its builders are blessed. If they needed proof positive, it was your victory of so few against so many. Never will the Kings dream of attacking you in the temple or anywhere, for they believe that any harm to you diminishes them all.’

‘Yet your troops are massed there!’ Nilakantha said.

‘Any moment, orders will reach them to depart.’

Lugal spoke, ‘Why must our commander go to the King? You can tell us the arrangements for our safety to depart.’

The Priest was annoyed. ‘Who is he?’ he asked, unable to see even Lugal’s face, who sat as if absorbed in prayers.

‘He is King Lugal . . . .’ Nilakantha began but Lugal interrupted, ‘I am a priest here.’

The Chief-priest wondered – they even have a king here who calls himself a priest; but truly that is how it should be and only priests should be Kings! Respectfully he said, ‘In that case, Lord Priest, you too may join you commander to see the Kings. But who am I to take an oath for your security on behalf of the Kings! Surely, these oaths and orders must come from the Kings, themselves.’

Impulsively Nilakantha said, ‘I am ready . . . . .’

But Lugal cut in, ‘Yes, the commander is ready to give you his answer in two days. He has to consult all.’

The Chief-priest smiled, ‘It is for the commander to speak.’

Lugal glared at Nilakantha who said, ‘Yes, I must consult . . two days.’

‘So be it,’ the Chief-priest said. ‘I shall come again.’

But Lugal added, ‘Meanwhile, your troops will move back, twenty or thirty miles away?’

The Chief-priest nodded, ‘Of course; instantly.’

And Lugal added, ‘We will keep your ladders, tents, everything in the temple for safety.’

‘Yes, please do that. And should you need any food or anything else, I shall have it sent to you.’

‘No, we have everything,’ Lugal replied.

The rope-ladder was dropped. But before leaving, the Chief-priest spoke to Lugal, ‘Lord Priest, I honour and respect a priest like you who questions and checks everything. Do join your commander to see the Kings. And you will realize that they will be generous beyond your dreams for the great temple you leave behind.’

Still, Lugal asked, ‘Why can I not go instead of the commander?’

But the Chief-priest said, ‘Why make the Kings feel small when they ask for your commander? But certainly, you and even many others may join him. It is always nice and proper for a commander to go well-attended.’

Nilakantha later apologized to Lugal, ‘Forgive me for wishing to rush to the Kings without waiting to consult you.’

‘We have been brothers too long to apologize to each other.’ Lugal said. ‘But I fear the Kings are up to no good. There is treachery in their hearts.’

They all discussed it but were unsure of what this new development meant. Suddenly, from the obelisk the cry came – ‘Army moves!’

The Chief-priest was right. The army was leaving.

Discussion was halted. The bodies of the twelve of the Aryan defenders had first to be brought up for the last rites. The three who were from Bharat Varsha were cremated and the nine locals were buried in a grove at a distance from the temple.

Lugal said, ‘They will have died in vain, if we sit back to mourn.’

Groups were sent out to replenish water from the stream; bring stores and ladders, left by the enemy; drag the enemy dead away from the temple approaches; collect thorny bushes for spreading later; flood the approaches with water, so that the bushes remained wet.

‘No sleep, no rest, only work and more work for two days.’ Lugal said to them. He did not ever supervise. He was speaking to Nilakantha who asked, ‘What is your suspicion?’

‘That they will kill you.’

‘How will my death serve them?’

‘You command the Aryans here.’

‘Brother Lugal, you are in command! I serve only to voice your orders.’

‘And what will happen to the Aryans if you die?’

‘The torch is safe in your hands.’

‘And what of their hearts, their morale!’

‘It will hurt them, yes,’ Nilakantha replied. ‘As it hurt us terribly when we saw Sage Hutantat’s body. But that only increased our resolve to fight.

‘Yes, Hutantat’s death had that effect. But another blow will shatter them. I know it will shatter me.’

Nilakantha put his arm around Lugal’s shoulder. ‘Brother, do we have a choice? The Kings promise safety. But suppose we spurn their offer! We sit back and fight here – for what! – and how long! Can time and events wait? Can we win! Never! So one day we will try to escape and they will simply cut us down. Why not, instead, get their oath to leave us alone to go our way!’

‘Only, I have a ghastly, nightmarish feeling that they mean treachery.’

‘Treachery to what end! Only to kill me! One single life! What can it avail them! All right, even so, what are the two sides of this dice? I stake my life to gain freedom for us all. And if I don’t stake it, we all die in any case – it is only a matter of time. So if they kill me, I will simply have died a little earlier.’

Lugal was silent but Nilakantha again asked, ‘What can they hope to gain by killing me? Do they expect that you will then kiss their hands to be ready for slaughter!’

Though all the others were busy at the temple, they knew of Nilakantha’s hopes and Lugal’s fears. Nobody wanted Nilakantha to go but there was no alternative.

They saw Lugal – this man of reason – but then even he could not understand what the Kings hoped to gain by enticing Nilakantha. Were the Kings really sincere? – They that killed Hutantat! But maybe, the Kings wanted to avoid more bloodshed! Maybe they wanted to rush back to their kingdoms and wished to resolve all this peacefully!

Yet they saw Lugal’s grief. But then they knew his compassion and tenderness and they also knew that he loved Nilakantha like a brother.

‘All will be well. I slept only for an hour but I had a beautiful dream,’ Nilakantha said.

‘Your beautiful dreams always come true?’ Lugal asked.

‘This one will. I dreamt that we were all back in Bharat Varsha and you were with us too.’

‘Then your endless journeying is over?’

‘Yes, Purus was right. Our land is beautiful. It is we who fail if we do not keep it pure.’

Many gathered. Nilakantha spoke, ‘I am telling Hermit-King Lugal of my dream of going back to our land.’

They nodded. Once their dream, too, had been to find a pure land elsewhere. Not any more.

The Chief-priest from the Enemy-camp arrived. They were all there, refusing to remain away, while Nilakantha was to leave.

Graciously, the Chief-priest smiled at them all, ‘I see you have watered the approaches to your temple.’

Lugal replies, ‘Yes, too much blood, carnage and death was there! We had to wash it.’

The Priest nodded appreciatively, ‘Very auspicious.’

Nilakantha was going around. He kissed Larali’s child. The Chief-priest came forward to look, ‘Beautiful child. Your son?’

Larali replied, ‘My daughter.’

Lovingly, the Priest picked up the child, fondling it. He checked what he wanted to check and looked around. He saw no other infant, as it was well-hidden in the granary with his mother.

But the smile did not leave the Chief-priest’s face. He turned to Nilakantha and asked, ‘Ready?’

Nilakantha nodded. Casually, the Priest said, ‘It would be nice if you came attended. Commanders always have attendants.’

A freed slave pleaded, ‘Master, let me come!’ Nilakantha saw Lugal nod.

Nilakantha and the slave went with the Chief-priest.

‘Kneel, dog, kneel.’ Nilakantha was ordered as he approached the Kings. But it did not worry him. This was the ritual in the King’s presence. And here were six Kings in this river-side pavilion.

‘Welcome, Commander,’ a King said pleasantly. ‘Now, go with our men to the temple. Ask all your men to come out with their hands up in the air and bring out the infant.’

Nlakantha stared, “Is it a joke, Your Majesty?”

But the King said, ‘We are not joking. You had better obey.’

Hoarsely, Nilakantha said, ‘I would rather die.’

‘Honourable choice,’ said the King. ‘Foolish, but honourable. Oblige him.’ The King looked at his men.

They held Nilakantha. An axe was poised to strike, when the King said, ‘No blood here! There!’ They dragged him to the river.

Nilakantha’s neck was severed from his body. His head fell into the river. They threw his body in.

The Kings looked and then turned their attention to the food before them.

Nilakantha’s soldier was held tightly by the captors. The Chief-priest hit his face with a stick. ‘Listen, dog, go to the temple. Tell them to throw the infant down instantly. We will then be merciful to all. Understood!’ The soldier nodded. They escorted him near the temple.

Meanwhile, Lugal and the others waited. Weary, tired, dazed, after two days of ceaseless work and worry, they still could not sleep in their uncertainty over Nilakantha’s fate!

Suddenly there was a movement! It was their own soldier returning with many others. The others remained behind. The soldier moved forward. Surely, Nilakantha was following! A rope-ladder was lowered. Their soldier came up.

He was besieged – ‘Where is Nilakantha?’ They saw his tears. There was silence. At last he spoke, ‘River Kemi (black river) is red now with Master Nila’s blood . . . . red, red river . . . . . Master Nila . . . . . Nila river . . . . .’ He was sobbing.

The King’s men who had escorted the soldiers waited beyond arrow-range. ‘What do they want?’ Lugal asked.

The soldier said ‘They wait for the infant,’ and he repeated the message of the Chief-priest.

Hurriedly, Lugal collected a bundle and went to the wall, as if holding a baby. He gestured. A man detached himself from the group below and came forward, motioning to Lugal to throw down the infant.

Lugal simply pointed to the rope-ladder. The man went back to consult but returned to ascend. ‘Give me the infant,’ he demanded.

Lugal groveled, ‘Master, we will give the child. But will you then be merciful to us?’

‘Yes, Kings are merciful.’

‘But Master, we beg. Promise us mercy.’

‘Yes, I shall speak to the commander.’

‘Master, where is the commander?’ Impatiently, the man pointed beyond the wall and Lugal wailed, ‘But Master, that is not the commander. We know the commander. He was here before.’

‘You fool, it is the new commander! The old commander is no more!’

‘Master, we mean no offence, but then let the Chief-priest come; we know him. We know none else. He is gracious.’

The man stormed. Cravenly, Lugal heard him, head bowed. The man left in anger.

A debate was on in the pavilion of the six Kings. The report was clear: dispirited men in the temple, frightened women, crying children; and their spokesman groveling like a dog, with his tail between his legs, begging for a personal promise of mercy from the Chief-priest.

‘Send the commander,’ the Chief-priest advised. He had no wish to risk his precious life. But the commander argued, ‘They say they don’t know me and will only deal with someone they know.’

‘Then let the old commander go,’ the Chief-priest said.

‘But they were told he was no more.’

‘Why did we give that information?’

One of the Kings spoke to the Chief-priest, ‘That question can wait. What is important is that you go and bring the infant.’

The Chief-priest looked at his own King. ‘I know their spokesman. He is a sly fox. It is a trap.’

‘Trap for what? To kill you! No one kills a Chief-priest.’

‘They are aliens, bound by no scruples,’ said the Chief-priest.

‘And they will sacrifice all hope only to kill you?’

‘They have no hope,’ the Chief-priest said miserably.

‘He who lives, hopes. He dies hoping,’ the King said. But the Chief-priest was without hope.

The King continued, ‘And you worry over your life when we must have the infant!’

The Chief-priest made one last appeal, ‘Sun-god, consider the insult to your Majesty if they lay hands on your Chief-priest!’

‘It is a sorrow I shall bear,’ the King replied brutally. ‘What I cannot bear is your cowardice.’

The Chief-priest went to the temple. He felt like a lamb going to slaughter. But he sadly thought – God blessed lambs with no such foreknowledge – only man knows where he goes. He forgot to raise his arms, but a rope-ladder waited for him.

If the Chief-priest had any hope, it left him as soon as he saw Lugal’s cold expression.

‘Speak the truth for once in your life, before you die. Who is the infant?’ Lugal asked.

‘Surely you know!’ the Priest answered. ‘He is the King. The last son of the last King.’

‘But they have overtaken the kingdom. Why kill him?’

‘They cannot be Kings while he lives. The Law!’

Lugal was thinking – Everyone has a law and all laws are mad!

He asked, ‘But the child’s mother – she does not look like a queen!’

‘She is no mother,’ replied the Priest. ‘She is the wet-nurse who breast feeds the baby. She smuggled the child out.’

‘But why this mad rush to kill the infant?’ Lugal asked.

‘The Kings always fear being absent from their kingdom for too long. They have to go back.’

Both were silent. Sombrely, Lugal asked, ‘You know why we sent for you.’

The Priest nodded. Lugal continued, ‘You may pray before you die.’

‘I prayed before I came,’ the Priest said.

They looked at each other. Each fell into thought. They looked inside, within themselves.

The Priest saw the rope in Lugal’s hand. Quietly, he asked, ‘If possible, could you kill me by the sword? You can hang me, thereafter.’

Lugal nodded. Courteously, the Priest said, ‘Thank you.’

Lugal picked up the sword. Its point caught the Priest’s unprotected throat. Blood gushed forth.

The Chief-priest was dead.

Lugal spoke to everyone, ‘I killed not in anger, nor for revenge. I killed to let them know that they can expect no mercy from us. But more! So that you expect no mercy from them, ever. Remember that as we die whether together or one by one! But we must try to live – for Hutantat had a dream to save this infant; and Nilakantha had a dream that we all go to his land. Anyone who dies needlessly hurts that dream. The Kings must rush back to their kingdom. They have no time. We have.’

The limp body of the Chief-priest was hanging from the temple wall. His men, who waited at a distance, watched horrified. Two came forward to see closely, their arms raised. They came nearer. Arrows were aimed from the temple, for Lugal had warned, ‘They that come to speak to us mean more harm that those who shoot arrows at us.’ The temple arrows hit one. He lay there. The other, wounded, rushed back.

‘To hang a Chief-priest!’ The commander reported to the Kings. ‘To aim at our men with arms raised! They are inhuman!’

‘Be inhuman with them, yourself!’ the Kings commanded.

Strangely, the enemy army did not appear for the next five days. But when they came, Lugal knew why there had been a delay. Hundreds of slaves came carrying huge wooden ramps; heavy ladders with steps; long poles with fire-torches at the end. Long lines of the enemy army followed.

What had the defenders done meanwhile? Nothing, except to dig ditches to store more water, spread thorny bushes outside and wet them.

And those huge ramps! They were being assembled right there to make them even huger. Hundreds were carrying them, sheltered below from arrows, and keeping them against the temple walls; and then the men perhaps even horses, would rush on to those ramps, while innumerable heavy ladders were raised everywhere.

Multitudes of slaves were driven to the area, hour by hour, to work on the ramps, ladders and siege-works. The enemy was planning war with even itself. Fences were being erected so that the enemy soldiers could not retreat or rush back – they had to go forward and kill or die.

If there was hope in the temple, it was voiced by Lugal, ‘Join me to pray that we die like warriors. That is what we all are – Arya warriors – each one of us, no matter where this journey began.’

He spoke also of the fate of those that were caught alive – ‘It shall be far more terrible than death,’ he said.

It was the first time Lugal had called for prayers. It was always Nilakantha’s task. They prayed with tears. Prayers concluded, they embraced each other. Later there might not be time to say farewell. Egyptian-freed slaves, branded slaves, Hutantat’s soldiers, men from Bharat Varsha, Iranians, Sumerians, Assyrians – Aryans all.

The mother-nurse of the infant-King came forward. She asked Lugal, ‘Bless me Father as Aryan and this infant-King who shall be Aryan.’

Lugal replied, ‘You are Aryan and so is the infant-King.’

They all embraced her and kissed the infant.

Somehow, they did not seem dejected any more. Only Larali. Hers was a difficult task.

‘You must live,’ Lugal had said to Larali. ‘While they massacre everyone, maybe a moment of confusion will arise. Lead the infant-King, his nurse, your infant, and the other children to safety if you can.’

Lugal had pointed to the spots from which the rope-ladder would run and the bundles in which the children would be wrapped and thrown down safely. ‘Even if one child is saved, it will not be in vain,’ he said.

Lugal tried to comfort Larali. He said, ‘Dying is a necessity but we can turn it into an art and when the time comes for us to die, it must be time for you to live.’

And then Lugal said something unexpected, ‘I choose you, not because you have your own infant, not because you must meet your husband Ajitab, but because of my faith.’

‘What faith?’ she asked.

‘My faith tells me that everything repeats itself in time, out of time, in life, out of life. And I know, my dear virgin-in-waiting, whenever someone forces you to wait, something good always happens.’

She smiled through her sorrow. ‘You really believe it?’

‘Yes, mine is the faith that you will meet your husband, that he will kiss his infant daughter, that your life will be complete, fulfilled.’

Her eyes filled up with tears, ‘My life will not be complete, Father Lugal, if you are not with us.’ He took her in his arms and she wept.

There was still time for the onslaught to begin, so long as the multitudes of slaves remained in the enemy area.

Ladders and ramps were being brought nearer to the temple. Everywhere out in the enemy area was activity, excitement. So the attack begins in the morning – thought Lugal.

He gazed at the moon – ‘Farewell, moon of tonight! Look for us elsewhere tomorrow night!’

He turned back to speak to them all, ‘Let us sleep early, sleep well and rise early. The attack comes at sunrise, I am sure.’

Lugal himself did not sleep. He went around the temple. It pleased him that his watchers were alert and the rest were sleeping peacefully. We have all come to terms with destiny, he thought.

He lay down to sleep. Three hours before sunrise, something woke him up. He peered out into the dim light. No movement. He called out to those on watch. ‘Nothing,’ they replied. Sheer nervousness, he thought.

But then it came, like a distant thunderstorm. The watch called out. The noise increased in volume. Lugal stood on the top of the wall. He saw nothing. The obelisk-watchers saw some burning torches in the far distance. ‘Why do they need more army units?’ Lugal wondered aloud. Everyone was up by now.

‘Our moment arrives,’ Lugal said. Still, he was sure that the attack would not begin before sunrise. He saw the usual torches burning in front of the ramps and ladders. They remained unmoved. Obviously, the slaves would need an hour to bring the ramps against the temple wall and now, judging by the distant noise, the enemy was waiting for even more troops to arrive.

He cried, ‘Larali! Live to tell how many they needed to fight against us!’

Suddenly, the distant noise was no more. Nor could the obelisk-watchers see the faraway torches. Maybe, some large movement of soldiers, elsewhere – thought Lugal – and not new enemy units coming in.

Nobody in the temple slept any more. Their task was simple. To fight with arrows and swords but mostly to throw burning torches on the ramp carriers and, inside the temple, on those that tried to surround Larali and the children.

Fortunately, they did not lack torches to burn. Their own arsenal was full; and when the enemy had evacuated after the Chief-priest’s first visit, they had left behind an endless supply. They also intended to leave burning torches on the temple floor to obstruct enemy movement.

An hour before sunrise, drums sounded in the enemy camp. The slaves were rushing up with ramps and ladders. Lugal looked around. Everyone nodded – a prayer in each heart. And then they began to light torches.

Hundreds of slaves carried many ramps all round the temple. Arrows would be ineffective against the slaves sheltered below the ramps.

The ramp-carriers stopped at the thorny bushes. But in the frontline, sheltered under the ramps, were also those who had long pointed poles. With those they swept aside the bushes to make way for the slaves to go through.

Burning torches thrown by the Aryans on the ramps were ineffective. Torches hurled on the ground slowed them down but those too were swept away with the long poles.

Slowly, inexorably, the ramps moved forward.

Lugal looked around at the Aryans, as if to see them for the last time. All his arrangements had failed so far and he thought – these good people deserve a better organizer than I have been. He considered going down by the rope-ladder to throw burning torches directly at the ramp-carriers. But there were soldiers under the ramps too. They would cut down his group to pieces, before it could reach. Better to die here.

Enemy soldiers were forming lines with shields and spears. Horsemen were ahead.

And then came a deafening roar, as if a thousand demons were shrieking. It rose in volume. Lugal saw little in the dim light. The ramps were still faraway. What then was this pandemonium?

There was confusion everywhere. The enemy lines became disorderly. The ramps however continued to move. Suddenly, even the ramps stopped. Then a few ramps fell, maybe crushing many who carried them. Everyone was running, here, there and everywhere. The slaves and soldiers who extricated themselves from under the ramps were running too, within the temple’s arrow-range.

Who was chasing whom? In his bafflement, all that Lugal did was to order everyone to stop aiming arrows and hurling torches.

The tumult increased but no one attacked. Everyone watched from the temple. But they were witnesses to a drama that they did not comprehend. There was no tranquility in their minds. Their hearts were pounding with each roar from outside. Suddenly, an Aryan cried out, ‘I always knew God would come to save us!’

It was Ajitab. He came with his legions of slaves and cut-throats from the catacombs.

Long before Hutantat was killed, he sent six messengers to Ajitab. Two reached Ajitab. Since then Ajitab had been marching, stopping only to attack slave-posts and increase his numbers. His last stop was at the catacombs. His adventures on that long march were many but with most of the soldiers diverted to attack the Aryans at the temple, his perils were few.

At the last moment, before nearing the temple, his numbers grew even more with all the slaves who until recently had worked for the enemy army under the lash.

There was slaughter all around the temple. Yet it took six hours for Ajitab to reach the temple hill. Deliriously they shouted. Lugal asked Larali to throw down the ladder.

Larali was in Ajitab’s embrace. He kissed his infant. Someone said, ‘Ajitab you are our saviour!’

But Ajitab’s own cry was more astonished as he looked at his infant, ‘I am a father! A father!’

He asked where Nilakantha was. They told him.

‘That river shall flow with blood,’ he shouted.

But Lugal said, ‘Let them die who deserve to die. But let their blood not pollute Nila’s River!’

Everyone was talking to Ajitab, all at once. Outside, confusion still reigned. But the most repetitive cry – resonant and booming – was, ‘King Ajitab, Ajitab, King Ajitab.’

Some asked, ‘They call you King!’

Ajitab dismissed it, ‘I was called the King of Catacombs when I led thieves and robbers for a time. The title still seems to unite freed slaves around me and adds to their spirit and morale.’

‘Who but a King could save us!’ an Arya said.

‘I am no King,’ Ajitab retorted. ‘Lugal is the one whom we call King.’ And he picked up the infant-King, ‘And we have a real King too.’

‘And outside, six Kings wait to kill him,’ Lugal said.

‘They will die,’ Ajitab said evenly.

Ajitab was in the temple less than three hours. Then he left. ‘Why?’ everyone cried. But he said his army of ex-slaves would go wild with bestiality and brutality unless he was out there to control them. ‘My men will guard the temple outside. Let them not come up. They are not a well-ordered lot.’

Ajitab returned after nine days. All six Kings had been caught. They were stabbed in the heart and left to rot by the side of the river. ‘Let them keep watching the river where Nila’s blood flowed,’ Ajitab said.

But the next day, the bodies of five out of the six Kings were missing from the riverbank. A poet explained, ‘The Chief-priests of the five Kings took away their bodies to bury them. Only the body of the King whose Chief-priest was killed at the temple remained rotting by the riverbank. Why would the Chief-priests of other Kings help a King who sends his own Chief-priest to premature death! And for him, came the vultures.’

From then on, Ajitab’s visits to the temple were brief.

In the temple, every heart had a single question – How long shall we be here in this land? – and each asked, ‘How long!’

And Himatap said, ‘Long, very long,’ but he was thinking of the damage to the temple, with the water ditches and battered walls, broken bricks and burning torches – and he felt that all must now be repaired.

Peace came slowly to the six kingdoms and then in all the thirteen kingdoms. It was a peace imposed by Ajitab’s contingents. Soon all the kingdoms would have a single name – Kingdom of Ajitab. Its name as Kingdom of Egypt would come later and, as said some, as an adaptation of Kingdom of Ajitab.

But then Ajitab was no longer called the King. Nor was Lugal so called. Ajitab had a title though – King’s Commander-in-Chief. And Lugal had a title too – King’s Keeper (Regent).

The title of King belonged solely and exclusively to the infant, the last son of the King who was killed by the six attacking Kings.

The infant’s real mother had been spared initially, but was later killed as the six Kings suspected her of conspiring to smuggle him out. The wet-nurse who had protected the infant-King had the title of ‘King’s Mother.’

Many months later, the Aryans left the kingdom. Their quest was over and now they were homeward bound, with no desire to go elsewhere. They were escorted by a large contingent of Ajitab’s well-trained, disciplined troops. Everyone who was at the temple left with them except Himatap – King’s Builder, Lugal – King’s Keeper, Ajitab – King’s Commander, Larali, King’s Mother and two infants – Larali’s daughter and the infant-King.

‘Come with us,’ the Aryans pleaded with Lugal. For, as they said, ‘The best of Aryans must not remain behind.’ But Lugal had promises to keep. He thought of Hutantat’s message about the infant-King – ‘Guard the infant as you would guard my one and only son.’ He would keep faith.

And he thought, when the infant was safe, secure and grown, he would go to Assyria and Sumeria. There was a dream in Lugal’s mind about his homeland – a dream that was vague and formless but sometimes it was also pleasant like the lament of a bird that had lost its mate.

Lugal would leave the kingdom sixteen years later, when the King was grown and fully in command. The King called himself Aryan, bound by his oath to govern righteously by the noble Arya code of conduct.

Meanwhile, Lugal had abolished slavery in the kingdom. Anyone who disobeyed and kept a slave would have his upper-arms branded, apart from his wealth being confiscated. There were no eunuch Chief-priests or priests in the kingdom any more. Marrying one’s sister was considered incestuous.

Ajitab, Larali and their two sons – fourteen and twelve years old – left with Lugal. Their daughter, who was born in the temple, was left behind. She had married the King. Poets say that she and the King fell in love when they were infants together in the temple.

For three years, Lugal and Ajitab would be in the thick of fighting in Assyria and Sumeria. They had brought troops from the kingdom of Ajitab. But their larger support came from the Aryans there and the locals who joined the Aryans.

Lugal would soon be the undisputed ruler of Assyria and Sumeria. He had no imperial ambition. But King, he had to be, if exploitation by the priests was to be suppressed and the noble Arya Code, introduced.

Ajitab remained as Lugal’s commander for another two years. Then he left with Larali and four sons.

Lugal kept back Ajitab’s nineteen-year-old son. He told Larali, ‘You have too many sons; I have none.’

Lugal promised to leave Sumeria after three years for a visit to Bharat Varsha. He did. He nominated his son (Ajitab and Larali’s son, adopted by him), as his Regent and successor.

The Aryans who had returned to Bharat Varsha long ago, thronged to meet this Sumerian Lugal of whom it was said that he was the highest and noblest of all Aryans.

Lugal never went back to his homeland and passed his last days on the banks of the Ganga – and when someone asked him if he had understood the mystery of the universe, he said he had not even grasped the mystery of the Aryans of Bharat Varsha who left their land of promise, purity and glory for an elusive quest into the unkown.

***

Bhagwan S. Gidwani