THEME 25 – Tears and Triumphs at Ganga –Continuing Story of Ganga Civilization (Part 4)
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 585 to 596 from Return of the Aryans)
‘I would sing of heroes but heroes are no more;
I would sing of men but men are men no more.’
‘Knowledge of ithihasa (history)without feeling is an empty shell. It will not preserve the fire of the past but only its ashes.’
‘Civilizations are kept alive only if their knowledge and vision are recreated in people’s minds.’
– (Quotations from ‘Songs of Munidasi, Dasaswamedha’s daughter’ – 5385 BCE – See page 583 , Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani) –
‘One cannot simply wish away the past and adorn it with ornaments of one’s choice – and he who forgest ithihasa (history)assumes the peril of robbing his children of their heritage and their future growth.’
– (Attributed to Gangapati XIII – 5050 BCE – See page 583, Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani) –
Gangapati XIII’s mind was on the ithihasa of his ancestors, as he received the sixteen men who were once enslaved by the tribes. Gangapati XIII asked himself: would the tribe ever have dared to hold our people as slaves in the time of Gangapati I or Gangapati II? Never! He remembered how Gangapati II marched 30 yognas to free a boy snatched by the tribals. Gangapati II lost six men on that sortie and found that the boy had already been killed. But the lesson that Gangapati II left behind for the tribals was so harsh that it remained ‘memorable for all those that lived.’ No one dared hold a man, woman or child of Ganga as a slave. How then did they reach this sorry pass?
It was Dasaswamedha’s daughter who, together with many, had started with the story of Gangapati I and his wife Kashi, though she was born long after their time. She had said that civilizations were kept alive only if their knowledge was recreated in people’s minds.
She continued with the story of Gangapati II and went on to recite the lines about the early times of Gangapati III. But suddenly she stopped and her final verse said,
‘I would sing of heroes but heroes are no more;
I would sing of men but men are men no more.’
Her associates were critical of her. They felt that it was not their task to judge but merely to relate the story of their times. What would Ithihasa be, they asked, if it was coloured by our feelings! And they argued that they must simply pass their knowledge on to others – not their feelings. She said nothing and blessed their efforts to continue, but in her heart she felt that knowledge without feeling was an empty shell. Since then, the group of historians grew from generation to generation, and continued with the story of Gangapati III, and of each Gangapati that followed. It was then an oral tradition and the story will be recited in the form of songs and poems, as the beginnings of the written language were still far away.
Gangapati XIII did not have the heart to continue his reflections on ithihasa (history). Yet he knew that one could not simply wish away the past and adorn it with the ornaments of one’s choice – and he who forgets his ithihasa assumes also the peril of robbing his children of their heritage and their future growth.
Regretfully, he realized that with the end of Gangapati II, the golden age of Ganga ended. A poet said with a smile, how wrong that assessment was! Actually, gold came into the land of Ganga only in and after Gangapati III’s time. Gangapati III was reaping the glory of his father but unlike him, he took the title of the Overlord and Raja seriously.
Yet Gangapati III’s intentions were pious and honourable. He wanted safety and friendship in all the lands from ‘mouth to mouth’ from Gangasagarsangam to Gaimukh (in all the regions from destination to the source of the Ganga River) . He searched for peace, order and discipline in all the lands around too – not for conquest but for harmony – so that visitors and pilgrims traveled unmolested and their bonds grew through art, trade, common culture and even intermarriage. From songs inspired by his grandmother Kashi, he knew of the single common root of all these tribes which had broken away from each other, not too long ago. Why are we not together then, he asked and felt that the task to bind them together should be his. He was, after all, the undisputed ruler of the land of Ganga around Hari Hara Dwara, Sangam at Prayaga and Kashi. But then he also regarded the land of the eastern tribe as his own. Surely, he thought my title as Raja of that land comes to me by right of inheritance from my father; besides my own mother was the eldest daughter of the Chief of that tribe. And the First Tribe? He had no doubt that he was its Raja and Overlord too. Did not my father Gangapati II – conquer it? Is not my baby sister married to the Chief of the First Tribe? Even so, rarely did he utter a word to proclaim himself as its overlord. Sometimes, though, his actions spoke louder than words.
He sent his contingents all the way to Gangasagasangam. They were welcomed everywhere, for they came with aid and assistance for the locals. Also, they brought gifts that fascinated the locals. His men built huts for the locals as well, to entice them away from their caves. They planted trees and crops with implements that the locals viewed with wonder and awe. All the way to Gangasagarsangam, the countryside was dotted with men from Gangapati III’s command. Their task : to build tracks, roads, bridges, huts, rest-houses and even temples to house the idols of the tribals. Local volunteers also began to assist them. At each place, the most helpful tribal was appointed as chief to coordinate all local activity. He was given gifts with the promise of many more to come. The best hut was his. Trees and crops were under his charge so that he distributed fruits and produce among his people fairly. Above all, he was given a horse – a noble animal, rarely seen in those parts. With chiefs in charge, Gangapati III’s men passed on, with only an occasional visit to inspect. And they had every reason to be delighted with the progress.
The locals – given a chief when they had never had a chief before – had unmatched enthusiasm and affection for Gangapati III. They had huts, clothes, crops, tools, implements, temples and even a promise of protection against raids from their neighbours. It was as if all their cherished dreams had come true!
But total order and total chaos are seldom apart. And thus it was that many chiefs, invested with control over temples and distribution of necessities, became idle and corrupt, while some degenerated into brutishness and insolence. Gangapati III’s men intervened. A system of rewards and punishments for chiefs came into play. Chiefs were made and unmade. Often, this power was exercised by Gangapati III’s men at a level well below what he would have wished. But Gangapati III’s commanders were much too busy to go into each and every tribal area.
Gangapati III’s commanders also learnt something new – that the lower the level of inspectors, the quicker were the results. These low-level man could be as brutish as the worst chiefs themselves; and they dismissed a chief or appointed another with ease, without waiting to see or hear who suffered or what anguish lay behind the scenes. The results were swift and sure and the work went on faster than before and no time was wasted in trying to examine what was fair or just. In fact, so successful were these low-level shakers and movers that soon they were the only ones sent to expedite results.
Gangapati III himself was given only the good and great news of the progress achieved in those remote areas. With great pleasure he would send in more aid to reward local chiefs, who redoubled their efforts to achieve greater progress. And local volunteers, then, were volunteers no more. It was forced labour – just a step away from slavery. Chiefs raged to drive their men to extract the impossible and when that failed, there was the lash and the whip or much worse. Men, women, boys, girls were caught anywhere, everywhere and brought to work. A cry of terror rang out but the inspectors from Gangapati III’s command did not hear it. Among the inspectors were also those who were more concerned with personal pleasures and plunder.
Some reported the rumblings of anguish to Gangapati III. But he was convinced of the moral soundness of his policy. The sufferings of a few, he felt, were temporary but the rewards to fulfill ‘the dream everlasting, of unity and oneness, as it was in reality once before, were permanent.’ He was quoting form Kashi’s song but was disturbed when someone reminded him that Kashi’s song was pervaded with love, mercy, tenderness and compassion, based on a an age-old Sanathani law. Lamely, he said, ‘Each step forward costs an effort and demands a sacrifice; and this I promise, that those that suffer today will be rewarded one day.’
After this, no one spoke of the despair of the tribals far away, but only of the progress achieved, and of the fact that more aid was needed in order to achieve the desired goals.
Gangapati III gave all he could. He requested Chiefs of the eastern tribe and First Tribe for help. Willingly they gave all he asked. His requests multiplied, and later, they ceased to be requests. They were demands – and then, commands – of tribute to a sovereign.
Did Gangapati III have a clear idea of the pitiless suffering he caused? Maybe. But then he had a mission to fulfill and a dream to realize – and his commanders had targets to meet.
Yes, Gangapati III had a gracious mind, tender heart, compassion, deep humility, and honourable intentions. But of what avail all that, when he had wrapped himself in a strange innocence that tolerated the misdemeanours of his commanders and others serving him in the tribal lands!
Yet none really opposed Gangapati III – this pitiless, pious man who lived frugally, spoke elegantly, extended help to all in need – and whose every thought, word and deed was inspired by Kashi’s songs. And those songs revived the dream to recapture the unity of the past. All he forgot was that this would not have been Kashi’s way of doing things. Can a deed of honour be achieved through means that are without honour?
Even in the time of his successors – Gangapati IV and then on there was little criticism. In fact, the policy became entrenched – that targets must be met and armies remain ready, always, to march.
It was in Gangapati XI’s reign, that finally, it could be said that the entire land from Gangasagarsangam to Gaimukh, including the land of the eastern tribe and First Tribe became one and indivisible, under the direct command of Gangapati. And a poet sang :
‘ . . . . . There is peace everywhere – silent, sullen, desolate. There is prosperity everywhere – but joy nowhere.
. . . . . . . Much is gained that I can touch, feel and see – but something is missing, something lost, something gone, and I know not what, whither and whence! . . . . . .’
And this poet sang this song at Gangapati XI’s court, when they were celebrating the merger of all the lands under one single Ganga banner – and the poet had something more to say too –
‘. . . . . And the seed of wisdom sprouts into a giant tree to darken this view of our sky, and the star that shone brightly before, is no more;
. . . . . . Did the star fall, to splinter into pieces, or did it go too far above and beyond our vision?
. . . . . . But why shed tears over an unseen star, when we have no more tears to shed for ourselves and our wisdom! . . . . .’
Pity, said some, that his great-grandson of the comic poet, of the time of Gangapati I, should sing with such irrelevance and irreverence! Slavery had come to be accepted officially in Gangapati VI’s time. But only in the tribal lands. Slaves were not brought to Kashi, Prayaga or Hari Hara Dwara. Only once, a group of thirty-two slaves was brought to Kashi, under Gangapati VI’s orders, and more were to follow. Dasaswamedha’s great-granddaughter demanded their release. She was refused. She went on a hunger strike. ‘What will it achieve?’ asked some. ‘My death,’ she said, calmly. But on the fifth day of her fast, she was not so calm and said, ‘With my death, shall die the soul of you all and the soul of this city!’ It was a curse and there were few who took it lightly, coming as it did from the keeper of Dasa’s temple.
Gangapati VI agreed to send the slaves back to their tribal lands, but she demanded that they be freed forthwith. In a towering rage, Gangapati VI finally agreed to free them and she broke her fast on the eleventh day. Most of these slaves became inmates of Dasa’s temple.
But she again went on a fast of thirty-two days – this time against herself – for she said that she had sinned in obtaining the release of slaves by means of a curse that was ‘unjust and unjustified, and it arose from my hunger and frustration and not from the voice of the gods.’
She was weak but cheerful after her fast. She ate frugally. But that night, peacefully in her sleep, she died. Strangely – and no one explains why – the curse which she disowned as ‘unjust and unjustified’ now came to be accepted with full force; and it seemed that everyone agreed that the soul of the city would die, along with their own, if slaves were ever brought in to work there.
But away from Kashi, Prayaga and Hari Hara Dwara, everywhere in the tribal lands under Gangapati VI, right from Gangasagarsangam, slavery was on the rise. And the system continued under each Gangapati thereafter. Hardly anyone knew of the suffering of the slaves, not even Gangapati, for on his rare visits, the slaves were paraded as willing, docile, well-fed though unruly in their conduct and strange in their habits. They even sang songs and danced to entertain not only the Gangapati but all visiting dignitaries. But those were simply ‘puppet performances.’
Gangapati XIII could not wave away his recollections of the ithihasa of his ancestors. How firm was their authority and how unchallenged their command! Chiefs from far and near came to bow to a Gangapati and to them his word was law. He made them, he unmade them. And he was always fair, just and even generous. He gave more than he received, for he wanted the tribals to advance ‘to higher levels and be one of us, as they were once before.’
The how did all this change?
Gangapati XIII knew when it began to change, but he did not know why. It was in his grandfather, Gangapati XI’s time, that the eastern tribe revolted. The revolt was put down quickly but it erupted again in Gangapati XII’s time. The revolts were against their own chiefs. Nor were they popular uprising but arose from conspiracies of lesser chiefs; yet hey challenged the Gangapati’s authority as overlord.
The First Tribe also rose in revolt, though no one knew against whom and what. The chief of the First Tribe was beheaded by his own nephew and since then no one knew who was in charge. Minor new chiefs sprang up like weeds, each to command his own little village.
Gangapati XII’s army moved in to bring order to the chaos. An eerie silence followed, but again, more revolts erupted. Revolts over what? Not for freedom only for power. And more innocents were slaughtered, looted and enslaved than ever before.
But far more disquieting were the disorders all along the route to Gangasagarsangam. People from Kashi, Prayaga, Hari Hara Dwara had moved, from Gangapati III’s time, to populate the riverbank of Ganga, right up to the one hundred and eight mouths of Ganga and even to the islands in the sea. They went not on pilgrimage but to settle down, alongside the tribals. For hundreds of years now, they had lived in harmony, married, intermarried, with common customs, language and rituals. Some had even forgotten their contact with Kashi – but not quite – for in their declining years, their footsteps would revert to that city to die and be cremated there, in order to be transported heavenwards!
These people, originally from Kashi and around, were traders, farmers, artisans, artists, teachers, builders, wine-distillers, horse-breeders and tool-makers. Trade caravans moved regularly to and from Kashi and elsewhere to buy and sell their goods. It was their pioneering effort that made the tribal lands fertile. Not only new art forms but many articles of daily necessity and beauty sold in Kashi came from these faraway lands. And there was peace and harmony.
But then, why these sudden riots and revolts? Why these night-raids? Why kill a chief, when there was none coming forward to claim his place! Why this senselessness? To what useless inconsequence? Regular caravans stopped. The flow of trade ceased. Instead, the armies moved in.
But what could the armies achieve? Silence, obedience, order – and after the army moved away, violence, murder, mayhem. How many could the army punish! And were the offenders not always able to hide themselves? Only the fools and innocents suffered, as always.
The riots and revolts multiplied. Gangapati XIII moved in his armies. But he knew how futile it all was. It was a game of hide and seek. Order would be restored at ten places and disorder would erupt in a hundred more.
Nobody remembered that this process of disintegration began long before Gangapati XIII’s time. Even in his grandfather, Gangapati XI’s time, tribal disorders had become widespread, gathering speed and fury day by day. In his father’s time, they had presented a frightening spectacle.
Yet everyone blamed Gangapati XIII, as if it were all his fault.
But then that was not the only tragedy for which he was held responsible. It was his elder brother who was to be Gangapati. Everyone remembered the charming, smiling, handsome youngster, who jumped over a waterfall and died needlessly, crashing against a rock, in response to his younger brother’s shout (in jest) that he was drowning.
The younger brother grew up withdrawn, inward looking, always guilty over his elder brother’s death. Nobody ever saw him laugh or smile after the tragic incident. He declined to be trained for his role as Gangapati. His mother died. Some said it was grief over her elder son’s death that killed her; others said it was here disappointment over her younger son. His father looked at him with loveless eyes; he found it impossible to forget the image of his favourite son, lost to him. But he had no more sons; and the right to succeed as Gangapati belonged to this ugly boy who stared at the floor all the time and mumbled his replies, keen to leave, not to go to his friends – for he had none – but to be with his blind dog. Even the dog, some said, went blind after it was given to him.
The boy wanted to talk to no one, see no one. If he did not kill himself, maybe it was because he did not wish to leave his dog loveless. Sometimes, he would sit by the side of hermits and munis in the forest. They rarely spoke, and he, never.
His one resolve – never to be Gangapati but to retire as a hermit – faltered, as the years passed. He saw the silent plea in his old father’s eyes, shaken as he was by the riots and revolts in tribal lands. This was no time to leave his father without solace and hit people, leaderless. A sense of understanding arose between father and son – enough to heal some of the wounds in the son’s heart. Perhaps the father too remembered his wife’s dying words to be gracious to his last loving son who had an ‘entire universe of love buried in his heart.’
His father, Gangapati XII, wished it and so the son got married. His father waited for a grandchild. It was not to be. Some said his wife was barren; others said the husband was incompetent. His father died six years after the son’s marriage. The son took over as Gangapati. Everyone knew of the disasters in the lands far away. They blamed the new Gangapati in their hearts. He accepted the blame. Never did he shift blame to his father, grandfather or even to his own people in distant lands who, for short-term gains, were conspiring with the rebel factions.
Many knew that the troubles had started long before his time. But so what! Obviously, the stars went into inauspicious configuration the moment it appeared that he was to emerge, eventually, as Gangapati.
They could forgive him for the poverty imposed on them due to mounting army expenditure in distant lands. They could forgive him for disasters faraway, as fortunately there was not any visible danger to their original homeland. But what was unforgivable was that he failed to provide them with a future Gangapati.
Priests around Gangapati XIII made it clear that while a Sanathani could not have a second living wife, that custom did not apply to a Gangapati. A Gangapati, they said, lived not for himself alone, but for his people and his duty to provide a successor overrode all prohibitions.
‘Why can I not adopt?’ he asked. A poor alternative that would be, they said; the bloodlines of Gangapati I and II and all his illustrious ancestors would then be lost.
‘What makes you think my wife is barren? Maybe I am,’ He argued.
‘Never,’ they said. ‘Unthinkable that anyone from Gangapati I’s line could be barren!’ But privately, some feared that indeed he was sterile. And the priests prescribed not only a second wife, but a third, if the second failed.
The priests went out, scouring the land for a suitable second wife for Gangapati XIII. They were looking for a bride of beauty, chastity, from an ancient family but also a girl from a fertile line whose mother and grandmothers should have borne a number of children. Yes, fertility was the need of the hour. But above all, each priest looked for a rich family who would be truly grateful and generous to him.
But Gangapati XIII had no intention of remarrying. The priests had assumed that his silence meant acquiescence. But how could he remarry? He elder brother, whom he loved more than his life, was no more. His father was no more. The only person whom he loved and who loved him, dearly and tenderly in return, was his wife. And they wanted him to marry another!
In his mind, Gangapati XIII had also rejected the priests’ assertion that much would be lost if the bloodlines of his ancestors were lost by his adopting a child. He never believed that greatness flowed through bloodlines. He knew of too many men of evil with honourable ancestors.
But from the priests, the news went round that Gangapati was to remarry. Many courted priests, lest their daughters went unnoticed. Stars were studied; horoscopes were cast; and priests were loaded with gifts.
Even before the priests spoke, Gangapati XIII’s wife urged him to remarry. He silenced her, ‘Never again speak of my remarriage. It displeases me and the subject is closed. I forbid it now and forever.’
And since a Sanathani wife was always taught to obey her husband’s commands, if they fully met with her wishes, she never raised the subject again.
With fury, he now heard the proposals from priests. Curtly, he dismissed them. The priest consoled themselves with the thought that perhaps he would remarry, if his wife was no more. As it is, she was pale and appeared sickly. A priest callously said this. And then this silent Gangapati, who had never had a way with words, muttered something that would always be quoted to heap ridicule on him. He said, ‘My brother died, my mother died, my father too! They are not replaced. The dog I loved is dead. He too is irreplaceable.’
Can madness reach higher! To compare his wife to a dog! The priest left angry and speechless. Many with daughters, sisters and other females to be married, were angry with the priests and Gangapati. But the rumour that went around was that Gangapati was sterile and remarriage pointless.
But that was not the end. The army commanders fumed too. His orders were clear. ‘Hands off,’ he said. They were not to join any new tribals factions – never to attack new chiefs who took over the lands of other chiefs – never to loot their land, but simply to evacuate their people from the threatened areas to safe spots.
He even designated those areas around riverbanks to which the people must be evacuated for protection. Displacement of one chief by another meant little to him. ‘But the chiefs overthrown are chiefs appointed or supported by us,’ his commanders protested.
‘Can you assure me that the chiefs you appointed proved to be more honourable than those that replace them?’ Gangapati XIII asked.
‘No, they were crooks too. But they were our crooks,’ the commanders said. ‘We lose face if they lose.’
‘Better to lose face than lose blood and lives!’ he said. The only exception he permitted was that if the new chief terrorized his people, they could move in but, again, not to loot; only to evacuate those who wished to move out and leave it to the remainder to choose a new chief. ‘But remain there, if conditions permit, to see that the people choose their new chief freely.’
His scheme may have worked. Perhaps, fear of intervention and the hope of being left alone would have had a restraining influence on the new chiefs. But his own commanders never gave the new policy much of a chance. ‘He will lose all the land by his folly,’ they said. ‘Do we not know what the problem is in the field?’ And they said much that they would not have dared to in the times of earlier Gangapatis.
Gangapati XIII sent civilians to oversee the movements of his armies. That made him even more unpopular. The commanders easily fooled and frightened the civilians – and they returned full of praise for the army, though not for the man who sent them on such foolish missions.
Gangapati XIII himself moved at the head of the army reserves, as revolts and bloodshed in the First Tribe seemed to have gone out of control. Many feared the worst; some even hoped for the worst. But Gangapati redeemed himself. Wherever he moved, he succeeded, far beyond his own and anyone’s expectations.
The fact is that he had more than his little army – he was Gangapati. And the legend had taken root that a Gangapati is invulnerable, invincible, inviolable. The disorganized forces of rebels – unified by no principle or loyalty other than their greed and desire to loot – would flee at his advance, leaving their leaders to be caught.
The legend of Gangapati grew, as his army never terrorized those that fled or surrendered, never took any slaves, never looted and often distributed food. At places, rebel commanders were tied and trussed up by their own men and left in the way of Gangapati XIII’s advance, while men waited to surrender.
Far away, fighting broke out amongst rebel factions, to loot the earlier looters. Some even brought that loot to keep at Gangapati XIII’s feet, as proof of their loyalty, so that they may be among the new local chiefs to be appointed.
Gangapati XIII left the First Tribe in peace and order, though he alone knew that he had failed. What he had wanted was to leave a chief there, who would be the people’s choice. But there was no way he could discover what the people wanted unless he stayed back for months, if not years, to discover that. But he had promises to keep elsewhere. All he did was to leave behind two of his men – Jethmalan and Pratav – and gathered around them all the tribals who aspired to be chief, so that they could decide on the future governance of the First Tribe. Pratav even sent for his wife Mayadevi, son and daughter, to give an appearance to the tribals that every thing was calm and peaceful in the land.
Gangapati XIII returned in triumph. Fickle as people are, they now saw him in a different light. He gave all the credit to the army of reserves that followed him and took personal blame for the twelve lives lost in the campaign. But that only made each of his soldiers praise him sky-high. There had been no feats of heroism – only the bother of rounding up the surrendering rebels and keeping back the rush when food was being distributed to destitutes. But that is just the kind of situation in which the returning soldiers’ imagination can soar high. Only a hard-won victory brings silence and even humility.
Gangapati did not tarry long to bask in the admiration of his people.
He left for the eastern tribe. There, too, there was a ‘repeat’ of what had occurred with the First Tribe. His greater difficulty, actually, was to restrain his own men from rushing forward before the tribals had a chance to surrender or flee. Fed on their imagination of earlier ‘victories’ they were fearless. No wonder he lost twenty-six men even though the tribals kept themselves at a far greater distance than in the First Tribe.
Again, Gangapati XIII returned in triumph – a triumph he did not feel inside of him – ‘I have returned with twenty-six less men than I should have. But how many more shall we lose in the future?’
Peace he realized, was illusory and, at best, temporary. Countless rebels from the eastern tribes had fled to other lands, making the task of his own distant commanders even more difficult. ‘What then of the vast routes and lands that lie beyond – right up to Gangasagarsangam – who can protect them?’ he asked himself.
The First Tribe and eastern tribe, he knew, were tied with his own people intimately over the centuries, with growing bonds of kinship, intermarriage, blood and language. By now, they were all Sanathanis. Gangapati II’s bride had come from the eastern tribe. His daughter had married the Chief of the First Tribe. But the other Gangapatis and their children had also intermarried, though Gangapati VI had moved far afield to marry a tribal girl from Gangasagarsangam.
For the people too, it had become a common practice to choose brides and grooms from lands far away. And as the ties grew, people all along the lands up to Gangasagarsangam came to regard themselves as Sanathanis.
But there was a difference. The First Tribe and eastern tribe were next door and their bonds were closer; they were brought up on fear and respect for Gangapatis, over the centuries, ever since Gangapati II’s resounding victories there. They had adjoining lands. But how far did that fear and respect travel? And again, he asked himself, ‘Who will protect those vast territories up to Gangasagarsangam when my commanders and I speak not with one voice!’
But happily, Gangapati XIII found that his commanders now listened to him. Even the new batch of civilians sent by him spoke with newfound authority and the commanders heard them with respect. As the poet said –
‘The voice of the victor is not easy to ignore;
And wisdom was seen, where none was perceived before!’
Gangapati XIII saw the sudden burst of affection among his own people. He was touched. Yet his anguish was even greater. He understood what was in their hearts and why there was this change of feeling.
Before he had marched with his little army to the First Tribe, events had reached the stage where his people felt threatened – at Kashi by the eastern tribe and at Hari Hara Dwara by the First Tribe.
Is our last day nearing? – was the fearful question being asked by his people. Will this Gangapati XIII drive us all to slavery, death and destruction! A scream of anguish rose also in faraway territories and everywhere there was the cry for help.
It was then that Gangapati XIII moved. To many it looked like a foolish step. They thought he should remain to protect Hari Hara Dwara and Kashi against attacks. But he simply left behind the main army, while he moved with untrained, untried reservists. Nobody expected him to be victorious. But he surprised everybody with victories that were total and outright. And nobody argues with success.
He continued, however, to argue with himself. How long will this success last, even in these contiguous lands! He dared not march too far forward on the route to Gangasagarsangam for then it would be difficult to double back if Kashi or Hari Hara Dwara were threatened! His commanders would certainly fight and defend them more valiantly than he could; but then he also knew that there was something in the hearts of his people that made them ascribe paramount importance to a Gangapati, so much so that if he were not around, everything might collapse.
What should I do to change that perception, he wondered. He was also worried about the tribal lands far away. How could he expect his commanders to get chiefs elected in various tribal lands, when he himself could not achieve that in lands much less hostile! But, above all, how could he tell his people that peace was short-lived! That lands far away were in unceasing turmoil! That savagery and bloodshed were on the rise! That this chain of violence would rear its ugly head again!
He was always reserved and reticent and rarely uttered what was in his heart. Gangapati XIII now simply had to raise his finger to command complete obedience. But at the centre of his heart was quiet desperation. He did not know what he really wished to command. He went through the motions of making Hari Hara Dwara, Sangam and Kashi invulnerable – a task that remained almost neglected since the time of Gangapati III.
Gangapati XIII saw the people’s love and joy in him. He saw it reflected in their hearts, in their actions, in their words. But there was something that they wanted passionately, ardently, even urgently. They wanted their Gangapati to give them a future Gangapati.
There never was a question of his remarriage. He would have to adopt a child – and his wife encouraged it. But somehow, it seemed to him that she still hoped against hope that she would be able to bear a child. He decided to wait and adopt a child only when she was past child-bearing age.
NOTE: The story of Ganga Civilization will continue in further chapters and Themes