Chapter 26 – Visitors to Ganga -Sindhu Putra-Continuing Story of Ganga Civilization (Part 5)

THEME 26 – Visitors to Ganga -Sindhu Putra-Continuing Story of Ganga Civilization (Part 5)
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 595 to 608 from Return of the Aryans)

5046 BC

Answers of Sindhu Putra to Questions asked in the land of Ganga

How did he know of the existence of God? Sindhu Putra’s reply simply was: I feel it in my soul. When I see the multitude of trees clinging to Ganga and the stars in the sky, how can I doubt that God exists!

What is man’s duty? Conduct that is pure and includes a striving for unity, justice, harmony and freedom. He who seeks salvation shall not permit another to be held a slave.

Will a man who acts towards these goals achieve bliss? Maybe not; but his purpose is not to seek bliss – only to assume the sorrows of others to free them from grief.

But what about those that only pray and meditate? Truly, they honour God… But maybe they do not do God’s work. They are born in life but they do not participate in it.

What about those who do not believe in God? God is always with us, even if we are not always with him. He will judge believers and unbelievers alike – by their intent and conduct. Non-belief in God may itself be a starting point of a relentless search for truth. Then you see no difference between believers and non-believers? Believers and non-believers all spring from fragments of god’s splendour; and it is possible for a man to be deeply spiritual without believing in God, just as it is possible for believers to commit ungodly acts.

Can you describe God? Only in my heart, in silence, where there is no utterance and the definition is unknown.

Why do people die? Because they are born. Death is their birthright. For some, it is the end of a journey into the bliss of moksha (salvation). For others, it is the start of another. Each generation must die so that the next generation is born.

Like us you speak of karma that leads to rebirth or mukta (moksha; salvation). But what about a totally evil man who through all his successive births commits only evil and never obtains salvation? That would be God’s failure – and God does not fail.

Why will someone who is totally evil journey towards salvation ever? Because his soul is pure. Like the journey of the Ganga, finally, to the sea, the soul knows of its ultimate pilgrimage to salvation.

God created the universe? Yes, but before Him was She – the Mother. —

Sindhu Putra reached the land of Ganga. He was not alone. Thousands had marched with him. Often, he travelled by horse, mule, camel or elephant, and occasionally in a litter. There were times when he could move fast, like the wind itself, without stopping, but sometimes came across terrain that remained impassable for hours.

Poets speak lovingly of the journey – of shining streams and beautiful forests everywhere; of murmuring brooks and the scent of wild flowers; and the splendour of the snowy mountain-tops far away. But also of barren lands, treacherous passes, and tracks that led nowhere; of detours that took days, only to reach a spot fifty feet away. The poets also speak of works of art, of clay and stone, in the midst of lonely landscapes; and of paintings, carvings in caves along myriad lakes, though clearly there had been no one around for hundreds of years.

At many places, crowds waited to greet Sindhu Putra. With the vast movement and migration of people, his name was known everywhere. And if there were isolated spots where he was unknown, the entire, population would hear from those who reached ahead, of a god who was to arrive in their midst.

Sindhu Putra himself said little to those that came to greet him. He simply blessed them all. Many from various villages joined the march. Sometimes, entire villages would move – men, women, children and babes-in-arms. Contingents came even from distant villages and the vast, unending procession continued. It rarely occurred to them to ask themselves to what purpose this long journeying. They were simply following a god.

Only once did Sindhu Putra intervene when the entire village gathered to join his march. From a distance, two emaciated boys and a girl watched wistfully and Sindhu Putra asked, ‘Whose children are these?’

They were village-orphans, he was told. The villagers fed them but the children did not belong to anyone, nor would they starve for food, as there were cattle and fruit-trees all around. And the poet adds, ‘He looked into the eyes of the orphans and saw what lay behind them. He said, “Come, be with me,” and their eyes were sad no more; but he waited to ask if there were any more children unattended. And they told him of an unwed mother who lay dying, with her infant just born, and an orphan girl who waited on her; and like a hurricane he ran to her hut, though none knows how he knew where her hut was. Or maybe he guessed it from their gesture……

‘But then even gods do not always run faster than time and the mother was dead when Sindhu Putra reached, or maybe it was willed that she live only till he arrived; and even through his tears, Sindhu Putra saw all and heard the infant’s cry; and he saw a vision of his own birth, merged into a living reality, as though the infant and he were two lives that moved together, inseperably tied up with one another and yet apart.

‘And he prayed for the dead woman and called her “Mother,” and kissed her hair which held no white flower and wondered why and where she lost it. . . .’

The poet goes on, but with little more to tell, except that Sindhu Putra picked up the infant and led the weeping orphan girl out. The crowd was waiting patiently, ready to march with Sindhu Putra, while the sun was still shining. But delay was added to delay, as Sindhu Putra waited to gather firewood to cremate the ‘woman he called “Mother,” and her ashes he kept, to immerse in the holy river called Ganga, still far away.’

Sindhu Putra walked the last part of the journey to the land of Ganga. Couriers from Gangapati XIII had already reached him, with fresh horses and cushioned carts to escort him. He rode briefly to show his gratitude for the courtesy but then walked. For him, it was a pilgrimage to Ganga mai (Mother Ganga).

Gangapati received Sindhu Putra. Behind both waited huge crowds. There was disappointment in Gangapati’s heart, as he viewed this pale, fragile youth before him who looked even younger than he actually was. Certainly, he did not look like a god, nor even an ascetic or a dreamer. The youth’s words had no flourish, no fluency, even taking into account the language barrier.

Quite a few words of Ganga and Sindhu were common. Many new words Sindhu Putra had learnt on the way from the men of Ganga who accompanied him. Even so, in response to Gangapati’s eloquent words of welcome, the youth merely mumbled a word or two (Tat tvam asi) and clasped his palms together (in Namaste) like a mendicant. And Gangapati wondered – yet this boy is known as a god in the land from which he comes! And Gangapati knew, better than anyone else, of the turmoil that this lad had caused not only by freeing slaves, but by sending them out everywhere, with the mission to free others. For the ways of these freed, missionary-slaves were not always peaceful or godly. They moved in armed bands to strike in murderous raids and even took the risk of being enslaved themselves. Already, they had created havoc in the First Tribe and elsewhere. Some said that Sindhu Putra never sanctioned such himsa. But so what? What kind of god was he if he was unable to control his men!

As it is, Gangapati had never believed that Sindhu Putra was a god. Would a god waste his time with the single, insignificant issue of slavery! Gangapati himself regarded slavery as a necessary evil of a temporary character and not something that would last eternally.

He viewed the evil in slavery in the same way as ‘enslaving’ animals – such as horses, asses, camels and elephants – to use them in the fields, for personal transport or as beasts of burden; and his question was, ‘Is that there is a divine spark in humans and none in dumb animals?’ He foresaw an era in which a vehicle would be found to ply on land, in much the same way as a boat sailing on a river without the aid of animals. Meanwhile, the ‘slavery’ of the animal was as necessary as was that of humans-‘though it too shall pass away in time.’

Gangapati was convinced that if ever a god walked the earth, he would definitely concern himself with the greater problems of humanity – of life, after-life and mukta. Why would a god need to unleash an army of slaves to create disorders and divisions? How then was he different from a chief seeking a power-base for himself? Is that what he was after? Yet, when Gangapati looked at the lad, he did not appear as someone aspiring to be a chief either – simply a bewildered youth.

In any case, Gangapati XIII had no serious worry on the question of slavery. Ever since Gangapati IV’s time, when Dasaswamedha’s great-granddaughter went on a fast to prevent the entry of slaves into the land of Ganga, it had become an established practice never to permit slaves to enter. What Gangapati IV had done was to have huge areas ceded to him in the lands of the First Tribe and eastern tribe. The slaves were kept there to work under the supervision of Gangapati IV’s men; and their produce was exclusively for the benefit of the Gangapati’s lands. Initially, it was a secret, later an open secret, and finally no secret at all. Subsequent Gangapatis perfected the system, expanding the slave-areas and increasing vastly the number of slaves. The slaves were far too well-guarded to suffer from encroachments or rebellion.

Gangapati XIII shrugged his shoulders and put away his passing thoughts. He was about to introduce Sindhu Putra to his wife and to the entourage of sixty men and women standing well behind him.

And now poets speak long and lovingly of a strange event – and many describe it as a miracle, while others go a step further to say that it arose from a heart full of faith that moved the heart of God! But there were some who simply called it a coincidence, even though, at times, they marvelled at it too.

Poetic fancies and descriptions apart, there is no dispute over the basic facts of this event. What simply happened was that before Gangapati XIII introduced his wife to Sindhu Putra, he was already staring at her, fascinated by the white flower she wore in her hair. His eyes – as a poet tells us – ‘seemed vacant, wondering, wrapped in the emotion that always came flooding over him whenever he saw a woman’s hair decked with a white flower.’ Gangapati himself thought it a rude, impertinent stare. But not his wife. There had been doubt and faith alternating in her mind and heart – would this god be the one to answer her constant prayer for a son? And the poet tells us – ‘Now as he stared at her, straight and direct, her will gathered itself into a silent cry of faith. It was as if a door was opening to receive her prayer, and a soft voice was asking her, “Come in, dear child!” But that is not what Sindhu Putra had said, when she reached him. He simply said, “You have the same flower that my mother wore.” All she heard or understood was the word “Mother,” and she said, “That is what I long to be – mother.” Maybe, the waves of her passionate yearning reached him, or maybe, someone translated her words more clearly; Sindhu Putra understood that she was childless. With another show of rudeness, he went into the throng of his own people behind, and brought out the motherless infant he had picked up from the village. He startled everyone by placing the child in the waiting arms of Gangapati’s wife and said, “Be you then the mother of this babe”.

This was not what she had hoped for. She was praying for a son to be born from her own womb – not to adopt an unknown child brought from some faraway land. ‘But as she held the soft, warm body – so light and so lovable – she felt she was holding the future, the earth and the sky, the sun and the moon.’

Gangapati was seething with anger. If a son had to be adopted, he had already formed a clear idea of whom he would adopt. He did not want his wife to be enchanted with a strange, stray, nameless infant from nowhere. He steeled himself to not even look at the infant in his wife’s lap. But she brought it near his face. A vague suspicion struck him. He moved the sheet around the infant’s waist. It was a girl!

A girl! Gangapati was too furious to speak. He wanted a son, to be a future Gangapati, and this clueless clot had foisted a baby girl on them!

Even Gangapati’s wife cried out, ‘But I wanted a son!’

Her vehemence troubled Sindhu Putra; quietly he said, ‘God will give a son too.’ (And the poet here points out, repeatedly, that it was a blessing – not a prediction).

‘When?’ Gangapati shouted fiercely – it was the pent-up frustration of years in his heart rather than anger solely at the youth.

Now, Sindhu Putra was truly bewildered. Helplessly, he flung out his hands, and said, ‘As soon as God wills it. What can I say? Who am I to speak “when” that shall be! It is in God’s hands.’

But then perhaps every gesture of a god is noteworthy – not only his words. In utter helplessness, as Sindhu Putra spoke, he had half-raised his hands, his palms showing and his fingers parted. The young daughter of the chief of the eastern tribe, who was in Gangapati’s entourage, had her eyes riveted on Sindhu Putra’s fingers. She was an accomplished dancer and, to her, hand-movements meant more than words. In excitement, she shouted, ‘Look! Look! Ten fingers! He means ten months! Did he not say, it is in God’s hands!’

Nonsense – thought Gangapati. But pitifully his wife asked Sindhu Putra, ‘God, do you mean ten months?’ Sorrow entered Sindhu Putra’s eyes. Silently he lifted up his finger. That should have convinced everyone that he was leaving it all to God above. But is that what people thought?

Even when Sindhu Putra was escorted to the guest house, and for days and weeks thereafter, rumour, wishful hope and faith combined; and many shared the belief that a prediction had been made by the new god that Gangapati’s wife would have a son in ten months.

‘Utter and absolute nonsense!’ said Gangapati, firmly and furiously – keen also to avoid cruel disappointment to his wife, from any false hope of pregnancy. But he did not disallow his wife from retaining the girl-infant. He had seen the glow on her face as she held the child. No harm done, he thought, even if she wants to adopt her. He would later adopt a son fit to be Gangapati after him. He now thanked his kicky stars that this crazy new god had not palmed off a boy on his wife. That would have complicated his adopting a son later to succeed as Gangapati.

During the next four months, two maids of Gangapatni became pregnant. But Gangapatni herself was untouched. Yet she was happy, fulfilled, as never before, with the girl-infant.
Many looked on Sindhu Putra as a god that failed.

But at the end of the fourth month, Gangapatni felt something was happening. It gave her a ray of hope. The next month, she was certain.

Her son was born twelve months and twelve days after she first met Sindhu Putra. Almost everyone regarded it as the miracle of Sindhu Putra. A few saw it as a coincidence – yet even for them, it was much too marvellous.

Only one poet tells the story, simply and plainly. He calls it a coincidence, pure and simple. He argues that Gangapati’s son was not born by the miracle of Sindhu Putra – neither by his blessing nor through his prediction. But by the mere fact that when Gangapatni became mother to the infant-girl, the birth-juices in her body flowed. This the poet pointed out had happened in innumerable cases, where a childless woman adopts a baby and ‘something happens within her deep,’ to stir her and give birth soon after.

‘Nonsense!’ said many, to the poet who sought to give this simple and prosaic explanation. But even so, some argued, ‘Whose miracle was it then to give an infant-girl to Gangapatni?’ Here, the poet agreed that indeed it was a great coincidence, as without the infant-girl constantly in her loving lap, nothing could have stirred the movement in Gangapatni’s womb. Another said, ‘Yes indeed! The miracle-maker presents a miracle and yet forgets not the physical law.’

But one question was raised, ‘Did not Sindhu Putra promise birth in ten months? And yet it took twelve!’ The answer was simple. ‘Oh yes, but did he not twice raise his figure heavenwards, too?’

Sindhu Putra was hardly aware of the ups and downs in his esteem during the first year that he was in the land of Ganga. He did not even know that Gangapati initially regarded him as a fake and that many others had laughed at him. If he heard or saw them laughing, he was certain they were laughing with him, not at him.

Some around him suspected that their god was being laughed at, but they only huddled around him protectively all the more. A few wondered how a god could be so untouched by disrespect from some. Others saw it simply as a godly virtue.

If Sindhu Putra was touched by something, it was by the magnificence of the land. Nature had been abundant but it was the miracle of man’s toil that impressed him. When he looked at the distant fort in the moonlight, it looked like a golden mountain squared off in straight lines. At first he thought it must be Gangapati’s palace. But Gangapati had a humble home, less conspicuous than the homes of rich merchants.

In fields and farms, he saw oranges and lemons, grains and cereals, trees and plants which provided wells of oils, grapes for wines, oceans of onions, tomatoes, cauliflowers and eggplants. Everywhere, he saw jars and clay-pits in which to stock grain for lean periods and innumerable basket-lined silos for grain storage.

Their fabrics were as fine and attractive as those woven in Sindhu, though they were more conservative, not as gaudy. Many were at work, smelting and casting weapons and ornaments of high quality and making distinctive tablets and seals. He admired their filigreed silver, glazed pottery, shining metalware and intricately carved statues.

Their houses were designed for comfort and their public baths, temples and meeting places were erected with every convenience in view.

He saw the marvels of their irrigation and engineering skill, their broad streets, well-built houses, elegant temples, granaries, chariots, gardens and fountains; and he felt that there was much they could teach, as also learn from, the people of Sindhu.

More than the magnificence of the art and architecture there, for Sindhu Putra it was the Ganga river itself that held the greatest fascination. In the murmur of her waters, he could hear the voices of ages long gone by, as though he had been there, once before, centuries ago. He found peace and solace there – for whirling in his mind were questions that many asked, to which he had inadequate answers. And those questions came, one after another.

Gangapati XIII had no questions. In the first four months, Gangapati had been cold, though always polite to Sindhu Putra. But there were others who crowded round him, some to learn, but many more who simply wanted to find flaws in order to feel superior themselves.

His mistake lay, perhaps, in trying to answer their questions. He should have realized that the sages and rishis of Ganga – the great thinkers and philosophers – who sat in silence in the forests and along the riverbank had no questions to ask.

Sometimes the questions he was asked were foolish and absurd. But in his humbleness of spirit, he would reply. Yet anyone could find flaws in his replies.

How did he know of the existence of God? he was asked. His reply simply was: I feel it in my soul. When I see the multitude of trees clinging to Ganga and the stars in the sky, how can I doubt that God exists! Then there were many questions:

What is man’s duty? Conduct that is pure and includes a striving for unity, justice, harmony and freedom. He who seeks salvation shall not permit another to be held a slave.

Will a man who acts towards these goals achieve bliss? Maybe not; but his purpose is not to seek bliss – only to assume the sorrows of others to free them from grief.

But what about those that only pray and meditate? Truly, they honour God and God honours them. But maybe they do not do God’s work. They are born in life but they do not participate in it.

What about those who do not believe in God? God is always with us, even if we are not always with him. He will judge the believers and unbelievers alike – by their intent and conduct. Non-belief in God may itself be the starting point of a relentless search for truth. Then you see no difference between believers and non-believers? Believers and non-believers – they all spring from a fragment of god’s splendour; and it is possible for a man to be deeply spiritual without believing in God, just as it is possible for a believer to commit ungodly acts.

Can you describe God? Only in my heart, in silence, where there is no utterance and the definition is unknown.

Why do people die? Because they are born. Death is their birthright. For some, it is the end of a journey into the bliss of moksha. For others, it is the start of another. Each generation must die so that the next generation is born.

Like us you speak of karma that leads to rebirth or mukta (moksha; salvation). But what about a totally evil man who through all his successive births commits only evil and never obtains salvation? That would be God’s failure – and God does not fail.

Why will someone who is totally evil journey towards salvation ever? Because his soul is pure. Like the journey of the Ganga, finally, to the sea, the soul knows of its ultimate pilgrimage to salvation.

Yet, the Ganga waters go to fields, they quench the thirst of animals and people, and some even evaporate in the sun. So how do you say all of it reaches the sea? Water turns into water; that which evaporates becomes vapour and comes back as rain; that which is consumed in the fields or by people and animals returns as water to find its way into rivers and the sea.

God created the universe? Yes, but before Him was She – the Mother.

Many felt that the answers he gave had no depth. And to many ire questions, his answer simply was, ‘I don’t know.’ In Gatha’s village, people simply sought his blessings. Here, they were trying to test, even to trap him.

There was no poetry in his words, no fine phrases, no eloquence, no flourishes. His replies were slow, halting, diffident, as though he himself were searching for the answers. Often, he would quote Yadodhra to prove the point that water returns constantly as water wherever it goes, never losing a drop anywhere. Sometimes, he would quote Muni, Roopa, Bharatjogi. Are they gods? they asked. No, they were his teachers. Teachers! Then he was not divinely inspired!

The fact also is that he never gave one, single conclusive answer. Sometimes he groped and often contradicted himself. Yes Ganga is a place of pilgrimage. But so is Sindhu; so is every river, sea and all God’s good earth; every place of work; even a cow-pen. A temple? It does not have to be erected; no, you don’t need a sacred fire; your prayers shall rise as flames.

Again, where he fell short was in expressing the ultimate reality of God. It had to be infinite, eternal, imperishable and unchanging. But then – he pleaded – how could something infinite, eternal, imperishable and unchanging be understood or comprehended by their finite and limited minds which were restricted by time and space? A finite man could not understand how the mind of a finite fish worked; how would he be able to grasp the mind of the Infinite? What a foolish example! thought many. Again, was God unchanging? If He was the first seed, was it not possible that like a seed it transformed itself into a tree? If the progress of humanity was continuously in motion, why should it not be assumed that God too progressed in the same fashion! Was humanity not in His image? Did our duties not change – there was no slavery a thousand years ago! If a man must move to meet a new challenge, why must it be assumed that God remained unchanging?

These questions from so many troubled him sometimes; his mind went further afield. He even thought of the giant birds and animals that he was taught had vanished from the face of the earth – of the 250 foot long makara (predecessor of the crocodile) whose fossils were found by the people of Sindhu; of the garuda bird, who reached the combined height of twenty tall men, whose fossils he himself had seen; of the jatayu bird, larger than a cloud, whose flight caused a shadow to fall from one end of the village to the other, and who was known to lay an egg each spring, but was now shrivelled in size and laid a single egg throughout its life-span of 150 years; of the doli fish which carried camels, elephants and other animals from one shore to another in flood and drought or simply for pleasure; of the Hinmana ape-bird, which flew from one mountain top to another, to throw down herbs and plants for sick animals and fish; and of the biggest of them all, the mighty dandarah (maybe, a dinosaur), who would with one flick of his abrasive tongue gather in his mouth weeds, thorns, and underbrush for a tenth of a yojna (half a mile) uprooting everything but leaving trees untouched, and spitting out insects and birds, unharmed. Maybe, he thought, what these mammoth creatures were supposed to do was all a myth. But there was no doubt in his mind that they really and truly had existed. He had seen their fossils and bones. Painstakingly, they had been searched, re-searched, assembled and reassembled by the people of Sindhu and Ganga long ago and even in his own time. Bharatjogi had spoken about them; and Yadodhra had even shown him some of the fossils, carefully preserved. Their size, dimensions and possibly even approximate weight were no longer simply guesswork. Many had wondered though, why it was that their indents, so busy with their paintings and carvings in the caves, left not a single drawing, nor a single clue, of what those creatures looked like or what exactly they did. But to that, Sindhu Putra knew the answer – man, howsoever ancient, came long after these giant birds and animals were gone.

But why did they disappear? To make place for man? But if they went, would not man also abide his hour or two in this vast scheme of eternity and disappear? Even the earth itself, which began long after the beginning of the universe, would it not also disappear? And the universe! But why? Surely God must have a purpose. Or – a chilling thought came to him – is God simply experimenting? Does He not know who will fulfil His purpose on earth? Or, is it that God simply created the first seed of life and it was the will of creation itself that created, destroyed and re-created further creation?

And he wondered aloud, ‘Is God then a symbol, like other idols, to help conceive the ultimate truth?’ But he had no answers to his own questions. All he believed – but it was faith that guided him here – was that God had a purpose and meanwhile everything moved, everything changed and everything passed – and perhaps man and earth too would pass.

In his confusion at the various questions flung at him, Sindhu Putra even reached a stage when he could neither affirm nor deny – and much less try to prove – the existence of God or soul. He even said that it was unnecessary to ponder over the existence of God and in what ‘formless form’ He is, was, or should be. He spoke of only one certainty in his mind – that it was man’s duty to live sinlessly and to achieve unity, harmony, love and freedom.

Some sneeringly asked, ‘Why do you not begin a new faith away from us Sanathanis and away from your Hindu ancestors to spread these new ideas?’ But his reply was: ‘I know not who my ancestors were. But I pass the same ancient path that my teachers followed. Whatever I know, I learnt on this path. And the path renews itself with fresh flowers of new knowledge and higher thought. What will I achieve elsewhere?’ He added, ‘A good Sanathani is a good Hindu, and a sinless tribal is both a good Sanathani and a good Hindu, Is there a difference?’

Sometimes priests, learned men and even Gangapati’s courtiers who questioned Sindhu Putra carried an echo of his insufficient answers and self-doubts to the rishis and sages in the forests. They heard it all silently; their own faith did not wither; yet some said, ‘A god he may or may not be; but perhaps, he may come to achieve the goodness of a god.’

But not many took these rishis and sages seriously. These forest-hermits, they knew, were always generous, even to the mosquitoes that drank their blood or the wasps that stung them.

But then man is fickle. News of Gangapatni’s pregnancy spread and those that scoffed before, clustered round Sindhu Putra to worship.

Sindhu Putra himself remained untouched, for he did not seem to know that many of them had ridiculed him earlier – and again a poet cries out, ‘How little gods know! And how much more is known to man!’