THEME 28 – Farewell Bharat!
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 485 to 491 from Return of the Aryans)
“Asked Bharat, ‘But how will I remember all the names you tell me of the sixty tribes which you united?’- and Sindhu Putra replied, ‘Those names exist no more. They are all together now, known by a single name – Bharat Varsha.’ ”
“Mataji (Bharat’s wife) washed Bharat with water from the confluence of Sindhu river with Sindhu sea. After the wash she put a new robe on him. Bharat asked Mataji with a smile, ‘Am I presentable to go where I am going?’ She smiled through her tears, sprinkled water towards the sky, and said, ‘Wait awhile. Give them time in heavens above, to be presentable to receive you.'” (From Songs of the once-blind singer around 5000 BCE) Bharatjogi was on his sick bed, weak, frail, emaciated. Sindhu Putra touched his feet and kissed his forehead. Bharat opened his eyes for the first time in several days. His eyes moved to the far end of the room as though to speak to someone else, ‘My son has come! Yes, I am ready now!’ To Sindhu Putra, he said, ‘I knew you would come, son. Who could prevent your coming!’ He attempted to laugh but it ended in a cough which would not stop. Everyone was worried. Only Mataji dared tell Sindhu Putra not to excite Bharat, nor to encourage him to speak. Sindhu Putra placed his head on Bharat’s heart. The cough ceased. Bharat smiled. He could now feel himself bathed in a ray of light. The agonizing pain in his body melted away, leaving a sense of well-being. He asked in a firm voice, ‘Tell me all, son.’
But Sindhu Putra’s eyes were moist with tears. Bharat smiled, ‘No, son, no. There is no need for tears, nor for delay. The Visitor waits.’ His glance moved to the doorway. No one was there, but Bharat continued, He kept vigil by my bedside to wait for your homecoming. Let us tax his politeness no more. Thank him for the few extra moments he gives us.’ Prayerfully Sindhu Putra gazed at the empty doorway, with the gesture of Namaste, his lips moving to utter ‘OM’. But his tears were still there as he spoke.
Sindhu Putra told Bharat of his journey; of the release of the slaves at the fort; of Namaste; of the abolition of slavery in the silent tribe; of OM; of unity among Jalta and the silent peoples; and finally of unity among all the sixty tribes with the total abolition of slavery.
Deeply moved, Bharat half rose to embrace Sindhu Putra and looked at the doorway to say, ‘My son! My son! He shall liberate the slaves — all the slaves everywhere! He shall unite our land!’
But a troubling thought came to Bharat through his joy. ‘How will I remember all the names you tell me of the sixty tribes which you united?’
‘Those names exist no more. They are all together now, known by a single name – Bharat Varsha.’
Bharat lay back on his bed with a wave of happiness flooding him. But again he asked, ‘Why Bharat Varsha? Why not your name?’
‘It was not my decision, Father. They took the decision.’
‘How? When? Why?’ Bharat asked.
‘I simply said that it was my father’s wish that this land be free of slaves and united,’ Sindhu Putra replied.
None understood. But Bharat did; and he laughed, speaking to the empty doorway, ‘Forgive me, Father, if my name got mixed up with yours. And forgive me for being happy about it.’ Again he laughed.
Bharat asked, ‘How did you enter? Were they empty threats then?’
Sindhu Putra wished to say nothing. Too many were present there. His look-alike, along with the tribal army, may still be on the way. They may all be in danger if the secret was out, prematurely. Sindhu Putra bent forward to whisper for a long time in Bharat’s ear. It could not be a secret of the gods, for Bharat was laughing. It was the hearty laugh of a young man bursting with energy and vitality — and the laughter would not stop. At last Bharat spoke, ‘Life is beautiful.’ He looked again at the empty doorway, ‘And greater beauty is yet to come.’
Quietly, with tenderness, Bharat asked for Mataji’s hand, and thereafter, everyone present came forward to clasp his hand. Everyone, then, except Mataji and Sindhu Putra, left to wait outside where the crowds kept vigil. Mataji washed Bharatji with water from the confluence of Sindhu river with Sindhu sea. After the wash she put a new robe on him. Bharat asked Mataji with a smile, ‘Am I presentable to go where I am going?’
She smiled through her tears, sprinkled water towards the sky, and said, ‘Wait awhile. Give them time to be presentable to receive you.’
They held hands. Their eyes were closed. Silently, they were speaking to each other. When both opened their eyes, he spoke to Sindhu Putra, ‘Tell me the last word again.’ Actually he meant the first word of God. Sindhu Putra intoned ‘OM’. Then holding Sindhu Putra and Mataji’s hand, he looked at the doorway, and quietly said, ‘Thank you for waiting. I am ready now.’ Mataji and Sindhu Putra saw his smile and heard a long-drawn ‘OM’ from his lips.
‘As for me, the battle is over and lost,’ Nandan said. There was much he did not understand. One reliable eyewitness report said that Sindhu Putra, with his army, was facing Rochila’s contingent and soon the tribal army would be wiped out. Another eyewitness report, equally reliable, was that Sindhu Putra was actually at Bharatjogi’s deathbed. The first report was sent four days earlier and the second report only the day before. Nothing made sense. It was absolutely impossible for Sindhu Putra to reach Bharatjogi in that short time, even if Rochila himself was mad enough to escort Sindhu Putra on the fleetest horse. Actually, Nandan had not yet received the report of Rochila’s mysterious death, the disappearance of the tribal army and Sindhu Putra’s triumphant entry into the eastern township. Even so, he felt unhinged even as the tip of this vast mystery unfolded.
Only one thing was clear to Nandan — that he was destroyed. Why did this sudden madness descend on me to announce that I shall prevent Sindhu Putra from entering the land! Now he is with his dead father and I shall be laughed at for ever! Nandan realized that a man who leads his people can recover from any disaster except ridicule. And the next election — will they vote for me or laugh at me?
All his plans, with this single false step, had gone awry. He worried not so much about himself, but about the future of his clan, and the future of his son Sharat. He had done away with the odious law that the son cannot succeed his father as Karkarta. Ably, his friends had argued — why should we place such a limitation on people’s choice? Does it not offend against an individual right of a rya (people) to stand for election, and against the collective right of the ryas to elect anyone they choose? No, we have no individual in view; it is the principle behind such prohibition that is offensive.
Yes, that law was no more. But who will wish to elect my son to succeed me! He now carries, not my legacy of greatness, but my taint of ridicule. And who will stop the floodtide of freedom for slaves, when this Sindhu Putra is thrice blessed — with the image of a god, with breaking barriers to block his entry into the land, and now with the tears of all, over his father’s death. ‘My sun has set,’ Nandan said.
‘There never was a sunset that was not followed by sunrise,’ Sharat said. ‘Your sun will rise; even your son will rise.’
Sharat rushed to Gatha’s village, leaving word for the others to follow.
Bharatjogi’s body lay in state. Normally, the body was cremated by sunset of the following day; but this time a promise was given to villages far and near, that they would be given time to arrive.
Lovingly, men skilled in the art had prepared Bharat’s body for its last journey. Its countenance retained the vigour and dignity which marked the great man during his lifetime. Mataji closed his eyelids and kissed his lips which still held a faint trace of his last smile.
Sharat bowed to Mataji and Sindhu Putra and said, ‘My father prays that Bharatjogi be cremated in Karkarta’s town.’
The once-blind singer intervened to ask ‘Why?’ Sharat bowed to him and said humbly, ‘It is the clan’s main town and Bharatji was our most illustrious Karkarta. The clan reveres him, mourns him.’
‘Everyone mourns him in this village too,’ the singer retorted.
‘Of course. He belongs to this whole land which is beginning to be known as Bharat Varsha. My father wishes that he be escorted in an open, decorated carriage, for all the villages to see him and pay their respects.’
Mataji and even Sindhu Putra wondered why the singer obstructed the honour to their beloved Bharatjogi. Mataji simply said, ‘Yes and I agree and thank you for the thought,’ Sindhu Putra nodded.
‘The honour is for the clan,’ Sharat soulfully replied.
Sharat had many men. Yet he himself slaved to make a single cart by joining many together, decorating it with flowers and gold-threaded cloth. A hundred and eight horsemen were to precede the cortege: five hundred to follow.
Muni reached with Roopa. Muni bent to kiss Bharat’s cold brow. He commented on the lavish arrangements. ‘So much for a hermit.’ But later Sharat said, ‘He was more than a hermit,’ and everyone agreed.
Sharat asked Sindhu Putra, ‘Will you join Bharatjogi’s journey?’
‘Yes of course. He is my father. He guided me through life.’
‘He is the father of the entire clan,’ Sharat said. ‘My father, though too ill to come here, will honour your father in a special way.’
‘How?’ Sindhu Putra asked. He began to like Sharat, but suspicion lingered; was it not Nandan who had tried to block his entry into his own land?
‘He will release slaves and abolish slavery,’ Sharat said simply.
‘What!’ Sindhu Putra exclaimed, unable to believe his ears. ‘But how! When? I thought your father opposed it!’
‘Your father Bharatjogi’s inspiration convinced my father,’
‘Yet everyone says that your father decisively refused my father.’
Sharat smiled sadly, ‘What was my father expected to do! If in the presence of all he had announced the abolition of slavery, can you imagine the storm of protest from those who favour slavery and oppose unity! Your father had the same difficulty when he was Karkarta, even though he was more popular than any Karkarta can ever hope to be.’
‘But your father even said that I could not enter our land,’
‘Of course he said that, but only to protect you. Not from the tribes, but from those, here, who insist that slavery must be maintained. Once they knew that my father was going to block your entry, they had nothing to fear. Otherwise who knows to what lengths they would have gone to stop you!’
Sindhu Putra remembered what Bharat had once said — to lead people, a leader must sometimes appear to be sincere without being too honest. He felt sad at misjudging Karkarta Nandan and quickly said, ‘It will be an honour to meet your father,’
Sharat responded, ‘Thank you. But none must know of his intention to abolish slavery. Otherwise, the entire campaign might be defeated.’
‘I understand,’ Sindhu Putra said. ‘But tell me, do you think he will also agree to unity with the sixty tribes of the eastern region?’
Sharat laughed, ‘Strange! You ask what is in my father’s heart. He wants to request you to arrange a unity meeting with the eastern tribes.’
A happy smile lit up Sindhu Putra’s face and his heart. And he thought: how wrong I was about Karkarta Nandan! He remembered Muni’s words — the life of every man is a deep, dark forest.
Later poets would say, surely Sindhu Putra was no god; how easily he was fooled by Sharat and Nandan! But others argued — man can easily understand man’s villainy, lies and duplicity; but not a god. God trusts.
Nandan was one of those who carried Bharatjogi’s body to the cremation pyre. Everyone knew he was unwell and everyone admired him for the effort. Later at the Memorial service, Nandan spoke, ‘Whatever we do to honour Bharatji is less than what he deserves. Yet what is it that we can do? To confer on him a title, “Foremost amongst us all?” or “The shining light of the Sindhu?” or the “Most precious jewel of the Hindu?”…..’
Everyone applauded but Nandan contradicted himself. ‘No, Bharatji coveted no empty titles. He had a mission, a dream. We must translate that dream into reality and that will be a lasting memorial to him. For this, my son Sharat and I shall consult Bharatji’s son, Sindhu Putra, and I hope you will all agree with our joint decision.’
But, of course, everyone said. A joint decision between a Karkarta and a god! Who can oppose such a combination! Who indeed!
At Sindhu Putra’s meeting with Nandan and Sharat, Nandan said, ‘What I have to say is for your ears only.’
Sindhu Putra nodded; Nandan continued, ‘Keeping before me the views of your illustrious father, it is my wish to take the following steps; first, to release all slaves under my charge on behalf of the clan; this right I have in consultation with the Council; second, to request — as I cannot demand — that all private individuals should free their slaves; third, to appeal to the Parliament of Hindu to approve legislation to abolish slavery for the future; fourth, to appeal to the people to approve the Parliament’s legislation, as it will require the direct vote by all the people of the clan; fifth, by virtue of that approved legislation, to ensure that all who still hold slaves are obliged to let them go; sixth, to grant compensation to some needy or handicapped persons who are particularly hurt by releasing their slaves; seventh, to consult with you on how best to achieve unity with the eastern region which I believe now consists of a single tribe instead of sixty tribes.’ Nandan paused, and then continued, ‘I would wish that this seven-point programme, when implemented, be known as the Bharat Programme. But I must ask you, if you agree or whether you have any reservations about any of it?’
‘I? Karkarta, yes, of course I agree, fully. With all my heart, My father could have asked for no more!’
‘Thank you. As to scheduling, we will go ahead with the first six points, and tackle later the question of unity with the eastern tribes.’
Sharat intervened, ‘Why Father? I thought you were keen on unity’
‘So I am. But remember, there are those who oppose the abolition of slavery and others who oppose unity. I do not want the two groups to join together to defeat us on both points. And suppose we defeated on the question of slavery. Of what use is unity then? To subject the eastern region to slavery again? What do you think?’ He looked at Sindhu Putra, who responded, ‘You are right, Karkarta. But the sooner the question of unity is taken up, the better it would be.’
‘Of course. That is why I want you, Sindhu Putra, to create an atmosphere of unity in the eastern region. And you, Sharat, must continue to take the pulse of the Council and Assembly to see who will support what. Don’t forget I have no more than six months as Karkarta.’
‘How?’ Sindhu Putra was disturbed. He wondered how the seven-point programme could be implemented in so short a time.
Nandan explained, ‘The re-election of Karkarta takes place in six months. Surely, I cannot stand for re-election.’
‘Why not?’ Sindhu Putra asked.
‘If I stand for re-election, those who oppose me personally would also oppose the measures I propose. Even otherwise, to ensure the success of these measures, it would be better if I am away from the fray, to take a principled stand rather than make them a part of my election platform. You see my difficulty?’
Sindhu Putra did not but asked, ‘But what if matters drag on beyond six months and the next Karkarta favours slavery and opposes unity.’
‘That is a risk, of course.’
‘Who is likely to be the next Karkarta?’ Sindhu Putra asked.
‘Who knows! I hope not Kulwant nor Prakash nor Bharadawan. They hate tribals and favour slavery. Even Jethan and Kalyani — I doubt if they are inspired by Bharatji’s dream.’
‘But surely there must be some who support us,’ Sindhu Putra asked.
‘Oh yes, take the Council. Apart from Sharat here, who is seniormost in the Council, and of course deeply committed, there are Madhu Janak, Gulara, Ajit — not well-known but ….’
‘But why not Sharatji?’ Sindhu Putra interrupted.