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Are you all right? Your shoulder? It looks bad. I'm fine. Don't worry. What did he throw at the horseman? Sati frowned and shook her head. She took a closer look at the coin. It had the face of a strange man with a crown on his head. Strange, because unlike a Naga, he had no deformity. It had a small symbol of a horizontal crescent moon. But the bizarre part was the network of lines running across the coin.

Two crooked lines joined in the middle in the shape of an irregular cone and then they broke up into a spidery network. But what do these lines symbolise? But he did know one thing clearly. His gut instinct was unambiguous. Find the Nagas. They are jour path to discovering evil.

Sati could almost read her husband's mind. You led us to our greatest victory. Now we have to finish the job. The evil Chandravanshi way of life has to end and these people have to be brought to our pure Suryavanshi ways. I understand now that my mission is different. Shiva's words were a balm to his soul. Sati and Parvateshwar, to Shiva's right, were quiet. Nandi and Veerbhadra stood further away, on guard but listening in avidly.

The only one as angry as Daksha was Bhagirath, the crown prince of Ayodhya. We are not evil! You will not insult the Neelkanth. He speaks before he thinks. You said your mission is different. How can Ayodhya help? He turned towards Dilipa. But there are some in your empire who are.

I want to know how to reach those people. He would be able to answer your questions. But the entry of any foreign person, including us, is banned in that strange but very rich kingdom. Sometimes, I actually think the Brangas pay tribute to my empire only to keep us from entering their land, not because they are scared of being defeated by us in battle. How is that possible? We don't insist on everyone following one single law. Every kingdom has the right to its own king, its own rules and its own way of life.

They pay Ayodhya a tribute because we defeated them in battle through the great Ashwamedh jagna. If a king stops the horse, we battle, defeat and annexe that territory. If they don't stop the horse, then the kingdom becomes our colony and pays us tribute, but is still allowed to have its own laws.

So we are more like a confederacy of aligned kings rather than a fanatical empire like Meluha. They pay you tribute because if they don't, you will attack their lands and plunder them. Where is the Royal Dharma in that? In Meluha, being an emperor does not just give you the right to receive tribute, but it also confers the responsibility to work for the good of all the empire's subjects. By what right? People should be allowed to do whatever they wish.

Your stupidity is even more apparent than your immoral values! Seeing a much more confident Shiva, not just accepting, but living his role as the Neelkanth.

Daksha's heart sank. He knew that fulfilling his father's dream of a member of their family being Emperor of all India, and bringing the Suryavanshi way of life to all its citizens, was becoming increasingly remote.

He could defeat the Swadweepans in battle due to his army's superior tactics and technology, but he did not have enough soldiers to control the conquered land. For that, he needed the faith that the Swadweepans had in the Neelkanth.

If the Neelkanth didn't go along with his way of thinking, his plans were bound to fail. It is the only kingdom in Swadweep that the Brangas deign to trade with. Furthermore, there are many refugees from Branga settled in Kashi.

You said Branga was a rich land. But I'm not quite certain. Very few people can be certain about what goes on in Branga! But the King of Kashi would certainly have better answers. Should I summon him here, My Lord? Sati suddenly piped up as a thought struck her and turned towards Dilipa.

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Her voice was nasal due to the bandage on her nose. But where exactly is Branga? He turned to Sati, smiling. Sati smiled back. They aren't lines! They are rivers! Shiva reached into his pouch and pulled out the coin he had recovered from the Naga and showed it to Dilipa.

But these coins are rare. The Brangas never send tribute in coins, only in gold ingots. The Chandravanshis certainly know how to savour the finer things in life. The marijuana was working its magic on him. The two friends were on a small hill outside Ayodhya, enjoying the evening breeze. The view was stunning. The gentle slope of the grassy hill descended into a sparsely forested plain, which ended in a sheer cliff at a far distance.

The tempestuous Sarayu, which had cut through the cliff over many millennia, flowed down south, rumbling passionately. The sun setting gendy beyond the horizon completed the dramatic beauty of the tranquil moment. Shiva winked at Veerbhadra before taking a deep drag. He knew Daksha was unhappy about his changed stance on the Chandravanshis. And as he himself did not want any distractions while searching for the Nagas, he had hit upon an ingenious compromise to give Daksha a sense of victory and yet keep Dilipa happy as well.

Shiva had decreed that Daksha would henceforth be known as Emperor of India. His name would not only be taken first during prayers at the royal court at Devagiri, but also at Ayodhya. Dilipa, in turn, would be known as Emperor of Swadweep within the Chandravanshi areas, and the 'brother of the Emperor' in Meluha. His name would be taken after Daksha's in court prayers in both Devagiri and Ayodhya.

Dilipa's kingdom would pay a nominal tribute of a hundred thousand gold coins to Meluha, which Daksha had pronounced would be donated to the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya. Thus Daksha had at least one of his dreams fulfilled: Being Emperor of India. Content, Daksha had returned to Devagiri in triumph. The ever pragmatic Dilipa was delighted that despite losing the war with the Suryavanshis, for all practical purposes, he retained his empire and his independence.

I'm getting bored here. That was brilliant. May have worked too, but for the valour of Drapaku. If he had done that, we would not have discovered the troop movement. Our delayed response would have ensured that we would have lost the war. Apparently, Bhagirath is not trusted by his father.

And therefore, not by most Swadweepan kings or generals either. They believed he would have taken the soldiers, escaped to Ayodhya and declared himself Emperor.

Why does Dilipa not trust his own son? And he's not far from wrong, is he?

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And then, to make matters worse,' continued Veerbhadra, 'the entire fiasco was blamed on Bhagirath. It was said that because he took a hundred thousand soldiers away, they lost the war. Shiva and Veerbhadra looked up to see a rider galloping away, while his companion, lagging far behind, was screeching loudly: Somebody help, Prince Bhagirath! A near certain death. Shiva jumped onto his horse and charged towards him with Veerbhadra in tow.

It was a long distance, but the gentle slope helped Shiva and Veerbhadra make up the expanse quickly. Shiva rode in an arc to intercept Bhagirath's horse. A few minutes later, Shiva was galloping along Bhagirath's path.

He was impressed that Bhagirath seemed calm and focussed, despite facing a life threatening situation. Bhagirath was pulling hard on his reins, trying to slow his horse down. But his action agitated the horse even further. It picked up more speed. All his training told him letting the reins go was the stupidest thing to do when a horse was out of control. Let it go! At this moment, his instinct told him to forget his training and trust this barbarian from Tibet.

Bhagirath let go. Much to his surprise, the horse immediately slackened. Shiva rode in close. So close that he could almost whisper into the animal's ear. Then he began to sing a strange tune. The horse gradually started calming down, reducing its speed to a canter.

The cliff was coming close. Very close. The prince kept his control, staying on the horse, while Shiva kept singing. Slowly but surely, Shiva was gaining control. It was just a few metres before the cliff that Bhagirath's horse finally came to a halt. Bhagirath and Shiva immediately dismounted as Veerbhadra rode in. Bhagirath turned back to Shiva, frowning. Shiva walked towards Bhagirath's horse, gently cradling its face, almost like it was a child being punished unfairly.

Then he carefully pulled its reins out, signalled to Bhagirath to come closer and showed him the nail buried in the leather close to the horse's mouth. Bhagirath was shocked. The inference was obvious.

Shiva pulled the nail out, handing it to Bhagirath. Tell him that the Neelkanth has yet to see a man with greater control over an animal, even when the odds were stacked so desperately against him. Tell him the Neelkanth requests the honour of Prince Bhagirath accompanying him to Kashi. This was probably the only way of keeping Bhagirath safe from the unknown threat to his life. The companion immediately went down on his knee. As you command, My Lord.

He had come across people who plotted against him, people who took credit for his ideas, people who sabotaged him. But this This was unique. He turned to his companion. And that is my sister, Anandmayi. But blood justifies her actions.

I don't know how to react to your generosity, My Lord. Even if it is to take my own life. I am not about to ask you to commit suicide right after having worked strenuously to save your life. Sit beside me.

The sound carries a little better there! Shiva had made him in-charge of the expedition to Kashi. Shiva knew if he left the organisation to one of Ayodhya's administrators, they would probably be debating the mode of transport for the next three years. Parvateshwar, with his typical Suryavanshi efficiency, had seen to the arrangements within a week. The contingent was to travel east down the Sarayu on royal boats, to the city of Magadh, where the river merged into the mighty Ganga.

From there, they would turn west to sail up the Ganga to Kashi, the city where the supreme light shines. Parvateshwar had been inundated with inane requests from some of the Ayodhya nobility who were taking the opportunity to travel with the Neelkanth. He did plan to honour some strange appeals, like one from a superstitious nobleman who wanted his boat to leave exactly thirty two minutes after the beginning of the third prahar.

Others he had flatly refused, such as a request from another nobleman for his boat to be staffed only by women. The General was quite sure that Anandmayi must also have some special arrangements she wanted made. Like carrying a ship hold of milk for her beauty baths! The Captain was back shortly. You can look up. Anandmayi was lying on her stomach next to a picture window overlooking the royal gardens. Kanini, her masseuse, was working her magic on the princess' exotic and supple body.

Anandmayi only had one piece of cloth draped loosely from her lower back to her upper thighs. The rest of her, a feast for his eyes. Parvateshwar blushed a deep red, his head bowed, eyes turned away. To Anandmayi, he appeared to be like the rare cobra male that bows his head to its mate at the beginning of their mating dance, as though accepting the superiority of its partner.

Tm sorry, Princess. I'm so sorry.

I didn't mean to insult you. It is allowed. It did not appear as though Anandmayi had misunderstood his intentions. He whispered in a soft voice, eyes on the floor, 'What can I do for you, Princess? A little further south down the Sarayu is the spot where Lord Ram had stopped with his Guru Vishwamitra and brother Lakshman on his way to slay the demon Tadaka.

It is the spot where Maharishi Vishwamitra taught Lord Ram the arts of Bal and Atibal, the fabled route to eternal good health and freedom from hunger and thirst.

I would like to halt there and offer a puja to the Lord. I will make the arrangements. Would you need any special provisions? An honest heart is all that is needed for a prayer to reach the Lord.

Anandmayi's eyes, however, seemed to be mocking him. He growled sofdy. Anything else, Princess? She was not getting the reaction that she had desired. Anandmayi kept staring at Parvateshwar's retreating form. She sighed loudly and shook her head. The Neelkanth was unhappy that many of Ayodhya's nobility had inveigled their way into the voyage to Kashi. What should have been a super-fast five ship convoy had turned into a lethargic fifty ship caravan. The straightforward Parvateshwar had found it difficult to deny the convoluted logic of the Chandravanshi nobility.

Therefore, Shiva was delighted that Bhagirath had found an ingenious method to cut down the numbers. Craftily, he had suggested to one noble that he should rush to Kashi and set up a welcoming committee for the Neelkanth, and thus gain favour with the powerful Lord.

Seeing one noble husde away, many others had followed, in a mad dash to be the first to herald the arrival of the Neelkanth at Kashi. Within hours, the convoy had been reduced to the size that Shiva desired. The puja platform had been set up some fifty metres from the riverbank. It was believed that anyone who conducted this prayer with full devotion would never be inflicted with disease.

Others like Nandi, Veerbhadra, Drapaku, Krittika and the men of the joint Suryavanshi-Chandravanshi brigade sat a litde further back. The earnest Brahmin was reciting Sanskrit shlokas in the exact same intonations that had been taught to him by his Guru. Sati was uneasy. She had an uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching her. For some strange reason, she felt intense hatred directed at her.

Along with that she also felt boundless love and profound sadness. Confused, she opened her eyes. She turned her head to her left. Every single person had his eyes closed, in accordance with the guidelines of this particular puja.

She then turned to the right and started as she saw Shiva gazing direcdy at her. His eyes open wide, reflecting an outpouring of love, Shiva's face sported a slight smile. Sati frowned at her husband, gesturing with her eyes that he should concentrate on his prayers. Shiva, however, pursed his lips together and blew her a kiss.

A startled Sati frowned even more. Her Suryavanshi sensibilities felt offended at such frivolous behaviour, which she considered a violation of the code.

Shiva pouted like a spoilt child, closed his eyes and turned towards the fire. Sati turned too, eyes closed, allowing herself a slight smile at the fact that she had been blessed with an adoring husband. But she still felt she was being watched. Stared at intently. The last ship of the Neelkanth's convoy turned round the bend in the Sarayu. With his enemies out of sight, the Naga emerged from the trees. He walked briskly to the place where the Brahmin had just conducted the puja.

He was followed by the Queen of the Nagas and a hundred armed men. They stopped at a polite distance from the Naga, leaving him alone. Karkotak, Prime Minister to the Queen of the Nagas, looked up at the sky, judging the time.

Then he looked disconcertedly at the Naga in the distance. He wondered why the Lord of the People, as the Naga was referred to in his lands, was so interested in this particular puja. The Lord had far greater powers and knowledge. Some even considered him better than the Naga Queen. The Queen turned back towards the Naga, her mind considering Karkotak's words. She had to admit that her Prime Minister was right. The Nagas had to return to their capital quickly.

There was little time to waste. The issue of medical support to the Brangas would come up again. She knew that the severe cost of that support was turning many Nagas against the alliance with the Brangas, especially the peace-loving ones who wanted to live their ostracised lives quietly, calling it a product of their bad karma. And without the alliance, her vengeance was impossible. More importantly, she could not desert the Brangas in their hour of need when they had been unflinchingly loyal to her.

On the other hand, she could not abandon her nephew, the Lord of the People. He was troubled; the presence of that vile woman had disturbed his usual calm demeanour. He was taking unnecessary risks. Like the idiotic attack on Sati and Shiva at the Ramjanmabhoomi temple. If he didn't want to kill her, why the hell did he put his own person in such grave peril? What if he had been killed? Or worse, caught alive? He had justified it later as an attempt to draw Sati out of Ayodhya, as capturing her within the city was impossible.

For what it was worth, he had succeeded in drawing her out on a voyage to Kashi. But she was accompanied by her husband and a whole brigade. It was impossible to kidnap her. The Queen saw her nephew move slightly.

She stepped forward a little distance, motioning for Karkotak and the men to remain behind. The Naga had taken out a knife from a newly built hold on his belt. It was the knife Sati had flung at him at the Ramjanmabhoomi temple.

He looked at it longingly, letting the blade run up his thumb. Its sharp edge cut his skin lightly. He shook his head angrily, dug the knife hard into the sand and turned around to walk towards the Queen. He stopped abruptly. Oddly hesitant. The Queen, clearly out of her nephew's earshot, willed her thoughts in a quiet whisper. It's not worth it. Let it go. Indecision weighed heavy on him.

The men in the distance were shocked to see their Lord in such a weak state. To the Queen's dismay, the Naga turned around and walked back to the spot where he had buried the knife.

He picked it up carefully, held it reverentially to his forehead and put it back into his side hold. The Queen snorted in disgust and turned around, signalling Karkotak to come forward. She knew she had no choice. She would have to leave her nephew with bodyguards, while she herself would ride out towards Panchavati, her capital.

What rubbish! It carries a very important individual, the most important in the land. Siamantak turned to look nervously at the massive ship that carried the Neelkanth. Shiva was standing on the balustrade with Parvateshwar and Bhagirath. Siamantak was aware that Shiva wanted to stop at Magadh. He had expressed a desire to visit the Narsimha temple on the outskirts of the city. Siamantak did not want to disappoint the Neelkanth. However, if he paid portage charges for the ship, it would set a dangerous precedent.

How could the Emperor's ship pay portage in his own empire? It would open a can of worms with all the river port kingdoms across the empire. The negotiations with Andhak were delicate. The law is the law. Any ship that ports at Magadh has to pay portage. Why should Emperor Dilipa be worried about a small fee of one thousand gold coins?

It's the principle,' argued Siamantak. It is the principle. So please pay up. He must be insisting that the law of portage charges be followed. Siamantak cannot allow any ship owned by my father to pay portage. It is an insult to my father's fragile ego. Andhak is an idiot. But he does not do justice to that name. Magadh was a great kingdom once.

The Secret of the Nagas

In fact, there was a time when it was the overlord kingdom of Swadweep and its kings were widely respected and honoured. But as it happens with many great kings, their unworthy descendants frittered away the wealth and power of their kingdoms.

They have been trying hard to live up to Magadh's past glory, but have been spectacularly unsuccessful. We share a prickly relationship with them. It was a glorious Ashwamedh Yagna, for this was a time when Ayodhya had still not fallen prey to the wooden kings who rule it today. As you can imagine, Magadh was not quite pleased about the loss of status and revenue from tributes.

And they still suffer from their defeat to Ayodhya. Magadh could theoretically benefit from the fact that it is at the confluence of two rivers. It becomes the most convenient trading hub for merchants travelling on river ports on the Sarayu or the Ganga. This advantage was negated after they lost the Ashwamedh to us. A ceiling was imposed on their portage and trading hub charges.

And then, our enmity received a fresh lease of life a hundred years back. It had historically been in close alliance with Magadh. In fact the ruling families are very closely related. Yes, My Lord. Just like Magadh, it became a crucial junction for river trade.

And unlike Magadh, it was not bound by any treaty on its portage and trading charges. Any trader or kingdom wanting to settle or trade in the newly opened hinterlands of the Yamuna had to pay charges at Prayag. Its prosperity and power grew exponentially. There were even rumours that they were planning to support Magadh in an Ashwamedh Yagna to challenge Ayodhya's suzerainty.

But when my great grandfather lost the battle to the Suryavanshis and a dam was built on the Yamuna to turn the flow towards Meluha, Prayag's importance fell again. They have blamed Ayodhya ever since. They actually believe we purposely lost the war to give them a devastating blow. There was a time when Ayodhya and Magadh were close allies. This is one place I will not be suspect. But King Mahendra is known to be highly suspicious. We should expect spies keeping a close tab on us all the time.

He does that to every important visitor. Having said that, their spy network is not particularly efficient. I do not foresee any serious problems. Since the Emperor of Ayodhya believes in the Neelkanth, the Magadh king will not.

He came up to the Neelkanth, saluted smartly and said, A deal has been struck, My Lord. We can disembark. But we will have to stay here for at least ten days. We will stay in his guesthouse for ten days. He will pay the portage charges to Andhak from the guesthouse rent we pay.

When we wish to leave, the ownership of the ship will be transferred back to King Dilipa. We have to stay for ten days so that the guesthouse owner can earn enough money for his own profit and for portage charges. He didn't know whether to laugh at this strangely convoluted compromise or be impressed at Siamantak's bureaucratic brilliance in achieving Shiva's objective of visiting Magadh while upholding his Emperor's prestige.

The portage charges would be paid, but technically not by Emperor Dilipa. The Naga and his soldiers had been silendy tracking the fleet carrying Shiva, Sati and their entourage. The smaller platoon allowed the Naga to maintain a punishing pace, staying abreast with the fast moving ships of Shiva's convoy. They had wisely remained away from the banks. Far enough to not be visible to the boat look-outs but close enough to follow their paths. They had moved further inland to avoid Magadh and intended to move closer to the river once they had bypassed the city.

A short distance more, My Lord,' said Vishwadyumna. Suddenly, the still of the forest was shattered by a loud scream. The entire platoon went down quickly and quiedy, waiting for the danger to pass. But trouble had just begun.

A woman screamed again. Leave him! As far as he was concerned, there was only one course of action to take. Retrace their steps, take a wide arc around this area and move back towards the river. He turned towards his Lord, about to offer this suggestion. The Naga, however, was transfixed, eyes glued to a heartbreaking sight.

At a distance, partially hidden by the trees and underbrush, lay a tribal woman, frantically clutching a boy, no older than six or seven years. Two armed men, possibly Magadhan soldiers, were trying to pull the child away. The woman, showing astounding strength for her frail frame, was holding on to the child desperately. Tush that woman off, you louts! In the eyes of the civilised city folk living along the great rivers, these tribals were backward creatures because they insisted on living in harmony with nature.

While most kingdoms ignored these forest tribes, others confiscated their lands at will as populations grew and need for farmlands increased. And a few particularly cruel ones preyed on these helpless groups for slave labour. The Magadhan leader kicked the woman hard. But I need this boy! He will drive my bulls to victory!

My father will finally stop his endless preening about winning every race for the last three years! Bull-racing was a craze in the Chandravanshi areas, subject to massive bets, royal interest and intrigue. Riders were needed to scream and agitate the animals to keep them running on course. At the same time, if the riders were too heavy, they would slow down the animal.

Therefore, boys between the ages of six and eight were considered perfect. They would shriek out of fear and their weight was inconsequential. The children would be tied to the beasts.

If the bull went down, the boy rider would be seriously injured or killed. Therefore, tribal children were often kidnapped to slave away as riders. Nobody important missed them if they died. The Magadhan leader nodded to one of his men who drew his sword. He then looked at the woman.

Let your son go. Or I will have to hurt you. Blood spurted across the child's face, making him bawl inconsolably. The Naga was staring at the woman, his mouth open in awe. Her bloodied right arm hanging limply by her side, the woman still clung to her son, wrapping her left arm tightly around him.

Vishwadyumna shook his head. He could tell it was a matter of time before the woman would be killed.

He turned towards his soldiers, giving hand signals to crawl back. He turned back towards his Lord. But the Naga was not there. He had moved swifdy forward, towards the mother. Vishwadyumna panicked and ran after his Lord, keeping his head low. The Magadhan soldier raised his sword, ready to strike. Suddenly, the Naga broke out from the cover of the trees, his hand holding a knife high.

Before the soldier knew what had happened, the knife struck his hand and his sword dropped harmlessly to the ground.

As the Magadhan soldier shrieked in agony, the Naga drew out two more knives. But he had failed to notice the platoon of Magadhan soldiers at the back. One had his bow at the ready, with an arrow strung. The soldier released it at the Naga. The arrow rammed into his left shoulder, slipping between his shoulder cap and torso armour, bursting through to the bone.

The force of the blow caused the Naga to fall to the ground, the pain immobilising him. Seeing their Lord down, the Naga's platoon ran in with a resounding yell. Not Banga! Get out of my land! The Naga signalled Vishwadyumna to step back and tried to pull the arrow out of his shoulder.

But it was buried too deep. He broke its shaft and threw it away. The Magadhan pointed at the Naga menacingly. This is my land. These people are my property.

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Get out of the way. He turned around to see one of the most magnificent sights he had ever seen. The mother lay almost unconscious behind his soldiers.

Her eyes closing due to the tremendous loss of blood. Her body shivering desperately. Too terrified to even whimper. And yet, she stubbornly refused to give up her son. Her left hand still wrapped tight around him. Her body protectively positioned in front of her child. What a mother! The Naga turned around.

His eyes blazing with rage. His body tense. His fists clenched tight.

He whispered in a voice that was eerily calm, 'You want to hurt a mother because she is protecting her child? It even managed to get through to a person lost in royal ego. But Ugrasen could not back down in front of his fawning courtiers. Some crazy Branga with an unseasonal holi mask was not going to deprive him of his prize catch. I can hurt whoever I want.

So if you want to save your sorry hide, get out of here. You don't know the power of He turned to see his followers. They too felt the dread that the Naga's voice emanated. A shocked Vishwadyumna stared at his Lord. He had never heard his Lord raise his voice so loud. The Naga's breathing was heavy, going intermittently through gritted teeth. His body stiff with fury. And then Vishwadyumna heard the Naga's breathing return slowly to normal. He knew it instantly.

His Lord had made a decision. The Naga reached to his side and drew his long sword. Holding it away from his body. Ready for the charge. And then he whispered his orders. They charged after their Lord. They fell upon the hapless Magadhans.

There was no mercy. Magadh was a far smaller town than Ayodhya. Not having suffered due to commercial or military success and the resultant mass immigration, it remained a pretty town with leafy avenues.

While it did not have the awesome organisation of Devagiri or the soaring architecture of Ayodhya, it was not bogged down by the boring standardisation of the Meluhan capital or the grand chaos of the Swadweepan capital.

It did not take Shiva and his entourage more than just half— an— hour to get across to the far side of the city where the magnificent Narsimha temple stood. Shiva entered the compound of the grand shrine. His men waited outside as per his instructions, but only after scoping the temple for suspects. The temple was surrounded by a massive square garden, a style from Lord Rudra's land, far beyond the western borders of India.

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The garden had an ingeniously designed gargantuan fountain at its heart and rows of intricate waterways, flowerbeds and grass spread out from the centre in simple, yet stunning symmetry. At the far end stood the Narsimha temple. Built of pure white marble, it had a giant staircase leading up to its main platform, a spire that shot up at least seventy metres and had ornately carved statues of gods and goddesses all across its face.

Shiva was sure this awe-inspiring and obviously expensive temple had been built at a time when Magadh had the resources of the entire Swadweep confederacy at its command. He took off his sandals at the staircase, climbed up the steps and entered the main temple. At the far end was the main sanctum of the temple, with the statue of its god, Lord Narsimha, on a majestic throne. Lord Narsimha had lived many thousands of years ago, before even Lord Rudra's time.

Shiva mused that if the Lord's idol was life size, then he must have been a powerful figure. He looked unnaturally tall, at least eight feet, with a musculature that would terrify even the demons. His hands were unusually brawny with long nails, making Shiva think that just the Lord's bare hands must have been a fearsome weapon.

But it was the Lord's face that stunned Shiva. His mouth was surrounded by lips that were large beyond imagination. His moustache hair did not flow down like most men, but came out in rigid tracks, like a cat's whiskers. His nose was abnormally large, with sharp eyes on either side. His hair sprayed out a fair distance, like a mane. It almost looked as though Lord Narsimha was a man with the head of a lion.

Had he been alive today, Lord Narsimha would have been considered a Naga by the Chandravanshis and hence feared, not revered. Don't they have any consistency? A Vasudev Pandit emerged from behind the pillars.

He was the shortest Pandit that Shiva had met so far; just a little over five feet. But in all other aspects, his appearance was like every other Vasudev, his hair snowy white and his face wizened with age.

He was clad in a saffron dhoti and angvastram 'How did you That conversation Shiva could have sworn he heard the Pandit's voice in his head. The words were broken, like the voice was coming from a great distance. Very soft and not quite clear.

But it was the Pandit's voice. Shiva frowned, for the Pandit's lips had not moved. Oh Lord Vasudev Shiva heard the Pandit's voice again. The Pandit was smiling slightly. He could tell that the Neelkanth could hear his thoughts.

You're certain iy The Pandit's appearance may have been like other Vasudevs, but his character was clearly different. This Vasudev was straightforward to the point of being rude. But Shiva knew the apparent rudeness was not intended. It was just a reflection of the mercurial nature of this particular Pandit's character.

Maybe the Pandit was a Chandravanshi in another life. I'm not a son. Or husband. Or father. And, I'm not a Chandravanshi. I am only a Vasudev. The Pandit narrowed his eyes. You earn it. There is a competitive examination, for which Suryavanshis or Chandravanshis can appear. If you pass, you cease to be anything else.

You give up all other identities. You become a Vasudev. The Pandit smiled, acknowledging Shiva's statement. Shiva had many questions he wanted answered. But there was a most obvious one for this particular Vasudev. The Vasudev Pandit nodded.

So my question is not on that,' continued Shiva. He had told me that the Suryavanshis represent the masculine life force and the Chandravanshis represent the feminine. What does this mean? Because I don't think it has anything to do with men and women. You're right, it has nothing to do with men and women. It has to do with the way of life of the Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis.

Yes, Your Highness,' said Siamantak sofdy. This is all we need. Shelves: mythology , fantasy , owned , absolutely-spiffing , indian It isn't often one comes across a book by an Indian author, with a sequel. It is even rarer when the said sequel might just be better than its predecessor.

Tripathi once again delves into Indian mythology and spins a fascinating tale around many of the names heard in tales told at our grandmothers' knees, portraying them as mere mortals. Last left, Shiva was about to launch an attack on the dreaded Nagas to avenge Brahaspathi's death. The book's blurb gives you enough indication, and then some, t It isn't often one comes across a book by an Indian author, with a sequel. The book's blurb gives you enough indication, and then some, that Shiva's plan might not be that easy to execute.

His desire, and ours, for answers takes him all across India in this book, with the city in focus being Kashi. I'll give the book this, the author has good command over the story and doesn't let it meander, with something or the other always afoot. Filled with secrets, shocks and betrayal, this book is a page-turner from start to finish. The reveal of the Naga's identity was shocking, to say the least.

The "secret" of the Nagas, however, was something I had long suspected so I wasn't blown away by the "cliff-hanger". As for that Master Pupeteer, I think it's view spoiler [Bhrigu hide spoiler ].He broke its shaft and threw it away. I mean Content, Daksha had returned to Devagiri in triumph. The body was that of the hairy monster, but the face was of the beautiful woman he had just fled away from moments ago.

I have always thought that Murukan was a Tamil king who was worshipped by Tamilians and the Saivite religion later accommodated him into their pantheon. A crown prince is murdered. You truly are your own worst enemy. The Captain was back shortly. As Shiva searches for answers he comes across shocking revelations that may change everything.

Taking an Indian God like Shiva with multiple facets to his persona and coming up with such an elaborate tale takes a different kind of imagination.