Botu in the forest

My employer showed kindness in the morning by ordering one of his hunters to accompany me on my way to the hermitage of Sage Kanva. Dushmanta is efficient- has the mental and verbal dexterity to accomplish his purposes. Once a man is confident about himself, he is able to create a paradise in this world – around him. My King was keen to make his own paradise – his exquisite palace is no less a paradise with a pleasure garden. His astrologers, his priests, his ministers, hunters, armed force, bodyguards, dancers, singers, poets, intellectuals, ladies, courtesans and even maids and servants including myself belong to his paradise, maintaining which needs thoughtful skill from the Kings part. A King is successful as a king when he is both feared and loved. Subjects love to be forced to love him. A King should never take his missions lightly. Keeping his subjects convinced of his supernatural power is the key of success. If people have to decide whether they should love him or fear him, the King should ensure that they decide for the later. When it comes to managing his paradise, this rule becomes even stronger. How he has ridiculed me sometime back is his effort of generating that fear induced love. I, being his employee have duty to hold his reputation high – and whenever I have slightest doubt about his activities becoming reason for his disrepute, he makes sure that I am free from that doubt. Creating fear not love is best way to remove that doubt. Do I feel humiliated? Servants should not – Botu the devout Brahmin should not have a status different from a hunter – both obliged to satisfy the Master.

The morning sun illuminates the damp earth under our feet reflecting on the uncombed heads of the large trees, all of whom are probably trying to reach the sky. Being a Brahmin raised in the city, I am not habituated to take long walks like this, especially not in uneven forest paths covered with moss and moist grass. I needed rest. I chose to sit on a moss covered stone which looks free from jungle ants. My companion looks impatient after some time, “We should not waste much time here, master! The King ordered me to be back with you by sundown.” I get up – not to oblige him but to save myself from hundreds of mosquitoes rushing towards me attracted by the smell of fresh city-bred blood so close to them. I am thirsty too; anyway not ready to drink putrid water from the muddy ditches as suggested by my companion. The King could save the land from fierce armed attack by enemies, but would not be able to cure me from dysentery. I have to walk faster to save myself now. One of this kind of journey through forest is enough for a Brahmin to decide quitting his job. Now I suspect that the King actually had an intention to release me from the job. Collecting information about an unknown rustic girl is only an excuse!

I reach the hermitage before the sun reaches mid-sky. I do not know who gave this area the beautiful name Hiranya, but this is an appropriate name considering the vast agricultural land filled with golden crops surrounding the abode of the hermits. I see various fruit trees scattered everywhere. I see many flowering trees too, names of which I do not know. How many different types of birds I hear chirping? The Kings Palace-garden do not have fraction of the many varieties I am seeing here. Even after spending thousands of gold coins to create the most beautiful garden of the country, he could not build one comparable to this. I see large honeycombs on the branches of many trees; honey bees collecting honey from flower plants grown here and there.

My companion is supposed to take rest in the outer area of the hermitage where common guests are served food and water. Leaving him there, I enter the area where small thatched huts are made for the students. I see rows of medicinal plants planted in front of the huts. The students learn about the plants and their use while looking after these. In another side, I see river Malini flowing silently touching the feet of the overgrown roots of old trees. Some of the aged hermits are teaching groups of young students sitting under the shades of those trees. As I proceed, I see a group of young sages lighting auspicious fire in oblation pit, the smoke of which is raising mountain high to reach the gods in the sky. Vedic chants sung by them enter my heart breaking the barrier of my ears. And at the same moment my eyes are drawn to a pair of elegant girls –assisting an aged lady in grinding barley in the courtyard. I am sure none of them is the one described by the King. These girls are beautiful too, but not as lustrous as a rare polished diamond so that they could catch attraction of a King.

Hinted by the aged lady, the girls come running to welcome me. One brings me a grass seat, another brings water to wash my feet. Though the girls are being raised in the hermitage, they should not stay unfamiliar to householder’s duties, serving guests is the most pious of those. While the girls make themselves busy in arranging my afternoon meal, I start talking to the aged lady – she is the sister of the Sage Kanva. She takes care of the girls in the hermitage, some of them are other sages’ daughters, and some orphaned in their childhood. The story of one orphaned girl sounds unique.


To be cont.