Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Battle of the Ten Kings

Author's Note : The story is completely fictional. It is an attempt to give a plausible difference leading to the evolution of Vedic religion to Hinduism. It only bears the name of the Vedic "Battle of Ten Kings", not the story.

The Age of the Devas will soon be over. For too long have they ruled over us. Now, with the help of our long lost brethren from the distant south, we can finally get rid of this accursed people.

It was a mistake to let them amongst us. But we were weak and afraid. The mighty Xiongnu Horde had ravaged our ancient homeland. We had to leave there to escape their menace. We ended up on this land and few of us chose to stay, though most went further south and build the city of Asur, in the name of our ancient Gods. But with so few of us remaining here, we were very much in danger of another Xiongnu onslaught.

It was then the Devas came.

At first they seemed genuine. They came from a land rich in resource. Two rivers of ancient lore, Sindhu and Saraswati, filled their wells and fed their crops. They had flourished as a race forming a large populace than any we had ever heard. But they had no horses. They were fascinated by our horses. Their legends were filled with stories of these magnificent steeds, with many great poets composing beautiful poems honouring their memory. Seeing our plight, many chose to settle in our lands to protect us from the Xiongnu. They were also wary of the Xiongnu. After all, if the Xiongnu were to occupy our lands, theirs’ would be next. With our combined people, Xiongnu was not likely to pose a threat (In fact, it is more likely that the Xiongnu had no intention to extend themselves so far from their homeland, but we preferred to believe it was because of the Devas that we were safe).

Our land flourished with the help of the Devas. They adopted our language, though it soon became corrupted by their odd speech. They used the script of their old tongue to write this language causing confusion as many still used the old tongue. They adopted our Gods too, after a fashion. The Devas were divided into cults based on their profession. Each cult had its own God. The chief among them was the Cult of Indra, who ruled the Devas. The Cult of Agni, the priests, was also important. When they merged with our people, they added our Gods as a new class of Gods – Asuras. Asuras and Devas were equal in the strength but the former was few in number. In a sense they accepted as part of their religion, the new Cult of Asura.

Centuries went by in peace. Our civilization grew and flourished. But as our numbers grew it seemed only imminent that our land will become too small to support us. It was in this fateful time that the Great Migration happened. Two brothers, Tushratta and Shattiwaza, left with a huge populace to the distant south west. They carried with them many horses, drawing chariots much in number than ever heard of in the ancient lore. Most of them were of the Asura extraction, though they followed the combined religion now formalized in a lore called the Rig. Sadly, only a few of us still retained the memories and beliefs of our time before the Devas.

Their departure shifted the balance of powers amongst our people. With our numbers considerably reduced, there arose a call among the Devas to forego the ancient alliance with our people. They now owned many horses and saw us as a burden they needed to eliminate. Soon, war was upon us. The Cult of Indra vowed to exterminate each on us and before long it seemed likely that they will carry out their vow. This was the time we turned to the House of Siva for help.

The House of Siva were a group of traders who lived at the delta of the River Sindhu. They sold precious spices to distant lands like Babylon. The Devas saw them as trespassers to their domain. For centuries the Devas and the House of Siva had been at war. Beyond the Sindhu-Saraswati rivers lived the ancestors of these people (where they still live as many stories claim). The Devas lived in the North of a mountain they called the Vindhyas, while the House of Siva lived to its South. But after centuries of war brought no winner, they chose to end their war. It was in the South, that the precious spices mostly grew. But the treacherous ocean winds of the south prevented them from selling it to the outside world. Eventually, they came to rely on the Devas to sell these spices. But as the Devas shifted to live amongst us, the Southerners saw an opportunity to develop a permanent base in the North, which they eventually did. From then on, the Devas lost the trade they had with the South for which the Devas blamed us.

We sent two brothers, both named Hiranya, to assist the House of Siva against the Devas. Impressed, they were sent into the Southern lands as ambassadors of our people to the Kings of the South. While negotiations were underway for the assistance against the Devas, we came across other people from our north west who came to our aid.

The Dorians were people who lived in prosperity in the distant west. But they were expelled by another people and were forced to live in poverty in forests. There they came across the Celts who led a primitive life. Together they wandered in the grasslands when few of the Dorians and the Celts came to our land, quite by accident. Taking opportunity of our plight they promised to help us in return for payment. The Dorians for their part acclaimed our kinship with their God Kronos. With the help of the Dorians and the Celts, we managed to hold off further attacks from the Devas and reached an uneasy truce. With help expected from the House of Siva and South of Vindhyas, we were hopeful of a positive outcome. Once the Dorians and the Celts were satisfied with their rewards, they left us promising to bring us more support from their brethren still in the forests. At the same time, we sent messengers to Asur, our ancient brethren, for support.

The Devas, for their part, also did not remain idle. They called upon the people who now lived on the banks of the Sindhu-Saraswati Rivers. They were from the Cult of Vishnu, a minor God compared to Indra and Agni, but had strong relations with the ruling Cult of Indra. In the Cult of Vishnu, there was the Family of Ram that fostered a private hatred against our people. They claim to be allies of the Vanir who were deposed by Asuras in an ancient war. Beyond these rivers was the ancient land of Bharata whose people were kins of the Devas. It was said in Bharata dwelt people too many than one could imagine. But that is undoubtedly a myth to frighten the outside world. After all, they had failed to overcome the House of Siva and their people.

It is at this juncture that the army of Asur arrived. They came with a vast force larger than any that we dreamt. And they came with friends. The kings of Asur are in alliance with the Kassites who have also sent a mighty force.

Finally. The victory is ours. All that is left are the priests, who have locked themselves in their temple. The God Indra could not rescue his people, as all were killed without mercy. All of the Devas have died, except the priests. The war did not start well. When we saw the Xiongnu (Yes, the accursed Xiongnu from time immemorial) line up with the Devas, many of us thought all was lost. But their war was with the Celts (and the Dorians). After they were vanquished, the Xiongnu left the Devas to our mercy. And we inflicted upon them the same treatment they had inflicted upon us.

But what is this. There is a distant bugle call. And many drums beating. The Earth is shaking. Surely, this cannot be the Cult of Vishnu.

This is the scariest sight that an army has the misfortune to see. And the last. It appears as though the entire continent of Bharata has raised its people against us. The Army of Bharata goes beyond the horizon.

A messenger comes forth. He has three heads. One his own. The other two are the decapitated Hiranya brothers. So, our embassy to the South has failed.

The messenger informs us to release the priests of the Devas, deemed holy by all the people of Bharata. He informs us the two Houses of Bharata – the House of Vishnu and the House of Siva are now in alliance and intends to see that the priests are kept safe. The fate of the rest is not their concern. He informs us of the treachery of the Brothers Hiranya, who killed a southern king and set themselves as rulers of that state. It was due to the benevolence of the son of the younger of the brothers that status quo was retained. He had chosen the local customs foregoing his fathers’ and deposed them. The same son had requested the Queen of the South to allow the Asuras go free. Much blood has been spilt. He did not desire to see more death.

The temple has finally been breached. Surely, the priest will be killed soon. This is the end.

Epilogue: Not quite. Fortunately, the priests were not touched. They were let go and so were we. As it turns out, the collapse of Babylon meant the relations between the North and South returned to what it was before we came. To stabilize this relation a Northern princess had married the Southern king.  But as the king soon died, it was now the northern princess who ruled the South on behalf of her son thereby strengthening the North South alliance.

The priests have been tasked with writing a new religion. The time of the Devas is indeed over. But so is the time of the Asuras.

Note : I doubt the Vanir of the Nordic mythology and the Vanara of Ramayana had the same root.

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