BASTAR (PART ONE) Short Fiction by Sephen Gill

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Reghu went to Bastar with Vice Chancellor Dwindra from Raipur. It was a pleasant six-hour drive, stopping at a variety of places, starting with the new capital of Chhattisgarh and then to its latest university area, where Vice Chancellor Dwindra had bought a piece of land to settle after his retirement. After a couple of hours on the way to Bastar they snacked with teachers at a college and an hour later at the house of one of Vice Chancellor Dwindra’s friends who was a retired professor.
From the smooth-running car, Reghu perceived a panoramic view, where the bones of the five thousand- year old civilization were buried. At some places there were dense jungles and at some barren land or hills covered with wildness. He also saw lonely and gorgeous temples and sleepy villages. He was delighted to feel the softness in the psychedelic coloration of the clouds and amazement in deserted ruins that presented an oceanic grace to awe him. Once in a while he saw serene flowing streams of water that provided moments of joy and shepherds with staffs in their hands returning home with their cows. The sight of nature colored by ethereal brushes was splendid and sacred. The tapestry of some of them stretched into the peaceful blue sky. It was an ideal surrounding for the ideal love of Sita and the free spirit of Surpnakha. He could listen to the song of silence that was heard more meaningfully by them and the sage Valmiki in the mythological age.
The day was beginning to sleep, preparing to cover the charms of the landscape with a dark sheet. Before the day could sleep, the moon began to slip through the fingers of the hills. The uniqueness of Bastar’s beauty was soaking Reghu in the spell of ecstatic senses. He was utterly mystified by calmness of this sun-drenched central India that had been offering its culture from the unknown past and now also offering natural resources to be uncovered by any sincere explorer. He began to foresee the time when he would visit and revisit the hinterland of its forests that are the raw and stunning reminders of their treasures.
He closed his eyes for a moment thinking of the Nexalites but the highway was alive with the traffic to discourage any human from suffocating it. This was the Nexalite territory where the deposits of ores could make Bastar among the richest nations. He thought of schools and health centers and if they would reach here before industrialists could. He had heard that this territory with its hills and jungles was also infested with gun-wielding victims who had previously suffered atrocities but now were here with their determination for vengeance. The assassination of the last ruler had strengthened their conviction that the independence of India had also brought independence for corruption to flourish in some circles of the establishment. Reghu threw a glance at Vice Chancellor Dwindra. He was dozing but Reghu’s imagination was awakening.
It was around midnight when they arrived at Vice Chancellor Dwindra’s residence, where they had supper and then the driver took Reghu to the hotel where he stayed for two nights. The hotel in Jagdalpur was reasonably quiet and clean, but provided vegetarian foods that were neither spicy nor hot. To Reghu it was not right when Canadians said that Indian food was spicy.
It was afternoon. After his lecture at the university, a car dropped Reghu at his hotel. He went out into the city of Jagdalpur for the type of food he preferred. He thought any restaurant that could make vegetarian food could also make it spicy. After having tea and a Samoa at a snack shop he went back to his hotel. He was tired because his hunt for a restaurant provided him an hour’s walk that he did not want to give up even when he was on literary tours.
When Reghu entered his room, an employee came and said, “Sir, two persons want to see you.”
“Ask them to come tomorrow at the same time.” Suddenly Reghu realized that the employee perhaps was not able to communicate in proper English. He inquired,
“Where are they?”
“Sir, both are downstairs. Here is a note they have sent.” The note was in good English. They were teachers at a college. It was obvious their education was much better than the education of an average Chhattisgarian. Though he wanted to rest for a while, Reghu said,
“Send them in if they are here.”
As the servant was about to leave, Reghu asked, “Please send also tea.” Actually Reghu wanted tea also for himself because tea at the restaurant was not enjoyable. He asked,
“Do you know how to make Indian tea?”
“Yes, we know. We produce tea locally. We have different types of Chhattisgarian tea. ”
“I know Chhattisgarh has gardens where tea plants are grown and Jashpur is one of them. I am not talking of these plants. Take a little more than the regular amount of tea and boil it in half milk and half water till the content is reduced to nearly half. Mix ginger and two spoons of brown sugar before boiling the water. I would like to have three cups of that tea for me and two cups for each guest. And also something spicy if you have it.” Reghu repeated his request two or three times in different combinations to make the employee understand what he meant.
“I know sir, what you mean.”
As he left, Reghu began to read their note again. As he was going over it, paying attention to each word, he heard a knock. The pair was healthier than the typical Chhattisgarians he had seen. Not only were they impressively built, but also impressive in their English and manners.
During the conversation, they told Reghu that they could arrange anything for him, except money. They were straightforward and their expression was clear and friendly.
Reghu affirmed he did not want money-- all he wanted was to meet the Adivasi to know their culture. That evening he had almost a primal urge to enjoy non-vegetarian hot and spicy food. He told them that he liked the hotel and would like to extend his stay to four weeks to study Bastar for his writing. Both were pleased to help him.
As Reghu had been assured, the food came within thirty minutes after they left. The food was fresh. The food that he savored like fine whisky was certainly prepared with the Bastaran warmth. As he stretched out on the bed after enjoying the food, Dr. Baghel, a teacher from the university, arrived. Introducing himself he said,
“I have come to share something about Bastar. I am from a community of the Adivasi,” I have a doctorate in the history of Bastar. The Aboriginal or the Adivasi population of India is greater than the total population of France, even of Britain. Indian languages are indebted to Adivasi languages. Moreover, their knowledge of the medicinal plants and herbs has played a strong role in deepening the knowledge of India’s medical system, Ayuroveda. In terms of democracy, the local governments of India have incorporated some Adivasi political practices. Adivasi music, dance and folklore have enriched the cultural life of India,” Dr. Baghel proudly stated.
“I want to know the mythological background of Bastar, going back to the days of Rama when he was exiled and waged war with Ravana over his wife, Sita. I know Chhattisgarh was called Dandakaranya and also Dakshin Kosala in those days and that this present state of Bastar was established by Annama Deva from Andhara Pradesh. His dynasty worshipped the goddess Danteswari whose temple is still at Dantewada. But I want to know about Bastar,” Reghu asked.
“The last ruler of Bastar was assassinated along with a number of tribal people by a special force from Delhi right here in his palace. He was popular among the Adivasi and he supported their cause for the preservation of their culture. His assassination scared the tribal people. Many of them fled to other provinces. This exodus has not ceased. There is also immigration from the north and serious attempts have been made to cut trees and industrialize Bastar. This trend has upset the life pattern of the Aboriginals and has reduced their population.” Dr. Baghel became quiet while feeling uncomfortable because of his tall and heavy body in that small chair. While he was shifting his position, Reghu interrupted,
“I heard another story. Rajneesh or Osho, called Bhagwan by his followers, had roots in Chhattisgarh. He said in one of his talks that he was a good friend of the last ruler of Bastar and enjoyed the privilege of staying at any of his palaces. You know Rajneesh for his weird life and teachings. He said that the chief minister of Chhattisgarh did not approve of their association. He asked the ruler to stop his association with Rajneesh. Because of his refusal, he was killed. Rajneesh says the chief minister was behind that plot.
“I also learned that the last ruler wandered in the deep woods for self-discovery or enlightenment. During the days of his wandering in search of enlightenment he must have encountered Rajneesh, who frequented this area to learn from the Adivasi.” Reghu said.
Dr. Baghel asked, “Rajneesh had lived in the USA for some years. His followers were affluent people from all over the world. Why did Rajneesh go there?”
“Rajneesh bought a ranch in remote eastern Oregon in the US to preach enlightenment,” Reghu was quick to say.
“What is enlightenment? Was he enlightened?”
“Enlightenment is not possible to define and describe in words as music and thirst cannot. Words are just symbols. Enlightenment is an experience that leads to mental, physical and emotional wellness and understanding of one’s purpose in life through the stillness of the conscious mind to be connected with the god within. It awakens the inner self to view everything in the light that is the reflection of Divinity. Enlightenment is the egoless spiritual awakening. In other words, this awakening is nature purified-- a state of more peace, happiness and love, transcending the barriers of ego that is the self.
“At his Ashram in Pune, plutocrats blessed Rajneesh with bonanzas. This solidified his self-confidence. His Ashram got involved with illicit activities. The tax-exempt status of his foundation was revoked. He owed millions of dollars to the Indian government and his problems with the city mounted. He was cracked down for tax fraud and other unlawful operations. His personal secretary bought a ranch in Oregon to carry out those operations on a massive scale without disturbing the neighbors. With failing health due to diabetes, allergies and clashes with the law, he left India.
“Rajneesh preached enlightenment through sexual promiscuity that he categorized as free love. He marketed his product with the label of the peace that brings more success and makes death easy to embrace after having fulfilled the hidden desires. His ranch began to be pestered with arson, manipulation of the country’s laws, smuggling, the use of biological terrorism, conspiracies to commit murders, burglary, wiretapping and more in the name of a religious utopia. He had the most expensive watches studded with diamonds, jewelry, fleets of Rolls-Royces and private jets while his followers on the commune worked for twelve hours a day without pay.”
“Where his money came from?” Dr. Baghel asked.
“The participants in his orgies were starved house wives and business magnets. He used to advise participating women to be sterilized and abort pregnancies. He did not understand the joy that a new born brings to parents. Most members of his cult suffered from transmittable diseases. And you know where he learnt all these to buy his costly toys?”
“Where?” Dr. Baghel asked with his eyes wide open.
“From the living university of the Gonds.” Reghu said.
“You mean he learnt from Bastar?”
“Yes, from the Ghotul of the Gonds. Rajneesh learnt from Ghotuls to make money. You know much more than I do about the Ghotul of Bastar. Tell me more,” Reghu asked.
“According to a legend, the god Lingo Pen founded the Ghotul, a living university of the Gonds for unmarried boys and girls to mix freely. A Ghotul is normally outside the village. There are no text books and tests here. Married women are not allowed to get in though married men are sometimes invited by their friends to attend social gatherings. A girl enjoys freedom to indulge in premarital sex and to select her life partner. She is free to get a divorce, if she feels she is improperly treated.
“God Lingo Pen, a musician, was the first to teach the art of drumming. The Gonds of Bastar consider a good drummer to be a good lover. Since Longo Pen is the deity of love, no ghost or witch can dare to enter the environment of the Ghotul and the relations of boys and girls are free from sin. Every one gets a chance to pair off in the evening. Their leaders supervise to see that all are treated fairly.
“In some Ghotuls only the serious couples can go together for the night and in some they are encouraged to keep changing their partners. Due to these practices in Ghotul, it is said that crimes due to jealousy do not happen among the Gonds. On the other hand, most of the crimes due to extra marital relationships take place among the Adivasi tribe of the Bhils.”
Reghu said, “You mean that a Ghotul is a dormitory for the Gonds of Bastar where unmarried boys and girls establish their relationships that are acceptable to their society.”
“Ghotul is a place for boys and girls to learn community love to overcome their feelings of possessiveness, jealousies and attachments. Tribal music, dance and songs shape the development of their lives. They derive their spiritual joy from cultural activities that are vibrant in Ghotuls and which are governed by specific regulations to enrich the culture. Young ones learn about life within the Ghotul. Both genders grow up in harmony here.
“Here the boys and girls grow their own vegetables and learn to play music and dance. They learn also about cleanliness, hard work, and discipline, to respect their elders, practice hospitality and the value of unity. In other words, it is a cultural and a recreational centre. ” Dr. Baghel said.
Reghu added, “And Rajneesh knew at least two languages of the local Adivasi. He could move around easily among the Gonds.
After a pause of a minute, Dr. Baghel asked, “Tell me something more about Rajneesh.”
“Rajneesh was terribly lonely and empty from within. He needed toys to play with as a child does. He was critical of the teachings of Christ, not realizing that Christ had emptied himself for others. Rajneesh was filling his emptiness with the imitations of love and empathy. Based on my studies I can affirm that Rajneesh suffered from diabetes, insomnia and other ailments. He was addicted to drugs, particularly to Valium. Those who use heavy doses of Valium develop paranoia. He took sixty milligrams of Valium a day and inhaled nitrous oxide. Valium causes delusions, outbursts of anger, trouble in sleeping, unexplained tiredness and excessive distrust of others. He had all these symptoms of a non-enlightened teacher. He used to combine Valium with other drugs which resulted in incoherence in his conversations. He started imagining that there were plots to kill or poison him. He publicly advised people to assassinate Mikhail Gorbachev, a Nobel Laureate, because Gorbachev was moving the USSR towards capitalism, instead of spiritual communism. He also imagined that the last ruler of Bastar was killed on the advice of the chief minister because of his friendship with the ruler. He also imagined that the government of the United States had poisoned him. He began to compare his sufferings with the sufferings of Christ.
“It seems Rajneesh was terribly lonely,” Dr. Baghel commented.
“He wanted to establish a loveless society because he himself was loveless. His Ashram had children like in a herd. He used to say that a child should not know his or her real father. He also used to say that the mother is the cause of children’s neuroses. He produced a loveless philosophy because he was a product of a motherless environment during his childhood and even later. A mother is her child’s intimate and reliable friend. Her unconditional love is non-ending. Without love life is empty. Research has shown that early maternal support has a compelling impact on the development of the brain cells that control the ability to deal with stress and stress increases the risk of diabetes.
“Rajneesh never had the real love of a woman. He did not love any either. All his relationships were basically business like. Not only his personal life but even his convictions were phony. The emptiness of his convictions is clear from the fact he had softness for Hitler and negative attitude towards Mahatma Gandhi. He adored war because it brings benefits. He practiced Tantra that permits mating even with one’s own children. He rationalized his lies with the support of the myths of Tantra. He grew without parents even though they were alive. The absence of maternal love made his life empty.
“I believe a human is born to love and to receive love. Life without love is an empty vessel. Mother’s love starts filling this vessel. Its emptiness becomes intolerably painful. To subside this intolerable pain humans often find substitutes in drugs, violence, money, promiscuity and other forms. Some even commit suicide. These substitutes are imitations and no amount of these imitations can fill the empty vessel. The source of genuine love is the presence of the mother in childhood. Rajneesh lacked this insatiable passion that nurtured emptiness in him. To fill that emptiness, he invited his mother late in his life to join his commune. But this is not the same as the closeness of mother during childhood.
“Because Rajneesh had nothing inside to rely on, he resorted to narcotics. The persons who practice free love usually catch AIDS. Most of the members of his inner circle had contagious diseases. Some left him one after the other and some of them were convicted and jailed. An overdose of Valium hastened his death by heart failure, if not by AIDS. Rajneesh had ties with Chhattisgarh.” Reghu added.
Dr. Baghel asked, “You have mentioned Tantra. What is it all about?”
“Tantra is a Sanskrit word that means to weave together. Tantra appeared in the fifth-century AD in India to promote enlightenment through carnal rituals. Tantra is rebellion against the organized religious belief in celibacy. It is a way to achieve intimacy through eroticism. Dr. Jha who teaches archeology at Kaligarh University told me that several historical temples around Chhattisgarh and elsewhere had erotic depictions at the important portals of the temples.
The displays of erotic depictions at the entrances to historical temples were to remind worshippers of the divine purpose. What would happen if all the birds, if the animals, if the sea creatures and all the humans stop procreating? The remarkable erotic illustrations are a reminder to those who declare the ideology of celibacy as a direction to salvation.
“Rajneesh stretched out the ideology of the falsehood of his type of Tantra to put a lid on his emptiness to simmer gently. He staged rituals at his Ashram to attract the affluent segment to act out their fantasies in privacy. That is where he made his money to buy his expensive toys.”
“Sir, those orgies were not forced.” Dr. Baghel said.
“To convince lonely, starved and disturbed women with the force of logic to participate in orgies to achieve a morsel of peace is a delicious evil. To convince a pretty woman in a vulnerable situation to abandon her husband and children and join his commune, in stead of finding ways to patch up their differences, is the sadistic wickedness of the devil. To use reasoning cunningly in defenseless conditions of wives to collect Rolls Royces to drive each day of a different color and to have enough of them to be in the Guinness Book of World Records is cold-blooded depravity that cannot be eased by any means. To break the laws of a country again and again to feed the monster of the fragile ego is the vicious habitual felony. A supreme soul has rightly said that ‘A man does not live by bread alone.’” Reghu was calm and also tried to be forceful.
Dr. Baghel said, “Let us come back to Bastar. This culture of the Adivasi is more than five thousand years old. Almost half of Bastar is covered with forests. The most important event is its Dussehra Festival, which is not celebrated to welcome the return of Rama, as it is celebrated in the north of India. Dussehra is celebrated in Bastar to honor Ma Danteswri, who was and still is the goddess of the royal family and the royal family is from the Kakatiya dynasty.”
“Where is the Kaktiya dynasty from?” Reghu was inquisitive.
“From Waranangal in modern Madhya Pradesh. The dynasty had its own temple in Waranangle that was ruined by Muslim rulers, but it is still there as a relic of peerless beauty. The Dussehra Festival in Bastar has several tribal traditions incorporated into it. The king, who is also the head priest of Ma Danteswri, abdicates his throne for ten days to worship her to receive guidance for his rule.”
“Who is Ma?” Reghu asked.
“Goddess Danteswari is the mother of Bastarans. Ma stands for mother in Hindi,” Dr. Baghel replied.
“Tell me something about Ravana because he had connections here,” Reghu asked.
“Ravana’s effigy is not burnt here as it is burnt in the north every year on Dussehra. Ravana was a scholar and a follower of Buddha. Some offer puja or special prayers to Ravana as they do to other deities. He is also worshipped in Indore and there is Valmiki Samaj in other parts who worship also Ravana.
“On Dussehra, a Rath Yatra, you may call it a chariot trip, is taken out. This hand-made chariot has eight wheels and weighs about thirty tons, constructed without any machine. Around ten thousand clay lamps, called deepak in Hindi, decorate the path of the chariot. It is an eye-catching sight that pulsates with drums, dances and colorful umbrellas. The main purpose is to celebrate Mother Danteswari. Rama, an Aryan king, has nothing to do with Dussehra here. Rama was exiled for fourteen years by his father because his step-mother wanted her own son to be enthroned. See how mothers play good or bad roles in children’s future. We have a benign mother in the profile of Ma Danteswri.” Dr. Baghel said.
“How about Surpnakha? Was she from here?”
“As you know, Surpnakha was the sister of Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka. The whole story of Ramayana is about the war between the Aryans and Aboriginals as there were battles between the white, new comers, and the Aboriginals, the first nations in Canada. There were agreements between them in Canada. Aboriginals were settled in reserved areas. In India, there were agreements with the invading Aryans in some belts and in some belts the Adivasi were pushed to the jungles and hills. They are living there even today. Some of them have adopted the Aryans customs as in Canada some First Nations people have married whites. Their children are called Metis.
“Aboriginals were considered as inhuman. Aryans planned to destroy the culture of the Adivasi in the guise of the golden dear of prosperity. To destroy the culture of Sri Lanka, the story of Sita was fabricated to legitimize the invasion of Rama or Aryans. Now they are fabricating the fable of progress to rob the bank of the Adivasi. This bank is their forest. Sita was not abducted as it is clear from the folklore of some tribes. She went with Ravana willingly. Surpnakha is the free spirit of the Adivasi. The forest and the land are the incarnate forms of Ma Danteswri for them.
“How was Ravana’s sister Surpnakha related to Bastar?”
“Bastar is a district of Chhattisgarh and Chhattisgarh was Dakshin Kosla. Ratanapur was a part of Dakshin Kosala. Surpnakha was married to Kapardidev, a ruler of Ratanapur. Perhaps he was killed later by Ravana over some family matter. After her husband’s death she often came here to find her relatives. It was during those visits, she came across Rama and his step brother Lakshman. Rama’s step brother chopped off her nose and ears,” Dr. Baghel said.
“Chopping off the nose and ears is a devastating assault, as is acid-throwing. Once in a while there is an unprecedented outcry on Indian streets against the violence of acid-throwing. Let me say only the form has changed to demonstrate masculinity. A number of women suffer and are disfigured every year by acid-throwing.” Reghu’s condemnation of the incident was obvious.
“This disgraceful deed of chopping off the nose and ear happened because Surpnakha made a marriage proposal. Rama and Lakshman did not tell her they were married. There were other ways for those brave Aryan brothers to intervene instead of exhibiting their masculinity by cutting off the nose and ears of a female guest. There was no attack by Surpnakha. Some groups in Sri Lanka do not believe that Ravana had abducted Sita. Her chastity was proven. Some families in Sri Lanka give the name Ravana to their sons. She was beautiful and related to royal families. She was certainly more beautiful than Sita was. This is the repetition of the story of Eklyviyye, who was an Adivasi and a much better archer than Arjuna, an Aryan disciple of Guru Dronacharya. They cut off his thumb to minimize his abilities to excel in martial arts. He was alone when he was attacked. Don’t forget that in the entire Ramayana not even a single Aryan is killed. The Adivasi are portrayed as rakshas, in other words, as savages. Krishna of Mahabharta is shown as killed by a Bhil Jarathu, an Adivasi, to show that the Adivasi are cruel. The Adivasi are portrayed as demons and nagas and nagas mean serpents. Perhaps Ravana belonged to the tribe of Gonds who hold him in a very high esteem.
“Just think of Ramayana. Rama goes everywhere in Sri Lanka looking for Ravana, though he knew Ravana. He had met him at the Swayambara of Sita. Yet he kept searching for him because his aim was to know the tapestry of Sri Lanka in order to destroy it. I believe that the real hero of Ramayana is not Rama; it is Ravana. Hero does not die and Ravana does not die in the epic. The prejudice of the Aryans against the Adivasi is still prevalent and it is obvious when it is propagated that the Adivasi never fought against the British for the freedom of India. In the Adivasi songs and tales there are several heroes who fought against the British. Even the Hindus admit it but when it comes to text books these heroes are neglected.
“In any case, I would like to know your assessment of Surpnakha for expressing her desire to marry Rama.” Dr. Baghel asked.
Reghu mused for a while and then said, “Feminist movements are also for self-expression and self-expression is the right of every human and women are human. A liberated woman rejects the idea of passivity as a myth. Surpnakha had the courage to express her proposal for marriage for which she was disgraced. To me Surpnakha is a sympathetic character who was ahead of her times. She is a prototype of a liberated woman. I appreciate her courage for self-expression.
“The waterfalls, flowers, trees, wild animals, hills and other objects of nature had penetrated into Surpnakha’s psyche, transforming her into one of them. She was spontaneous like her natural surroundings. The natural world had energy to pass on to anyone who rests in its lap. It is not polluted with fear and worry of society. Surpnakha was deeply attuned to the non-human pattern of this energy. Many wise men have supported this natural energy which is like a painting of a child that is effortless. To manifest this energy is to follow the heart— to listen to the god within. It is challenging and to accept challenges it needs inner strength to see the path of self-fulfillment. Surpnakha was blessed with that inner strength and because of this she walked lonely in the forests where wild animals roamed. But it was not a wild animal that had hurt her.
“Human society is driven by minds, fears and inflated egos. The vessels of passion and fulfillment are covered with the toys that money and reputation can buy, which Rajneesh had. It is important to follow the heart and the heart is free and wild like the jungles of Dakshin Kosala. Without the heart a human is a lost thing. The hearts of the industrialists and the politics of the elite are dreary as was the heart of Rajneesh, whose inside was a disused street.
“I believe Surpnakha was as appealing as her mother was. She was named Minakshi at birth, meaning fish-eyed. She had royal blood and married into a royal family. She was a widow when she met Rama and his brother Lakshman. Both the brothers made fun of her when she made a marriage proposal to Rama. That was like playing ping-pong with her feelings. It is neither a sin nor a crime to express oneself. Surpnakha was badly wronged for doing no wrong.”
Dr. Baghel replied, “According to Valmiki, Surpnakha was a rakshas— inhuman.”
“I would like to say”, Reghu answered, “A tree is known by its fruit. A person should be judged by his or her actions. There is nothing in the actions of Surpnakha that may suggest she was inhuman. On the other hands, she proved that she was a human and full of love and was not full of revengeful. It is clear when she asks her brother Khara not to kill Rama or Lakshman. In today’s democratic societies, including India, it would be a crime to chop off anyone’s nose and ears. It is a cruel assault. ” Reghu was somewhat assertive.
“Let us talk more about the Gonds,” Dr. Baghel proposed. “The Gonds are from Gondwana. A part of Bastar was Gondwana, the land of the Gonds. Rocks of Bastar, thousands of years old, bear witness to it. Lord Rama gave this area as gift to his son Kush. The Gond have many sub castes. They usually marry within their blood relations and marriages between brothers and sisters are common. A widow can marry her husband’s younger brother even if he is much younger than she is. As I have mentioned before, all unmarrieds sleep together under a system called Ghotul. They drink, dance and satiate their biological urges. When they choose their partners to marry they get out of the Ghotul.”
Opening a window of the room where they were sitting, Dr. Baghel paused for a while looking outside at the gathering clouds before saying, “This area has been ruled by the dynasties that claim to have originated from the sun. This area has also been ruled by the dynasties that claim to have originated from the moon and some even from serpents. This area has also been ruled by Ravana through his brother, Khara, and his sister, Surpnakha. Ravana is believed to have had ten heads and a flying machine which he used to carry Sita. That machine did not need any petrol or electric power to run. This area is known for these and other mind-boggling tales. This area is also known for witchcraft. In Valmiki’s Ramayana, the area of Chhattisgarh and its bordering towns are mentioned as Dandakaranya. The word Danda refers to punishment and also a demon.
“Let us also talk about the origin of Bastar, ” Reghu suggested.
“The history of Chhattisgarh is not clear because of its existence since the hoary past. The dynasties that ruled here claimed their mysterious origins and their fabrics had been bloodied with family feuds. In the fourteenth century the state of Bastar was founded by Annama Deva who hailed from Andhra Pradesh. His brother Pratapa Rudra, ruled Andhra. Annama Deva made Jagdalpur the capital of his kingdom. It is situated on the bank of the Indravati River. Bastar was divided into two kingdoms in the 15th century due to family jealousies. Its last ruler was popular with the tribal population. As we have discussed before, he was assassinated by the establishment at his own palace along with several of his faithful people.
“The region of Bastar has produced sages and is still producing sages. The influence of the sages who preached tolerance has always been strong here. Valmiki, who wrote The Ramayana, had his cottage around here. ” Dr. Baghel said.
Reghu was quick to add, “I call these sages spiritual physicians. The monastic calm and the rugged beauty of Bastar’s forests are conducive for producing these spiritual physicians. I believe that its last ruler wanted to be one of these spiritual physicians.”
“Yes he did. For self-discovery, he abdicated his throne to wander in the forest for enlightenment,” Dr. Baghel said.
“But I often wonder…,”
“What is it that you wonder?” Dr. Baghel asked with an inquisitive expression.
“The last ruler of Bastar is compared with Buddha who left his kingdom to become a beggar in search of the key to open the vault of the secrets of human sufferings. Buddha did find this key while he was meditating under a tree in Bihar, not far from here. After that he became an enlightened guru and started preaching his gospel.
“What was the mission for the renunciation of the last ruler of Bastar? Where did he go, whom did he meet in his wanderings, did he find a spiritual teacher, how did he live in the jungles and who fed him? What is it that he had discovered or he came back to serve his people when he was halfthrough his journey of self-discovery. The question that comes to my mind is if he had bodyguards around him when he was assassinated and if his people tried to capture any of his assassins? “Reghu asked.
“You will get these answers in your next visit,” was Dr. Bagel’s short reply. Let me continue. I would like to add that the area of Bastar is greater than the province of Kerala, greater than even Belgium and Israel. Because of its primitive culture, the area is exotic.”
That evening Reghu felt tired. He felt frustrated because he was far from the grasp of his Holy Grail. He could not blame the Vice Chancellor because he was a fresh arrival himself and had to learn about his challenging job. Reghu himself did not know where to start. Because of safety concerns he avoided going anywhere alone. He could have been introduced to some local writers and media, but he was told that no such things existed there. He was leaving for Kaligarh in the evening by a bus because there was no airport. Dr. Baghel came. He asked at one point of their conversation,
“Tell me something more about Rajneesh. Do you really believe that the last ruler of Bastar was killed because of his association with Rajneesh?”
“Rajneesh was born into a Jain family and Jains are mostly business people. His parents were cloth merchants. He had inherited merchandising. He combined merchandising with his knowledge of philosophy, in which he had a master’s degree and also taught this subject for a while around Chhattisgarh. He skillfully combined both with the knowledge he gained from the Ghotul of the Adivasi of Bastar, modifying this knowledge into a saleable item for the hungry markets of the West. Salesmanship was in his blood.”
“What sort of hunger are you referring to? There is plenty to eat in the West,” Dr. Bahghel said.
“Yes, plenty to eat, but not plenty to satisfy the biological hunger. According to the press reports the Adivasi adored the Maharaja who always supported their cause. As far as Rajneesh is concerned, his life was governed by lies. He lied to collect his toys to fill his emptiness. His inside was empty and his inside was empty because he lied and he lied more to remain in show business and he was in show business to collect more money to collect more toys. He did all this to fill his emptiness and yet his emptiness kept growing deeper. When he was at the height of his glory in Oregon, his inside was emptier than ever. He was devoid of empathy and had a conniving ambition for power and fame. He was hugely successful in selling the Tantra that was new and different for the West. When he was unmasked he had nothing inside to stand by him.
“His commune was riddled with crimes. His personal secretary betrayed him and he also betrayed her. She was convicted and incarcerated. His close allies left him. He himself was arrested, jailed, fined and ordered to leave the country. About twenty countries refused to let him enter their territories. When the empire of his dreams collapsed, he came back into the arms of his mother. His female lover, Vivek, committed suicide in a hotel in Bombay a few days earlier. It was his emptiness that drove him to end his life. He had only his children with him at the last moment,” Reghu added.
“Somewhere you said Rajneesh was against the institutions of family and marriage and he used to advise mothers to let children grow without them. From which womb did those children of Rajneesh come?” Dr. Baghel asked.
“His children came from the womb of his deeds. He was brought up by his relatives. He did not know the arms of his mother, not even of a wife. He violated every pious tradition in every possible way. I strongly believe that children should be close to their mother while growing up. I also strongly believe that couples should not become parents if they are not able to provide care and love. The mother’s absence will produce a number of Rajneeshes or Oshos.” Reghu was direct.
In the evening, Reghu was taken to the bus station. While the bus passed through the tunnel of darkness on the quiet highway, his mind focused on mother. He mused on the suggestions of Shiv to visit his mother often, though he saw no point after the death of his biological mother. He often wondered why his biological mother used to ignore her own comforts and health for the sake of the betterment of Reghu, knowing she would not get back even a fraction of that.
While in those thoughts, his phone rang. “Where are you?” It was Professor Pujari from Tulsi Ram University.
“On the bus. I will be at Raipur in the morning at nine.”
“Any unforgettable experience?” Professor Pujari asked.
“I was bored because the food was not spicy in Bastar. Two males came to see me in the hotel who promised to arrange the dinner of my liking. I don’t think I will be able to forget the appetizing taste of those chapattis and chicken. Both the males appeared to have utterly sincere souls.” Reghu said.
“They must be Nexalite.”
“For me, they were the hosts of the mythological hospitality from Dakshin Kosala who appeared from a Dandak Cave of Bastar and disappeared into the same cave,” was Reghu’s response.

About the author:
Multiple award winning Stephen Gill has authored more than twenty books, including novels, literary criticism, and collections of poems. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations, and research papers. Ten books have been released by book publishers and more are expected to be released shortly on his works. (Websites: www.stephengill.ca; www.stephengillcriticism.info; Managing Ed. www.writerslifeline.ca )

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