Body of his is covered with impenetrable amulet;

He carries quivers on shoulders and a bow on his left

His skin glowing like gold; the lotus-eyed has ears divine –

Where earrings like the master of the day, shine. 

750px-Mahratta_Light_Horseman 2nd chapter

Nature sometimes turns violent during rains in Konkan area. It is about to rain aggressively today evening. Long before sunset, dark impenetrable cloud overcast the sky. Shadows engulfed the entire hill-range and forests around. The mountains, valleys, forests and fields between the sky and earth are sinking into silence along – as if the whole world is dumbfounded, as if the hailstorm threatens all. The pathways on the nearby hills are still partially visible, but the hills with larger trees little far went dark. The shadow covers the valley below as well. The streams flowing down the hills are looking like silver strings in some places; elsewhere they too are hidden under the veil of darkness – only proving their presence by their jingling sound.

A lone cavalier is galloping fast through the mountain course. The cavalier’s mud-stained torso on the horse covered with froth and sweat gives an impression of his having crossed a long distance. He holds a spear in right hand, a sword tied with the waist, a shield on the left arm and the end of the bridle clutched by left hand. The tall and fair cavalier looks about eighteen. But hard labour under the scorching sun did burn his fair face already in this tender age. The well-built warrior’s face with wide forehead and bright pair of eyes shows his generous nature.

The sky is looking terrible. He glances at the sky couple of times and starts galloping faster. The tabdak-tabdak of horse-hooves continues echoing in the quiet hilly region. He is trying to run faster than the dreadful thunderstorm that is likely to hit the mountain range soon. As the wind starts blowing slowly filling the space between the trees and the hills with an intense hum, a few passionate claps of thunders are being heard. A few raindrops touch the dry lips of the young man. The weather is not at all suitable to trot. He should have waited somewhere on the way. But the young man seems not having much time to brood over. He is in a hurry to fulfil his duty. Probably he is working under a master unwilling to hear an excuse; or being a young enthusiast, he doesn’t have a habit of showing excuses.

A terrible storm breaks in the hill district. Crashing thunderbolts pierce the sky from one end to the other. The turmoil in nature till far is seen under frequent lightning. Loud thunder-strokes shatter the solemn silence of the endless hills hundred times. The roaring high wind creates commotion in the hills like a thousand giants on the run while the deafening sound of cracking trees fills the entire region. Water from the streams and water-falls began splashing out. Incessant rain widens water-falls and streams flooding the valley.

The cavalier doesn’t have any intention to stop; continues galloping with caution. The high wind almost throws him along with his horse downhill couple of times. Constantly beaten by the moving branches of the trees, his turban tore. A few drops of blood appear on his forehead, but the man with a goal keeps on riding forward.

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The sky comes out clear after a few hours of heavy rainfall. The freshly drenched trees at the hilltop under evening sunlight invite the cavalier like intriguing fairies.

The young man stops his horse as he arrives near the entrance of the fort. He looks at the foothills, pushing back his drenched hair from his wide forehead. The newly bathed dense greenery with endless number of trees between the hills is dazzling under clear golden sunlight.  The waterfalls, grown ten times their width, surge dancing from one peak to another showing utmost pride – how playful they look in the golden light! On the other side, the same sunlight breaks into various colours on the hilltops forming long rainbows. The clouds are still melting into rains over the distant hills.

The young man looks at the fascinating beauty of the nature for a moment; then hastily starts riding the road towards the fort. As soon as he enters the fort, the gate behind him bangs shut.

The gatekeeper tells amusingly, “You did not reach early anyway! You were to spend the night outside the fort wall if you were a little late.”

The young man replies, “No, I couldn’t be late. By Goddess Bhavani’s grace, I will keep my promise of delivering my master’s message to the fort-keeper tonight only.”

The fort-keeper, a trusted commander of Shivaji, was waiting for him. The leader sent him a letter explaining his plan of the forthcoming war against Delhi Emperor – the war strategies, the support the fort-keeper should provide Shivaji as well as other instructions. The depth in the face of the eighteen year old surprises him as he looks at the messenger. He starts shooting questions at him: “I guess you are Rajput – you are Raghupati, right? You look very young; hope you will not turn your back in adverse situations? How did you cross the distance between Sinhagarh to this Toran-fort so fast?”

The young man replies to all his questions politely.

Satisfied fort-keeper smiles at the end, “I shouldn’t have asked you; your built shows very well how much you can take to accomplish your task. Well, meet me again tomorrow morning. I will draft my letters in the meantime. Tell Shivaji that the Havildar he selected for the job is reliable!” Raghupati accepts those compliments nodding politely. His cloths are still wet and the wound on the forehead is still visible.

The fort-keeper heaves a sigh of relief after Raghupati left. Maintaining secrecy is essential to send confidential information to Shivaji. Anyway he doesn’t want to write a letter to avoid giving enemies a chance to snatch it from the carrier on his way back. Testing the reliability of messenger is important in such cases – whether it would be safe to communicate messages verbally through him; whether bribe would encourage him to reveal secret information to the enemy. Needless to say – the messenger passed the test.

 

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