None but the Goddess consoles the helpless –

When melancholy casts gloom over life.    

There is an old temple of Bhabani, the powerful goddess, on the top of a hillock few miles away from the valorous jagirdar Balwantrao’s place. The hill behind the temple is covered with age-old trees casting shadow across the area even in the scorching daylight. The priests and Brahmins of the temple live in their huts under this shadow. The ancient trees are grown up listening to chanting of Puranic verses and Vedic mantras. The serene melody spread the message of devotion in every corner of this hilly area. Maharashtra was disturbed by wars and revolutions, but neither Hindus nor Mohammedans tried to spoil the spiritual tranquility of this place with their war cry.

In the middle of the night, a pedestrian is wandering alone in that calm forest. He is anxious; his wide forehead wrinkled, face angry, eyes burning with wild rage and heart fuming with anger, vengeance and misery. Fatigue forces him to sit on the ground near the temple, yet his fury doesn’t show a sign of dying down.

Some of the Brahmins are reciting Purana sitting close to that row of trees. The tune of sacred tales is showering nectar in that calm forest under the starry sky of the calm night. The stories and songs seem falling like raindrops on Raghupati’s burning forehead; drizzling peace on his fuming heart. Gradually his anger cools down – own misery and pain seem insignificant to himself. Own achievements, bravery in the battlefield and ambitions seem to be too small an affair! In course of time, the angst removing goddess of sleep takes him in her shelter. Exhausted Raghupati falls asleep under one of the trees.

In his dreams his youthful endeavours start disappearing; the lights of hope extinguishing. The memories of good old days come back like memories of last birth to the lonely warrior. He remembers his affectionate mother, his warrior father, his gentle sister Jyotibai, his childhood companions. He wants to meet his sister, who often visits the temple. Wasn’t that the reason he came to the temple?

A soft hand wipes Raghupati’s tears. Opening his eyes he sees his sister sitting beside him under the tree. Raghupati’s heart melts. He takes his sister’s hands in his.

Jyoti wipes own tears; asks him so many affectionate questions! Raghupati goes on answering. He narrates all about his journey after leaving Shivaji’s court. God knows it all that he did not do anything wrong. But his master humiliated him suspecting him to be disloyal. Homeless, he started travelling again. He does not want to live anymore with his reputation destroyed, but wants to die taking part in a battle like his father.

Tears roll down Jyotibai’s cheeks on hearing the tales of his misery. Being the wife of the feudal ruler Balwantrao Jumladar, she bears own misery, but is deeply hurt learning about his brother’s. Nevertheless being a woman, she knows how to comfort a person in distress. Only a woman removes other’s pain forgetting her own. She talks to him for long. “Our life is like that – not every day is same. God gives us good time, that we enjoy; why cannot we accept the bad time given by the same God then? We are born as human being to suffer. If we cannot tolerate, who will? God kept us happy at our father’s place, now he gives desolation, it will be removed again. Don’t be depressed, my brother! You will feel sick otherwise. You need proper food and rest to keep yourself healthy.”

Raghupati: “Why do I need to keep healthy? On the day a soldier’s name is tainted as traitor, he should have died!”

Jyoti: “Why do you want to leave your sister in distress forever? Who else do I have in this world? We lost our parents. I have only you as my own. You too are unkind to your sister!

Raghupati: “I know how much I mean to you. God should punish me if I hurt you someday. But I do not know what I will do with this life. I am a soldier. To a soldier, reputation is worthier than life; disrepute is worse than death. Raghupati has fallen into disrepute today!”

Jyoti: “Why don’t you try to recover yourself from that disrepute then? Why don’t you meet the Great Shivaji again? Once he comes out of anger, he will surely listen to you, understand your innocence.”

Raghupati doesn’t reply, only his face reddens; his eyes started burning. Intuitive Jyoti understands her brother inherited pride and ego from his father. He would never appeal like that. She again tells: “Well, pardon me, I am woman – do not understand everything. If you are not ready to meet Shivaji, why don’t you try to reclaim your reputation by your good deed? Father used to tell – the courage and loyalty of a soldier is expressed by his actions. If anyone has distrust of your faithfulness, you should clear that distrust with your sword.”

Sister’s words influence her brother. His eyes sparkle. He asks, “How to do that?”

Jyoti told, “I have heard Shivaji is travelling to Delhi. Thousands of incidents may occur there. A determined soldier may find numerous options to prove himself there. Being a housewife, I cannot tell you much. But none of your purposes is unachievable if you follow father’s way of gallantry and determination.”

If Raghupati had cared to ponder, he could easily realize that his younger sister was not inexperienced in understanding human heart. The medication she has given him healed his gloominess within moments – the mind of a soldier enlivened.

Now he is besieged in deep thought. Taking a long pause, he tells, “Jyoti, true you are a woman. But your words made me think in a new light. I am not discouraged any longer. God should support me. Soon everyone will know that I am neither a rebel, nor a timid soldier. But you are still so young – why am I telling these to you – how would you know my heart?”

Jyoti smiles. She knows how to encourage her brother without hurting his pride, “True you are – how do my kind of a housewife know about the purpose of a warrior’s life? But whatever happens, till your younger sister is alive, will pray to God for fulfilling your purpose.” Taking a pause she says, “I wanted to ask you something, but I am scared.”

Raghupati: “Jyoti! I am your brother- you are scared of me!”

Jyoti: “Probably a jumladar named Balwantraodid harm you?”

Raghupati’s looks serious. He restrains himself from bursting, “What Balwantrao told the king was not incorrect. And I cannot tell whether he had done any harm to me.”

Jyoti: “Whatever he had done, please promise you will not harm him!”

Raghupati keeps quiet. Jyoti requests again, “Being a sister, I did not beg anything from you before. Please keep my words.”

The brother softens. says: “Jyoti, once in a while I doubt it was Balwantraowho who tried to harm me. But I promised you standing in this Goddesse’s temple that I will not do anything that may hurt him. I did forgive him. May God forgive him as well.”

Jyoti repeats from her heart: “May God forgive him.”

“May God keep you happy!” – replies her brother before leaving the temple.

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By now, we can imagine the reason of Raghupati’s being late on the day of attacking the Bajragad fort.  He was not sure of coming back alive at the end of that fierce battle. Hence Raghupati wanted to meet Saryu once before starting, Saryu bade farewell with teary eyes.  After that day But Saryu received no news of Raghupati. She was hoping Raghupati would be honoured in the royal court ensuring victory in the battle, and then come back cheerfully to tell the tales of war. But Raghupati never came back.

One day a maid brought news – Raghupati had been expelled from Shivaji’s army for being a traitor. Saryu could not understand the significance of this for few moments. Then her face blackened; anger engulfs her. She cried: “What are you telling! Raghupati is a traitor! He joined Mohammedans! You are dumb – get out of my sight!”  But in course of time, when other soldiers started returning from battlefield chanting the same: “Raghupati became a traitor!”, also all her friends repeated the same, she couldn’t respond any longer. Even her old father was worried, “Who knew even an innocent looking boy like him planned such a wicked thing!” Even though entire world was calling Raghupati a traitor, her intuition told that the world was wrong.

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These days Saryu goes to the lake inside the fort every evening. She sees a tall saint wearing matted hair sitting there. Outsiders are not common in the fort. Curiosity leads her to meet the divine angel.

The saint looks at Saryu; asks in a deep voice, “My child! Are you looking for any help from this saint? Did you come here for any specific reason? Why are you looking sad?”

Saryu is unable to reply. She is doubtful whether to reveal her mind before an unknown person, even though a saint. Finally decides to state, “You are a saint, you know it all – please oblige me telling something about him. I think he is in danger – I wanted to ask how he is.”

Saint: “Everyone knows him to be a traitor now.”

Saryu: “The Lord knows it all!”

Saint: “The leader expelled him calling him a traitor.”

Saryu blushes. Her eyes fill with tears. She tries to make a move, “He might have been betrayed, but I wouldn’t believe he can be a traitor. Let me leave now.”

The saint’s voice sounds emotional as he slowly tells, “I have something more to tell you.”

Saryu: “Please tell.”

Saint: “Reading human mind in difficult. There is only one way to guess how honest Raghupati is. A lover’s heart mirrors the heart of a lover. Only the person who loves Raghupati by heart would know how mind is framed.”

Saryu mutters thanking the almighty, “God knows it all. If I hope to be the beloved of him, then I trust him as well. But don’t know what he intends to do now.”

Saint: “I guess he will try to do away with the disgrace showing own gallantry, by own action. He does not mind sacrificing his life to do so.”

Saryu: “He has a great perseverance. If you happen to meet him someday, tell him that the Rajput’s daughter Saryu prays to God for his success.”

Saint: “May God help him. But truth does not always win. Especially the purpose Raghupati wants to fulfil may be reason for his death.”

Saryu: “Fighting is religion to Rajput.”

Both sat silent for some time. After a long pause Saryu speaks again: “I have no regret in life now. May I know his name?”

Saint: “Sadananda Swami.”

The night is becoming darker. In that deep darkness, a saint is walking alone towards the fort of Raigarh.

Raigad-Darwaja_(The_Gate)

Gate of Raigad fort: Wikimedia commons