3000 BC: Devdutt stared into the emptiness that stood between him and the mlechha.
The king of Suryavastipur had many credits to his name – a name that reverberated far and wide evoking half-truths and half-fantasies of an intrepid warrior and astute scholar. His age belied his abilities. Still a 22 year old boy, he had fought more wars, conquered more kingdoms and disciplined more rebels than many dynasties had done in generations. His rule covered the vast expanse of Aryavarta, and no man living north of Vindhyas and south of the indomitable Himalayas questioned his status as the supreme ruler of Bharata.
But inexperience often makes itself known in the unlikeliest of situations. Always aware of his accomplishments, Devdutt had allowed the disease of vanity to creep into his heart. This vanity centered not so much on his self as it did on the noble lineage that marked his family’s bloodline. And it was this vanity, the raw fruit of his inexperience, that made him stare in wonder at the empty space between him and the mlechha.
Could it really be possible that this barbaric mlechha had discovered a cure to the vyadhi? The rules Devdutt had laid down were as clear as the water in the pond outside his palace. Any physician who could cure the cursed vyadhi, that had mysteriously gripped the subjects of his empire, would be made rajan of the four villages that stood on the shores of Sarayu. In his wildest speculations, Devdutt had never imagined a mlechha to come up with a cure. To Devdutt, these pig coloured barbarians were the wretches of human existence : nomads who ate anything that moved and who lived an uncivilized life of one sin after another. He or any other king in Aryavarta would not deign to even conquer the land these nomads lived on, the disgrace of attacking someone so helpless being outside the realm of any civilized king’s imagination.
And yet, there he stood : the mlechha who had cured the vyadhi. Devdutt’s mind was crisscrossed with possible explanations for this anomaly. Surely this mlechha must have stolen the cure from some civilized citizen, perhaps even murdered the citizen. He made arrangements for the mlechha’s stay and ordered an empire-wide probe into this strange occurrence.
The story gripped Aryavarta, especially its intellectuals, like a fever. How could a barbarian accomplish what their own physicians could not? Their collective pride created a vacuum which quickly began filling itself with hypotheses, explanations and specious arguments. A physician claimed that he had discovered this cure first and the barbarian had stolen it from him. A respected lady in one of the four villages that stood on the shores of Sarayu declared that she would burn herself, should the mlechha become her rajan. Devdutt allowed himself to be convinced by the collective zeal of his citizens.
It was a blistering noon and Saraswati shimmered in the heat of the sun. Outside Suryavastipur’s palace, the aushadhi that the mlechha had ‘stolen’ was being used to cure the civilized citizens who had been affected by the vyadhi. Inside the palace, Devdutt sat on his throne and watched the mlechha get his skin peeled by the whip. The barbarian writhed in agony and helplessness, shrieking with pain every time the sharp whip cracked on his body. He was thrown into the forest, a helpless pulp of flesh and died a few days after justice was thus delivered.
Inside a Gurukul that stood enveloped by the forest, the Acharya imparted knowledge of the universe to his sleepy students:
‘The soul is beyond space and time. It is not limited, it simply exists. It exists on both the shores of time and it exists also in the waves of time. Your duty in this life is to do the right action which is your Karma as well as your Dharma. This is the only yardstick by which you will be measured. And measured you will be, because no one can escape karma – like soul, karma simply exists. Karma is your duty and it is also the reward for that duty. Its judgement is impartial, it is the Yama of existence’