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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Episode 3/Chapter 20: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Chapter 20

We were sitting on the river bank and going over the map for the thousandth time. The map clearly indicated where we could look for the treasure, if there was any. The drawing showed a beam of bright sunlight passing through a small hole in the ceiling of a ‘mandap’. There was a tunnel shown beneath the ground where the sunlight fell and the tunnel ended against a stone wall. Was the treasure hidden behind this stone wall? We didn’t know. Which ’mandap’ was being referred to in the map? We couldn’t decide. There were at least two big ‘mandaps’ inside the temple – one was Navrathri Mandap where Poojas were done for the Devi – the Mother deity – as part of Navrathri Celebrations over nine nights sometime during September/October of every year and another ‘mandap’ supported by over hundred pillars. The latter was used to celebrate Arudhra Darshan. Many religious discourses too took place in this mandap. The roof terraces of these two mandaps were exposed to direct sun light. The long corridors called prahar that surrounded the sanctum sanctorum were exposed to the sky as well. Then, there were two smaller narrow stone mandaps outside the temple on both sides, of which one was adjoining the temple’s sacred tank. Probably these halls were meant for pilgrims to rest in earlier years, but now they were in a dilapidated state.

Then, there were two more mandaps closer to the river. We assumed that in those days, the one that sat right on the banks touching the river must have been used as boat jetty, for embarking and disembarking people and for loading and unloading goods. The other one must have been built as a dressing room for people after they took bath in the river, perform rituals for their ancestors or rest for a while. The yesteryears’ kings and rulers were very considerate to build various facilities and amenities for the benefit of common people.

We couldn’t determine which of these mandaps was referred to, in the map. So, we decided to systematically explore. Initially, we wanted to exclude the mandaps that were located inside the temple. We climbed onto the terrace during mid-afternoon, when the temple was usually closed and when no one seemed to notice anything. We searched inch by inch for gaping holes in the ceiling through which sunlight could pass and fall on the ground. We worked in turns and searched for several days, but we found nothing. We were getting tired. Then one day, it rained heavily and we ran to the temple. We explored every nook and corner to find out whether the rainwater poured through any hole from the ceiling. There were definitely openings in the roof, but not a drop of water was found on the ground.

A few months passed by.

We then decided to try our luck with the mini mandaps outside the temple. Here our search was much more embarrassing, as we had to do it in open where anyone could notice what we were doing. Adhi Kesavan’s ability to act like a lunatic came very handy and I was his rescuer going after him. We played ‘Catch the lunatic’ drama in open and used as much of our skill as possible and searched for holes in the ceiling.

Thank Lord Siva! We found two holes – one in each mandap. We climbed down enthusiastically, but alas, no light was passing through the holes and no light fell on the ground. We were terribly disappointed. We went to the mandap at different times on different days, but we never found sunlight passing through the holes and falling on the ground.

Another few months passed by.

We finally gave up and thought that probably, the mandaps closest to the river were the ones mentioned in the map. There were no provisions to climb to the terrace of these mandaps. The pillars of the mandaps were rugged, heavy and approach to these mandaps was full of thorny bushes. They had remained unused for long. We visited these mandaps several times and identified two clear large openings on each of them on their ceiling. We had a hunch feeling that probably we were very close to discovering the secret to the hidden treasure.

Over the next three or four months, we visited these mandaps every day to check whether sunlight passed through any of these openings to fall on the ground. Adhi Kesavan didn’t trust anyone easily and declined to seek additional outside help. But he trusted me completely. Strange it was! On occasions, I found myself looking stupid and foolish, many times embarrassed by piercing looks and sarcastic comments from known and unknown bystanders.

I had now become familiar with many at Brahmadesam. People had come to know me as the one associated with the building of check dams in the upper regions of Papanasam. They all showered their praise on me for my heroic efforts and I accepted them gracefully. Many had a curious look on their faces as to why a person like me should associate myself with a lunatic like Adhi Kesavan. Some dared to ask and others looked on.

Almost a year passed by at Brahmadesam without any real action. Physically, I was doing well except for some occasional abdominal pain I could not explain. One early morning, I was with Sri Kailasanathar at the temple. I was in the inner corridor. It was mostly dark except for the lamp lit near the main deity. I was praying intently. After some time, I opened my eyes and turned my head back towards the main entrance. I was blinded by the sight of the powerful thick beam of sunlight entering through the main tall entrance, dividing when passing through the graceful Nandhi, rejoining to light the inner corridor and then finally light up the Siva Lingam. Lord Sri Kailasanadhar was glowing in the light in the inner sanctorum. For a moment I lost myself merging with the light and reappearing. It was a moment of ecstasy. I was One with the Lord briefly, never wanting to be separate. It was a brief spiritual experience of Oneness and I felt rejuvenated.

When I came out, the priest of the temple met me near the entrance to the temple.

“Do you know that there is going to be a solar eclipse today?” He asked me.

I didn’t know.

“Today’s solar eclipse is going to be very unique as it is happening after nearly hundred years. The Sun will be in a unique location in its orbit today.”

“Oh, really!”

“People perform tarpan (rituals offering for forefathers) to keep the departed souls satisfied and happy and to seek their blessings. Why don’t you join the group at the riverside, to perform tarpan for your parents too?”

“Oh sure, if you say so!”

I didn’t realize that that day was going to be the turning point for us.

................ to be continued

1 comment:

  1. Let me clarify, once again. The novel, the episodes, the characters and situations are entirely fictitious.