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The Jivamala
Rukmini Das
The life of a Warrior-Priest of Hanuman

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Section V - Encountering the Invaders



Our land was rocky and full of hills, but there were forests where we got wood for cooking. The [invading] warriors would come down the roads and would not be in the forests, so we made the roads difficult to ride.

We were not a major city but a small village. We hoped that we would be overlooked, or at least only a few men would come our way. We were safe for a few months but then we heard the horns.

We had been practicing. The horns came from far away, so there was time to round up the women and the children and the elderly and hide them in the forest. We had made safe places, caves and hiding places between large rocks, and covered them so they could not be seen. At least they would be safe.

I rode out with Bhai and two other men, and spent the day making sure they were hidden, and that the children had food. We were a small village but we had over 50 people there.

Then we came back and placed barriers on the roads, and hid behind the rocks. It took many hours (we had all taken food) but in the distance we heard a kind of thunder, and then we could see a great dark cloud approaching us.

They were like the warriors the old man had described - on horses, wrapped in black rags, dressed in black like the storm clouds. We were all terrified - we were not warriors, we were not hardened by battle. But as they approached, they started falling into the disguised pits, and many fell on the spikes below. They started riding more carefully then going around the lumps and mounds on the road, riding along the sides and in the woods. Of course, we had made pits in the woods as well.

We tied thin string along the trails, and this made their horses fall, but did not kill them. They still kept coming towards our village. Finally, our headman gave the signal, and we went out to fight. It became a chaotic scene of people hitting each other with sticks, spears, and swords. I was now a priest, and I shouldn't be fighting - it was a bad action to take another's life for a priest. So I decided to focus on the horses. While the men were fighting men, I ducked down and slew horse after horse. I felt bad about this, and I said prayers for their rebirth in good bodies. This made the men fall off the horses, and it helped out our men. Warriors from other villages came, who had not been attacked, and had heard the horns. They knew where the traps were and could avoid them. They helped us fight.

With the men from the other villages, there started to be as many of us as there were of them. I was taking care of their horses and they were starting to steal each other's horses. Some men saw me, and we fought but I was able to defend myself well enough so that other warriors could step in and finish the job. I did not want to kill men.

But as the battle raged on, I saw my Lord Hanuman's eyes open in the sky, and I prayed, "Lord, what shall I do?"

He looked down and said,

All men die. The slayer is does not slay, the slain is not slain. You have heard of the great war and how the prince wished to refrain from killing, but he could not. You have been clever and useful focusing on the horses. But you cannot escape your fate - you must become a real warrior. I will give you some of my strength.
I felt as if full of light and energy, like a spirit of the wind. It did not matter anymore if I lived or died.

I turned and there was a warrior behind me. He was young too. But it did not matter - he would fight to kill me because that was what he was trained to do. We both had knives and we wrestled, trying to stab each other. Finally, I got a burst of strength, and stabbed him in the neck. He did not look at me with hatred, but rather with resignation. We stared at each other as his life fled away, and he collapsed.

I got up and fought with others, as if I were in a daze. Sometimes I stabbed them, and sometimes they stabbed me, but nobody hurt me enough to kill me. The air was full of screams, and dust, and neighing horses, and it was a blur. I remembered what I had learned with the sadhus. I fought for the sake of others, not for myself. I fought to protect my family, and my village. At one point, I fought a man whose turban was green, and I think I stabbed him, but he hit me in the face and the world turned dark. I lay on the ground a long time, unconscious. When I awoke, the warriors had gone and the field was full of people lying on the ground. I saw Bhai going carefully through the dying, stabbing in the throat all the enemy who remained alive. They would not be sheltered.

I tried to get up, but I fell down again. One of the village men saw me and said, "It is over."

Section VI - The Village Council

He gave me water and said,

We have all lost men. When most of the men on both sides were dead and wounded, they took the remaining horses and fled. I saw you killing horses. That was a good move - if there were more horses, they might have stayed longer. But with the few that remained, they knew they needed them to go on [and escape].

They were not strong enough to attack our town - too many of them were wounded. They looked like they were going back - I don't think they attacked any of the towns [after the battle]. Now they know that we will fight and that we will not be slaves.

The road and forests were full of wounded people. We took them back to the village and told the women that the area was safe, and had them tend to the wounded. Scouts were sent out again in case the warriors decided to return.

But they didn't, and all was quiet. We tried to find survivors from the other villages, and more people were alive than dead. Everybody cleaned up and drank water, and then we had a council, to try and understand what had happened.

Our headman said,

We do not know the politics of this. We do not know why these people were invading, and if their goal is near or far. We do not know if they will return.

Our thanks to our new priest, whose vision of the Monkey Lord warned us of this invasion. Child, you have proved yourself a true priest and warrior. We are glad to have you.

He went on talking but I barely heard. I was so happy that he had noticed me, and that I could be of help. He spoke of the bravery of all the men of the villages who died, and how we farmers and merchants had held our own against hardened warriors. We should be proud of this. The women cheered and the men stood up straighter. Even the wounded puffed up their chests.

He said,

The sadhus were of great help. They taught us to fight. We must give them a generous offering for the akhara this year, and for the future. They have also taught us the importance of information. Who among us would have known how to fight horsemen, if not for one old man. We must learn more of these invaders.

I suggest that we have some of us go into the cities. If we must walk for two weeks, we must go. We need to find out who these people are, and why we were attacked, and if they will come again.

There were some sadhus here who came to fight along side us - they were here with Bhai. Bhai stood up and said,
Sadhus are known for wandering - our presence in the city will not be noticed. We will say that we are on a pilgrimage. We will not choose to fight but we will defend ourselves if it is necessary. People are willing to speak to sadhus.
The headman said,
I accept your offer, on the part of our villagers. We all know that you have sacrificed the peace and happiness of ordinary life to follow a hard destiny. Now you sacrifice yourself for our safety. Such behavior is noble, and makes you worthy of the rishis and yogis of ancient days.

The men cheered them, shouting the name of [the god] Ram. The sadhus looked unmoved but I will bet that inside they swelled with pride, for this was a great compliment. I never realized that our headman was such a good speaker.

One of the old men in the village knew a little about healing, and I had learned a little among the sadhus. We cleared wounds and bound them with rags, and found places in the shade for the wounded. The sadhus left on their spy mission. They were right. They would be perfect to find out information [about our attackers].

We could not return to peace because we did not know if we would be attacked again. Our headman said that we should return to farming work, but that every other day we must practice an hour of fighting so that we would remember what to do if they returned again. The women and children must remember their hiding places, and find the quickest way to get there.

Section VII - Sadhu Spies

We were not born of the warrior clan, but we had to learn their ways. The invasion changed our village forever. The sadhus were gone for several weeks and first one group returned, and then another group returned a week later. They said the news was not good. These men in black rags came from the north and wanted to conquer our country. They took many cities, and fouled the women, and torched the houses. Many were stone, so the houses were blackened but survived. However some towns had no men surviving.

The sadhus said that most villages were destroyed, but one village was full of warriors and fought back., and they were unable to take it. I'm sure that was us. The men in black are retreating now, for they come in waves. But they will return, and they will continue their raids. They do raiding for years on end, over and over until the land is theirs. Then they install leaders and tax collectors, and the people must bow down to them as rulers.

Their leader comes to war with them, and he is believed to be like a god, or to them a prophet. He wears a green turban - not black rags like the others. He was wounded on one of the raids, and this was a bad omen for them. It may slow their second wave of attacks.

I was proud - I knew that I had stabbed him. I didn't know if that was the wound, or mine had done nothing, and others had done more harm, but at least I contributed to delaying future attacks.

Our headman said, "How long is there between attacks?"

The sadhus said,

This is unknown. We asked others, who had heard from yet others. It could be six months, or it could be six years. But when they have fought in a place, they do not return to it [immediately]. They believe that it is bad luck to fight twice in the same place.

The headman said,

Then we can relax for while - they will not come again in this period of raiding. But if our land is marked territory, they will not go away completely. We must always be ready for them.

This is what we must do. Young priest and brave warrior, you gave the first warning. I ask you to worship the Monkey Lord daily, and we will build a temple for him here. He predicted this attack. Perhaps if you please him, he will tell us of the next one, too. Our village does not have its own god. - let us make him the god of this village. This too may make him want to help us.

Men, we must keep up our warrior training. Not as often, perhaps an hour a week, but we must remember how to fight. If we forget, we will die. Sadhus, you are our teachers and our protectors, and all sadhus here must be fed.

Women and children, and ancient ones, you must be protected. Keep up your hiding places, expand them, make them comfortable, and make new ones if you need to. Our men will help you.

Villagers, we will not die without a fight!

The people cheered.

And I will be the temple priest of Hanuman

Section VIII - The Hanuman Temple

So our people went to work with renewed spirit. We were the village that had resisted the invaders!

The men took unused land and chipped stone, and made mortar. They made a small square temple to the Monkey Lord, with a spire on top and stairs leading up to it. It was high and would not flood if there were rains.

It was not on sacred ground though, so I had to sanctify the ground. I needed a sacred object to bury. I wondered, was there anything here that he (Hanuman) valued.

At night I called to him, and said, "Lord, we build you a temple, for you have helped us and my village is grateful. Is there something we should use to sanctify the ground?"

In my dream, he said, "Give me that which you value most from the fight."

When I awoke, I thought about it. I realized that I most valued the knife with which I stabbed the man with the green turban, their leader. It was the single act that made me most proud. I would give him the knife.

I buried it beneath the temple, near the altar area. Now the ground was sacred, at least to me. We needed a statue, or at least a rock to be our god. We had men look in nearby villages but we couldn't find a suitable statue.

Then he (Hanuman) appeared in my dream again, as two open eyes in a dark sky. He said,

Warrior and priest, there is a rock known to me. It is associated with a warrior of old. Go to the river and walk until you see a great white boulder. Look beneath the boulder for a rock that was once carved.
When I awoke, I did so. The river was an hour away, and I walked along its bank for another hour. I finally found one (a white boulder), behind vines and tree roots. I looked beneath it and there were many small rocks in the water. I pulled up one that looked small, and it turned out to be big below the surface. It had dirt and mossy green seaweed on it. I washed it off, and tried to clean away the encrustations. On it was a picture of a man in kingly robes, incised into the stone. He carried a mace, and on the mace was a monkey with a crown.

I wondered what this meant. Surely it couldn't say that the king was superior to a god! Perhaps it meant that he fought with the blessing of the god, or that the god was everywhere for him, even in his weapon. I squinted my eyes but I could not make out who the king was. He looked like he had a beard, and a long robe.

The rock was heavy but I got it back. I went to the headman first, and showed it to him. He didn't recognize the figure either, but if the lord wanted it, that was enough.

We put it on the altar, and I called the Lord down to us.


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