Storms ruled the first thousand years of life.
By the time I claimed my room, I turned into a zombie...
Suspended somewhere between the worlds within and outside...
Vaguely aware of either...
But then, existence needs more meaning, and spectacles need a windowpane...
Right here, I found mine…

Who am I? An average woman - trying to work on my share of maze through layers of haze...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Metamorphosis

The diary entry of Emperor Ashoka on the last day of the Battle of Kalinga
Dated:20 Nov 2000 (Class XI)

Day 10, the Battlefield of Kalinga:
The great battle of Kalinga has eventually come to an end, and with this, I, Emperor Ashoka, the grandson of the valiant Chandragupta Maurya, have established my supremacy over the crores of inhabitants of my newly gained territory. With the latest inclusion of Kalinga, my empire today stretches from the foot of the mighty Himalayas in the North to the Mysore in the South, from the Brahmaputra in the East to the Arabian Sea in the West. Yes, I have upheld the honor of my glorious ancestry…. .Yes, I have made my mark!


It is the sunset hour now. The huge battlefield of Kalinga, unlike the past 10 days, is uncannily silent today. No more an ecstatic war cry to be heard anywhere. The air is filled with the pungent smell of raw blood. Occasional groans and wails of the unfortunate send freezes down my spine. Standing at the milky-white forecourts of the divine Dhavalgiri, I stare down at the red, gory bodies of one and a half lac brave Kalingans. I stare down at the sobbing child sitting beside his father, reduced to a mere corpse today, to perform his last rites. I stare down at the solitary woman searching frantically through the casualties with her quivering hands, for one that is very special to her. Very soon, in the veil of night, the battlefield will disguise itself as a cemetery ground, and bodies will perish whom I knew not … whose indelible blood will stain my hands as long as I do live.

O Ashoka, o the ruler of Magadha, are you fortunate at the price of a crores of fortunes? Does your smile cost the masses their own?

Warm tears roll down my royal cheeks…. tears unsuitable for an Emperor…..tears too shameful for the Chandashoka*. The crimson rays of the setting sun ignite agony in my heart. They turn my pride to ashes. My heavenly forefathers vex me with the words …
“O Priyadarshi*, the father figure of Magadha, remember the day when the royal scepter of the Mauryans was handed over to you. Remember the great promises you had made to your subjects … to bring them happiness, to endow them with unforeseen prosperity. Now judge how true you have been to your own words.”

Oh, what terrible shame darkens their visages!

I wonder, do my own people gratify my activities? Today their Emperor has made a landmark in the history of world. His name has become synonymous with power, valor, and strength. Doesn’t this supreme conquest strike a note of glee in their hearts? Or have I turned into a mere whimsical tyrant in their eyes, who has blown out the last ray of hope and peace from their lives for his own personal grudge?

What do I call the bleeding corpses that lie cold in the battlefield of Kalinga yonder? The lion-hearted martyrs for their motherland, or the helpless sacrifices in the ‘yajna’ of the fulfillment of my sky-high blind ambitions?

O Ashoka, the conqueror of Kalinga, place yourself in the mother who has lost her robust son today. Think how you would have reacted had your Mahendra’s** life been suddenly snatched away by the cruel blow of a deadly weapon! Feel the torment raging in her heart .Consider once for a while, whether all this bloodshed and violence was really required for your success as an Emperor.

I plunge into the chasm of my heart. Do I hear a faint whisper, a mournful lament echoing within? This is the day of your trial, Ashoka. So be cautious. Understand if this the voice of your conscience, ever suppressed by your endless greed for fame and power, or your mental weakness that floods away your stamina, just as a tiny straw caught in a whirlpool.

Oh my! A thousand questions bang their heads against the walls of my heart today. They shake the very foundations of the royal ideals I’ve grown up with. Who will provide me the answers? Who will tell me what is the right path for me to follow at this crisis point of my life? O Buddha, prudent preacher, should I then tread your footsteps? Should I endearingly take in my arms the groaning soldier that lies hither and treat him back to life?

Who is my foe? He- the Kalingan soldier who considered it his primary duty to defend his beloved motherland against a hostile invader like me?

How is history going to remember me hereafter? As an unmanly coward who turned his face away from the duties of an Emperor? Or as a saint who relinquished all worldly lust and hatred in search of a deeper peace?

Come to my rescue, Gautam Budhha! Offer me your soothing palm. Pardon my faults. Enlighten me with a fraction of your spiritual prudence and kindness. Emperor Ashoka is too tired today.He loathes being a supreme power. He despises being a conqueror. Awake the human Ashoka from the ashes of his burning heart. Let me rest my humble head upon your divine feet today and draw from it inspiration.

Help me, o savior of human race. I can bear it no more!
* ‘Chandashoka’ and ‘Priyadarshi’ are names by which the Emperor Ashoka was known during his times. The name ‘Chandashoka’ was conferred on him because of his ruthlessness.

** ‘Mahendra’ was the son of Ashoka.

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