In the peninsular part of the ancient land of Bharatvarsha, south of the Vindhya mountains, was located a territorial region known as Nashikya. Most of the land of Nashikya was covered with dense, impenetrable forests where light did not reach the ground, no vegetables grew and no flowers bloomed. This dense forest, akin to hell on earth was known as the Dandaka Van, where people were banished to as a form of punishment or danda, and hence the name.
A portion of the forest however, was more verdant than the rest, and had trees that bore fruits and flowers in full bloom. Situated on the banks of the holy river Godavari, this part of the woods was known as Panchavati after the five types of vat or trees found in the area. Populated by birds and beasts, green plants and flowers of different varieties, this small area of the Dandaka forest stood out like an oasis in a desert, the only sign of life in an otherwise desolate and threatening region.
It was in this area of the forest that the two brothers had cleared a patch of the woods by cutting away a few trees, and using them to build a modest forest dwelling. A huge mountain stood at the rear end of the clearing and the river Godavari encircled it from two sides, leaving only one side to approach the area from. Thus, protected by nature, it had seemed an ideal place for them to build their dwelling for the period of their stay in the forest.
After clearing away the trees and the shrubs, they built a perimeter around the clearing by putting up a wooden fence, and planting shrubs and creepers inside the compound to make it look beautiful and habitable. At the far end of the compound, near the foot of the mountain, with the river encircling it on two sides, stood the hut where the three had dwelled on the advice of the great sage Agastya, after their banishment from Ayodhya, the impenetrable city, which could not be conquered in any war or yudha.
It was in this clearing that he now stood, with his back to the hut and the mountain, facing the south. As the late afternoon sun started to slide down, the shadow of the hut grew longer till it just about touched his feet. He stood erect, motionless, looking at the dark forest beyond. The sunlight glinted off his armor, and the chainmail he wore shone like the sun itself; his skin contrasting against the metal. He was tall and dark, well built, with several scars on his body, a testimony to the martial training in his past life. His hair was matted however, and like ascetics he wore valkal or garments made from the bark of trees and had smeared ash from the sacrificial altar on his forehead and arms………………………………………………………………….Excerpt from ‘The Battle of Panchavati’ from the book ‘The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures’. An Amazon Bestseller. Available on Amazon and Flipkart.
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