The night was dark and tempestuous. Jet-black nimbus clouds had blotted out the moon and the stars, making the darkness overpowering. The winds howled through the kingdom of Matsya, uprooting trees, breaking branches, blowing dead leaves and foliage in the palace compound through the open windows and into the chambers of those who slept inside. It broke open windowpanes, smashed the lamps, and sent curtains flying here and there. Open doors and windows clanged, making a ferocious noise, adding to the cacophony of the storm. Foot servants and guards on duty ran to secure the panels, fasten window latches and lessen the damage being wreaked by nature. The dark clouds overhead growled ominously, thunder crashed and the occasional lightning bolt seared the breast of the sky, turning night into day. To add to the mayhem, rain fell incessantly in sheets, drenching everything in sight. The continuous patter of rain gave a gloomy background to the whole heavenly orchestra that was being played out.
The men and women of the kingdom of Matsya cowered in their bedrooms, filled with foreboding, afraid that the end of the world was near. None of them, not even the most elderly, had seen such a storm. Lesser dwellings were blown away and flying trees reduced the humble quarters of several citizens to rubble. Dogs barked maniacally and hyenas could be heard laughing at the edge of the forest. In the royal stables, the horses strained at their leashes, and stamped their hooves on the ground, driven insane by fear. While the people hid in their bedrooms, praying to the gods to bring an end to this destructive storm, Brihannala played the mridangam in her apartments.
Brihannala was the court eunuch and also the dance and music teacher of Princess Uttara, the daughter of King Virata of Matsyadesh. She beat the drum furiously, as hot tears of anger and shame ran down her face. She was angry at the state of things, angry at her helplessness, also angry that she had to become Brihannala. Before she and the others of her family had come to Matsya, she had been Arjuna, the third of the Pandavas, the Princes of the Kuru Kingdom, the true inheritors of the empire with its twin capitals of Hastinapur and Khandavaprastha……………………………………………..Excerpt from ‘The Killing of Keechak’ from the book ‘The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures’, an Amazon Bestseller.
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