Reading the Mahabharata by the Tungabhadra - Day 9¶
This rock that I sit on is a picnic spot, and it suits the purpose really. Many locals come here, and their kids are curious about what I’m doing here.
They try to talk to me in broken English, and I smile and reply in Kannada. They are shocked. Somehow, the hair and the beard have convinced them that I’m not even an Indian, let alone a Kannadiga.
I don’t feel like an outsider, not in the least. I am made of the soil of Hampi.
Tour guides surround me when I get off the bus. They tell me that for a low price, they can tell me the stories. They claim this in Hindi. At least they seem to understand that I’m Indian. I shake my head and reply that I was born here, and that I don’t need their services. They are skeptical, and they try to follow me. I recognise their faces, even if they don’t don’t recognise mine. They surround me almost every day. They tell me that they can tell me stories. I want to ask them if they can tell me why the Virupaksha temple stands when the Achyutharaya Temple is in ruins. Why are Shaivite idols intact when the Lakshmi Narasimha Idol is desecrated and wrongly called Ugra Narasimha now?
I don’t, because this is their trade, and I walk away. As I walk down the road where courtesans once sold nuggets of gold and gemstones, I wonder if the Muslim rulers had someone on the inside, a Shaivite who had an agenda against the Vijayanagara empire. Someone who wanted the Vaishnavite temples demolished.
Did they know the cost of war?
What would they know? Even Dhritarashtra did not. Rather, he did, but he chose to ignore it for the sake of Suyodhana’s pride. Even as Sanjaya and Vidhura begged him, even as Krishna Vasudeva sent him his advice, to just give the sons of Pandu a few villages to provide them tribute, the blind King turned a deaf ear. What would a lowly spy in the Vijayanagara Empire know of the price of war?
Today, I went to read the Mahabharata by the Tungabhadra, and I did. As I read, a tiny worm climbed on my hand and it reminded me of Takshaka, the mighty Naga.