THE GREAT INDIAN TREASURE
Raghunandan Vadla at Smashwords.
All rights reserved
This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product
of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously and any
resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales
is purely coincidental.
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Note by Author
I will forever be indebted to this book, which led me to meet my role
model Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and strike a conversation with him that led
to several inspiring things in my life.
The book is about a
quest to find a treasure which has the capacity to not only change
our country into a developed country but also transform the world
into a better place.
I remember Dr. Kalam
saying that the development of any country is not only being
developed in economic sense but also to be developed in a more human
He told that marriage
of both the development in economic sense and humanity is what is
needed for India. He hoped to see India as a developed nation in this
manner and be a role model for development to the entire world.
He stressed upon the
importance of being proud of our rich history, to get inspired for
future advancement of our country.
I firmly believe that
we can find the treasure which can transform our country into a
developed country with human ethos.
So what are we waiting
Let’s find the
treasure and change our future.
The Great Indian Treasure can be characterized as a work of fiction
with a purpose. A large, diverse society with a rich, ancient and
complex history needs a strong sense of civilizational foundation to
be stable. And yet, we need to play our rightful role in the modern
world, and accelerate economic growth and prosperity to fulfil the
potential of every child. Integration of ancient wisdom with modern
technology and aspirations is therefore the need of the hour. We have
many pearls in our tradition and culture. Often, it is mixed with a
lot of unnecessary baggage. We need to separate the two.
Raghunandan has made a
remarkably innovative and creative literary attempt to weave our
glorious tradition and modern challenges into a seamless tapestry. We
need a redefinition of nationalism that will transcend narrow
sectarianism and bind all Indians together, and strive to fulfil the
aspirations of every single child irrespective of circumstances of
birth. I hope this engaging and exciting literary venture will help
this synthesis of the old with the new and the traditional with the
modern. I congratulate Raghunandan for his labour of love.
With warm regards
Jayaprakash Narayan (Former IAS officer, Founder of Loksatta, Founder
and General Secretary of Foundation of Democratic Reforms)
It was a pleasure
reading The Great Indian Treasure by Raghunandan. The book weaves an
engaging story based on archaeological investigations conducted at
several locations of historical significance in South Asia. The
reader gets a glimpse of glory and wisdom of the people in ancient
India. I found it to be an inspiring book.
(Professor at Centre
for Social Initiative and Management)
A suspenseful drama
unfolds along the way to an exciting treasure hunt involving great
Indian minds. The historical insights about Indian ingenuity and
inventions bring to focus the rich legacy as well as enormous
potential of the country to once again be the envy of the rest of the
world. A great source of inspiration and pride for young Indians.
(Chair, Young Indians
National Projects Team, Co Founder http://freightbazaarcom )
The energy of positive
thinking of multiple people has created a synergized effect enabling
me to complete this book. I express my earnest gratitude to all the
people who were involved directly or indirectly in this endeavor.
Let me begin by
thanking my mother, Pushpavathi, father, Goverdhan, and brother,
Rakesh, for constantly supporting me in all my endeavors. Without
your support and understanding, I wouldn’t have been able to take
any bold decisions in my life, which includes the decision to become
I am indebted to Dr.
Jayaprakash Narayan, one of my role models for writing the Foreword
for my book. His insightful words indeed inspired me.
I would be an
ungrateful friend if I do not acknowledge Praveen, my friend from the
days I was pursuing B.Tech. I thank you very much for all the
unsolicited support during a very difficult phase of life.
Thank you very much JJ
Chaitanya for helping me with your thoughts, editing the book before
I took it to the publishers, motivating and supporting me. The book
would have been very different without your efforts.
Thank you so much Hanu
B Krishna for helping me to release this book. I’m thankful to Nani
Malloju, Nishanth Appari and Mallikarjun for their constant support
to the project. Thank you very much Latha Shreedhar for composing the
Thank you very much
Sanjay Mahar for being the first one to risk, reading my book in raw
form. Your feedback and suggestions helped the book to evolve.
I cannot thank Ms.
Jessie Joseph enough for giving timely and candid feedback on the
book. Had I published my book without consulting you, I would have
written an epitaph for the writer in me. I am grateful to Praveen for
introducing her to me. Thank you very much Yi Hyderabad Friends.
Chandra Shekar, Sumit Kabra, Jyoti Das, Rohit Kauntia, Ashish
Agrawal, Anand Agrawal for coming forward to help me with my book.
Thank you very much
Rajeev Ravulapati for your support and valuable feedback about the
book. Your pertinent points really made this book better. I am also
grateful to Narendra Luther and Ramana Rao for their valuable
suggestions. I also owe my gratitude to Krishna whose creativity
helped me with ideas for the initial cover page designs.
Thank you very much
Srikanth Uppari for capturing the cover page photograph of mine. You
are one of the finest photographers I have seen. Thank you very much
Venkata Ramana, it was your suggestion which led me to meet Dr. APJ
Abdul Kalam and discuss this book with him.
I thank my other
friends who have always stood by me. Dinesh, who was my classmate
when I was pursuing Higher Secondary, Srinivas Geedi, who was my
colleague in Valuelabs, Aditya with whom I prepared for competitive
examinations together, Vinay who was my childhood friend, Sreenivas
Murthy who has been my partner in several social activities and Sunil
Kumar Mogulla who was my class mate in school.
Thank you very much
Maruthi for supporting and encouraging me with the lyrics which I
wrote for publicity of this book. I also thank Ravinder Reddy for his
suggestions. They were indeed useful.
I thank Arun Kumar, Sai
Teja Peddineni, Deepak Kachana, Deepak Rao, Narsing Arravally, Anil
Penta, and Krishna Chaithanya for their support. There are many many
more people who have come forward to help me with this book, if I
start putting their names it will become another book by itself. My
earnest gratitude to all of you for coming forward to help me.
I’m forever indebted
to the Kumbhmela trip which I took with my friends, Naresh, Mithun,
Santosh, Raj Gopal and Sridhar. The trip inspired me to write this
book. Thank you very much friends for planning that trip.
You will be deeply
missed Vikram, thank you for standing by me. A day doesn’t pass
without remembering you atleast once, buddy. Vinay and I have many
fond memories with you which we will cherish forever. It’s a
tribute and privilege to dedicate a character of this book in your
Cover page Design
Credits, Book Design Credits, Editing Credits : My previous publisher
who was supposed to publish my book.
A team of Russian
archaeologists were excavating at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. A man of huge
proportions was savouring the cool weather while a thin man was
huffing and puffing over the excavation.
“Dig deeper, Comrade!
Who knows what treasures lie below?” said the big man.
“Shut up! You fat,
Slob. We’ve been slogging our butts off for the last one month and
all we have is dirt to show for it,” his companion retaliated.
“You need to learn to
enjoy your life, Comrade. Enjoy this cool breeze, the picturesque
beauty of those Bamiyan Buddhas* and the exquisite scenery of these
cliffs,” pacified the big man.
“Which cool breeze?
It’s a fickle climate up here and we are ploughing rocks that even
nukes can’t melt,”whined the thin man.
“You need to
understand, Comrade that you are not alone and that there are others
who are working just as hard as you are. You should stop being so
“If you are done
lecturing, can you please take the spade and start digging?”
The big man immediately
jumped into the pit and started digging feverishly.
“Wow, that was quick.
Did I scare you?” chuckled the thin man.
“Don’t be full of
yourself, Comrade. You can’t even scare a mouse. Turn and see for
yourself,” said the big man.
“What is there to see
except these gun-toting military men? I’m not sure whether they are
protecting us or preventing us from running away,” muttered the
thin man without turning his head.
“There is more to
look for than these gun-toting men, comrade.”retorted the big man.
When the thin man
turned his head and looked up after a short while, he saw a tall man
of slender build in a brown woollen Eskimo cap, a sweater, and
gloves. The man was standing on the edge of the pit and keenly
observing the progress of the excavation.
“Oh, it’s Andrei
Aminev, the chief archaeologist who sent you racing down here,”
concluded the thin man.
“Yeah, he would be
disappointed if he sees us not working as he is racing against time
to complete the excavation,” affirmed the big man.
“I’m told the
situation has gone from bad to worse. Do you think we will reach home
in one piece?” asked the thin man.
“I just pray that we
find something soon and leave this place once and for all,” the big
man said wistfully.
Just then the thin
man’s spade struck the ground with a clang. It was the very sound
that Andrei Aminev was longing to hear for an entire month.His green
eyes filled with excitement, Andrei jumped into the pit. His eyes
fell on the metal case that had been unearthed. He started removing
the dirt over it with the brush and the trowel from his waist pouch.
He carefully opened the case and found a stone tablet and a few other
stone pieces. “Wonderful!” yelled Andrei unable to control his
excitement. Seeing the puzzled faces around, Andrei quickly regained
his composure and said, “Let’s shift them to our tent. We’ll
examine them later.”
Andrei’s tent was
spacious enough to accommodate around a hundred people. A small
portion of it was partitioned to create a private working space for
the archaeologist. The enclosure was furnished with a table on the
right, a bed on the left, and a few chairs in the middle. A
magnifying glass and other archaeological instruments were kept on
one side of the table. The tent was lit up by a few
The thin man brought
the metal case into the tent and arranged the pieces along with the
stone tablet on the table in the order as they were found in the
metal case. The tablet was grey and had rough edges. It was about two
feet long and one foot high. The granite structure appeared to be
more than two thousand years old. Neatly chiseled on top of the
tablet were three lions sitting together, one facing forward while
the other two were positioned sideways. The middle portion of the
tablet was engraved with cryptic messages whereas the lower portion
of the tablet was occupied by a wheel with 24 spokes.
Andrei took the
magnifying glass and was just about to start examining the cryptic
messages, when he saw a shadow at the entrance. The shadow belonged
to a high ranking army officer. He walked into the tent with an air
of superiority about him followed by a few soldiers.
Andrei looked up and
smiled at his guest. “What brings you here, Captain Nikolai? I hope
everything is well.”
“I wouldn’t have
been here if it was so,” said Nikolai in a somber tone as he
dragged a chair opposite to Andrei.
“The situation has
gone from bad to worse. The Afghan rebels have stepped up their
attacks. You need to pack up immediately before this site turns into
full blown war zone.” warned Nikolai.
“How much time do we
have?” asked Andrei. His tone betrayed his anxiety. “There isn’t
any time. I urge you to vacate this place right away. Don’t
jeopardize your lives. Get out of here before the insurgents strike.”
Andrei had a good
rapport with Nikolai but he had never seen him in so agitated. Andrei
grasped the gravity of the situation. He walked out of the tent
immediately and announced “Friends, I have an important update for
you. I’m told our lives are at risk. I want all of you to pack up
and vacate this place right now.”
Nikolai, who followed
Andrei, placed his hand on Andrei’s shoulder and said, “Thanks
for understanding this grim situation. The army will escort you to
the base camp. Please vacate this place as soon as possible.”
“Certainly,” said Andrei. Nikolai thanked him once again and left
to make preparations to vacate the team of archaeologists.
Andrei was disappointed
that he had to leave the expedition midway. His team had spent the
better part of the year at that site braving the ongoing Afghan war.
The entire team packed
up their belongings quickly and jumped onto three camouflaged trucks
and jeeps outside the tent.
Andrei and his men
along with a few soldiers sat in the jeep. The excavated items were
loaded onto the truck and were guarded by the remaining army
personnel. The truck was followed by another jeep consisting of
Captain Nikolai and his men.
The Soviet base camp
was about thirty kilometers away from the excavation site and
vehicles were moving slowly towards their destination because it was
difficult even for the most experienced drivers to navigate the hilly
terrains with their serpentine twists and turns. The vehicles
negotiated their way through the roads flanked with high cliffs on
one side and deep valleys on the other.
Every bend on the road
seemed to hold a mystery. As the vehicle was traversing a
particularly difficult bend, a donkey wandered into the middle of the
The driver of the jeep
thought it was a trap from the terrorists to slow them down and
sounded the horn to move the donkey away. Andrei who saw the
predicament of the animal raised his hand signaling the driver to
stop honking. “Don’t disturb the animal. It’s giving birth to a
calf. Every life is precious,” he said.
The driver who knew
Andrei very well, saw no point in arguing further. He immediately
swerved the jeep to the edge off the road. Andrei watched with bated
breath as the driver maneuvered the jeep past the donkey. He breathed
a sigh of relief as they hit the middle of the road once again. But
just then, the truck, which was following them, came honking to scare
the donkey off the path.
A landmine exploded
with an earsplitting sound. A lump of flesh hit Andrei in the face
and slid down his lap leaving a streak of crimson. The truck
containing the artifacts and the jeep carrying Nikolai were totally
destroyed. The explosion rocked Andrei’s jeep.
“Bloody fruits of
war,” cursed a grief stricken Andrei, referring to the ongoing
Afghan war, unaware about the history of the tablet below his seat,
which was product of the war of wars, emperor Ashoka’s Kalinga war.
Find the treasure -
Change the future...
My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think
differently, courage to Invent, to travel the unexplored path,
courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and
succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This
is my message to the young people.– A.P.J Abdul Kalam
It was a rainy night on
the outskirts of Hyderabad. An antique, independent house was the
scene for an important discussion. Prof. Srivastava, a middle-aged
person sat on one side of a rectangular table and on the other side
of the table were four of his students and a young army officer. One
of the students was his only son, Vikram. The entire room was
decorated with rare collections from the bygone era, one which would
appeal to any visitor with an interest in history.
Srivastava, a professor
of archaeology in the University of Hyderabad had conducted numerous
archaeological expeditions throughout India to unearth treasures
belonging to the country’s glorious past. These expeditions were a
much-needed relief for Prof. Srivastava against the backdrop of his
wife’s untimely death in a road accident when Vikram was just 10
Vikram, who took a leaf
from his father’s book by becoming a student of archaeology, would
often assist his father in his expeditions. The occupants of the room
were discussing the expedition that had recently concluded in the
Western Ghats of India.
“What’s next, Dad?
The last expedition turned out to be a damp squib. I expected to find
treasure this time,” grumbled Vikram, who was in his early
twenties. “Don’t worry Vikram. Our noble motives will certainly
open up new avenues. I am very sure that eventually we will end up
discovering our ancestors treasures and realize our mission of
utilizing it for our country’s empowerment,” said Srivastava in
his baritone voice while sliding his hand through his well-coiffed
“I believe in the
Professor’s quest too. Who knew there was a multi billion dollar
treasure trove in the Padmanabha Swamy temple of Kerala?” added
Alisha in her mellifluous voice while adjusting her spectacles.
Alisha was 21 years old with a pretty face and a pleasing demeanour.
She was specializing in the ancient languages of India under the
tutelage of Prof.Srivastava.
Vikram nodded in
“As per the old
manuscripts I referred to recently, there are many treasures that
need be explored in this mystic country,” opined Alisha while
holding an ancient manuscript in her hand.
Alisha in a very short
time had earned a special place in the eyes of Prof. Srivastava by
mastering ancient Indian languages, which amazed him and her fellow
“And the worrying
part is that there are international syndicates that are keen on
acquiring those treasures and using them for various terror-related
activities,” cautioned a tall and muscular Johnny whose well-built
frame was in complete contrast to the timidity he displayed from time
“Johnny, why do you
worry all the time? Don’t let your apprehensions throw cold water
on our mission,” jumped in another young lady looked dapper in her
blue and white salwar kameez*. Sruthi and Johnny were specializing in
ancient Indian symbols and cryptography under the guidance of Prof.
“Didn’t I narrowly
miss death during one of our expeditions? I have every right to be
worried,” protested Johnny with a timid face again.
“Didn’t Sanjay take
the bullet on his shoulder before it hit you?“ retorted Sruthi in
the same angry tone by pointing at a radiant young man with piercing
dark brown eyes and a military hair cut.
“Johnny, can’t you
see the spirit of sacrifice in Sanjay’s attitude? He showed us all
that our cause is greater than one’s own self,” chimed in
Sanjay was serving in
the army and used to join the Professor on his expeditions whenever
he was free or on holiday.
“I cannot forget how
he saved my father’s life during a dangerous expedition in Kashmir.
Sanjay, it’s only because of your bravery that my father is here
today,” remembered Vikram with gratitude.
“Vikram, I was only
doing my duty. Meeting Prof. Srivastava has given my life a higher
meaning. I now not only serve my country when I’m on duty but also
serve her when I’m off duty!”replied Sanjay earnestly.
“The ultimate result
of any noble motive will always be rosy but don’t expect the path
to be easy, “ cautioned Prof. Srivastava once again.
The group was startled
by the sudden knock on the door as it was an odd time for visitors to
the house that was remotely situated in the outskirts of the city.
The noise increased as if someone was pounding down on the door.
Sanjay was alert in a
flash. He pulled out his pistol and took his position knowing very
well from past experience that the profession of treasure hunting was
fraught with dangers.
When Vikram stepped up
to open the door, Sanjay interrupted him and said,
“Wait Vikram, let me
Sanjay opened the door
carefully and peeped outside, only to find an injured man writhing in
pain on the door steps. Sanjay was perplexed and several questions
ran through his mind.
“Who could be this
“Why is he injured?”
“What is he doing
Sanjay acted quickly,
pulled the man inside and closed door. The injured man was well built
and tall. He was shot in his stomach, there was blood all over his
face stemming from several gashes and bruises, giving ample evidence
that he had been ruthlessly tortured.
Everyone rushed to the
injured man’s aid. Sanjay shouted, “Get some water!”
“I don’t have
time, I just don’t! Where is Prof. Srivastava? Where is he?”
requested the man in an agonized voice.
Srivastava leaned over
the injured man and then let out a cry. “Mithilesh is that you?
Tell me, tell me who did this to you?”
Mithilesh handed over a
heavy suitcase he was clutching to Srivastava and spoke in a weak
voice. “Some anti-nationals have smuggled this stone tablet from
Afghanistan. This has a clue to the great Indian treasure…,”
“The Great Indian
Treasure!” exclaimed Srivastava.
The team was surprised
to see the reaction of Srivastava.
Mithilesh paused to
collect his breath and then waved off Sruthi who had brought a glass
of water. “And the worst part is, some of our politicians are hand
in glove with the foreign mafia. They will be happy to get a piece of
the treasure and utilize it to retain their power.”
“Who are these
politicians?” asked Prof. Srivastava angrily.
Janardhan, one of our sitting Member of Parliament.”
MP….!” before Srivastava could finish the sentence, Mithilesh
took his final breath.
Srivastava checked the
pulse and pronounced in a mournful tone, “He is no more. Rest in
peace, my dear friend. Mithilesh was an officer with the
Archaeological Survey of India and over the course of years, we had
interacted several times to discover and preserve several
archaeological artifacts of this nation. Mithilesh died for his
country, let’s not allow his sacrifice to go in vain.”
“We are with you,
Professor,” assured Sanjay.
“A dead body! I
believe we are in big trouble! Let’s approach the police and give
that suitcase to them,” suggested Johnny in a petrified voice.
“Be calm, Johnny. Let
wisdom prevail over the instantaneous decisions. If we give that
suitcase to the police, it will eventually go to that Janardhan and
Mithilesh’s sacrifice would be wasted,” chimed in Vikram.
“I beg to differ. We
should approach the police but we should not mention about this
suitcase, “cut in Alisha.
“The people who
killed Mithilesh will go to any extent to get this suitcase. If we go
to the police, we might be walking into a trap, “argued Sruthi
looking at Vikram. She expected him to come up with some brilliant
plan as usual to pull them out from this unexpected quagmire.
“Fate has put us into
this strange situation. It’s really a tough decision to make…”
Before Vikram could finish the sentence, the entire room reverberated
with sounds of gunfire and shards of glass flew in all directions.
Sanjay dived to the
floor and shouted,
“They are firing at
us. Everyone bend down.”
Sanjay pulled out his
pistol to give the attackers a fitting reply.
“Why use force, when
we can escape through the back door. Sanjay, we all know how capable
you are but this is not the time to fight. Let’s get to safety and
live to fight another day,” urged Vikram.
agreed and all of them managed to get to the back door and escape
unscathed while the gunfire continued. Fate had landed them in an
A man is great by deeds, not by birth. - Chanakya
Janardhan was relaxing
in his farm house on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Spread across 200
acres, the massive farm house was clearly a testament to his
political and financial clout. Scores of security guards were
stationed around the place and were keeping a constant vigil.
Janardhan’s icy demeanor, cold eyes were a scary sight to behold.
At the moment, however, he was relishing his cigarette and was lost
in deep thought. He was surrounded by his trusted bodyguards who
could put away anyone with a single snap of his fingers.
were rudely interrupted by a confidant who walked into the room and
started complaining. “Sir, we’ve lost our gold again due to the
strict vigilance at the airport. The smuggled gold is in the hands of
the police now.”
Janardhan fumed at the
person’s insolence. “How dare you come inside without asking for
permission, you scoundrel? Get out!”
sent the man scurrying out of the the room. He hastily exited the
room and requested permission to enter the room once again. “Can I
come in sir?”
“No, you may not,
rascal. Learn some manners before talking to me again,” roared
Janardhan in an angry voice.“I just can’t stand such
people,”muttered Janardhan under his breath.
After he had cooled
down, Janardhan made some inquiries with regards to what transpired
with the gold at the Shamshabad Airport.
Ram Singh, a close
associate of Janardhan explained, “The police officer at Shamshabad
Airport is upright, Sir. He cannot be bought or coerced. It will be
very tough for us to smuggle goods into the Hyderabad as long as he’s
“Then let’s silence
him like Mithilesh.”
Later that night, a
well-built man in his late twenties rushed into Janardhan’s room.
“That rascal Mithilesh, he gave the suitcase containing the clues
to that bloody professor.”
Janardhan, who was on
the phone, immediately waved for the person to stop speaking and
whispered, “Mr. Viktor’s on the line.”
a numbing effect on the young intruder. He waited patiently for the
conversation to finish and wondered how powerful this Viktor was to
make his father, the great Janardhan behave in such a subservient
After finishing the
conversation with Viktor, Janardhan turned towards his son.
“What were you
“We killed Mithilesh,
Dad but, that bugger managed to hand the tablet over to Prof.
Srivastava before dying. We attacked his home but he managed to get
away with the tablet! “answered a frustrated Amresh who was
Janardhan’s only son.
“Did you dispose of
Mithilesh’s body?” inquired Janardhan.
“Don’t worry, Dad.
It has been taken care. Why take unnecessary risk of involving police
into this treasure hunt.”clarified Amresh.
“There must be a
reason why Mithilesh had to go all the way to this Srivastava’s
“Well, Srivastava is
a well-known archaeologist and has, in the past, successfully
excavated several historical artifacts. He is a close friend of
Mithilesh and the bad news is that he has the ability to decipher the
clues on that tablet. In one word, he is mad about archaeology!”
“My son, that’s
actually good news. We no longer have to worry about deciphering the
clues. We can just show up and claim the treasure for ourselves once
they discover it,” reassured Janardhan.
“Dad, how do we catch
them before they run away with the treasure? My gut feeling says that
they won’t approach the police as there is a fair chance that
Mithilesh would have spilled the beans to them before dying,” said
Amresh who was still unconvinced by his father’s conviction.
“We need to keep a
close watch on them. My instinct tells me that this Prof. Srivastava
will not be able to resist the urge to go after the treasure. “
“Dad, then I need
your help in tracking their current location.”
“Don’t worry, we
will smoke them out, I have the entire government machinery at my
service but, once I give you their location you shouldn’t lose
sight of them,” cautioned Janardhan. Amresh then took leave to make
preparations to pursue Prof. Srivastava’s team.
“All of this seems
like a blessing in disguise. Who knew the tablet would land in the
hands of a treasure-crazy archaeologist? I need to let Viktor know
about this good news,” thought Janardhan.
The team reached a safe
place under Sanjay’s guidance.
Srivastava and Alisha
had already started examining the stone tablet.
“Did you find
something, Dad?” asked Vikram.
“This stone tablet is
from the Mauryan period* and was inscribed during the rule of Ashoka
the great. It is more than 2,300 years old!” explained Srivastava.
“How can you be so
sure that it is from Ashoka’s period, Sir?” enquired Sruthi.
Srivastava pointed his
finger at the stone tablet.“You see, the Brahmi script used on the
tablet was from Ashoka’s time. The text here refers to someone
called ‘Devanampiya Piyadassi’ which means ‘the beloved of
gods’. ‘Devanampiya Piyadassi’ is another name for Emperor
Ashoka. Many relics of Ashoka’s period found throughout the Indian
subcontinent bear this name. Ashoka used to refer himself with this
“I agree with Dad. I
have also read about Ashoka being called as Devanampiya Piyadassi in
my research on Mauryan history,” added Vikram.
“How can a stone
tablet belonging to an Indian emperor end up in the distant land of
Afghanistan?” asked Sruthi inquisitively.
“Ashoka ruled a huge
empire. His kingdom covered almost all of modern India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The best part was that most of his rule
was marked by prosperity and people-friendly administration,”
clarified Srivastava with a sense of pride.
“I heard Ashoka
established a secret society consisting of nine people to preserve
and protect knowledge that could be dangerous to mankind if it falls
in the wrong hands. Is it true?” enquired Vikram.
“Yes, it is believed
so. Each of the nine people in the secret society were assigned the
task of securing knowledge related to propaganda, psychological
warfare, physiology, microbiology, alchemy, communication, cosmology,
light and sociology. Some people believe that this society still
exists,” explained Srivastava.
definitely farsighted in terms of caring for his land,” opined
“He was a visionary
no doubt, and that is the reason why his pearls of wisdom have stood
the test of time as engravings on rock edicts, stupas, pillars, and
monuments spread throughout the Indian sub-continent. He was also a
benevolent ruler who loved his land and took care of his people like
his own children,” revealed Srivastava and then proceeded to write
the translation of the inscription on the board that was hanging on
Piyadassi is deeply pained by the death and devastation that took
place when the unconquered country was conquered.
has maintained peace and prosperity in his beloved land.
is unsure of the fate of his beloved land after his death.
The place where Dharma*
was first taught and the place where holy men landed will guide the
righteous at heart on the path towards the Great Indian treasure.’
“I think he was
referring to the Kalinga war in the first few lines. It was supposed
to be one of the bloodiest wars in Indian history where the
casualties on both sides mounted to more than one hundred thousand
people,” inferred Vikram.
There was a hint of
apparent admiration on the face of Srivastava about the knowledge his
son possessed on the history of the Indian subcontinent.
“The deep remorse
that Ashoka felt for perpetrating such a gory war led him to embrace
Buddhism. This transformation and his subsequent rule secured his
legacy as one of the finest emperors in the history of the world,”
added a beaming Alisha.
“Fantastic my dear
wards. Now I’m about to share the information, which thrilled me
the most,” Srivastava proclaimed with the excitement of a 10 year
There was silence all
around as everyone strained their ears to listen to every single word
that Prof. Srivastava was saying.
“We all can easily
infer from the lines that Ashoka was skeptical of his beloved land’s
future after his death. He might have anticipated a foreign invasion
or could have feared that the rulers following him might not be as
capable as he was. In order to ensure that the future generations of
this civilization are not deprived of the treasures from the
country’s golden age, he took up the responsibility of hiding a
massive treasure at a mysterious place,” declared Srivastava with
interesting and adventurous,” remarked a delighted Sruthi.
“This treasure, which
could transform our country, should be enormous!” chimed in an
treasure is referred here as Akanda Bharata Maha Sampada, which means
The Great Indian Treasure,” asserted Srivastava.
“The Great Indian
Treasure, which has the potential to transform India as a developed
country... Wowwwww! I’m thrilled just by the very thought.”
expressed a joyous Sruthi.
“I just want our
country to have pothole free roads, free quality universal education,
and free quality universal healthcare. Is this treasure so huge that
it can provide these needs to our massive population?” asked Sanjay
solemnly. “Yes Sanjay, I believe so, because, it isn’t the first
time I’ve heard as an archaeologist about this treasure hidden by
Ashoka. It’s going to be an adventure of finding the biggest ever
treasure in the world. It will be a game changer for our nation if we
find this massive treasure. However, let’s reign in our emotions
for the moment,” cautioned Srivastava.
“But where can we
find this great Indian treasure, Dad?” cut in Vikram.
“According to the
stone tablet, we have to go to a place where Dharma was first taught,
and where holy men landed. That should be our first step to get more
clues and if I am not wrong the only possible place, the stone tablet
seems to be referring is Sarnath.”
“What made you come
to that conclusion, Dad?”
taught the Dharma to his five disciples for the first time at
Sarnath. There is another name for Sarnath which is ‘Isipatana’
which means ‘where holy men landed’. So that is how I came to the
conclusion that the first stop in our expedition is at Sarnath,”
“But where in Sarnath
should we begin our search?” questioned Sruthi.
“There is a huge
stupa* known as Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath, which was built on top of
the stupa constructed during the Mauryan era. Alexander Cunningham,
father of the Archaeological Survey of India drilled a vertical shaft
through its centre down to the foundation level in search of a relic
casket. He couldn’t find anything substantial but we should do an
extensive examination of that shaft as we might find clues relating
to the great Indian treasure there,” replied Srivastava.
“So when are we
gearing up for the adventure, Dad?”
“What do you say,
Sanjay?” asked Srivastava as Sanjay took all their security
immediately before Janardhan makes a move. I know some people in
Sarnath. We should get an unofficial permission for our activity
without any hassles, “ replied Sanjay.
“Let’s gather all
the paraphernalia we require and start our journey tomorrow. Sarnath,
here we come,” declared Vikram
Take care of the pieces well. The whole will take care of itself. -
Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh,
India. The almost 50 metre tall cylindrical Dhamekh Stupa was an
awe-inspiring sight to Prof. Srivastava and team. The ruins beside
the Dhamekh Stupa dated back to pre-Ashokan era while the current
stupa itself belonged to the Gupta regime of the post-Ashokan era.
Every one of the team members was ecstatic to be at the place where
the national emblem had been standing tall until the Turkish invasion
almost destroyed it.
“Professor, what are
those inscriptions on the stupa?” asked Sruthi.
seem to be in the Brahmi* script. Come let’s take a look at the
stupa more closely,” replied Srivastava.
The team observed that
the walls of the stupa were also engraved with some exquisite
carvings of humans and birds. After inspecting the stupa, the team
visited the museum to catch a glimpse of the remnants of the Ashoka
pillar - the elegantly sculpted four-faced lion capital of the Ashoka
pillar, which was later adopted as the national emblem of India and
the remains of the Dharma Chakra.
After the visit to the
museum, Sanjay utilized his defence connections to make a secret pact
with the security incharge in Sarnath to investigate the ruins
covertly for a week during the nights. The first night of the
expedition involved taking a closer look at the Dhamekh Stupa past
The deserted look of
the surroundings, the emptiness of the ruins and the fluttering of
the tree leaves were creating a sense of uneasiness in Johnny’s
“It seems as though
this place is haunted. Let’s get out of here…”
“Johnny, there is no
such thing as ghosts and even if this place is haunted, we are not
afraid because we have such a well-built personality like you with
us,” teased Sruthi.
“I can fight with
living beings. You know, I once tamed a tiger. This scratch on my arm
is proof of that but how can I fight with things that don’t even
exist. Wait a minute…I believe we are being followed by someone,”
“Oh, please stop
hallucinating, Johnny. There’s nothing there,”clarified Alisha.
“No, I can sense
something moving behind those bushes. Let’s check it before it
jumps on us.”
Concerned about the
safety of his team members, Sanjay went along with Johnny to
investigate the noises and as soon as both of them reached the
bushes, a wild pig ran out from behind those bushes. Johnny heaved a
sigh of relief as he watched the pig run helter-skelter.
An irritated Sanjay
growled at Johnny, “Don’t tell me we wasted all this time just so
that you could scare a pig.”
Johnny was still
looking intently at the bushes but found nothing suspicious. His
tension abated for the moment. But the moment he turned, he felt a
tug on his shirt and let out a loud shriek.
Sanjay rushed back to
Johnny in the anticipation of an unforeseen danger but all he found
was an outstretched tree branch to which Johnny’s shirt was hooked.
After unhooking the shirt, Sanjay found how shaken the big man was
and pulled Johnny’s leg saying “And you were just telling us that
you tamed a tiger with your bare hands!” The entire team burst into
laughter at Johnny’s unintended histrionics. However, the entire
team was unaware that they were really being watched by someone.
episode, the team made their way to the top of the Dhamekh Stupa.
Sanjay provided them with the safety harness to avoid any serious
injuries while studying the structure. They had high beam torch
lights, some sophisticated equipment, and all the archaeological
paraphernalia, which was required for the mission. As the team was
inspecting the ruins, Sanjay was keeping a strict vigil around.
Cunningham himself was not able to trace any substantial relics from
the Dhamekh Stupa. We need to have luck on our side to do better than
“Are we looking in
the right place, Sir?” asked a skeptical Alisha.
“I’m certain that
this was the place indicated on the stone tablet. Patience my
friends, let’s persevere and the clues shall not elude
us,”reassured Srivastava with his typical optimism.
It was the seventh and
final day of the search for the coveted clue. The morale of the team
was at an all-time low even though Srivastava, Vikram, and Sanjay
were trying to boost everyone’s spirits. The last night of the
unofficial permission arrived and the team still hadn’t found
anything substantial. Realizing that a change in tactics was
required, Vikram decided to check out the shaft himself without
relying on the equipment.
Vikram entered the
shaft all alone. He carried a high beam torch light, an oxygen mask
and an excavation kit along with him. In no time, he was hovering
over the ruins inside the circular shaft and was giving instructions
over his walkie-talkie to make adjustments to the harness so that he
could examine different sections of the shaft.
“I can identify
different brick patterns at the bottom of the shaft,” Vikram
informed his father via the walkie-talkie.
“Vicky, those bricks
might belong to the Mauryan era as the present stupa was commissioned
on top of the stupa built by Ashoka,” replied Prof. Srivastava.
continued for several hours but did not yield any expected results.
It was early in the
morning, and the team had to vacate the site before dawn as per
Sanjay’s agreement with the security in charge.
Vikram was despondent
as he came out of the shaft. “There is nothing substantial I found
there, Dad,” he said in a weak tone.
“Don’t worry, Son.
We will re-strategize our mission by examining the stone tablet once
again,” pacified Srivastava.
Vikram removed his gas
mask and was about to unfasten the harness when Alisha shouted,
“Why? What’s the
Alisha deftly unhooked
the object that was hanging over the oxygen cylinder.
“The object must have
clung on to your cylinder while you were examining the walls of the
Vikram took a closer
look at the object and found that it was an ancient stone casket of
the size of a fist. It was an exhilarating moment for Prof.
Srivastava when he took the casket from Vikram’s hands. With tears
in his eyes, Prof. Srivastava proclaimed, “Kudos everyone! History
indeed is in our hands. Now we are one step closer to our dream.
Let’s stop not till the goal is achieved.”
If you desire ease, forsake learning.If you desire learning, forsake
ease.How can the man at his ease acquire knowledge, and how can the
earnest student enjoy ease?-Nagarjuna
Dawn had given way to morning by the time the team reached their
hotel room. Prof. Srivastava was determined to decipher the casket
even though he was sapped by the week-long efforts that were put in
at the stupa. The professor examined the casket carefully. The face
of the cylindrical stone casket was engraved with a Dharma Chakra
flanked by a horse and a bull on either side. With nimble fingers,
Srivastava pried the casket open and pulled out a well-preserved but
delicate leather manuscript
“I thought I would
find some valuables in it!” cried out a dejected Johnny.
“What will you do
with the valuables, Johnny?” asked Alisha curiously.
“First, I will build
a school for the underprivileged,” replied Johnny.
“And then?” goaded
Sruthi with a sense of appreciation.
“I want to build the
world’s most expensive toilet seat studded with diamonds, rubies,
and other precious stones which is strong enough to bear the weight
of my world famous rear,” revealed Johnny with a sense of pride.
Both Alisha and Sruthi
burst out laughing. They couldn’t help but be amazed at the
innocence of their friend.
Oblivious to this
conversation, Srivastava and Vikram had already started decoding the
inscriptions on the leather manuscript, Alisha joined after some
time. By evening, the three were able to decode the inscriptions in
the Brahmi script. Vikram wrote the translation on the makeshift
board in the room.
At the place which is
insatiable in giving
Rests the commander of
In order to find the
magical brick which will unravel
Believe in the purity
of your Karma
“It’s all Greek and
Latin to me!” frowned Johnny.
“Mr. Rear, you need
to have something up here to get it,” chuckled Sruthi as she
pointed at her head.
“Come on, Sruthi.
Let’s focus, no more jokes,” urged Vikram.
“She pulls my leg all
the time,” complained Johnny, glaring at Sruthi.
Srivastava chimed in
and admonished, “Let’s not deviate from our mission.”
There was silence for
few seconds until Sanjay interrupted with his question. He was
pointing at the makeshift board.
“But what do these
lines mean? Do they give any clues as to where we need to go next? ”
“Yes, they do and the
next stop in our expedition is at Nalanda,” declared Alisha.
“How did you figure
“The title of Dharma
Senapathi, which means Commander of Dharma, was given to Sariputta
who was one of the chief disciples of Gautama Buddha. He was born in
Nalanda and also attained his Parinirvana* there. There is a stupa of
Sariputta in Nalanda which was commissioned by Emperor Ashoka at the
place where Sariputta attained his heavenly abode. Our search must
start there,” explained Srivastava.
“How do you justify
the second condition, ‘the place which is insatiable in giving’?”
“We have taken care
of that too. The place which is insatiable in giving, is one of the
many meanings for Nalanda.”
“Never satisfied in
giving… Isn’t that a strange name for a place?” questioned
“Not just any place,
Sruthi. Nalanda was the crown jewel of our country, the seat of
learning for the entire world for more than 800 years. It was one of
the world’s oldest universities and at one point housed almost two
thousand teachers and ten thousand students. Famous scholars from all
over the world visited Nalanda to hone their skills. Knowledge was
shared unconditionally to the students of Nalanda and the university
produced experts in key knowledge areas. Because of its rich history
and culture of sharing, I believe you will agree with me now, that
“never satisfied in giving” truly embodies Nalanda,” concluded
Srivastava with a smile.
“I guess the magic
brick could very well be one of the bricks of the stupa,” added
“When do we start for
Nalanda?” queried Johnny.
tonight. We can reach Nalanda by tomorrow morning. What do you say
guys? We rest or we proceed?” asked an elated Sanjay who was in no
mood to rest.
declared the group in unison.
The update on the
expedition reached Janardhan. “Well done, Professor. You are even
better than I had thought. Now I’m sure that the great treasure
exist. It’s time for action, watch out Professor.” Janardhan
couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the treasure.
quiet. They had covered a good distance. Srivastava was looking out
of the window of the vehicle. The others were lost in their own
thoughts when suddenly a heavy gale shrouded Nalanda in dust.
Everyone was blinded
for a while. When the gale subsided, colossal ruins of red bricks
spread across more than fourteen hectares appeared before the team.
The historical grandeur of the site was inspiring. The team couldn’t
help but visualize University of Nalanda at its zenith, the
institution where great minds from across the world congregated and
made remarkable advancements in various fields.
institution, which had once been the seat of learning for several
world-class innovations and inventions now stood lifeless, giving
only a faint glimpse of its past glory to its visitors.
something into Vikram’s ear before the latter got down from the
vehicle. Sanjay then descended from the vehicle and disappeared in a
Srivastava took a few
steps towards the site. He came down on his knees and folded his
hands with reverence. There were unshed tears in his eyes. The
Professor felt a divine joy within, something that he experienced
everytime he came to Nalanda.
Vikram was surprised to
see his father so emotional but in a way he understood how much
Nalanda meant to the Professor.
Srivastava slowly got
up and said solemnly, “Here stands the greatest learning centre of
them all, the world’s first residential university. It was the
elixir of knowledge to its students. It sheltered students not only
from India but also from countries such as Korea, Japan, China,
Tibet, Persia and, Turkey. Team, we are standing on the cusp of
While they were walking
towards the ruins, Vikram asked his father,“Dad, I believe Nalanda
wasn’t the only university during India’s golden age. Right?”
“Yes, you are right.
It was not the only university we had. There were other renowned
universities such as Takshashila, Vikramashila and Pushpagiri. This
was exactly why our country was called as Vishwa Guru*.”
The sky had become
overcast while they were talking. “I guess we should prepare
ourselves for heavy rain,” observed Johnny.
The moment he uttered
those words, a steady rain descended upon them.
Sruthi shot an
irritated look towards him, “You and that jinxed tongue of yours.”
sheepishly and said, “Yeah, if everything I said happened, we would
be millionaires by now.”
With the rain turning
into a downpour, the team took shelter under the ruins of the student
“Where is Sanjay? Why
didn’t he come with us, Vikram?” probed Alisha.
“He will be with us
shortly once he is done taking care of some important things.”
“What could be more
important than being part of our mission? His absence makes me feel
insecure,” complained Johnny. His voice trembled as he said this.
To divert the attention
of the team from Sanjay’s topic, Vikram asked his father a
question,“Who founded this great university, Dad and how long was
“Kumaragupta of the
Gupta dynasty is said to have founded this university. After the
Guptas, it was patronized by Emperor Harshavardhana and then by the
Pala kings until the end of the 12th century. The Gupta period was a
golden age for India. It was rich in scientific and artistic
achievements. It was the period when we achieved supremacy in all the
major fields such as science, technology, engineering, art, medicine,
literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.”
“Surely, we should be
indebted to the Guptas for providing such a stable governance, which
enabled us to have such a splendid heritage,” remarked Vikram
“Yes, it was during
this period that great minds like Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira,
Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana excelled in their respective fields and
made invaluable contributions to our country’s heritage and
legacy,” continued Srivastava.
“Wow, the history of
this place amazes me, Professor!” exclaimed Alisha.
Buoyed by the response,
Srivastava asked “You guys want to know more?”
“Yes, Dad please
“When most of the
world was under the illusion that the earth was flat; our ancestors
postulated the earth as spherical and the sun as the centre of our
solar system. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“It was only in the
16th and 17th centuries that the West came to know about this theory
thanks to Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. However, we read in our
textbooks that they were the ones who made this discovery even though
this discovery was made several centuries before them. It’s
terrible that our place in history has been denied all along and even
now we don’t stake a claim for what is rightfully ours,” lamented
“You are absolutely
right, Vikram, but weren’t the people who proposed that the earth
was not the centre of the solar system persecuted in Europe?” asked
“Yes, they were
persecuted there but here we accepted the findings with an open mind.
It shows the respect we had for an individual’s thoughts and the
reverence we had for the wisdom of those scholars.”
discoveries other than the one we just discussed. The lunar and solar
eclipses were clearly expounded by Aryabhatta who was a scholar of
astronomy in the Gupta period. He was also the first to determine the
time taken by the earth for its rotation and revolution. How amazing
is that?” revealed Prof. Srivastava.
Aryabhatta was a real genius. Please continue Professor, don’t
stop,” exclaimed Johnny.
“Ok now, let me ask
you a question. Who discovered gravity first?”
replied Alisha and Sruthi promptly.
incorrect. It was in fact discovered by Varahamihira, Brahmagupta and
Bhaskaracharya long before Newton did. Varahamihira and Brahmagupta
belonged to the 5th century A.D. of the Gupta period. These findings
were also recorded in one of the earliest books of astronomy, Surya