“Father, won’t you tell me what happened?” Abhaya asked tearfully. She had never seen the Brave and gentle Vikram so shaken.
Dharmasena laid an assuring hand on her shoulder and led her towards his chambers. After they were seated, he started to explain her how he met Vikram who actually belonged to the Naga tribe.
Vikram had lost his father when he was an infant and was brought up by his widowed mother. He had vague memories of his mother visiting an ascetic who used to frequent their settlement. That ascetic belonged to a group who worshipped the mother of this universe. But their method of worship was referred as Vamachara (left handed path) and involved indulging in panchatattva. Panchatattvas as a means of worship was strictly prohibited by the Vedic canons. But some groups who indulged in the same continued to do so in spite of the Social resistance.
The shakti worshippers of this cult often approached orphaned women with not many social contacts for an important aspect of their worship called Maithuna (Union). Vikram’s mother was approached by the ascetic to assist him in the practice. She was probably attracted to the pleasures or enticed with gold required to bring her son up. Even as the head of the settlement ordered her not to mingle with the Panchatattva Shaktas, she defied the orders one night to invite the sadhu to her hut. She had put the eight year old Vikram to sleep in a neighboring hut of a friend.
Towards midnight, the boy woke up and searched for his mother. Realizing that he was in his aunt’s hut, he walked towards his own. When he reached the door, a horrific sight met his eyes and he let out an agitated scream. The Ascetic whose worship was disturbed raged at the boy with a menacing weapon while the mother fell at his feet begging him to forgive her son. The commotion woke up the neighboring Nagas and also brought another group of ShAktas camping nearby.
The two groups clashed with each other as Vikram sat huddled in fear. Someone probably belonging to the shAkta group set fire to the small settlement and the whole place broke into chaos.
At that moment, Vikram saw his mother threatening his aunt with a pitchfork. This was the mother he had never seen. The brutal anger horrified him and he ran out of the hut, far away from the settlement.
Dharmasena who had come to hunt in the vicinity had decided to camp there for the night. He heard the shouts and saw the flames from a distance. When he and Vajrabahu ran towards the settlement accompanied by some soldiers, a distraught Vikram ran towards them. When he saw the just concern on the face of the King, Vikram ran to him and clung to his legs. Dharmasena gently released himself from the child’s grip and asked him what happened. But the boy was scared beyond words and was unable to speak anything. Dharmasena carried the boy to his camp and left him under the care of a couple of soldiers before returning back to the Naga settlement. By then, the shAkta worshippers had fled the place leaving Vikram’s mother behind. When she came to claim her son, Vikram refused to go back to her. She no longer looked like his mother and her sight only struck terror in his heart.
Dharmasena was overcome with pity for the helpless boy and brought him to Anagha. His affection grew thousand fold when the boy saved him from a poisonous cobra a couple of days later. Vikram was not a timid boy after all. He deftly held the cobra by its neck and threw it towards some bushes at a distance.
Dharmasena who observed the nimble agility of Vikram adopted him as a son and put him into a disciplined military training under Vajrabahu. The boy had grown into brave and illustrious swordsman in these years. Dharmasena was happy that he decided to adopt the boy.
“You were an infant, barely completed a year, when I brought Vikram home.” Dharmasena concluded.
Abhaya listened to the whole story, her eyes filling up after knowing the unknown side of the man she considered her brother. “Father, then was I right in letting her go free?” Abhaya asked hesitatingly.
“May be you were. In fact even before we punish the others who were caught, I need to know where exactly they were practicing that Panchatattva way of worship. It would be wrong to punish them if they were practicing in an off settlement location.” Dharmasena explained.
“Father, what is this Panchatattva way, and why is it considered a crime by us?” Abhaya asked inquisitively. “I reached the place quite later. But I could see that Vikram was visibly distressed.” She added
“Vikram’s distress is also due to the trauma he faced that night when he was eight. Panchatattvas are directly related to indulging in senses. Those who practice this believe in realizing the Supreme being by indulging in activities which we, Aryas consider as weaknesses or those which condemn us to everlasting bondage of lifecycles.” Dharmasena started to explain. The curiosity in his daughter’s eyes always encouraged him to explain more and encourage the questions she would put up. But in this aspect, he was unsure whether to explain her full detail. But topics such as Panchatattvas should not be left with incomplete explanations. He drew a long breathe before resuming.
“Child, Panchatattavs include indulging in Matsya (eating fish), Madhira (drinking wine), Mamsa (eating meat), Mudra (yogic poses – sometimes considered parched rice) and..”Dharmasena paused as if to strengthen his resolve to explain everything. “.. Maithuna (Union).” He observed his daughter’s reactions.
Abhaya’s eyes grew wider. “All these as ways of worship?”
Dharmasena smiled. “As we, Aryas consider the way proclaimed by the Vedas as the right path, there are people who consider ours as just a way or probably an inefficient way. We call our way of worship by abstinence as Dakshinachara and the way of indulgence as Vaamaachara.”
Abhaya pondered, trying to digest the contents of what her father explained. The idea that a kind of worship could be performed by indulging in the senses was unacceptable to any Arya. A question showed up in her eyes. Dharmasena sensed the inquisitiveness and braced himself to answer that with a smile.
“Father, I of course do not doubt the words of our Ancient rishis who gave us the treasury of knowledge they gained through life of austerities and abstinence. But can we surely say that the vaamaachara is wrong or punishable? Just because it opposes the way we accepted?”
“I expected this from you.” Dharmasena smiled. “Child, my knowledge as a King is way too less to pronounce a particular way of worship as right or wrong. But any King has this responsibility on his shoulders, to hold his Kingdom together, socially and politically. Arya Dharma by its virtue my child, has enunciated a social order that binds an individual to the society. Dharma demands contribution by each individual to the rest of the world and the balance is preserved when a society recognizes this commitment cumulatively. Even a slight imbalance gives an opportunity to Adharma to raise its hood and threaten the Social order. So it is necessary for me as a King to hold my kingdom in an order extolled by our ancient Rishis.”
“That does not convince me completely father. “ Abhaya protested. “Do you mean to say that Vaamaachaara can give raise to Adharma? Can we really say that? Just because the great Rishis we have believed in condemned them?”
“Child, our Rishis did not make any such sweeping judgments, nor can we.” Dharmasena explained convincingly. “Abhaya, when someone practices vamaachaara that professes indulgence in senses, it is very difficult for us to separate the fake and the genuine. We profess a social order which extols abstinence as it is considered an additional and selfless contribution to the society. So when an individual gets to practice pancha tattva way of worship amidst our society, it is difficult to ensure that the social order is intact. Worshipping gathering might turn into a drinking brawl and further things might not be in anyone’s control. Not only this, the simple minded, innocent Nagas who are not so well educated are even more susceptible to the viles of a fake pancha tattvi. Hence, it is again necessary to protect them from the ill effects of any wayward practitioners.”
“How right are we to ban a way of worship just because we are unable to differentiate the fake and the fact?” Abhaya asked. She looked more or less convinced about the need to keep the vaamaacharaas away from the settlements for the greater good. But imposing a blanket rule over a method still sounded inappropriate.
“Well, it’s a bargain of giving up a freedom to prevent a greater danger.” Dharmasena explained. “But I heard that there are certain Kingdoms in the far eastern regions where this Panchataattvic Shakti worship is encouraged. Kamarupa is the place if I remember right. I heard that the Kings there don’t look upon Arya Dharma with great reverence. Even in the plains of Aryavarta, the practitioners are also free to practice it in forests and other places where they won’t be affecting the mainstream Arya life.” Dharmasena was quick to reason.
‘Child, the good of this society lies in the balance that governs it. Individual liberties might need to be sacrificed. But then Dharma never forsakes those who give themselves to its cause.”