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The Rig Veda, or the Book of Knowledge, is one of the oldest Indian texts. Written in lyrical Sanskrit, the Rig Veda is a compilation of advice and instruction on a number of topics. It also contains accounts of significant historical incidents.
None of us may be able to read the Rig Veda in Sanskrit, but the stories in it are incredible. One such story is ‘Dasarajna’ or the ‘Ten Kings’. Sudas, the king of the Trtsu Bharata tribe goes to battle against ten other kings . The ten kings were his former allies, family , friends and ‘foreign’ forces in the area. This area was the lush fertile land of the Five Rivers, that is now known as the Punjab.
Guided by their preceptor Guru Vishwamitra, the power hungry ten kings attack King Sudas. The armies were unevenly matched; the ten kings commanded a huge force that also had mercenaries. The battle was fought on the banks of the Parusni river on a stormy day and King Sudas and his small army were prepared to die for honour, and their commitment to progress and parity.
Instead, guided by his honorable preceptor, Guru Vashishta, Sudas wins the battle – with a mix of strategy and blessings from the gods.
Here is where the master storyteller Ashok Banker spins a great yarn. How exactly did Indra and the other gods aid Sudas during the crucial stage of the battle in the latter half of the day? Was it only myth and miracle? Or was there a brilliant strategy built on science that helped win Sudas win the battle?
Indians claim that all the knowledge of the world is contained in the Vedas, but are clothed in verses and not scientific formulae. After reading the ‘Ten Kings’, I began to appreciate how those verses may actually contain a wealth of scientific rationale – that we perhaps don’t understand anymore because we have not learnt and read Sanskrit.
As Ashok Banker himself states, to call Ten Kings a work of history would be a step too far. To call it pure fiction would be incorrect too. This is a piece of really good historical fiction.