• The Raja of Awadh – on Belief

    This is a true story, with only minor deviations in some details, since the events described here happened more than a thousand years ago, in the great kingdom of Awadh.

     

    The majestic emperor of Awadh, Maharana Umed Singh, was well-known as a mighty

     

    Maharaja Umed Singh of Awadh

    Maharaja Umed Singh of Awadh

    warrior. His legendary skills as a soldier were part of the folk-lore. It was said that no one who had dared to fight him in single, unarmed combat had ever come out unscathed; either they were killed in battle or subject to humiliating defeat. With the sword, he was a terror to even the best of swordsmen.

    As commander-in-chief of his father’s army, Umed Singh proved himself to be a master tactician. He meticulously planned and executed each move in battle, and led his army to inevitable victory. And the more his body acquired the marks of battle, the more

    Umed Singh was a master strategist and tactician at war

    Umed Singh was a master strategist and tactician at war

    his fame grew, so that by the time he ascended the throne at the death of his father, balladeers sang at cultural events of his great courage and skill. During his 30-year rule of Awadh, he won many battles merely on reputation. His enemies trembled in their shoes at the very thought of meeting him in battle.

    But, being a kind man at heart who eschewed violence if he could, he ensured that all neighbouring kingdoms lived in peace and paid his respects to every ruler.

    The period of his rule was truly a golden one; but Umed Singh was dejected towards the end of his tenure. The two sons his first wife had borne had lived a motherless life, since she had not survived childbirth. He gave them enough love and attention, or so he thought, and under the able tutelage of different teachers, they grew up to be great warriors themselves; but in his heart, Umed Singh knew that neither possessed the tactical prowess that he had, or the canny ability to lead their soldiers to victory after victory, in the manner he had.

    Raja Umed Singh in full battle regalia

    Raja Umed Singh in full battle regalia

    And on this particular day in April in the 30th year as ruler of Awadh, he stood, in full battle regalia, dejected and unsure of himself, for he was faced with the responsibility of leading his men into yet another battle with the army of Magadh. Now in his 60th year and not as agile as he used to be, Umed Singh was a mere shadow of his former self. The towering personality with the powerful visage before which even friends trembled like leaves, was sagging and despondent. Care lined his furrowed brow, and the thought of the battle filled his mind with dread. In his bosom, he felt that his people faced certain defeat. Never in his life had he felt so utterly alone, for both his sons had given up active soldierly life for the pleasures offered by wine and women.

    The loyal ministers of Awadh had full faith in their Rana, but observing him dejected and fearful for the future of the kingdom, they felt frightened, too. Calling an urgent meeting, they had discussed the implication of this situation, and came to the conclusion that it was not possible for the Rana to lead them to victory in this state of mind. They resolved to take the advice of a famous saint of the time, who also happened to be the Teacher, Advisor and mentor of their king. This mendicant had been summoned and was now in the palace to meet the king.

    The Mendicant who taught, guided, and mentored Raja Umed Singh

    The Mendicant who taught, guided, and mentored Raja Umed Singh

    Observing the king pacing up and down in his chamber, the mendicant placed a kindly hand on his shoulder. The obsequies over, the mendicant sat in the offered chair and chided the Rana on his mental condition. “How can you expect your soldiers to have any belief in themselves if your own mind is racked with disbelief, O King?”

    Umed Singh was at a loss for words, and the mendicant realized that the only way that Awadh could win in the coming battle was to increase the King’s belief in his own victory. He rose, and pulled lightly at Umed’s arm, saying, “Come with me, O King! Let me show you something.”

    After a moment’s persuasion, the Rana rose reluctantly and followed his venerated teacher to the next room, but even as he did so, he noticed something very strange.

    The Raja was amazed to see signs of celebrations

    The Raja was amazed to see signs of celebrations

    Though very familiar with the rooms around his chamber, he noticed that there was something unfamiliar. Then he realized that the scene was very unlike what he had seen a few minutes ago; there were a lot more people and the hubbub of excited voices filled the room. He passed a calendar on the wall, and noticed to his utter astonishment that the date was not in the month of April, but rather, it was almost a full 3 months later!

    He was getting more and more perplexed; at first he tried speaking to his cousin who was standing with a battle-weary group, in tattered and bloodied clothes but wearing triumphant smiles, talking about their exploits in the last battle. But when he approached them, they not only did not answer him, they did not even turn to him when he spoke. Not used to being ignored, anger rose in his heart as he tried shaking his cousin by the shoulder, and found that he could not!

    The Arati was performed with Regal pomp and show

    The Arati was performed with Regal pomp and show

    It slowly dawned on him that the mendicant had used his extraordinary powers to make them invisible, and had actually brought him into the future! And his surprise knew no bounds when he saw himself in the room at a distance from where he was now standing.

    He decided to watch the proceedings, and realized that his own self (his body double, which was him in the future) was now the subject of attention, as his many wives busily conducted a welcoming arati on him. There was much pomp and show, and the whole ceremony took the better part of an hour, after which a grand feast was laid out for all guests. During the meal, the soldiers shared their experiences, and he realized that the battle of Magadh had been successfully completed! It took nearly 3 months, and many lives were lost, including his brothers, but in the end victory had been theirs! The best part was that somewhere in between, his two sons had given up their life of debauchery and  joined him in battle, and the transformation had come about through the very women into whose arms they had surrendered themselves!

    The mendicant walked king Umed Singh back into his previous room, back to the present. Needless to say that the king found new courage from this glimpse of the future gifted him by his teacher, and went into battle with renewed vim and vigour, and led his men with much more enthusiasm than he had before witnessing the above scene, so that whatever he saw and heard there actually came to pass. But for us, the conversation he had with his teacher after that experience is much more informative.

    Perplexed by what he had witnessed, the king pressed his teacher to explain: “Did I really see us all after the battle? How is that possible? Was that an illusion, or a hallucination? Did you make me see what I wanted by playing tricks with my mind?”

    The mendicant explained everything thus: “O King, the future always remains a possibility, and never a certainty for our current selves. If it were to become a certainty, then it would cease to be the future, and become the past. What was it that you saw? That’s a choice that you will have to make; if you think it was a dream or an illusion, then that is what it will be. If you choose to believe that it has happened in reality, it can be that also. We create our own future, first by thinking or saying what we want it to be, and then going out and doing the things to make it happen. Belief is everything; but belief in external things is only the beginning. When you believe in yourself and in your ability to create the future of your choice, that is when the real work starts for the creation of your own cherished future.”

    A bloody battle ensued

    A bloody battle ensued

    History has of course recorded the bloody battle that ensued; the events that happened immediately prior to that battle, and which I have recorded here for our benefit, have remained a footnote to that record. In my opinion, the lives of great men of the past teach us important lessons not only by their actions, but also by the choices they make, whether it is with regards to the advisors they choose to listen to or the lessons they choose to learn.

    Life truly is a matter of choosing, and choosing wisely.

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