The Abandoned Hamlet

It was a stormy night and was pouring heavily. The path was perilous. Sagara was totally drenched. His horse, who was his only companion suddenly collapsed and died. Now he was all alone. He was all cold and wet. He tried to look around. There were abandoned huts everywhere, some half burnt, some razed to the ground while some others were somewhat fine but inhabitable. How farther does he have to travel for his final destination? Even the horse was now dead.

He was hungry as he had eaten all the chapattis packed for him within the first two days of his travel. It had been a month since he left home on his newly acquired second hand horse. Now he had come far away from his land.

He was barely 19 and both his parents were dead. He had been sold into slavery! His father had taken a loan and had pledged his son but died before repaying the loan. His mother lived for a few months trying to repay the loan to ensure her son doesn’t get sold. But she too died. As a result, Sagara had to go away into slavery for the rest of his life. His wife, of course was ignorant about all this as her husband and in-laws preferred not to sadden her with such grim news. She was married to him for four years and they had three children, two of which died. While the first one died at birth, the second one died when he was barely one. Only their third son had survived and he was sent to a Gurukula and would return only when he was 20.

Sagara knew he was going away never to return. He couldn’t tell his wife so he asked his friends to ensure she was taken care of. His friends were unhappy and even offered to repay the loan themselves rather than let Sagara go away never to return. Sagara however had declined the offer politely and thanked them profusely. Hence he lied to his wife that he was going to a far-off land for trade and it would take many years for him to return or he might not return! He told her not to wait for him. She was heartbroken but couldn’t prevent her husband from going. Before leaving, she told him to return him as soon as he completed his work.

The man who had given loan to Sagara’s father had sold Sagara to the royal palace according to what he understood from the letter he held on his chest. He wasn’t educated in any Gurukula but had basic knowledge of reading and writing. He knew Sanskrit but didn’t know anything more than simple reading and writing. He didn’t want this to happen to his son. That’s why he had decided to send his son to a Gurukula.

He was searching in the rain for a shelter in this barren heath. Finally he found a house that appeared to be occupied. Hence, he went and knocked at the door. An old bearded man opened the door. He didn’t appear poor but was apparently weak. He had no children. Sagara asked him if he can stay there for the night and he agreed.

The old man asked him after supper who he was and where he was going to. Sagara preferred not to disclose much detail so he just told he was on the way to the royal palace for some crucial work. Then he hurried to sleep.

What Sagara saw the next morning appalled him!! The destroyed huts were more abundant. They were damaged, burnt and many had even collapsed! Sagara was startled and he instantly questioned the old man what was going on. The old man glanced at the window for quite a long time till Sagara repeated his question.

The old man said “This remote hamlet was once a great fiefdom. Our feudal lord was a generous man and quite a likeable person. This is where all my ancestors were born, I too was born here. I grew up playing by the river you see there. I married a girl from this hamlet and we had half a dozen kids.” Then he stood up and continued his narration as he walked up to the window.

Only two of his children had survived up to adulthood. Then the two of them migrated to other kingdoms for work and marriage. Only he and his wife lived. It was a peaceful atmosphere in the village till then. People lived in harmony, enjoyed with each other, helped each other when in distress, and were a united lot.

One day, much to the chagrin and exasperation of the quiet and joyful villagers, a sudden war was waged!! The feudal lord was a Kshatriya and had avowed to protect the villagers so he and his five sons went to fight. He lost all his sons one by one. Within five nights all his five sons were killed and on the sixth day, he himself was killed! His wife was captured and sold into slavery. The miscreants created havoc in the village.

Since this was a remote village, nobody knew that this village was in danger. Hence there was no aid at all. The youth of the village wanted to fight but were held back by their fearful elders. From then on, every month those miscreants would come, kill just for fun and run away. Then the villagers began to migrate one by one. For the past one year this has been going on and the old man’s wife also got killed in one of those encounters.

Sagara was fuming when he heard the old man sob while narrating this story. The old man was advised by the villagers to quit the village but he didn’t know where to go. So he continued living in fear. Now he, along with few other old men and women were the only people living in the entire countryside. He was sick and the village physician had told him before leaving that he wouldn’t live for long. Later in the day, Sagara left after thanking the old man for providing him food and shelter for the night.

About ten days later, another army came to the village and the old men and women hid themselves in fear. Then they saw the same army that alarmed them and caused so many deaths in their village come! A huge battle ensued and the former army won! The miscreants were arrested. The fearful villagers came out only to see their king for the first time in their village. Along with the king they saw Sagara too! The king was thanking and rewarding Sagara. He thoroughly studied the letter and said “You have done a courageous job! I grant you freedom, Sagara! You’re a free man and may go home now!”

After the king consoled the old villagers with soothing words and left, they assembled around Sagara and asked what happened. Sagara replied that he had vowed that he would definitely assist them. He wouldn’t let this injustice continue. He thanked the old man and pursued his journey. He reached the palace after a few days. He informed the king about the happenings in that small hamlet. The king was enraged! He immediately took action. From then on, the village would be linked to the kingdom and would be expanded. Facilities would be extended to the village and the Dandanayaka (police) will post some of his men in the village to guard it.

Sagara decided to return home after that. His wife and friends were overjoyed to see him again! Sagara and his wife were happy together, and even more when their son completed his Gurukula.

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