The whip, which the wild God of the ancient Indus civilization sometimes snaps to redirect regressing spiritual practitioners, is the body of painful consequences born from our intents and actions that give strength to the illusion of separate identity and the motion of recoil from the heart of Reality.
This book is set 3900 years ago in the midst of a massive and advanced ancient civilization which, along with Sumer and Egypt, was one mankind’s first 3 organized mass-scaled urban civilizations, all of them established along major river tributaries. The Indian based civilization would begin its decline as the Sarasvati River (along with the Indus River, the center of this widespread civilization) became extinct, perhaps due to geological changes. In subsequent centuries, the development of new urban centers shifted from this far northwest region (largely Pakistani territory) to along the Ganges River running from the northwest and then eastward through northern India to the coast.
Reading Mira Pabhu’s epic tale, spanning around (it seems) 4 decades of the life of the central character Ishvari, is like watching a major four or five part movie mini series on tv with no problem in retrieving the vivid images of the story at the point where one left off at the last stretch of reading her (first) novel. (How many parts to this mini series depends on how many times “the reader couldn’t put the book down” until reading the concluding paragraphs.)
We have very little information and understanding of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The symbols of the Indus script remain a mystery! The clay seals that artisans created, with varying images of animals, human figures that are perhaps gods or sage like figures, and more, and their further creations of goddess figurines and the lingam representation of the phallus (suggestive of a powerful male god figure), gives us something of a non verbal picture of things related to the religious/spiritual focus of the people.
There is a famous seal called the Pashupati seal. A regal man sitting still, cross legged, with animals in the picture. It is often assumed by many that this figure is the famed “Pashupati”, lord of the animals and a precursor of the Shiva figure (or an early name for Shiva). He is adorned with a large headdress.
Shiva, in this era “Rudra” or “Pashupati”, is the Wild God. Most essentially, “Shiva” is the ultimate essence and nature of all that is, Sat-Chit-Ananda or the bare sense of being, consciousness itself without a sense of “I” and “other”, and bliss.
In the opening scene of the book the teen Ishvari, a village girl living (along with a younger brother and widowed mother) ostracized and exiled to the village outskirts, encounters the Wild God in visionary form.
This visionary encounter is followed by a rapid and dramatic change to Ishvari’s circumstances when an envoy of the ruler of this massive 300,000 square mile civilization selects her as a tantrika yogini trainee to serve the state (long ago most strongly influenced by ecstatic sages). This service entailed enlivening and refreshing the spiritual vitality of the civilization as tantric consorts to its leaders.
While “tantra” and the intricate details of kundalini yoga developed from 500 to 1300 CE, the specific vehicles used by the consorts and rulers in this story for raising the spiritual energy (the “fire”) at the base of the spine into the crown of the head and beyond, the precursors or early forms of these practices existed in this largest and earliest of mankind”s known civilization: in the shamanic milieu, among the ecstatics and seers and sages inspiring the poetic hymns of the literature (here the Vedas, the first being the Rig Veda lately dated to around 1900BCE and possibly older given the evidence), and in the exercise of ritualistic practices among the formal priestly order. The tools of breathing exercises, sound, visualization, and one pointed concentration (as well as an ineffable contemplation of the heart of things among the ecstatic seers and sages, often in austere circumstances) were present. As was a recognition of basic features of a basic spiritual and subtle anatomy (later elaborated upon in the medieval tantra era of India): the space of the heart as a foci (“akasha”), the role of breathing in conducting and enhancing life force energy, and the existence of a central channel corresponding to spinal line and with key energy centers (crown, third eye, heart, etc). (These references show up in the earliest of the Upanishads, literature written first around 700 BCE with more rudimentary references in the earlier Vedas.)
Also, ancient seers, poetically expressing themselves in man’s oldest works (the Vedas), reference an all-illuminating and all pervasive Light that is our essence. Once realized, felt-seperation ends and the enlightened life begins with one’s conditioned patterns of being, feeling, acting rising into the light of full awareness to be consumed as our unconditioned essence becomes more dominate in awareness and feeling.
Mira, the author, adeptly weaves the later Tantra ways into this more ancient milieu.
And, this is one amazing, and INSTRUCTIVE story. The reason why this isn’t some merely great escapist literature is really apparent in the falls or dives, really hard ones!, that Ishvari experiences as the consequences of stubborn egoic patterns come to life.
I was tempted to outline the phases of this story, but……I want people to read this story without someone like me spoiling the impact from the intriguing twists and turns.
You will love the characters. (You’ll see and hear them quite well!) And, that includes Vegavat, a leopard, and Maruti, a monkey.