The wheels of the royal ceremonial gold chariot screeched to a halt on the gravel road behind the Mahanavami Dibba. A well-built dark skinned man, in his mid-twenties, climbed down from the chariot.

A masculine face with neatly trimmed moustache, but the cut on his left cheek which ran almost the full length from just below the eye, looked fresh – a parting gift from a beloved enemy, perhaps. Laden in gold jewellery that were studded with precious stones of all sizes and colors, he wore a bright pink angavastram made of silk and a white silk dhoti. He wore a turban made of yellow silk, and attached to it was the royal pin, which had the largest diamond of all. In his right hand he was holding a precious stone studded gold scabbard, and inside was the sword that whole of the subcontinent bowed down to – the Sword of Vijayanagara.

Standing below the flight of stairs inside the royal entrance at the back of the Dibba, the new King looked up to the portion of the blue sky that was visible. The royal trumpeters on top of the Dibba blew the trumpets, announcing the arrival of the new King of Vijayanagara. The chatter among the crowd stopped. Then the drummers started beating the big drums across the palace complex, in a rhythm. And the crowd started cheering – “Long live the King! Long live the King….”

“Doesn’t anyone remember what happened in last one month leading up to today?”, the new King asked himself.

The new King was the eldest son and heir apparent to the throne of Vijayanagara, and was the most capable. He had been groomed to be the King, right from the day he started walking. He was trained to be the best in sword fight, archery and hand to hand combats in the whole of Vijayanagara empire. And he was well conversant in the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita and Chanakya’s Arthashastra. For the last two years, he had been fighting the Moslems in the north, and had subjugated two Bahmani Sultanates. It was in last one month that everything changed, for better or for worse. The old King took ill suddenly, and was killed in his sleep by one of his younger sons, the new King’s half-brother.

This is when the new King had to ride back to the capital city of Hampi, to confront his half-brother, and to claim the throne that was rightfully his. The situation had changed completely while he was away. Most of the old royal staff had been replaced with loyalists of his half-brother. He knew that his half-brother wouldn’t dare to touch him in broad day light. He confronted him in the palace courtyard, with a handful of his father’s loyalists.

This is when the confrontation turned physical. His half-brother took out a dagger and took a wild swing. He leaned back, but couldn’t move completely away from the dagger’s path, and it sliced him on the left cheek and the wound ran almost the full length from just below the eye. In one continous motion, he took his dagger out, pushed it deep in to his half-brother’s throat, killing him instantly.

Then began the clean-up act. For next two weeks, all the loyalists of his half-brother were either killed or jailed, eliminated systematically. He didn’t stop until everyone of them who had helped his half-brother had been punished. That was the last one month.

As the new King stood below the flight of stairs pondering, the Rajguru touched his shoulder and signalled politely that he should ascend and show himself to the world, to show the world that everything was in control. The King nodded his head and agreement and thought, “Doesn’t anyone really remember?”

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: The sky from below the flight of stairs, inside the back entrance of Mahanavami Dibba, inside the palace complex in Hampi, Karnataka, India. Mahanavami Dibba was used as a platform by the royals of Vijayanagara to watch the Dussehra celebrations, as well as on special royal ceremonies.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

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Written by Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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