Despite all the progress made by science and advancements in the realm of knowing the unknown, there are certain events that remain as mysterious episodes in our life for ever.. Take for instance the sixth sense that has saved many a hunter from the jaws of man-eating tigers or of telepathy by which one can ‘feel and foresee’ the death of a near and dear one in a far away location. Similarly, with a little bit of imagination, many of us can, merely by looking at sculptured figures and reliefs displayed in temples and archaeological exploration sites ages ago can draw up how life flowed in those bygone days.
We are also oftentimes confronted by ‘haunted houses’ where strange things happen. In Nobel laureate Tagore’s Hungry Stones we feel awestruck at how his subject fell under the spell of stunning Arabian nymphs who were kept prisoners in a harem located at a lonely place more than 250 years ago. Even the stony harem floors seemed to have become infected with hunger for release, being exposed to the agonies and ecstasies of the young souls, imprisoned for life.
So is the case of an overseas tourist who came to visit the ruins at Belur and Halebid in the Indian state of Karnatka who was mesmerized by the vivid way a guide described life in the once prosperous capital city belonging to the famed Hoysala kingdom. However, guide Sanjeev knew how to keep the tourists spellbound by depicting the life in these glorious places, emphasizing on the legendary love between king Vishnuvardhana and the fabulously beautiful queen Shantala amidst royal pageantry and splendor. The ingenious guide, in order to add color to the imperial anecdote, equated the love story with yet another celebrated love affair that involved Emperor Shah Jehan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal.
Guide Sanjeev also expressed his revulsion for the Mughals who barbarously attacked the famed Hoysala kingdom during 14th century AD, destroying most of the temples that carried the sculptures and the works of art, thus bringing the downfall of the Hoysala kingdom. These temples, reminded the good guide, were reportedly made by the vizier of the Hoysala kingdom for queen Shantala at the king’s order.
As the guided tour of the temples progressed, guide Sanjeev focused the attention of the tourists to various mythological characters that appeared on the temple walls. While those of Lord Shankar Parvati as also that of Ganapati were of average standard, the sculpted figure of queen Shantala was simply superb. Also, her figure was to be found on every corner of the temple. An epitome of beauty and grace, she was actively involved in the administration of the large Hoysala kingdom where people lived happily without any fear of oppression and tyranny.
Guide Sanjeev concluded the tour by declaring “the queen loved these temples, and protects them, irrespective of what the Mughals have done and the government hasn’t”; at the end of which most of the tourists truly felt how even the stones could tell their stories.