This tale dates long back, may be an enternity when the Apsaras and the Gandharvas existed. When the mythical Gods used to come down on Earth and the sages had the knowledge of the Universe.
This tale has a young maiden. Divine was her beauty, unfathomable was her wisdom and unquenching was her thirst of knowledge. Makela, the King of Amarkantak was blessed with this daughter. He named her, Narmada, the purest. Narmada was like a flowing river, dancing around the palace and wondering through the wheat fields like the rippling unstoppable waves. Her laughter used to lift up the most melancholic hearts just like the Southern winds blowing over a river in the evening relieves the heat stricken land. A sunshine in King Makela’s palace and in the kingdom of Amarkantak. Amarkantak, a vast and prosperous kingdom situated at the meeting point of the Vindhya and Satpura range with the Maikal hill as the fulcrum. It was guarded in the north and south by these two mighty hill ranges while the East – West directions had no natural barricades. Due to the obstruction offered by the hills, communication and trade was mostly conducted through the open East – West routes. The hills were covered with lush green forest and they were home to various wild animals and birds including the tigers and various medicinal plants. That is why the practice of Ayurveda and medicine making was the main profession of the people. Also these plant extracts and medicines were the main exporting items which were exported all over the country and also across the western sea. The medicines from Amarkantak were considered to be elixir and so trade and commerce flourished which brought prosperity to the kingdom.
Narmada had keen interest in every subject starting from Mathematics, Philosophy, Language, Medicine to horse riding, sword fighting and archery. She was also proficient in playing the Veena. Her voice was like a linnet. She was accompanied by Johilla. Johilla was a common Amarkantaki girl and the daughter of one of the hairdresser of Queen Sulochana, Narmada’s mother. She had lost her father at a very young age so her mother used to bring her in the palace during her duty hours. Queen Sulochana, being a noble person, introduced little Johilla to young Narmada. She was appointed as one of Narmada’s playmates and Narmada, having no sibling of her own, considered Johilla as her sister. Both of them attended the teachers together, learnt horse riding and used to play imaginary battles with wooden swords. They were inseparable. Being a hairdresser’s daughter, Johilla learnt the art of hairdressing at a very young age and Narmada always let her do all kinds of experiments with her hair.
Narmada had a special fascination for sunsets. The roof of her palace was the highest tower of the city and it provided the best view. At every dusk, Narmada used to come at the rooftop and looked at the setting sun. She wondered at the celebration of red and orange colours with patches of grey around the corner as the golden fiery ball kissed the horizon far away in the west. And then a gush of salty wind hit her face, caressing the adament locks that fell on her eyes. It soothed her soul. “From where did that wind come? Why did it smell like that?”, she pondered and looked as far she could. Being at the topmost part of the city her vision could easily cross her kingdom’s boundary and fell into the forest with tall and short hill ranges that blocked her sight. “What lies beyond those hills ?” Well, she knew the answer. She had read that her country is surrounded by water bodies on three sides, East, West and South and her kingdom was located near the western sea. Every year, merchants of Amarkantak set sail in the western sea with medicines, wheat and many more items and come back with pearls, silk, cotton from Mesopotamia & Egypt. She had read it all but had never seen the sea. She knew that sea is huge water body, had sandy shores called beach where huge waves touch and break. She had asked her father to take her to the sea but Makela always laughed at her daughter’s innocence. He had explained that the sea coast was under the boundary of the powerful Yadav kings and they only allowed the merchants of various kingdoms to access the sea shore. Even King Makela had to pay taxes for that. Being a kingdom with less military powers than the Yadav clan, it was never wise to accept her daughter’s wish. Although he proposed her to visit the Eastern Sea, Narmada didn’t agree. She felt an intense attraction for that huge water body which existed in the west. As if, if she ever come across a sea, it would be the one in the west.
Days passed and Narmada grew up to be a beautiful young maiden. Tales of her grace, wisdom and exuberance of youth spread far and wide. Her parents decided to organise her marriage. Proposals came from every kingdom in Bharatvarsha even from Persia and Tibet. Narmada was given the liberty to choose her groom from the proposals she had got. But she was confused. She sat with Johilla for hours discussing who should be her perfect match. But none of them came to any conclusion. And then one fine day, they heard of Prince Son…….(to be continued)