The Secret of the NagasAmish Tripathi
Praise for The Secret of the Nagas
… a gripping tale that combines lots of action with deep yet accessible philosophy. Amish does not disappoint. ... The Secret of the Nagas is furiously packed with action and intrigue and leaves the reader guessing
… the book has it all - philosophies, spiritual messages, secrets, battles and mysteries.
– Indian Express
[Amish’s] stories of Lord Shiva retold for our times – The Immortals of Mehlua and The Secret of the Nagas – have been runaway successes”
– The Times of India
It’s clear that [The Secret of the Nagas] has struck a chord with Indian readers.
– The Hindu
The idea of The Shiva Trilogy excited me because this sort of experimentation with Indian mythology is long overdue in popular literature, especially by an Indian author ... As far as plotting and pacing are concerned, Amish is very skilful.
– Asian Age
…well on his way to a successful second innings”
– Harper’s Bazaar
Amish Tripathi retained his Midas touch with The Secret of the Nagas.
– Deccan Herald
[Amish] does a matchless job of bringing Shiva’s legacy into a character that inhabited the earth’
– The Sentinel, Guwahati
The Secret of the Nagas is impressive in its conception... Tripathi is an excellent story-teller.
The Secret of the Nagas was included in Best Five Books of 2011.
It’s a labour of love... Amish also humanizes his characters, something which most popular Indian writers fail miserably at.
– The Mint
Brilliant retelling of the ‘Shivpuran’ in the most modern and intriguing form; an exciting, stylish, creative, refreshing and soul-satisfying read!
– Ranjani Vijayaraghavan
Reader Review Contest Winner
“Amish is a fresh new voice in Indian writing – steeped in myth and history, with a fine eye for detail and a compelling narrative style.”
– Shashi Tharoor
Member of Parliament and celebrated author
“Furious action jumps off every page.”
– Anil Dharker
Renowned Journalist and Author
“The Shiva Trilogy is a racy mytho-thriller with a masala twist, like Amar Chitra Katha on steroids. This (The Secret of the Nagas) is the sequel I’ve been waiting for.”
– Rashmi Bansal
Bestselling author of Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
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Published by westland ltd 2011
Copyright © Amish Tripathi 2011
All rights reserved
Amish Tripathi asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person living or dead, events and locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by Rashmi Pusalkar.
Photo of Lord Shiva by Chandan Kowli.
Inside book formatting and typesetting by Ram Das Lal
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by any way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior written consent, in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser and without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews with appropriate citations.
To Preeti & Neel..
Unlucky are those who search the seven
seas for paradise
Fortunate are those who experience the only heaven
that truly exists, the heaven that lives in the company
of our loved ones
I am truly fortunate
Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Shiva is truth. Shiva is beauty
Shiva is the masculine. Shiva is the feminine
Shiva is a Suryavanshi. Shiva is a Chandravanshi
The Shiva Triology
Note from the Author
Before the Beginning
Chapter 1 : The Strange Demon
Chapter 2 : Sailing Down the Sarayu
Chapter 3 : The Pandit of Magadh
Chapter 4 : The City Where the Supreme Light Shines
Chapter 5 : A Small Wrong?
Chapter 6 : Even a Mountain Can Fall
Chapter 7 : Birth Pangs
Chapter 8 : The Mating Dance
Chapter 9 : What is Your Karma?
Chapter 10 : The Gates of Branga
Chapter 11 : The Mystery of the Eastern Palace
Chapter 12 : The Heart of Branga
Chapter 13 : Man-eaters of Icchawar
Chapter 14 : The Battle of Madhumati
Chapter 15 : The Lord of the People
Chapter 16 : Opposites Attract
Chapter 17 : The Curse of Honour
Chapter 18 : The Function of Evil
Chapter 19 : Rage of the Blue Lord
Chapter 20 : Never Alone, My Brother
Chapter 21 : The Maika Mystery
Chapter 22 : Two Sides, Same Coin
Chapter 23 : The Secret of All Secrets
The first book of the Shiva Trilogy, The Immortals of Meluha, was surprisingly well received. To be honest, I felt the pressure of trying to match up to the first book with The Secret of the Nagas. I don’t know if I have succeeded. But I have had a great time bringing the second chapter in Shiva’s grand adventure to you. I would like to take a minute to acknowledge those who made this journey possible for me.
Lord Shiva, my God, my Leader, my Saviour. I have been trying to decipher why He blessed an undeserving person like me with this beautiful story. I don’t have an answer as yet.
My father-in-law & a devoted Shiva Bhakt, the late Dr Manoj Vyas, who passed away just a few months before the release of this book. A man I intensely admired, he continues to live in my heart.
Preeti, my wife. The bedrock of my life. My closest advisor. Not just the wind beneath my wings, but the wings themselves.
My family: Usha, Vinay, Bhavna, Himanshu, Meeta, Anish, Donetta, Ashish, Shernaz, Smita, Anuj, Ruta. For their untiring support and love. Bhavna needs an additional mention for helping me with the copy editing. As does Donetta for building and maintaining my first website.
Sharvani Pandit, my editor. Stubborn and fiercely committed to the Shiva Trilogy. It’s an honour to work with her.
Rashmi Pusalkar, the designer of this book’s cover. A fine artist, a magician. She is headstrong and always delivers.
Gautam Padmanabhan, Paul Vinay Kumar, Renuka Chatterjee, Satish Sundaram, Anushree Banerjee, Vipin Vijay Manisha Sobhrajani a
nd the fantastic team at Westland, my publishers. For their hard work, drive and supreme belief in the Shiva Trilogy.
Anuj Bahri, my agent. He has been a friend and has supported me when I needed it the most. And if I connect the dots of my serendipitous journey into writing, I must also thank Sandipan Deb, who introduced me to Anuj.
Chandan Kowli, the photographer for the cover. Talented & brilliant, he shot the required photograph perfectly. Chintan Sareen, for creating the snake in CG and Julien Dubois for assisting him. Prakesh Gor, for the make-up. Sagar Pusalkar, for the system work. They have truly created magic.
Sangram Surve, Shalini Iyer and the team at Think Why Not, the advertising & digital marketing agency for the book. It is a pleasure to work with these marketing geniuses.
Kawal Shoor and Yogesh Pradhan for their good advice during the formulation of the initial marketing plan. They helped me get my thoughts together on how the book should be marketed.
And last, but certainly not the least, you the reader. For accepting my first book with open arms. Your support has left me humbled. I hope I don’t disappoint you with this second installment of the Shiva Trilogy. Everything that you may like in this book is the blessing of Lord Shiva. Everything that you don’t like is due to my inability to do justice to that blessing.
The Shiva Trilogy
Shiva! The Mahadev. The God of Gods. Destroyer of Evil. Passionate lover. Fierce warrior. Consummate dancer. Charismatic leader. All-powerful, yet incorruptible. A quick wit, accompanied by an equally quick and fearsome temper.
Over the centuries, no foreigner who came to India -conqueror, merchant, scholar, ruler, traveller — believed that such a great man could possibly have existed in reality. They assumed that he must have been a mythical God, whose existence was possible only in the realms of human imagination. Unfortunately, this belief became our received wisdom.
But what if we are wrong? What if Lord Shiva was not a figment of a rich imagination, but a person of flesh and blood? Like you and me. A man who rose to become godlike because of his karma. That is the premise of the Shiva Trilogy, which interprets the rich mythological heritage of ancient India, blending fiction with historical fact.
This work is therefore a tribute to Lord Shiva and the lesson that his life is to us. A lesson lost in the depths of time and ignorance. A lesson, that all of us can rise to be better people. A lesson, that there exists a potential god in every single human being. All we have to do is listen to ourselves.
The Immortals of Meluha was the first book in the trilogy that chronicles the journey of this extraordinary hero. You are holding the second book, The Secret of the Nagas, in your hands. One more book is to follow: The Oath of the Vayuputras.
Note from the Author
The Secret of the Nagas is revealed from this page forth. This is the second book of the Shiva Trilogy and begins from the moment where its prequel, The Immortals of Meluha, ended. While I believe that you can enjoy this book by itself, perhaps, you may enjoy it more if you read The Immortals of Meluha first. In case you have already read The Immortals of Meluha, please ignore this message.
I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I have loved writing it.
Also, there are many people from various different religions who write in to me, asking whether I believe that Lord Shiva is superior to other Gods. If I may, I would like to repeat my response here. There is a lovely Sanskrit line in the Rig Veda which captures the essence of my belief.
Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti.
Truth is one, though the sages know it as many.
God is one, though different religions approach Him differently.
Call Him Shiva, Vishnu, Allah, Jesus or any other form of God that you believe in.
Our paths may be different. Our destination is the same.
Before the Beginning
The boy was running as fast as his feet could carry him, the frost-bitten toe sending shards of icy pain up his leg. The woman’s plea kept ringing in his ears: ‘Help me. Please help me!’
He refused to slow down, sprinting towards his village. And then, he was yanked effortlessly by a large hairy arm. He was dangling in the air, desperately trying to get a foothold. The boy could hear the monster’s sickening laugh as he toyed with him. Then, the other grotesque arm spun him around and held him tight.
The boy was shocked into stillness. The body was that of the hairy monster, but the face was of the beautiful woman he had just fled away from moments ago. The mouth opened, but the sound that emanated was not a mellifluous feminine one, but a blood-curdling roar.
‘You enjoyed this, didn’t you? You enjoyed my distress at being tortured, didn’t you? You ignored my pleas, didn’t you? Now this face will haunt you for the rest of your life!’
Then a grotesque arm holding a short sword came up from nowhere and decapitated the gorgeous head.
‘Noooooooo!’ screamed the little boy, snapping out of his dream.
He looked around his straw bed, disoriented. It was late evening. A little bit of sunshine had made its way into the otherwise dark hut. A small fire was dying out near the door. It suddenly burst into flames with a fresh breath of oxygen as a person rushed into the tiny room.
‘Shiva? What happened? Are you alright, my son?’
The boy looked up, completely bewildered. He felt his mother’s hand wrap itself around him and pull his tired head down to her bosom. He heard her soothing voice, sympathetic and understanding. ‘It’s all right, my child. I am here. I am here.’
The boy felt the fear release from his taut body as his eyes shed long held back tears.
‘What is it, my son? The same nightmare?’
The boy shook his head. The tears turned into an angrier deluge.
‘It’s not your fault. What could you have done, son? He was three times larger than you. A grown man.’
The boy didn’t say anything, but stiffened. The mother continued to gently run her hand over his face, wiping the tears away. ‘You would have been killed.’
The boy suddenly jerked back.
‘Then i should have been killed! I deserved it!’
The mother was shocked into silence. He was a good son. He had never raised his voice at her before. Never. She quickly set this thought aside as she reached out to soothe his face. ‘Don’t say that again, Shiva. What would happen to me if you died?’
Shiva curled his small fist, banging it against his forehead. He kept at it till his mother pulled his fist away. An angry, reddish-black mark had formed right between his eyebrows.
The mother held his arms down again, pulling him towards her. Then she said something her son was not prepared to hear. ‘Listen, my child! You yourself had said that she didn’t fight back. She could have reached for his knife and stabbed him, couldn’t she?’
The son didn’t say anything. He just nodded.
‘Do you know why she didn’t do that?’
The boy looked up at his mother, curious.
‘Because she was practical. She knew she would probably be killed if she fought back.’
Shiva continued to stare blankly at his mother.
‘The sin was being committed against her. And yet, she did what she could to stay alive — not fight back.’
His eyes didn’t waiver for one instant from his mother’s face.
‘Why is it wrong for you to be as pragmatic and want to stay alive?’
The boy started sobbing again as some sense of comfort seeped silently into him.
The Strange Demon
‘Sati!’ screamed Shiva, as he rapidly drew his sword and started sprinting towards his wife, pulling his shield forward as he ran.
She’ll run into a trap!
‘Stop!’ yelled Shiva, picking up his pace as he saw her dash into a cluster of trees alongside the road leading to the Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya.
Sati was totally focused on chasing the retreating hooded Naga, her sword drawn and held far from her bo
dy, like a seasoned warrior with her prey in sight.
It took a few moments for Shiva to catch up with Sati, to ascertain that she was safe. As they continued to give chase, Shiva’s focus shifted to the Naga. He was shocked.
How did that dog move so far ahead?
The Naga, showing surprising agility, was effortlessly navigating between the trees and undulating ground of the hillside, picking up pace. Shiva remembered battling with the Naga at the Brahma temple at Meru, when he had met Sati for the first time.
His slow leg movements at the Brahma temple were just a battle strategy.
Shiva flipped his shield, clipping it on to his back, to get room to run faster. Sati was keeping pace to his left. She suddenly made a grunting sound and pointed to the right, to a fork in the path that was coming up. Shiva nodded. They would split up and try to cut off the Naga from opposite ends on the narrow ridge ahead.
Shiva dashed to his right with a renewed burst of speed, sword at the ready. Sati stayed her course behind the Naga, running equally hard. The ground beneath Shiva’s feet on the new path had evened out and he managed to cover the distance rapidly. He noticed that the Naga had pulled his shield into his right hand. The wrong hand for defence. Shiva frowned.
Quickly coming up to the Naga’s right, with Sati still some distance away, Shiva reached with his left hand, drew a knife and flung it at the Naga’s neck. A stunned Shiva then saw a magnificent manoeuvre that he hadn’t imagined possible.
Without turning to look at the knife or even breaking a step, the Naga pulled his shield forward in the path of the knife. With the knife safely bouncing off the shield, the Naga effortlessly let the shield clip on to his back, maintaining his pace.
Shiva gaped in awe, his speed slackening.
He blocked the knife without even looking at it! Who the hell is this man?
Sati meanwhile had maintained her pace, edging closer to the Naga as Shiva ran in from the other trail onto the path that the Naga was on.