Archive for January, 2014

Ancient Mystery Thriller

January 28, 2014

Ancient Mystery Thriller

(by L V Nagarajan)

I have just finished a novel by Steve Berry titled The Amber Room. It is a novel about a mysterious art piece known as Amber Room, apparently pilfered by Germans from Russia during World War II.  It is a whole room paneled all over by Amber pieces carrying exquisite carvings in dazzling colours. The novel describes the hard chase by legal and illegal art collectors of the world to find this missing piece of art. This book is recommended by none other than Dan Brown, the author of Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons etc. After reading these novels involving ancient mysteries, intrigues, puzzles and secrets, mostly of European culture and history, I felt why such novels are not written with Indian theme. There are enormous amount of such material in ancient and very ancient Indian history and culture. I wish authors of Indian origin like, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri or Arvind Adiga would take up such themes in their future works. In Tamil, Indra Soundar Rajan could make an excellent narration. I have attempted here to give a few ingredients for such a novel.

Ancient Treasures

As many Indians know, Anantha Padmanabha Temple in Trivandram, Kerala is one of the richest shrines in the world. It has got treasures of art and other riches stored in their underground vaults. They were recently opened for judicial inventory. Even so, one of the underground vaults could not be opened as there are no visible locks for the strong art-full door. The legend is: the vault is locked by a special mantra recitation known as Naga Bandham (Cobra Lock). It can be opened by only a counter recitation of another mantra known as Garuda Moksham (Falcon key), if at all anybody knows it these days. The vault is believed to be protected by the divine Anantha himself who is the multi-headed cobra serving as a recliner for Lord Padmanabha, a form of Vishnu. If anybody forces open this vault many calamities are forecast. Hence even the Supreme Court of India left this vault alone. This vault apparently contains highly valuable treasures and secrets.

When India was under Mughal invasion and occupation, many Hindu dynasties hid their treasures in such temple vaults. Later on these vaults were locked and sealed in various ways, like camouflaging, walling-up, coded locks etc. There are legends of many such treasure vaults in many temples especially in South India. During the Mughal rule and the later British rule, some of these vaults were pilfered and treasures moved to different parts of the world. We only know about a few like Mayurasan (Peacock Throne), Kohinoor Diamond and Sivapuram Nataraja. Many other vaults are still remaining unopened and un-explored.

(Please refer:

Secret passages and escapes

There are many legends about secret caves, tunnels and escape routes used by ancient rulers of India to hide their treasures from their enemies, citizens, even descendents and other claimants. They even used them as hiding places with all basic necessities provided for. Unfortunately the present day Indians are not good explorers. Neither, they take sufficient pride of, or care for, their ancient treasures and monuments. Due to this, these tunnels and caves remain totally unexplored. And some of them are even demolished for other purposes.  We have heard of some tunnels as below:

From Nayakar Mahal Madurai to Tiruvedagam Temple 10 miles away

From Srirangam Temple to Rockfort temple in Trichy

From Mysore palace to Chamundi Hills

From Amber Palace, Jaipur to uphill Jai Garh Fort. (Barely a small portion of this tunnel is uncovered)

Secret Codes          

There are many works of literature and poetry which have different secret messages encoded in them.  The words of poetry are split and combined in different ways to encode messages. Other methods include numerical codes, reverse reading etc. There are poems which can be read entirely in the reverse to give a different message. There are formal coding procedures like Katapayadi Sankhya to encode messages. As children we have used what was called Ka-language where every word in a sentence will be preceded by ‘Ka’ syllable. There were people who were very good at that. Another way was to interchange the first two syllables of every word, (e.g) Mantra will be pronounced as Namtra or Tranma. There were also extensive sign and symbolic languages used, where symbols of Swastika, Om, Trishul, Conch are employed. Hasta mudras (hand gestures) convey many ideas and emotions without any spoken word and they are employed even today in Indian dance forms.

A famous secret is kept as a secret even today – the Secret of Chidambaram or Chidambara Rahasyam. This secret is interpreted in three different levels, but still remaining a mystery, yet to be solved. Beyond the statue of Nataraja at Chidambaram Temple is hidden, the real sanctum sanctorum. On occasions this sanctum is exposed to perform special prayers, by unveiling the curtain covering the same. What is inside – NOTHING! According to Hindu tradition there is a fifth element in addition to the four known to other cultures, Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. The fifth element is Akash, or Ether, i.e., the space containing the entire universe. The god of Chidambaram is said to represent this Space element, just like the other four known temples dedicated to the other four elements. Hence only Space is worshiped in the sanctum sanctorum of this temple. This is a religious explanation of the Secret. Philosophically, it is explained as a representation of the formless GOD. But there is a scientific explanation also. In Hindu tradition Sakthi or energy is represented by a Goddess. In her formless representation, she is known as a DOT or a Bindu, wherein the whole energy of the universe is concentrated. In Chidambaram, the male, ‘SIVA, the SPACE’ interacts with his consort ‘Sakthi, the DOT’, to create all the matter in this universe, by creating a big explosion or the Big-Bang. That is the secret message hidden behind the veil! People are still looking beyond these explanations to find the real secret hidden. Will it ever be exposed?

Religious rites and procedures

Sacred Hindu Texts like vedas and upanishads are known to encode great scientific principles, some of which are still not fully decoded.  There is an entire sect of veda known as Atharvana veda, which is reported to contain many procedures used for psychotherapy and black magic (and white magic!). It also has chapters on various armory (empowered by mantras) used in warfare. The Tantric applications of Hindu religious rites are sometimes very mysterious and frightful. There are also some folk-arts and practices which are meant for certain special occasions – to induce or remove emotions such as anger, fear, sleep, madness etc. “Inception” of thoughts and ideas in human mind have been tried successfully in ancient days using dedicated mantras and procedures. Garuda Purana another Hindu text describes the aspects of Gemology. In another part it describes the punishments to be meted out for various crimes committed by humans.

Mantras, Yantras and Tantras

Mantras, Yantras and Tantras are a few of the Hindu religious practices. There are apparently hundreds of mantras (recitations) to invoke the divine and natural forces, either in favour of yourself or against your adversary. It is believed that there are also counter-mantras to cancel the effects of earlier mantras. Yantras (symbols) are also used to invoke the divine (and demonic) forces to enter and stay in those symbols. They are used for meditation and prayer and also for ill effects. These yantras are believed to protect the people and places against evil forces. Yantras vary from simple to very complex geometrical patterns either drawn on paper, or on the floor, or imprinted on copper plates. Some of them are even said to contain secret texts and messages. In Indian religious tradition Kolams (or rangolis, elaborate decorative patterns drawn on the floor or on a pedestal) play an important role. Tantras (Mysticals) are special practices involving the way a mantra is recited, the hand and bodily gestures, special anointments and accompaniments of sounds of Conch, bells, drums and other musical instruments. It also uses aspects of sex and sexual symbols for special effects. In the 21st century, we may ignore these things as no more than superstitions. However, we cannot deny that they were widely prevalent till the end of 19th century in India. Even now, they are practiced at least as rituals in many temples, religious centres and social and religious festivals. There were many yogic and mystic experiences of transplantation of souls between bodies and out-of-body experiences.

A Bija-Akshara is a seed-letter and is a very powerful Mantra. Every Deity or Devata has his or her own Bija-Akshara. The greatest of all Bija-Aksharas is OM or Pranava. It is the symbol of the (supreme soul) Paramatman Himself. Generally a Bija-Mantra consists of a single letter but sometimes it constitutes several syllables. Some Bija-Mantras are made up of compound letters, such as the Mantra ‘Hreem’. Their meaning is subtle and mystical. Ham, Yam, Ram, Vam and Lam are the Bija aksharas of the five elements, namely Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, respectively.


Great Tsunamis and lost City

In very ancient literary history, there are mentions of a great tsunami in which a large track of land south of the present India was lost to the sea. This land was known as Lemuria. However there is no geological or archeological evidence to prove the existence of this hypothetical  land mass referred to frequently in ancient Tamil literature. More recently around 400-900 AD, another tsunami was blamed for disappearance of Poompuhar, a coastal capital city of great Chola kingdom. Archeological excavation do support this fact of history.

Sectarian and religious conflicts       

Throughout the ancient history of India there were regional, sectarian and religious conflicts between different dynasties, communities and religious sects. These led to destruction and abduction of many symbols and treasures of the victims, which are even to the present day, not traceable. Some major conflicts are as below:

Conflicts among  kingdoms – such as Chera, Chola, Pandyas, pallavas, Chalukyas and rajaputs

Conflicts among religious sects – such as Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Kaapalikas, Jains and Buddhists

Conflicts beyond the seas – Cholas towards Srilanka and Indonesian islands, Yavanas (Romans on the Indian ocean)

A possible theme for a Novel (as seen by L V Nagarajan)

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple is under the total control a special sect of Brahmins known as Dikshits. According to religious history God Siva himself has ordained this religious order and established the sect known as Thillai-3000, a set of 3000 priests. Their religious practices are special and different from others. Due to mis-use and mis-rule, this sect has now reduced to just 300 people, barely fighting to save this tradition. Many of them may not even know the full texts of their religious order, let alone their obvious and hidden meanings. Under such circumstances, our protagonist is the second son of a very senior Dikshit, who is no more. Both brothers were very bright students of their father and had learned many religious texts from him and others. They still have in their possession their father’s religious work books. Elder brother becomes a traditional Dikshit in the Nataraja Temple. But the younger one pursues his science education and obtains his Masters degree in Astro Physics. He joins the National Physical Laboratory and starts doing research on the origin of universe. The kind of scientific literature he gets access to, simply amazes him. Many of the postulates and ideas remind him of some of his father’s texts and explanations. He decides to get back to Chidambaram and to continue his religious research with the help of his more learned bother. Some of his later correspondences with the world scientific community evince a great amount of interest. He is awarded a grant from Ford Foundation to continue his research. With the help of his brother he is able to penetrate the secrecy of several other Dikshits and their hold on some ancient religious literature. He gets access to several secret vaults in the Chidambaram Temple and in nearby areas in the town of Chidambaram. When he is on the threshold of a big discovery, perhaps, a discovery of the SECRET itself, a major conspiracy from a terrorists group comes to light … … … … And so goes the story!

I hope some international authors of Indian origin will enhance and evolve this theme into full length novel.