Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Ashwamedh Yagna to Alexander: A Horse that connects the Ages

For Illustrative Purpose Only
THROUGHOUT history there have been many instances of exceptional animals playing the supporting or a significant role in shaping events of history. From an Indian perspective Ashwamedh Yagna is considered to be the pinnacle of the success of an Emperor and an animal plays a starring role in the entire proceedings.

The Ashwamedh Yagna was traditionally done by Kings who have supreme confidence in their military might. After religious rituals the horse was set free for a period of one year to roam around the extended kingdoms. Whenever the horse goes the Kings warriors follow and if any King or any other agent stops the horse it is considered to be a challenge to the authority of the King. The King then has to ensure that he is victorious in the battle over the challenger and thus he can establish his authority.

The Ashwamedh Yagna was done by the Pandavas after the great Mahabharata war was concluded. It is said that a more elaborate and a grander Ashwamedh Yagna had never been performed till that date. The arcane rituals included a symbolic night spent by the Queen in the company of the horse. This Yagna had a horse that had one defining characteristic. He had a white star-shaped mark on his forehead almost as if the horse was wearing a bindi.

Alexander was also known to be extremely fond of the horse his father brought for him. The details of Alexander and his horse are widely known and very heavily recorded. A renowned horse dealer named Philonicus of Thessalian had offered the horse to King Philip II. The King flatly refused as the massive beast was completely wild and did not suffer a rider on its back. Legend says that Alexander tamed the horse and thus a special bond existed between the two. The horse was named Bucephalus and he was a massive black beast.

Bucephalus and Alexander were inseparable; only Alexander could ride him, and indeed he did, into every battle from the conquest of the Greek city-states and Thebes through Gaugamela and into India. The horse and man had a strange connection almost as if they were friends. Alexander used to routinely whisper into the horse’s ear and direct him. Even the horse was more receptive to Alexanders words and his masters touch than to any whip or reins. Bucephalus was also very protective of Alexander. Once when the Alexander was injured in battle, the Bucephalus himself without any direction took Alexander back to the camp and his tent to get treatment. After the final defeat of Darius, Bucephalus was kidnapped while Alexander was away on excursion. Upon returning and learning of the theft, Alexander promised to fell every tree, lay the countryside to waste, and slaughter every inhabitant in the region. The horse was soon returned along with a plea for mercy. Such was the love between Bucephalus and Alexander.

It is said that the horse accompanied Alexander up to India and in the end he was wounded in the Battle of the Hydaspes. The horse died at the ripe age of 30, exceptionally long for a horse. Alexander was so hurt by the death that he conducted complete death rituals for Bucephalus and also founded a city in the name of the horse. The horse is supposed to be buried in what is now modern Pakistan, and is buried in Jalalpur Sharif outside of JhelumPakistan. Another account states that Bucephalus is buried in Phalia, a town in Pakistan's Mandi Bahauddin District, which is named after him. The defining characteristic of the horse was a white star-shaped mark on his forehead almost as if the horse was wearing a bindi!!!

All descriptions of the horse used by the Pandavas in the  Ashwamedh Yagna and that of Bucephalus match. Was Bucephalus the reincarnation of the Yagna horse from the Pandava times? Was there any karmic connection between the two horses? What ancient secrets has the Ashwamedh horse seen and heard from the days past? Did Alexander, who was also behind Ambrosia and Brahmastra in India get any help from his own horse? To know more about this you will need to grab a copy of the forthcoming historical fiction, the page turner “The Indus Challenge”. Soon to hit the bookstores.

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