The most enticing stories that I have heard, read and seen as a child come from The Mahabharata (one of the two great Indian epics).
One such story is about the Pandavas (read about them here) and their escape from the Lakshagrah (Lac Palace). And it only got better when I got to visit a place that bears testimony to the story of Lakshagrah.
The story goes like this (This version I tell you, from what I can recollect having read, written and seen):
Mahabharata ensued (sort of), when among the two heirs to the throne of Hastinapur, Dhritrashtra and Pandu, Pandu was installed to the throne; Dhritrashtra being blind. Later, after the death of Pandu, Dhritrashtra succeeded the throne.
Duryodhana (the eldest Kaurava prince) invited the Pandavas to Varnavrata (now called Barnawa) to join some festivities. Duryodhana alongwith his scheming maternal uncle Shakuni got built, a Lac Palace or Lakshagrah, for the Pandavas. This Palace was built of Shellac (highly combustible) and other combustible materials like wax, jute, fat etc.
Great meals were laid and other arrangements par-excellence were made to make the stay of the Pandavas luxurious and memorable.
The ghastly plan was to set the Lac Palace afire while the Pandavas were asleep.Kunti (mother of the first three sons of Pandu) was accompanying the Pandavas to the Lac Palace. They stopped at Sardhana enroute Varnavrata for a night's stay. There, Kunti had a dream that Duryondhana plotted to kill them at the palace they were headed to and that they should be weary of fire. In the dream, Kunti was told to establish a Shivlinga at Sardhana and pray there, so that the tragedy-to-be is averted.
The Pandavas accordingly prayed and established the Shivling at Sardhana before proceeding to Varnavrata. This Shivling can be seen at the Mahadeva temple. There exist great believers of the mystical powers of this Shivling. Efforts have been made in the past to lift this Shivling up, but everytime such an attempt was made, this Shivling slid beaneath the ground. Finally it was decided to let the Shivling be.
Below is the picture of the same Shivling. I chanced to visit the temple, thanks to my benevolent and charming hosts Deepa (who forced me to visit Meerut and then Sardhana), Shuchi Bhabi (who in turn forced Deepa to bring me there) and her family.I got to witness the place that bears testimony to the one of the most captivating stories from ancient India. Thank You soooo much!Story continued: When the Pandavas reached the Lakshagrah, they could see that the palace was made of combustible materials. While pretending to enjoy their stay at the Lakshagrah, the Pandavas secretly dug a tunnel which could lead them out of the Lakshagrah. They also figured out (with the help of Vidura, an uncle) that Purochana (a servant of the Kauravas) had been assigned the task of setting the palace afire.
One night, when the Pandavas were done digging the tunnel, they fled the Palace using it. Bhima, who was the last to come out of the tunnel, set the palace afire and Purochana was burnt alive while he was asleep. The Pandavas then travelled in disguise for some time, till they reached Hastinapur. But then, THAT is another story.
The remains of the Lac Palace can still be seen at Barnawa and I wish to visit the place sometime soon.
Deepa, are you listening?
Whoa, this is the longest post I've ever written, but, it could not be any shorter.