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Excerpt from 'Bharat: The Man Who Built a Nation'

Dr Vineet Agarwal brilliantly retells the story of the son of Dushyant and Shakuntala, the grandson of Brahmarishi Vishwamitra in his latest book, Bharat: The Man Who Built a Nation.
Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Voices filled the royal hall of Hastinapur, bouncing off the two dozen marble pillars that supported the high vaulted ceiling. Wide latticed windows provided illumination as well as ventilation to the cavernous hall that was full of people watching the royal debate.
Aileen, ruler of the Puru kingdom, sat on a beautifully carved sandalwood throne that had been fashioned to resemble the vehicle of the moon god, the founding father of the Chandravansh. It was shaped like a chariot drawn by eight antelopes, and the king occupied the central seat, sheltered by a silver umbrella. The elderly king was presiding over a debate between his eldest son and the royal council. Of his five sons, Dushyant, the eldest, was quite simply the best.
Since the day he had first stepped into the court, the crown prince had shown a flair for solving the tricky situations that arose in the running of a kingdom. Dushyant was almost twenty-five now, and towered over his sire. Aileen saw a glimpse of his own younger self in him; they had the same tan complexion, sharp nose and dark eyes but the king had a greying beard and his face had assimilated fine lines from years of looking after the kingdom, while his son’s visage had the freshness of youth. Rigorous training had made Dushyant’s body lithe like that of a cheetah and his mind as sharp as a needle. He was practical and perceptive, and even now seemed to be winning the debate that had almost reached its conclusion.
For more than a prehar now, the councillors and the prince had been debating the need to change old policies followed by the kingdom—three hours and counting. Aileen had been trying to get his council to formulate new guidelines for more inclusive development, but to no avail. Change was not easy for anyone, let alone senior members of the court who were set in their ways and accustomed to their lavish lifestyles, but the king hoped that his son would be able to convince them.
Rising to his full six feet, Dushyant addressed the assembly emphatically, ‘The time has come for Hastinapur to introspect. We must decide which of our traditions are redundant and which can be retained. As the wielder of Shiva’s axe, Parshu Raam showed us, there is no place for practices that encourage corruption in this new world order.’
Aileen watched the seasoned councillors wince, a tiny smile playing on his lips. The use of Parshu-Raam’s name was a clever touch. Over the past year, the son of Rishi Yamdagni had gone on a rampage, annihilating autocratic rulers from the Himalayas to the southern ocean, paving the way for a new and just class of kings. Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras were the new Kshatriyas of Nabhi-varsh and what remained of the old guard was still haunted by the prospect of Parshu Raam’s return. Aileen himself had been lucky to escape with his life. His superior, Kartavirya Arjun, the emperor of the world, had not been so fortunate.
Dushyant’s closing argument had made even the most reluctant of councillors agree to the demand for modernization and as they passed a unanimous motion in favour of the idea, Aileen dismissed the court for the day and called his son to the throne.
‘My son,’ he said in a tone that betrayed his satisfaction, ‘seeing the way you have convinced the senior councillors to change their stance for the benefit of the people, I am confident that you are quite ready to look after the affairs of this kingdom. Acharya Dirghatamas, other senior members of the family and I concur that the time has come to pass on the crown of Puruvansh.’

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