Alibhadra

In classical Buddhist literature and the five-thousand-year-old epic Mahabharata, there is a mention of a road called Uttarpath or the Northern road connecting the eastern regions of India to ancient Greece through Central Asia. Later in history during the 3rd century BC, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya rebuilt this mighty highway to reconnect India with Europe. Following him, Emperor Ashoka The Great further developed this ancient road.

Now on the 23rd day of October in the year of our lord 1605 AD, a tall and dark man of jet-black skin ran barefoot under the darkness of a dimly lit night sky in the umbrae of the trees and the forests beside the same road. He certainly did not want to be seen. Stealth, speed, and camouflage seemed to be his strengths while he moved like a half-clad ninja through the shadows.

During the Mauryan empire, this glorious pathway stretching two-thousand-five-hundred kilometres connected the city of Purushapura the present-day city of Peshwar in Pakistan in the west to Tamralipta the modern-day town of Tamluk in the Midnapore district of the state of West Bengal in India in the east. The iconic highway passed through the legendary ancient Indian cities of Hastinapura, Kanyakubja (Kannauj), Prayag and Patliputra (Patna) establishing a vital trade and military route.

Most of Alibhadra’s body was bare, that is how his breed of men felt comfortable running. A turban of thick cotton coils snaked around his head. A single loincloth slightly larger than usual chugged tightly around his waist, crisscrossed his jocks and wrapped around the upper portion of his thighs. As a belt, he used a red cotton cloth girdled around his hip secured in a knot above his naval. A dark and heavy shawl was casually tossed on his left shoulder, while on the other he carried a stick at the end of which swung a sack in which he cradled his precious cargo.

In the 16th century Sher Shah Suri, founder of the Suri Empire in India rebuilt Chandragupta’s royal road naming it Sadak-e-Azam. Fruit and shade trees were planted on both sides of the path wherever possible. At every 2 Kos or about 6.5 English kilometres, a Sarai or a roadside tavern was erected. Gardens to provide shade and rest and Baolis or stepwells for rejuvenation were made at different locations along the mighty pathway.

Alibhadra had to avoid all of these. His movements needed to be clandestine. He could not afford to travel on the open road, as there he could be easily spotted by someone from a Sarai or a tavern, or even stopped by the royal guards, though they were there to provide protection, especially to his kind – who were employed under the emperor’s royal decree to transport what he carried in his sack of load.

Now at the height of the Moghul Empire under the reign of Emperor Akbar the Great, the road renamed Badshahi Sadak, stretched for two-thousand-four-hundred kilometres from Teknaf administrative region in the southernmost tip of Cox’s Bazar district in the modern-day country of Bangladesh on the border with Myanmar in the east to the city of Kabul in Afghanistan in the west.

Passing through the cities of Chittagong and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Kolkata, Allahabad (Prayagraj), Delhi, and Amritsar in India, and Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar in Pakistan, it was the very vein which carried the lifeblood of the Moghul Empire during the sixteenth century under Akbar’s reign. It was the one most important link that ensured the emperor’s military, political, cultural, and economic dominance.

Running through the forest Alibhadra knew he was not alone. He knew that he was being pursued by the Afghan Hassassin, Baquer, a well-trained assassin employed by the emperor’s son to do his shady biddings. He knew that tonight the race was between him and the Persian killer. It was his sacred duty to make his delivery and it was the code of the assassin to stop him.

Akbar was a great visionary and in order to unify the vast Moghul state he had established a centralised system of administration, brought in inter-religious peace, eschewed tribal bonds and Islamic state identity, strove to unite far-flung lands of his realm through loyalty, and ultimately develop a unique and harmonious Indo-Persian identity amongst the people. This, however, created a lot of enemies within his community and even family.

Alibhadra doubted himself for a moment. Was he a match for the assassin – a trained killer bred in various combat techniques, a master wielder of many nimble and deadly weapons? If it came to it he would, however, not give in without a fight.

The pole on which he carried his sack was not just to bear the load, the solid bamboo shaft was a deadly weapon in his hands. The man claimed that he could deflect arrays of speeding arrows with his signature manoeuvre of rotating the stick 360 degrees around his torso. The stick was the runner’s all-purpose multitool.

Down the road of the evolution of this mighty pathway that Alibhadra followed, five centuries before the birth of Christ, Cyrus The Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire, formed an innovative postal system connected through several relay stations known as Chapar Khaneh or the house of couriers. Following him Chandragupta and later Ashoka maintained this unique system of postal transport.

Then at the beginning of the thirteenth century, Qutb-ud-Din Aybak, the first sultan of Delhi created a system of messenger post. Developing on his efforts, in 1296 AD Allauddin Khilji for the first time introduced the horse and foot carriers to deliver post.

Later in the fourteenth century, the Tuglak dynasty started the use of El Wolak (horse carriers) and El Davah (foot runners) for postal transport. Finally, when Sher Shah completed the road, he introduced the horse dak or horse mail between Bengal and Sind in 1541 anno domini for the smooth and effective movement of the kingdom’s post.

Now after Sher Shah, in the year 1556 Emperor Akbar set up postal relay stations along this ancient and evolving pathway and employed superfast long-distance postal runners to carry the post. Alibhadra’s forefathers down the generations from the days of Cyrus The Great had dedicated their lives and mastered this very trade of on-foot postal transport.

The distance from Agra to Delhi was around two-hundred-and-thirty kilometres. Alibhadra knew the pathways through the forests, above the hills and across the rivers like the back of his hand. He could stay off the road and cover the distance in roughly forty-eight hours or perhaps slightly more than two days at the most.

It was early in the morning of the 25th of October in 1605. Alibhadra had completed more than one-and-a-half days journey and was just a few hours from reaching his goal. Stopping for the first time during this iconic trip of his life, the runner felt he could not carry on anymore. Putting down his sack from his shoulder he set his weight on his solid bamboo shaft, deciding to rest for a few moments before carrying on.

The morning was pleasant and exceptionally silent. Alibhadra could not help but admire the beauty of the land amidst all the worry of this very special postal transport, the most important he had ever executed and perhaps would ever do. The sounds of the night had ebbed away under the mists of the morning dew. The predators of the night had retreated into their dens and the preys rested silently feeling the triumph of surviving yet another day of earthly existence.

At that very moment when peace and silence seemed to fill the morning air, Alibhadra heard a mild crack of dry leave behind his ears. Instinctively the man rotated his bamboo stick a 180 degree around his torso. Sparks flew in the air as the fast-moving shaft deflected four oncoming knives, one of which tore opened his sack of post, while its precious content fell into a ditch on the forest floor.

Baquer moved like a ghost in the shadows. The assassin threw volleys of sharpened aerodynamic projectiles at Alibhadra, all of which he deflected by rotating his bamboo stick at a lightning speed around his torso. The two men drew closer and in an overwhelming manoeuver the Persian killer bolted his yatagan short sabre across Alibhadra’s throat.

Silence returned to the forest once again as the two men stood at their spots a few feet away from each other after the mayhem of their lightning-fast combat moves. A thin red line gradually widened into a gush of red, oozing out blood around Alibhadra’s throat, and the lifeless body of the runner fell on the forest floor.

It seemed the assassin had triumphed, after all, he was a greater warrior and as the Persian took a step to reach the contents of the runner’s sack lying in the ditch his skull split open while his brains oozed out from his head like a fountain and Baquer fell dead in a pool of his own blood and gore. Alibhadra had not missed, his stick had made fatal contact with the assassin’s head in the lightning-fast ultimate moments of their short battle.

At about the same time, Emperor Akbar The Great on his deathbed, unable to speak, motioned towards his son Salim and took his last breath. Akbar’s last action with his hands pointing towards his son was quickly interpreted by those present there as the dying wish of the king for Salim to inherit the Moghul throne.

A month back in September Akbar fell sick and realised that he would not live to see the winter’s snow. His son Salim an opium and alcohol addict was the natural successor to the kingdom. Akbar, however, prefered Salim’s son Khusrau Mirza to be the next king of the Moghuls.

The dying king knew his power on the deathbed was feeble and Salim would do anything to acquire the kingdom. After all, in 1591 Akbar had suspected Salim of trying to poison him and then in 1600, Salim had attempted an armed rebellion to overthrow his father from the throne.

Two days back one of Akbar’s most trusted servant had come over to hand Alibhadra a sealed note from the emperor himself and had asked him to take it to Delhi and personally hand it over to Salim’s son Khusrau. The king could not use any other official means to deliver the letter as by then Salim had acquired the confidence of most of Akbar’s confidants. He would certainly interrupt any correspondence between his dying father and his son the contender to the throne.

As the body of the assassin and the runner lay lifeless in an obscure location in the jungle and the Emperor’s last letter to his grandson lay lost in a deep ditch on the forest floor, it makes one wonder, what was the content of Akbar’s last post to Salim’s son Khusrau? Did the dying emperor declare his grandson as the next rightful heir to the Moghul throne? Was his last hand action pointing towards Salim an indication as not to make him the next king, wrongly understood by everyone in the other way. This will, however, never be known.

Salim went on to inherit the throne as Jahangir, the fourth emperor of the Moghul kingdom. His son Khusrau though tried to take the kingdom from his father, was unfortunately defeated, shamed and paraded on an elephant to see his supporters impaled to death on the streets of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, and eventually blinded and prisoned.

Mahabharata’s Uttarpath, further developed by Chandragupta and Ashoka of the Mauryan empire, becoming Sher Shah Suri’s Sadak-e-Azam, and later the Moghul’s Badshahi Sadak is Asia’s oldest and longest major pathways, known today as the Grand Trunk Road.

The postal service created by so many kings and dynasties went on to be bettered by the British and finally take the shape of the “India Post”, the most widely distributed postal system in the world, however, men like Alibhadra would perhaps never again deliver its post.

Alibhadra


Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA

This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at trishikh@gmail.com or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trishikh

Trishikh Dasgupta

Adventurer, philosopher, writer, painter, photographer, craftsman, innovator, or just a momentary speck in the universe flickering to leave behind a footprint on the sands of time..READ MORE

79 Comments Add yours

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Ned, as always much appreciate you reblogging my story. This one has come out really good according to my personal satisfaction.

      Like

  1. lynnfay73 says:

    So historical fiction? Is the background accurate?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Everything in the story is a fact other than Alibhadra and Baquer. These two characters are a figment of my imagination. The history of Grand Trunk Road’, IndiaPost, postal runners, the Moghuls, Akbar’s dynamics with his son Jahangir all are true. He had even desired for his grandson to inherit the throne as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. zettl.fr says:

    Fascinating story for me as I immediately had to think of the silk road and how China started a new silk road now. And of course Djingis Khan comes to my mind….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Zettl, yes indeed those things came to my mind too, while writing this story. The challenge with stories is how much to omit while writing. There was so much that I wanted to say, but then it would have become a novel and not a short story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love the idea of the shady trees and fruit trees planted for the travellers. Modern roads often have a long history we don’t know. A journey of suspense with a sad ending.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Trishikh says:

        Oh yes, I have come to believe and see that there’s a story in everything. We only need to dig a bit to find it out. Yes! The concept of trees on both sides of roads are so ancient, yet they are not given much importance in many modern cities. Thanks for your lovely comment. Really appreciate it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. lynnfay73 says:

      Yeah, I figured that. Very interesting since I’m not familiar with the history over there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Trishikh says:

        Am glad that I was able to share a bit of history from India with you. So glad that you liked the story.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I miss Alibhadra. We need people like him to serve our country. I was curiously waiting for the end of the short story while it was going through different incidents and scenerio Amazingly, you have directed it wonderfully towards “India Post” which is the theme of the story.

    I enjoyed it. I loved it.
    Thank you so much Trishikh. 🤗❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Lokesh, appreciation from friends like you makes writing them worthwhile. Yes India Post is the strong underlying theme of the story. Then ofcourse there is the ‘Grand Trunk Road’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh…yes, Grand Trunk Road.
        What is the subject of your next story?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        I can’t revel that Lokesh, it would take away the surprise. Have targeted to launch on Saturday as usual. Am still struggling with the remaining 35% of the story, hopefully will finish it on time.

        Like

      3. Trishikh, check if the readers replied your comments or not. I was waiting for mine one. WordPress don’t show it in my notification section. I visited your post to check the reply.
        Many times, wordpress send my comments in spams.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Trishikh says:

        Yes Lokesh, this problem does happen now and then. Sometimes I even get busy with work and am unable to check, however, be assured that I will ultimately check and reply to a comment, though it may take some time.

        Like

  4. Ananda says:

    An incredible storehouse of historical knowledge within which the fragile nature of human circumstances is elegantly captured

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Ananda. I tried my best, so glad to hear that it has come out the way you describe it. Presenting history through fiction is a very favourite writing style of mine.

      Like

  5. You are definitely fascinating – I can see myself walking along your paths, so strange to me!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Your comment is so encouraging. I am really honoured by your kind words. Yes! I try my best to paint a picture with my stories, that helps the reader better relate.

      Like

  6. Sunith says:

    This story has come out so well Trishikh.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Sunith. Really appreciate the feedback. Means a lot. Gives me a lot of encouragement to keep on writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. annieasksyou says:

    Extraordinary blending of history and fiction. Your descriptions are so vivid that each is a picture. A very sad story, but so well told!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you Annie. So glad that you liked my story. Am happy too that the descriptions came out pretty pleasing.

      Like

  8. Arpita Banerjee says:

    Always a pleasure to read your stories!! As I say you are a 🌟

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you Arpita, a star is only good if there are people around to admire it’s beauty. All of your kind love and appreciation for my stories give me all my glory.

      Like

  9. A. White says:

    “Salim went on to inherit the throne as Jahangir, the fourth emperor of the Moghul kingdom. His son Khusrau though tried to take the kingdom from his father, was unfortunately defeated, shamed and paraded on an elephant to see his supporters impaled to death on the streets of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, and eventually blinded and poisoned.”

    Gee! With family like these who need enemies?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      The Moghul dynasty is marred with these kind of violent family dynamics. Father’s killing sons and vice versa. Bloodshed for power was very common. Maybe it happens still today.

      Like

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much.

      Like

  10. KK says:

    A nice blend of history and fiction. It keeps one captivated. An interesting story, as always!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much KK. Always look forward to your appreciation. Yes, I too am satisfied with the blend of history and fiction in this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A little bit of history, some geographical information and a wonderful story. You kept the interest till the end, as it flowed very well.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank Chitrangada. Much appreciate your comment. Yes, history, geography, and fiction – one of my favourite combinations.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Halim says:

    This is easily one of your most thrilling stories, Trishikh! The most exciting before this was The Palanquin. That was an incredible story that neatly paved the
    introduction to the railway company, as this one led to the India Post.

    Everything in this story is vivid and fast paced, and the fight scene is so well done and exciting too. But this short story could also make an effective first chapter or prologue of a novel, and that’s a book I would love to read because my appetite is whetted to see the trials and tribulations of any of Khusrau’s surviving supporters to bring down his father!

    I hope you’ll have a book of your wonderful short stories published soon because they deserve to be known to the wider world and enjoyed by more people, but after that I hope you’ll consider writing a novel! Best wishes to you!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      As always Halim your in depth analysis of my story and sincere comment overwhelms my heart. You are right this could easily be the first chapter of a novel. I can easily write a novel, I find it easier, however, my true calling is short stories. So I shall continue writing them. Who knows one day I might be willing to pen down a novel too. Yes, I am thinking of publishing a book, after I finish 50 stories. Then finding someone to publish it would be a different story altogether. For now I am just concentrating on writing. If God will, one day I shall publish too.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much for reblogging this story of mine. Much appreciate the kind gesture.

      Like

  13. An impressive historical uptake, wrapped around a heartfelt story. I have an only rudimentary knowledge of the histories of the Indian subcontinent so I am pl. eased to ad a few more fact to the historical puzzle, especially the invention of an innovative postal system in ancient times

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      That was the idea to spread a little bit of history through an interesting story laced with a bit of fiction. Thank you so much for finding my story appealing.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Anamika says:

    With much of historical facts in the story making it an interesting one. Great job 👍

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Anamika, yes history was a big part of this story. So glad that you liked it.

      Like

  15. Goff James says:

    Thanks for another great story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      I must thank you Goff for liking my story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Goff James says:

        A really interesting read.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Through all of your good wishes, appreciation and Gods grace, I shall write more good in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Goff James says:

        Cheers. Have a wonderful day.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Trishikh says:

        You too Goff, have a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. majaalifee says:

    Lovely 💕😊🌹

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much for liking the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. A great adventure story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you Anna for liking the story. Yes! It is a great adventure indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Ravi. Glad that you liked the story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ravi Shankar says:

        Thank You Boss

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow. I love how you managed to fit in the two characters so seamlessly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Shweta. The character of Alibhadra was in my mind from the beginning, however I did not know how I would use him, or where I would place him in history. Baquer the Assassin came to mind at a much later stage in the story, when I was trying to find a way to end the story – and the ideas of Akbar on his death bed came to my mind. That’s how most of it worked out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s amazing! You have done a great job. If I hadn’t known that it was fiction, I might have actually believed that it had happened in real life.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Well only Alibhadra and Baquer are fictional characters, apart from that everything is true. Thank you once again for taking so much interest in the story, it make writing it worthwhile.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. mcurry09 says:

    Such a sad, sad story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Yes Marthe it has a bit of a sad ending but then it shows the reality of the family conflicts within the Moghul dynasty and more importantly it shows the birth of a road and how that led to the creation of the postal service in India. Thank you for always reading my stories and commenting. I simply adore your feedback. Take care and stay safe.

      Like

  20. Interesting story
    This was relatable and I love how well you are able to paint a picture such that we can all understand your point
    Nice one keep up the good work

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It really made my day. So glad that you liked the story and could relate to it. Shall continue bringing more good stories in the future for everyone to enjoy.

      Like

      1. Absolutely
        I’ll be right here to read and enjoy

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        I would be honoured. Look forward to your comments and likes.

        Like

  21. Jyothi says:

    Interesting story!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks Jyothi, really happy that you liked the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Ena says:

    Thanks for checking out my blog recently! I hope you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Oh! I really enjoyed the quotes and inspirations in your blog. Will visit again. Thanks for liking my stories too.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Trishikh! I loved this story, just as I love all of your work. It’s sooooo amazing how you’ve grown your readership, you absolutely deserve it. Keep writing :))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much. The love and appreciation that I have received through my stories is simply beyond my expectations. I could not ask for more. I am ever grateful to all of you my friends for constantly encouraging me with my writing. Presently I am writing my 35th short story and it’s been 11 months since I started the blog. My greatest joy is to come to make so many new friends with whom I can share my work and read theirs too. Releasing the next story this Saturday, do visit and read when you have the time. Take care and be safe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re an amazing writer who deserves nothing less. I’ll keep checking your blog for posts, and am looking forward to more!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        So glad to hear this. My many thanks again and again.

        Liked by 1 person

  24. maayaronweg says:

    Wow. Just awesome story. It is very nice to get know you and your stories!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      So nice of you to visit and appreciate. Thank you so much for liking the story. Releasing the next one tomorrow, keep an eye out.

      Like

  25. Kally says:

    Lovely story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Kally.

      Liked by 1 person

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