Excerpt from the novel 'The Raavan Key (Drumatulya Trilogy 1)'

 Excerpt from the novel 'The Raavan Key (Drumatulya Trilogy 1)'


INTRODUCTION

27th January 2019, Bareilly

Kartik, a rich NRI businessman, arrived in Bareilly, India from the USA along with his wife and children. He had come to attend the wedding of his niece Indu, the daughter of his cousin, Harish bhaisaab. Everything went fine for the first two days. On the day of the wedding, he went to visit the Pashupati Nath temple in the morning but didn’t return. He went missing mysteriously.

Harish bhaisaab hired detective Ajay – the best detective in Bareilly – to solve the case, as Inspector Rana suspected the involvement of the most dreaded crime syndicate of Europe in the disappearance. Upon investigation, Ajay found Kartik’s diary. He knew that it was an important clue, as Kartik was writing in it for a month just before he went missing under strange circumstances.

As expected, Ajay found valuable information in the diary. His sixth sense told him that the information could prove to be the missing key to unlock the mystery behind Kartik’s sudden disappearance. He named it, ‘The Raavan Key’, feeling thrilled to investigate the case which had a connection to the Ramayana era of the Treta Yuga.  

11th August 1972, Thar desert, Jaisalmer

A group of five students went on a research trip along with Professor Saini. Four of them were archaeology students at the Banaras Hindu University. The fifth one was Shivam, who was studying engineering at the Government Engineering College of Banaras. Professor Saini was the Head of the Archaeology Department. They visited many historical places across India.

Their last stop was an old fort in the outskirts of Jaisalmer city. Upon reaching the fort, Shivam had a strong intuition that everything was not right that day. He could sense that someone was following them ever since they had arrived in the Jaisalmer city, and was keeping an eye on them. To add to his suspicion, Professor Saini had told them about the lost city of Drumatulya, which existed during the Ramayana era.

Shivam was confident that Professor Saini was hiding something crucial from them. While they were discussing the details about the lost ancient city, a mysterious man appeared at the old fort. He was tall and well-built. His piercing eyes were oozing a mystic vibe. He told them that without his guidance, they will not be able to reach the lost ancient city. He offered his help in reaching the city. Professor Saini readily agreed to the mysterious man’s proposal. The rest of the team also got ready, despite Shivam’s objection. Finally, Shivam gave up, too, and they all left in the search of the lost city of Drumatulya.

PROLOGUE

22nd January 2019, On board Qatar Airways flight 6E766 JFK–DEL

“How are you finding it?” A familiar voice asked Shreya.

She looked up from the diary to find the owner of the voice; it was Kartik. She had been so engrossed in reading that her mind had failed to recognize the voice she had heard the most in her life.

“Hey, you woke up?” she asked. “It’s amazing, I loved whatever I read until now.”

Kartik winked at Shreya in glee and smiled. “Thank you! So glad that you liked it...”

Shreya smiled back at Kartik. “You’re most welcome, Patidev,” she said, her voice exuberant.

“I have to pee. I’m going to the washroom,” Kartik stated and left for the toilet. Shreya’s eyes followed him. Just as he went in, she noticed an old lady at the far end of the aeroplane cabin staring at the closed door of the men’s washroom. A few seconds passed, but the old lady was still staring unblinkingly at the door. There was a weird expression of horror on her face as if she had seen a ghost. An eerie feeling gripped Shreya’s heart.

The old lady was looking at the door and mumbling something as if she was talking to it. ‘Kartiiik...’ Shreya heard the name that escaped the old lady’s lips from so many seats away, but she was not sure at first. ‘Kartik,’ the old lady whispered again, this time more clearly. With a mild jerk, she turned to look at Shreya and held Shreya’s gaze. The old lady was wearing a modish blue saree with sophisticated pearl earrings and a necklace. With her elegant attire, she looked like a senior bureaucratic officer. There was a glint of intense fear in her eyes.

The old lady was terrified, as she had no doubt that Kartik was moving towards a horrendous conspiracy that was about to unfold in his life. She knew a ghastly secret that only a few people knew in the whole world. She wondered why Shivam, Kartik's father, didn't divulge the chilling details about the lost city of Drumatulya to him. She was worried for Kartik's safety, but to Shreya, her eyes appeared eerie.

Shreya’s heart thumped, and she looked away in panic. Her forehead was sweaty and had palpitations of fear. ‘What is taking Kartik so much time?’ She wondered, feeling scared. Time passed slowly for her. 

“Hey?”

“Huh?”

“Where are you lost?” Kartik asked as he took his seat. Shreya breathed easy to see he had returned. Both Shreya and Kartik were oblivious to the deadly trap that was awaiting them in India.


Chapter 1

The Lost City of Drumatulya

Let me start at the very beginning… even before I was born. My father was Sage Vishrava, who was married to Ilavida, the granddaughter of Devguru Brihaspati. They both had a son Kubera. My father then met my mother, Kaikesi and fell in love with her. My mother was a demon princess, the daughter of the demon chieftain, Sumali. Soon my father married my mother and I was born, followed by Kumbhkarna, Vibhishana, and Surpanakha. My stepbrother, Kubera, inherited the golden city of Lanka from my father, Sage Vishrava. My mother was enraged at Kubera becoming the ruler of Lanka. She provoked me viciously to snatch away the throne of Lanka from Kubera. My brothers and I did severe penance to Lord Brahma and on receiving boons from him attacked Lanka fiercely. I defeated Kubera and became the king of Lanka. I am Raavan, the mightiest demon king.

11th August 1972, Thar desert, Jaisalmer 

“I love you,” Shivam said passionately and took Vedika in his strong arms.

She didn’t flinch. Instead, she kept starring into his eyes lovingly.

He felt completely arrested by her magnetic gaze and delightfully breathed in her familiar scent. She was exquisitely beautiful, and to him, she looked no less than a celestial nymph. He felt a rush of testosterone as her delicate curls tickled his face. No doubt she looked every bit like an apsara. He felt as if all the wires in his brain had messed up, resulting in short circuits and tiny explosions of euphoria in every part of his brain. His lips were desperate to experience the ecstasy and were only a few centimetres away from the ultimate bliss. 

“I love you too, Shivam,” Vedika replied and lightly grazed her lips over his, causing a little spark of static that travelled down his spine even as he craved for the impassioned ritual to moved towards its gratifying conclusion. 

The kiss was a lingering one and resulted in thousand chemical reactions in Shivam’s body. ‘Even if we have done hundreds of chemical experiments in the school chemistry lab, we actually learn the real meaning of chemical reaction when we experience the heavenly moments like this,’ he thought.

Vedika looked through the corner of her eyes to ensure that no one was watching them. The secluded room in the ruined fort in the vast Thar desert was giving a scary vibe rather than adding to the romantic moment. It was almost dark by then and the temperature in the desert had dropped drastically. Her hair blew slightly as a gust of cold air rushed inside through an open window of the room. She felt the warmth of Shivam soothing. She could smell a faint scent of flowers pervading in the air and was unsure if it was actually there or just her imagination. The possibility of flowers blooming in the desert was remote.

“Shivam, it’s not safe doing all these things here,” Vedika said and withdrew hesitantly. “Anyone could see us like this.”

“Come on, Vedika, there is no one in this ruined fort except our team,” Shivam reasoned, staring at her beautiful eyes. “Professor Saini and the others are busy doing arrangements for the bonfire and dinner.”

Vedika smiled feebly. “And, instead of helping them, we are busy making out in this scary room.”

“Scary?” Shivam exclaimed and shook his head in disapproval. “Who says it is scary? Imagine it in its past glory days! Surely it must be a palace of a King, where he would have lived with his beautiful Queen. This room must be their private chamber where they used to make love. Imagine it to be an opulent room, decorated richly with fresh flowers… a delightful fragrance of lavender is emerging from every corner. The royal musician is playing a melodious romantic Raag on the sitar in the background. Imagine the King, who is completely intoxicated by the celestial beauty of the Queen, just like I am completely mesmerized by your divine allure.” 

“Haha…” Vedika laughed and ruffled Shivam’s hair. “Now don’t tell me to imagine that you are Saleem and I am Anarkali… and today is our special night.”

“Exactly… Pyaar kiya to darna kiya…” Shivam said, trying hard to suppress a smile. “Let’s tell the world today that we love each other passionately. And why fear anyone when we aren’t doing anything wrong? It’s quite normal… what else you could expect from two lovers who are madly in love with each other? I love you… you love me... let’s surrender to this magical moment and become one forever,” he tried to coax her. 

“Shut up, Shivam! You and your imaginations are awesome… but your tricks will definitely not work on me,” Vedika frowned. “Also, ever since the ‘Mughal E Azam’ movie was released, every second guy thinks himself as Prince Salim and his girlfriend as Anarkali.” 

“Okay, not Prince Salim! But then, there is a possibility that I am of some royal descent. If you remember, the priest at the Shiva temple told me a few days ago that I belong to a great lineage,” Shivam reminded her. 

“Yeah, I remember, but seriously… do you really believe in all this, Mr. Shivam Kapoor?” Vedika asked in a dramatic voice and raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “The saints, magic, palm reading, future prediction, and superstitions like these…”

“Actually, no,” Shivam lifted his shoulder in a half shrug. “I don’t have faith in any of these superstitions. I believe one should only trust his hard work and good deeds.” He paused to take a deep breath and then continued. “But that saint was different, there was a godlike shine in his sparkling eyes. I didn’t want to trust him, but my instinct refused to obey. Somewhere deep inside my heart, I could feel that there was truth in whatever he told me… it might be a possibility that I belong to some great lineage.”

Vedika chuckled and ran her fingers through Shivam’s hair, “Hey, you got serious! I was just joking and didn’t mean anything by it at all. I am sure whatever the saint told about you is true and that you definitely belong to a royal linage. Even I had felt a touch of divinity in the saint’s eyes that day. There was honesty in his voice. I knew from the start that there is something special in you and that’s why I fell for you instantaneously when I first met you at the inter-college cultural fest.”

Vedika Joshi was an Archaeology student at Banaras Hindu University, while Shivam Kapoor was a Mechanical Engineering student at a nearby Government Engineering college. They had both met at an inter-college cultural fest and fallen for each other instantaneously. Shivam was good-looking, charming, considerate, and belonged to a wealthy Kapoor family from Bareilly. Although rich, Shivam believed in simple living and high thinking. Vedika, on the other hand, was the dazzling swan, the star of Banaras Hindu University. She was the winner of the Miss Fresher title and looked like a fashion model straight out of Vogue. Many eyebrows were raised, and countless hearts were broken when the Vedika-Shivam affair became the talk of the town. People found it hard to believe that Vedika Joshi, the most beautiful girl in Banaras Hindu University, had fallen head over heels in love with a simple guy like Shivam. 

Boys somehow digested the sad news considering Shivam's wealthy background. “Girls are rarely left with any moral values or ethics these days. Like a whore they only look for money. We are pure gold… good looking, intelligent... but who cares, when wealthy guys like Shivam Kapoor are present in this world to blow their wealth on them?” One frustrated boy told his equally frustrated friends. 

Every lovestruck boy of Banaras Hindu University blamed their financial status for not being able to woo Vedika Joshi. But they were completely unaware that there was much more to Shivam and Vedika's love story than what met their eyes. There was a terrible hidden secret, and no one knew anything about it.

Shivam ran his hand through his hair, “It was love at the first sight for me as well. I felt completely arrested by your allure the moment I saw you at the debate competition. You were speaking like an expert debater; it was hard for me to decide whether to admire your flawless beauty or to listen to your superb speech.”

“Thank you, Shivam!” Vedika smiled delicately, her cheeks turned pink as she blushed. “But it’s not fair that instead of focussing on the debate competition you were more interested in my beauty.”

“Hmm… I admit that I should have focused on your debating skills rather than your looks. But it's not completely my fault. You were looking so beautiful that even your nerdy debate opponent paused for a few seconds to take in your stunning, model-like looks.” 

“Haha… that’s cute! You even noticed my opponent,” Vedika said, laughing.

“Yes, I was completely mesmerized by you. The way you defended the opponent with seamless poise and logic was amazing. You performed superbly and won not only the debate competition but my heart as well.” 

“You are so sweet, Shivam,” Vedika adored. “But really, I don’t think this place is safe. I am not getting positive vibes here in this old fort. I am having a strong feeling that someone is following us, and we are under constant watch. We girls can easily know if someone is looking at us, even from behind. Our sixth sense warns us immediately of any danger as we remain alert most of the time.” 

“I think you are correct. Even I felt that way when we left for this old fort from the Jaisalmer railway station. On the way, I had a feeling that someone is following us. At that time, I didn't take it seriously, as I thought that I am getting suspicious unnecessarily. But now when you are also having a similar intuition, I am hundred percent sure that someone is following us ever since we arrived in Jaisalmer,” Shivam nodded and looked around. There was no one except an eerie silence in the room. 

“Exactly,” Vedika nodded in agreement. “I think it has something to do with the Jaisalmer city or probably with this old fort. But what?” 

“I don’t know… I am even not sure why Professor Saini has brought our team to this ruined fort as I don’t think this fort is having any historical significance. It would have been much better if we had stayed in the Jaisalmer city itself. From Jaisalmer fort to Patwon Ki Haveli, there are a lot of interesting places to explore,” Shivam said and let out a sigh. 

Vedika narrowed her eyes at Shivam. “For your information, we are not on a holiday trip around India. It's a crucial research tour. Till now our archaeology team hasn’t found anything substantial to show in our final-semester project. All our hopes now rest on this place, as it is the final destination of our trip,” she said and raised her hand delicately to tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear. There was a glint of mischief in her deep, dark eyes.

Shivam felt like kissing Vedika but he controlled his urge. “Hmm… don’t worry, I am sure that you people will definitely get something worthwhile in this place. Professor Saini is an eminent Archaeologist and if he has brought us to this old fort then it must be having significant historical importance.”

“Finger crossed, let’s see if we will be able to find something here. I know you are not much interested in exploring ancient places of historical importance as you are not an Archaeology student like us. Many times, I felt that I was a little selfish to ask you to join us on this research trip,” Vedika said, with a hint of guilt in her voice. 

“Of course not,” Shivam shook his head and looked lovingly at Vedika’s eyes. “I mean, it’s true, that not being an Archaeologist, I am not much interested in exploring ancient places. But I joined this trip because I love you so much. We met a couple of months back, but it feels like I know you since time immemorial. I enjoyed every bit of this trip as you are with me. I look forward to being a part of all your research trips and…” 

“And?” Vedika prompted, her voice thrilled. 

“And your life…” Shivam said and looked expectantly into Vedika's eyes. “I want to marry you, Vedika. My engineering is almost complete, the final semester is in progress. I have received a good job offer from a prestigious company, Hindustan Lever Limited. Once I join the company, I will reveal to my parents about us. Will you marry me?” 

Tiny tears appeared in Vedika’s eyes. “I am so happy, Shivam… glad that you are serious about our relationship,” she said and paused when she heard a faint sound of footsteps. “I think someone is coming towards our room, I can hear the feeble sound of footsteps.” 

“Yes, even I can hear it,” Shivam nodded warily and looked through the corner of his eyes towards the direction of the sound. His ears instantaneously came to the alert mode to listen intently. The sound of footsteps was feeble initially, but the intensity was increasing with every passing second. 

“Ah… so, the love birds are here! And I was searching for you people all over the fort,” Ravi said as he entered the chamber. “Professor Saini is asking everyone to gather in the ground. The arrangements for the dinner and the bonfire are completed…”

Shivam crossed his arms over his chest in disappointment. ‘Why do people make an entry at the wrong moment?’ He thought, feeling irked. Somehow, he had mustered up the courage and proposed Vedika for marriage, but before she could say yes, Ravi had arrived and ruined everything.

Vedika blushed with embarrassment. “We were just exploring this place, it’s pretty cool,” she said and forced a smile on her lips. “Let’s move to the ground…”

Shivam looked at Ravi in dismay. “Yeah, let’s go,” he said half-heartedly and let out a silent sigh. They all left for the ground.

Ravi was Vedika’s classmate and a self-proclaimed love guru. If any boy needed information about any of the girls at the Banaras Hindu University, he was the contact person. The irony of his life was that he was single himself and ready to mingle. He had a secret crush on Richa, another Archaeology student and Vedika’s best friend. Richa was the granddaughter of Pandit Jagannath, the renowned Vedic astrologer in India. There were rumours that the prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, had also sought the consultation of Pandit Jagannath. Richa was studious, fun-loving, and an intellectual girl. Vedika and Richa were not only best friends but also roommates in the hostel. There was nothing that Vedika or Richa didn’t know about each other. Vedika knew that Richa likes Pratham, who was another Archaeology student studying with them. Pratham was a poet by heart. With a scruffy beard and uncombed hair, he looked more like a philosopher than a student. Some girls found this breed of guys attractive as they have an aura of confidence and exude a who-gives-a-damn attitude. Richa was one of them.  

As Shivam, Vedika, and Ravi reached the open ground, they found Professor Saini, Pratham, and Richa already settled around the bonfire and waiting for them to join the dinner. Shivam, Vedika, and Ravi also sat down adjacent to them. 

Professor Saini was one of the most popular and mysterious personalities in the history of Banaras Hindu University. He was six feet tall, lean, and had a muscular frame. He had a strong jawline and a light brown complexion. He was tall, dark, handsome and had a commanding presence. He looked more like an army officer than a professor. It was no secret that most of the girls at Banaras Hindu University had a secret crush on him. Professor Saini didn’t pay much attention to his grooming, but his two-day stubble only seemed to enhance his sex appeal to the starry-eyed young girls, who would hog the front rows at his lectures. There were numerous stories surrounding him ever since he joined the University one year back. Some girls believed that he was an ex-army officer, who had left the army early after a nasty fight with a senior commander. Some others believed that he was actually a RAW officer on a secret mission. Whereas some other girls believed that he was an ex-supermodel from Pakistan. There were many more interesting stories surrounding Professor Saini, but no one knew which one was true. Professor Saini never cared to confirm any of the mysterious stories surrounding him nor did he give any clue to anyone regarding the same. Everyone at Banaras Hindu University knew very well that Professor Saini was neither a person to take lightly nor someone with whom you could talk casually. Once, a group of errant boys tried passing lewd comments at Vedika, when he bashed them single-handedly. Ever since then, he became the hero in the eyes of every girl at the Banaras Hindu University.      

“A very good evening to all,” Professor Saini addressed everyone in his commendable voice. “It’s the last destination of our trip and I am sure that every one of you must be eager to know why I have brought you to this old fort located miles away from the actual city of Jaisalmer.” 

“Yes, sir! We are curious to know it, but we are confident that if you have chosen this place then it must be having some remarkable historical significance,” Ravi said. Pratham, Richa, and Vedika nodded and looked with rapt attention at Professor Saini. Shivam ignored Professor Saini because he didn't like him much. Most of the time he didn't pay heed to the professor either. Vedika's soft corner for Professor Saini made Shivam insecure and jealous of him.

“Thank you, Ravi,” Professor Saini said with a smile. “Yes, this place has great historical importance. But before I share the complete details about it, let’s have dinner first.” 

“That’s a good idea, sir!” Pratham said excitedly. He was feeling hungry and waiting eagerly for the dinner to start. He felt a little embarrassed as everyone looked at him. “I am sure everyone must be feeling hungry by now,” he continued and smiled shyly.

A smile formed on Professor Saini’s face as he got up and walked up to the raised platform where the food was placed. Pratham, Ravi, and Richa had cooked the food and arranged it there neatly sometime back. Everyone followed Professor Saini. They picked up the plates, put rice, yellow daal, and cooked brinjal on it, and returned to their respective places around the bonfire. 

“Let’s continue our discussion from where we had left it,” Professor Saini said as everyone finished the dinner.

“Sure, sir,” Vedika said cheerfully. “We are eager to know the historical importance of this place.”

Professor Saini glanced at everyone. “Well, this place takes us back in time as early as Treta Yuga. During the Ramayana era, this place was not a desert. There existed a small but highly affluent city known as Drumatulya,” he revealed. 

Richa’s eyebrows shot up in astonishment. “Drumatulya city, that existed during the Ramayana era… that sounds interesting,” she said, her voice excited. 

Professor Saini nodded, “Yes, it’s indeed enthralling, as a lot of mysteries surround this place. The city of Drumatulya was famous during the Ramayana era, and the mighty demon king of Lanka, Raavan, had attacked it.”

Pratham’s eyes widened. “Wow! It looks like we are in the most exciting phase of our trip,” he exclaimed and then asked, “but if it’s true that the history of this place is linked to the Ramayana era and that the mighty demon king Raavan himself attacked it… then what’s the whole story?”

“Yes, even I am eager to know the complete details, as I have never heard anything of this sort before,” Richa said with a nod. 

“It’s a long story and most people know it in bits and pieces. But the whole story, no one knows. Let’s start with the central character of the story first, if anyone knows anything about Lord Kubera?” Professor Saini questioned and looked at them all inquisitively. 

“Yes sir, Lord Kubera is the God of wealth, most of the people in India worship him with Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and success, especially during the festival of Diwali,” Pratham responded.   

“Very good, Pratham,” Professor Saini appreciated. “It’s correct that Kubera is the God of wealth and people worship him to get wealth and success. But not many know that he was the stepbrother of Lanka’s mighty demon King Raavan.” 

“Yes, I remember now! I had read somewhere that initially, Kubera was the ruler of Lanka, but later Raavan became the king,” Richa said, rubbing her hands together to keep herself warm.

“That’s true!” Professor Saini confirmed. “The story had started with Sage Vishrava, who was the father of both Raavan and Kubera. Sage Vishrava had two wives. First, he had married Ilavida, the granddaughter of Devguru Brihaspati. Kubera was the son of Vishrava and Ilavida. Then, he fell in love with the demon princess, Kaikasi. She was the daughter of the demon chieftain Sumali. Soon Sage Vishrava and Kaikasi got married. After some time Kaikasi gave birth to Raavan, Kumbhkarna, Vibhishana, and Surpanakha. Kubera had inherited the Golden city of Lanka from his father, Sage Vishrava, and he became the king of Lanka. Kaikasi was not happy with Kubera becoming the king of Lanka and thus provoked her son Raavan to attack Lanka. Raavan did severe penance to Lord Brahma and on receiving boons from him, attacked Lanka fiercely. Kubera had already anticipated it and was prepared for the adverse situation. When Raavan overthrew him from the throne of the Golden city of Lanka, he fled to the Drumatulya city in the Pushpaka Vimana, and settled down there.”   

“Sir, I have one question!’ Ravi said, leaning forward. “As per what I know, the Golden city of Lanka was given to Raavan by Lord Shiva?”

Professor Saini’s face turned more thoughtful. “Hmm, there are many stories around it. The most acceptable one is that the golden city of Lanka was created by Vishwakarma for Lord Shiva when he got married to Goddess Parvati. But Lord Shiva was reluctant to live in such an affluent place and thus he gave it to Rishi Vishrava, the grandson of Lord Brahma. Later Kubera inherited Lanka from his father,” he replied.

“But what happened after that?” Vedika asked, adjusting her long hair that ended in countless ringlets. “As far as I know, Raavan was the owner of the Pushpaka Vimana in the story of the Ramayana…” 

“Yes, that’s a good question. The story doesn’t end there. A close friend of Kubera betrayed him and revealed a terrible secret about him to Raavan. He also told Raavan that Kubera had fled to the affluent city of the Drumatulya and settled down there. On knowing the chilling secret of Kubera, Raavan became furious. He attacked Drumatulya city and conquered it. Raavan also captured the Pushpaka Vimana. Kubera was once again defeated by Raavan and had fled to Alkapuri, a city in the valley of Mount Kailash. There he did severe penance to appease Lord Shiva and as a boon from him, became the treasurer of the Devtas. Raavan made his son Trishira the king of Drumatulya and returned to Lanka in Pushpaka Vimana,” Professor Saini narrated the complete story; there was an esurient shine in his eyes.

“Sir, but what was the terrible secret of Kubera, knowing which Raavan became so furious?” Vedika asked curiously and raised her chin. “And who was that close friend of Kubera who had betrayed him?”

Professor Saini inhaled deeply. “The answer to these questions… even I don’t know. There is no mention of it in any of the ancient scriptures. The little details that I shared with you are what I have collected after doing extensive research on Kubera and the mysterious lost city of Drumatulya,” he replied. 

“Sir, I have one more question. Can I ask?” Vedika requested hesitantly and delicately tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

“Yes, please ask,” Professor Saini said, nodding his head. 

“From what I know, the vast Thar desert was created by Lord Ram when he had prayed to the mighty ocean deity so that the ocean water subsides and paves way for him and his army to march on towards Lanka. When the ocean deity didn't pay any heed to Ram’s prayers, he summoned one of his divine weapons to dry up the ocean. Frightened, the ocean deity immediately presented himself before Ram and pleaded for mercy. He presented an idea to solve Ram’s problem and requested Ram to release the divine weapon towards his north. Lord Ram accepted his request and released the weapon. The powerful weapon hit this region, resulting in the creation of the Thar Desert," Vedika narrated the incident from the Sundar Kanda of Ramayana.

“Very good, Vedika! Your knowledge of history is praiseworthy! I am impressed,” Professor Saini appreciated and gave a thumbs up to Vedika. “What you mentioned is perfectly correct. Ram had created this Thar desert. When the city of Drumatulya had come under demon king Raavan's possession, it became the abode of the demons. And thus, the ocean deity requested Lord Ram to release his divine weapon here to get rid of the demons.” 

Shivam didn’t like it when Professor Saini praised Vedika. Moreover, he had a strong intuition that everything was not right that day. He could easily sense that someone was following them ever since they had arrived in Jaisalmer and was keeping an eye on them. Further, the discussion of the lost city of Drumatulya, which used to exist during the Ramayana era, added to his suspicion. He was confident that Professor Saini was hiding something crucial from them.

“Thank you, Sir,” Vedika said gleefully, her lips widening into a beautiful smile. It was the breath-taking smile that every boy of Banaras Hindu University was mad about.

Pratham rubbed his forehead. “But sir, how you can say it so confidently that the remains of the lost city of Drumatulya lay hidden in this vast Thar desert? It’s hard to believe that the lost city of Drumatulya that used to exist thousands of years back during Treta Yuga is buried here. Moreover, I have never heard the story that you just narrated to us,” he reasoned. 

“The lost city of Drumatulya is buried in this area of the Thar desert and I am fully confident about it. Many ancient scriptures confirm this point. The incident related to the creation of the Thar desert is even mentioned in the Sundar Kanda of Ramayana,” Professor Saini replied, his voice poised. 

“It might also be a possibility that this is just a tale of fiction and there never existed any ancient city in this area! It might also be the case that we are just wasting our time in this ruined fort situated far away from the actual city,” Shivam said, scratching his nose. He loves playing the devil’s advocate. He enjoyed irritating Professor Saini whenever he got a chance. Professor Saini was the villain of his cute love story. Vedika's admiration towards Professor Saini was the main reason behind Shivam's jealousy. 

Professor Saini lost his cool. “Because…” he began in an aggravated voice but realized that in a fit of anger he was about to speak something that was not to be revealed at any cost. He took a deep breath and continued in a calm voice, “Because, in the year 1942, the Britishers had accidentally discovered the remains of the lost city of Drumatulya when they were digging for the construction of railway track in this area. Fortunately, the father of one of my good friends was part of the Archaeology team which studied the remains found in the digging. He secretly took away a brass container to his home as he had a hobby of collecting antique artefacts. An ancient map lay sealed inside that container, which even he was unaware of. Many years later, I visited my friend’s house and my eyes fell on that antique brass container lying as a showpiece in one of the glass almirahs in his house. I was instantly attracted to it and knew that it’s not any ordinary artefact. I requested my friend’s father if I could take it with me for a day or two. Initially, he was reluctant, but finally, he gave it to me for a few days in exchange for a bottle of imported Italian red wine. Back at home, I studied the ancient brass container ardently. I found out the secret seal and broke it. There lay an ancient map hidden inside. I took it out and sealed the container. I then returned the container to my friend’s father. It took me many years to decode the ancient map and finally, I realised that this was the map of the lost city of Drumatulya.” 

“But Sir, I never heard of it and as far as I know, there is no mention of it anywhere in the history books. It was a big discovery and if it had actually happened, then there must be a mention of it at least somewhere,” Richa argued.

Professor Saini’s forehead creased. “Yes, that’s true! The Britishers were shrewd. They ruled India by spreading the fact that they are of Aryan origin and Indians stood much lower to them as a race. If it had been revealed to the Indians that they actually belong to the royal Aryan civilization, it could have challenged their existence in India. And thus, they never let the news come out in public, and destroyed all the evidence,” he answered.

“Oh okay, it was horrific,” Richa said and folded her arms.  

“Sir, can we see the map of the lost ancient city of Drumatulya that you had found at your friend’s home?” Pratham requested, looking keenly at Professor Saini. 

“Yeah, sure,” Professor Saini said and took out an old map from the inner pocket of his jacket. He handed it to Pratham, “This is the map of the lost city of Drumatulya.” 

Pratham glanced at the map, but he didn't understand a single symbol in it. He then handed the map to the rest of the team members, but they also failed to recognize anything in it. Finally, the map returned to Professor Saini. 

“Sir, we didn’t understand a thing in the map,” Ravi said and adjusted the lapels of his jacket. “What does it depict?” 

“This map belongs to the Ramayana era, and a normal person can’t understand it. It took me almost five years to decode it completely. It describes the layout of the lost ancient city and shows the location of the king’s palace, temples, markets, and many more important places within the city,” Professor Saini responded. 

Ravi edged forward, eyes unblinking. “But, sir, in that case, how we will know where exactly the lost ancient city is buried in this vast desert? The Map you have is of the city layout and not of the location of the lost ancient city!” he asked inquisitively. 

“Good question, Ravi,” Professor Saini praised, his eyes glinting with ecstasy. “You are correct. The map we have is of the city layout and not of the exact location of the lost ancient city. But fortunately, I know a clue that tells where exactly the lost ancient city lay buried in this vast Thar desert…”

“What’s the clue?” Vedika looked at Professor Saini with an unrelenting stare.

“Eight hundred years back, the king of Jaisalmer, Rawal Jaisal, came to know about the lost city of Drumatulya that lay buried under the Thar desert. He decided to unearth the city, but the Royal Priest of Jaisalmer strictly asked him not to do that. During those times, the Royal Priest of the kingdom used to hold a high position and even the king couldn’t go against their wish. The Royal Priest further advised the king to construct a fort at the same location where once existed the lost ancient city. He suggested that it will greatly enhance the prosperity of the kingdom. King Rawal Jaisal did as requested and got a fort constructed at the same place where once existed the lost city of Drumatulya. The fort was named Suryagarh as Lord Ram had created the Thar desert and he belongs to the Ikshvaku Clan, or the Solar Dynasty. It is unknown how king Jaisal had found out the exact location of the lost ancient city. Later, Alauddin Khilji attacked Jaisalmer in the 13th century and captured the main Jaisalmer fort. He destroyed the remaining forts in the outskirts of the city including the Suryagarh fort. At present, only crumbling fort walls exist in the place of the Suryagarh fort, but it is sufficient to know the exact location of the lost ancient city,” Professor Saini replied, stretching his arms wide.

“Sir, was the fort in which we are currently exploring was also destroyed by Allauddin Khilji?” Richa asked and look around. By the ruined state of the fort, it was clear that it was also brutally wrecked by the invaders.

Professor Saini nodded in approval, “Yes, Allauddin Khilji had targeted this fort as well.” 

Ravi narrowed his eyes. “Sir, I have one more doubt?” he said.

“Yes, please ask,” Professor Saini said, stroking his chin.

“It's almost twenty-five years now since India got its independence,” Ravi stated, his tone becoming more serious, “but even then, why had no one discovered the lost ancient city yet?”

“A very good question,” Professor Saini appreciated. “I was expecting this. There are many reasons for it. The first and foremost is that not many people know about the existence of the lost ancient city, as there is not much mention of it in the ancient scriptures. Further, the Britishers had deliberately destroyed all the evidence that was found, accidentally, during the digging for the railway track. They didn't stop there. They went one step ahead and destroyed any other existing clue as well so that no one gets to know about the existence of the lost ancient city. They systematically erased every detail related to the ancient Aryan civilization to deprive us, the Indians, of our rich linage. They misled us and termed them mythological stories rather than our history. Even today, when almost twenty-five years have passed since India gained independence from British rule, certain people don’t want the truth to come out. They can go to any extent to keep the Indians deprived of their heritage for their own personal and political agendas. They are hard bent on not letting it happen…”

Professor Saini told the story of the Britisher’s wickedness with so much conviction that for a moment everyone present there felt overwhelmed by a strong feeling of patriotism. 

Inquilab Zindabad! Angrezo Bharat Chhodo…’ Ravi felt an urge to shout out the slogan but realized that Britishers had already left India in 1947.  

Richa’s blood boiled on hearing about Britisher’s atrocities as if she was the distant relative of Jhansi ki Rani. “Sir, don’t worry! We will unearth the lost ancient city and bring the truth of our rich history in front of everyone,” She roared like a lioness. “But I have a query…”

Professor Saini nodded his head. “Yes, please ask…”

“Do you know the way to the Suryagarh fort where the lost city of Drumatulya lay buried?” Richa enquired. 

“No,” Professor Saini said, shaking his head. “But I have brought a detailed map of Jaisalmer city with me. The map has the details of the route from here to the Suryagarh fort.”

“You people will not be able to reach the Suryagarh fort with the help of a map alone,” an unknown but confident voice came from some distance and captured the attention of everyone. Startled, they all looked in the direction of the voice to figure out its owner. A tall, well-built man appeared from behind a wall. His piercing eyes were oozing a mystic vibe. Pratham looked at the mysterious man with rapt attention and felt hypnotized for a second or two.

“Who are you? And why the hell you were eavesdropping on our private conversation?” Professor Saini asked, his forehead furrowed and eyes flamed with anger. 

“I am Balvanta. I am a local tourist guide. Ours is a small camel tribe, and we provide camel rides to the tourists. We also provide other services like a city tour. We even take the tourists to the places of historical importance that are situated at some distance from the Jaisalmer city,” the mysterious man introduced himself politely.

“Oh okay… but you didn’t answer my second question,” Professor Saini said. His voice was a little calmer this time. “Why were you eavesdropping on our private conversation?” he repeated.

“Actually, no one visits this old fort or comes near it as it is situated many miles away from the actual city of Jaisalmer, in the middle of the Thar desert. I was passing by this place when I heard voices. I felt suspicious and out of curiosity, I eavesdropped to confirm if there is no illegal activity happening at this place. The Jaisalmer police have requested all the local guides to remain vigilant. They have asked us to alert them immediately in case we notice any illegal activity happening in this area. Ever since the war between India and Pakistan ended a year ago, there is a sudden increase in nefarious activities in this area, as the India Pak border is only a hundred kilometres away. Being a responsible citizen, it’s our duty to remain alert and help the police in maintaining law and order,” Balvanta replied in a poised voice. 

“I agree, it’s everyone's responsibility to be vigilant of any criminal activity in our surroundings. But no such activity happening here. We are an archaeology team on a research tour,” Professor Saini clarified. 

“Oh okay,” Balvanta said and looked around to double-check that nothing felonious was happening at that place. His eyes fall on Vedika, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. His heart skips a beat; he had never seen such a beautiful girl in his entire life. He kept staring at her for a second, spellbound.

“You mentioned some time back that we can’t reach the old Suryagarh fort with the help of the map alone,” Professor Saini said with his eyebrows raised questioningly. “Why so?” 

“The Suryagarh fort lies around twelve kilometres from here, and the way is not straight. One has to travel through the desert to reach the fort, and there are no concrete roads or signboards on the way. To add to the woes of the tourists, frequent sandstorms are occurring nowadays in this area, making it tougher to navigate the path through the vast Thar desert,” Balvanta responded. He stole a glance at Vedika, finding it tough to resist his temptation to adore her divine allure.

Professor Saini stood still for a moment. ‘He is absolutely correct. How can I overlook such an important point on a critical mission like this? A single mistake can ruin my whole plan on which I have been working diligently for the last five years.’ He thought to himself and stared at Balvanta in silence. ‘Fortunately, a guide has arrived by himself to help me on this crucial mission. Luck is in my favour, now no one can stop me from fulfilling my most cherished dream!’

“Hmm,” he exhaled loudly and scratched his stubble. His eyes bored into Balvanta. “If you know the way to the Suryagarh fort, can you take us there?”  

“Yes, I can take you people there,” Balvanta agreed. “But I will charge fifty rupees for it. Also, if you are planning to go there today itself, we must leave immediately without any delay,”

“Okay, we will pay you the money,” Professor Saini nodded readily. “We have to go there today itself. We are ready to leave right now.”

“Sir, he is a stranger to us. We can't trust him blindly…” Ravi began in a concerned voice when Professor Saini cut him off. 

“Guys, until now, we haven't had any success on our research trip and the lost ancient city is our last hope. I didn’t think of this point earlier, but now when Balvanta brought it to our notice, I can see that we surely require a local guide to reach the lost ancient city. If we went there by ourselves, then there are fair chances that we may get lost in this vast desert. We are already running short of time and can’t afford to take the risk at any cost,” he insisted and threw up his hands in frustration. 

“But, sir, why the hurry? We can go there tomorrow as well?” Richa reasoned hesitantly.

“Enough….” Professor Saini shouted. His voice was loud enough to startle everyone present. He immediately realized his mistake and calmed himself by counting backwards from five to one in his mind silently.

“See, we require a lot of time to unearth the lost ancient city and one day will not be enough for us. We can’t waste today. Every minute is crucial for us,” Professor Saini tried to cajole his team and looked at Vedika expectantly. He knew that she was the easiest target, and once she agreed, the rest of the team would also agree to his plan. 

“I agree with Saini Sir… I am in,” Vedika said and walked up to Professor Saini.

“I am also ready for the last adventure of our trip. Let’s nail it this time,” Pratham said, his voice excited. Ravi and Richa also nodded their heads like obedient students. 

Shivam shook his head. “Guys, I think we shouldn’t go there. I am not having a good feeling today,” he warned, taking a few steps back. “It’s better that we remain safe in this old fort, rather than exploring something in this vast desert. Moreover, we are not even sure of the existence of the lost city of Drumatulya.”

“Stop behaving childishly,” Professor Saini said furiously and pointed a finger at Shivam. “I shouldn't have agreed to Vedika's request to allow you on this research trip. It’s only because she requested so diligently to me that I gave my permission. But that doesn’t mean that you also got the approval to spoil our trip.”

He took a deep breath to calm himself and continued, “Team, we need to go! We can’t miss this golden opportunity. If we succeeded in locating the lost ancient city, then it will skyrocket our career. It will give a boost to our profession beyond our wildest imagination.”

“Yes, he is correct,” Vedika nodded in Professor Saini’s support and looked persuasively at Shivam. “Please, don’t worry, Shivam… even if someone is following us, we don’t need to be afraid of anyone as our team is equally strong. We have to go in search of the lost ancient city at any cost, as it is our last hope.” 

“Vedika, believe me… my sixth sense is warning me that not everything is good ever since we arrived at this place. I am not getting good vibes today. Trust me, going out today in search of the lost ancient city will put everyone’s life in danger,” Shivam blurted out in fear.

“C’mon, I never thought you are such a scaredy-cat,” Vedika stamped her foot and threw a vexed look at Shivam. “Have some courage! We are a team of six people and still, you are so afraid.” 

“I am not scared… it's just that I have a strong intuition that not everything is well today. Anyway, if you all have already decided to go, then I am also ready,” Shivam gave up and folded his arms.

“Can we leave for the Suryagarh fort fast?” Balvanta requested, having patiently waited for the drama to get over. “The way to it is tricky and at a considerable distance from here. The sooner we leave, the better.” 

“Yes, let’s leave for the Suryagarh fort without any further delay,” Professor Saini said, maintaining a serious tone. In reality, his heart was dancing with super-excitement. “We have a Jeep with us which could accommodate all of us.”

“Yes, I had noticed the Jeep parked outside. By that only I came to know that someone is here in this fort. Good that you people have hired a Jeep that is equipped to run through the desert,” Balvanta appreciated and walked towards the exit gate of the fort. 

Professor Saini had a smug smile on his face. “We already told you that we are on a research trip, and have come with the full preparation for it,” he said, and they all followed Balvanta.

Balvanta occupied the driver’s seat while Professor Saini settled down on the seat adjacent to him. The rest of the team quickly got seated on the remaining empty seats of the Jeep. Soon they were moving through the Thar desert towards the ruined Suryagarh fort, beneath which lay buried the lost city of Drumatulya. It was a full moon night, and thus the desert was suitably lit by the moonlight. 

An hour had passed since they had left for the Suryagarh fort and still there was no trace of it in the vast desert. 

“How far is the Suryagarh fort now?” Professor Saini asked impatiently to Balvanta. 

“We have almost reached our destination! In a few minutes we will be there,” Balvanta replied.

“Hey, look there! I can see the city some distance from us,” Richa said ecstatically and pointed to an old fort that was faintly visible at some distance from them. 

“Wow, so this is the place where once existed the lost city of Drumatulya,” Ravi exclaimed and looked at the old fort in awe.  

“Yippee! It’s hard to believe that we are witnessing an ancient structure built in the Ramayana era,” Vedika said, her voice turning breathless with excitement.

“For your information, what we are seeing is the ruined old Suryagarh fort that was built eight hundred years ago by the king Rawal Jaisal. We can't see the lost ancient city that existed during the Ramayana times, as it lays buried in the desert,” Pratham clarified.

Vedika giggled, “Whatever it is, I am excited to unearth the lost ancient city…”   

“Yes, finally, we reached our destination!” Professor Saini said elatedly, finding it hard to hide his exhilaration. His long-cherished dream was about to come true.

Suddenly, the wind started blowing fiercely in the desert and the visibility reduced considerably due to the sand particles in the air.    

“Ohh… the wind has started blowing wildly,” Shivam said worriedly.

“I can sense that a terrible sandstorm is about to erupt here, we need to return before it gets late. If we do not leave this place immediately, we will also get buried in this vast desert, like the lost ancient city,” Balvanta warned in a panicked voice. His face had the nakedness of fear. It seemed that fate was not in favour of Professor Saini that day. 

Professor Saini’s face grew dark. “No, we can’t return when we have almost reached our destination. Keep driving towards the Suryagarh fort. We need to reach there, at any cost,” he raised his voice, glaring at Balvanta. He was determined to not let his hard work of five years get wasted in front of his eyes. 

Balvanta kept driving towards the old fort as instructed by Professor Saini. The winds started blowing more ferociously. And, in some time, it was sand all around. 

Continued...







 SYNOPSIS

“I am Raavan, the mightiest demon king…”

2019, Bareilly - A rich NRI businessman goes missing mysteriously. The detective found a clue in his diary and named it, The Raavan Key.

5135 BCE, Golden City of Lanka - Raavan, the mighty demon king, came to know of a chilling secret about his half-brother Kubera. Enraged by the revelation he fiercely attacked Drumatulya city.

1972, Thar Desert, Jaisalmer - An archaeology team was searching for the lost city of Drumatulya, which existed during the Ramayana era. They couldn't believe their eyes when weird events unfolded one after another.

2018, Antwerp, Europe - The overlord of Europe’s most dreaded crime syndicate received a phone call from a mysterious man.

What was the terrifying secret of Kubera that enraged Raavan? What connects the missing NRI businessman to the lost city of Drumatulya?  What was the horrific mystery of Drumatulya city? Read on to witness the epic story of Love and Betrayal, Gods and Demons, Deceit and Violence.

 

“Pravin is in the league of Ashwin Sanghi and Christopher C. Doyle.”

- Bijetri Roy, Author

 

“Pravin Agarwal is a master storyteller.”

- Dailyhunt

 

“With compelling narrative style, Pravin is the next literary phenomenon.”

- PunjabMetro

 


 

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