Jagat= world, Gram=village.
All the Indiana Jones and Lara Crofts were in a tizzy. From Kalsi, home to the Ashokan edict, we were driving to the site of the Ashwamedha Yagya, that’s an ancient practice of horse sacrifice conducted by a king who wished to flex his muscles without declaring a war on his neighbors. Nobody thought that any physical remains of the sacrifice venue existed. I suppose we were wrong for it did in a place called Jagatgram that I heard of for the first time that day.
The countryside was green, winding roads that ran along side seasonal rivers and lush fields. We never quite lost sight of the towering Shiwaliks, all blue and grey, at a distance.
Once again the direction signboards to our destination were woefully inadequate. Luckily we had the extremely enthusiastic petite professor of the BTDT group, a magnificent weaver of tales, as our walk leader and convoy commander showing us the way. I did spot a lone board that did its best to unobtrusively blend into the background. Nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm of the city slickers, ie us.
We navigated the narrow country lanes, mud tracks, puddles to reach an enormous mango orchard in the centre of this beautiful rural heartland.
Algae and moss clung to every available surface, the sunlight streaming through the gaps in the canopy lighting it like spotlights. Our world turned into a shade of vivid green.
As we walked deeper into the grove, the general chit chats began to dial down. Softer sounds began to emerge; faint tinkling of a cow’s bell, rustling of the leaves, harsh cawing mingled with loud incessant chirps.
Suddenly we were there. Greeting us were plaques and notice boards erected by the ASI, that’s Archeological Survey of India. It was authentic no doubt, although it did feel surreal for we were standing in an orchard full of stately trees.
So what did I expect to see at the site? Remains of a crumbling temple, some sort of construction perhaps?
Well I was certainly not prepared for a field that had bricks scattered in the shape of an eagle, a Garuda and there were three such separate fields.
Now bricks rarely inspire the kind of awe that one experiences on seeing gold coins or precious gems.
These were special ones, different in size and colour. Most importantly they had strange markings on them. That alone made them rare artefacts worth stealing.
Now what does the ASI do to preserve and protect the sanctity of this historic, one of a kind, ancient site?
Well they cement every brick to the ground.
Take that lazy and unfit thieves. Pry it out if you want one.
Alright, what about the others who don’t mind a bit of hard labour?
ASI had another trick up its sleeve.
It planted an equal number of fake bricks among the real ones.
Needless to say all, fake and old, were cemented to the ground.
A true blue treasure hunt.
I couldn’t make out the Garuda shape in spite of climbing on the viewing platform but I suppose it’s irrelevant keeping in view the bigger picture.
Now to the ones reading this post, the inspired/ curious treasure hunters, a word of caution.
If by some twist of fate you do reach this place, please mind your step. A careless hop, skip or run on these real/ fake bricks floating in the sea of cement, might stamp out the only known proof of existence of an ambitious king named Silavarman; he who conducted an Ashwamedha Yagya because he wanted to rule unopposed in this corner of the world.