the

Scrolls of
Āryavarta

Visions of a Bhārata that once was, and some of those that could have been.

There is a place.
It lies outside of space and time as we know it,
but many of us have been there.
It lies in that cultural mid-space so distant yet ever palpable.

Hive mind. Race memory. Blood bond.
We may call it many things, but we know it best when we see it,
and it feels warm and familiar…as if a memory we once lived.
Perhaps we did, is it not?

For a countless times before have you been here,
and a countless times I.
You there, in one incarnation you were a master of mantra.
You wrapped meaning into syllable and metre.

And you? A pioneer of tilled grain you were.
Your hard, seasoned hands fed a civilization.
Another among us was quite a daredevil,
boldly he grabbed a wild bull by the horns,
First to do so.

We can access this place,
outside of space and time though it lies.
In images and words, in sounds and vistas,
In streams of imagi/memory that can flow through us…

The Scrolls of Āryavarta is a project to celebrate, express and engage in this shared lore- the dhārmika lore. A calling to all who dream of the Bhārata that once was, or Bhāratas that could have been.

We commence the endeavour with a collaboration with The Emissary, an eminently follow-able handle on Twitter that engages with AI-rendered imagery to create visuals of an Indian context. At Bṛhat, his art evoked in us nostalgia for a cultural past we’ve lost, and some futuristic renditions brought to life imaginations of a dhārmika sci-fi! A collaboration appeared obvious.

Here we experiment with speculative storytelling and historical fiction- a series of 36 AI-renditions created by The Emissary, complemented with the narrative of a Bhārata all of us can feel. 

This is Chapter 1 of the Scrolls of Āryavarta…

Beginning at the next screen below, the following are 36 panels, each containing an AI-rendered artwork and an accompanying text.

The panels scroll horizontally. Use the arrow buttons or drag left/right. 

The images can also be viewed as a gallery in the section after the following. 

The Scrolls of Āryavarta is intended as a focal for all creatorship of dhārmika lore. Writers, artists, designers, creators of all form who imagine into the shared cultural mid-space are invited. Read more on how to get involved, in the About Section at the end.

Engage with more Scrolls of Āryavarta lore here.

But first, scroll on below and step into the mind of a ṛṣi with a familiar name…

  • 1
    True seekers and madmen. These were the only sorts that ventured this deep into the Himālaya, and one could argue that the two meant the same.

    Seeker or madman, I certainly am one, and these impossibly high peaks of the Hema beckoned to me when I first caught sight of them years ago, as a young boy peering into the horizon. Then I heard the legends- of Dhruva the ancient who first charted the peaks. Of Prahlāda the exemplary who found the Supreme in them. Of Bhagīratha the madman who brought the Gaṅgā back.

  • 2
    Wandering souls can be found even in the remotest caverns of the Himālaya now, many a follower chasing the madmen of old. Some wish to extract from the Himālaya fame surpassing that of Bhagīratha, others want nothing but anonymity and solitude.

    Of course, majority of the mass that populates Bhāratavarṣa is content to have the mountains at horizon alone, and none can blame them. It does indeed take a madman to leave behind the prosperity that has come upon Bhārata, from the far western outposts on the Sindhu, and the peninsular reaches along the ocean, to the teeming centers of Gaṅgā and Sarasvatī.

  • 3
    But the material comforts of civilization never held any lure for me. It were moments of silence and epiphany that I chased. Moments when ṛta itself seemed to communicate to the willing mind.

    And so here in the great Himālaya’s lap I made himself a home, leaving doors open for fellow travellers such as myself. But there was this thing about Bhārata- places of dharma had a gravitational pull of their own. What was intended as a silent hermitage had fast become a pilgrimage visited by madmen even from the country’s southernmost lands! And quite to my discomfort, and contrary to the plan for anonymity, they had come to name the lake after me. Kaśyapa Mīra they now called it.

  • 4
    Even then, it could have made for a reclusive life. The nearest village that was visited by traders was yojanas down the mountainside, no trader ever venturing to the mīra.

    I imagined for himself only the rarest of visits downhill, and never a return to the plains again. But sṛṣṭi had a sense of humour, and it enjoyed revealing to men the folly of their plans. I could have scarcely known then, the visions that would one day come to haunt me. Visions that would compel a return to the lands I had left behind.

  • 5
    For too long I ignored them, swatted them aside. But the visions’ presence had become unrelenting now, inside my mind’s eye. The warning they carried throbbed within me constant, as if blood itself.

    Even with my assidously developed bodha śakti I could no longer rise above them. Instead they loomed over me. Constant. Pressing. Urgent. A gnawing that forced my attention as hard as I tried to ignore it.

  • 6
    It started years ago, when I was still young - mind too raw to discern the imageries it had begun acquiring the power to perceive. I dismissed the warnings easily back then, but what was one to do when they coursed in one’s veins like a darkness clawing all over?

    When one could finally see plainly- these visions were true. Or rather they would come true, at a time in my future.

  • 7
    Perhaps their truth was evident all along, and only the denial of my own mind prevented me from seeing that. From realizing that those grand cities, the mahāvasatīs of civilization, would indeed be desolate one day.

    The images of them taken over by dust and darkness would come to pass. Even in these high mountains, it’s the images that chilled me to the bone, not the Himālayan wind. But how could I convey the extent of disaster to anyone else? It was unimaginable- that places so bustling and teeming could one day come to such abandon. And the fall I saw was was beyond words, beyond comprehension.

  • 8
    Of course, not all was revealed to me. Ṛta loved mystery, and even the devas peppered their generosity with riddles. The visions were filtered through the vexing matter of Time. How could I tell ‘when’ they descended from? Or even ‘where’ exactly?

    In many of them the constructions weren’t quite right. The styles were different, their architecture mixed in with something almost alien to my bearings. It was clearly a different world, but one in my future or my past? Or one in some material layer forever out of reach or perception?

  • 9
    Some places were entirely alien, at least in the cultural sense - of this I am sure. The markings on their walls were unfamiliar, the scripts not like anything seen in Bhārata. Did they represent other cultures that had faced such doom? Or were they of the doom-bringers themselves?

    Why would it be the latter, after all? Why would a people given to such apparent comfort find reason to maraud Bhārata? No, the monsters in my visions were landless asuras given to seasonal relocations. Like invaders of Bhārata always had been. There was something about the serene that disturbed the wildly. The twelve Āditya-Daitya wars of yore were evidence to that.

  • 10
    And some visions indeed resembled those gory centuries of the past, when nomadic raiders from as far north as Uttarakuru were called to Bhārata’s rising but nascent civilization.

    The blood and terror in them were hard to bear, but I clung desperately to them, peering so I could discern better. Were these the old Caraṇa, Yakṣa, Daitya or Garuḍa armies he saw? Or were these āsuras of a future yet to come? And though I could some times peer beyond them, to even their future, I could not discern the final fate. Could not make out what would come of Bhārata, long after the coming horror had passed.

  • 11
    And even those future-visions only showed me terror. In them I saw light itself yoked by man, and balked at the vision of agni turned astra such. My heart refused to believe it, that the very fire that Bhārata had borne age on age could one day be turned on it such.

    No, it must not be fire, but an āsurika simulacra of it. Yet just as destructive. Perhaps more so. And thus did I know that there were asura hordes lying in wait, at the future’s edge. But I saw no Ādityas. No towering Indras, no assured Varuṇas. No Śivas and Skandas.

  • 12
    What did I see instead? I saw fire uncontrolled, the desecrated bodies of innocent Bhāratiyas strung high for show and fun. Āsurika war generals that would have never been accepted as rulers in Bhārata, celebrated for their triumphs in death, misery, rape and plunder.

    I saw, no- I felt- the universe itself cry in anguish, at a wanton hatred that I could not quite understand. The attackers saw my people as the ‘other,’ but why, and of what nature were they themselves? This I could not discern.

  • 13
    Some visions were entirely impossible to locate in time. Were they of a lost past? Of an almost-here future? Or of a strange time so distant in the future that there was no real way to impress it upon the here and now?

    The people in such visions, were they my people? Were they children of Bhārata and bearers of Dharma? Or were they fallen beings, lost beings, captured ātmans? Kinsmen and foe, both? Perhaps what I saw were trickled down visions from many different epochs?

  • 14
    In other visions the desolation left no room for doubt. Places once alive, now barren and abandoned. Laden with the implications of conquest, of marauders, of livelihoods uprooted without warning and a culture taken by āsurika storms.

    Grands libraries burnt, civilizational wealth looted. A nation fallen to monsters, a culture imprisoned and desecrated. That’s what the visions foretold. But when? From what time did they descend to me?

  • 15
    Where I once thought little of all these images, the fact now stared me in the face- the visions were true. I was as certain of it as I was of those visitations with the Elders, the mānasa putra ṛṣis - an encounter I had twice been graced with.

    If only I could access them at will and consult them. But theirs was a place outside of time, outside of space, and yet born of the worldy. A kind of middle-ground between the bhautika and the adhibhautika. A place for humble learning. One arrived there by a will that transcended one’s own reach.

  • 16
    I rehearsed the details I knew, imagining listing them to those I had to warn- "the destruction would come from the north-west. The peripheral libraries and villages of the Upariśrenya mountains would be hit first."

    Of course they would, as āsurika powers always had- ever since their Daitya forebears had been sent westwards from here by the Ādityas, generations ago. The fortified cities of the Sindhu bore testimony to their repeated attacks, era after era since. The proud granite walls carried tales of many a Yavana, Śāka or Hūṇa fallen under their shadow, the forgotten bones of their forefathers pressed into the earth underneath. But these walls would do no good against what I had seen coming.

  • 17
    The blackness would spread across Bhārata, sparing not even the southern janapadas hitherto unfamiliar to the hordes that the north suffered age to age.

    Their awe-inspiring mūrtis that rose to the skies would crumble under dust. Their comfortable citizens hapless fodder to the adhārmika ravage of foreign mercenaries. An entire chain of high-civilization would come crumbling down, ruins marking the tale for posterity. Skanda to Viṣṇu, Mahābali to Murugan- none would be found to rally them.

  • 18
    The largest of vasatis would fall. The highest of temples would be cut short. The happy life of the grāma and kumbha would be met with cruel conquest, with amoral savagery.

    No- not amoral, but ahuman itself. Mercenaries with unidentifiable agenda would ravage through the land wave after wave, metal and animal-hide turned instruments of death in their yoke. Āsurika glee charging their beastly plunder.

  • 19
    This devoid of life, this replete with the echo that walls give when bereft of human presence, the glory halls of mighty janapadas could almost be mistaken for mausoleums. And perhaps one day they would be.

    A profound shift in epoch was coming, death, blood and cruelty in its wake. And so my task was now clear. I had to descend into the plains once again and warn my countrymen. It was why the visions were shown to me. If the janapadas could unite, if the Bhārata that existed in minds for eons could be made in map, perhaps the visions could be made nothing but hallucinations.

  • 20
    And where would I go? Who all could I even warn? Takṣaśilā, my training grounds? I owed much to the ācāryas there, but eventually I did surpass them - as was inevitable for a seeker as hungry and true as I was.

    It was with the pradhānācārya’s blessings I had finally left. What could I tell them now, of the horrific future that was to come upon them? Could I even convey it? Would they believe? And if they did, what could they do?

  • 21
    And that beacon at the other end of Bhārata, Nalandā? It pained me to think of it, and how curious that something that had not even manifested could bring such pain. Kāla being vengeful even from a distance out of reach. For manifest it would, and this certainty is what brought the pain.

    Nalandā white walls would be charred black. The untold scripts collected there over centuries would perish to hungry flames. A legacy would be lost forever, and I could not even make out when. From what time…

  • 22
    I considered going to Hastināpura- the last center of civilization before Himālayan foothills commenced. The seat of scions, the place where ambitious Duṣyanta set a tentative firmament, and the son Bharata fortified it to legend.

    Men no less in valor and ability stewarded it now, but in my visions I saw darkness nonetheless. I saw āsurika clouds cast a dark shadow over Hastināpura’s skies, misting the vision with ambiguity. No, I could not be sure what power was seated there now. It wasn’t the grand city I could go to.

  • 23
    And yet Hastināpura was a relative mercy. If visions of Hastināpura were vague, others were vivid and stark- their desolation unmistakable, the finality of it daunting.

    When I had seen the abandoned āśramas and burnt libraries, the barren cities and broken towers – what hope was there to find? What good could come of trying to warn the land, when the future beyond was shown so clear? Would it not be a futile quest against the very rotation of ṛta?

  • 24
    Or was it ṛta telling me- I could alter the curve? For on rare occasion I did receive the sheen of hope and prosperity.

    I once saw the Prayāga of a far future, its triveṇī alit with dhārmika light, its denizens oblivious to the destructions of their far past. Was this what I could ensure, if I acted timely and true?

  • 25
    Perhaps, but then perhaps not. For every redeeming sight of a Prayāga, there were a dozen horrors- such as the images of Kāśī. They were the visions that unsettled me the most, appearing twisted and other-worldly. As if it were not the Daivika but the Āsurika light that gleamed through that eternal City of Light.

    And I simply could not place it in time. It was almost not from another time alone but another realm altogether, a ṛta beyond my own yet a mirror of it. But it was not unstrung māyā. It was a true thread in the weave of kāla. I just couldn’t make out whether it was a weave preceding him, or one yet to come.

  • 26
    What I did know was the haunting chasm that opened within me whenever I pictured the visions of Kāśī. The city’s bright, solar yellow was turned in them the fire orange of smitheries.

    Dark caverns along the city walls hid within the sinister glow of malevolence. Odd-shaped domes – those I had come to associate with the ‘others’ that were to descend onto Bhārata, jumped out at me from inconspicuous shadows.

  • 27
    And hard though I tried, it was impossible not to think of the fate that would come upon the Vṛkṣa, were Kāśī to fall. The Vṛkṣa of culture and nation, there, in the sacred groves to the south of the city. Kalpavṛkṣa it was called.

    The lay thought it to be a magic tree. Some believed it to be a wish-granting tree. But I understood what it really was – a model of reality. A manifold branch come from a seed alone, from bīja to stambha the nature of ṛta made evident. And there was history to it too, its seed pressed into the earth by Ādiśiva when he first descended from Meru. What a sight that would have been, what a moment to have been present at.

  • 28
    True to the city that housed it, the tree was never bereft of light - Kāśi’s citizens ensured that. People from all over the country brought cinder and spark from their lands in pilgrimage- a symbolic submission of all Āryas to the civilizational lamp.

    It was the collective belief- as long as the Kalpa Vṛkṣa’s light was strong, no harm could befall them. In shadow of this high truth, I contemplated the grim role I was to play – a messenger of doom who had seen the tree’s death. Kāśi too would fall. Many times over. Over and over…

  • 29
    If only the timing would fall just right, it could all descend upon Bhārata only after the land was ready. After fledgeling janapadas of today had firmer footing, and the larger nexus stronger meshed.

    But the Ujjayanīs, Pratiṣṭhānas and Vidiśās of today were young places, only beginning to find their footing. They could take centuries to become the high seats they eventually would, and the monstrosity of my visions could descend long before that. No, I could only turn to the old realms. Ones where roots went firm and deep.

  • 30
    But what could come of taking my missive to Kanyākubja or Kāṃpilya? The denizens there were sincere and true folk, but opulence had given them the twin curses of aloofness and naivete.

    They saw no danger larger than the smaller hill tribes that still troubled them time to time. Their dependence on luxuries left them no room to contemplate the terrifying. And yet they would face the harshest of brunts. If only I could resolve that vexing matter of time. Of ‘when.’

  • 31
    Then, armed with more certainty and detail, I could call on those leonine towers of the proud Aikṣvākus, in stern watch since inception of this manvatara. Once the rustic home of Vaivasvat, son of Vivasvāna, and then the nascent capital of Ikṣvāku after them- all descendants of my own ancient namesake.

    The groundspring of cakravartin Māndhātṛ and his famed warriors. Could I go to them now? Would they grasp the gravity? Would they be able to rise above pettier conflicts to present the united Bhāratavarṣa that was needed? Could they channel their near-mythic ancestors?

  • 32
    No, they couldn't, I felt. For they were not the same people anymore, in this new era. But there was one place yet of hope, one place that still carried the old valor even as it rose amid a newfound glory. A place where the iron in the soil birthed hearts of steel, the reddened mud seeded a blood-cry into the generations.

    It had the men, it had the heart, it had the war-elephants. But did it have the firm hand needed to yoke this all? Well, I would find out, for that was the only place to turn to. A land that birthed the primal Aṅgiras mahāṛṣi who first extracted metal from ore- the aṅgāra rasa.

  • 33
    Magadha, the land beyond the eastern forests. A mahājanapada that even the famed Aikṣvākus did not dare look at as foes. An empire that the expanding Bhāratas were yet to match.

    A land of origins and renascence both, where perhaps lay the key to Bhārata’s rescue from the warning of time. It was to Magadha I would go. And in Magadha the power to defend against monsters could be summoned. And this way all could be saved yet.

  • 34
    And if I succeeded. If Bhārata succeeded, in fortifying itself against monsters from beyond the imagination, then sacred Kalpavṛkṣa could continue lush and fecund, its manifold branches represented in the countless streams that snaked through Bhārata, its eternal presence the very symbol of a samṣkṛti sanātana.

    One day, maybe – and if I played his part – I too would tie my yajñopavita around its ancient trunk and prepare for my meeting with Yama.

  • 35
    And if I was indeed so fortunate, I could do this all and return home. To the peace, solitude and serenity I had sought all my life. But I knew, sṛṣṭi had a sense of humour.

    And while she hid from me the things I wanted to know, she showed me what I might have been better off not knowing. That it was in my adopted homeland, in Kaśyapa’s Mīra, that the worst of all disasters would befall. It would be only the smallest of mercies if all of it came long after my time. When my very name would cocoon into myth, coalescing with the cultural memory of a thousand Kaśyapas before me, and many yet to come.

  • 36
    Grim and dark as it all was, there were times I thought of this and chuckled along with sṛṣṭi. The darkest of humour, after all, was one that was turned upon oneself. It was hāsya in vimarṣa, and I could even imagine the Maheśvara’s laugh echo across the Himālayan valleys.

    A laugh without mirth. For even Maheśvara saw what was to come of his land. Was it pain that made him hide his face?

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