Rahul Bhandare



Rahul Bhandare


The Circle of Shiva

The Circle of Shiva

6 mins

Night fell on the realm yet the king found no rest. History weighed upon his mind and heart. A history that demanded King Atharva to choose his heir.

Twisting restlessly in his royal bed, the sixty-seven year-old kind wondered, which son should he choose?

Mauntik the eldest was an able administrator and a disciplined warrior. But he was too distant with people and lacked the crucial social skills to build alliances. Shomik the middle child was playful and most popular in the realm with all the royal houses that mattered. And all the brothels too, a voice whispered in the king’s head. And then there was the youngest, Bhomik. A scholar who was more interested in books and theories than in anything else.

Why are the devas testing me so? King Atharva despaired.

At that moment, forks of lightning splattered across the sky. In the thunderous blaze, the king clearly saw Shiva smiling upon him.

The king’s eyes grew wide.

“Of course!” He whispered.

“The test of Shiva! They shall take the test of Shiva!”


The news had spread all over King Atharva’s kingdom of Shivalika. The young princes were to take the legendary test of Shiva.

The 4-year-old cobbler’s son Gautam asked his father, “Baba, but what is this test?”

The father Baji chuckled and picked up a rounded blade. With it he drew a circle in the mud.

“Son, the princes will be seated in this circle. The prince who stays inside for the longest, shall have passed the test of Shiva.”

Gautam scratched his head looking puzzled.

“Baba that is so easy. Even I could do it!”

Baji smiled mysteriously and bowed to his son.

“Then you shall be king, young Gautama!”

At that moment Gautam noticed the ripe mangoes in a tree and lost all interest in the upcoming political turmoil. For the young child, between kings and the king of fruits, the choice wasn’t too hard to make.


It seemed like all of Shivalika had gathered around the royal maidan. The guards had drawn up the circle of Shiva and the aghoris had sanctified the space. Following protocol, the three princes walked into the circle wearing only a loose black dhoti. Unsure about what to do, each sat cross-legged within the circle.

King Atharva looked on from his throne and smiled uncertainly. A part of him was glad for having made a final decision. Yet in his heart he also knew that to leave your fate in the hands of Shiva may have been a wise move, but it was also a dangerous one.

Beneath the calm facade of a ruler, a father’s heart grew heavy.


It had been twenty one days and thirty three hours since the princes had been seated in the circle.

Meagre meals and a portable toilet were the only luxuries available to them. For the rest of the time, they sat, paced and lay down in the circle.

The eldest Mauntik soon felt like a caged animal. To him it seem like imperceptibly, the circle was shrinking. More and more, Mauntik’s eyes drifted to the horizon.

“So much…space. There’s so much space out there!” He muttered.

In the dead of the night the guards observed Mauntik crawl out of the circle. Later, spies informed King Atharva that Mauntik had been spotted in the remote mountains, living the life of a vagabond.

The king reflected upon how a love for solace had driven his eldest son away from everything else.

“And now two remain…” he whispered with a growing frown.


After another forty six days and seventeen hours, the youngest prince Bhomik felt a fierce longing.

Never had he breathed for so long without having read at least a single verse. He simply had to read something. Anything would do! The prince grew frantic with despair.

That’s when it happened.

The moonlight that fell upon the circle slowly morphed into cursive text. Bhomik’s eyes locked upon the verses. He read on as the lines filled up the circle.

Did he notice when the lines spread out of the circle? Did he realise that he had stepped out to follow them?

The king’s spies only informed Atharva that his youngest son now spent his days in a forest, gazing into the sky, muttering softly and seemingly reading a text only his eyes could see.

The old king felt lost. With Mauntik and Bhomik having failed the test, what hope was there for the lover of women and frolicking, prince Shomik?


For seventy three days and six hours, only prince Shomik remained in the circle.

The first few weeks, he had felt a fierce longing for honeyed wine. It had passed. Then Shomik felt himself in the grip of a lust that seemed to almost choke him. He tried hard to suppress it, but it only grew strong.

Then a voice whispered to him in his slumber.

“Do not resist it, do not fight it. Accept it.”

Shomik did not entirely understand the advice. But he followed it. The lust never went away however it no longer seemed to consume him.

For the first time in many years, the prince now felt a calming emptiness in his life. It had been a few weeks since both his brothers had left the circle. In this solitude, Showmik found himself reliving and relooking at all of his life. It felt like looking in the mirror and seeing the face of a stranger.

Is this really who I am? Who I was? The prince often wondered to himself.

Lost in his thoughts Shomik paced in the circle late at night, trying to deduce what he would be facing next.

“That is what you must understand my prince. As a king, you will never know what you face next.”

Shomik looked around and noticed the aghori sadhu seated in the shadows.

The young prince smiled.

“As a king, you say baba? It is good to know that I have passed the test!”

The aghori slowly shook his head.

“My prince, that is what you must understand. As a king you will always be in a circle.”

Shomik frowned, “What do you mean always?”

But the aghori was gone.


Time always plays tricks upon the mortal soul. The days seemingly do not end, yet the decades simply wither away.

King Shomik’s reign had lasted for over a century. A time which saw great prosperity in the kingdom of Shivalika. Now on his death bed with a daughter as the heir to the throne, the old king felt like he had arrived at an answer to a very old question.

“Have you really found an answer my king?”

Showmik opened his eyes and saw the aghori sadhu seated in the shadows. He no longer wondered how the aghori had gotten past his guards this late at night.

As best he could, Showmik joined his hands.

“Shiva, I am only your student, no king…”

The aghori Shiva in the shadows laughed softly.

“All right then my student, what answer have you found?”

Coughing in between, Showmik began speaking.

“A king will always be in a circle. Because…because there are limits to what any man can do or be.”

Showmik broke into another fit of coughs.

Shiva smiled kindly, “Do not tire yourself my wise son. Now sleep…”

The old king slept. In his dreams he witnessed the Universe take shape from an exploding tiny fragment. Stars crackled across the empty void and barren planets flourished with life. Kingdoms fell and rose, languages were reshaped and lost, with new ones taking their place.

Smiling softly the old king muttered, “Yes, indeed. Life goes on.”


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