It was a vivid dream. A dream so vivid that even today I can recall the most minute details. And it had seemed so real. There I was, in a huge, grand and magnificent temple. And yet it was as if I wasn’t there – no one could see me or feel my presence, but I was there.
The temple was huge, the stones a delicate shade of pinkish brown. The gopuram was richly adorned with numerous carvings and statuettes.
A king and his minister were walking around the temple, offering prayers at the different shrines and talking. I could hear every word they said, and I knew about the background of what they were talking about – don’t ask me how – I did. How did I know that it was a king and his minister? That too I don’t know. I just did. This was quite amazing to me, given the fact that the king was not dressed like the ones you see on TV or in the movies. He was in his late forties, tall, well-built, and had the bearing of a monarch. He was wearing a panchakachcham-type garment, and had a long cloth draped about his shoulders. A clear, strong face with a prominent moustache. Hair long and black. No ornaments. No gold. Just a kingly presence.
The minister too was quite different from the movies. Grey hair with beard to match, a little shorter than the king, but otherwise quite similar to the monarch in dress and demeanour. And they were worried. The king’s only daughter was in love with the minister’s only son. This would mean that the minister’s son would be the next king. But that was not the problem. The problem was the commander of the king’s army, an ambitious and powerful general who wanted his son to marry the princess. This was what was worrying the two – they feared for the life of the minister’s son. And about this they were talking.
~ pause ~
We were in the royal palace. A much smaller place that the temple, but grand nevertheless. Large rooms with small, easily defendable doorways. Doors covered with curtains that seemed to be made from some kind of reed mats. And a central open space where the king could enjoy a natural shower when it rained!
The king was waiting for the minister, a worried look on his face. When the minister arrived, he rushed to meet him, and the two put their heads together and came up with a plan. They would smuggle the princess and her beau out of the city, which was virtually under seige by the general’s men. The couple would get married at a temple outside the city and return to a public welcome. The king and the minister would welcome them with open arms and in public. This would tie the general’s hands, as he then could not do anything. But then, if they were caught by the general on their way out or at the temple, it would mean certain death for the minister’s son. This plan was finally fixed, and the minister left.
~ pause ~
The king and his minister, and of course I, were at the temple. The minister was telling the king that everything had worked out according to plan. The general, knowing that he was beaten, had sent his son away to some far frontier. At this the king hugged the minister and broke into laughter and tears. The two waited, beaming, looking at the temple entrance, waiting for the newlyweds.
At this point I woke up.
“So what?” you may ask. Everyone has vivid dreams. Everyone remembers some dream or the other clearly. What made this dream spectacular was what happened after about three months.
I had gone on a field visit to Thanjavur District, in Tamil Nadu. After the visit, we were to catch a train from Thanjavur. Since we had some time, we thought we would take in the sights of the city, as none of us had been to Thanjavur before. So we went to the Brihadeeswarar Temple. And guess what. As I stepped into the courtyard, I stopped, stunned. This was the very temple where I had been in the dream. I had never seen this temple before in my life, not in pictures, not in the movies, not anywhere. As I went around the temple, I could see all the sculptures I had seen in my dream. Only older, the passing of a few centuries. Before I turned a corner, I thought to myself, “this sculpture should be next”, and when I turned the corner, it was there! This was mind blowing. A firm rationalist, I was for once stuck for answers. Vividly, I knew which sculpture would be where, and looked for it and found it. I walked around in a daze, totally lost for explanations.
When I recounted this to a friend who was a self-proclaimed spiritualist, she said that what I thought was a dream was in fact an out-of-body experience, where I had travelled both in space and time! This was exciting, very exciting.
Recently, I went back to the Thanjavur temple, and each time I saw it, it filled me with wonder and awe. For I felt that I had seen it as it was meant to be seen by its builders, in all its glory. Out-of-body experience or not, this still remains one of those things that one can never forget.