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Paras- The Money Plant

11th March, 1998, Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India.

The Police involved in a massive manhunt is chasing a notorious criminal Prabhakar who was wanted for many crimes like- murders, cheating, smugling etc.Prabhkar enters the forest of Junona and as usual elopes mysteriously into the forest. The police takes help of special task force and even the aerial search by helicopter could not locate Prabhakar. People just spread the gossip that the mystery man has dissappeared once again, with the police machinery left clueless.

19 th March,1998, Nagpur

The Chief Minister holds meeting with the Police chief , Collector and MLA of Chandrapur. He is angry as there is public outcry over the latest killing of Seth Chunalal, the owner of largest Jewellary outlets in Vidharba by Prabhakar. The chief Minister gives 1 month time to the Police chief and says he wants Prabhakar, dead or alive, no compromise.


18th April, 1998, Chandrapur

The whole of Junona Jungle is covered by the massive manhunt operation from last 1 month in search of Prabhakar.The police, rapid action force, special commandos and some paramilitary forces have spread over in the whole of Junona forest and every corner was searched for tracing Prabhakar. Suddenly a cop comes to Inspector Dhote who is the Incharge of the operation and conveys some top secret message. Inspector Dhote along with his subordinates leaves towards the mysterious well as per the tip off from one of the informer.

The police team enter the well from the steps where Prabhakar was spotted by the informer.The Police realize that the well is not just a normal well to fetch the water and Prabhakar has not come here to drink water. Infact it leads to a maze which was the hiding place of Prabhakar, hence every time the Police chased Prabhakar he could easily manage to run away into the maze which was unknown to anybody except a few old folks in the Jungle. The Police tries to enter the maze but it was not less than Alibaba and Chalis chor's Khulja Sim Sim. Every path inside the underground maze lead to two other paths. Thus a person who enters inside would never know which of the two was the right one and thus would keep on moving without reaching the other end. It was a bhul-bhullaiya sort of cleverly built maze and only an aquaintance can reach the other end of it.

The Police team came back and thought of a plan. They would enter the maze in the darkness of night and wait for Prabhakar to come out as it was expected that he would come out atleast in search of food and water. As soon as he is spotted they would chase him without killing him till he reaches the dead end and finally either Prabhakar would either be arrested or eliminated.

After waiting for 3 days finally the trick worked. The Police could clandestinely watch Prabhakar slowly coming out of the maze, may be he was hungry. As soon Prabhakar came near the gate of Maze towards the well shaped entrance, towards the steps to climb up and come out the police fired at him. Realizing the threat Prabhakar started running inside the maze and the Police chased him shooting intermittanty without actually hitting him but keeping him under panic to maintain the pace. Thus Prabhakar was killed in the encounter as he retaliated at the police after reaching inside the maze towards the dead end.

Although the story of Pabhakar came to an end the actual story began with the unravelling of the mysterious maze.The maze was sealed for investigation. The archaelogical Survey of India accompanied by the secret service agents of the crime branch arrived to the place to investigate the mystery.Prima facie conclusion was the maze may be built by the King of Chandrapur as a safe heaven or place of worship as the King was already famous for many of his architectural works in Chandrapur fort.

History of Chandrpur dates back to 1450 AD, when the foundation of todays Chandrapur was led by the then Gond King Khandkya Ballalshah.Veer Ballalshah as popularly known built the walled city of Chandrapur as the capital for his Gond Kingdom in Vidharba.The work of fortification wall enclosing the city was started by Khandikya Ballal Shah under his Rajput officers called Tel Thakurs. It was completed by Dhundia Ballal Shah in the 15th century AD. The fortification consists of 4 gates, Jatpura to
the north (where the Jat regiment resided to protect the fort), Pathanpura to the south(where the Pathan regiment resided),Achaleshwar to the east (where the famous temple of lord Shiva was built) and Vinba or Ghor to the west. In addition, there are 5 wicket gates called Chor, Vithoba, Hanumant,Masan and Bagad. The Gond royal crest i.e. a lion mounting on an elephant, are carved on all of them.

The King of Chandrapur was an ardent devotee of Godess Mahakali and built the famous Mahalkali temple where every year a fare is held and the devotees from all across th state come to worship the Godess during the Navratra. Ballalshah also built many underground tunnels to escape from the fort in case of any attack from the enemy. The maze of Junona was believed to be one among them. Although most of these underground tunnels were blocked by the present government to avoid any untowered incidents the one in Junona forest was left as such because of its geographical location in forest and lack of knowledge about the maze.

The officers investigating the maze started finding many surprising secrets in the maze and underground tunnel.They could find many epithets in sanskrit stating the history of the maze. As the officers reached deep inside the maze they saw a plant with extraordinary lustrous and gliterring fruits. The tree was encircled by a huge serpent. Dealing with the serpent was a tough job as any mistake could damage the mysterious tree.

The investigating officers started gathering information from the villagers and tribals in the forest to overcome the problem. The villagers could only give the clue of one Ramakrisna baba, a sage who knew the mystery of maze and no one never ever dared to enter the maze as some people were killed by the serpent in their attempt to enter the maze.

The officers visited the sage who was in deep meditation in the dense forest of Junona. They asked him regarding the maze and its mystery. Baba Ramakrishna with his deep intuition and knowledge of the epithets told them the story of the Maze and the mysterious "Money Plant".

The mystic sage RamaKrishana started to unravel the secret of the Money Plant.He told that the then king of Chandrapur Veer Ballalshah being a devotee of shakti used to visit many place of religious importance. Once he went to Somnur Sangam which is the confluence of three rivers- Godavari,Indravati and Pranahita. Somnur Sangam is a famous religious place of Hindus and the King went there for a holy bath in the month of Shravan.After having the bath in the confluence and while perfoming the Arghya the king noticed a glitering shrub at the river basin.He was curious to know how could a small plant shine in the sun and was really moved by the miraculous plant. The king decided to carry the plant to Chandrapur and plant it in his palace.After coming back from the Somnur Sangam the King told the story to Queen.The beautiful and virtous queen of chandrapur carefully observed the money plant and said that it should be planted in some safe and remote place as it could attract the attention of neighbouring rulers especially the Nagpur king and thus could be a cause of their defeat.The king agreed with the queen and planted it in the maze in Junona Jungle.

The king used to visit the plant every monday in shravan month to offer his prayers.He started to gather the information regarding the mysterious gliterring money plant but in vain, nobody was aware of its unique property.One day somebody among the Kings courtesans informed him that there is a person named Sanyasi in GanjiRamayyapetha village who is an alchemist and herbal physician and understands the properties of many forest herbs and uses them to cure many diseases. They told that he could be able to tell about the mystery of Money plant.The king ordered his courtesan to immediately summon Sanyasi and ask him to appear infront of him.

Sanyasi was an austere bramachari who used to work as a peasant in the farms of GanjiRamayya who was the village head and rich merchant of Ganjiramayyapetha village in Sironcha Tehsil of the then Chandrapur riyasat.He told GanjiRamayya regarding the summon. GanjiRamayya told him not to bear any fear and accompanied Sanyasi to the Chandrapur Kings Darbar.

The King took Sanyasi to the Maze where the Money plant was in a full bloom glittering tree with golden fruits.The King asked Sanyasi to explain why the tree has glitter and why the fruits are golden. Sanyasi observed the tree-its trunk, root,shoot, fruits etc and immediately recollected the fact of "Swarnaphala" the tree with golden fruits which his forefathers told him as a folk lore.Sanyasi hailed rom a family of alchemists who were from the school of thought that base metals can be converted into gold by some treatment and believed that "Paras- the golden touch stone" had such properties of converting base metals into gold.

According to him his fore fathers used to sing the yakshaganas (folklores in tribal language)about this tree.The yakshaganas stated that the famous Kaktiya emperor Pratap Rudra on behest of his clever Prime Minister fought the war with the tribal Goddess Samakka in Medaram village in Telengana.Samakka colloquially called as the Jhansi ki Rani of Telangana fought bravely the battle of Medaram and was wounded by treachery of kakatiya soldiers. As per the Mythological yakshagana she was the abode of Goddess Mahakali and born in the tribal forest for the upliftment of the tribals.The Goddess disappeared mysteriously into the forest and in a cave she appeared as a Vermillion in a tiny box.Since then every two years there is a fare called Medaram Samakka Sarakka Jatara to commemorate the valiant fight of a mother and daughter, Sammakka and Saralamma alia sarakka, with the reigning rulers against an unjust law. It is believed that after Kumbha Mela, the Medaram jatara attracts the largest number of devotees in the country and is the largest tribal congregation in the world.It is believed that later on Emperor Praptarudra faced the curse of the Goddess Samakka and lost his kingdom to the Delhi Sultanate.While trying to elope from Warangal the Kakatiya capital to Bastar via Pratapgiri (the fort for transition of Kakitiyas)the last Kakatiya king threw the Paras Mani inside the Somnur Sangam to divert the chasing enemies and escape safely into the forests of Bastar where they established the new kingdom Bastar Riyasat and worshipped goddess Danteshwari.Thus the traces of this Paras Mani are said to be absorbed by this suwarnaphala tree by capillary action as the tree has unique roots specially adapted for absoring minerals and metallic matter and this tree can only be found in the basin of Somnur Sangam where the serpents get attracted towards the glittering tree thinking it as Nagmani and thus the tree is protected from thieves. The villagers worship the swarnaphala tree on Nagula chauthi which is the Nagpanchai like festival of the tribals.With the passage of time the snake charmers gained the skill to capture the serpents and thus harnessed the golden fruits and earned lot of money, thus the swarnaphala tree was in extreme demand and became almost extinct due to the greed of people.Also only one in million such tree which came in contact with the traces of Paras money could only produce the golden fruits and was called money plant.Sanyasi told as the king was an ardent devotee of Goddess Mahakali who is also considered to be the incarnation of Shakti he was blessed with this gift of swarnaphala by the Goddess.

Centuries after the tree was secretly nurtured and protected in the maze by Veer Ballalshah the swarnaphala was found by Prabhakar who was also a tribal snake charmer migrated to Chandrapur city and worked in the jewellary shop of seth Chunalal.The greed to earn more money instantly lead to a feud between Prabhakar and Seth Chunalal and thus the tragedy of murder of Chunalal which once again substantiates the famous fable of Aesop "The goose and the golden eggs."

The government has appointed special task force to search such plants in the basin of Somnur Sangam and has announced scholarship for research on "The Biochemical Aspects of Swarnaphala- a transition of alchemy to biometallurgy"

I could only wakeup from the day dozing dream after the Kadipatta I was holding pricked my nose and was still in the inertial frame of losing the Money plant.

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