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Vendhyans

  Vendhya was a land of ancient gods and great riches. Vendhya was a roughly triangular peninsula lying between Kosala and Khitai, south of the Himelian Mountains. Vendhya was tropical in climate, with  wide expanses of untamed jungle though it also possessed some of the richest and densely populated cities in the Hyborian world, such as Ayodhya, Gwandiakan, Peshkhauri and Khorala. Vendhya was a fertile land, except in the stony regions of the Himelian foothills. Vendhya’s agriculture was well-developed, and there was also a thriving industry of silk and woven products, especially the famed Vendhyan carpets. In the north, mines provided copper, silver, gold and iron; the southern coast, however, had poor seaports,  which channeled most of Vendhya’s trade overland. Vendhya’s jungles provided a variety of fascinating animal life. Elephants, tigers, panthers, cheetahs, gazelles and gorillas could be found, and beautifully colored birds filled the trees. Yaks and oxen wandered through the highlands of the north, and some were domesticated by the hill peoples. Because of the kingdom’s great wealth, Vendhya was always at risk of aggression from the Empire of Turan to its northwest.

Vendhyan products included herbs, spices, sandalwood, jade, mother-of-pearl and other natural substances worked into intricately carved pieces of distinctive beauty. Vendhya was also the source of several drugs, including various forms of lotus blossom. Vendhya’s various cities possessed a strictly stratified, caste-based society, much like Turan and Khitai, only older and even more rigid. Heading the kingdom was the ruler/scholar caste, the Brahma, made up of the nobility of the original invading light-skinned Hyrkanian tribes; below them was the warrior caste, or Kshatriyas, also of Hyrkanian descent who ruled and served in the armies; below them lay the craftsmen and townsmen, called Vaisyas, who provided the backbone of the Vendhyan manufacturing economy; and finally, the Sudra, or peasants, the most populous caste. Below all lay the Untouchables, Vendhyans whose lowly birth left them with the ritually unclean tasks of cleaning up garbage, slaughtering animals and preparing corpses for burial or cremation.

In theory, birth determined a Vendhyan’s caste. In practice, over the millennia of the Vendhyan civilization, there has been so much interbreeding that there is little outward distinction between the members of the various castes. All Vendhyans had light brown skin; they tended to be short and stocky,  with round heads. The Kshatriyas tended to be more slender than average for a Vendhyan, with a characteristic hooked nose.

The Vendhyans were well versed in the arts of treachery and double dealing. It was said that every  Vendhyan spied for at least two others, and often for more. Their treacheries, however, were less devious than those of Khitai; the Kshatriyan code of honor that remained from their Hyrkanian origins deplored direct lies, and most Vendhyan deception consisted of the “truth not told,” or the careful shading of  words to give impressions, without actually lying. Spying, per se, was not considered treachery; the  Vendhyans themselves knew it went on, and it made the sharing of a secret all that more meaningful in  Vendhya. “The whole truth is a gift for your dearest friend alone,” says the Vendhyan proverb.

Vendhyans worshiped their own pantheon of gods. There were many holy men among the  Vendhyans who traveled from village to village, demonstrating their mystic power to the gathering crowds and performing strange feats for all to view. The villagers paid what they can for these miracles as a sign of respect for both the men and the gods they represented. They believed some holy men to be nature spirits, who walked among men to inspect the human domain. The Vendhyans worshiped both the Elder Gods of the Earth and Heavens (nature spirits) and the Gods of the Other Worlds (traditional deities). Foremost of these was the god Asura the Enlightened, who taught that all living beings reincarnated after death, and that the purpose of life was the paying of the karmic debt against the soul. Each evil act extended the cycle of endless reincarnations; each good act shortened it and brought the soul closer to ultimate enlightenment and unity with the Creator, or Brahma. Other Vendhyan gods included Hanuman,  whose children were the great apes of the jungle, Ganesha, the great elephant god of good fortune, and the evil Kali, who drank human blood and fed on living hearts.

One of the most disturbing customs of the Vendhyans for Hyborians was the requirement that noble women must be burned alive on their husbands’ funeral pyres to demonstrate their devotion to their husbands in death as well as life. Vendhyans were allowed many wives, but only the unlucky first wife was required to engage in this practice.

Names:  Vendhyan names tend to be Indian in origin. Examples: (male) Bunda, Chand, Chunder, Gitara, Khemsa, Khurum, Shan; (female) Yasmina. Suggestions: (male) Darshan, Iswara, Kintan, Purdy, Ravi; (female) Ambika, Bakula, Chandi, Dhanna, Hema, Indira, Malini, Rajni.