Maharashtra, Home of Gnomes
Meta-Setting Wiki Update
There’s a little bit of a story behind the story of my gnomes. Every race in 3rd and 3.5 D&D has a favoured class, which reduces certain penalties to experience. I also like to think of it as generally indicative of some common elements in their culture. Now, when I started writing the setting we were playing 3rd edition, and the favoured class of gnomes was the Illusionist, a kind of specialist wizard, and were typically characterized as merry pranksters. Which doesn’t lead itself to any kind of sustainable culture. Happily, when we converted to 3.5, their favoured class changed to Bard, which was something I could work with. While leaving room for the same kind of free-spirited pranks, I imagined a race that traveled the world collecting stories and experiences and brought them home. Without further ado, the gnomish homeland.
Maharashtra, the short version.
The gnomish nation of Maharashtra’s boundaries are clearly set, marked by crystals anchored in the very bedrock of the land. Gnomes often leave, being the wandering type, but they always return, and never settle anywhere else. A gnome (to others, Suraj in their own language, which is also called Suraj) must be born in Maharashtra, and must make an effort to die there. Suraj that die in the outside world are barred from Rahda, the Everlife. The idea of Rahda is similar to the Hindu notion of dharma (path, goal, way, end. Telos to the Greeks, Tao to the Chinese) and reincarnation. It is the belief of the Suraj that being born Suraj is the final step toward truly transcending Rahda. This is both a great honor and a great responsibility. If a gnome dies within the boundaries of Maharashtra, and they aren’t ready for transcendence, they’ll be reborn as Suraj, to try again. If they die outside, they are dead, their Chetan lost forever. This is the central belief of their culture, and aspects of it permeate every facet of their art, philosophy, religion, politics…You name it.
The nation itself is ruled, if you can call it that, by the Shailaja, who is the daughter of the mountain, and the sister of the Suraj. From there, it’s run like a family. All Suraj, either through blood or through Rahda, are related. The only honorifics are those that are family related. The Shailaja herself, who dwells at the foot of Mahbharata, is often addressed as aunt, a sign that all Suraj claim blood ties to her, but not direct line. That’s the closest the country gets to being run like a normal country. The Shailaja isn’t a ruler, she’s more like a senior family member, often called upon to adjudicate serious family disputes, or make decisions. She doesn’t, however, make laws, or enforce punishments. The Suraj have no laws among them forbidding murder, theft, slavery, or rape. Such an act would be ill-fitting of Suraj, and an abuse of the mutual respect they share as a people on the doorstep of ascension. These things do happen, from time to time, but such individuals are more pitied than punished, though particularly dangerous individuals are usually put to death, in the hope that they will learn better in their next life.
The position of Shailaja is determined by a number of factors, but it is believed that the Shailaja herself is eternal. When all of the Suraj, all of the peoples of the world, have transcended Rahda, she will be there to turn out the lights and lock the doors. When a Shailaja grows close to death, she walks among the population until she finds a young girl, usually about eight years of age, to succeed her. Being chosen is both a great honor and a great sorrow, because during the rite of transference, the girl’s Chetan will be sent along to its next life, its current one cut short when the Shailaja’s Chetan asserts itself.
The foreign policy of Maharashtra is about what you’d expect from a people who believe that all peoples will, with luck and work, one day be Suraj. Great sailors and traders, they are also canny diplomats, who work to orchestrate the transcendence of other, less fortunate races. Such is the burden of the Suraj, and a burden that all Suraj must take up at some point in their lives, risking their Chetan by leaving their homeland, attempting to learn about the world and its peoples, attempting to bring some knowledge, some mystery of value to the Rahda when they die. Their proudest point of recent history was when their work in the lands to the west came together, and the warring nations there formed Nafaanra, the “Gathering of Great People”, and have enjoyed a peace that has lasted longer than three centuries.
Religion is a big part of Maharashtran society, it’s an everyday sort of thing. There are shrines, and temples, and rites, and festivals. They’re all so much a part of life that they’re almost cultural, and not religious. To most Suraj, every day is sacred. Every day is a chance to follow dharma, and work toward ascension in their own way, or at least work toward adding to the Rahda. In the ecclesiastical orders of Maharashtra, it’s not uncommon to find more Cloistered Clerics and Divine Bards than regular Clerics, because much of their lore is seen as tapping into the knowledge of the Rahda. Another unusual thing about their religion is that all of the major gods and goddesses are neutral in one respect or another. At the pentagonal table of the gods, Saraswati (LN), keeper of the waters, sits across from Agni (CN), the bearer of the flame, at the point. Next to Agni sits Parvati (NG), wellspring of mercy, and beside Saraswati is Vinay (NE), tester and tempter of dharma. At the head of the table, which is also the foot, sits Om (N), genderless lord of the fields and beasts, maintainer of all things. These gods have many children, some say hundreds, from the great goddess Chandra (CN), the moon, daughter of Om and Agni, to Surya (LN), the sun, son of Saraswati and Om, to minor gods such as Purushottama (LG), the best man, son of Manu (LN) and Parvati, and Rajani (LE), the dagger of secrets, daughter of Manu and Maya (NE).
Maharashtra’s history is possibly the longest record of history in the world. Ever since the Suraj have existed, they have sought the knowledge of the world, and brought it home. Their entire country is marked with that knowledge, a mishmash of architectural and artistic styles, Suraj interpretations of the works of foreigners. The Suraj remember. They remember the formation of the Xiang Empire to the northeast, the fall of the Dwarven city of Chakkanhatgiphong to the north, and the appearance of humans in this part of the world. They remember their first contact with the Yudae of the Nirmala, the minotaurs, and the beginning of that four thousand year old alliance. However, they also remember that a little knowledge in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing. Even in the public archives, many pieces of history and truths are buried behind layers of secrets, deceptions, and illusions. Maya is not only the goddess of physical illusions, but of spiritual and social ones. As Suraj move closer to transcendence, they know more, unravelling the mysteries, if such is their dharma.
Maharashtra at War:
The Suraj have no interest in the expansion of their borders, set in stone by Om itself, and thus never wage offensive war. Their skills as diplomats and their renown for showing respect to other races and cultures often defuses hostile situations before they can break into warfare. However, it is unwise to take their respect and deferrance as weakness. Once, and only once, did the army of the Xiang cross into Maharashtra, under the leadership of the warlord Zhong Jun Yu. They razed a town before the Shailaja could properly marshal a defense, with every Suraj within a hundred miles of the site, from merchant to mage, taking up arms against the invading force. As well, powerful diplomats have powerful allies. The pact with the hardy Nirmala extends beyond the use of their ships and passage over the sea. Since the inauguration of Nafaanra, even the boldest official in the Xiang Empire realizes the folly of attempting warfare with the Suraj.
Magic in Maharashtra:
The Suraj have very little need for the magic schools of others, as their own is far older. On occasion, Suraj magi will visit the fortress-academy of the Imaskari at Jalaa, or the university at Pawiak, but such visits are usually carried out during the Suraj’s period of wanderlust, rather than any need for basic training in theory or practice. It is much the same for the bardic college. Clerics do the most travelling, looking upon the gods of foreigners as different ideas of Suraj gods, or different children of the five-sided table. Within Maharashtra itself, magic has been incorporated into everyday life, without there being a great focus on arcane magic, like in Arkonia, or in religious magic, like in Reme. Magic is just another tool that you use. Dharma is what matters.