World of Bukana: Pahli-Cha, the Puzzle-Walk

Pahli is the Bhodhani god of mazes, secrets, and enigmas. In that far-off land, they are but a single minor divinity amongst a multitude of gods. However, in the last several centuries, their worship has transcended that pantheon and has now spread out from the continent, forming its own, separate religion. Pahli-Cha (the Puzzle Walk) has made inroads throughout the region and has become the dominant religion in a number of smaller nations.

  The Pahli-Cha holds that mortal existence is a maze at whose center can be found Balance or enlightenment. Their teachings claim that there are a number of paths leading to the center. Travelers along each of these routes are guided by one of the Asura – demi-gods created by Pahli to assist mortals through the maze via one of the Six Sacred Endeavors. Usually referred to simply as “Paths,” they represent what the teachings claim to be those mortal struggles that can lead one to join Pahli in the Sky-Realm as one of their Enlightened Exarchs. It is not expected of mortals to have but a single attempt at Balance. A soul set along one of the Paths is in a cycle of birth, learning, death, and rebirth, reincarnating until they reach enlightenment. 

  The Pahli-Cha religion is largely administered through a loose-knit clergy as well as individual “wise ones” who are said to be those farthest along their paths to Balance and act as mentors. Temples are built by communities of the faith, particularly those led by wealthy nobles. These structures often house not only mazes, but vast libraries, gardens, conservatories, and laboratories. In Bukana, the northern nation of Anggrepohon has declared Pahli-Cha its national religion after the great Raja, Tanggul Maj I converted over two centuries ago. His descendents of the Matahari Dynasty still rule today and have created a number of magnificent temple mazes and compounds. Smaller communities of puzzle-walkers exist throughout the archipelago and their numbers seem to be on the rise.

  The Master of Mazes is represented as a humanoid standing in the Ibis-stance wearing a simple loin cloth. They are a hermaphroditic entity, depicted as having three faces: masculine with generally dwarf-like features (Baho), feminine elven (Ahn) , and a hooded face believed to be of neuter or fluid aspect (Ceneli). Each is bald and has a third eye in the middle of their forehead. Baho faces to the right, Ahn is central, and Cenali is to the left. Each aspect represents one of the three Great Ages; as these ages advance, the orientation of the faces change. The oldest Pahli carvings place Baho in the middle. Ahn was facing to the left and wore a loose veil. As the Age of Settling ended some one-thousand years ago, the deity’s images changed to its current form. The wise ones say that once the current Age of Seeing comes to an end, Cenali will reveal themselves and usher in a new, unknown time. Pahli has six arms with each holding an item that represents the Six Sacred Endeavors. The positioning of the specific items is one of the few regional variations observed in the depictions of the god. Their bare chest is featureless save for a series of intricate, maze-like tattoos.

  Native adherents to the Pahli-Cha in Bukana are largely human or orang utan. Foreign puzzle-walkers are quite numerous though, with elves and vanara well represented. Outside of the islands, the pious often shave their heads completely or leave a braided queue of varying length. Indigenous Bukanans often leave a long ponytail instead, thereby marrying local and outside customs. Head and chest tattoos are quite common amongst these practitioners; they usually use styles emulating those of their patron. Puzzle-walkers tend to dress simply, sometimes going bare-chested when conditions allow.

The Asura and their Sacred Endeavors are listed below:

Asura GuideAlignmentPathDomainSymbolWorshippers
Garima, trainer of body & mindNSacred VesselGloryClenched FistWarriors, Monks
Bora, curator of knowledgeNSacred TruthDivinationRolled ScrollBards, Historians
Indah, singer of beauty & loveCNSacred SoulBeautyPaint BrushArtists, Bards
Ambhom, navigator of the starsLNSacred SkyDivinationSextantSailors, Astrologers
Nuveena, parent of home & communityNGSacred TribeAgricultureHammerBuilders, Healers
Opame, keeper of magical powerNESacred PowerDestructionBroma Hand-Sign AflameWizards, Mathematicians
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