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"Ponniyin Selvan"

of Kalki Krishnamurthy


English Translation
by Indra Neelameggham

Part IA New Floods (chapters 1 30)


1993 Indra Neelameggham

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Part 1-A
[Chapters 1 - 30]
N Ne ew w F Fl lo oo od ds s
Translated 1990
By
Indra Neelameggham
Salt Lake City, Utah.
With much thanks to
R.Neelameggham and
Elizabeth Ramadorai
for editing help.
Translation Copyright Indra Neelameggham
2
A Guide To Pronouncing
More or less phonetic spelling is used for proper names, place names and literary works. Tamil words are used
when inevitable. English spelling for place names use the more popular anglicized version -- Tanjore instead of
Tanjavur -- when applicable.
The letters zl are used to denote the Tamil alphabet/sound . There is no known way to symbolize this in
English. Thus the name `Cho a' is written as Chozla. It can be pronounced with the Z silent as in Chola, Paluvoor
etc.
(For further details on Chozla history of this period, refer to Colas by Prof K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Madras University Historical
Series 9, 1955, reprinted 1984, University of Madras, India.)
Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan
Part I -- New Floods [Part A]
Chapter .............. Page
1 Aadi Festival .............. 3
2 Azlvar-adiyan Nambi .............. 5
3 Vinnagara Temple .............. 7
4 Kadamboor Fort .............. 10
5 The Gypsy Dance .............. 12
6 Midnight Meeting .............. 15
7 Laughter And Hatred .............. 17
8 Who Is In The Palanquin? .............. 19
9 Wayside Chitchat .............. 21
10 The Astrologer of Kudanthai .............. 24
11 Sudden Entry .............. 27
12 Nandini .............. 31
13 The Waxing Moon .............. 34
14 A Crocodile On The River Bank .............. 38
15 Vanathi's Tricks .............. 39
16 Arulmozli Varma .............. 41
17 The Horse Galloped .............. 43
18 Idumban Kari .............. 44
19 Battlefield And Forest .............. 47
20 The First Enemy .............. 49
21 The Curtains Parted .............. 52
22 Velaikara Battalion Of Velirs .............. 54
23 Amudan's Mother .............. 57
24 A Cuckoo And A Crow .............. 60
25 Inside The Fort ............... 62
26 Danger! Danger! .............. 63
27 Court Poets .............. 65
28 Iron Grip .............. 67
29 "Our Guest" .............. 69
30 Art Gallery .............. 71
3
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 1 -- Aadi Festival
We welcome our readers to get into the boat of
imagination and go sailing down the flood of sourceless,
endless time. Let us travel a century for every second and
quickly reach the times of a thousand years before the
present.
In the southern end of Thirumunaipadi, which lies in
between the Thondai Kingdom and the Chozla Kingdom,
about two leagues far to the west of Thillai Chittrambalam,
(Chidambaram Town) there spreads an ocean-like
reservoir. It is known as Veera Narayana Lake. It is about
a league and a half long north to south and about half a
league wide east to west. Time has twisted its name: for
these days the reservoir is known as Veeraanatthu Lake.
In the windy months of Aadi-Aavani (August), when new
floods fill the reservoir to almost overflow, anyone who
looks at the Veera Narayana lake will surely recall with
pride and astonishment the splendid deeds of our ancestors
in Tamil Nadu. Did those ancients do things merely for the
welfare of themselves and the people of their own times?
... They fulfilled tasks that would benefit thousands of
future generations in their sacred motherland.
On the 18th day of the month of Aadi, in the early hours of
the evening, a young warrior, mounted on a horse, was
riding down the banks of this ocean-like Veera Narayana
Lake. He belonged to the Vaanar clan which is famous in
the history of the gallant Tamils.
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan was his name. Having
travelled a long distance and being worn and weary, his
horse was walking along rather slowly. The young cavalier
did not seem concerned about this. The sprawling reservoir
had so enchanted his heart!
It was common for rivers of the Chozla Kingdom to run
with flood waters touching both banks during the Aadi
month festival of Padhinettam Perukku. The lakes fed by
these rivers would also be filled to capacity, with waves
jostling and colliding upon their embankments. Waters
from the river called North Cauvery by the devout, but
commonly known as Kollidam, rushed into the Veera
Narayana Lake, through the Vadavaru stream and made it
a turbulent sea.
Seventy four floodgates on the lake distributed the bounty
via aqueducts to distant tracts of the country side. With
these irrigation waters from the lake, activities such as
ploughing, sowing and seed transplanting were being
carried out as far as the eye could see.
Here and there, the song of farmers who were ploughing
and women who were transplanting created a pleasant and
joyous music. Listening to all this, Vandiya Devan was
riding quite slowly, without prodding his tired horse. As
soon as he had climbed the embankment, he had started
counting the floodgates with the intention of finding out if
popular claims, which declared the lake to have seventy-
four floodgates, were true! After having come about one
and a half leagues along the bank, he had counted seventy
gates.
Aha! How huge is this lake? How wide and how long? Can
we not say that the tanks built by the great Pallava
monarchs in the Thondai Kingdom are mere ponds and
pools compared with this immense reservoir? Did not
Prince Raja-aditya son of King Paranthaka who conquered
Madurai, think of building this great tank to conserve the
waters of the North Cauvery which were going wastefully
into the sea? And did he not execute his thinking into
action? How great a genius he must have been! Who can
we compare to his brave nobility! During the battle at
Takkolam, did he not, riding an elephant go to the
forefront and single handed, enter combat? And in the
course of that confrontation did he not receive enemy
spears on his chest and give up his very life? And because
of it did he not get the title Deva who reposed atop the
elephant as he departed for the heavens meant for the
brave? These kings of the Chozla Dynasty are remarkable!
They were just as just as they were brave! And as in justice
they excelled in the veneration of their Gods.
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan's shoulders swelled with
pride when he thought of his good fortune in having
received the friendship of a Chozla prince of such a
dynasty. Just like the waves that dashed against the banks
of the lake because of the swift western breeze, his heart
too bubbled with gratification and pride. Thinking all such
thoughts Vandiya Devan reached the southern end of
Veera Narayana Lake.
There he could view the panorama of the Vadavaru stream
separating from the North Cauvery and falling into the
lake. For a short distance inside the embankment, the lake
shore was silted forming a sandy beach. A number of
casuarina trees and wood-apple trees had been planted on
the beach so that rising flood waters would not destroy the
embankment. Nanal reeds had grown thickly along the
water's edge. From a distance, the scenic view of the
rushing waters from the tree lined North River merging
into the lake in the south-west, seemed like a colorful,
newly created painting. Vandiya Devan saw a few other
things that increased the pleasing joyousness of this
enchanting scene. Was it not the day of the Aadi Festival?
Crowds of people from nearby villages, dragging their
carts covered with canopies of sandal-colored, supple
coconut-leaves, were coming there. Men, women, children
and even several elderly folks all wearing new clothes and
vividly dressed in various ways had come. Bunches of
fragrant flowers, such as the hearts of country cactus,
chrysanthemum, jasmine, gardenia, champaka and
iruvatchi decorated the braids of women.
4
Several had come with families bringing stewed rice and
fancy picnic foods. Some stood by the water's edge and ate
their picnic rice-dishes from platters of plantain-flower
petals. Others, more brave, had ventured further into the
water to cross over to the bank of the Vadavaru. Some
children threw the platters from which they had eaten into
the floodgates and clapped their hands with laughter to see
the petals float through the gates to be rushed onto the
canals. Some mischievous young men plucked the flowers
off the heads of their loved ones and threw them into the
water, merely to see them being cast upon the shore.
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan stood there watching all this
for a while. He listened with an eager ear when some of
the girls with pleasant voices sang. They sang traditional
boat-songs and flood-songs as well as folk songs like
Kummi and Sindhu.
Come, oh ye young maidens,
Look at the North river bubbling by!
Come watch, oh ye friends,
Look at the White river rushing by!
Come, oh come all ye girls,
To look at the Cauvery tumbling by!
Such flood-songs pleasingly flooded the ears of Vandiya
Devan. Others sang ballads about the bravery and fame of
Chozla kings. Some girls sang of Vijayala Chozla who had
fought in thirty-two battles and had worn his ninety-six
body wounds like ornaments. Others sang acclaiming the
bravery of his son, Aditya Chozla, and how he constructed
sixty-four Shiva temples all along the Cauvery - from
where it rose till it mingled into the sea. One girl sang the
fame of King Aditya's son, Paranthaka Chozla, who had
not only conquered the Pandiya, Pallava and Chera kings
but had also sent an army to Lanka to hoist his victory flag.
When each girl sang, several people stood around her
listening with rapt attention. They applauded with loud
shouts of "Ah, ah" and expressed their happiness!
An elderly woman noticed Vandiya Devan who was sitting
on his horse and listening to all this. "Thambi! You seem
to have come from a long distance; you are tired! Come
down from your horse to eat this stewed rice," she said.
Immediately several young girls noticed our youthful
traveller. They whispered amongst themselves about his
appearance and laughed merrily. Vandiya Devan was
overcome by a certain mortification on one side and
delight on the other. For a moment he considered
dismounting and eating the food offered by the old
woman. If he did so, the young maids would surely gather
around to tease and laugh.
So what? Is it easy to behold so many beautiful maidens in
one place? Even their laughter and teasing would be
heavenly music. In Vandiya Devan's eyes all those girls on
the lake shore appeared like the heavenly nymphs Ramba
and Menaka!
At the same time he noticed something towards the south-
west along the flow of River Vadavaru and hesitated.
About seven or eight large boats with white, spreading
sails filled with the breeze were coming swiftly like white
swans floating with wide-spread wings.
All the people engaged in various merriments turned to
avidly look in the direction from which the boats were
coming. One of the boats came forward more swiftly and
reached the lake shore where the embankment turned west.
Several well-built footmen carrying sharp & shiny spears
were in that boat. Some of them jumped on to the lake
shore and started shoving the people with shouts of "Go!
Move!" Before being pushed around too much, the people
picked up their containers and belongings and quickly
started climbing upon the bank. Vandiya Devan could not
understand any of this. Who were these men? Who were
coming in the sailboats behind them? Where were they
coming from? Perhaps they belonged to the royal
household?
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan approached an elderly man
leaning upon his cane by the bank. "Sir, whose men are
these? And whose boats are those coming behind like a
school of swans? Why are these footmen chasing away the
people? And why are the people hurrying away?" came his
questions, one upon the other.
"Thambi! Do you not know? There is a flag flying in the
middle of those sailboats. See what is embossed on it!"
said the elder.
"Seems like a palm tree."
"It is a palm tree! Don't you know that the palmtree-flag
belongs to the Lord of Pazluvoor?"
"Is it the great warrior, Lord Pazluvoor, who is coming?"
asked Vandiya Devan in a startled voice.
"It must be so. Who else could raise the palmtree-flag and
come?" said the elderly man.
Vandiya Devan's eyes opened wide with immeasurable
surprise as he looked towards the boats. Vallavarayan
Vandiya Devan had heard much about Lord Pazluvoor.
But, who would not have heard about them? The names of
the brothers - The Elder Lord Pazluvoor and The Younger
Lord Pazluvoor -- were renowned from Lanka in the south
to the Kalinga Kingdom in the north. Pazluvoor, situated
on the northern banks of the Cauvery near the city of
Uraiyoor was their capital. Even from the times of
Vijayala Chozla, the Pazluvoor Family had won heroic
fame. They had a lot of give and take with the royal family
of the Chozlas. Because of this and also because of their
nobility, bravery and fame the Pazluvoor clan had all the
distinguishing characters of a royal family. They also had
the right to carry their own pennant.
5
The elder of the present Lords of Pazluvoor had fought in
twenty-four campaigns. During his times he had won
acclaim as having no equal in war in the Chozla Kingdom.
Since he had now crossed the age of fifty, he no longer
entered the battlefield directly. Nevertheless, he now held
several eminent positions in the government of the
Chozlas. In the Chozla Empire, he was the head of finance;
head of food supply. He had the authority to levy taxes
according to political needs. He had the right to call upon
any princeling, nobleman or squire and order them thus:
"This year you shall pay this much tribute" and the powers
to implement such orders. Therefore, next to Emperor
Sundara Chozla he was the most powerful man in the
Chozla Kingdom.
Vandiya Devan's heart brimmed with an eagerness to meet
this powerful, illustrious and noble Lord of Pazluvoor. At
the same time he recalled the words uttered in privacy by
Prince Aditya Karikala, at the new Golden Palace in
Kanchi City.
"Vandiya Deva, I know you to be a brave man. At the
same time I trust you to be intelligent and give you this
immense responsibility. Of the two letters I have given
you, deliver one to my father the Emperor and the other to
my sister the Younger Pirati. (Pirati is the term used to
refer to princesses of the ruling house.) I hear all sorts of
rumors about even the senior officials of the kingdom in
Tanjore. Therefore, the contents of my letters should not
become known to anyone. Even the most eminent persons
should not realize that you are carrying letters from me. Do
not get into quarrels with anyone on the way. You should
not merely avoid conflicts of your seeking; but also not be
involved in disputes thrust upon you. I very well know
about your courage. You have proved it several times.
Therefore, there shall be no loss of valor in escaping from
duels forced upon you. Most important, you should be
particularly careful about the Lords of Pazluvoor and also
my Young Uncle Madurandaka. I do not wish them to
know even who you are! They should definitely not know
why you are going!"
The Crown Prince of the Chozla Empire and the
Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Armies, Prince
Aditya Karikala had told him all this. The Prince had
repeatedly advised Vandiya Devan about how he should
behave. Since he recalled all this, Vandiya Devan
suppressed his desire to meet Lord Pazluvoor. He whipped
his horse to move on quickly. In spite of the prodding, his
tired horse merely plodded ahead. Having decided to spend
the night at the Kadamboor fortress of the noble
Sambuvaraya, he resolved to procure a better horse before
resuming his journey the next morning.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 2 -- Azlvar-adiyan Nambi
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan rode down the embankment
and turned his horse towards the southern path; his heart
danced with joy: like those sailboats skipping across the
waves. The excitement buried deep in his heart seemed to
erupt outward. His intuition said that he was going to meet
adventures experienced by none in one lifetime.
What joyous delight even as I approach the Chozla
Kingdom! What wonders will the fertile, bountiful land
beyond Kollidam hold? How would the men and women
of that country behave? How many rivers? How many
reservoirs? How many clear streams? How wondrous
would be the river Ponni (Cauvery) praised in song and
epic? How enchanting would be the flower laden punnai,
konnai and kadamba trees on its banks? Would not the
wink of the lily and the blue-lotus or the blossoming
welcome of a red-lotus be a pleasant sight? How
magnificent would be the spectacular temples erected by
these devout Chozlas along both banks of the Cauvery?
Aha! Pazlayarai! Capital city of Chozlas! Pazlayarai that
turned Poompuhar and Uraiyoor into small country towns!
What of its palaces, towering columns, armaments, guard
houses, busy markets, Shiva temples of granite and
towering Vishnu temples?
Vandiya Devan had heard about the captivating devotional
poems - Thevaram & Thiru-vaaimozli - sung by music
experts in those temples. He was soon to have the fortune
of hearing them. That was not just it -- he was soon to
attain favors beyond his wildest dreams. He was to
personally meet Emperor Paranthaka Sundara Chozla, who
was comparable to the God Velan in valor; who was as
handsome as Manmatha the God of Love. Furthermore, he
was soon to meet the Emperor's beloved daughter, an
incomparable jewel among women, the Younger Pirati
Kundavai!
Hopefully there would be no interruptions along the way.
So what if there are obstacles? I have a spear in hand, a
sword at my waist, armor on my chest and courage in my
heart. But the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, my
Prince, are strict: do not enter into any skirmish until the
assigned task is completed. It is pretty trying to obey that
order! I have followed it thus far in my travels. A mere
two-day journey remains. I must be patient until then.
Travelling with the intention of reaching Kadamboor Fort
before sunset, Vandiya Devan soon reached the Vaishnava
temple in the town of Veera-narayana-puram. Since it was
the day of the Aadi Festival, a large crowd of people had
gathered in the woods and glades around the temple.
Vendors selling jack-fruit, banana, sugar-cane and various
other edibles had set up shops. Others sold flowers such as
lotus buds for worship of the Gods as well as blooms to
decorate the braids of women. Mounds of tender coconuts,
myrrh, candy, jaggery, betel leaves, pressed rice and
puffed grain were on display for sale. Fun-games and other
amusements were in progress here and there. Astrologers,
expert palm readers, soothsayers and magicians who cured
6
poison-bites: of these there was no dearth. Amidst all this
Vandiya Devan noticed a large gathering standing on one
side and he heard loud noises of argument among people
in its middle. An immense urge rose in him to find out
what the argument was about. He could not control it!
Stopping his horse by the roadside near the crowd, he
dismounted. Signaling the horse to wait, he parted the
crowd and walked right in.
It surprised him to find only three persons involved in the
debate. Even though they were merely three men, the
crowd around them periodically cheered their chosen
favorites rather loudly. Vandiya Devan realized the cause
for this commotion and watched to find out the reason for
the argument.
One of the debaters seemed to be an exceptional follower
of the Vaishnava faith: he wore the sandal-paste namam
markings of the sect all over his body; he had styled his
hair into a topknot on his forehead. A short staff was in his
hand; his short, squat frame seemed quite strong.
The other was a follower of Shiva, wearing broad ashen
marks on his devout body.
The third wore ocher robes and had completely shaved all
the hair off his head. He was neither a Vaishnava nor a
Saiva: he seemed to be an Advaita philosopher beyond any
sect.
The Saiva devotee was saying, "Oh you Azlvar-adiyan
Nambi! Give me an answer to this! Did not Brahma try to
find Shiva's head and Vishnu search for His feet? Unable
to see neither head nor foot did not both seek the sanctuary
of Lord Shiva's auspicious feet? That being so, how can
your Thirumal Vishnu be a greater God than Lord Shiva?"
Hearing this Azlvar-adiyan pounded his staff saying, "Well
fella! You fanatic Saiva dust-worshiping priest! Stop your
nonsense. Recall that your Shiva gave boons to the ten-
headed Ravana, King of Lanka. Did not all those boons
turn to sawdust when confronted by Sri Rama, an
incarnation of our Thirumal Vishnu? When that is so, how
can your Shiva be a greater God than our Thirumal?"
At this the ocher-clad monk who believed in the One-
supreme Being, intervened to say, "Why do you both argue
wastefully? There is no end to your arguments about Shiva
being a bigger God or Vishnu being greater. Only while
you are involved in these pagan rituals of devotion will
you quarrel about Shiva and Vishnu. The path of
Knowledge is greater than devotion. Then there is the state
of Absolute Knowing, beyond even Knowledge. When you
reach that state there is no Shiva and no Vishnu. All
existence is the Supreme Being. Do you know what Sri
Sankara the Teacher says in his dissertation on the
scriptures ...."
At this point Azlvar-adiyan Nambi interrupted, "Stop it
you fellow! Do you know what your Sankara who wrote
all those explanations for the Upanishads, the Bhagavat
Gita and other scriptures finally say?
Sing of Govinda, Sing of Govinda,
Sing of Govinda, Oh foolish mind!
He said it three times! It is to dumbheads like you that he
refers when he mentions foolish minds." The crowd
responded to this with thunderous clapping, mocking
laughter and loud cheers of "Aha, oho".
The monk did not stay quiet. "Hey you with the topknot on
the forehead! It is correct that you refer to me as a foolish
mind. You hold an ordinary wood-staff in your hands; you
are surely a wood-brained wastrel. It is surely because of
my foolish mind that I have come to talk with a wastrel
like you."
"Oh Sir! This is not an ordinary wood-staff. If need be it
has the power to break open your shaven head," and saying
this Nambi raised his staff as the crowd cheered him.
The Philosopher interrupted. "Dear fellow! Stop it! Keep
the staff in your own hands. I shall not be angry even if
you hit me with your stick. Neither will I dispute with you.
That which hits is Supreme! That which is hit is also
Supreme! If you lay hands upon me it is like hitting your
own self!"
Upon hearing this Nambi announced, "All of you watch!
The Supreme is going to serve the Supreme a hallowed-hit.
I am going to hit myself with this staff," swirling his staff
he moved towards the monk.
Watching all this, Vandiya Devan wondered if he should
grab the staff from the fellow with the topknot on his
forehead and serve him a few smacks from it. However the
monk seemed to have suddenly disappeared. He mingled
into the crowd and vanished! At this the Vaishnava
supporters in the crowd cheered even louder.
Azlvar-adiyan turned towards the Saiva devotee, "You
foot-dust worshipper, what do you say? Will you continue
this debate or would you too run away like the monk?" he
said.
"Me? I shall never run away like that philosopher spouting
mere words. Did you think of me also as your Kannan
(Krishna)? Is not your Krishna the same fellow who
received beatings from the butter-churn because he stole
butter from the homes of milkmaids? ..." Before the Shiva
worshipper could finish, Nambi interrupted.
"Why sir? Did not your Shiva carry loads of dirt for the
sake of dry pudding and get beaten on his back? Have you
forgotten that?" Swirling his staff he approached closer.
Azlvar-adiyan was a stocky, well-built brute. The Shiva
devotee was an emaciated man. The cheering supporters in
7
the crowd were ready to enter the tussle. Vallavarayan
Vandiya Devan felt that he must stop this absurd rumpus.
He came forward and said, "Sirs why are you arguing? Do
you have nothing better to do? If you itch for a fight, why
not go to Lanka? There is a big war going on there."
Saying, "Who is this fellow trying to make peace?" Nambi
quickly turned towards him. Some people in the crowd
liked Vandiya Devan's fearless mein and charismatic face.
"Thambi! You tell them." They cheered, "Tell these
quarrel mongers the truth. We will support you."
"I will tell the facts I know. There seems to be no quarrel
between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu-Narayana. Those
two seem to be quite friendly and pleasant towards each
other. Then why are these two men arguing?" Hearing
these words of Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan the people
snickered.
The Shiva devotee commented "This boy seems to be
intelligent. But jovial words cannot end the argument. Let
him answer this question: is Lord Shiva a greater God than
Vishnu or is he not?"
"Shiva is a great God. So is Thirumal Vishnu. Both are
equal. Worship whomever you want. Why quarrel?" said
Vallavarayan.
"How can you say that? Where is the proof that Shiva and
Vishnu are equal?" chided Azlvar-adiyan.
"Proof? I will give you proof. Last night I had been to
Vaikunta, the abode of Vishnu. At the same time Shiva
came visiting. Both were seated on equal thrones. They
seemed to be of equal height. Still, to avoid any doubt, I
measured their height with my arm ..."
"Young man! Are you mocking me?" roared Azlvar-
adiyan.
"Yes, Thambi yes. Tell us more!" applauded the crowd.
"Upon measuring them, I found both to be of exactly the
same height. Without stopping at that I asked both Shiva
and Thirumal directly. Do you know what they said? `Hari
and Shiva are one and the same. Those who don't know
this should have their mouths filled with dirt!' Saying it
they gave me this fistful of dirt to throw in the mouths of
the idiots who quarrel about it." Vandiya Devan opened his
fist to show a handful of dirt. He then threw it among
them. Upon this all hell broke loose. The men in the exited
crowd started picking up dirt and rubble and began
throwing it at each other. Azlvar-adiyan also entered the
fracas with shouts of "Idiots! Unbelievers!" and used his
staff. A great disturbance and commotion was about to
erupt. Luckily, a stentorian announcement thwarting all
this, was heard nearby.
"Best of warriors, bravest of the brave, he who destroyed
the very roots of the Pandiya army by attacking furiously,
he of the victorious spear, he who engaged in twenty-four
combats and wears sixty-four battle-wounds on his sacred
body, the Chozla Secretary for Finance and Food, the lord
who can levy taxes, The Elder Lord of Pazluvoor, is
announced. Make way! Make way!" A thundering voice
made the announcement.
The heralds who made these announcements came first.
Then came the drummers. Behind them came men carrying
the palmtree-flag. Next marched several smart footmen
bearing lances and spears. Behind all these men came a
dark, well-built man seated on a finely decorated elephant.
The sight of the warrior on the elephant looked like a dark
cloud resting atop a mountain peak. People stood on both
sides of the roadway and watched. Vandiya Devan guessed
that the man seated on the elephant was Lord Pazluvoor.
Behind the elephant came a palanquin with silken drapes
pulled close. Before he could wonder who could be inside,
Vallavarayan saw a fair hand full of bracelets and bangles
come out and slightly part the curtains. The dazzling face
of a girl could be seen inside the palanquin: like the moon
shining forth from behind a shifting cloud cover.
Though he was a connoisseur of the beauty of womankind,
though her captivating face seemed like the radiating full
moon, for some reason, Vandiya Devan was not happy to
see that face. An irrational fear and disgust took hold of
him. At the same time the woman's eyes focussed on
something near Vandiya Devan. The next instant the
horrified sound of a girl's scream was heard. The screens
pulled shut once again!
Vallavarayan looked around him. His intuition said that the
lady had screamed upon sighting something nearby. He
searched around again. Azlvar-adiyan was leaning back on
a tamarind tree just behind him. He saw that the fanatic
Vaishnava's face had turned undescribably horrible and
ugly. His heart filled with irrational surprise and revolt.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 3 -- Vinnagara Temple
Sometimes trivial incidents lead to events of great
significance. One such incident now occurred to
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan. Remember, he was standing
by the roadside to watch the procession of the Pazluvoor
Lord and his entourage? His horse stood a little away form
him.
Some of the men walking towards the end of the Pazluvoor
retinue sighted the horse. "Dear chap! Look at this mule!"
said one of them.
8
"Don't say mule. Say mare," corrected the other. "Set the
semantic research aside! First of all find out if it is a
donkey or a mule!" said a third man. "Let's check it out!"
said yet another as he approached the horse. He tried to
jump on its back, but the intelligent horse realized that this
was not its master; it refused to let him mount.
"Hey! This is a troublesome horse. It will not let me
mount! Perhaps only a prince of well established lineage
can ride it! Well then, Tanjore Muthuaraya will have to
come back!"
His friends laughed at this witticism. Tanjore Muthuaraya's
dynasty had vanished a hundred years ago! Now, a flag
bearing the tiger symbol of the Chozlas flew over Tanjore.
"The horse may think so. However, if you ask me I would
say that a fully alive Thandavaraya is better than a dead
Muthuaraya from Tanjore," said another undaunted man
named Thandavaraya.
"Thandavaraya, find out if this pesky horse that wont let
you come near is really a horse! Perhaps it is a dummy
dance-horse come in for the temple festival," said another
prankster.
"Ok, let's examine it," saying this Thandavaraya twisted
the horse's tail. The proud horse kicked its hind legs
several times and began running amok. "Hey, the mule is
running away! It really is a mare!" shouted the man and
with cries of "Ooi, ooi," they began to chase the horse even
further.
The horse began running helter skelter amidst the festive
crowd. People trying to avoid its hooves moved away in a
hurry. Even so, some of them were kicked down. The
horse ran wild. All this happened within a few seconds
right in front of Vandiya Devan. From the expression on
Vallavarayan's face, Azlvar-adiyan, the Vaishnava,
surmised it to be his horse.
"Thambi, did you see the work of those Pazluvoor brutes?
What happened to the boldness that you showed in front of
me? Could you not show your valor against them?" he
pointed out.
Vandiya Devan felt a piercing outrage. Yet, he grit his
teeth and remained patient. The Pazluvoor men were a
large group. There was no point in confronting the whole
lot. Neither did those men wait for him to pick a fight.
Laughing over their pranks with the horse they had quickly
marched ahead.
Vandiya Devan started walking in the direction in which
the horse had gone. He knew that his horse would run for a
while and then stop. So he did not worry about it. He felt
that one day he should settle the score with those arrogant
men of Pazluvoor and the idea became firmly etched in his
mind.
His horse stood in a clearing beyond the tamarind grove,
wearing a saddened expression. As he approached it, the
horse neighed; the speechless creature seemed to say,
"Why did you part from me and subject me to these
travails?" He quietened the horse by patting its back and
then led it back towards the road.
Several persons of the festive crowd asked, "Thambi why
did you bring this unruly horse here? See how it has kicked
us?" Others pacified them with words like "What will this
young man do? What could the horse have done? We have
to blame those Pazluvoor rogues for this mishap."
Azlvar-adiyan waited at the roadside. Vandiya Devan
frowned. What nuisance is this... It seems as if this fellow
will not let go.
"Thambi, which way are you going?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"Me? I plan to go a little ways west and then a bit to the
south; then go around east to travel southwest."
"I am not asking all that. I meant, where do you plan to
stay tonight?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Perhaps, if you were planning to stay at the fort of
Kadamboor Sambuvaraya, I have an assignment to be done
there ..."
"What! Do you know magic or witchcraft? How did you
know that I was going to Kadamboor Palace?" asked
Vandiya Devan.
"What is so surprising about it? Tonight, several
dignitaries from various places are going there. Lord
Pazluvoor and his retainers are also going there."
"Is that true?" said a surprised Vandiya Devan.
"Yes, it is true. The elephant, the horses, liveried footmen
and other honors were from Kadamboor. They came to
receive Lord Pazluvoor; all such protocols are always
observed wherever he goes."
Vandiya Devan became thoughtful. The opportunity to
stay in the same lodgings as Lord Pazluvoor was not easy
to come by. He may even chance to make the acquaintance
of that esteemed warrior. However, the experience with the
unruly retainers of the Lord still rankled bitterly.
Azlvar-adiyan interrupted these thoughts in a begging
voice, "Thambi, will you do me a favor?"
"How can I help you? I am new to these parts."
"It is a task that is possible for you. Take me along to
Kadamboor Fort tonight."
9
"Why? Is some fanatic Saiva coming there? Are you going
to debate about the greatness of Shiva and Thirumal to
conclude who is the greater God?"
"No. No. Did you think that getting into arguments was my
only occupation? Tonight there will be a lavish banquet at
Kadamboor. After the feasting there would be several
entertainments: music, pantomimes, miracle plays, gypsy
dancers and mystic oracles. I wish to see the gypsy dance
and hear the oracle."
"Even then, how can I take you along?"
"Say that I am your servant."
Vandiya Devan felt that his earlier doubts were confirmed.
"Find someone else for such deception and fraud. I do not
need a servant like you. Anyway no one will believe it;
from what you say, I doubt if they would even let me into
the fort tonight."
"Aha! That means you are not going to Kadamboor upon
invitation!"
"Well, I have an invitation of sorts. Kandamaran, the son
of Lord Sambuvaraya, is my close friend. He has invited
me several times to come and stay at his palace if I come
to these parts."
"Is that all! Then even your situation is kind of doubtful
tonight!"
Both kept walking onwards, silently, for a while. "Why are
you still following me?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"I was about to ask you the same question. why are you
following me? Why don't you go your own way?"
"Well it is because of not knowing which way to go.
Where are you going? Perhaps to Kadamboor?"
"No. You said you cannot take me there. I am going to the
Vinnagara temple."
"To the presence of the deity Veera-narayana-perumal?"
"Yes."
"I too would like to go to that temple and worship that
perumal."
"I thought that you would perhaps not come to a Vishnu
temple. It is a temple that should be seen; a deity worthy to
behold. The priest Eshwara Munigal offers services at the
temple. He is a venerable man."
"I too have heard this. But, it is very crowded. Is there
some special celebration at the temple today?"
"Yes, today is the day of the Saint Andal. It is also the
Aadi Festival of Padhinettam Perukku. All these festivities
are because of this. Thambi, have you heard any of the
invocative poems of Andal?"
"I have not heard any."
"Don't. Don't ever listen to her poems!"
"Why this hatred?"
"It is not hatred. Nor is it enmity. It is for your benefit that
I say it. If you ever happen to hear any of the melodious
psalms of Andal, you will drop your swords and spears;
like me, you too will fall in love with Kannan and start
upon a pilgrimage to all the Vishnu temples."
"Do you know any of these psalms of Andal? Can you sing
them?"
"I know some. I also know some of the poems of
Nammazlvar who translated the Vedas (scriptures) into
Tamil. I am going to sing some of them at the shrine. If
you wish, you can listen. Here comes the temple." By now
they had reached the Vinnagara temple.
Paranthaka Chozla I, a grandson of Vijayala Chozla, had
won the title Conqueror of Madurai and Lanka. He was the
monarch who established the foundations of the Chozla
Empire. He achieved historical fame because he covered
the roof of the temple at Chidambaram with gold. Besides
titles like Jewel among Chozlas, Greatest of Warriors, he
also had the honored name of Veera Narayana.
During Paranthaka's times, the Rashtrakutas in the north
were powerful monarchs. He expected them to come from
Manyaketa (roughly present day Maharashtra) and invade
the territories of the Tamils. Therefore he stationed a huge
army, led by his eldest son Prince Raja-aditya, in the
Thirumunaipadi Territories north of the Cauvery.
Prince Raja-aditya had a brilliant idea while his large
numbers of soldiers waited in idleness, with nothing to do.
Using them he wished to fulfil a major undertaking for the
benefit of the population. Enormous quantities of flood
waters flowing in the Kollidam river were going
wastefully into the sea. Wishing to make use of these
waters, he made his soldiers build a huge, spreading
reservoir. In honor of his distinguished father he named it
the Veera Narayana Lake. He then established the town of
Veera-narayana-puram on its shores and also built a
Vinnagara temple.
The Sanskrit term Vishnu Griha meaning Abode of
Vishnu, became Vinnagara in Tamil. Does not Sri
Narayana, i.e., Vishnu recline upon the primeval waters in
sublime meditation? Therefore, it was customary in those
days to build Vinnagaras on lake shores so that the deity
would protect the reservoir. Therefore, the Prince
10
constructed a temple for Veera-Narayana at Veera-
narayana-puram.
It was to this temple that Vandiya Devan went in Azlvar-
adiyan's company. At the sanctum sanctorium Azlvar-
adiyan began singing. He sang a few devotional poems by
Andal. He then sang a few verses of Nammazlvar:
Praise, praise,praise the Lord,
Gone is the curse of this wretched life;
There is nothing left here for Lord Yama,
Who created the hells of despair and death;
These creatures of the ocean-colored Lord,
Reckoned on this earth, the sorrows of these times;
See, they have come to worship him,
Serve him with dance and song;
We saw, we saw, we saw,
We saw things pleasing to the eye;
Come, Come all ye worshippers!
Come adore him, come here to salvation;
Follow the path of these souls dear to Lord Madhava,
Live on this earth with dance and song of his glory.
When Azlvar-adiyan sang these songs, tears overflowed
from his eyes and streamed down his cheeks. Vandiya
Devan listened attentively. Though tears did not stream
from his eyes, he was very moved. His biased opinions
about Azlvar-adiyan were somewhat transformed. This
fellow is very devout, he thought.
Several others listened to the songs with interest. The
temple trustees came to listen. The priest Eshwara Munigal
heard them with tear laden eyes. The priest's son, a mere
child, stood nearby and listened with rapt attention.
Azlvar-adiyan sang ten such poems and then stopped with
these words:
These be merely parts
Of Thennan Gurukoor Maran Sadagopan's
Devotional compositions
numbering one-thousand and twenty
which would melt any devout heart.
The priest's son whispered something into his fathers ears.
Wiping his tear-laden eyes the priest came forward to ask,
"Sir, it is said that Gurukoor Sadagopa known as
Nammazlvar has sung more than thousand such poems. Do
you know them all?"
"I do not have that fortune. I know just a few of his ten-
liners," replied Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
"I entreat you to teach this child all the songs you know,"
requested the priest.
In later years this town was to attain several honors. The
boy with the childish face shining with devotion would
grow up to be known as Nadamuni Adigal the foremost of
Vaishnava teachers. He would go to Gurukoor, the blessed
town from where Nammazlvar hailed; search and collect
all thousand poems; set them to music; sing them and
along with his disciples popularize those songs all over the
country. Alavandar who would be born as the grandson of
Nadamuni Adigal would perform several miracles.
Even the great Saint Sri Ramanuja himself would come to
visit this hallowed place of their birth. When he comes he
will be amazed by the Veera Narayana Lake and its
seventy-four irrigation-gates. He would wish to establish
seventy-four monastic seats to spread the holy word of
Lord Narayana's grace and benevolence to all the populace
in the same fashion that the reservoir distributed its
bountiful waters through seventy-four irrigation canals for
the welfare of the people. Later seventy four such
monastic-teaching-seats or pitams would be established.
Let us leave it to scholars to describe all these magnificent
happenings of Vaishnava history and return to our hero
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan.
When they came outside the temple after their worship,
Vandiya Devan said "Sir, Mr. Nambi! I did not realize that
you were such a devout and learned person. If I had
annoyed you with my impudence please forgive me."
"I forgive you Thambi. Say, will you now do me a favor?"
"Did I not say that I cannot help you on your request? Did
you also not agree?"
"This is something else. I will give you a small note. If you
stay at Kadamboor Fort, you must find an appropriate time
to give it to someone."
"To whom?"
"To the lady who was in the closed palanquin behind Lord
Pazluvoor's elephant."
"Mr. Nambi! Whom do you take me to be? Am I the
fellow for such activities? If anyone but you had uttered
such words to me ..."
"Thambi! Don't be agitated. If it is not possible you can let
it be. Go your way. However, if you help me in this matter,
my help might be useful to you at some later time. There is
no harm done. You can go."
After this Vandiya Devan did not tarry any longer. He
jumped on his horse and sent it galloping towards
Kadamboor.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 4 -- Kadamboor Fort
11
The horse had by now rested well and become quite
energetic. Within a few hours it reached the gates of
Kadamboor. Lord Sengannan Sambuvaraya was an
important Chozla nobleman in those days. His castle gates
resembled the entrance of a large city-stronghold. The
towering walls on both sides of the gate curved around like
a fortress.
A number of elephants, horses, large bullocks as well as
grooms to hold, feed and water these animals stood near
the gates. Here and there men stood with flaming torches
to provide light; oil pourers were ready to add oil to the
lighted torches. Sighting all these bustling activities,
Vandiya Devan felt a bit dismayed and hesitant.
Something special seems to be taking place here; why have
I come here now ... At the same time he felt an
overpowering urge to find out what the special occasion
was. The fortress gates were wide open although men
holding long lances stood near the gates. They looked like
the messengers of Yama, the Lord of Death.
The dauntless youth decided that the best thing to do
would be to ride boldly and go in; any hesitation on his
part would alert the guards to stop him. He translated his
thoughts into action. But what a disappointment?! As soon
as the horse neared the gates, lances crossed in front to
obstruct the way and stop him. Four men came forward
and held onto the horse's reins. One of them peered at
Vandiya Devan. Another held up the flaming torch to light
his face.
With anger darkening his face, Vallavarayan Vandiya
Devan asked "Is this customary in your town? Stopping
guests at your gates ...?"
"Who are you? Impudent fellow. Where do you come
from?"
"Are you asking me my name and town? Thiruvallam in
the Vanakapadi Kingdom is my town. Once upon a time,
soldiers in your country were proud to tattoo the names of
my ancestors on their breasts. My name is Vallavarayan
Vandiya Devan! Do you know?"
"Why did you not bring a liveried herald to announce all
this?" said the gate-keeper. Others around him laughed.
"Whoever you are, you cannot enter! All the expected
guests have already arrived. The Master's orders are to not
let in anyone after that," said their leader.
Hearing this altercation, some footmen who were standing
nearby came closer. "Hey! Is this not the same mule that
we chased into the festival crowd?" said one of them.
"Donkey, not mule," corrected another. "Look at the
starched up fellow sitting on his donkey," added another.
Vallavarayan heard these words. He had been thinking,
why get involved? Perhaps I should go away quietly.
Maybe I should show the token bearing the seal of Prince
Aditya Karikala and then go in. When I have the signet of
the Prince, the Commander-in Chief of the Northern
Armies, none in the regions between River Pennar and
Cape Comorin can impede my way. It was in the midst of
these ponderings that he heard the mocking words of the
Pazluvoor lackeys. Immediately deciding his course of
action, he said "Let go of my horse. I am going back."
The gate-keepers let go of the reins. Vandiya Devan
employed both his legs to apply a sudden pressure to the
underbelly of his horse. At the same time he drew his
sword from its scabbard at his waist. The swirling sword
flashing like swift lightning in his hand appeared like God
Vishnu's spinning Chakra (discus). The horse galloped
forward into the fortress. The men in the way seemed to
suddenly fall down. Lances and spears were thrown apart,
clanging noisily. The horse flew amidst the gossiping men
of Pazluvoor. The totally unexpected, lightning attack
scattered the men in all four directions.
Several other actions took place immediately: The fortress
gates banged shut thunderingly. "Catch him! Hold!" shouts
arose; spears rubbed against swords making a "clang,
clang" noise. Suddenly the drums announcing danger,
boomed "dadam, dadadam". Several men -- maybe twenty,
thirty, fifty or even more -- surrounded Vandiya Devan
and his horse. He jumped down to the ground; swirling his
sword in all directions he shouted "Kandamara!
Kandamara! Your men are killing me!"
Hearing his words, the men were stunned into hesitation
and moved away a little.
At the same time a thundering voice was heard from the
upper balcony of the palace tower. "What is that noise out
there? Stop it!" Several persons were standing there,
looking down on the disturbance below.
"Master! Some fellow has broken our guard and entered
here. He is shouting the young master's name," replied the
gate-keeper. "Kandamara, go find out what the commotion
is about," said the thundering voice from the tower.
Vandiya Devan surmised the voice to be that of Lord
Sambuvaraya.
He and the men surrounding him waited for a while.
"What is all this about?" a young voice said. The men
parted to make way for a youth coming hurriedly. He
noticed Vandiya Devan who stood there twirling his
sword, like God Muruga after killing the Demon Soora.
"Vallava! Is it truly you?" he said in an emotional voice
and ran forward to heartily embrace his friend.
"Kandamara because you repeatedly insisted, I came to
your house. I received this warlike welcome here,"
Vallavarayan pointed to the men around him.
Kandamaran said to his men, "You idiots! Move aside.
Your brains are like budding shoots on a pounding block."
12
Kandamaran took hold of his friend's hand and led him
hastily into the castle. His feet did not stay put on earth;
and his heart danced with joy. What can captivate the heart
of a youth more than a true friendship from his youthful
days? Yes, of course there is a thing called kaadal (love).
But being in love has as much sadness and pain as joy and
pleasure. In the cheerful friendship of youth there is not
even a shadow of sadness. All is heart pleasing happiness.
"Kandamara, what is all this hustle and bustle about? What
is happening here today?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"Oh! I'll explain what's happening here afterwards.
Remember the days when you and I were at the army
garrison near the Pennar river? Remember your wishes
`We must meet Lord Pazluvoor, I must get the
acquaintance of the great Lord of Mazluvoor, I must meet
that one and this one'? That lord, this lord, every fellow -
you can meet them all here tonight," said Kandamaran.
He then took his friend up to the upper chambers where the
guests were seated. He presented him to his father Lord
Sambuvaraya and said "Father! I have mentioned several
times about my friend Vandiya Devan of the Vaanar Clan.
This is he." Vandiya Devan bowed and greeted him with
reverence. However, Lord Sambuvaraya did not seem too
happy about it.
"Is that so? Is he the fellow who created all that
disturbance at the palace gates below?" asked the father.
"He was not the cause for the disturbance. It's those idiots
we have for gate-keepers" said the son.
"Still, he need not have arrived in this sensational manner;
today of all days and that too hours after darkness," said
lord Sambuvaraya.
Kandamaran frowned. He did not wish to continue the
debate with his father. He led Vandiya Devan aside. He
presented his friend to Lord Pazluvoor, seated on a lofty
throne amidst the other guests, and said "Uncle! This is my
dear friend Vandiya Devan. He is from the noble Vaanar
clan. He and I were on guard duty at the army base north
of the Pennar river. In those days he would often express a
wish to `See and meet the bravest among warriors, the
great Lord of Pazluvoor' and would often ask `Is it really
true that he has sixty-four war-wounds on his body?' I
would tell him `One day you can meet him and count
them'."
"Is that so Thambi? Will you not believe it unless you
personally count them? Such distrust? You suspect that
none but one of the Vaanar clan can be brave?" said Lord
Pazluvoor.
Both friends were startled. They had not expected the
nobleman to thus misconstrue their words of praise.
Vandiya Devan felt irritated. Without showing his feelings
he said "Sir! The fame of the brave Pazluvoor clan has
spread from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas. Who am I to
doubt it?"
"Good reply. Intelligent fellow" muttered Lord Pazluvoor.
With a feeling of having escaped with that, the friends
went out. Lord Sambuvaraya called out to his son and
whispered, "Serve your friend some food as early as
possible and tell him to go and sleep in some secluded
spot. He seems tired after a long journey!" Kandamaran
shook his head angrily and walked on.
Later Kandamaran took his friend to the inner chambers of
his mother. Several women were gathered there. Vandiya
Devan bowed low and greeted Kandamaran's mother. He
surmised that a girl hiding shyly behind her was
Kandamaran's sister. He had imagined all sorts of things
based upon Kandamaran's descriptions of his younger
sister. In a way, he was now disappointed. His eyes
searched around among those women, with an eagerness to
find the lady who had come in the palanquin with Lord
Pazluvoor.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 5 -- The Gypsy Dance
Both friends came out from the inner chambers. A voice
from inside called out, "Kandamara! Kandamara!"
"My mother is calling me. Wait right here. I'll be back
instantly," said Kandamaran as he went inside once again.
The voices of several women talking all at once, the sound
of questions being asked one upon the other and
Kandamaran answering them with some confusion could
be heard. He also heard the women inside laughing gaily.
The thought that they were perhaps laughing at him caused
some shame and anger in Vandiya Devan. When
Kandamaran came out, he took hold of his friend's hand
and dragged him onwards saying, "Come let us look
around our palace."
He showed him all the beautiful moonlit terraces, music
rooms, dance halls, storage rooms, well furnished
chambers, living quarters, audience halls, turrets, towers,
stables and other places. After a while Vandiya Devan
asked, "Kandamara, you made me wait outside your
mother's chambers and went in again. At that time what
was so special to provoke the laughter and joy inside?
Were the women so happy to see me, your friend?"
"They were all very happy to meet you. In fact my mother
and others liked you a lot. But they were not laughing
about you ..."
"Then why the laughter?"
13
"You know the Lord of Pazluvoor? At this age, after all
these years he has recently married a very young girl. He
has brought her here in a covered palanquin. Apparently he
has kept her locked up in his own chambers without
sending her to the inner apartments in the palace. One of
the maids who saw the girl by peeping in through the
window, came and described her beauty. That is the cause
for the laughter. They were discussing if she was a
Singhala girl, a Kalinga lady or perhaps a maid from
Chera. You know that the ancestors of the Pazluvoor clan
originally came here from the Chera country?"
"I have heard it too. Perhaps you had told me earlier.
That's OK! Kandamara, how long is it since Lord
Pazluvoor married this mysterious beauty?"
"It must be less than two years. He has not left her alone
for even a short while from the time he married her! He
takes his ladylove along wherever he goes; in a closed
palanquin! In fact there has been a lot of sniggering about
it all over the country. Vandiya Deva, won't there be
ridicule and derision if men who are past a certain age get
involved in such entanglements with women?"
"I do not think that is the reason. Kandamara, shall I tell
you the real reason for the laughter? Generally women are
envious. Don't think I am belittling the women in your
family. All womankind is like that! The women of your
household are dark-colored beauties. However, Lord
Pazluvoor's beloved is rosily-fair and golden hued. That is
why these women do not like her; they are making up
stories about her...!"
"Hey! What is this wonder? How do you know about her
complexion? Why, have you seen her? Where? How did
you see her? If Lord Pazluvoor knows of this, your life is
not yours!"
"Kandamara, I am not afraid of all that. You know it.
Moreover, I have not done anything improper. I was
watching, one among the crowd on the roadside, when
Lord Pazluvoor and his retinue went past. The elephant,
horses, livery, footmen, drummers -- I believe all these
were honors sent by your family to receive him. Is that
true?"
"Yes we had sent all those accolades. So what ...?"
"So what? Nothing. I was just comparing the reception that
you accorded to Lord Pazluvoor and the welcome given to
me; nothing else ..."
Kandamaran laughed lightly, "We gave him the tribute and
honor due to the official who levies taxes. A welcome
appropriate to a great warrior was given to you! Sometime,
with God Muruga's grace, when you become the son-in-
law to our house we shall give you the honors due to a
bridegroom and welcome you."
He then added, "But, you were about to say something
else; we were sidetracked. Oh yes! You were saying that
Lord Pazluvoor's beloved was very fair and light in color.
How did you know that?"
"Lord Pazluvoor was coming seated on the dark, huge
elephant from Kadamboor Fort: like Yama, the God of
Justice seated upon a huge water-buffalo! All my thoughts
were concentrated on him. While I was building dream-
empires about one day becoming famous and powerful like
him, a covered palanquin followed him. Even as I
wondered about who could come in a covered palanquin, a
hand from inside parted the curtains. I could barely see the
face within. The hand and face were golden-hued. That
was all I saw. From what you said just now, I realize that
she must be the beloved of Lord Pazluvoor."
"Vandiya Deva, you are a lucky fellow! It is being said
that no man has glimpsed upon that Young-Queen of
Pazluvoor. You could at least see her hand and face for a
second. From what you saw, can you guess anything about
the nation which gave birth to that beauty?" asked
Kandamaran.
"I did not ponder about it at that time. Now that I think of
it, she is perhaps a woman from the Kashmir country; or
she is a beauty who hails from the distant lands across the
sea like Java, Kadaram (Malaya), Yavana (Greece-Rome).
Maybe she is a princess from Arabia: I believe that women
in that country are hidden behind veils from birth till
death."
At that moment, the sound of musical instruments could be
heard somewhere nearby. Several kinds of drums, flutes,
pipes and instruments like salli, karadi, parai, udukku
were being tuned together. "What is that noise?" asked
Vallavarayan.
"The Kuravai Koothu (gypsy dance) is about to begin. The
drums and flutes are being tuned in preparation. Would
you like to watch the gypsy dance? Or, would you like to
eat early and sleep well?"
Vandiya Devan recalled Azlvar-adiyan mentioning the
gypsy dance. "I have never seen the gypsy dance; I must
surely see it," he said.
When they walked ahead a little and turned, they could see
the stage being set for the dancers. The guests were
gathering in front of the stage. The stage for the gypsy
dance was set in a wide courtyard spread with clean-white
sand and situated in a spot surrounded by the palace walls
and the towering battlements of the fort. The stage was
decorated with colorful drawings of cocks, peacocks,
swans and parrots. They had further decked the stage with
several fragrant flower garlands, red-rice popped white,
colored millet, yellow turmeric and other powders,
kunrimani (small red berry-beads), and other vivid
decorations. Tall oil-lamps and flaming torches tried to
drive the darkness away. But the swirling fragrance from
14
smoldering frankincense and smokey torches created a
misty screen dimming the lights. The musicians sat on
both sides and in front of the stage and played their
instruments with gusto. The fragrant flowers, sweet
smelling incense and the drum beats all together made
Vandiya Devan feel light-headed.
After all the important guests were seated, the nine
maidens who were to perform the gypsy dance came on
the stage. They wore the tight fitting clothes and
ornaments suitable for dancing; they had bell-filled anklets
on their feet; brilliant red hued flowers of the hill country,
flowers favored by the God Muruga, decorated their
hairstyles. A long garland woven with such flowers thrown
upon their shoulders, seemed to bind them to each other as
they stood upon the stage. In their hands they daintily
grasped beautiful parrots made of sandalwood painted a
vivid green.
After greeting the audience they began to sing and dance.
They first sang a few verses in praise of God Muruga.
They sang of the brave deeds of Muruga; and they sang of
his victorious spear which killed the demons Soora-padma
and Gaja-mukha and then dried up the vast ocean. They
sang of how he chose for his bride, a maid from the Tamil
country, a gypsy maid from the hills who was guarding the
millet fields, even as heavenly nymphs offered prayers to
marry the young warrior-God. Their song celebrated the
grace and benevolence of Velan, i.e., Murugan who bears
the spear. The lyrical songs, the fast paced dance, the quick
drum-beats, enchanting flute all in combination bewitched
those who were watching. With the following words of
prayer the dance concluded:
Let hunger and disease be destroyed;
Let enmity be routed;
Let rain and fertility increase;
Let bounty grow boundless.
The maidens stepped off the stage and moved away.
Next, a man and woman dressed as oracles -- thevar-aalan
and thevar-aati, came on stage. The divine-man and
divine-woman wore blood-red clothes. They had brilliant
garlands made of blood-red oleander flowers. They had
painted their foreheads with bright red kumkum powders.
Even their lips seemed blood-red because they had chewed
the betel leaf and areca-nut. Their eyes seemed blood-shot!
The Velan Attam or oracle dance, began calmly enough.
They danced by themselves and with arms linked together.
As time passed the tempo and passion increased. The
divine-woman picked up a spear from the side. The man
tried to pry it from her hands; and she would not let go.
The dance became more frenzied: finally the man leaped
across the resonating stage, jumping high, he plucked the
spear from his companion. With an expression of fear on
her face she moved away behind the screens.
The divine-man now danced all by himself with more and
more rapid movements. He acted the part of the God Velan
killing the demon Soora. Soora's head was chopped off
repeatedly. But the severed-head grew back again and
again. Velan grew angrier and angrier as the head came
back again and again. Sparks flew from his eyes. In the
end Soora fell dead. Thevar-aalan threw his spear down.
By now all musical instruments were quiet. Only the little
hand-held drum, the udukku could be heard. A priest stood
near the stage fanatically beating the hand-drum. Each part
of Thevar-aalan's body shuddered. Those in the audience
whispered to each other: "The spirit has materialized."
Soon the priest looked at the frenzied Thevar-aalan and
said, "Vela! Muruga! Commander of the Gods! Lord who
killed Soora! Please reveal your divine predictions to us,
your devotees."
"Ask fellow! Ask whatever you want! I will reveal all!"
replied the delirious man. "Will the rains be good? Shall
we have plenty of water? Will the land be bountiful? Will
our desires be fulfilled?" asked the priest.
"The rains will be in season. The waters would be
abundant. The land will be fruitful and desires will be
fulfilled! But you have not made offerings to my Mother!
The Goddess desires a sacrifice. The Mother-Goddess
wants a sacrifice!" shouted the dancer in delirium.
"What sacrifice?" asked the priest.
"Will it be offered if I ask?"
"Yes, we will offer it. We shall surely offer the sacrifice."
"She wants the blood of royalty! She thirsts for the blood
of a prince from a thousand year-old dynasty!" shouted the
frenzied dancer in a horrible voice.
The dignitaries seated in front of the stage -- Lord
Pazluvoor, Lord of Mazluvoor, Lord Sambuvaraya and
others, they looked at each other. Their eyes seemed to talk
a secret language. Lord Sambuvaraya seemed to make a
sign to the priest.
The priest stopped beating his hand-drum. The dancer
dropped upon the stage like a felled tree. The woman
dancer ran in to help him out. The audience dispersed
silently. Somewhere outside, the howling of wolves could
be heard.
Vandiya Devan, who had been watching all this with some
agitation, looked towards the direction in which the
howling wolves were heard. There, atop the outer ramparts
of the fortress, he saw a head!
It was Azlvar-adiyan's head. For a second he was subject
to a horrifying feeling. It appeared as if the severed head of
Azlvar-adiyan had been placed upon those walls. He
blinked his eyelids to look again: the head was no longer
there! He felt ashamed about the worthless fear that had
15
taken hold of him. Several other emotions beyond his
experience seemed to agitate his thoughts.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 6 -- Midnight Meeting
After the gypsy dance and the oracle dance, there was a
lavish feast for the guests. Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan
could not enjoy the banquet. His body was tired and his
mind was agitated. His friend Kandamaran, seated next to
him, pointed out the several dignitaries with pride.
Besides Lord Pazluvoor and Lord Sambuvaraya, there was
Thennavan Mazlava-raya Lord of Mazlapadi Mazluvoor;
The Elder and largest land-holder of Kunratoor had come;
then there was triple-crowned Pallava-raya. The Lords
Thanthongi Kalinga-raya, Vanangamudi Munai-raya,
Deva-senapati Poova-raya; that fearless lion, Lord Muthu-
raya, double-canopied Raajali, and the chief land-holder of
Kolli Hills -- all these men were there at the banquet.
Kandamaran whispered their names into Vandiya Devan's
ears and pointed them out discretely.
These dignitaries were not ordinary men; nor was it
common to see them all assembled together in one place
like this. Each of them was a territorial chieftain; or they
had earned the distinction of territorial chieftains because
of their bravery. In those days, the title araya or raya which
was derived from the sanskrit word raja or Tamil word
arasa (meaning king) denoted nobility or royalty.
Territorial chieftains and noblemen of equal rank were
entitled to add the suffix rayan or arayan to their names.
They were also called by the name of their town with the
added title. (In fact our hero Vandiya Devan bore the name
Vallava-rayan because he was born in the noble family of
Vallam.)
But, these chieftains did not bear their titles merely
because of their noble birth and thereby enjoy the comforts
and indulgence of palace life. Only those men who were
able-bodied and brave enough to enter the battle-field
could safeguard their titles and territories. Therefore, each
of these men had not only participated in several
campaigns but they also bore the wounds of such warfare
on their bodies. Now, all these men governed their
territories or kingdoms under the suzerainty of Emperor
Sundara Chozla of Pazlayarai. Many of them were
important officials of the Chozla government.
Normally, Vandiya Devan would have felt immense
elation at having seen all these noblemen in the same
place. However, he felt no joy about it. Why have all these
men gathered together here? The question occurred to him
again and again. All sorts of garbled doubts filled his
mind.
With his mind filled with such confusion, he sought his
bed in the isolated spot readied by Kandamaran for him.
Because the palace was hosting several important
dignitaries, a tiny, covered terrace was allotted to him as a
bed-chamber.
"You seem to be very tired. Lie down and sleep well. I will
take care of the other guests and later come to sleep in this
terrace itself," said Kandamaran before going away.
As soon as he lay down, sleep swirled into Vandiya
Devan's eyes. Nitra Devi, the Goddess of Sleep took hold
of him completely. But what use? There is Mind which
cannot be conquered even by the Goddess of Sleep! Even
though his body remained still and his eyes stayed tightly
shut, thoughts buried deep in the mind blossomed into
dreams. Several meaningless incidents, happenings beyond
reason took place in that dream world.
Somewhere in the distance a lone wolf howled. One wolf
became ten wolves; hundred wolves; they all howled
together. While howling they came nearer and nearer and
nearer. In that pitch darkness their eyes burned like tiny
embers. They came closer and closer. Vandiya Devan tried
to turn around and run away to escape. But, on the other
side there were tens, hundreds, no thousands of dogs --
barking loudly, rushing towards him. The eyes of those
hunting dogs glowed like embers. What will happen to me
if I am caught in between these mad dogs and wolves?
thought Vandiya Devan and shivered.
Luckily there was a temple right in front. He ran into the
temple and pulled the door shut, bolting it hurriedly. When
he looked around it seemed to be a temple of the Mother
Goddess. A statue of Kali stood there with a horrible face
and tongue hanging out. A priest rose from behind the
statue. He held a terrible machete in his hands. "Oh! You
have come," he said as he came closer and closer.
"What is the history of your noble family? For how many
generations have your clansmen ruled their kingdom? Tell
the truth!" said the priest.
"The Vallava Rayas of the Vaanar family had ruled for
three hundred years. During my father's times we lost all
our lands to the Vaithumba kings," replied Vandiya Devan.
"Then you are not the right sacrifice. Run away," said the
priest with disgust.
Suddenly Kali turned into a statue of Krishna! Two
delightful maidens came in, singing the psalms of Saint
Andal and danced with abandon in front of the statue.
While he was enchanted with these sights, he heard the
song "We saw, we saw, we saw things pleasing to the eye,"
behind him. Turning around he saw Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
Yes it was him singing. Oh no. Not him; it was just his
head that sang. The severed head was placed on the
sacrificial alter!
16
Unable to bear this sight, Vandiya Devan turned away.
Upon turning, he banged his head upon the pillar. The
dream melted away. Eyes opened. But he saw a sight that
seemed to mix reality with dreams.
In a spot directly in front of his terrace, he could see the
fortress walls of Kadamboor palace; he could see a head
on top of these walls. It was the head of that very same
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi. This time he realized that it was
neither a dream nor a hallucination. Because, however
long he stared at it, the head remained there. It was not
merely a head, there was a body behind it. He could easily
detect both hands of Azlvar-adiyan holding on to the wall.
In addition, the fellow was staring rather intensely at
something below, inside the wall.
What is he looking at so earnestly, inside there? ... There is
some kind of deception and intrigue in this. Azlvar-adiyan
could not have come here with good intentions. He must
have come here with vile plans to perform some evil deed.
Is it not my duty, being Kandamaran's dearest friend, to
stop this wickedness? How can I sleep in idleness without
guarding the house of these folks who have fed and housed
me tonight? Vallavarayan jumped up. He picked up a knife
in its sheath lying on his side and stuck it in his waist-
band. He walked towards the direction in which he saw
Nambi's head.
Remember, he was sleeping in a corner of the upper
terrace? From there as he walked towards the outer walls
of the palace, he had to go around several turrets, pillars
and decorative rooftops. After walking on for a while he
suddenly heard the sound of voices talking somewhere
nearby. He hesitated. Hiding himself behind a pillar he
peeped down below.
In a narrow courtyard enclosed by tall walls he saw about
ten or twelve men seated comfortably. The towering walls
hid the rising moonlight. However, an iron oil-lamp buried
in the wall gave some light. All the men seated there were
the dignitaries he had met at the banquet earlier; the
chieftains and elder officials of the Chozla Empire.
They must have gathered in this midnight conference to
discuss some important matter. Azlvar-adiyan must be
trying to spy upon what they were saying and doing, by
hanging on the outer walls. There is no doubt about the
fact that Azlvar-adiyan is a very shrewd and clever fellow.
From where he was positioned on the wall, Azlvar-adiyan
could more or less see all the men seated in conference
below. He could hear their talk very well. But the men
seated there could not see Azlvar-adiyan. The courtyard
and palace wall were situated in that fashion! Somehow,
the fellow had chanced upon such a perfect spot.
Capable fellow. No doubt! But all his cleverness will not
work with this Vandiya Devan of the Vaanar clan.
Somehow, I must get hold of that masquerading Vaishnava
fanatic .... but if I am to catch him, I cannot do so without
attracting the attention of the men assembled below. I have
to cross the courtyard before I can reach those walls. There
may be some danger in crossing the courtyard in full view
of those men.
He recalled the words of Sambuvaraya saying "He need
not have come here, today of all days."
These men are gathered here to discuss something
important. It is clear that they do not want anyone to know
what their discussions are about. In such a situation if they
suddenly see me, they will start suspecting me. By the time
I explain about Azlvar-adiyan he would have jumped off
the wall and escaped. All that will remain is the doubt
about me. If they ask, "Why did you, who were supposed
to be sleeping, come here?" what can I reply? I will
definitely put Kandamaran in a delicate position. There!
Even Kandamaran is part of this meeting; he is seated at
the back. If I ask him in the morning I can know all.
As these thoughts ran through his mind, Vandiya Devan
saw a covered palanquin resting in one corner of the
courtyard below him. Is this not the same palanquin that
came behind Lord Pazluvoor and his elephant? That lady
who was in it, who parted the curtains to peep outside, I
wonder where she is now. I believe the old man did not
even send her to the women's apartments. This is the
predicament if somewhat older men marry very young
girls. Suspicion drains their very life. They cannot bear to
be parted from their young wives even for one moment!
Perhaps even now, Pazluvoor's Young-Queen is in this
palanquin! Gosh! Look at the fate of this great warrior! At
this age, he is enslaved by a slip of a girl and is on tender-
hooks. She is not all that great a Rathi, Menaka or Ramba
(heavenly beauties).
No, Vandiya Devan had not forgotten the feeling of
distaste which he experienced when he had seen her by the
roadside. I wonder what this brave Lord Pazluvoor sees in
her? More surprising is this Azlvar-adiyan's madness.
Maybe he is waiting on that wall because this palanquin is
here. What is the relationship between him and her? How
can I know? Perhaps she is his sister; or maybe his
sweetheart. Maybe Lord Pazluvoor forcefully abducted
her. He is capable of doing such things. Maybe this fellow
is wandering around trying to find an opportunity to meet
her and talk to her. Why should I bother about all this. Let
me go back to sleep, thought Vandiya Devan.
Just as he made this decision he heard his name being
uttered down below. Immediately he began to listen with
some interest.
"That fellow who came in saying that he was a friend of
your son? Where is he sleeping? He should not hear
anything that we utter here. Remember that he serves the
Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Armies. Till all our
plans are complete and the time for action arrives, no one
should know about our plans. Even if there is the slightest
suspicion that this fellow knows something, he must not be
17
let outside this fortress. In fact it would be better to put a
complete end to his activities ..."
Our readers can guess how Vandiya Devan felt upon
hearing these words. But he did not move away from the
spot. He made up his mind to listen to all their talk.
Who was the Northern Commander-in-Chief? It was none
other than the eldest son of Emperor Sundara Chozla.
None other than the Crown Prince, next in line for the
throne. Why should these fellows object to my serving that
Prince? What is it that they are planning that must be kept
secret from the Prince?'
At that moment Kandamaran intervened for his friend:
"Vandiya Devan is sleeping peacefully in the corner
terrace. He cannot hear the discussions in this meeting. He
will not interfere in things that do not concern him. Even if
he hears something he will not hinder your plans in any
way. I will be responsible for that."
"I am happy that you trust him so much. But none of us
know of him or his credentials. That is why I warned you.
What we are going to discuss now is about the rights of
succession to a large empire. Even if one whisper gets out
because of carelessness it may lead to severe
consequences. All of you must remember this," said Lord
Pazluvoor.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 7 -- Laughter And Hatred
Vandiya Devan made up his mind as soon as he heard the
words `Right to the empire' uttered by Lord Pazluvoor.
What are these men going to say about the rights to
succession? Who are they to discuss it? I must definitely
find out what is happening here. I better sit right here;
there cannot be a more convenient hiding spot. Let the
Nambi go do what he wants. Why should I bother about
him?
Vandiya Devan had surmised earlier that something
mysterious was taking place in that palace. The cryptic
words of Azlvar-adiyan, the arrogant behavior of the gate-
keepers, the frightening words of the frenzied soothsayer --
all these had raised several doubts. Here was an
opportunity to clear all those apprehensions! Why not
utilize the heaven sent chance?
Well! Even Kandamaran, who I considered a dear friend,
has not told the truth. He sent me to bed and has come to
this secret midnight-meeting. I must not let him off easily
tomorrow!
By now, Lord Pazluvoor had started talking. Vandiya
Devan listened carefully. "I am here to announce a very
grave news to you all. That is why Sambuvaraya has
convened this meeting. Right now, the health of Emperor
Sundara Chozla, is cause for great concern. I have secretly
asked the palace Doctors: they have said `There is not
much hope now. He is not likely to live much longer.'
Therefore, we have to decide upon the next course of
action." So said Lord Pazluvoor.
"What have the astrologers said?" asked one of the men.
Another replied "Why ask the astrologers? Hasn't the long-
tailed comet been appearing in the evening skies for
several days? Is that not enough?"
Lord Pazluvoor replied to this: "We have consulted the
astrologers also. They postpone the time a little. That is all.
Anyway, we have to now think about who is eligible to
succeed to the throne ..."
"What is left to think about now? Was not Aditya
Karikala coronated as the Crown Prince two years ago
itself?" declared a hoarse voice.
"True. But I would like to know if any one of us was
consulted before the coronation took place. Each one of us
gathered here belongs to well established clans that have
strived for more than a hundred years, for more than four
generations, to acquire the eminence of this Chozla
Empire. My great-grandfather died in the battle of Thiru-
puram-biyam. My grandfather lost his life during the war
in Vellur. My father sacrificed his life at Takkolam. In a
similar fashion, ancestors to each of you have given their
lives to establish the greatness of this Chozla Empire.
Young men from our families have died in the battlefield.
Even today, sons from our family and clan are engaged in
warfare in Lanka. But the Emperor did not consult our
opinion for the decision about a successor to the throne.
Even Emperor Dasaratha of the Epic convened an
assembly of his advisors before deciding to crown Lord
Rama as the Crown Prince; he consulted his ministers,
advisors, army commanders and chieftains under him.
But, our Sundara Chozla did not consider it necessary to
consult anyone ..."
"It is correct to say that he did not consult any of us.
However, it is not accurate when the Lord of Taxes says
that the emperor did not consult anyone! The opinions of
the Elder Pirati Sembiyan Madevi and that of the Younger
Pirati Kundavai Devi were asked for. Can Lord Pazluvoor
deny this?" When a member asked this in a mocking
voice, some others of the group laughed.
"Well! You all laugh! I do not know how you can think of
laughter. My very heart burns when I think of it; my blood
boils. I wonder why I should safeguard my life and live
without any sense of shame. The soothsayer who danced in
frenzy said that the Goddess is asking for a sacrifice. He
asked for a human sacrifice; of a prince from a thousand-
year old dynasty. Give me up as the sacrifice. My family is
more ancient than a thousand years. With a blow across
my throat, each of you with your swords offer me as the
18
sacrifice. The Mother Goddess will be satisfied; my soul
will be satisfied."
Lord Pazluvoor spoke the above words with as much rage
as the frenzied soothsaying-dancer.
Silence prevailed for a short while. The whistling of the
western breeze and the whispering of the trees near the
wall were the only sounds.
"I beg for the patience and forgiveness of the Pazluvoor
King for having uttered some words in ignorance and the
thoughtless laughter that followed. You are our leader
without any equal. We here, are all ready to carry out any
of your commands. We will walk in the path you direct us.
Please grant forgiveness," spoke an emotional
Sambuvaraya.
"I too lost my composure. You should forgive me. Think
of one thing. Two hundred years before today, Vijayala
Chozla broke the power of the Muthuaraya kings and
captured Tanjore. During the battle of Thiru-puram-biyam,
he helped the Pallava army and destroyed the legions of
Madurai Pandiya. From that moment, the Chozla Kingdom
has been growing and expanding day-by-day. The Chozla's
had not acquired this greatness even during the times of
historic Karikala Valava who built the embankments for
the Cauvery. Today, the empire spreads from Cape
Comorin in the south to the Thungabadra-Krishna rivers in
the north. The Pandiya Kingdom, Nanjil Kingdom, the
Chera Kingdom which has not been subjugated by anyone
so far, Thondai Territories, Paagi, Gangapadi, Nulampadi,
Vaithumba Territories, the Chitpuli nation, Bana lands,
Kudagu Hill Territories where river Ponni rises, -- all these
lands are now under Chozla control and are paying tribute.
The Chozla tiger-flag flies in all these countries. By now,
even Lanka in the south as well as Vengi and Rashtrakuta
in the north should have come under our sway. I do not
have to give you the reasons for them not being
vanquished; you know the reasons ...."
Lord Mazluvoor intervened: "Yes. All of us know the
reason. There are two reasons for Lanka, Vengi, Kalinga
and Rashtrakuta not coming under our suzerainty. One
cause is the Northern Commander-in-Chief, Prince Aditya
Karikala; the other is the Commander of the Southern
Armies, Arulmozli Varma."
"I agree with the reasons given by Lord Mazluvoor. For
the last hundred years the practice for appointing a
commander in the Chozla Kingdom was different. Brave
warriors, with the experience of several campaigns would
be selected as Generals of the army and as Commanders-
in-Chief. But what has happened today? The elder Prince
is a commander for the northern armies. What is he doing?
He is not planning campaigns against the twin territories of
the Rashtrakutas or against Vengi (modern Eluru of
Andhra) in the northeast. He sits in Kanchi, building a
Golden Palace! I ask you, the bravest warriors born in the
best of clans: till now, has any king in the Tamil Nation
built a Golden Palace for his own dwelling? Even the
most famous Emperor Paranthaka, who conquered
Madurai and Lanka and is now in his heavenly abode, did
not build himself a Golden Palace. He merely covered the
roof of the temple in Chidambaram with gold. But Prince
Aditya Karikala builds himself a Golden Palace in Kanchi,
for his residence! Apparently, the huge palaces from
which great Pallava monarchs ruled their empires for
several generations, are not adequate for the prestige of our
Prince! He builds a Golden Palace! He embeds rubies and
diamonds in the walls of that palace. Not a copper coin
from all the treasures captured from our campaigns in the
Gangapadi, Nulampadi and Kudagu Territories has he sent
back to the treasury in the capital till now."
"Has the construction of this Golden Palace been
completed?"
"Yes. My spies tell me that it has been completed. In
addition letters arrived for the Emperor from his beloved
elder son! He wants the Emperor to come and stay for a
while, in that newly constructed Golden Palace."
"Is the Emperor going to Kanchi?" asked another alarmed
voice.
"You need not have any concern about that. I am there to
take care that nothing like that will take place; my brother,
the Commander of Tanjore is also there. None can enter
the fort of Tanjore without the consent of the Younger
Lord Pazluvoor. None can interview the Emperor without
my knowledge; nor can they give letters. Twice or maybe
thrice, I have stopped letters that arrived for him."
"Long life to Lord Pazluvoor! Hail the Chanakian political
astuteness of the Pazluvoor king! Long life to his bravery!"
such shouts arose.
"Please listen a little longer! Much more than the deeds of
the Crown Prince, the activities of Prince Arulmozli
Varma who has gone to Lanka are peculiar. What do we
know of the rules of warfare? For generations and over
several hundreds of years, what policy have our ancestors
followed? If our armies invade enemy territories, the food
supplies and payments for our armies have to be procured
from those enemy lands. The wealth to pay our army must
be captured in those enemy regions. Excess treasures
should be sent back to the government treasury in the
capital city ... But, do you know what Prince Arulmozli is
doing? He wants food supplies to be sent from here, by
ships, to feed our soldiers in Lanka! For the last one year,
ten times, I have sent such shiploads of supplies."
"Most unusual and peculiar! We cannot tolerate such
illegalities! Never heard of such behavior!" rose several
voices.
"Listen to the reasoning of Prince Arulmozli for this
peculiar behavior. If we try to procure supplies for our
armies from the territories we invade, we would cause a lot
19
of inconvenience to the civilians and gain the displeasure
of the farmers in that land. Our dispute is with the royalty
of Lanka; not with Lankan populace. Therefore we should
not harass them in any way. After winning our battles
against their royalty, we should rule with the full approval
of those people. Therefore, the food and monies must be
sent from the homeland."
Someone from the meeting intervened by saying, "We
should not demand anything from the nations we have
conquered! We should fall at their feet and worship their
people! I have never heard of such conduct in warfare."
"Ask me about the consequences of such activities!
Because of these undertakings of both the Princes, the
treasury and granary in the royal palace at Tanjore often
become empty! I am compelled to levy more taxes on you
and also collect tributes from all of you. Perhaps that is
why the Chozlas have appointed me as their Tax Official.
If I had not considered the welfare of this country as most
important, I would have given up my positions long ago!"
"Oh no! Never! Your holding these positions gives us
several assurances. Why have you not spoken about these
things to the Emperor?"
"Why not? I have personally spoken to him about it several
times. Every time I am put aside with words like, `Ask the
Elder Pirati. Ask the Younger Pirati.' Remember I told you
earlier, the Emperor has lost the capability of thinking for
himself. Neither does he ask our opinion on important
matters. The words of his elder aunt, the Elder Pirati
Sembiyan Madevi, are gospel to him; after that he wants
me to consult with his beloved daughter the Younger Pirati
Kundavai. I, who have grown grey in the service of this
nation, I, along with other ministers, have to go and stand
in the presence of that slip of a girl -- a girl who has not
crossed the River Kollidam in the north or River
Kudamuruti in the south -- and then consult her opinion.
How is this story? From the days of this Chozla Kingdom
being established, I have never heard of such interference
from women in the politics of the nation. How long can I
tolerate such humiliation? If all of you unanimously agree,
I shall give up my official positions which trouble me to
levy taxes and fill the treasury, and go back to my own
city."
"No! Never. Lord Pazluvoor should not forsake us like
that. The Chozla Empire has been established with the aid
of thousands of brave men shedding their blood over four
generations; such a nation will be torn apart in confusion
within a short time if he does that," said Lord
Sambuvaraya.
"Well then, you should all give me your ideas about what
to do in this situation. What is the solution to this women's
rule which is worse than the power of the amazonian
Queen Alli?" asked Lord Pazluvoor.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 8 -- Who Is In The Palanquin?
For a while, the men in that meeting talked and argued
amongst themselves. Since several voices were raised at
the same time, Vandiya Devan could not hear anything
clearly.
In a louder voice, Lord Sambuvaraya said, "Don't we have
to answer the requests of the King of Pazluvoor? What is
the point of each one talking like this? It seems to be hours
past midnight. Look at the moon!"
"I have a certain doubt. Some others also, like me, may
have a similar reservation. If Lord Pazluvoor promises not
to be angry, I would like to ask about it," said a hoarse
voice which had spoken once before.
"Is it Vanangamudi Raya, who is talking? Please, let him
come forward into the light," said Lord Pazluvoor.
"Yes, it is me! Here, I have come up into the light."
"It is customary for me to show all my anger in the
battlefield and against my enemies. I have no anger against
friends. Therefore, please ask any question without any
hesitation."
"I will surely do so. The allegations against Emperor
Sundara Chozla, those very same accusations are placed
against Lord Pazluvoor by some people! I may not believe
them, but I would like some clarification," said
Vanangamudi Munai Raya.
"What are they? What charges? Please explain."
"We all know that Lord Pazluvoor married a young girl
about two years ago..."
With an angry voice, Lord Sambuvaraya interrupted: "We
object to such words by Munai Raya. It is totally
indecorous to ask such improper questions of our beloved
leader, our chief guest."
"I request Lord Sambuvaraya to please remain patient. Let
Munai Raya express his reservations freely. It is better to
voice one's opinions in the open than bury them in the
mind. It is true that I married a young girl after my fifty-
fifth year. I certainly accept that. But, I never declared
myself as a reincarnation of Lord Rama who vowed to
have only one wife! I never said that I will wed only one
maid. I love that girl; she returned my sentiment.
According to the ancient tenets of this Tamil country,
willingly, we married each other. What is wrong in that?"
asked Lord Pazluvoor.
"Nothing wrong!" replied several voices.
20
"I never said there was anything wrong about his marriage.
Who amongst us is monogamous? But ... but ..."
"But what? Ask without reluctance."
"Some people say that in all matters Lord Pazluvoor
consults and acts according to the wishes of the Young-
Queen he married recently. They say that he acts according
to her direction even in matters of the state. It is said that
he takes his Young-Queen along wherever he goes."
A laugh was heard in their midst.
Lord Sambuvaraya jumped up. "Who laughed? Let him
come forward and explain why he laughed!" he roared
while drawing his sword from its scabbard.
"I laughed! Don't be agitated Sambuvaraya!" said Lord
Pazluvoor. He then continued, "Munai Raya! Is it a crime
to take my legally wedded wife wherever I go? It is true
that I take her with me to visit several places. But it is
inaccurate to say that I consider the Young-Queen's
opinion in matters of the state. I have never done that."
"If so, I request Lord Pazluvoor to clear just one more
doubt. Why has this palanquin, which should have stayed
in the women's courtyard, come here to our confidential
meeting? Is there someone inside the closed palanquin or
not? If there is no one inside, how is it that I heard
somebody clearing their throat? Was it the jingle of
bangles that I heard inside, a little while ago?"
When Munai Raya asked these questions, a curious silence
prevailed amidst that gathering. Since these doubts had
occurred to most of them, none spoke against the words of
Munai Raya. Lord Sambuvaraya was muttering something
to himself. But nothing was said.
Tearing the silence apart, in a distinct voice, Lord
Pazluvoor said, "Good question. I am obligated to give an
answer. I shall clear your misgivings before we conclude
our meeting. Can you wait another half an hour? Do you
have that much trust in me?"
"Yes we do. We have complete trust in you, Lord
Pazluvoor," said Sambuvaraya.
"Let no one think that my reverence or loyalty to Lord
Pazluvoor is less than that of anyone else. Since he invited
us to speak freely, I asked. Apart from that I am ready to
obey all his orders. I shall give up my very life if he
commands it!" said Vanangamudi Munai Raya.
"I know about Munai Raya. I also recognize the trust you
have all placed in me. Therefore, let us now come to a
conclusion about the matter for which we convened this
meeting. Let Emperor Sundara Chozla Paranthaka live
long in this world and rule this Chozla Empire for a long
time. However, unfortunately, if something happens to
him: if the words of the palace doctors' come true, if the
omens forecast by the comet appearing in the sky come
true -- we have to decide who is eligible to succeed to the
Chozla throne."
"We request that you state your opinion on this matter.
There is no one here who has anything to say against your
views."
"That is not correct. Each one of you must think and then
express an impartial opinion. Permit me to recall some old
history to your memories. Twenty-four years ago, King
Gandara Aditya who was a great philosopher and devout
soul, died unexpectedly. When he died, his son,
Madurandaka, was a one year old child. The Queen-
consort of Gandara Aditya, the Lady Sembiyan Madevi,
announced to us, the wishes of the King: his younger
brother Arinjaya was to accept the Chozla throne after
him. Therefore, we crowned Prince Arinjaya as the Chozla
monarch. However, fate did not decree that Arinjaya
should sit on the throne for more than a year. When
Arinjaya died, his son, Paranthaka Sundara Chozla, was a
youth of twenty-four. Considering the welfare of the
nation, all of us -- the ministers, advisors, territorial
chieftains the heads of all the clans and leaders of the cities
and districts -- decided unanimously, and crowned Sundara
Chozla. None of us had cause to regret this. Because, until
two years ago, he ruled the nation with justice; he
respected our wishes and opinions and ruled this country
lawfully. Because of him the Chozla power grew to
include all neighboring nations under its sway.
"Now, the health of Sundara Chozla is cause for concern.
In this situation, who is eligible to succeed the Emperor?
Madurandaka, the cherished son of King Gandara Aditya,
is now grown up; he has the intelligence, education, the
character, the devotion to God, all the qualities of a person
worthy of the throne. Sundara Chozla's son, Aditya
Karikala, who is younger to him by one year, is stationed
in Kanchi as a Commander-in-Chief. Who between these
two has the right to succeed to the throne? What is the
code of inheritance among the clans? What is the law?
What is the ancient tradition of the Tamils? Is it justice if
the elder brother's son, Madurandaka inherits the nation?
Or, is it legal for the grand-son of the younger brother to
succeed? Each of you must consider this and clearly state
your decision."
"Madurandaka, the son of the elder brother Gandara
Aditya has the right to succeed. That is legal, justice,
tradition," said Lord Sambuvaraya.
"I agree", "That is my opinion too," so rose several voices.
"Your convictions are mine. Madurandaka deserves the
throne. However, is everyone here ready to support and
further this belief? Are you all ready to sacrifice your lives,
your wealth and very soul for this cause? This very minute,
are you all ready to swear in the name of Goddess Durga
and take an oath of allegiance?" When Lord Pazluvoor
21
asked this question his voice had a certain harshness, not
heard till then.
Silence prevailed for some time. Lord Sambuvaraya then
said, "We are ready to take such an oath of support.
Before that, we need one clarification. What are the
feelings of Prince Madurandaka? Is he ready to accept the
throne and rule this Empire? We have heard that the
cherished son of Gandara Aditya has forsaken the
pleasures of worldly life and is fully involved in the
devotion and worship of God Shiva. Several persons have
said that he has no interest in worldly kingdoms. We have
also heard that his mother, the Elder Pirati Sembiyan
Madevi is totally opposed to his ascending the throne. We
wish to know the truth about this from you."
"A good point and you raised it at the correct time. I must
clarify this question. I should have explained earlier --
forgive me for not doing so," with this long introduction
Lord Pazluvoor spoke as follows: "The whole nation
knows that the Lady Sembiyan Madevi discouraged her
only son from having any interest in affairs of the state and
raised him as a Saiva ascetic. But, neither nation nor
people know the reason behind such behavior. The Elder
Pirati feared that his very life would be in danger if her son
Madurandaka had any wish to rule the empire ... "
"Aha! Is that so!"
"Yes! To any mother, the wish that the son to whom she
gave birth should stay well and alive is greater than a
desire that he should sit upon the throne of the Kingdom.
Young Prince Madurandaka, who considered the words of
his mother as gospel, turned his mind in the path of
devotion and asceticism. Nevertheless, for sometime, his
mind has slowly undergone some transformation. `This
Chozla Empire is mine; it is my duty to rule the nation!'
such thoughts have taken root and grown in his heart. If he
knows that all of you are ready to support his cause, he is
ready to come forward at a suitable time and openly
declare his intentions."
"What proof do we have for this?"
"I will, without delay, produce proof that will satisfy all of
you. If I furnish such proof, will each of you take an oath
of allegiance to this cause?"
Several of the men said "We will! We will!"
"I hope no one has any other kind of reservation?"
"No! None!"
"Then, I shall show proof. I shall also clear the doubts
raised by Lord Vananga-mudi Munai Raya." With this
declaration, Lord Pazluvoor rose from his seat. Walking
majestically, he neared the closed palanquin.
"Prince! Please part the curtains and grace the outside with
your appearance. Permit these brave warriors, who are
ready to sacrifice their very life, wealth and soul for you,
to gaze upon your face." Lord Pazluvoor spoke in a very
deferential voice.
Vandiya Devan, who was sitting behind the pillar on the
upper terrace and listening to all these discussions with an
overpowering curiosity, now peeped down carefully. As
before, a hand parted the curtains of the palanquin. It too
was a golden hand. It seemed to be the very same fair hand
he had seen once before. But he now realized that he had
surmised the golden bracelet worn by royalty to be a
bangle. A dazzling face, comparable to the full moon,
could be seen the very next instant. A handsome figure,
comparable to Manmatha, the God of Love, stepped out of
the palanquin and smiled.
Aha! Is this Prince Madurandaka, son of Gandara Aditya
Deva? I mistook him to be a woman? I concluded that it
must be a girl, because of the closed palanquin!? But, did
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi also make the same mistake?
Vandiya Devan looked around to see if Nambi was still
thrusting his head above the wall. That spot of the palace
wall was now shrouded by shadows cast by the trees. He
could see nothing.
By now he heard some shouts from below. "Long Live
Madurandaka! Praise the Crown-Prince Madurandaka!
Victory to our brave spears!" They were passionate
outbursts. Vandiya Devan saw that all the men in the
courtyard were now standing; they held their swords and
spears high up above their heads and cheered. Thinking
that it would be dangerous to remain any longer in that
spot, he turned around and hurried back to his terrace and
laid himself down.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 9 -- Wayside Chitchat
Vandiya Devan had spent all his life until that day, in the
dry lands north of the River Palar. Consequently, he did
not know how to swim in a flowing river. Once, when he
was in the army on border patrol along the banks of the
North Pennar, he waded into the river for a bath. He was
caught in a swollen whirlpool. That sinister and devilish
whirlpool made him go round and round. At the same time
it dragged him downwards. Very soon the whirlpool had
drained all his strength. I cannot escape now; I have to
drown in this whirlpool and die! -- just as he lost hope he
was thrown out, by God's grace. The waves threw him on
the shores and saved him.
When he went back to bed that night in Kadamboor, he
experienced the same feeling he had while caught in the
whirlpool. He felt that with no choosing of his own, he
22
had fallen into the huge whirlpool of a political conspiracy.
Could he escape from this swirling treachery just as he had
escaped from that whirlpool?
The information he had gleaned from the midnight
meeting at Kadamboor baffled him. The dangers from
external enemies to the Chozla Empire had been overcome
only a few years ago. Prince Aditya Karikala -- brave,
expert in warfare, a veritable Chanakya in politics; with his
intelligence and optimum use of the capable Chozla
armies, he routed the powers of the Rashtrakuta monarch,
King Krishna, from the Thondai lands. In a way the
external enemies were destroyed. Now, internal disruption
and intrigue were raising their head. What would be the
consequence of this internal discord which is more
dangerous than external strife?
Are not the important officials, ministers, chieftains and
famous warriors of the Chozla nation involved in this
frightening endeavor? What kind of persons are the Lord
of Pazluvoor and his brother? What is their power? How
much prestige do they have? What about the others who
met here today? They are all powerful, distinguished and
eminent personalities. Is this the first meeting of this kind?
I wonder; to how many other places has the Prince been
taken in a closed palanquin by Lord Pazluvoor? Aha! The
fact of being married to a young girl in his old age has
served him so usefully in this conspiracy!
Until that day, no doubt about Prince Karikala's eligibility
to the Chozla throne had risen in Vandiya Devan's mind.
He had not even dreamed that a challenge would arise. Of
course, he had heard of Madurandaka, the son of King
Gandara Aditya. He had heard that, like the father the son
was an ardent worshipper of God Shiva. But he had never
heard anything about his rights to the succession or that he
would demand his rights. In fact Vandiya Devan had never
thought about such things.
What is the legality, the justice? Who is truly eligible to
succeed to the throne? Karikala? Madurandaka? The more
he thought about it, he felt that both sides had equal
justification. If it really comes to a confrontation, who will
come out victorious? What is my duty in this situation?
Aha! I started on this journey from Kanchi while building
all sorts of dream fortresses. I desired to attain eminent
positions in the Chozla Empire by pleasing the Crown
Prince Karikala! I even hoped that in due course I would
regain the ancestral territories of my Vaanar clan. The very
limb that I caught hold of, to achieve all these dreams,
seems ready to drop! ... Thinking of all such things when
he came to bed the second time that night, Vandiya Devan
suffered with sleeplessness for a long time. In the end,
towards the late hours of the night just as the eastern skies
were turning light, he somehow went to sleep.
The next morning, Vandiya Devan did not get up even
when the golden-red rays of the rising sun fell piercingly
upon him. He was jolted awake when Kandamaran came
and shook his shoulders. With the courtesy shown to any
guest, Kandamaran asked, "Did you sleep well?" And then
he added, "After all my other guests had gone to sleep, I
came up here and checked; you excelled in service like
Kumbakarna (a mythical hero who slept half his lifetime)!"
Stifling everything that he remembered, Vandiya Devan
said, "All that I recall is coming up to bed after the gypsy
dance. I am just getting up! Oh, ho! It is already so late: it
must be several hours past sunrise. I have to start
immediately. Kandamara, tell your servants to get my
horse ready."
"This is really fine! How can you leave so soon? What is
the hurry? You must stay here for at least ten days before
you go on," said Kandamaran.
"No, my dear fellow! I had news that my uncle in Tanjore
was in a bad shape; his survival itself is doubtful. I have to
go quickly to see him before he is gone. I must leave
immediately." Vandiya Devan said this with total
conviction, without any hesitation.
"You must then stay here for a while, at least when you go
back."
"Why not? We shall think of it at that time. Permit me to
leave now."
"Don't be in such a hurry. We can start after the morning
meal. I shall accompany you till the banks of River
Kollidam."
"How can you do that? You have all sorts of important
guests. How can you leave them and ..."
"I have no guest more important than you ..." saying this
Kandamaran stopped suddenly. "Yes the guests are
important people. But my father can take care of them. The
other officials of this palace can do that. I could not chat
with you even last night. I can rest in peace only if I
chitchat with you for a little while, along the road. I shall
certainly come with you till the Kollidam."
"I have no objection. Your wish. Your convenience," said
Vandiya Devan.
After more than two hours, both friends mounted on two
horses started from Lord Sambuvaraya's palace. The
horses cantered quite slowly. The ride was rather pleasant.
The friends did not seem to mind even the road dust
sprayed upon them by the swift northern wind. They had
lost themselves in old remembrances. After some time
Vandiya Devan said: "Kandamara! Even though I spent
just one night in your house, it was very useful to me. Just
one disappointment. You used to recount all sorts of things
about your sister, while we were on the banks of the North
Pennar. I could not even see her properly! When she
peeped from hiding behind your mother, I could glimpse
about one-eighth of her face! Your sister seems to possess
23
a shyness and modesty that is more than any one girl's
share."
Kandamaran's lips twitched as if to say something. But no
words came out.
"Still, no regrets. You have invited me to stay with you for
a few days on my way back. I can make her acquaintance
at that time. By that time your younger sister may be able
to overcome her shyness about me. Kandamara, what is
your sister's name?"
"Manimekala."
"Oh! What a delightful name! If her character and beauty
are like the name..."
Kandamaran intervened and said in a forlorn voice, "My
friend! I beg this one thing of you. Please forget my sister.
Please forget all that I mentioned about her to you. Do not
even utter her name."
"What is this Kandamara? Every thing seems topsy-turvy?
Even last night you hinted that I may become a son-in-law
to your clan!"
"It is true that I said it. Since then the situation has
changed. My parents have arranged to wed my young
sister elsewhere. Manimekala has also agreed."
Vandiya Devan cheered within his heart: "Long live
Manimekala." He did not have any trouble guessing who
was selected to wed Manimekala. They must have pledged
her to Madurandaka who stepped out of the closed
palanquin. They are perhaps arranging such marriage
alliances in order to gain strength for the Prince's cause.
Lord Pazluvoor is a dangerous and capable politician.
"Oh! You have contracted one of your rich guests who
came last night as the bridegroom. Kandamara, I have no
surprise about this; nor am I really disappointed. In a way
it was expected."
"Expected? How is that?"
"Who would give their daughter to a destitute-orphan like
me? Which maid will agree to marry a poor fellow who
has neither house nor land. What is the use now if my
ancestors had ruled kingdoms long ago?"
"My dear friend! Enough of this, stop! Don't think so
shoddily of me or my family. What you think, is not the
reason. There is something much more important. You will
agree if you know of it. But I cannot reveal the reason
now. When the time comes you will know."
"Kandamara, what is this? You have been talking quite
mysteriously today."
"Forgive me for that. It is a big secret that I cannot reveal
even to you. Whatever happens, trust me that nothing will
come between our friendship. When it is time to reveal
plans, I will run to you and disclose all the details. Trust
me until then."
"Thanks for the pledge! But what is the situation wherein
you may have to forsake me? And, I am not one to live
upon my faith in somebody else. I trust my own sword and
spear."
"There may be an opportunity to use that sword and that
spear soon. At that time I hope we will fight side by side.
Your dreams also may then be fulfilled."
"What is this? Are you soon expecting some war? Or, are
you planning to enter the battlefields of Lanka?"
"To Lanka? You will be surprised if you hear the details of
the ridiculous campaign in Lanka. I believe we have to
supply the rice and other foodstuffs from Chozla country
for the soldiers fighting in Lanka. Shameful! I am talking
about something else. Be patient for a while. I will tell you
at the right time. Don't kindle my mouth now."
"Alright. If you don't wish, don't tell me anything. Don't
even open your mouth. I think I can see the river ahead of
us."
They could really see the torrents of the immense River
Kollidam at the end of the road. Within a few minutes the
friends reached the river bank.
The fresh floods of the spring month filled that great river.
The far side seemed very distant. Trees on the other shore
seemed like small bushes. Reddish silt laden waters, filled
with rapids and whirlpools drawing fantastic pictures,
thundering joyously, celebrating with a loud roaring sound,
trying to break through the high banks on both sides,
rolling and tumbling towards the eastern sea, rushing
onwards -- Vandiya Devan looked upon this sight and
stood there in amazement.
A ferry boat waited near the landing wharf. Two boatmen
with long poles in their hands waited readily. One
gentleman was already seated in the boat. He appeared to
be of the Saiva sect. Catching sight of the two men coming
upon the bank, a boatman asked, "Sirs! Are you both
coming in this boat?"
"Yes. He will come. Wait for a while."
Both friends jumped off their horses. "I came without
thinking. What can I do with this horse of mine? Can it go
in the boat?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"No need. There! Look! Two of my footmen are following
us. One of them will lead your horse back to Kadamboor.
The other fellow will come with you in this boat. He will
24
procure another horse for you on the other shore," said
Kandamaran.
"Aha! How thoughtful. You are my true friend."
"You must have thought of the Kollidam as comparable to
the Palar and Pennar rivers. You wouldn't have known that
you cannot cross this river with a horse."
"Yes. Forgive me for under-estimating the rivers of your
Chozla lands. Gosh! What a river! What floods? It seems
to roar like the ocean."
The two friends took leave of each other with a hearty
embrace. Vandiya Devan walked down the river bank and
got into the boat. One of Kandamaran's footmen also
climbed into the boat. The boat was ready to leave. The
boatmen thrust their long poles deep into the water.
Suddenly, from a distance they could hear shouts: "Stop!
Stop the boat!" said a voice. The boatmen hesitated
without pushing their poles. The fellow who shouted came
running up the bank. With one glance, Vandiya Devan
recognized him. He was Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
Recognizing the newcomer as a follower of the Vaishnava
sect, the gentleman in the boat said "Go! Let the boat go! I
will not come in the same boat as that imposter. Let him
come in the next ferry."
But Vandiya Devan looked at the boatmen and said, "Wait
a bit. Let him also come. There is plenty of room in this
ferry boat. Let us take him." Vandiya Devan wished to
question Azlvar-adiyan and learn more about the
happenings of last night.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 10 -- The Astrologer Of Kudanthai
River Ponni, born and raised in the Kudagu Hills, after her
childhood was past, wished to meet the Ocean King, her
chosen husband. She went swiftly, crossing hill and dale,
rocky mountain and canyon. As she came closer and
closer, the joyous anticipation of meeting her beloved
Lord, the Ocean King, made her thrive and grow. She went
even further. Two arms grew to embrace the lover.
Spreading her arms wide, she leaped and surged forward.
Two arms were not sufficient for her ardent enthusiasm.
Her loving arms grew into ten, twenty, hundred! Stretching
out all these arms in eagerness she neared the Ocean King.
She was the bride meeting her beloved. Chozla women,
her bridesmaids, dressed her in such wondrous ways. They
clothed her in the beautiful greens of rice-fields. They
decorated her with colorful flowers; and showered her with
fragrant woods. How can we describe the enchanting
kadamba and punnai trees on both her banks: they covered
her with pearls and rubies of flowers.
Who would not be overjoyed to cast their eyes upon you,
dear Ponni? Which maid will not be beguiled by this, your
bridal attire? It is but natural that attractive young girls
should gather around you just as bridesmaids surround a
ravishing bride.
One of the arms stretched out by Ponni or Cauvery, to
reach out for her Lord the Ocean King, is known by the
name River Arisil. The beautiful Arisil flows to the south
of and very close to River Cauvery. One could not easily
view this petite river from a little distance. The groves of
trees, growing thickly on both its banks hide the river. One
could consider the Arisil as a princess who never stepped
out of the enclosed courtyards of a royal palace. There is
no comparison to this beautiful virgin river.
Let our readers forget that it is the inner courtyard of a
palace and come with us to the banks of the Arisil river.
Let them enter these woody groves on its banks. Oh! What
an enchanting sight meets our eyes! It seems to add
radiance to beauty; to add sweetness to nectar.
Who are these divine women, seated on the beautifully
carved barge, constructed like a floating swan? Who is the
radiant jewel among women, seated in their midst, like the
full moon among twinkling stars, like a queen born to rule
all seven worlds? Who is the gentle damsel seated next to
her, playing the veena (lute like instrument)? Who are
these heavenly beauties coming down the stream, mixing
the pleasant melody of their music with the gurgling noises
of the river?
One of them had large eyes shaped like darting fish; the
other was blue eyed; yet another had a face like the
blossoming lotus; another girl had wide dark eyes shaped
like the petal of a blue lily. Ah! The girl playing the
musical instrument, one could watch forever, her soft
fingers dancing over the taunt strings of the veena.
What can we say about the sweetness of the song they
sang? Even the water in the river seemed to be still as it
listened to their melodious music. Even the cuckoos and
parrots on the trees listened quietly. We humans, blessed
with the fortune of being able to listen, why should we not
be enchanted by their song? Let us listen to them:
Walk slowly, walk shyly,
Praise to you, dear Cauvery;
Dress yourself in beautiful clothes:
Fragrant gardens full of humming bees;
Open wide, those large dark eyes:
Dancing fish of deep dark seas;
Dancing does not melt a lovers heart:
Like a good monarch's mace of justice;
When nightingales sing in deep woods;
And peacocks dance amidst flower groves;
Dance gently, dear Cauvery:
You disturb the garlands on Kama's shoulders.
The garlands at his waist are all asway;
What caused it? The very name of your dear Lord:
25
An expert spear like dart;
Walk slowly, walk shyly,
Praise to you, dear Cauvery.
Where have we heard this delightful Tamil poem? Oh yes,
is it not from The Silappadikaram (an ancient poetical
work)? The poem seems even more enchanting and
delightful when these maids sing it. Perhaps they are the
maids of honor in River Arisil's court? Or is this the magic
of some sorcerer? It entices every beholder.
The barge floated down gently till it stopped near a landing
amidst the woods. Two maidens are getting down. One is
that dignified lady, comparable to a queen of the seven
worlds; the other is her companion who was creating the
enchanting harmony while playing the veena. Though
both are beautiful, there was a difference between the two
of them. One has the dignity of a lotus blossom in full
bloom. The other has the pleasantness of the night-time
water lily. One is the radiant full moon; the other is the
young crescent of late evening. One is the dancing
peacock; the other is a singing nightingale. One is a queen
of the Gods; her friend is Rathi, the beloved of Cupid. She
is the fast flowing turbulent Ganga. Her companion is the
gentle Cauvery.
Without further ado, without leaving our readers in further
suspense, let me introduce these two ladies. The lady with
a certain dignity in her posture is Kundavai, the beloved
daughter of Emperor Sundara Chozla. She is the elder
sister to Arulmozli Varma who would later attain historic
fame as Rajaraja I. She is the lady revered by the people as
the young royal princess, the Younger Pirati. A
distinguished daughter of the Tamils, she laid the
foundations for the greatness of the Chozla Empire. She is
the capable lady who will raise and mould the ambitions of
Rajaraja's son Rajendra and make him the greatest of
monarchs in South Indian history.
Her friend is Vanathi, a noblewoman from the clan of
Kodumbalur chieftains. She came to enjoy the fortune of
being a part of Kundavai's household. In the future she
would attain greatness unparalleled in history. She is now
a young girl, full of modesty and a pleasant gentleness.
After both had alighted from the barge, Kundavai turned to
her other companions and said, "You can all wait here. We
will be back in an hour."
All those maids, who were her companions, were
noblewomen from the households of the aristocrats and
chieftains in the Chozla nation. They had come to the
Pazlayarai Palace, considering it a fortune to be included
as maids of honor to Kundavai. Now, when Kundavai went
ashore with just one girl from among them, saying, "I'll
come after a while," a certain envy and disappointment
could be discerned in their eyes.
A horse drawn chariot awaited their pleasure on the shore.
"Vanathi! Get into the chariot," said Kundavai. When both
were seated, the chariot moved swiftly.
"Akka! Where are we going? Can you tell me?" asked
Vanathi.
"Why not? We are going to the house of the Kudanthai
Astrologer," said Kundavai.
"Why are we going to an astrologer's house, Akka? What
do we have to ask him?"
"What else? To ask about you! For some months now you
seem to be a girl possessed, lost in some dream world,
losing weight. We are going to ask him if you will be
cured of these fantasies and become healthy once again.
We are going to ask him all these things!"
"Akka! Let good fortune be showered upon you! There is
nothing wrong with my health. We don't have to ask him
anything about me. Let's go back."
"No, my dear no! I am not going to ask him anything about
you. I shall ask him about me!"
"What do you have to ask about yourself? What is there to
ask an astrologer about yourself?"
"I am going to ask him if I would ever be married; or am I
going to spend all my life a virgin maid!"
"Akka! Why ask the astrologer about it? You have to ask
your own heart! Just nod you gracious head: princes from
all the fifty-six kingdoms from Cape Comorin to the
Himalayas would come running, vying with each other.
Why, even princes from across the seas from Yavana and
Kadaram will come. I wonder which of these princes will
have the fortune of receiving your hand. You have to
determine that!"
"Vanathi, even if I accept all that you say as truth, there is
one obstacle. If I marry any one of these princes from an
alien nation, I will have to go with him to his kingdom. My
dear, I have a great dislike to go away from this delightful
Chozla Kingdom where the Ponni flows! I have taken an
oath that I will not go to another kingdom from here.. ..."
"That is no obstacle! Any prince that marries you will stay
at your feet as your slave. If you order him to stay here he
will remain here."
"Oh dear Lord! That will be like picking up a rat and tieing
it up in your waistband! How can we retain an alien prince
in our lands? Do you know the consequences of such
activity?"
"Anyway, whatever you say, a person born as a woman
will one day have to be married. Is that not so?"
26
"No law says that my dear. Vanathi, think of the Lady
Avvaiyar. Did she not live for a long time as a queen
among poets but a virgin maid?"
"Because of a boon from the Gods Avvaiyar became an
old maid in her young age. You are not like that."
"Well if I do have to be married, I think I shall choose an
orphan Chozla warrior for my consort. That fellow will not
have any kingdom. He will not demand that I go to another
nation. He will remain here itself, in this Chozla country."
"Akka, does it mean that you will never leave these Chozla
Territories?"
"Never will I leave. Even if they offer to crown me as a
queen of the heavens, I will not leave!"
"Now I am quite happy."
"How is that?"
"If you move to another kingdom, I will have to follow
you. I cannot be parted from you. At the same time I have
no heart to leave this bountiful Chozla land!"
"If you are married, won't you have to leave?"
"I am not going to marry anyone, Akka."
"My dear girl! What happened to all the advise you were
giving me just now?"
"Am I like you?"
"You deceiver! I know everything! Are you trying to
throw dust in my eyes? You have no great love for this
Chozla land. The Chozla nation you love is bearing sword
and spear and has gone to Lanka to conduct a campaign!
You think that I do not know your secrets?"
"Akka! Akka! Am I so foolish? Where is the sun? and
where is the morning dewdrop? What is the use, if a
dewdrop wishes for the friendship of the fiery sun?"
"The dewdrop is small! And the sun is mighty and bright!
Still, does not the dewdrop impound the bright sunshine in
itself? Tell me?"
Vanathi now replied in a voice filled will cheer and
eagerness: "Are you saying that? Can a mere dewdrop
attain the sun?" Then suddenly she felt depressed. "The
dewdrop wishes to do so; in fact it enslaves the sunray!
But what use? Within a short time it is severely punished.
It dries up in the bright sunlight and disappears without a
trace!"
"That is wrong, Vanathi. The sun recognizes the love of
the dewdrop and merges her into himself. He thinks that
his beloved maid, the dewdrop, should not be seen by
other men. He lets her out again after darkness. Doesn't the
hidden dewdrop appear again every morning?"
"Akka, you are telling me all these stories to cheer me up."
"So! You do say that you need cheering up. There is some
sadness in your heart. All these days you maintained that
`Nothing is wrong'. That is why I am going to the
Astrologer of Kudanthai."
"If there is a sadness in my heart, what is the use of asking
an astrologer about it?" sighed Vanathi.
The house of the Kudanthai Astrologer was situated in the
outskirts of that city, in an isolated spot, besides a Kali
temple. The chariot did not enter the city, but went around
and reached that house. From the way the charioteer drove
his chariot without any hesitation or doubt, it appeared that
he had driven there several times before.
The Astrologer and one of his disciples waited readily
outside the house. The Astrologer welcomed his visitors
with great reverence and courtesy.
"Great lady! A reincarnation of both Kalaimagal (Goddess
of Learning) and Thirumagal (Goddess of Wealth)!
Welcome. Welcome. It is the fortune of my humble abode
that you have come in search of me once again!"
"Mr. Astrologer! I hope that nobody else will come in
search of you at this time?" asked Kundavai.
"No one will come Thaye! Not many people come in
search of me these days. Only when troubles in the world
increase will people seek the astrologer. Nowadays, under
the rule of your esteemed father -- The Emperor Sundara
Chozla -- the people have no troubles at all! They possess
all the comforts and luxuries and live life with happiness.
Who will come in search of me?"
"Do you mean to say that I have some troubles and
therefore, I have come to consult you?" asked Kundavai.
"No. Great lady, no. Which blind fool will say that the
beloved daughter of Sundara Chozla who possesses
immense wealth, has any troubles? Since the people have
no troubles, this poor astrologer is cast into misfortune.
Nobody takes care of him. Therefore you have come here
like a Goddess with solicitude for my troubles. Please
enter and grace my humble house. Look at me, talking
while I detain you here on the doorstep!" said the
resourceful Astrologer.
Kundavai turned to the charioteer and said, "Take the
chariot to the shade of the banyan tree behind the temple
and wait."
Kundavai and Vanathi entered the Astrologer's house as he
led them inside. The Astrologer turned to his disciple and
said warningly, "Wait outside and guard the entrance
27
carefully. Even if accidentally someone happens to come
by, do not let them enter."
The parlor in the Astrologer's house was decorated to
receive his royal visitors. In an alcove in the wall was a
decorated figure of the Goddess Devi. Two seats were
made ready for seating the visitors. A tall metal lamp was
lit. The floor gleamed with intricate kolam decorations.
Several tablets and palm leaf charts with the scribbles and
symbols of the astrologer's trade were scattered about.
After both ladies were seated, the Astrologer sat down.
"Madam, please tell me why you have come?"
"Sir! Can you not find out even that by your astrology?"
asked Kundavai.
"So be it, Thaye!" said the Astrologer and closed his eyes.
He muttered some incantations and after a while looked at
them saying "Lady, you have come here today, mainly to
ask about the horoscope of this young girl. That is what the
grace of the Goddess reveals to me."
"Aha! Remarkable! How can we praise your powers? Yes
sir! I have come to ask about this girl. She came to the
Pazlayarai Palace about a year ago. For the first eight
months she was very cheerful and happy. Amongst my
companions she was the most joyous, most filled with
playful laughter. For the last four months, something has
happened to her. Often, she seems depressed. She seems to
live in some abstract world. She has forgotten her laughter.
She says that nothing is wrong with her health. If her
parents come and ask me tomorrow, what reply can I
give?"
"Thaye! Is she not the beloved daughter of the Lord of
Kodumbalur? Is her name Vanathi Devi?" asked the
Atrologer.
"Yes; you seem to know everything."
"I even have the horoscope of this young Lady. I have it in
my collection. Please wait a little."
The Astrologer opened an old casket by his side and
searched awhile. He then picked up a palm leaf notation of
a horoscope and peered at it.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 11 -- Sudden Entry
The town known as Kumbakonam, was known as
Kudanthai or Kudamooku during the times of our story.
Besides the virtue of being a pilgrimage center, it was also
famous because of the Astrologer of Kudanthai. A little
distance to the south of Kudanthai, a majestic view of the
interim capital of the Chozla's, Pazlayarai, with its temple
towers and palace turrets reaching the skies, could be
glimpsed.
The Astrologer of Kudanthai had collected the horoscopes
of all the royal family living at the Pazlayarai Palace. He
had searched amidst this collection and found the
horoscope of Lady Vanathi of Kodumbalur. After peering
at the palm leaf notation of the horoscope for a while, he
stared at the face of Vanathi; then again looked at the
notation. He was peering and staring one after the other,
but did not open his mouth to utter a single word!
With a little impatience Kundavai asked, "What Sir? Are
you going to say something or not?"
"Thaye! What can I say? How can I say it? I had studied
this horoscope once before and could not believe it myself.
I doubted if anything could be like it and kept it aside.
Now, when I behold the divine face of this Lady and see
her horoscope at the same time, I am astounded!"
"Be amazed! Be astounded! After you have been
astounded enough, say something in particular."
"Madam, this is a very fortunate horoscope. I am saying it
with the belief that you will not mistake my words. This is
one step better than even your horoscope! I have never, till
now, seen such a lucky horoscope."
Kundavai smiled. Vanathi said with some shyness, "Akka!
He is calling this most unfortunate girl the luckiest person
in this world! Everything he utters will be like this."
"Amma, what are you saying? If my statements are
incorrect, I will give up my practice!" said the Astrologer.
"No. Mr. Astrologer, no. Don't do anything like that. Keep
predicting such good things to the people. But you are
uttering generalities; you have said nothing in particular.
That is why she doubts you."
"You want me to say something specific? Here, I will say
it. Four months ago, something that appeared to be an ill
omen occurred. Something slipped and fell. But in truth,
that is not an ill omen. It is from that incident that this
Lady will obtain all her good fortune."
"Vanathi, remember what I said? See?" said Kundavai
Devi.
"You must have told him about it before!" said Vanathi.
"Sir, look at the way this girl talks?"
"Let her talk Thaye, let her say whatever she wants now.
Tomorrow when she marries the king of kings ...."
"Yes, talk about such things! Young girls will listen
happily if you speak to them about marriage."
28
"That is what I have been saying too. If I suddenly raise
the topic of marriage, people will say `This old man has
lost his senses.' That is why ..."
"Where will her husband come from? When will he come?
What is his identification? Can you tell us all these things
from the horoscope, Sir?"
"Oh yes! Why not? I can say it very well." The Astrologer
peered into the horoscope once more. Whether he
examined it carefully or pretended to do examine it, none
can say!
Then looking up decisively he said, "Madam! A husband
for this maid does not have to come from very far! He is
quite nearby. However, that brave warrior is not in this
country now. He has gone across the seas."
Upon hearing these words, Kundavai looked at Vanathi.
Vanathi tried to contain the happiness that bubbled in her
heart; but could not do so: her face showed it.
"Then, who is he? What clan? Any signs to recognize
him?"
"Oh yes. Very clear signs. A prince fortunate enough to
marry this girl, will have the sign of the conch and discus
on his palms."
Once again Kundavai looked at Vanathi. But Vanathi was
looking down, almost hiding her face. "Won't there be
some signs or significant lines on her palms also?" asked
Kundavai Pirati.
"Thaye! Have you ever seen the soles of this girl's feet? ..."
"Sir! What are you saying? Are you asking me to touch her
feet?"
(Greeting a person by touching their feet denotes extreme
humility, or servitude.)
"No! Oh no! I am not saying anything like that! However,
sometime in the future, thousands of princesses, queens
and empresses will pray for the fortune of touching this
noble lady's feet."
"Akka! This old man is teasing me. Is it for this, that you
brought me here? Please get up; let us go" Vanathi said
this with some real anger.
"Why are you agitated my dear? Let him keep saying what
he wants ..."
"I am not saying anything. I am just explaining the
notations in this horoscope. Poets often talk about lotus
feet. Please ask this Lady to show me her feet a little bit.
Her sole will surely have the line of the red-lotus."
"Well! That's enough Sir. If you say anything more about
this girl, she will get hold of my hands and drag me out.
Tell us something about the man who is to be her
husband."
"Yes. Of course, I shall do so. The fortunate youth who
will take her hand will be the bravest among brave; he will
wear the victory garlands from fighting in the forefront of
hundreds of campaigns. He will be a king of kings. With
the praise and support of thousands of kings, he will sit
upon the throne of an emperor for a long time."
"I do not believe your words. How is that possible?" asked
Kundavai. Several emotions -- eagerness, happiness, fear,
doubt, worry -- danced on her face.
"I too don't believe it. He is thinking of something else and
saying all this. He is uttering such words to make you
happy!" said Vanathi.
"If you don't believe my words today, there is no harm.
One day you will believe it. Don't forget this poor
astrologer on that day."
Vanathi asked once again: "Akka, shall we go?" Two tear
drops peeped at the corners of her dark eyes.
"I have to tell you just one more thing. Please hear that
also and then leave. There will be several obstacles and
dangers for the young man who is to marry this Princess.
He will have several enemies ..."
"Oh!"
"But all the dangers and obstacles will fly away in the end.
Enemies will be totally destroyed; the Lord who attains
this Lady will cross all impediments and achieve great
positions. There is something much more important than
even this ... Thaye! I am an old man. Therefore, I can
reveal all without hiding anything. You should look at the
stomach of this girl sometime. If you do not find the lines
and sign of a banyan (ficus) leaf on her stomach, I will
give up my practice of astrology."
"Sir, what is so special about the sign of the banyan leaf?"
"Don't you know who the Lord who reposed on the banyan
leaf is? A son with the aspects of that great Vishnu will be
born to her. Her Lord is likely to have all sorts of dangers,
obstacles, impediments and bad periods. But the son who
is to be born of this Lady will have nothing that is a
deterrent. All that he thinks of will be concluded; anything
he undertakes will be completed; his touch will be golden;
wherever he steps will be under his sway; whatever he sees
will have the tiger-flag flying over it. Madam, the armies
led by her son will flow in all directions, with no
hinderance, like the fresh floods of the Ponni. The Goddess
of Victory will be his bonded slave. The fame of his native
lands will spread across the worlds. The fame of his clan
will last as long as this world exists!"
29
When the Astrologer spoke these words as if in some
frenzy, Kundavai was looking at him with rapt attention,
listening to every word he uttered. She was startled to turn
around upon hearing the distressed call, "Akka!"
"Something is happening to me," said Vanathi in further
distress. Suddenly she fainted and fell to the floor.
"Sir! Please fetch some water quickly," saying this,
Kundavai lifted Vanathi onto her lap. The Astrologer
brought some water. Kundavai sprinkled the water on her
friends face.
"Nothing will go wrong, Amma! Do not be concerned,"
said the Astrologer.
"I am not worried. This is her habit. This has happened
four or five times till now. She will open her eyes and get
up after some time. Upon waking she will ask if this is the
earth or paradise," said Kundavai.
Then, in a much softer voice she asked "Sir! I came to ask
you something very important. Have you any news?"
The Astrologer's manner changed; he said some words to
her very precisely and quickly.
Then, Kundavai Pirati asked, "I hear that people in the
countryside and cities are talking about all sorts of things.
The long tailed comet has been appearing in the skies for
sometime. Is there some meaning to all this? Is there some
danger to the empire? Will there be any change,
confusion?"
"Lady, don't ask me about that. There is no horoscope for
kingdoms, nations or political events; neither can I predict
anything by astrology about them. I know nothing about
such matters through the science I practice. Perhaps the
seers and philosophers or the devout and ascetic may be
able to foresee something. This poor fellow does not have
such powers. In politics the stars and planets of astrology
have no power." The Astrologer spoke these words with a
certain emphasis, looking at Vanathi who seemed to be
stirring.
"Sir! You talk very skillfully. You don't have to study the
horoscope of a nation. But can you not reveal particulars
about my father and my brothers? Isn't studying their
horoscopes like looking at the horoscope of the nation?"
"I will look into them at leisure and tell you. Thaye, in
general this period is full of confusion and danger. All of
us have to be a little careful."
"Sir! About my father..., the Emperor ... I am quite worried
ever since he moved to Tanjore from Pazlayarai."
"I have told you earlier, Madam. This is a period of grave
danger for the Emperor. All your family has to face great
danger. With the grace of the Goddess Durga all will be
overcome."
"Akka, where are we?" asked the faint voice of Vanathi.
Vanathi, who had her head on Kundavai's lap, blinked her
eyelids several times like the buzzing bee, and looked
around.
"Darling, we are still on this earth. The flower-laden
flying-chariot has not yet come to take us to the heavens.
Get up! Let us get into our mere horse drawn chariot and
go back to the palace."
Vanathi sat up and asked, "Did I faint?"
"No. You did not faint. You took a little nap on my lap. I
even sang you a lullaby. Did you not hear it?"
"Please do not scold me Akka. Without my awareness, I
felt dizzy."
"Yes. You will feel dizzy. Quite dizzy. If this Astrologer
had predicted all those grand fortunes for me, even my
head would feel dizzy."
"Not because of that Akka. You think I believed
everything he said?"
"I don't know if you believed it or not? But this Astrologer
was quite worried about you. I should not take a poor
spirited person like you, anywhere, anymore."
"I said that I did not want to come to this astrologer. You
insisted ..."
"It is my fault. Get up. Let us go. Can you walk to the
doorstep? Or, should I carry you on my hip?
"No. No. I can walk very well."
"Please have a little patience Thaye! I shall give you some
sacrament-offerings of the Goddess. Please receive them
before you go," said the Astrologer as he tidied his papers.
"Sir, you described all sorts of things for me. But you did
not say anything for Akka?" asked Vanathi.
"Amma, I have told everything to the Younger Pirati.
What is there to say afresh?"
"About the bravest of warriors who is to marry Akka ...."
"That dauntless gallant ...." interrupted Kundavai with
some surprise.
"Doubtless. A very capable prince..."
"He who has all the thirty-two signs of good looks; Jupiter
in wisdom; a veritable Saraswati (deity of learning) in
30
knowledge; handsome as Cupid, Oh no, as Arjuna (epic
warrior)!"
"When will that handsome prince, deserving of the
Younger Pirati come and where will he come from?"
"How will he come? Upon a horse? On a chariot? By
walk? Or, will he rip open the roof and jump down from
the skies?" asked Kundavai with a mocking voice.
"Akka, I can hear the hoof beats of a horse," Vanathi said
this with some agitation.
"You will hear most wonderful things unheard by anyone
else."
"No. I am not joking. Listen."
By now all three could hear the quick gallop of a horse on
the road outside.
"What if you hear it? Won't horses gallop along the road?"
said Kundavai.
"No. It seems to be coming here, to this house."
"OK. Get up. Let us go."
At this time they could hear some confused noises outside
the door. Voices could be heard.
"Is this the Astrologer's house?"
"Yes; who are you?"
"Is the Astrologer home?"
"You cannot enter."
"I will do so."
"I cannot let you."
"I must see the Astrologer."
"Come later."
"I cannot come later; I am in a great hurry."
"Hey! You! You fellow! Stop! Stop!"
"Damn it! Move away! I'll kill you if you stand in the
way."
"Sir! Sir! Please! Please! Don't enter! Don't go in."
The confused shouts came closer, and closer. The wooden
front door opened with a bang. With all this great
commotion, a young man made a sudden entry.
Another fellow was trying to drag him back by pulling at
his shoulders. The youth shook off the hands, stepped
across the doorway and came into the room.
Our readers would have guessed the identity of the
newcomer! Yes, it was our youthful hero, Vandiya Devan.
All the three pairs of eyes inside the house looked at that
warrior.
Vandiya Devan also looked at the people inside; no; he
looked at only one person inside. Not even that. He did not
see even Kundavai Devi completely. He just saw her
golden face. Did he at least see her face completely? -- not
even that! He saw the petals of her coral red lips, opening
slightly with surprise; he saw her wide open eyes
brimming with mischief, surprise and laughter; he saw the
dark eyelashes and eyebrows; he saw the sandal colored
forehead; he saw the rosy dimpled cheeks; he saw the
throat shaped like a smooth conch-shell. He saw all these
at the same time and individually! They became embossed
in his heart.
All this was for just a second. He quickly turned towards
the Astrologer's disciple and said, "Why man, inside ...
Why didn't you say that these ladies were inside the house?
If you had said it, would I have come in like this?" With
these words he pushed the man outside and crossed the
doorstep once again. Even then, he turned to look at
Kundavai once more, before going out.
"Dear me! It seems like the quiet after a raging storm!"
said Kundavai Pirati.
"Listen. The storm has not stopped!" said Vanathi of
Kodumbalur.
The debate between the Astrologer's disciple and Vandiya
Devan was still continuing.
"Sir! Who was that?" asked Kundavai.
"I do not know, Thaye. Seems like a foreigner; looks as if
he is a rough fellow."
Kundavai suddenly thought of something and laughed
brightly. "Why are you laughing, Akka?" asked Vanathi.
"Why am I laughing? We were talking about my
bridegroom -- if he would come on horseback, riding an
elephant or jump down from the roof; I thought of that and
laughed!"
Vanathi was also possessed of an uncontrollable laughter
now. Their laughter rose like waves on the ocean shore.
Because of their laughter even the noises of the dispute
outside stopped.
Immersed in silent thought the Astrologer gave kumkum to
both ladies. After receiving it both women rose and walked
outside. The Astrologer went along.
Vandiya Devan who was standing aside near the doorstep,
saw them and said loudly, "I beg pardon. This genius did
not tell me that you ladies were inside. That is why I
entered in such a hurry. Forgive me for that."
With a pleasant face and mischief- filled, teasing eyes,
Kundavai looked up at him once. She did not say a single
word in reply. She took hold of Vanathi's hand and walked
towards her chariot under the banyan tree.
31
"The women of Kudanthai seem to have no manners. Can
they not utter even one word in reply to a gentleman who
accosts them?" The words of Vandiya Devan spoken in a
loud voice could be heard by everyone.
After helping them both be seated, the charioteer also
climbed to his perch. The horse drawn chariot moved
swiftly towards the banks of River Arisil. Vandiya Devan
stood watching till the chariot disappeared from sight.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 12 -- Nandini
Don't we have to disclose how Vandiya Devan, whom we
had left in a ferry-boat on the banks of the Kollidam,
arrived at the doorsteps of the Astrologer of Kudanthai?
The Saiva gentleman, who objected to having Azlvar-
adiyan in the boat, turned towards Vandiya Devan and
said, "I let this fellow get in because of you, Thambi.
However, as long as we are in this boat he should not utter
that eight-letter word. If he says it, I shall demand that he
be thrown into this Kollidam! These boatmen are my
men!"
"Sir! Devout Mr. Nambi! Did thy hallowed ears hear it?"
asked Vandiya Devan.
"If this fellow does not utter the five-letter word, I too shall
not utter the holy-name of eight-letters" said Nambi.
(Note: The eight letter word is the name of Vishnu -- na-
mo-sri-na-ra-ya-na-ya -- worshipped by the Vaishnava
sect; the five letter word -- na-ma-si-va-ya -- denotes Shiva
worshipped by the Saiva sect.)
"Who is this fellow to object to my uttering the five-
lettered holy name of the great God Shiva? No! Never!
Though you may be bound by chains
and thrown into the deepest seas,
Your only companion and hope is
the name na-ma-si-va-ya!"
These words were uttered in a roaring voice by the Saiva
gentleman. Upon hearing it, Azlvar-adiyan began singing
in a louder voice:
I searched, and upon searching found
the holy name,
Na-mo-sri-na-ra-ya-na-ya;
Saying the words, "Siva, Siva, Sivaa!" the gentleman stuck
both his index fingers into his ears! When Azlvar-adiyan
stopped singing, he took his fingers out of his ears.
Azlvar-adiyan looked at Vandiya Devan and asked,
"Thambi, you ask that fanatic Saiva fellow. He is in such
agony when he merely hears God's name! Does not this
river Kollidam wash the lotus feet of God Narayana who
reposes in Srirangam and then come down here? Is it not
because these waters, which have touched the feet of
Narayana, have become hallowed, that Shiva performs
penance while immersed in these waters at Thiru-anai-
kava?"
Before he could conclude this long story, the Saiva zealot
became very furious and rushed towards the equally
fanatic Vaishnava Nambi. Since both entered into a fist
fight at one end of the boat, it seemed as if the ferry-boat
would soon capsize! One of the men and Vandiya Devan
intervened and separated them.
"Oh, you great and best of devout souls! Both of you seem
to have a wish to drown in the floods of this Kollidam and
go directly to paradise! But I have several other
engagements left on this beautiful earth," said Vandiya
Devan with some disgust.
One of the boatmen articulated his opinion, "I am not sure
if one would definitely enter paradise if he falls into the
Kollidam! But, I guarantee that you would enter the
innards of a crocodile! Look over there!" His finger
pointed at a big crocodile with its terrorizing, wide open
jaws.
"I am not one bit scared about those crocodiles. Would he
not come to my aid, Lord Narayana the original God, who
saved the elephant Gajendra from such a crocodile? Where
would he go?" said Azlvar-adiyan.
"Where would he go? Perhaps he is hiding in the sari-folds
of the milkmaids of Brindavan!"
"Perhaps Shiva is entangled in another predicament: just
like that time when, having given boons to the demon
Bhasma, he was running around with terror; perhaps
Thirumal has gone to save him from yet another such
predicament," retorted Nambi.
The fanatic Saiva replied: "Perhaps this fanatic ignoramus
does not remember how Vishnu's pride was demolished
during the burning of Tripura?"
"Why do you argue like this? I don't know! Why don't
each of you worship the God to whom you are devoted?"
said Vandiya Devan.
It would be appropriate to explain to our readers at this
time, why the Saiva devotee and Azlvar-adiyan argued in
this fashion and why there was a similar wordy duel at
Veera-narayana-puram.
In the ancient Tamil land, for almost six hundred years,
(up till about the tenth century AD) the religions of
Buddhism and Jainism held prestigious sway. Because of
these religions, the Tamil land gained several advantages.
Sculpture, painting, poetry, literature and other such arts
were nurtured and developed. Emphasis was on Sanskrit.
32
Later the Azlvar's (Vaishnava saints) and Nayanmar's
(Saiva saints) appeared. They sang melodious poems --
devotional songs in nectar-sweet, divine Tamil. They
fostered and developed the Vaishnava (of Vishnu) and
Saiva (of Shiva) sects of Hinduism. Their preaching was
quite powerful. They utilized the power of art, sculpture
and music for their missionary work. Several others set
their songs to divine music and sang them. Those who
listened to these musical poems were enticed, enamored
and subject to fanatic devotion. The Shiva and Vishnu
temple-towns mentioned in such devotional songs acquired
new merit and fresh holiness. Temples, which till then
were built with wood and brick, were renovated and rebuilt
with stone and sculpture. Such holy renovation-works
were undertaken even since Vijayala Chozla's times by the
Chozla monarchs and members of their family as well as
other nobility.
At about the same time an important event occurred in the
Kerala nation. A great soul was born in the village of
Kaladi. At a very young age he gave up worldly pleasures
and became an ascetic. He studied all the sciences and
literature in the northern language (Sanskrit) and became
an expert. He then established the foundation for the
Advaita philosophy, based on the principles gained from
the Hindu scriptures -- Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita
and Brahma Sutras because of his expertise in Sanskrit.
He, Sankara the Teacher, traveled all over the Indian sub-
continent and established eight religious-seats for
propagating Advaita philosophy. Ascetics who espoused
his philosophy spread his word all over the country.
(Advaita meaning non-dual, advocates the non-dual nature
of existence; that God is only one; and that God and man
are one and the same.)
Thus, in the Tamil lands, during the times of our story
(tenth century AD) there was a great religious revival and
awakening. Certain harmful consequences, arising out of
this revival, also spread throughout the countryside.
Fanatic Shiva devotees and fanatic Vishnu devotees rose
here and there. They entered into fights wherever they met
each other. Sometimes, Advaita philosophers also entered
into these disputes. Wordy duels often turned into fistfights
and brawls.
There is an interesting story that reveals the extent of this
rivalry between the religious sects of those times. A man
from Srirangam, of the Vaishnava sect, was once walking
along the outer walls of the Shiva temple at Thiru-anai-
kava. Suddenly a stone hit his head. He was wounded and
bleeding. The Vaishnava man looked up towards the sky.
He saw a crow sitting atop the old temple tower and
surmised that a piece of brick from the dilapidated spire
dislodged by the crow must have fallen on his head.
Immediately he forgot his wound and pain and became
quite delighted. He said, "Oh you devout Vaishnava crow
from Srirangam! Good that you are demolishing this Shiva
temple completely!"
In those days, this fanatic rivalry between the Vaishnavas
and Saivas was widespread. Knowing about this will be
very helpful to readers who may have the intention of
reading further chapters in this story.
When the boat reached the other shore, the Saiva
gentleman looked at Azlvar-adiyan and cursed him with
these words: "May you loose all prosperity and become
utterly destitute," before he went on his way.
The footman from Kadamboor who had come with
Vandiya Devan went away towards the nearby village of
Thiru-panan-thal, saying that he would come back with a
mount for him. Azlvar-adiyan and Vandiya Devan sat
down under a large banyan tree on the river bank. Several
kinds of birds roosting in the thick, leafy branches of that
wide-spreading, large tree raised a pleasing musical sound.
Both of them, Devan and Nambi, tried to pry the secrets
from each other's mouths. For a while they talked of this
and that in a round-about fashion.
"Well Thambi, you did go to Kadamboor without taking
me with you?"
"Even my entry into that fortress was fraught with great
difficulty, Mr. Nambi."
"Is that so? How did you go in? Perhaps you did not go at
all?"
"I did enter. I did go in. If I make up my mind to do
something will I take a backward step? The gate-keepers
stopped me. I goaded my horse to gallop inside and all the
men obstructing my way fell away in confusion. Before
they could rise and surround me, my friend Kandamaran
came to my rescue and took me inside."
"That's what I thought. You are a very courageous fellow!
And then, what happened? Who else had come there?"
"All sorts of dignitaries had come. I do not know their
names. Lord Pazluvoor had come. His young bride had
also come. Dear me! How shall I describe the beauty of
that lady!"
"What? Did you see her?!"
"Yes. Why not? My friend Kandamaran took me to the
inner courts of the women. I saw her there. Amidst all
those women, the Young-Queen of Lord Pazluvoor was
the greatest beauty. Among all the dark-colored beauties,
that queen's face shone like a radiant full-moon. All the
heavenly beauties: Ramba, Urvasi, Tilottama, Indrani,
Chandrani -- all of them must be mentioned only after
her."
"Dear me! You describe her with such rapture! Then, what
happened? Did you see the gypsy dance?"
33
"Yes. It was very captivating. I thought of you at that
time."
"I was not fortunate to see it. What happened after that?"
"The velan attam (oracle-dance) took place. The `divine-
man' and `divine-woman' came upon the stage and danced
with frenzy."
"Did the spirit manifest? Did they declare any oracle?"
"Oh, yes! `All endeavors will be achieved. The rains will
be good; the land will be bountiful,' said the soothsayer."
"Is that all?"
"He then said something about political affairs. I did not
listen to that carefully."
"Dear, dear me! Is that so? You should have noticed
Thambi! You are a young man; you seem to be brave and
courageous. If anybody talks about political affairs at any
place, you should listen carefully."
"You say the truth. I too felt the same thing this morning."
"Why feel so in the morning?"
"This morning my friend Kandamaran and I talked all
along the way as we rode to the banks of the Kollidam. I
believe that after I had gone to bed last night, all the
dignitaries who were at Kadamboor convened a midnight-
meeting to discuss some important political affairs."
"What did they discuss about?"
"That, I do not know. Kandamaran said something in a
cryptic fashion but he did not explain clearly. He said that
some event was to take place very soon and that he would
explain at that time. All his statements were rather
mysterious. Why Sir! Do you know anything?"
"About what?"
"Everybody in the countryside and city is talking about it?
A comet can be seen in the skies and the empire may be
subject to some grave danger; there may be a change in the
Chozla monarchy; this and that ... Such talk has been heard
even in the Thondai lands. Also, I believe that all sorts of
important officials meet together quite often, to discuss
about the `Rights to the succession' of the Chozla throne.
What do you think? Who is likely to succeed to the
throne?"
"I don't know anything about such matters. What
connection do I have with political affairs? I am a devout
Vaishnava; I am a slave to those who serve the Azlvar
saints; I sing the devotional songs that I know and go from
one holy place to the other."
After uttering these words Azlvar-adiyan began singing the
following words:
I spied upon his golden presence;
I saw his divine grace.
Vandiya Devan interrupted him, "Let good fortune be
yours. Please stop this."
"Dear me! You ask me to stop singing these divine Tamil
psalms!"
"Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi! I have a suspicion. Shall I
disclose it?"
"Please do."
"You will not come to beat me up with your wooden-
staff?"
"You? Is it possible for me to hit you?"
"I think that all your devotion, your Vaishnava fanaticism,
your psalm singing -- everything is one big deception. I
suspect it to be a big masquerade!"
"Oh! Oh! What talk is this? Offense! Abuse!"
"No offense and no forgiveness. You put on such guise to
hide your womanizing! I have seen some others like you:
who wander around with an obsession for womankind.
What you find in such women, that I do not know! I seem
to dislike any woman I see.
"Thambi, I too know of some men who are crazy about
women. But don't mix me up with such fellows. I am not a
masquerader. Your suspicions are incorrect."
"Then why did you ask me to deliver your note to the girl
who came in the palanquin? That too, how can you lose
your heart to a woman who is married to another? Did you
not want to come to Kadamboor mainly to see her? Don't
deny it."
"I won't deny it. But your reasoning is not correct. There is
a much more appropriate justification. It is a long story."
"My horse hasn't arrived yet. Tell me that story. I can
listen."
"By `story' I do not mean an imaginary tale. It happened
truly. An astonishing account. You will be shocked if you
hear it. Do you want me to recount it?"
"If you would like to."
"Alright. I shall tell you. I am in a great hurry to go
someplace else; nonetheless, I will tell you that story
before I go. I may need your help sometime later. You
won't refuse it then, will you?"
34
"If it is justified I will help you. If you do not like it, don't
tell me anything."
"No. No. I must surely tell you the story. The young bride
of that demon, Lord Pazluvoor, the girl to whom I asked
you to carry a note, her name is Nandini. You will be
surprised if you hear what I have to say about Nandini.
You will wonder if there can be such atrocities in this
world." With this preamble, Azlvar-adiyan started
narrating the story of Nandini.
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi was born in a village on the banks of
the River Vaigai, in the Pandiya Kingdom. All his family
were ardent Vaishnava devotees. One day, his father was
walking in the gardens along the river bank when he found
an orphan baby girl who was abandoned in the garden. He
brought the infant home. Because the child was very
attractive and beautiful, all the members of his family
loved and nourished her. Since the child was found in a
garden (nandavan), they named her Nandini. Nambi,
considering her a younger sister, loved and cherished her.
As Nandini grew in years, her devotion to God Vishnu also
grew. All the people around them believed that she would
become another Andal (Vaishnava saint) to captivate all
their hearts. Azlvar-adiyan believed it more than anyone
else. After his father's death, he took up the responsibility
of raising that girl. The two of them travelled from one
town to another, singing Vaishnava poems and spreading
the belief in devotion to Vishnu. People who heard
Nandini, wearing basil-leaf garlands and singing the
psalms of the Azlvar saints, were enchanted.
At one time Azlvar-adiyan had to go on a journey to Thiru-
venkadam (Tirupati). His return was delayed. A mishap
occurred to Nandini.
The final great-battle between the Chozla and Pandiya
kings was fought near Madurai City. The Pandiya armies
were totally destroyed. King Veera-pandiya had fallen in
the battlefield with wounds all over his body. Some of his
personal servants found him: they tried to revive him and
save his life; they brought him away from the battlefield
and into the house of Nandini which was nearby. Nandini,
upon seeing the condition of the Pandiya king, was filled
with pity and she nursed him in the sickbed. However, the
Chozla soldiers soon found this out. They surrounded
Nandini's house, entered inside and killed Veera-pandiya.
Lord Pazluvoor, captivated by the beauty of Nandini
whom he found there, imprisoned her and took her away
with him.
All this happened three years ago. After that Azlvar-adiyan
could not see Nandini at all. From that day, Azlvar-adiyan
was trying to meet and talk to Nandini. If she wished it, he
would free her and take her away. He had not succeeded in
that endeavor so far.
Upon hearing this tale, Vandiya Devan's heart was
touched. For a second, he considered telling Nambi that
the person inside the covered palanquin in Kadamboor was
not Nandini; that it was Prince Madurandaka. Something
in his heart prevented him. Perhaps all this tale was the
fertile imagination of Azlvar-adiyan. Therefore, he did not
reveal the secrets he had learned at the Kadamboor
fortress. By now they could see the footman from
Kadamboor coming back, leading a horse.
"Thambi, will you do me one favor?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"How can I help you? Lord Pazluvoor is capable of
controlling all this Chozla Empire. I am a single fellow
with no powers. What can I do?" Vandiya Devan answered
him carefully. Later he asked, "Mr. Nambi, are you saying
that you do not know anything about political affairs? Can
you say who is eligible to succeed to the Chozla throne if
something happens to Sundara Chozla?" After saying this
he examined Nambi's face eagerly to see if there was any
change in his expression. There was not an iota of change.
"What will I know of such matters, Thambi? Perhaps, if
you ask the Astrologer of Kudanthai, he may be able to tell
you something."
"Oh? Is the Astrologer of Kudanthai that capable?"
"Very capable. He will make predictions based on
astrology; he will know your mind and explain the future.
He knows all the worldly activities and will base his
predictions accordingly."
Vandiya Devan made up his mind to see the astrologer
before he went any further! From ancient times humanity
is fascinated in finding out about what will happen in its
future. Princes have this fascination; paupers have it too.
The most learned and knowledgeable have it; the foolish
and ignorant ones also do so. There is no surprise about the
fact that our youthful hero, Vandiya Devan, who was
travelling upon secret government affairs across cities and
nations, had such a fascination.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 13 -- The Waxing Moon
The Astrologer led Vandiya Devan into the house after the
chariot carrying the princesses had disappeared from view.
He seated himself on his best seat. He asked the youth who
was looking around to sit down and examined him from
head to toe.
"Thambi, who are you? Where have you come?"
Vandiya Devan laughed.
"Why are you laughing, my son?"
35
"Nothing. You are such a famous astrologer. You ask me
such questions! Can you not find out by your astrology
about who I am and why I came here?"
"Oh! Is that so? I can find out. But if I find out and predict
things on my own behalf, I am wondering who will pay for
my services."
Vandiya Devan smiled and then asked, "Sir! Those two
who came here before me, who are they?"
"Ah! Them? I realize whom you are asking about. I know
Thambi, I know. Are you not asking about the persons
who were in here when you dragged my disciple and made
a sudden entry into my house? You are asking about them
aren't you? Those two, who left in that swift chariot raising
the road dust behind them, you are asking about them?"
said the Astrologer in a rambling fashion.
"Yes. Yes. I am asking about them..."
"OK. Ask. Ask as much as you wish. Who said not to ask?
Those two persons were two women!"
"That was obvious even to me! Sir, I am not blind. I can
differentiate between men and women. Even if it is a man
masquerading as a woman I can find out."
"Then, why did you ask ..."
"Women means, who are they, what kind? ..."
"Oh ho! You are asking about that! According to the
science of beauty, women are classified into four kinds:
padmini, chittini, gandarvi, vidyadari. You seem to have
some expertise in the study of beauty! According to that
fourfold classification those two women belong to the
padmini or gandarvi class."
"Oh God!"
"What, my son?"
"If I call out to God, why do you answer?"
"What is wrong in that? Haven't you heard that God is
everywhere? It seems that you have not kept company with
learned people. God is in me. God is in you too. My
disciple, whom you dragged inside, God is in him too..."
"Enough. Enough. Please stop!"
"God asked me to talk all this time; and now God
commands me to stop!"
"Sir! Mr. Astrologer, those two women who left just now -
- who are they? What is their family? Where do they come
from? What is their name? -- that is what I asked. If you
can answer me without rambling like this ..."
"If I answer you, what will you give me, my son?"
"I shall offer you my thanks gladly."
"You can keep the glad offering to yourself. If you are
willing to give some gold offering, let me know."
"Will you answer clearly, if I make a gold offering?"
"I will answer only if an answer is possible. Thambi, listen
to this. Several persons will come and go from an
astrologer's house. One should not talk about one visitor to
another. I will not tell you anything about the persons who
left just now. Neither will I disclose a single word about
you, to any person who may come later and ask about
you."
"Ah! Everything that Azlvar-adiyan Nambi said about you
seems to be true!"
"Azlvar-adiyan? Who is he? A person with that name?"
"What, don't you know him? He talked as if he knew you
very well. Have you never heard of Azlvar-adiyan
Nambi?"
"Perhaps I know the man. Don't remember the name.
Describe him a little, let me see."
"He is short and squat. He wears his hair in a topknot on
his forehead. He wears his vaetti (loose lower garment of
men) tightly around his young paunch. Making a paste of
sandal powder, he wears it in vertical marks all over his
body; readily enters into fiery fights with devout Saivas; if
he sees an Advaita philosopher, he raises his wooden staff.
Sometime ago you said `You are God; I am God.' If
Azlvar-adiyan had heard it, he would have raised his staff
and rushed over to beat you, by saying `God is hitting
God.' He ..."
"Thambi, From what you say, I think you are talking about
Thirumalai."
"Does he go by other names like that?"
"That fanatic Vaishnava has a different name in different
towns."
"Does he also disguise himself in different garbs for
different persons?"
"Oh yes! He will put on masquerades appropriate for the
occasion and time."
"Will everything he utters be mixed with fancy and
falsehood?"
36
"About seven eighths of what he says will be full of
imagination. The rest may be gospel truth."
"So, you say that he is a very wicked fellow."
"One cannot say that! He is good to the good; bad to the
wicked."
"That means we cannot trust his words and do anything."
"Believing or not believing depends on the words uttered."
"For example, he said that if I come to you and asked you
for astrological predictions, you will give expert
answers..."
"Did I not say that about one eighth of his speech will be
gospel truth? That statement belongs to that category!"
"Then predict something for me by your astrology; foretell
something. It is getting late and I have to go in a hurry."
"Where do you have to go in such a great hurry, my son?"
"Can you not reveal that also from your astrology? Where
should I go? Where should I not go? If I do go, will my
endeavor be successful? -- I came to ask you all these
things."
"I need some basis to foretell or predict by my astrology; I
need a horoscope to study; if there is no horoscope, I must
at least know the day and star under which you were born.
If you do not know even that, I need a name and address."
"My name is Vallavarayan."
"Aha! Of the Vaanar clan?"
"Yes I am that very same Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan."
"Say it like that! Thambi why did you not say this before?
I think, I even have your horoscope with me. If I search for
it I can find it."
"How is that Sir?"
"What other occupation do astrologer's like me have? We
collect the horoscopes of men and women born in noble
families..."
"I am not from any such famous noble family."
"How can you say that? Do you not know of the fame and
prestige of your clan? How many poets have sung the
praises of the Vaanar clan in how many poems? Perhaps
you have not heard the poems?"
"Recite one such poem. Let me hear it."
The Astrologer immediately sang the following poem:
Are there lips that do not speak of your fame: oh noble Vaana?
Are there chests that do not have your name tattooed on: oh brave Vaana?
Are there flagpoles that do not bear thy colors: oh victorious Vaana?
Are there domains that stand beyond your survey: oh majestic Vaana?
When he sang, it was quite obvious that the Astrologer was
not a musical expert. Nevertheless, he sang the poem
clearly and with involvement.
"How is the poem?" he asked.
"The poem is pleasing to the ear! But now, I have to tie my
colors to the horns of some bull! I have to stand atop the
branches of a banyan tree to survey my domain. Even that
is doubtful. My weight might break the branch and throw
me down!" said Vandiya Devan.
"Today your situation is like that. How do we know what
can happen tomorrow?"
"I thought that you might know; that is why I came here."
"What can I know Thambi? Like everybody I am a short
lived human being. But the planets and stars foretell the
future. I have learned to understand a little of what they
say and then explain it to those who seek me."
"What do the planets and stars foretell about me, Mr.
Astrologer?"
"They foretell that you will grow day by day."
"Dear me! That is pretty good! The height that I have now
is itself quite too much. I had to bend low as I entered your
house! What can I do if I grow taller? There is no use of
such generalities. Say something specific."
"If you ask me about something particular, I can answer
more specifically."
"Tell me, the enterprise on which I am going to Tanjore,
will it succeed?"
"If you are going to Tanjore on your own behalf the
endeavor will succeed; if you are going on someone else's
behalf, I have to see that persons horoscope before I
answer."
Vandiya Devan shook his head in astonishment and placed
a finger upon his nose. "Sir, I have never encountered as
astute a fellow as you."
"Do not flatter me, Thambi."
"Ok. I shall ask what I want clearly. I wish to meet the
Emperor in Tanjore. Is that possible?"
37
"There are two astrologers greater than me in Tanjore. You
have to ask them."
"Who are they?"
"One is the Elder Lord Pazluvoor; the other is his brother
the Younger Lord Pazluvoor."
"It is said that the health of the Emperor is in a bad state. Is
that true?"
"People will say all sorts of things. Why not? Don't believe
all that they say; neither should you repeat such things."
"Can you tell me who has the right to succeed to the
Chozla throne if something happens to the Emperor?"
"That throne is not for you nor for me. Why should we
bother about it?"
"From that fate we are saved!" said Vandiya Devan.
"It is true Thambi. The rights of succession to an empire is
not an ordinary matter. It is a very dangerous topic. Is that
not so?"
"Sir! At present the Prince who is in Kanchi, the Crown
Prince Aditya Karikala..."
"Yes he is there; you have come on his behalf. Haven't
you?"
"You have found that out in the end; no harm done. What
about his fortune?"
"I don't have his horoscope in my hands now Thambi. I
have to study it."
"What about the fortunes of Prince Madurandaka?"
"His, is a peculiar fortune; similar to that of womenfolk.
His fortunes are always subject to the power of others."
"Even now people say that the Chozla Empire is under
Women's Rule. They say that it is worse than the rule of
the Queen Alli?"
"Thambi, where do they say such things?"
"To the north of the Kollidam."
"Maybe they are talking about the power of the new bride
married by the Elder Lord Pazluvoor."
"I heard differently."
"What did you hear?"
"They said that the beloved daughter of the Emperor, the
Younger Pirati Kundavai, is the one ruling like that."
The Astrologer peered into Vandiya Devan's face
carefully. He tried to read the face to find out if he was
saying these words after recognizing Kundavai, who had
left his house a little earlier. There was no sign to support
the doubt.
"Totally wrong Thambi. Emperor Sundara Chozla is in
Tanjore. Kundavai Pirati lives in Pazlayarai. Moreover ..."
"Moreover what? Why did you stop?
"During the daytime one must look in all four directions
before speaking; at nighttime not even that. But, there is
nothing wrong in telling you, I think. What power or
influence does the Emperor have these days? All the
authority is held by the Lords of Pazluvoor." After saying
this the Astrologer examined Vandiya Devan's face once
again.
"Sir! I am not a spy of the Lords of Pazluvoor. You do not
have to suspect me of that! A little while ago you talked
about the impermanence of kingdoms and royal dynasties.
You gave me the example of my own Vaanar clan. Please
tell me the truth. How is the future of the Chozla
Dynasty?"
"I can tell truthfully without any uncertainty. Towards the
end of spring the River Cauvery and its tributaries will be
filled with new floods. The people living on the river
banks know very well that it is a flood that will rise day by
day. Till the beginning of the summer months the flood
will keep rising. By the autumn months the waters start
receding. The people living along the bank realize it to be
a ebbing flood. The Chozla Empire is now like the fresh
flood of springtime that grows day by day. For several
more hundreds of years it will grow and spread. The
Chozla Empire is now a Waxing Moon. The day of the
Full Moon is far away. Therefore the Chozla power will
expand more and more."
"After talking all this time, you have said one thing
explicitly! Thanks! If possible, just tell me one more thing.
I have a great desire to go on a ship and travel to distant
lands..."
"That wish will definitely be fulfilled. You have the
fortune of the wheel. You will be travelling constantly, as
if you have wheels on your feet. You will go by walk; ride
upon horses; go on elephants and you will also travel
aboard ships. You have the fortune to go on a sea voyage
very soon."
"Sir, about the Commander of the Southern Armies, Prince
Arulmozli Varma who is now conducting a campaign in
Lanka -- what do the planets and stars say about him?"
"Thambi, those travelling by ship use an instrument made
of the magnetic stone to find their directions. Lighthouses
also help these sailors. But do you know what aids the ship
38
in the midst of the wide open seas? What is the constant
friend of the sailors? It is the pole star seen in the low
northern skies. The other stars and planets all keep moving
from their positions. Even the group of the `seven seers'
(little dipper) travels in a circle. But the pole star is never
shaken from its fixed position. The younger son of the
Emperor, Prince Arulmozli, is like that pole star. He has
the firmness of mind unshaken by anything. In addition to
the virtues of selflessness and morality, he possess the
goodness of bravery and chivalry. He excels in worldly
knowledge as much as in learning. He has a charming face,
like that of a young babe which calms the aches of those
who gaze upon it. He is the darling son of the angel of
good luck. Just as sailors take direction from the pole star,
it will be very useful, if youths like you who embark on the
adventure of life, take direction from Prince Arulmozli."
"Dear me! What is all this that you describe about Prince
Arulmozli? It appears like a lover describing his beloved?"
"Thambi, if you ask any fellow of the Chozla country on
the banks of the River Ponni, he will say the same."
"Many thanks Mr. Astrologer. If the need arises I shall
follow your advice."
"Because I saw that your lucky planets are also on the rise,
I said this."
"I shall take leave of you Sir! Along with my heartfelt
thanks, offered gladly, please accept this small tribute of
gold offered to you." Saying this, Vandiya Devan placed
five gold coins in the palms of the Astrologer.
"The benevolence of the Vaanar clan has not died even
now!" said the Astrologer as he hid the coins in his
waistband.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 14 -- A Crocodile On The River Bank
In those days, those who wished to reach Tanjore from
Kudanthai, travelled along the banks of the rivers Arisil or
Cauvery and reached the town of Thiru-vai-aru. From
there, they would turn south to go towards Tanjore.
Convenient ferrys or fords to cross the rivers Kudamuruti,
Vettar, Vennar and Vadavar were available only along that
route. Vandiya Devan who started from Kudanthai, first
went towards the banks of River Arisil. The sights that he
saw along the way astonished him, being more exquisite
than what he had heard about the Chozla countryside. Any
beautiful sight appears more striking when it is viewed for
the first time!
Emerald green rice fields, gardens of ginger and turmeric,
plantations of sugarcane and banana, groves of tender
coconut palms; streams, rivulets and brooks; tanks, pools
and canals; all these made a mosaic of the landscape.
Water-lilies bloomed in profusion in the creeks; Lotus and
blue-lily were in riotous display on still-water ponds and
pools. The large red-, white-, and blue-lotus flowers
dazzled his eyes. He had never seen such flowers before!
White storks and herons flew in large groups like soft
clouds. Red-legged cranes stood on one leg and performed
penance. Crystal clear water rushed frothing along
conduits. Farmers ploughed their rice paddies -- muddy
fields, darkened with good fertilizer and rotting leaves --
even deeper. Women transplanted seedlings in the well
tilled fields. As they were bent on their task they sang
pleasant folk-songs.
Sugar mills were established next to the cane plantations.
They fed the mature, dark cane of the previous year's
harvest into those mills and extracted sweet-juice. The
aroma of the fresh juice and boiling molasses being made
into sugar-candy and jaggery filled the air and tingled the
nose.
Small cottages with roofs thatched with coconut palm-
leaves and houses with tiled roofs were found amidst the
palm groves. In the villages, they had cleaned the streets
and front porches to a mirror brightness and decorated
them with beautiful drawings of rice-powder. On some
front porches they had spread the new paddy to dry in the
hot sun. Hens and roosters came and pecked at the grain
and ran hither and thither with cries of "Koko ro ko, koko
ro koro!" The little girls set to guard the grain did not seem
to bother: `How much grain can the tiny hens eat?' - they
thought in disdain as they continued with their board
games with cowrie shells.
The smells and smoke of cooking rose from chimneys on
rooftops. The fragrance of paddy being cured, millet-grain
being parched, and meat being roasted mingled with each
other. Such smells made Vallavarayan's mouth water.
Blacksmiths had their shops along the roadside. The fires
in such smithies burned bright with glowing embers. The
sound of hammers striking iron could be heard loudly. The
smithies were filled with implements essential to farming,
such as plough-share points, wheel-pins, shovels, hoes and
rakes as well as sharpened spears, lances, swords and
shields; farmers and soldiers vied with each other to buy
these instruments of their trade.
Small temples could be spied in the midst of tiny villages.
The sound of drums being beaten and pipes being played
inside the temples mingled with the pleasant music of
religious chanting and singing of devotional poems like
Thevaram.
Priests carried the guardian deities of the village, like
Mariamman, on little cots and pots balanced on their
heads; they danced the Karagam in tune to the beat of little
udukku drums held in their hands as they sought alms of
grain and produce.
39
Men, tired of their work behind the ploughs, rested beneath
shady, wide spreading mango trees. They entertained
themselves by setting sharp horned goats to fight each
other.
Pea-hens roosting on housetops called out to their mates in
a shrill voice; the pea-cocks lifted their long, beautiful tails
with difficulty and flew up to them majestically. Turtle-
doves shook their heads and danced with cooing sounds.
The parrots and cuckoos -- poor creatures shut up in cages
-- sang sweetly.
Vandiya Devan rode upon his horse rather slowly,
enjoying such scenes. His eyes had plenty to occupy them.
His heart also enjoyed all the sights. But his inner mind
dwelt upon the picture of a girl, covered in mist.
Aha! Why didn't that girl open her reddened lips and utter
a few words? What would she have lost by uttering a few
sentences? Who could she be? Whoever she is, shouldn't
she have some manners? Do I seem like a fellow to be
ignored? -- That wily old astrologer never did reveal who
that girl was! He is clever; very clever. How he measures
the depth of one's heart! Such experienced words he utters!
Of course he did not predict anything sensible or specific.
About political affairs ... he escaped without disclosing
anything! He merely repeated things known to everybody
in a fascinating manner. But he did make the good
prediction about my lucky-stars being on the rise ... Let the
astrologer of Kudanthai prosper in his trade.
Vandiya Devan rode onwards with such thoughts
occupying his mind. The sights presented to him, dragged
him off and on from this dream world to reality. Finally he
reached the banks of the River Arisil. After going a few
yards he heard the sound of women laughing and the jingle
jangle of their bracelets.
The women were completely hidden by the thick groves of
trees growing on the bank. He peered into the trees, trying
to locate the women who made the noise. Suddenly he
could hear the fear filled screams "Oh dear", "Ai Oh",
"Help", "Crocodile!" said the voices of several women. He
whipped his horse in the direction of the shouts. He soon
spied several maids in a clearing between the trees close to
the water. Their faces were filled with fright. But, --
surprise of surprises -- two of them seemed to be the very
same women he had seen in the astrologer's house!
Vandiya Devan recognized all this within the fraction of a
second.
That was not all. A horrible crocodile opening its jaws
wide, could be seen at the foot of a thick tree trunk,
blending with the roots, half in the water and half on the
bank. He had recently seen one such fearful crocodile in
the floods of the Kollidam. He had heard how dangerous
the beast was. Therefore, when he saw the reptile, his heart
skipped a beat and his whole body froze with agitation for
a minute.
The crocodile was very near the girls who had been
laughing merrily a few moments earlier. It was opening its
horrible jaws wide and appeared monstrous. The crocodile
had to only move just one step closer; one of the girls
would be gone! She could not escape because of the thick
tree!
However confused his heart and mind, there was nothing
wrong with his courage. He did not even think beyond one
second about what he should do. He took careful aim and
swiftly threw the spear in his hand. The spear pierced the
crocodile's back, entered deep into its hide and stood
upright. Our hero, immediately jumped off his horse and
drawing his sword he rushed towards the reptile to finish
it off in one stroke.
He heard the girls laughing once again, like before. The
sound was repulsive to Vandiya Devan's ears. Why do
these foolish women laugh like this at this dangerous
moment? he thought.
Having rushed forward, he stopped in shock and surprise
for a minute. He saw the faces of those women. He could
see no fear or fright in them. He could just detect the signs
of laughter and mischief. He could not believe that they
were the same girls who cried out for help a few minutes
ago.
One among them -- the maid he had seen in the astrologer's
house -- spoke in a pleasant, elegant voice: "Girls, stop it!
Why are you all laughing?" He heard her scolding as if in a
dream.
He moved closer to the crocodile and then hesitated as he
raised his sword. He turned to look at the faces of those
girls once again. A suspicion, which filled his heart with
shame, humiliating his very existence -- rose in him.
By now, that girl -- the lady who had dwelt in his thoughts
for some time now -- parted from her friends and came
forward. She stood before him, in front of the crocodile, as
if guarding it!
"Sir! I am very thankful to you. Please do not trouble
yourself unnecessarily," she said.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 15 -- Vanathi's Tricks
We request our readers to please recall that earlier moment
in our story when Kundavai and Vanathi climbed onto the
chariot and rode towards Kudanthai, leaving their friends
on the banks of the River Arisil. We shall now listen to the
conversation of those maids who were left behind.
40
"My dear Tarika, look at this good fortune that has blown
the way of that Kodumbalur female! What is so fascinating
about her for our Younger Pirati?"
"No fascination, no nothing! For the past four months that
girl has been going around like one deranged; she is often
falling down in one of her fainting fits. The Younger Pirati
is worried because they have left that orphan girl in her
care. She is taking Vanathi to the Astrologer to find out
what ails her. Perhaps it is because of some ghost or spirit?
If it is so, don't they have to get rid of it with some magic
or spell?"
"It is no ghost and no phantom. Which spirit will come and
posses her? She is capable of driving away a hundred
ghosts." A girl known as Varini uttered these words with
some venom.
"All those fainting fits of Vanathi are one big deception
my dear. That snake thinks that she can capture the Prince
in her coils if she does such things."
"What Niravati says is true. And that is not the whole
story. Remember that day when the Prince was leaving on
his campaign she dropped the platter with the lighted
lamp? Even that, she did mainly to attract the attention of
the Prince. How can a platter carried in both hands slip like
that? Or is our Prince some sort of fearsome tiger or bear
for her to be frightened?" continued Varini.
"And she pretended to fall into a faint immediately; How
clever."
"More than all her tricks, the funny thing is that Kundavai
Pirati and the Prince believed her!" added Sendiru.
Mandakini offered the comment, "These are times for
those who deceive and tell lies and falsehoods."
"The Prince who had already mounted his horse, leaving
for the campaign; he came back into the palace to look at
her! What else does one need? See how successful her
tricks were?"
"What you say about the Prince is of course true. There is
none in the fourteen known worlds to compare with him.
There is none like him even in the imaginary tales and
epics. But what I say is something else. This Vanathi, --
who fainted -- do you know what that fainting is really
about? There is no need of going to an astrologer to find
the cause! If anyone had asked me I would have
explained." Varini was sure of herself.
"What is that fainting? You can tell us, can't you?" asked
Sendiru. Varini then whispered something in her friend's
ears. Niravati intervened, "Hey! What's the secret? Let us
know it too!"
"I believe it is not an ordinary fainting fit! It is a lovelorn
fit!" Upon hearing these words all the girls laughed
merrily. Hearing this noise, the birds upon the trees flew
out with noisy wing-beats.
"When our Prince comes back from Lanka she will again
try her magic tricks on him. We should not give place for
that."
"If this Vanathi does not go mad by the time the Prince
returns, I shall change my name from Tarika to Tataka (an
ogress of the epic Ramayana)."
"OK! Let it go! Don't we have to complete the task
assigned to us before the Younger Pirati comes back?
Come girls, enough of this," said Mandakini.
After that, two of them removed one of the loose planks at
the bottom of the barge. In a long alcove under it, they
found a crocodile! That is, a dead crocodile preserved and
stuffed with fibre and cotton! They took it out. The girls
then paddled the barge a little way along the bank and
pulled in near a clearing; a large mango tree grew along
the bank with thick spreading roots. They pulled the
stuffed crocodile amidst the tree roots. It lay among the
roots, half in the water and half out. The girls bound a thin
string to one of its legs and tied it to the root, preventing
the stuffed reptile from floating away!
Tarika asked, "Why did the Younger Pirati want us to
leave the crocodile here, like this?"
"Don't you know? Vanathi is so timid and poor-spirited,
frightened of each and everything. To get rid of her fear
and make her brave."
"If we consider all these things, it seems as if the Younger
Pirati really intends to wed this foolish Vanathi to our
Prince!" exclaimed Niravati.
"If anything like that happens, I shall poison this Vanathi
and kill her," said the jealous maid, Varini.
"All this jealousy of yours is not warranted. All the kings
of the world, the monarch of Manyaketa in Rashtrakuta,
the Emperor of Vengi, the King of Kalinga and even the
Emperor of Kanouj are ready to give their daughters in
marriage to our Prince. Who will care about this Vanathi
from Kodumbalur?" said soft spoken Mandakini.
"All those kings may be ready, like you say; but what are
the wishes of our Prince? I believe he always says `If I
ever marry, I shall marry a girl from the Tamil lands.'
Don't you all know this? asked Sendiru.
"Then, all is well. All of us should polish our charms and
show our competence. What this Vanathi can do, we can
also achieve!"
Let us now explain the reason for such talk amongst these
women.
*****
41
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 16 -- Arulmozli Varma
About a thousand and more years ago, the best of kings,
Paranthaka Sundara Chozla (AD 957-973), ruled as an
Emperor without equal in South India. He had ascended
the Chozla throne several years before the times of our
story. For the past several hundred years Chozla power had
been growing. Chozla Territories were spreading in all
directions. Even so, when Sundara Chozla ascended the
throne, his enemies in the south and north were powerful.
Gandara Aditya who had ruled before him, was immersed
in devotion to God Shiva; he had merited the title
Gandara-aditya who had knowledge of (knew) Shiva. He
did not show much interest in expanding his territories.
After Gandara Aditya, his brother Arinjaya, who ascended
the throne, ruled for a short year. After Arinjaya's death at
Atrur, his son Paranthaka Sundara Chozla came to power.
Sundara Chozla had all the qualities essential for a great
king. Being skilled in war, he led a campaign to the
southern region in the very beginning of his reign. A great
battle took place between the Chozla and Pandiya armies
at a place called Chevoor. Mahinda, the King of Lanka,
had sent a large battalion to help his friend Veera-pandiya,
who ruled at that time from Madurai City. The large
Chozla armies defeated the combined forces of the
Pandiyas and the Lankans at Chevoor. Veera-pandiya who
lost his armies, lost his crown, lost his friends, saved his
life and ran from the battlefield to escape into hiding. He
hid himself in the rocky caves of a desert and bided his
time.
Most of the Lankan army was destroyed in the Chevoor
battle. Some soldiers who survived, abandoned their fame
and bravery and escaped to Lanka with their lives.
It had been the practice of the Lankan kings to send their
men in support of the Pandiya kings, in the clashes
between the Chozlas and Pandiyas. Sundara Chozla
wished to put an end to this practice. He decided to send a
Chozla contingent to land in Lanka and teach the island
king a lesson. He sent a large army to Lanka under the
command of a chieftain of Kodumbalur, known as
Paranthaka the Younger Lord of Velir. Unfortunately the
Chozla army did not land in Lanka all at one time. They
did not have adequate shipping facilities for that.
The battalions which had landed first started advancing
without any forethought. Mahinda's Lankan army led by
Commander Sena came out and surrounded the Chozla
forces in a surprise move. A terrible battle was fought. In
that engagement, the Chozla Commander lost his life.
Stone inscriptions (deciphered in recent years) refer to him
as the Younger Lord of Velir who fell in Lanka.
When Veera-pandiya who was hiding in the desert caves,
heard this news, he gathered courage once again and
emerged. Again he assembled a large army and entered the
battlefield. This time, the Pandiya legion was completely
destroyed. Veera-pandiya also lost his life. Aditya
Karikala, the elder son of Sundara Chozla, took part in this
final battle and performed various heroic deeds. He also
acquired the title `The Valiant Prince who wrung the head
of Veera-pandiya.'
In spite of all this, the Chozla Emperor and all his generals,
advisors, ministers and soldiers, did not forget their wish to
teach the Singhala King Mahinda of Lanka a lesson. A
large force was gathered in readiness for the campaign.
The question "Who should lead this legion?" arose. The
Crown Prince Aditya Karikala - Sundara Chozla's elder
son -- was at that time busy with his troops in the northern
border. He had captured the ancient city of Kanchi, after
routing the armies of the Rashtrakutas who had occupied
the Thiru-munai-padi and Thondai Territories. He was
making preparations to lead his armies further north.
In this situation, a fierce competition rose among the other
generals in the Chozla nation for the privilege of leading
the Lankan campaign. Jealousy and accusations resulted
from such rivalry. It was very rare to find someone who
did not wish to enter the battlefield in that ancient Tamil
land! The competition was about who should go to the
war-front. Enmity and envy would often result from such
competition.
There was fierce rivalry amongst the Chozla generals
about who should lead the Lankan campaign and establish
the Chozla fame by destroying the pride of the Singhala
Kings. Prince Arulmozli Varma, the younger son of
Emperor Sundara Chozla, came forward to put an end to
this rivalry. "Father! I have spent enough time in the
luxury of the Pazlayarai Palace, as the darling child of my
aunts, grandmothers and mothers. Please appoint me as the
Commander of the Southern Armies. I shall go to Lanka
and lead the Lankan campaign," said the young Prince.
Arulmozli Varma was barely nineteen years old at that
time. He was Sundara Chozla's cherished younger son; he
was the beloved child of all the queens who lived at the
Pazlayarai Palace; he was the darling of the Chozla nation.
Sundara Chozla was possessed of a handsome
countenance. His father Arinjaya had fallen in love with
her beauty and married Kalyani, Princess of the enemy
kings of Vaithumba. The son born to Arinjaya and Kalyani
was named Paranthaka; however, the citizens and
countrymen of the Chozla nation who saw the handsome
face of the Prince called him Sundara Chozla (sundara
meaning beautiful.) He came to be known by this name.
All the children born to this handsome Prince were
attractive and beautiful. But the youngest child, Arulmozli,
surpassed all others in beauty. The charm of his handsome
face was not of this world; it seemed to be divine! When
42
he was a baby, the queens of the Chozla palace would
repeatedly kiss his cheeks and make them flush. More than
any other person, his elder sister Kundavai cherished him.
Though she was barely two years older to him, Kundavai
felt that the responsibility of rearing this divine child was
hers! In his turn, Arulmozli returned all the love and
adoration that his sister showered upon him. The brother
would not cross the line drawn by his elder sister. The
Younger Pirati had to merely utter one word; even if all the
three great Gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came
together and said something against that, Arulmozli would
not consider their words. The elder sister's words were
gospel to the younger brother.
The sister would often peer into her darling brother's face.
Not just when he was awake; she would gaze upon the face
of her sleeping brother for hours together. There is some
divine grace in this boy; It is my duty to bring it to the
forefront and make it shine! thought the young Princess.
When her brother slept, she would often pick up his hands
and study the lines on his palms. To her, those lines would
appear to have the sign of the Conch and Discus. Aha! He
is born to rule this world! He will bring the whole world
under one rule, she would think. But, there was no
possibility of his ascending the Chozla throne. Princes
elder to him -- eligible to ascend the throne -- there were
two others before him. Then, how could he acquire a
kingdom? On which throne could he sit? Who knows
divine intentions? The world is big; several kingdoms and
territories exist on this earth. Have we not heard of princes
and kings who ventured into alien lands and by their
prowess acquired kingdoms? Have we not read of such
happenings in novels and epics? That ancient prince who
was thrown out of his kingdoms on the banks of the
Ganga, did he not sail the seas to reach Lanka and
establish a mighty nation? Didn't his Singhala Dynasty rule
firmly in Lanka for a thousand years?
Kundavai thought of such things constantly. In the end she
came to the conclusion that her younger brother was the
appropriate commander to lead the Lankan campaign.
She said, "Thambi, my darling brother Arulmozli! It will
be difficult for me to part from you for even one second.
However, the time has come for me to send you on your
way. You must lead the Lankan campaign and leave for
the island."
Arulmozli agreed joyously. He had waited for the day -- to
escape from the life of luxury and the smothering love of
the maids and queens in the palace. His beloved sister had
now ordered him to do so. What other worry could he
have? What other impediment?
If Kundavai had made up her mind, there was nothing that
would not take place in the Chozla nation. The Emperor
loved his beloved daughter to that extant! He trusted her
implicitly!
Prince Arulmozli was appointed the Commander of the
Southern Armies. He led his men into Lanka, and
conducted the campaign for some time. But the war would
not end easily. There was a difference in his method of
campaigning and that of others. Supplies and support
requested by him did not come from his native land.
Therefore, once in the midst of all his endeavors he came
back to Tanjore. He spoke to his father and arranged
matters to his satisfaction. He prepared to depart for Lanka
once again.
Kundavai had arranged for several auspicious ceremonies
at the main palace in Pazlayarai, to bid farewell to her
darling brother. When Arulmozli stepped out, the victory
drums in the palace courtyard boomed; conches were
blown; kettle-drums beaten loudly. Cheering shouts rose
sky-high.
All the royal ladies of the Chozla clan blessed their
beloved Prince; they anointed his forehead with holy
ashes, and warding off evil eyes, sent him on his victorious
journey.
All the maids-of-honor in Kundavai's court stood on the
palace steps carrying golden patters laden with a lighted
lamp. These maids were no ordinary folk. They were from
the famous noble families of the south. They had come to
Pazlayarai, considering it a great opportunity, to serve the
Elder Pirati Sembiyan Madevi and to become companions
to Kundavai Pirati. Vanathi, a daughter of the Kodumbalur
chieftain, the Younger Lord of Velir, was one among
them.
When those girls saw the Prince coming down the palace
steps, all of them felt a certain agitation in their hearts.
When the Prince came closer, they waved their platters
with the lighted lamp before him (to ward off the evil eye).
At that moment Vanathi felt her whole body shiver.
The golden platter in her hands slipped and fell with a
"clang" to the ground. The thought, "Oh dear! What is this
ill omen!" rose in every mind. But when they saw the
wick burning bright even if the lamp had fallen, they felt it
was after all a good omen. The elders assured them, "This
is a good sign."
Prince Arulmozli smiled at the girl who had dropped the
plate for no apparent reason and continued his descent
down the steps. As soon as he moved ahead, Vanathi fell
down in a swoon. She had fainted with the mortification of
having committed such an impropriety. Upon the orders of
Kundavai, the serving maids carried her into the palace.
Kundavai hurried inside, without even waiting to see her
beloved brother mount his horse and depart; she went in, to
revive her friend.
Holding the reins of his horse, the Prince who had seen the
girl faint, sent his footman inside to find out "How is the
girl who fainted?"
43
Kundavai sent the footman back with the words "Tell the
Prince to come back here for a minute." The brother who
had never crossed the commands of his sister, came back
accordingly. The sight of his sister trying to revive the
young girl lying on her lap touched his heart.
"Akka! Who is this girl? What is her name?" he asked.
"She is the daughter of the Younger Lord Velir of
Kodumbalur. Her name is Vanathi; of a timid disposition."
"Oh! Now I understand why she fainted. Was it not her
father who led the earlier campaign to Lanka? Didn't he
die in the battlefront over there? Perhaps she remembered
that."
"Maybe. But don't worry about her. I can look after her. I
called you back to wish you well. Go to Lanka and come
back victorious and soon. Send me news as often as you
can!" said the Younger Pirati.
"Fine! You too send me news if anything happens here."
By now, Vanathi was regaining consciousness; perhaps
due to the pleasant sound of Prince Arulmozli's voice! Her
eyelids opened softly. Upon glimpsing the Prince, her eyes
opened wider. Her face gained some color and revived;
coral red lips smiled; cheeks dimpled.
Along with her senses a shyness also returned. She sat up
quickly. She was mortified upon seeing the Princess
behind her. She recalled everything that happened. "Oh!
What have I done Akka?" she asked with remorse.
Before Kundavai could reply, the Prince intervened, "Don't
worry about that Vanathi! Anyone can make a mistake.
You have every reason to be agitated. I was explaining it
to my sister."
Vanathi wondered if she was dreaming or if it was real.
The Prince who never looked at any woman was talking to
her. He is consoling me and cheering me up! How can I
bear this fortune? - Look, how my whole body shivers, I
am dizzy again....
"Akka, my men are waiting. Permit me to leave. When you
send me news from here, let me know how this girl feels.
Look after this orphan girl carefully." He then departed.
The other maids and companions were watching all these
happenings from the windows and balconies. The flame of
jealousy began to glow in their hearts.
From that day onwards Kundavai showered a special
affection upon Vanathi. She kept her by her side
constantly. She had her personal tutors teach her all the
arts and learning she had. She took Vanathi along
wherever she went. She led her into the garden and talked
secrets. She shared all her dreams about her younger
brother with her new friend. Vanathi listened to everything
carefully.
After the above incidents took place, Vanathi fell into
fainting fits four or five times. Kundavai would revive her
and soothe her. When Vanathi would sit up, with her chest
heaving with sobs, Kundavai would console her with
words such as "My dear foolish girl! Why are you crying
like this?"
"I don't know Akka! Please forgive me," Vanathi would
reply. Kundavai would embrace her and comfort her.
All these activities further enraged the other maidens in the
palace.
Therefore, was it not natural for those girls to talk in that
fashion, when the two friends had gone away in the chariot
towards Kudanthai?
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 17 -- A Horse Galloped
Kundavai had decided that Vanathi was the appropriate
bride for her incomparable brother. But Vanathi had one
fault: she was too timid. How could a girl who was to
marry the bravest of brave warriors, who was to give birth
to a son to rule the whole world, be so fainthearted?
Kundavai wanted to change her timidity and make her
brave and courageous. She had arranged for the deception
with the stuffed crocodile for this very purpose. But, the
Lady of Kodumbalur passed that test easily.
Upon returning from the house of the Kudanthai
Astrologer, Kundavai and Vanathi climbed into their swan
shaped barge. The barge floated downstream for a short
distance. The girls would often play in the water amidst the
thick groves of trees. They reached their favorite spot and
disembarked. When everyone had climbed down, one of
the girls screamed "Crocodile!" "Help!" She was pointing
beyond the tree near which they were standing. All the
other girls soon took up the cry and ran hither and thither.
But Vanathi, who was usually of a frightened disposition,
did not exhibit any fear. She was not scared even upon
seeing the horrible crocodile, with its wide open jaws, right
next to her. Vanathi was not afraid even when she saw the
faces of the other girls who were pretending to be afraid
according to Kundavai's instructions.
"Akka, the crocodile is powerful only when it is in the
water; it has no strength when it is on land. Tell these girls
not to be afraid!" said Vanathi.
44
"You deceiving thief! This is not a live crocodile; it is a
stuffed carcass! Someone has already told you that!" said
one of the other girls.
"I am not afraid even if it is really alive. I am only afraid
of lizards."
It was at this point, that Vandiya Devan arrived there to
save those maids from the terrifying crocodile! He jumped
off his horse and in one run threw his spear as he came
rushing forward. When Vallavarayan heard the words of
the lady who stood in front of the crocodile, his whole
body became alert. His disappointment that she had not
talked to him earlier at the astrologer's house was now
demolished.
But, that crocodile behind her - with its gaping jaws --
somehow created an uneasiness in him. Why is she
standing in front of the crocodile? Why is she asking me
not to bother? And why is that horrible crocodile not
moving from its spot all this time?
The lady continued: "Sir! In Kudanthai, you begged
pardon for having entered the astrologer's house in a hurry.
We came away without giving you any reply. You might
have perhaps construed that all women of the Chozla
country are mannerless creatures. Please do not think so. I
was a little confused because my friend had suddenly
fainted in that house. That is why I did not reply ... ..."
Oh, ho! What a pleasing voice this is? Why is my heart
pounding like this on hearing her speak? Why is my throat
parched? Not even did the marching drums of the war, or
even the sweet music of the flute and lute fill me with such
joy. Nothing shook me up like this. Why am I not able to
interrupt her and say something? Why is my tongue tied?
Why has the gentle breeze stopped? Why has the Arisil
stopped flowing? And then .... this crocodile? Why is it
still, like this?
While Vandiya Devan's heart was agitated in this manner,
his ears could continue hearing that girl's voice as if in a
dream: "... even now, you did this Sir, thinking that you
were saving us. You threw the spear at the crocodile. It is
rare to find gallants who can handle the spear with such
speed and accuracy..."
All the other girls standing under that tree now laughed
sharply. The laughter shattered Vandiya Devan's infatuated
dream. The magic cords, -- that girl's speech -- which
bound him, were cut loose. He examined the crocodile
again; moved aside from the girl in front of him and neared
the reptile. He shook the spear embedded on its back and
pulled it loose. No blood gushed from the hole made by his
weapon: then? some plantain fiber and cotton came out.
Those wicked girls laughed again. This time they clapped
their hands and applauded.
Vallavarayan's heart and body shrank with mortification.
He had never met such disgrace ever before. Such a great
blow to his pride in front of all these women! Are these
women? No, no! they are ogresses! I should not tarry next
to them. I should not look upon their faces. Damn this! My
darling spear! Is this your fate, to suffer such dishonor?
How will I wipe out this blemish? ...
All these thoughts raced through Vandiya Devan's mind
within one moment. If those who stood there laughingly
had been men, the clearing would have turned into a
battlefield! Those who dared to laugh would have lost their
lives that very instant! River Arisil would have run red
with their blood. But they were women! What could he do
to them? The only recourse was to run away and escape!
Without even looking back at the face of the girl who had
captivated his mind, Vandiya Devan ran up the river
embankment. His horse, which was standing up there,
neighed. Vandiya Devan felt that even his horse was
laughing at him along with those girls. All his anger turned
towards the horse. He jumped upon its back and smacked
it sharply, twice with his whip. The self-respecting horse
quickly galloped along the trail on the riverside.
For a while, Kundavai Pirati gazed in the direction in
which the horse had galloped away. She watched till the
dust raised by the horse had settled.
Turning towards her companions, she said, "Girls! None of
you have any refinement even now! You shouldn't have
laughed like that. When we are alone we can laugh and
tease as we wish. Don't we have to show some decorum
when a stranger is in our midst? What would that youth
think about the women of the Chozla country?" spoke
Kundavai.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 18 -- Idumban Kari
We left Azlvar-adiyan, also known as Thirumalai, at the
ferry landing near Kollidam. Let us consider that
Vaishnava zealot once again.
When Vandiya Devan sat upon his horse and rode away
towards Kudanthai, Mr. Thirumalai started mumbling
these words to himself: "This youth is very sharp. If I
enter through the sieve he squeezes in through the floor
decoration. I have not been able to find the truth about
whose man he is, or why and where he is going. I don't
know if he was part of the treasonable meeting at
Kadamboor Fort. Luckily, I mentioned the Astrologer of
Kudanthai to him! Let us see if that old man can find out
what I could not ..."
45
"Hello Sir! Are you talking to that ficus tree -- or, are you
talking to yourself?" Hearing a voice behind him, Mr.
Thirumalai turned around. The servant who had come from
Kadamboor and procured the horse for Vandiya Devan,
was standing there.
"My good man! Are you asking me? I wasn't talking to
myself; neither was I talking to the tree. I had a little
discussion with a vampire sitting upon this tree," said Mr.
Thirumalai.
"Oh! Is that so, Sir! Is the vampire of the Saiva sect or of
the Vaishnava sect?" asked that good man.
"That's what I was trying to find out. You interrupted and
now the vampire has disappeared. ... Let him go! ... What
is your name, my good man?"
"Why do you ask, Sir?"
"You saved us in the middle of the Kollidam by preventing
the ferry-boat from overturning. Shouldn't I remember a
commendable fellow like you?
"My name ... My name ... is Idumban Kari, Sir." He said it
with some hesitation.
"Oh! Idumban Kari? I have heard it somewhere ...
before..."
At that time Idumban Kari did something very peculiar!
He placed the spreading palms of both his hands one upon
the other, and wriggled his thumbs. As he did this, he
looked at Azlvar-adiyan's face.
"My dear man! What is this sign? I don't understand ...?"
Idumban Kari's dark face darkened further. His eyebrows
drew close in exasperation. "I? I didn't make any sign," he
said.
"You did. You did do so. I saw it. Exponents of the
classical dance Bharata Natyam, hold a certain posture
when they represent the first incarnation of God Vishnu;
you did something like that."
"The first incarnation of Vishnu? What is that, Sir? I don't
know?"
"Don't you know of Thirumal's first incarnation? The
Pisces!"
"Are you talking about fish?"
"Yes. My dear man! yes!"
"Very good Sir! Your eyes are something special! On an
ordinary tree you can see a vampire and empty hands look
like the fish incarnation. Perhaps, Sir, you have an extra
fondness for fish!"
"No. No. No such thing my dear man! Don't sidetrack me.
If you wish, let us drop the matter. But tell me this: do you
remember that radical Saiva fellow who came with us in
the boat? Do you know where he went?"
"Do I know? Oh yes. I saw him; he came along the same
road when I went to buy the horse. He kept cursing you all
along the way ..."
"What did he say?"
"He said that if he sees you again he would cut off your
topknot and shave your head and ..."
"Ah! Does he know the barber's trade?"
"He said that he would wipe out all the namam marks of
your sect from your body and cover you with ashes!"
"Is that so? Then, I must surely meet him. Do you know
the name of his home-town?"
"He said that it was Pullirukum Vellur, Sir."
"Everything else must wait till I meet that zealot! My good
man, where are you going now? Will you be coming in
that direction?"
"No. No. Why should I go there? I have to cross the
Kollidam and go back to Kadamboor. Won't the master
pluck my eyes out, if I don't show up?"
"If that is so, go quickly my man! See, the ferry-boat is
about to leave."
Idumban Kari looked back; what Azlvar-adiyan said was
true. The ferry-boat was about to leave.
"That's fine Sir. I shall leave immediately." After uttering
these words he started walking quickly down the
embankment, towards the ferry landing. He looked back
once, when he was half way down. By then Azlvar-adiyan
had done a strange thing: he quickly climbed the ficus tree
on the shore and reached the topmost branches of that huge
tree. Idumban Kari could not see him.
Idumban reached the ferry landing and stopped. "Are you
coming back to the other shore?" asked a boatman.
"No. I shall come in the next ferry. You can go," said
Idumban Kari.
"Ah! Is that all? The way you came running down, I
thought you wanted to catch this boat!" The boatman
pushed his long pole into the water; the ferry slid into the
deeps currents.
By now Azlvar-adiyan had climbed into the thickest
branches of the tree and completely concealed himself.
46
Aha! I thought correctly! This fellow did not go in that
boat. He is going to come back. I must see where he goes
and what he does next. I clearly saw his hands make the
sign of the fish. What does it mean? Fish! Fish! Fish ...!
What is represented by the sign of the fish? Ah! isn't the
fish a symbol on the Pandiya flag? Perhaps, ha! ... Could it
be so? Let us wait ... Let me wait with some patience. The
patient ones shall inherit the fields; the hasty will get the
forest! But these days it seems better to inherit the forest
than the field. Anyway let me be patient... Azlvar-adiyan
shared these thoughts with the invisible vampire in the
tree.
Soon, his expectations came true. The ferry-boat left
without Idumban Kari. Idumban looked up at the ficus tree
from where he stood. His eyes searched in all directions.
After making sure that Azlvar-adiyan was nowhere in sight
he came back to the same spot under the tree. His eyes
searched around once again before he sat down. His eyes
kept looking hither and thither as if searching for someone
or something. But, he did not look up into the branches of
the tree. Even if he had looked up he would not have
spotted Azlvar-adiyan easily for Thirumalai had hidden
himself well.
About an hour passed in this fashion. Azlvar-adiyan's legs
began turning numb. He could not remain hidden amidst
the tree branches much longer. Idumban Kari did not
appear as if he was about to leave soon. How to escape?
However carefully he descended on the other side of the
tree, he was sure to make some noise. Idumban Kari would
surely see him. He had a sharp knife thrust in his
waistband. What guarantee that he would not use it?
What can I do? Shall I make horrible noises like a ghost or
demon and jump down on him? If I jump like that he may
think that the vampire is attacking him and fall down in a
faint or run away. I can then run away and escape! ...
When Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-adiyan was considering
these options, it seemed as if his patience would be
rewarded.
A man could be seen walking up from the south west i.e.,
the Kudanthai road. Thirumalai's intuition warned that
Idumban Kari was waiting for that man. Soon, his intuition
proved to be right.
Upon seeing the new man, Idumban Kari stood up. The
newcomer made a sign like the one Idumban had made
before. That is, he placed the palm of one hand upon the
other and wriggled his thumbs, making the sign of the fish.
On seeing it, Idumban made a similar sign with his hands.
"What is your name?" asked the newcomer.
"My name is Idumban Kari. What is yours, Sir?"
"Soman Samban."
"I was expecting you, Sir!"
"I too came in search of you."
"Where should we go?"
"Westward!"
"Where?"
"To the enemy memorial."
"Near Thiru-puram-biyam ... "
"Don't talk so loudly. If someone hears it?"
"There is no one here. I looked."
"If someone is hiding near-abouts?"
"Impossible."
"OK. Let us leave. I don't know the way very well. You go
first. I shall follow you at a little distance. Stop and make
sure that I am following you as you go on."
"Fine. It is not a good road. The path is full of stones and
thorns. We have to walk through forest and thicket. Watch
and walk carefully."
"That's alright. You leave now. Even if it is a forest path,
hide if you see anyone. Understand?"
"Yes. I know."
Idumban Kari started walking westward along the banks of
the Kollidam. Soman Samban followed him a little later.
Azlvar-adiyan waited on the tree till both were hidden
from his sight. He had watched and heard everything!
"Ah ha! These are bad times! All sorts of unexpected
things are happening. I think I am going to find out about
some mysterious activity. God's grace has given me the
opportunity to find out. Now, getting details depends on
my resource-fulness. I could not get all the details at
Kadamboor. I should not be thwarted like that again.
Thiru-puram-biyam Memorial means they are talking
about the memorial temple for the Ganga King Prithvi-
pathi. It is more than a hundred years since that memorial
was built. It is now dilapidated! The forest has encroached
and surrounded that area. The village is quite away from
the memorial.
"Why are these men going there? If the matter is to be
discussed between these two, they would have talked about
it here itself. There is no need to walk a league along a
forest path. I am sure some others are likely to come to that
spot. Why? Why did one of them refer to the memorial of
King Prithvi-pathi as `The enemy memorial'? Whose
enemy was Ganga Prithvi-pathi? Yes! My surmise is likely
to be true. Anyway let me find out. They have walked
along the banks of the Kollidam. I shall walk along the
47
River Manni. It doesn't matter if the forest is thicker along
the banks of the Manni. Why should I bother about the
forest and hills or the stones and thorns. I am used to them
-- They have to be afraid of me!"
Muttering these words and thinking such thoughts, Azlvar-
adiyan descended the ficus tree and went a little
southward. He came to the banks of the River Manni and
started walking west. He walked through forests meeting
no one on the way and by about sunset he reached the
memorial temple near Thiru-puram-biyam.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 19 -- Battlefield And Forest
It was a practice among the Tamils of the ancient times to
erect a hero stone and raise a memorial for great warriors
who died bravely in the battlefield. If the memorial was
marked merely by a stone tablet the place was known as
the stone monument of the warrior. If a statue of a divinity
was consecrated along with the marker, the place came to
be called a palli padai or memorial shrine and temple.
One such memorial-temple existed near the village of
Thiru-puram-biyam, on the northern banks of the River
Manni about half a league from Kudanthai. It had been
erected in memory of a great warrior, the Ganga King
Prithvi-pathi who had died in a great battle near that
village.
Those who read world history may recall that the great
battles of Waterloo and Panipat changed the very course of
history. The battle of Thiru-puram-biyam had a similar
significance with regard to South Indian history. That
battle took place in the year AD 885, about a hundred
years before the times of our story. It is essential that all
persons interested in the history of the Tamils should know
the details of that battle.
The early Chozla kings of the Sangam Age -- Karikala
Valava, Ilan-chet-chenni, Perunar-killi, Thodi-thot
Sembiyan -- ruled with great fame and prosperity. For
about five to six hundred years after their times, a long
eclipse clouded the fame of the Chozla's. The Pandiyas in
the south and the Pallavas of the north squashed the
Chozlas into becoming petty chieftains. Towards the end,
the Chozlas had to give up their coveted capital city,
Uraiyoor, to the Pandiyas and move east. The Chozla
chieftains who moved east made Pazlayarai, near
Kudanthai, their new capital. But they did not forget their
rights to their long time capital, i.e., Uraiyoor. Neither did
they give up their title of Rooster Kings -- a title of
monarchs who ruled from Uraiyoor which was also known
as Kozliyoor (kozli in Tamil means rooster.)
Of the Chozlas of Pazlayarai, Vijayala became famous as
an incomparable, brave warrior. He had fought in the
forefront of various battles and had ninety-six war-wounds
on his body. Latter day poets sang his praises enumerating
his wounds to be `Ninety and twice of three more' and said
that he `Wore on his brave body ornaments of battle-
wounds numbering ninety and six.' His son, Aditya Chozla
was comparable to his father in bravery. He also took part
in several great campaigns. Vijayala Chozla had retired in
his old age after crowning his son as the king.
At that time the enmity between the Pandiyas and Pallavas
had grown to result in several skirmishes and fights. The
Pandiya king of that time was Varaguna. The Pallava
monarch was Aparajita. The battles between these two
powerful rulers often took place on Chozla territory! Just
like the rooster caught in the midst of a clash between one
elephant and another, the Chozla people suffered: caught
in the midst of the enmity of two super-powers.
King Vijayala tried to make the best use of these wars for
gaining his own supremacy. In each skirmish or battle he
would join forces with one opponent or the other. Victory
and defeat were equal: but the warrior spirit of Chozla men
became well established.
Several tributaries branch from the Cauvery to form a delta
-- the fertile lands of the Chozla country. All these
tributaries branch and flow to the south of the Cauvery.
There is only one tributary between the Kollidam and
Cauvery rivers. It is known as the River Manni.
The final test of strength between the super-powers took
place as a great battle near the village of Thiru-puram-
biyam situated to the north of the Manni. The armed
strength of both sides was more or less equal. Pallava
Aparajita was supported by the Ganga King Prithvi-pathi.
Aditya Chozla also supported Aparajita.
Compared to the armies of the Pandiyas, Pallavas and
Gangas the Chozla battalion was tiny. But Aditya knew
that if the Pandiyas were victorious this time, the Chozlas
would be totally destroyed. Therefore, like the Cauvery
mixing into the mighty ocean, his tiny army joined the
larger Pallava forces.
The battlefield spread across one square league. The four
divisions of the army -- chariot legions, elephant brigade,
cavalry and infantry were ready. When elephant clashed
with elephant, like two mountains hurled against each
other, the skies thundered. Horses flew against horses like
furious storms thrown one against the other; lances and
long spears held by the horsemen shone like lightning.
Chariot dashed against chariot: broken into smithereens
and thrown in all directions. The noise of the whistling
arrows and clashing swords filled the skies and shook the
four corners of the world. After a fierce conflict lasting
over three days, the field looked like a sea of blood. Dead
horses and elephants appeared like islands in that sea.
Lifeless bodies formed dunes. Broken chariots floated like
driftwood from a sunken ship. Both sides had lost
thousands, tens of thousands of men.
48
After the first three days of battle, a very tiny battalion of
the Pallavas remained intact. Those men who lived were
very tired. But Pandiya forces attacked again and again as
if they owned some divine spell against tiredness. A
council-of-war was held in King Aparajita's tent. The three
kings -- Aparajita, Prithvi-pathi and Aditya together with
their generals, met to discuss further action. They decided
that they could no longer oppose the enemy; it was best to
retreat to the north of the Kollidam.
At that point a miracle happened in the battlefield.
Vijayala Chozla -- weak with old age, bearing numberless
war-scars over his body, having lost the power to use his
legs because of wounds -- somehow came to the battle
front. The old war-lion realized that if the Pallava forces
withdrew beyond the Kollidam, the Chozla entity would be
completely wiped out. His roar instilled new life in the
remaining Pallava men.
"One elephant; give me just one elephant," shouted the old
monarch.
"All our elephant brigade is lost. Not one elephant remains
alive," they said.
"One horse. At least bring me one good horse," he asked.
"Not a single horse survived," replied the men.
"At least, have two brave warriors of the Chozla nation
survived? If you are alive come forward!" roared the brave
soldier.
Instead of two, two-hundred came forward.
"Two men -- with courage in their heart and strength in
their shoulders -- two among you lift me up. The others
follow two after two to take their place. If the two carrying
me fall, those behind come forward." The bravest of brave
men spoke with a firmness.
Two giants came forward and lifted Vijayala onto their
shoulders. "GO! Go to the war-front!" he roared.
A battle was still being fought in one corner of the field.
The southern forces were fighting bravely, making the
northerners retreat. Vijayala Chozla seated on the
shoulders of two brave men entered that fight. He rushed
into the midst of the enemy legion, swirling two large
swords held in each hand; none could oppose him or stop
him. Wherever he went dead bodies of enemy men rose in
piles on both sides. Men who retreated earlier came back
to see this miracle. They stood in shock to see the inhuman
bravery of Vijayala Chozla. They cheered each other and
came back to fight.
And that was it. The fickle Goddess of Victory changed
her mind; her favor was now bestowed upon the Pallava
army. The three kings gave up the idea of retreating
beyond the Kollidam. They too entered the battle field.
Soon the Pandiya army began its retreat. They did not stop
till they reached the borders of their Pandiya Territories.
Ganga Prithvi-pathi performed various deeds of valor that
day. He established his brave fame and gave up his life in
the field.They erected a hero stone in his memory in the
battlefield. Later it was built into a memorial-temple or
palli padai.
That gory battlefield lay waste for a few years; not a weed
grew on that land. People avoided going near the place.
After a while, forest began claiming the land for itself.
Trees and creepers began growing thickly around the
memorial temple. Wolves took up abode among the
bushes. Owls and bats lived in the dark branches of tall
trees. In the course of time, no one went near that temple.
Over the years the building began to crumble. Soon it
turned into ruins. By the times of our story, the place had
become a totally deserted ruin in the middle of a forest.
Azlvar-adiyan reached the ruined memorial when darkness
was setting in. The gargoyles carved on the upper walls of
the memorial stared at him and tried to frighten him. But
that brave Vaishnava was not one to be frightened easily.
He jumped up and climbed on to the roof of the structure.
He then hid himself carefully amidst the branches of a tree
that covered the roof. He kept watch in all directions.
Soon, his eyes were able to peer into the darkness and
discern various shapes. His ears were able to hear even the
tiniest of noises.
One hour, two hours and even three hours passed after
sunset. The darkness around him was suffocating. Now
and then he heard the rasping sound of forest trees:
branches rubbed against each other. There! a wild-dog was
climbing a tree. An owl hooted; bats screeched. Birds
frightened by the wild-dog beat their wings loudly as they
tried to perch on higher branches. Wolves had begun to
howl.
He heard a noise above his head: looked up. Some small
animal -- lizard or squirrel jumped to a different branch. A
small patch of the clear sky could be seen through the
branches of the tree. Stars twinkled and peeped down. In
that silent, dark forest the stars seemed to extend a friendly
smile towards him. Therefore, Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-
adiyan looked up at the stars and started talking softly:
"Oh! My dear star friends! Today you seem to be laughing
at the foolishness of these human beings on this earth. You
have good reason to laugh! You might remember that
horrible battle which took place in this very spot a hundred
years ago; and how the whole area was a wretched ruin of
blood and death. Perhaps you were surprised at mankind
and their petty enmities! You wondered why they
butchered each other to create rivers of red. It is called
bravery! Even a hundred years after a man's death they
consider him an `Enemy' -- they referred to it as the
`Enemy memorial'. They are going to meet near the enemy
49
memorial and talk and conspire of more harm to the living
in the name of the dead! Oh you twinkling lights of the
skies! Why won't you laugh? Yes. Laugh as much as you
wish. Dear God! Is my coming here a big waste? Is the
whole night going to pass like this? Are those men, whom
I expected, coming here, or not? Did I hear wrong? Did I
not see correct? Or did those men who made the sign of
the fish change their plans and go some place else? -- What
disappointment? Disappointment? I cannot forgive myself
if I am cheated today... Ah! ... I think I can see some light
in that direction. What is it? The light is now hidden. No. I
can see it. No doubt now. Someone is coming here; he is
holding a torch of burning twigs. No, not one man -- I hear
two men. My waiting has not been wasted."
The two men who came crossed the path and went beyond
the memorial temple. They stopped in the midst of a small
clearing nearby. One fellow sat down. The man holding
the lighted twigs looked around. There was no doubt: he
was expecting some others. After sometime, two others
came and joined them. They must have been very brave
men; men who had come to that spot several times before.
Otherwise, they could not have found their way in that
darkness in that forest. Those who came first and the late
comers talked amongst themselves. But, Azlvar-adiyan
could not hear a single word! Oh dear! All my effort seems
useless. I cannot even see those men clearly. What shall I
do?
Two more men joined them very soon. They talked of
something to each other. One of the men who came last,
had a bag in one hand. He opened the string tied around his
bag and poured its contents on the ground! Gold coins
shone brightly in the light of the burning twigs. The man
who dropped the coins laughed like one possessed:
"My friends! We are about to destroy the Chozla Kingdom
using Chozla gold! Isn't it funny?" He laughed loudly
again.
"Ravidasa, don't make such a racket! Let us talk softly,"
said another.
"Fine! What does it matter how we talk in this place? If
anybody hears us, it will be owls and bats; wolves and
wild-dogs; luckily they cannot repeat what they hear!"
Ravidasa laughed even more loudly.
"Maybe. But, it is better to talk softly."
They started talking amongst themselves, softly. Azlvar-
adiyan felt that it was a waste to sit on top of that roof
without hearing anything. He must get down and go near
the clearing to listen to their talk. He must manage to avoid
the danger from such activity. Azlvar-adiyan started down
from the roof top. His stocky body disturbed the tree
branches and made a slight noise.
One of the men in the clearing jumped up quickly, saying,
"Who is that?" Azlvar-adiyan's heart stopped beating for a
few seconds. There was no way of not being discovered,
except to run. Running would cause more noise. They will
surely catch him. A vampire bat on the tree spread open its
huge wings; it then opened and closed its wings lazily
several times and whistled "Oorm, oorm," loudly, twice.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 20 -- The First Enemy
Azlvar-adiyan gave his heartfelt thanks to the vampire bat
which helped him at the right time; a hooting owl gave
further aid. The conspirators gathered in the clearing
thought that the noise was made by the owl or the bat.
"Hey fellow! This bat has frightened us. Kill it!" said one
man.
"No need. Sharpen your knives and save them for other
important tasks; keep them to rout the very roots of our
enemy clans! Bats and owls are not our enemy; they are
our friends. We are awake when normal folk sleep. These
owls and bats are awake with us." The man called
Ravidasa spoke these words.
Thirumalai moved forward step by step, quietly, while he
listened to these words of Ravidasa. Soon he neared a large
marudai tree. The roots of that hundred year old tree
spread in all directions. Hollow spaces could be found in
between and below the thick roots. Thirumalai stood in
one such hollow blending his body with the tree trunk.
"We have no dearth of funds as long as the royal treasury
in Tanjore exists. All we need is determination to complete
the task we have undertaken. We should be capable of
guarding our secret from becoming known to anyone, until
the assignment is done. We have to divide ourselves into
two groups. One group must travel to Lanka immediately.
The other must go to the Thondai regions and wait for an
opportunity to achieve our goal. Both jobs must be
completed more or less at the same time. If there is any
delay after finishing with one enemy, the other fellow will
become forewarned. We should never let that happen. Do
you all understand? Who among you are ready to go to
Lanka?" asked Ravidasa.
"I can go." "I shall go." Several voices rose at the same
time.
"When we meet the next time, in the Pandiya Kingdom, let
us decide about who is to go to Lanka. Till then, we have
several arrangements to make here itself."
"Which is the best way to go to Lanka?" asked one man.
"We can go by Kodi Karai. That is a good place to cross
the sea. But it is difficult to reach Kodi Karai from here.
50
Enemies all along the way; spies everywhere. Therefore it
is better to go to Sethu and cross the sea to Matottam.
Those going to Lanka must know how to swim in the sea
and they must be ready to row a boat or catamaran if the
need arises. Who among you knows how to swim?"
"I do." "I can." said a few voices.
"We must first meet Mahinda, the King of Lanka and then
complete our job. Therefore, at least one of us who goes to
Lanka must be able to speak the Singhala language. Ah!
Why hasn't our Soman Samban come yet? Did any of you
see him today?" asked Ravidasa.
"Here, I am coming." The voice came from a spot very
close to the hollow in which Thirumalai was hiding.
Azlvar-adiyan flattened his body further against the tree
trunk. Dear, dear me! How troublesome it is, that my
wretched body has grown so prosperous.
Two more newcomers came and joined the group in the
clearing. Azlvar-adiyan peeped out from his hiding place,
showing a bare minimum of his face outside the hollow.
He recognized the late comers as the two men who had
met under the tree on the southern banks of the Kollidam.
On seeing the two new men, Ravidasa exclaimed,
"Welcome! Welcome! I was afraid that you were in some
trouble and may not come to this meeting. From where and
by which way are you both coming?"
"We came along the bank of the Kollidam. On the way, a
pack of wolves surrounded us. It was quite difficult to
escape from them. That is why we are late," said Soman
Samban.
"There is reason if you are afraid of the tiger or lion! What
can we achieve with the help of men who are afraid of
wolves?" asked the man who was holding the lighted
twigs.
"Don't say that my friend! The wolf or jackal is worse than
any lion or tiger which is a solitary enemy that attacks
alone. We can fight against them and manage. But wolves
come in packs. They are more dangerous. Didn't our
incomparable king of kings loose the battle and give up his
life because the Chozla jackals came in large packs all at
one time? Would it have happened any other way?"
"We shall totally destroy the whole pack of wolves. We
shall kill their very roots." Soman Samban swore with
vehemence.
"Here are the tools to help that cause!" said Ravidasa,
pointing at the gold coins. Soman Samban picked up a few
coins and examined them.
"Yes! The tiger symbol on one side; palm tree on the other
side," he exclaimed!
"Chozla gold! Lord Pazluvoor's signet. I did what I said I
would do. What news from the rest of you? Does Idumban
Kari have any special news?" asked Ravidasa.
"Yes. He has news. Let him tell it in his own words," said
Soman Samban.
Idumban Kari began speaking: "As per your orders, I
joined the household of Kadamboor Sambuvaraya and am
working as a servant in his palace. Last night my efforts
bore fruit. Yesterday, a huge banquet was held at
Kadamboor. Several guests -- the Elder Lord Pazluvoor,
Lord of Mazluvoor, Vanangamudi Munai Raya and others
had come. The gypsy dance and velan attam, the oracle
dance, took place. The man who danced as the divine-man
foretold the future when the spirit manifested him. His
predictions were helpful to our intentions. Everybody
thought that the Elder Lord Pazluvoor had brought his
Young-Queen in the closed palanquin to the palace. Lord
Pazluvoor announced that Emperor Sundara Chozla was in
poor health and that he was not likely to live long. All the
dignitaries met and decided that Prince Aditya Karikala
was not the rightful heir to ascend the throne; they decided
that Prince Madurandaka had the right to succeed as
Crown Prince. Some among them were doubtful if that
Prince would agree to accept the throne. Lord Pazluvoor
then promised that `He will accept personally,' and opened
the curtains of the closed palanquin. Prince Madurandaka
came out from the palanquin and agreed to accept the
throne..."
"They are going to crown that brave fellow who roams
around disguised as a woman! Very good! Let them crown
him! Everything is happening according to our plans. An
internal confusion in Chozla politics is very useful to our
cause. Now, whatever happens, no one will suspect us!
Idumban Kari! You have brought very good and important
news. But, how did you learn of all this? How did you get
the opportunity?" asked their leader, Ravidasa.
"I tried to put myself forward working in the inner
chambers of the palace. I was assigned the task of guarding
the courtyard where the dignitaries met, to hold their
discussions at midnight. While on guard duty, I made good
use of my eyes and ears."
"Did you learn of anything else by making such good use
of your senses?"
"Yes. I found something else. Another fellow, a stranger,
was spying on that midnight meeting and listening to
everything that was being said; he was hiding on the outer
ramparts of the palace and watching everything."
"Oh! Who was he?"
"A fanatic Vaishnava fellow with a topknot on his
forehead ...."
51
"Ah! Was it him? That's what I surmised. What did you do
with him? Did you report him to your masters and get
hold of him?"
"No. I did not do that. I had thought that he may be one of
us. I thought that you may have sent him."
"You made a big mistake! He is not one of us. He is short
and stocky; a quarrelsome fellow. His name is Thirumalai
Appan. Sometimes, he calls himself Azlvar-adiyan
Nambi."
"Yes. That very same fellow. I realized my mistake this
afternoon when I found out that he was not one of us."
"How did you find that?"
"One of the friends of my younger master Kandamaran
had also come to the fort last night. I did find out that he
had no connection with Lord Pazluvoor and his fellow
conspirators. That friend went to sleep in some corner.
This morning, my younger master came to the banks of the
Kollidam accompanying his friend. I heard him speak of
his intentions and stood in front of him often in the course
of my duties. My master asked me to come along. The
master went back to Kadamboor from the north shore; but,
he ordered me to go to the south shore and procure a horse
for his friend before I returned. I asked permission to visit
my aunt in Kudanthai after that. That is how I could come
here without any problem."
"All this is fine! But, how did you find out about that
fanatic topknot fellow?"
"When the ferry boat on the Kollidam was about to leave,
that fellow came and joined us in the boat. He exchanged
some heated words with Kandamaran's friend. Therefore, I
doubted my conclusions about him being one of us. It
appeared as if he was waiting for me on the south shore of
the Kollidam. So, I made our secret sign to him but he did
not understand. I then knew that he was not one of us."
"You have committed a grave error! You should not make
our sign to persons whose antecedents are not known. My
Friends! Please listen to this," said Ravidasa, and he
continued in a more agitated voice, "Our assignment is in
Kanchi. And in Lanka. Our greatest enemies are in these
two places. But, an enemy more important than those two,
our first enemy is Thirumalai Appan who wanders around
in the name of Azlvar-adiyan Nambi. He is capable of
thwarting our intentions and destroying all of us. He is
trying to abduct that peerless lady who is our leader."
After announcing this, Ravidasa continued, "In the future,
if any one of you see him, anywhere, in any circumstance,
use any weapon in your hands to pierce his heart and kill
him! If you carry no weapon, use your bare hands to choke
him to death. Or destroy him cunningly with poison; push
him into the flood to feed him to the crocodiles. Lure him
to a cliff top and push him to death. Kill him mercilessly,
like you would any poisonous snake, lizard or scorpion.
More commendable, if you can give him up as a human
sacrifice to the Goddess Kannagi or the Goddess Kali. He
is going to be an impediment to our intentions as long as
he is alive."
"Mr. Ravidasa! You are saying this with such conviction.
He must be a very artful fellow. Who is he?"
"He? He is a terribly capable spy!"
"Whose spy?"
"I was not sure myself, for a long time I suspected him to
be a spy of Sundara Chozla or Aditya Karikala. I realized
that he was not that. I now think that he is a spy of that evil
old she-devil who lives in Pazlayarai -- that Elder Pirati."
"Ah! Is that true? Why does that old woman, involved in
her devotions to the Gods, need a spy?"
"All her devotions are rubbish! That old Queen's devotion
to Shiva is as big a masquerade as this topknot fellow's
Vaishnava fanaticism! She is a fiend who is hostile to her
own son. That is why her very own brother, Lord
Mazlavaraya of Mazluvoor quarrelled with her; he now
belongs to that Pazluvoor fellow's group."
"Mr. Ravidasa, are there any others like that Vaishnava
extremist?"
"There is an astrologer in Kudanthai. I suspect that fellow.
He pretends to foretell the future by astrology to one and
all and discovers their secrets. None of you should ever go
to him. If you go to him, you will surely be hoodwinked."
"Whose spy is he? What do you think?"
"I have not been able to find out that! Perhaps he works for
that false prince who is in Lanka now. But I am not very
concerned about that astrologer. He cannot do much harm
to us. I am apprehensive about that Vaishnava fellow. He
should be killed upon sight: like some evil, poisonous
creature!"
Azlvar-adiyan, hidden under the hollow tree root, heard all
this; his whole body was drenched in sweat and he
shivered with fright. He doubted if he could ever escape
with his life from that forest. To top it all, he felt like
sneezing; just at that time! He tried as much as he could to
control that wicked sneeze. He stuffed his face into his
scarf and "Aatch" he sneezed.
At that time the gentle breeze had died. The whispering
trees were quiet. The quiet "Aatch" was heard very clearly
by the men gathered in the clearing. Ravidasa looked up
and said, "There is some noise near that marudai tree. Take
the light over there and see what it is."
52
The man holding the lighted twigs came towards the tree.
As he came closer and closer, the light increased. He had
to take just one more step, the light would then fall
completely on Nambi. Then, what will happen? It would
be impossible to escape with his life.
Azlvar-adiyan's heart beat faster and faster. He eyes looked
all around, up and down, searching for something to aid
his escape. Nothing was obvious. The man came closer.
Up there, on that low branch above him, ... another giant
bat was hanging upside down! Quickly, he stretched his
hands out and plucked that vampire bat off its perch. He
had a good idea!
As soon as the man with the torch took another step and
came closer, Thirumalai threw the vampire bat at him. The
torch of twigs fell to the ground. The light dimmed. The
man, his face beaten by the strong wings of that huge bat,
started screaming. The noise of several men coming closer,
running closer, could be heard. Azlvar-adiyan also began
running. He ran deeper into the forest and soon
disappeared.
Several shouts, "What?" "What happened?" could be
heard. The man who had held the torch began a protracted
explanation of how the vampire bat attacked him! These
noises were audible for quite sometime as Thirumalai ran
further away.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 21 -- The Curtains Parted
Can two minds function at the same time in one body? Yes
-- Vandiya Devan knew the answer because of his
experiences that day!
He was travelling through the most fertile of the bountiful
Chozla lands. It was the season of new floods in all the
rivers and streams. Fresh water rushed through canals,
conduits and waterways into the lush fields; water was
everywhere.
How appropriate, to call the Chozla land bounteous and its
monarch the king of bounty! Thoughts of the dangers
surrounding the Chozla monarch immediately followed.
What is my duty in this situation? Shall I keep quiet after
delivering the letters sent by Prince Karikala to the
Emperor and think that my duty is done? Why should I
interfere in this discord and hostility between royal
cousins? How does it concern me, whoever sits on the
Chozla throne? In some ways, if I think of it, these Chozlas
are my ancestral enemies. Did not the Chozlas, Gangas and
Vaithumbas join together to destroy the very existence of
my forefathers of the Vanakapadi Kingdom? Can I forget
all that injustice just because Prince Karikala befriends me
today?
No, no! -- How can I consider that old history as injustice?
It is natural that kings fight and oppose each other. Victory
and defeat are both natural. What is the use of the defeated
group resenting the victorious? When they were powerful,
weren't my forefathers ruthless towards the kings they
vanquished? Did they not try to completely destroy their
enemies? Ah! What was that poem ? I can remember a
poem about such activities of my clan:-
With countless armies made into leaf-mulch,
With the flowing red of battlefields stored for irrigation,
In a dirt field ploughed by the war elephant,
That Vaana, the best of kings on this earth,
He planted the heads of the three kings: his enemies.
My ancestors also committed such dreadful deeds in the
battlefield! The lot of those defeated in battle is
lamentable. Can all kings be merciful like Rama and
Dharma of the epics? Because of their merciful nature they
were driven to the forests to suffer! Those epic heros
suffered even though they were brave and were befriended
by gallant men. There should be no mercy shown in
matters of politics! If one thinks about it, we should
consider these Chozlas as being more tolerant and merciful
than any other such monarchs. If possible, they make
friends with their enemies. Didn't King Arinjaya marry the
Vaithumba Princess? Isn't it because of that famous
beauty, the Princess Kalyani, that Sundara Chozla and his
children are so handsome? Ah! ... when I think of beauty,
the face of that maiden of Kudanthai, that lady on the
banks of River Arisil, comes to my mind! She is not
coming into my mind suddenly from somewhere ... her
presence has been lurking in my heart all this while...
While his outer mind considered the complications of
Chozla politics and enjoyed the beauties of Chozla land,
his inner mind dwelt upon that maiden. Now the inner
mind and outer mind began to consider the same object,
frankly. He began to compare any beautiful sight to her
enchanting personality. He recalled her lovely shoulders
when he saw the grace of slender bamboos swaying in the
breeze. The profuse blooms of creek-side water lilies were
example of her dark eyes. He doubted if the lovely lotus
could equal her golden face. Can he liken the sweet
melody of bees humming in flower groves to her pleasing
voice?
Poets can imagine such nonsense -- how can they be
reality? How beautiful she was! The very memory of her
face makes my heart beat faster! I am not enthralled like
that by these flowers and bees. Oh! Oh! I have forgotten
all the advice given by my elders! There is nothing more
impermanent in this world than the allure of women.
Those who wish to succeed in life should never be enticed
by the charm of women. If one falls prey to their
enchantment it is the end! The story of Kovalan is a good
example of that -- Why think of Kovalan? Look at Lord
Pazluvoor! That most powerful personage, the bravest of
soldiers -- aren't people making fun of him because of such
a predicament? -- but the people do not know the truth! No
53
one knows about who travels in the closed palanquin with
Lord Pazluvoor. They talk in ignorance. Still, Prince
Madurandaka need not demean himself in that fashion.
Why should he hide in a closed palanquin under the guise
of Lord Pazluvoor's queen, and go from town to town? Is
this commendable in any man? Should he acquire his
kingdom in this manner? Can he safeguard his gains
obtained in this fashion? He will have to trust Lord
Pazluvoor and his cronies and rule dominated by their
power. On that issue -- what Sundara Chozla does is also
not commendable; he should not have given such
prerogatives and powers to persons like the Lords of
Pazluvoor. That too when he has two such capable,
exquisite sons. And when he has a daughter whose
intelligence and skill is praised by the whole nation...
That maiden -- whom I saw at the astrologer's house and
met on the banks of the river -- whom does she resemble?
... Could it be possible? -- absolute foolishness! It can
never be so! But, why not? If it is so, there is none more
ill-fated than me. How did I behave?-- so uncivilized --
towards a lady admired by one and all from the Vindhya
Mountains to Lanka Island. It is not possible... How can I
face her tomorrow when I deliver the Prince's letters?
With such disconnected thoughts crowding his mind,
Vandiya Devan came along the Cauvery to reach the town
of Thiru-vai-aru. He stood on the southern banks of the
Cauvery, looking across the river to see the town on the
northern bank. The fertility and beauty of that country
overpowered his heart. He asked a passerby and confirmed
that it was indeed Thiru-vai-aru. All that he had heard
about that place seemed to be paltry compared to reality.
The description of that town by Gnana-sambanda in his
Thevaram poems could be recognized in the actuality.
There was no change in three hundred years.
Look at those luscious groves of trees on the Cauvery
bank. How big are the fruits hanging from the trunk and
branches of the jack-tree! There is nothing like this in the
dry Thondai region! Look at those monkeys gathered in
these fertile lands. How delightful to see them jump from
tree to tree! I remember the descriptions in Gnana-
sambanda's poems:
Maidens dance on the stages set in the street-corners of
Thiru-vai-aru. Song and music accompany that dance with
melodious drumbeats; Monkeys hearing those drums
(mattalam) think that the skies are thundering with an
approaching storm: they climb to the top of palm trees and
look up at the skies waiting for the rains!
How appropriate that description is even now? Look at
those long-tailed monkeys scampering among tree-tops. I
can hear the sounds of music and dance from the town!
Along with the melody of the veena, flute and other such
instruments, I can hear the sounds of dancing feet and
ankle bells! The dancers here are not frenzied like the
gypsy dancers of Kadamboor. This is classical dance --
decorous Bharata Natyam in full dignity. The music is
from established classical culture. I can even hear the tap-
tap of dance teachers beating time as their students
practice!
Teachers keep time, while beguiling damsels dance;
Poets speak enchanting verse, making every sculpted stone come alive;
Such accomplished people stroll in the streets of Thiru-vai-aru.
Aha! Gnana-sambanda was a good devotee of Shiva but,
more than that he was an connoisseur of the arts! This
town is exactly as he described it! I must stay in this town
at least for tonight and enjoy this music and dance and I
must worship at the shrines of the Lord of the five-rivers
and the Lady who nurtured justice. Look at all those
devotees at prayers on the banks of the Cauvery. How
elegant they look with their foreheads adorned with broad
ashen marks! Their chants of "Namasivaya" drown the
sounds of the music and dance. Look, someone is singing
the Thevaram songs so exquisitely. This town seems to be
created by the Gods just for music and song! I must stay
here tonight. What is the use of hurrying to Tanjore? I
don't know if I can even enter the fort? Even if I manage to
go in, will I be able to meet the Emperor? The two Lords
of Pazluvoor are said to guard the Emperor as if in prison
... Let me cross the Cauvery and go north.
When Vandiya Devan came to this conclusion, something
happened. A palanquin was approaching along the
Cauvery from the west. Footmen and guards walked in
front and behind the palanquin. A suspicion crossed
Vandiya Devan's mind. He waited at the same spot till the
palanquin came nearer. His surmise was correct. He could
see the sign of the palmtree emblazoned upon the outer
screens of the covered palanquin.
Yes! This palanquin must be coming from Kadamboor!
They must have come by some other route, while I came
through Kudanthai. But, there is no sign of Lord
Pazluvoor! Maybe he is delayed somewhere on the way.
The palanquin turned south on to the Tanjore road. That
decided it -- Vandiya Devan abandoned the idea of
tarrying at Thiru-vai-aru. He decided to follow that
palanquin. Why did he decide to do so? Even he did not
know at that time! He was sure that Prince Madurandaka
was seated inside the palanquin. His feelings of disgust
about the Prince increased. Still, he might find some good
opportunity if he followed the palanquin. The bearers
might put down the palanquin or the Prince might emerge
for some reason or other. He could make his acquaintance
and it might help him in entering the fort at Tanjore and
meeting the Emperor.
I must speak and put up a pretense suitable to achieve my
goal. If I don't use such strategy and conniving I cannot
complete my assigned task; particularly in such political
matters.
54
Therefore, he let the palanquin and its guards go ahead and
then followed them at a little distance. But no expected
opportunity arose. They had already crossed the remaining
four rivers between Thiru-vai-aru and Tanjore. The
palanquin was not put down. The bearers walked steadily.
He could soon see the ramparts and gates of the outer fort
of Tanjore in the distance. Once the palanquin enters the
fort, nothing can be done. He must do something bold and
fearless.
What can happen? Will they chop off my head? It's alright
if they do so -- there is no point going back with my life if
I am unable to complete my assigned task. As a basis for
all this thought, Vandiya Devan had a certain anger and
disgust about the prince in the palanquin. His hands itched
to tear apart the curtains of the palanquin and expose the
fact that the person inside was not a woman but a full
grown man! His heart was agitated!
While he was considering various options to execute his
intentions, one of the men in the retinue of the palanquin
hesitated. He stared at Vandiya Devan seated on his horse.
"Who are you Sir? You have been following us from
Thiru-vai-aru?" he asked.
"I am not following you Sir! I am going to Tanjore.
Doesn't this road lead to Tanjore?"
"Yes. This is the road to Tanjore; but, only important
persons can use this road. There is another road for
commoners," said that man.
"Is that so? I too am quite an important person!" said
Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan.
The man smiled upon hearing this, "Why are you going to
Tanjore?" he asked.
"My uncle lives in Tanjore. I heard that he was not keeping
good health and am going to visit him."
"What does you uncle do in Tanjore? Is he in service at the
Palace?"
"Oh, no! He is an inn-keeper."
"Ah! Is that so! Then, why don't you go before us? Why do
you follow us?"
"My horse is tired Sir. That's why. Otherwise what
pleasure do I have, to see your backsides?"
In the course of this conversation, Vandiya Devan came
very close to the palanquin. An idea had occurred to him.
He pulled in the reins, pressed both his legs against its
flanks and pushed his horse towards the bearers carrying
the end poles of the palanquin. They turned in fear and
surprise.
Vandiya Devan immediately started shouting "Oh King,
My Lord! My Sire! Your bearers are pushing against my
horse! Help! Help! Oh dear!"
The screens shook and parted.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 22 -- Velaikara Battalion Of Velirs
First, the outer screens emblazoned with the palmtree
symbol parted; next the silken inner curtains were pushed
aside. The golden hand seen by Vallavarayan once before,
the hand which had stunned him, could be seen once again.
Thinking that it was no longer polite to be seated on his
horse, Vandiya Devan climbed down.
He ran up to the palanquin saying "Prince! Prince! Your
bearers ..." and looked inside. He looked again; he blinked
his eyelids and looked once again! His eyes were dazzled!
His tongue tied itself into knots! Suddenly his throat felt
parched. "No. No! Princess! Princess of Pazluvoor! ...
Your Ladyship, Princess of Pazluvoor! ... Your bearers and
their horses dashed against my palanquin ..." came the
flustered blabberings.
All this happened within the blink of an eyelid! By now
the guards carrying the long spears ran up and surrounded
Vandiya Devan. He realized that the men were around
him; his hand automatically reached for his sword. But he
could not take his eyes off the dazzling face of that
enchantress behind the curtains!
Yes; unlike his expectations, this time he unquestionably
saw the beautiful figure of a young girl seated inside the
palanquin! Girl means what a girl! Vandiya Devan hadn't
known that such beauty, which could madden those who
beheld it, could exist in this world.
Fortunately, some nerve in his brain became active at that
moment. An amazing idea rose in his mind. He decided to
make use of that idea. He made a tremendous effort and
cleared his throat, bringing back speech to his tongue. "I
beg pardon! My Lady, aren't you the Young-Queen of
Pazluvoor? I came this far to make thy acquaintance!"
spoke his tongue.
A smile blossomed on the gentle face of the Young-Queen
of Pazluvoor. A lotus bud, which was closed shut till that
moment, opened slightly to reveal a string of tiny pearls.
The radiance of that smile mesmerized our young warrior
and absolutely bewildered him.
The footmen surrounding him seemed to wait for the
commands of their mistress. The Lady made a sign with
her finger; they moved away a little and stood apart. Two
men caught hold of the horse and waited.
55
That jewel among women, seated in the palanquin, looked
at Vandiya Devan. Two sharp spear-points pierced his
heart!
"Yes! I am the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor," said that
Lady. What is that intoxicating stuff mixed into her voice?
Why is my head spinning with such dizziness upon hearing
her speak?
"What did you say just now? You appealed to me about
something? About my bearers?"
Can the softness of Benaras silk, the intoxication of
country liquor, the sweetness of forest honey and the flash
of monsoon lightning blend like this into the voice of a
young maid? It seems quite possible here...
"You said they dashed my palanquin against your horse?"
The mocking smile playing upon her coral red lips
indicated that she was enjoying the joke. Vandiya Devan
gained some courage because of it.
"Yes. Great Queen! These men did that; my horse was
petrified."
"You also look petrified! Go to the priest at the temple of
Goddess Durga and ask him to exorcise you! You will
overcome this terror!"
By now, Vandiya Devan had overcome his fear and even
laughter came back! The Pazluvoor Queen's expression
had now changed: a smiling full-moon turned into blazing
anger!
"Stop jesting. Tell the truth. Why did you push your horse
against my palanquin and stop me?"
He had to give a plausible answer. If not... Luckily he had
already concocted a story. In a soft voice, a deliberately
soft voice, he spoke as if he did not wish others to hear his
words: "My Lady! Madam Nandini Devi! He... Mr.
Azlvar-adiyan, that is ... Mr. Thirumalai, he ... he asked me
to meet you! That is why I connived this strategy. Please
forgive me. I beg pardon!"
As he said the words he examined her face carefully. He
waited anxiously, to see the effect of his reply. It was like
throwing a stone at a fruit tree. Will a ripe fruit fall? Or,
would it be raw? Or, will the stone fall back on him? Or,
will some unexpected thunder descend?
The dark brows of the Pazluvoor Queen shot up -- surprise
and fear filled her intoxicating eyes. The next instant, she
seemed to have come to some decision.
"Fine! It is not safe to stop in the middle of a road and talk.
Come to my palace tomorrow. You can explain everything
there."
Vandiya Devan's heart filled with bliss. His intentions
were about to be fulfilled, but there was no use in leaping
across three fourths of an open well! He must leap across
the remaining quarter.
"Madam! My Lady! They will not let me come inside the
fortress! Neither will they let me enter the palace! What
shall I do?" he asked with some agitation.
The Young-Queen of Pazluvoor instantly turned aside and
picked up a silken purse lying next to her. She opened the
bag and took out an ivory signet ring. Saying, "If you show
this they will let you into the fort and permit you to enter
my palace," she gave him the ring. Vandiya Devan
received it eagerly. For a second, he glanced at the ring
with the sign of the palm tree. Then, he looked up to thank
the lady. But, the screens were pulled shut once again.
Ah! An eclipse swallows the full-moon slowly, bit by bit.
But these silken screens have covered that eloquent
radiance in one moment!
"Do not follow me anymore. It may be dangerous. Wait
and come later," said that silken voice from inside the
drapes.
The palanquin moved on. The guards walked ahead,
around it like before. Vandiya Devan stood by the
roadside, holding the reins of his horse. His eyes noted that
the Pazluvoor footman who had stopped to talk to him
looked back several times; the message reached his inner
brain. His outer brain revolved around the enchanting face
of the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. Did all this truly
happen? Was everything a pleasing dream? Can there be
such beauty, such a ravishing form on this earth?
Myth and fable talk of divine maidens -- heavenly beauties
called Ramba, Urvasi and Menaka. There are tales about
how those beautiful maidens disturbed the penance of
ascetics who foreswore all worldly pleasures. But in
reality! ... There must be truth in the rumor about the Elder
Lord Pazluvoor being a bonded slave to this ravishing
lady. There is no surprise if it is true. What contrast
between Lord Pazluvoor -- old and grey, with a body
disfigured by scars of several battle wounds -- and this
soft, gentle, dazzling maiden? What deeds will that old
man perform, to obtain one smile from her?
He waited for a long time by the roadside, mulling over
such thoughts. Finally, he mounted his horse and slowly
rode towards the gates of Tanjore.
By sunset, he neared the main entrance to the city fort. The
city extended for some distance before the fortress walls
and gates. Market streets offering several kinds of goods
for sale, residential streets of people engaged in various
trades -- these successively surrounded the outer
boundaries of the fort. All the streets were busy with the
hustle and bustle of a large town: people going hither and
thither, merchants haggling over the price of goods they
56
sold, carts and wagons drawn by hefty, well fed bullocks,
horse drawn chariots, palanquins and litters filled the
streets.
Vandiya Devan was eager to enter those streets and
experience the sights and sounds of the new capital of the
Chozlas; he wished to make the acquaintance of these city
folk and become familiar with their ways. But, there was
no time for all that now. He must first complete the
assignment on which he had journeyed so far. Sightseeing
must wait. With this determination he neared the main
gates of Tanjore.
The massive doors of the main gateway were closed shut
at that time. The guards and gatekeepers outside were
trying to maneuver the people making them stand in an
orderly fashion on both sides of the street. The people
complied and stood aside. Yes; instead of going about their
own business they stood by the roadside as if in
anticipation of some procession or parade. Men, Women,
children and elderly -- everybody waited.
For a short distance the street in front of the gateway was
empty. The guards stood near the doorway. Vandiya
Devan wished to find out what was happening. He did not
wish to entangle himself with the gatekeepers when
everyone else stood aside. Unnecessary dispute and trouble
might come of it. The job on hand was more important
than a joust. It was not the time to pick an unwanted
quarrel.
Therefore, he stood to one side at a spot where he could
keep an eye on the gateway. The heady fragrance of
flowers rose by his side. He looked around. A youth,
wearing the symbols of a Saiva devotee, such as rudraksha
beads around his neck and ashen marks on his forehead,
stood by his side carrying two large baskets of flowers in
both his hands.
"Thambi, why has everybody moved to one side of the
road? Is some procession or something coming this way?"
asked Vandiya Devan.
"Are you not from these parts, Sir?"
"No. I come from the Thondai Territories."
"That's why you asked! It may be better if you also
dismount and stand aside."
Vandiya Devan jumped off his horse, thinking it would be
easier to converse with that youth. "Thambi why did you
ask me to dismount?"
"All these people are standing aside because the Velaikara
Battalion of Velirs is about to emerge from the fort after
presenting arms to the Emperor."
"Just to watch?"
"Yes."
"Why shouldn't I watch while sitting upon my horse?"
"You can. But, it is dangerous if the men of the Velaikara
Battalion see you."
"What danger? Will they abduct my horse?"
"They will abduct the horse; even carry away men!
Wicked fellows!"
"Will they be allowed to carry away horse or man?"
"What can one do but allow it? The word of those men of
the Velaikara Battalion is law in this city. There is none to
question them. Even the men of Pazluvoor do not interfere
in the affairs of the Velaikara Battalion of Velirs."
At that time, a loud commotion and noise could be heard
inside the fort. The sound of kettle-drums, blowing
conches, pipes being played, horns being blown and
marching drums being beaten mingled with loud, cheering,
shouts raised by hundreds of men.
Vandiya Devan had heard much about the brave warriors
of the Velaikara Battalion. It was an important
organization in the ancient Tamil nations, particularly in
Chozla dominions. `Velaikaras' were the personal
bodyguards of the ruling monarch. But there was an
important difference between them and ordinary
bodyguards. The men of this battalion had taken individual
oaths to "Personally guard the life and person of the king,
giving up their own life if the need arises." If something
untoward happened to the king or his life, because of their
carelessness or in spite of their guard, they had sworn to
cut off their heads with their own sword and offer
themselves as a sacrifice to the Goddess Durga. It was
natural that such men, who had sworn such terrible oaths,
were given ceratin privileges.
The two large doors of the gateway opened with a loud
noise. Two horsemen emerged first. In their right hands
they held aloft two narrow pennants flying high. They
were curious in design. The red cloth of the banner was
painted with a leaping tiger and a shining crown below it;
underneath the crown was a sacrificial alter with a severed
head on it and a huge sacrificial sword lay next to it. The
pennant was quite terrifying to behold.
A huge bull, carrying two immense war-drums followed
behind the horsemen. Two men walking by its sides beat
the reverberating drums. About fifty men in formation
followed the bull; they carried small and large kettle-
drums, cymbals, bells and chimes -- beating them and
banging then loudly.
Fifty others followed them, blowing "Boom, boom, boam"
upon long curved horns and pipes. About a thousand
57
soldiers followed these men. They raised the following
cries and cheers as they marched out:
"Long live Emperor Paranthaka of the blessed earth."
"Praise to him! Long life! Long life!"
"Long live Sundara Chozla!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"Long life to the Rooster King!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"Lord of Tanjore!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"Long life to the Lord who vanquished Veera-pandiya!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"Long life to the Monarch who took Madurai, Lanka and
Thondai!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"May the clan of Karikala Valava live long with fame!"
"Long life! Long life!"
"Victory to Goddess Durga, the Greatest, the all
powerful!"
"Victory! Victory!"
"Let the brave tiger-flag fly worldwide and win!"
"Victory! Victory!"
"Victory to our spears!"
"Victory to the brave spears!"
The loud cheers raised by hundreds of strong voices,
hypnotized those who heard them. While the shouts rose
near the fortress gateway, they echoed and thundered in all
directions. Many of the people standing on both sides of
the road joined the cheering.
Thus, everything was one big commotion while the men of
the Velaikara Battalion of Velirs emerged from the
gateway, marched past the long street and disappeared in
the distance.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 23 -- Amudan's Mother
The Velaikara Battalion wound its way through the main
market street. Some of the men walking towards the end of
the parade performed certain audacities in that
marketplace. One fellow entered the shop of a food vendor
and carried out a basket of sweet-cakes; he distributed the
cakes to his friends. When he crowned the vendor with the
upturned empty basket, all his friends laughed
uproariously "Ha ha ha haha ha."
Another gallant fellow plucked the flower tote from the
hands of an elderly woman. Scattering the flowers in all
directions he shouted "Hey friends, its raining flowers!"
Two soldiers trying to catch the flowers shouted gleefully
and raised a hue and cry! Yet another fellow stopped a
bullock cart on the road and unyoked the beast from the
cart; he drove the animal into the crowd by twisting its tail;
the terrified animal ran helter skelter in the crowd,
plunging against innocent bystanders. Gleeful laughter
followed this endeavor!
Vandiya Devan was watching all this. Aha! These fellows
also tease and play pranks just like the men of Pazluvoor.
Their pranks are irksome to others. How fortunate that I
escaped their sight by standing aside. Otherwise, a little
conflict would have taken place! My venture would have
been wrecked, he thought. But one difference was obvious
to him. The people on these streets did not resent these
activities of the Velir men very much. Some of them even
joined in their pranks and enjoyed the merriment and
laughter.
When he turned around to ask about this, the youth with
the flower baskets was nowhere to be seen. He had
vanished somewhere in the crowd and commotion.
Perhaps he had gone on his business.
On approaching the gate, he found that no one was allowed
inside the fort after the Velaikara Battalion left for the day.
Only members of the royal household, the ministers and
generals had the right to enter or leave the fort at all times
of night or day. Vandiya Devan heard that the households
of the Lords of Pazluvoor also had that privilege.
He changed his intentions of entering the fort that very
night. He did not wish to show the signet ring in his
possession and try its powers. It is better to spend the night
outside the fortress, do some sightseeing and enter after
sunrise tomorrow. Even if I go in tonight, it is not possible
to gain entry into the royal palace and meet the Emperor to
deliver my letters.
Vandiya Devan rode slowly along the streets surrounding
the outer ramparts of Tanjore Fort enjoying the various
sights presented around him. His horse, which had crossed
several leagues that day was very tired. Soon he must give
it some rest. Otherwise, tomorrow, when the need arose
the horse may become useless. He must soon find a
comfortable place to spend the night.
Tanjore was at that time a new, growing, spreading city. It
was evening time. Hundreds of street lamps had been lit
throwing brilliant light everywhere. All the streets were
noisy with crowds of people. Travellers from far and near,
who had come to the city on various businesses walked
here and there. People from other Chozla cities and
countryside were there. Persons from nations taken into the
Chozla fold recently were also there. Several folks
crowded to that capital city from nations spreading across
the lands between the North Pennar river and the southern
Cape, and between the eastern seas and the western ocean.
In that crowd he could also spot foreigners, dressed
curiously from the distant lands beyond the Vindhyas and
across the seas.
People crowded to the shops of vendors selling sweet-
fritters, roasted meats and rice-cakes -- like flies hovering
around sugar syrup -- as they bought the foodstuffs. Fruits
58
like banana, mango and jack were heaped in mounds
outside the shops. Words were not adequate to describe the
elegant flower kiosks. Gardenia and jasmine, fragrant
frangipani, oleander, chrysanthemum and marigold,
champaka and iruvatchi, hibiscus and trumpet lilies were
heaped in baskets; maidens flocked around them like bees
buzzing over flower groves.
When he saw the flower shops, Vandiya Devan
remembered the youth with the flower baskets who had
stood next to him. If I could meet that young man again,
how useful it would be! Perhaps he would have helped me
find a comfortable place to spend this night in this city...
As he was thinking, as if to give life to his thoughts, he
saw the youth walking down the street in front of him.
Vandiya Devan hurried forward to accost him again.
"Thambi, your baskets seem to be empty. What happened
to all the flowers? Have you sold them all?"
"I did not bring the flowers for sale. I brought them for
worship and decoration at the temple. I have delivered
them at the place I serve and am now going back home,"
said that youth.
"In which temple do you serve, delivering these flowers?"
"Have you heard of the temple of Tali-kulattar?"
"Oh! The name Tanjore Tali-kulattar seems familiar. Is it
the same? Is it a large temple?"
"No; it is a modest place. For some time now, only the
temple of the Goddess Durga has been enjoying favor in
Tanjore. Special worship, food offering, sacrifice,
festivities, ceremony and carnival all take place there. The
royal family and the Pazluvoor households have been
patronizing that Durga temple. There are no such
important patrons for the temple of Tali-kulattar. Not many
people come to worship there..."
"You are in service to deliver flowers. Do you get paid
well for this?"
"My family has subsidies for this service. From the times
of my grandfather our family had grants from Emperor
Gandara Aditya for delivering this flower-service. My
mother and I have been continuing the practice."
"Is the temple of Tali-kulattar built in brick, or has it been
renovated in granite?" Vandiya Devan asked the question
because he had seen several small brick-work temples
being renovated in stone and decorated with granite
sculpture.
"It is still brick-work. I have heard that it is soon to be
renovated in granite. Apparently, the Elder Pirati in
Pazlayarai wishes to begin the renovation work as soon as
possible. But, ..."
"But what? Why did you stop?"
"What is the use of repeating idle gossip? One must look
around in all directions before talking in the daytime; at
nighttime do not even open your mouth. This is a public
square where four roads meet! So many people around
us..."
"We can stand in such a spot and talk bravely of any
secret. In this crowd and noise nothing we speak will be
heard by anyone."
"What secrets do we have to talk about?" asked the youth,
eyeing Vandiya Devan with some suspicion.
Aha! This young man is very intelligent. It would be very
useful to make friends with him. I can learn about several
things from him. But I should not raise useless doubts in
his mind, thinking such thoughts, Vandiya Devan said,
"Yes, what secrets do we have? Nothing. Thambi, tonight I
need a place to rest and sleep well. I have journeyed a long
way and am very tired. Where can I stay? Can you help me
by guiding me to a good rest house?"
"There is no dearth of places to stay in this city. There are
several inns. In fact there are many government rest houses
for the use of foreign visitors. But, Sir, if you would like
..."
Before the youth could finish, Vandiya Devan interrupted,
"Thambi, what is your name?"
"Amudan; Sendan Amudan."
"Oh! What a sweet name! My mouth tastes the sweetness
just by hearing it. (Amudu meaning nectar.) Were you
about to say that I could come to your house if I was
willing?"
"Yes; how did you know Sir?"
"I have magic skills; that's how! Where is your house?"
"Our gardens are in the suburbs, a little beyond the city
limits. Our house is in the middle of the flower gardens,"
said Sendan Amudan.
"Ah! I must surely come to your house. I cannot rest in
peace in this city commotion tonight. Moreover, I would
like to make the acquaintance of that good woman who is
mother to a good son like you!"
"She who gave birth to me is indeed a good woman; but
she is unfortunate..."
"Dear, dear! Why do you say that? Perhaps your father
is...?"
59
"Yes, my father is dead. But that is not the reason. My
mother is unfortunate from birth. You will know when you
see her. Come Sir, let us go."
They walked for about half an hour and reached the flower
gardens beyond the city limits. The fragrance of night
blooming flowers made Vandiya Devan's head swim with
uncommon exhilaration. The noise and din of the city was
not heard in that pleasing grove.
He could see a small tiled house in the middle of the
flower garden. Two thatched huts were also seen close by.
Two families who helped in the garden lived in those huts.
Amudan called out to one of those men and asked him to
feed and water Vandiya Devan's horse and tie it to a tree
after grooming it.
He then led his new friend into the house. As soon as he
saw Amudan's mother, Vandiya Devan realized her
misfortune. She was mute without any speech; she was
also deaf without any sense of hearing. But he saw her
gentle, good looking face filled with a kindness and love.
Her eyes shone bright with a keen intelligence. Was it not
the caprice of nature to endow a superior intellect on those
with some bodily handicap?
That elderly woman understood that her visitor had come
from foreign parts by the signs made by Amudan. Her
expressive face showed welcome and concern for him.
Soon, she placed platters of fresh banana leaves before
them and served a meal. First came string-cake
accompanied by sweetened, freshly squeezed, coconut
milk. Vandiya Devan felt that he had not eaten such
delicacies in his lifetime! He ate about ten or twelve cakes
and drank a liter of coconut milk. Sour sauce with tubers
and steamed millet flour followed. He did them justice.
Even so, his hunger was not satiated. In the end he partook
of a quarter measure of cooked rice and a liter of yogurt!
Only then did he rise from his platter.
While eating, he asked about and gleaned several facts
from Amudan. He enquired about who besides the
Emperor and his retinue lived in Tanjore Fort.
The mansions of the Elder and Younger Lords of
Pazluvoor were inside. The officers and clerks who were
attached to the treasury and granary lived inside because
the royal treasury, counting house and granary were inside
the fort. The confidante and friend of Sundara Chozla, his
Prime Minister, Honorable Anirudda Brahma-raya as well
as the Chief Clerk of edicts and proclamations also lived in
the inner fort. Soldiers guarding the fort of Tanjore under
the command of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor, lived inside
with their families.
Besides this, the streets of the goldsmiths, silversmiths,
jewelers and dealers in precious gems and coin merchants
were inside the main fort. Hundreds of clerks and writers
working for the Tax Ministry under the Elder Lord
Pazluvoor were also provided accommodation within. In
addition to all this, the famous Temple of the Goddess
Durga Nisumbasudhini was in one corner of the interior
fort. The temple priests, servants, dancing girls and
musicians attached to the temple and their families, lived
inside near the temple.
Hearing about all this, Vandiya Devan asked, "Are all the
ministers and officials inside the fort today?"
"How can everyone be inside? They will be going out and
coming back in the course of their various duties. For
sometime now, the Honorable Prime Minister, Anirudda
Brahma-raya, has not been inside the fort. It is said that he
is gone to the Chera Kingdom. The Elder Lord of
Pazluvoor went out four days ago. Rumor says that he has
gone to the central provinces beyond the Kollidam."
"He might be back now. Do you know?"
"The palanquin of the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor came
back this evening. I saw it near the gates myself. But there
was no sign of Lord Pazluvoor. Perhaps he is delayed
somewhere and will come back tomorrow."
"Thambi! Does Prince Madurandaka also live inside the
fort?"
"Yes, his mansion is next to the Pazluvoor Palace. Isn't he
the bridegroom married to the daughter of the Younger
Lord Pazluvoor?"
"Oh! Is that true? I did not know that till now!"
"Not many people know it. Because of the Emperor's ill
health the wedding was not celebrated with pomp."
"Good. Is the Prince inside the fort tonight?"
"Must be. However, Prince Madurandaka does not emerge
from the fort very often. People cannot see him commonly.
It is said that he is involved in his devotions to God Shiva
and that he spends his time in meditation, yoga and
worship."
"But he has entered into matrimony after all these years."
"Yes, that was somewhat surprising. People also say that
the mind and intentions of the bridegroom transformed
completely after the marriage! Why should we bother
about that? Better not gossip about the nobility."
Vandiya Devan desired to learn of several other things
from Sendan Amudan. But he did not wish to pry too
much and raise his suspicions. The friendship of such a
amiable youth would be very useful to him. It was his
good luck that he found such a convenient and comfortable
place to stay in Tanjore. Why should he spoil the good
fortune? Moreover, tiredness of the long journey joined
forces with the sleeplessness of the previous night. His
60
eyes were drowsy with sleep and exhaustion. Realizing his
state, Amudan quickly made up a bed for him.
In the drowsiness of sleep, towards the end, Vandiya
Devan's mind glimpsed the glamorous face of the Young-
Queen of Pazluvoor.
Oh God! What beauty! What scintillation! His experience
of being tongue tied and immobile upon suddenly seeing
that ravishing, enchanting face reminded him of another
experience.
As a child, once when he was walking through some
woods he suddenly spied a cobra swaying its raised hood.
Its beauty was incomparable. The attraction was beyond
description. Vandiya Devan had not been able to take his
eyes off the swaying hood of the snake. He could not even
blink his eyelids. He stood there as if hypnotized; the
snake continued its swaying dance. As the snake swayed,
his body began to sway in rhythm -- what would be the
result, no one knew. Suddenly a mongoose pounced upon
the snake. A furious contest between the two started. Using
the chance the boy ran to his escape...
Dear me! What a comparison! How can I equate the
majestic beauty of this maid without equal in the world,
with a swaying snake? Her gentle, tender face will quell all
hungers of those who catch a glimpse of it! ... I am going
to meet her tomorrow! How sweet her voice! Her beauty is
extraordinary. But, how about the other maid whom I saw
at the astrologer's house and on the banks of the Arisil? ...
Her face too, was radiant. It too glowed with a loveliness.
Both are exquisite beauties; but what a difference! That
has dignity and decorum; while this has allure and
glamour.
Thus, while his heart was comparing the two attractive
women he had met recently, a third maid intervened. That
merciless tyrant, the Empress of Sleep took charge of him
completely.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 24 -- A Cuckoo And A Crow
Vandiya Devan slept through the night like a log and woke
up only after sunrise in the morning. Even after waking, he
was lying down without the will to get up. The light breeze
blew briskly, leaves of the creepers and trees rubbed
against each other making a swishing murmur. With that
background drone, a young voice was melodiously singing
a pleasing Thevaram poem composed by the Saint Sundara
Murti.
O Lord of golden hued body with a tiger skin draped around the waist;
Upon matted locks, burnished red, you wear the shining crescent!
On hearing the song, Vandiya Devan opened his eyes and
looked out. Outside, in the garden he saw tall konnai trees
(the bignonia family) draped with wreaths of golden
yellow flowers! Sendan Amudan held a large flower tote in
one hand and a long bamboo pole in the other. While he
sang, his hands plucked the yellow flowers with the
harvest pole. He appeared neatly dressed, having risen and
bathed early, his forehead was adorned with broad ashen
marks making him appear like another ever youthful
Markandeya, that ardent devotee of Shiva.
Vandiya Devan rose from his bed thinking about
Amudan's unfortunate mother who could not hear the
melodious song of her son. He wondered why he too
should not cultivate a pleasant garden, serve in temples
and lead a calm and quiet life. Why should he bear sword
and spear and wander from place to place? Why should he
roam about in readiness to kill or be killed by others? --
such thoughts jostled his mind.
But soon, his heart cheered up. Can everyone in the world
be meek and gentle like Sendan Amudan? There are many
who are thieves, robbers, and conniving evil-doers who
harm the guileless folk. A government was needed to
control such people and establish some law and order.
Kings and ministers were essential to form such
governments. Velaikara Battalions were essential to
protect such kings. Messengers like himself to carry letters
to such kings were also needed... Yes, today I must
somehow or other meet Emperor Sundara Chozla. I must
present myself before the Elder Lord of Pazluvoor returns;
if the old man gets back I may not have an opportunity.
Vandiya Devan went to the lotus pond in the garden for a
swim and bath. He came back refreshed and dressed
himself neatly with clean cloth and correct ornaments. He
was going to present himself to the Emperor -- shouldn't he
be attired properly? Perhaps it was that thought that made
him dress carefully; or, maybe it was the idea that he was
soon going to see the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor once
again, which occupied his thoughts! None can tell.
After the early morning meal, Sendan Amudan was ready
to depart with his baskets to deliver the flowers at the
temple before the morning service. Vandiya Devan went
with him with the idea of meeting the Emperor. Both
friends walked.
Vandiya Devan had already decided not to take his horse
to the fort. It was important to let the horse rest
completely. Soon he may have to use it for some hurried
journey. Who knows? It was better to leave the horse
behind, in the garden. Till they reached the main gateway
of the fort, he talked to Amudan and found out several
other pieces of information.
When Vallavarayan had asked, "Do you have any other
family besides your mother?" Sendan had replied, "I do
have some. An elder sister and an elder brother of my
mother. Her elder sister died some time ago. Her brother is
headman of a small community attached to the Kuzlagar
temple at Kodi Karai. My uncle is also the keeper of the
61
lighthouse on that coast. In the nights he lights the fire atop
the tower and is in charge of other such things. He has one
son and one daughter. That daughter, ..." Amudan
hesitated.
"That daughter? What about her?"
"Nothing. There is something peculiar about members of
my family. Some of them are born dumb while others are
blessed with a most pleasing voice for they sing very
well."
"Your uncle's daughter is not dumb I hope?" enquired
Vandiya Devan.
"No. Not at all."
"That means she can sing very well! Can she sing better
than you?"
"Ridiculous! Your question is foolish -- like asking `Can
the Cuckoo sing better than the Crow?' When Poonkuzlali
sings, the Ocean King will stop throwing his noisy waves
and listen quietly. Sheep and cattle will listen
spellbound..."
"Is your cousin called Poonkuzlali? What a pretty name!"
"Is it just her name that's pretty!"
"She must be ravishing. Otherwise, will you be so
captivated?"
"The spotted deer and the gorgeous peacock must beg at
her feet for beauty. Divine maids like Indrani and Rathi
must perform penance for several births to become as
lovely as her."
Vandiya Devan realized that Sendan Amudan was not
fully involved in service at the temple. "That means she is
a suitable bride for you. If she is your maternal uncle's
daughter, you have all the rights for her hand? When is the
wedding?"
"I will never say that I deserve her. In no way am I
qualified for her. If, like the olden days a competition was
arranged to select a groom for her, all the kings of the
world will compete for her hand. Divine beings might
come forward seeking her hand like they did for Princess
Damayanti of the myths. Such things may not happen
these days."
"So? Are you saying that you will refuse even if she is
willing to marry you?"
"Quite silly! If the God I worship appears before me and
asks `Will you come with me to the heavens just as you
are, like Saint Sundara? Or, will you remain on this earth
with Poonkuzlali?' -- I will say that I would stay back with
Poonkuzlali. But, what is the use of my saying it?"
"Why not? When you wish it the marriage is almost
settled, isn't it? Does everyone arrange marriages after
asking the bride? For example look at Elder Lord
Pazluvoor -- he has married a young maid after his sixty-
fifth year! Was that marriage performed with that lady's
consent?"
"My friend! Those are affairs of nobility. Why should we
discuss it? More important, let me give you a warning hint.
You are about to enter Tanjore. Do not utter anything
about the Lords of Pazluvoor inside the fort. It may be
unsafe to do so."
"Why Thambi, you are thoroughly frightening me!"
"I am telling you the truth. Really, nowadays it is both
those Lords of Pazluvoor that rule the Chozla Kingdom.
There is no authority higher than theirs."
"Even the Emperor is not more powerful?!"
"The Emperor lies on his sickbed. People say that he does
not cross the lines drawn by those men of Pazluvoor. They
say that he does not even listen to the words of his own
sons!"
"Is that true?! The domination of the Pazluvoor Lords must
be quite strong. They were not so powerful even two years
ago?"
"No; after the Emperor came to Tanjore, the power of
those fellows has gone beyond limit. There is no one to
question them. Rumor has it that even the Honorable
Anirudda Brahma-raya left in disgust and went away to the
Pandiya Kingdom."
"Why did the Emperor move to Tanjore from Pazlayarai?
Do you know Thambi?"
"I can tell you what I have heard. Three years ago, Veera-
pandiya died in the battlefield. It was reported that the
Chozla armies committed several atrocities in the Pandiya
lands at that time. War means anything can happen;
Madurai is now under Chozla rule. But, it is said that some
of the men loyal to Veera-pandiya have sworn vengeance;
they conspire together. The Lords of Pazluvoor felt that
they would not be able to guard the Emperor from such
assassins at Pazlayarai. They asked him to move to
Tanjore. The fortress here is stronger. Its guard and safety
is more efficient. Besides, the doctors felt that Tanjore was
a better place than Pazlayarai to treat the Emperor's
illness."
"Everybody talks about the Emperor's ill health! But no
one says what is wrong with him!"
"Why? It is well known. The Emperor has paralysis; he
has lost the use of both his legs."
62
"Oh! Can he not walk at all?"
"He cannot walk, neither can he ride upon a horse or
elephant. He is bed ridden. They can carry him from place
to place in a palanquin or litter. Even that, I believe is very
painful. Therefore, the Emperor never leaves the palace.
Some say that for the past few months even his mind is
deteriorating"
"Oh! What a pity!"
"Don't feel pity, my friend! The Pazluvoor men may think
it to be treason and put you in prison!"
Pazluvoor! Lord Pazluvoor! Men of Pazluvoor!
Everywhere, to whomever I talk, their name crops up.
However capable they are, why has so much power been
given to them? The treasury, the granary, Tanjore City
guard, policing and information gathering in the nation,
taxation -- everything seems to be under their control. The
Emperor should not have let that happen. Because of all
these powers, they have started scheming against the
Emperor! How long will their plots be successful? I must
do my best to thwart their plans. If possible I must also
warn the Emperor.
By now they had come to the main entrance of Tanjore
Fort. Sendan Amudan parted from his new friend and
walked towards the temple of Tali-kulattar. Vandiya
Devan neared that fort with several dream castles of his
own!
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 25 -- Inside The Fort
The signet ring with the palmtree emblem had miraculous
powers like the magical rings in fairy tales!
In that morning hour, various people -- vendors of milk,
curds and other dairy products, fruit and vegetable sellers,
butchers, farmers, others engaged in various trades, clerks
and accountants, petty officials and others -- were trying to
enter the fort. The officious gatekeepers were letting them
in, one by one, through a small wicket gate placed on one
of the big doors. The guards stood around with cocky
insolence.
But, as soon as our young hero showed the palm tree
signet ring, they became very reverent; they even opened
one of the large doors to let him enter. Vandiya Devan
entered the fort of Tanjore.
Oh yes! We do not know the auspicious moment in which
he set foot in that great fort, but we do know that several
significant events followed that entry. We could even
consider that moment as one of the most important
moments in the history of South India!
For some time after entering that fort, Vandiya Devan was
immersed in astonish-ment. Kanchi City (from where he
came) was the capital of the ancient Pallava Empire. It had
withstood the attack of several enemies. The buildings,
mansions and palaces in that city were now badly
maintained, dilapidated ruins. Of course many of them
were well sculpted, architecturally beautiful. But several
parts of that city were in ruins. After Aditya Karikala took
over, he had renovated some of the public buildings and
palaces. These new structures looked like isolated sprigs of
fresh shoots on a dying tree. In facts they made the
dilapidation more obvious. But this Tanjore!?
Tanjore was quite the opposite thing. Everything looked
new. New palaces, new buildings, new temples. The
white-washed mansions interspersed with buildings of
brick baked of red earth shone like some jewel, set with a
cluster of rubies enhanced by pearls and diamonds. Trees
in the gardens and by the roadside had grown luxuriously
tall, nourished by that fertile red-dust. Coconut and areca
nut palms; ashoka cypress, laurels, spreading banyan, fig
and sacred ficus; jack, mango and neem -- they painted a
picture of varying hues of emerald. That greenery was
pleasing to the eye and joyous to the heart. A new city
built by an architect of illusion. I feel new excitement
when I enter this new city; my heart fills with
unexplainable pride!
Vandiya Devan who had seen the fuss and fret in letting
people enter inside had surmised that the inner city would
be empty. But it was quite contrary: all the streets were
crowded with hustle and bustle. Horses, and chariots
yoked with horses rushed past noisily. Bells -- tied around
the necks of elephants which walked slowly, gracefully
like tiny, black, moving hillocks -- tinkled all around.
Vendors selling flowers, fruit, milk, fish and other edibles
called out their wares and raised a huge din. Huge drums
boomed and large bells tolled periodically announcing the
passing hours. The gentle breeze carried the melody of
musical instruments and voices of young men and women
raised in song. Everything was festive like one big
carnival.
This is a city! This is the capital of an empire that is
growing and spreading day by day! Vandiya Devan did not
wish to let anyone know that he was a newcomer to that
exquisite city. If he asked the way of anyone they would
look him up and down and ask arrogantly, "Are you new to
this town?" -- They may even think him to be an
uncivilized villager if he asked the way to the royal palace.
Therefore, he should somehow find his way without asking
anyone and reach the palace. It may not be difficult.
Wherever he looked he could see mansions festooned with
bunting and crowned by high flying pennants and flags.
The flags fought the swift breeze and raised a "Chat, pat"
noise. Tiger-flags and palmtree- flags were more profuse.
He saw one huge flag emblazoned with a rampant tiger,
flying sky high, rising above all the others. That must be
63
the Emperor's palace, thought Vandiya Devan
Vallavarayan as he began walking in that direction. He
thought of what he must do next.
The first, important task is to present myself to the
Emperor and personally deliver the letter and the verbal
messages conveyed by Prince Aditya. It may not be
possible to see the Emperor without the Younger Lord
Pazluvoor's permission. How can I obtain that permission?
God helped me enter the fort. But, can I be complacent,
thinking that God's grace will aid me till the end? I must
connive something to manage entry into the palace to meet
the Emperor. What is the strategy to adopt? Oh my clever
brain! Descendant of generations of illustrious Vaanar's!
Think of something! Polish up your imagination. Get to
work! Imagination is essential; not just for writers and
poets. Fellows like me entangled in such political turmoil
also need plenty of imagination. Let me think...
He had already made sure that the Elder Lord Pazluvoor
had not returned to the fort. As soon as he come in he had
asked one of the gatekeepers, "Why man, has Lord
Pazluvoor come back?"
"Whom are you asking about, Thambi? The Younger Lord
is in the palace!"
"Don't I know that! I am asking about the Elder Lord who
had journeyed to the central provinces."
"Oh! Was it to the central provinces that the Elder Lord
went? I didn't know that! The Young-Queen's palanquin
returned last night. The Elder Lord has not returned yet.
We got word that he will probably return tonight," said the
gatekeeper.
That was good news. He must somehow meet the Emperor
before the Elder Lord Pazluvoor returns. How ...? An idea
occurred to him. The worry lines vanished immediately
and a mischievous smile and joy blossomed on his face.
He did not have to wander much to reach the Emperor's
palace. He kept walking in the direction of the large tiger-
flag. Soon he reached the portals of the large palace. What
a wonderful building. A palace comparable to that of the
King of Gods; a palace like that of legendary Vikramaditya
of Ujjain! How exquisite is the carving on these portals?
The horses with raised forelegs, carved on the pillars, seem
to be ready to leap forward!
Several roads from all directions came to meet in a large
plaza in front of that palace. At the head of each of these
streets two horsemen and two footmen stood guard. People
walking about the streets turned back without coming near
them. Some persons stood near them to stare at the palace
portal and the big flag before they turned back. If the
people crowded around too long, the guards made signs to
disperse them. Even those who gathered in groups talked
softly, whispering to each other. Vandiya Devan did not
hesitate like these others. He walked forward with pride
and confidence. As soon as he stepped into the plaza two
horsemen barred his way. The horses stood nose to nose
and long lances crossed in front of him. The footmen came
near him.
Vandiya Devan showed them his magic ring. That was it;
the lances parted and the horses moved away. But three
men examined the ring, one after the other. Finally the
man who seemed to be in charge said, "OK, let him in."
Vandiya Devan walked in cockily.
Now what? How many other guards like this? Where
would I find the Younger Lord Pazluvoor? Should I ask?
Whom shall I ask? -- Can I manage to see the Emperor
without his permission? Where would I find the Emperor
on his sick bed in this huge mansion! ...
Catching sight of a group of men behind him, he turned
around. Yes; about ten to fifteen men came in a group to
hesitate in front of the guards. Those men wore scarves of
rich silken cloth. They were dressed in pearl necklaces,
golden anklets and eardrops. Some had adorned their
forehead with horizontal ashen lines. Others wore marks of
sandal paste, red kumkum powder or aromatic civet spots.
Oh! Don't these men look like poets and bards! Yes they
were a group of bards!
One of the guards, their leader, was saying, "The bards and
poet kings have come; let them enter." He then ordered
one of the footmen: "Lead these people to the audience
chamber of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor."
"Masters! Poets! if you receive any presents or rewards
please come back this way -- and remember me! If you do
not get any awards you can leave by the other gate!"
Everybody laughed at these words of the guard.
Vandiya Devan who had hesitated on the steps to listen to
this conversation felt "The fruit has slipped into the
cream!" He decided to follow the poets and get to the
presence of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor. He did not have
to ask anyone. Then comes my cleverness; my goodluck
will surely help, he thought. He quietly mingled into that
group of poets.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 26 -- Danger! Danger!
Vandiya Devan entered the audience chamber ahead of the
poets. He guessed that the stately person seated on the high
throne was the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor. Several
persons stood around him in deferential postures with
hands folded and lips sealed. One person stood with
several bundles of palm-leafs, letters which had arrived
that day. The accountant waited on the side with his books
to render the previous day's accounts. Leaders of the guard
patiently awaited his orders for the day. Servants lingered
64
in readiness to execute any order that was given. A couple
of maids stood behind the throne waving the white-whisk
fans. Another fellow stood ready with the box of betel
leaves and condiments.
Even Vandiya Devan, who had no dearth of self-esteem or
pride, approached the Younger Lord Pazluvoor with some
humility and timidity. The younger brother seemed even
more imposing than the elder. Upon sighting our gallant,
he asked with a cheerful face, "Thambi, who are you?
Where have you come from?"
The usually harsh mein of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor
always brightened upon seeing brave young men. He was
eager to recruit fearless young men from all over the
country into his company of guards.
"Commander! Sir! I come from Kanchi. The Prince has
sent me with letters." Vandiya Devan answered in a
deferential voice. Upon hearing the word Kanchi, the
Commander's face darkened.
"What? What did you say?" he asked again.
"I have come from Kanchi City with letters from the
Prince."
"Where are they? Give them here!" he commanded with
contempt, but his face showed some disquiet.
Vandiya Devan drew the letters from his waist pouch, but
still reverently, said, "Commander, the letter is for the
Emperor!"
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor did not care about that, he
snatched the roll of palm leaves from him and looked at
the seals eagerly. He then gave the roll to a subordinate,
asking him to read it.
After listening, he mumbled, "Nothing new!" He seemed
involved in his own thoughts.
"Commander! The letters I brought," started Vandiya
Devan.
"What about the letters? I shall give them to the Emperor."
"No! Sir! The Prince asked me to deliver them personally
into the hands of the Emperor."
"Oh! You don't trust me? Did Prince Aditya tell you that?"
asked the Commander of Tanjore with anger clouding his
face.
"The Prince did not say anything like that. Your elder
brother ordered it."
"What? What? Where did you see the Elder?"
"I stayed in the house of Kadamboor Sambuvaraya for a
night on the way. I met him there. He sent me, with this
signet ring..."
"Ah! Why didn't you say so in the first place? Did you stay
the night at Kadamboor? Who else had come?"
"Several dignitaries from Mazluvoor, the Central
Provinces, Thiru-munai-padi and elsewhere had come..."
"Wait! Stop! I must talk to you at leisure. First, you can go
in and deliver this letter to the Emperor and come back.
Those Tamil poets will be here soon and if you give them
a chance they will not stop their blabberings. Come back
here. Hey! Who is there ...? take this man to the Emperor's
bed chamber!" ordered the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor.
Vandiya Devan followed the servant into the inner
courtyards of that palace.
For some time now, the throne of the Chozla Empire --
bound by the roaring seas on three sides -- had been
transformed into a sickbed. Emperor Paranthaka Sundara
Chozla was reclining on that bed. Though he had delegated
all affairs of the state to his officials and ministers,
oftentimes he had to receive particularly indispensable
persons on certain important occasions. These days he was
mostly under the care of his physicians. But, it was
essential for the welfare of the empire that his ministers,
army generals, captains, and the leaders of the Velaikara
Battalion should come to his presence daily.
When Vandiya Devan saw the emaciated, sickly
appearance of the Emperor -- who had performed
celebrated deeds of valor in various battles and acquired
fame as a brave warrior, who was called `Sundara Chozla,
the Handsome One' by all the country and nation, who was
renowned to be like the God of Love in looks -- he could
not utter a single word. His eyes filled with tears. He
approached closer to the bed and bowed low; then
submitted the letter.
The Emperor began opening the letter as he asked in a
faint voice, "Where are you coming from? Whose letter is
this?"
"My Majesty! My Lord! I come from Kanchi City; I bring
this letter from Prince Aditya." Vandiya Devan spoke the
words with a trembling tongue.
Immediately, the Emperor's face brightened. The Empress,
Vanama Devi, daughter of Thirukovalur Malayaman, was
seated near him. He looked at her saying, "Devi, your son
has sent a letter!" he began reading.
"Ah! The Prince has built a Golden Palace at Kanchi! He
wants me and you to come and live there for a while!"
saying this, the Emperor's face became sadder than before.
65
"Devi, look at this activity of your son! My grandfather,
that famous Emperor Paranthaka, collected all the gold in
the palace vaults to cover the roof of the temple at
Chidambaram making it a Golden Temple! No person born
in our clan built a golden palace for their personal
dwelling! They considered the building of temples to be
more important than the building of palaces. But look at
what this Karikala has done? Ah! How can I atone this
outrage against the Gods?" said the Emperor.
Devi's face, which had cheered up on hearing that there
was a letter from her son, now became more melancholy
than before. She could not give any reply.
At that instant Vandiya Devan gathered courage and
boldness. "My Lord! There isn't anything so very wrong in
what your esteemed son has done! He has done the right
thing. Are not his mother and father the first Gods for a
son? So, is it not right that your son should build a Golden
Palace for your dwelling?" he asked.
Sundara Chozla smiled, "Thambi, who are you? Do I know
you? You seem very intelligent. You talk very cleverly.
Even if his parents are Gods to their son, they are not that
for others! Golden temples should be built only for Gods
worshipped by one and all!"
"My Lord! His father is God to the son; the king is God to
all his subjects. The religious texts says that a monarch
possesses the qualities of God. Therefore, it is quite
appropriate to build a golden palace for you."
Sundara Chozla looked at his wife, Malayaman's daughter,
once again, "Devi! Look at this boy; see how resourceful
he is? If our Aditya has the council of such men we do not
have to be so concerned about him. We need not worry
about his heedless nature," he said.
He then looked at Vandiya Devan, "Thambi, Whether it is
right or wrong about building the Golden Palace at Kanchi,
one thing is clear. It is not possible for me to come to
Kanchi now. You are seeing my condition. I am
completely bed ridden like this. It is not possible to
undertake a long journey. Aditya must come here to see
me. We too wish to see him. Come back tomorrow. I shall
have a letter prepared in reply," said the Emperor.
Vandiya Devan, could hear the noise of several people
coming down the corridor. Oh yes! That group of bards
and poets is coming here. The Younger Lord Pazluvoor is
perhaps coming with them. Then, I may not be able to
disclose to the Emperor all that I have to narrate to him. I
must briefly tell him everything right now. Vandiya Devan
made this decision within a few seconds; "My Lord! Sire! I
seek your grace, please listen to my petition. It is important
that you leave Tanjore. Danger surrounds you here.
Danger! Danger!" said Vandiya Devan.
As he was speaking these words the Younger Lord of
Pazluvoor entered the chamber. The bards and poets
followed him.
The last few words uttered by Vandiya Devan fell in the
ears of the Commander of Tanjore. Anger flashed brightly
on his face.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 27 -- Court Poets
Watch out! Watch out! Here come the great poets! The
best of the bards! Those who have swum the great oceans
of Tamil literature! Those who have followed in the
tradition of Agastya! They who have drunk the essence of
Tolkappiyam and other such ancient works of the Sangam
Period! They who have read great epics such as
Silappadikaram, from back to front! They who know the
ins and outs of Thirukural, the cannon of Tamil culture!
They who know the grammar of all literature. They who
know how to compose verse with originality! Think of
this: The rolls and rolls of palm leaves used up by each one
of them would feed millions and millions of hungry
termites for years and years to come!
The whole group of the great poets came into the chamber
of Emperor Sundara Chozla.
"Long life! Long life! Long live Emperor Sundara Chozla
who rules all the seven worlds under one canopy. Long life
to the Lord who `Brought down the fever (passion) of the
Pandiya'. Long live the patron of the bards. The benevolent
Lord of the poets, Long life to him. Long live the honored
grandson of that great Paranthaka who loved poets!" They
cheered as one man in praise of the monarch.
Sundara Chozla did not seem to appreciate the cheering or
the commotion too much. Nevertheless he hid his feelings
and unmindful of his ailment he tried to rise and welcome
them. The Younger Lord of Pazluvoor came forward
immediately, saying, "My Lord! These poets have come to
greet you and honor you, they have not come here to
trouble you. Please do not try to rise and trouble yourself."
"Yes; yes! Oh King of Kings, Oh best among Emperors!
We have not come here to trouble you in the least bit!"
said the chief of poets, Nallavan Sattanar.
"I am happy to see you all after all these days. Please,
won't you all be seated? I shall be glad to hear some of
your verses before you go!" spoke the Emperor who was
fond of Tamil literature.
All of them sat down on a rich, jewelled carpet spread on
the floor. Thinking it to be a good opportunity, our
dauntless Vallavarayan also sat down in their midst. He
did not feel like leaving before he had stated all his
66
thoughts to the Emperor. He sat down hoping for another
opportunity to be private with the monarch.
The Younger Lord of Pazluvoor noticed him. His
moustache twitched. He considered throwing the fellow
out. But then he decided that it was better to let the fellow
remain right under his watchful eyes. Therefore, he
pretended ignorance of the fellow hiding amidst the group
of poets. The Commander decided to drag him out after the
bards had left and find out what the fellow had been saying
to the Emperor. His words "Danger! Danger!" were still
reverberating in his ears.
"Dear Poets! It has been a long time since I heard some
Tamil verse. My ears are hungry for Tamil poems. Have
any of you brought any new poems?" asked Emperor
Sundara Chozla.
One of the bards stood up, "My Lord! I come from the
monastery named in your honor, Sundara Chozla Perum-
palli which is in Ulaga Puram. All the buddhists in this
nation commend your benevolence to a buddhist
monastery though you are of the Saiva sect. The monks
and abbots are concerned about your ill health and we
offer prayers for your welfare and good health. I have
written some verses in this connection. If permitted I
would like to recite these."
"Please! Do repeat them. I am waiting to listen."
The bard then sang some verses beginning with the
following lines:-
Oh ye good soul, who found enlightenment under the Bo tree!
May you bless Sundara Chozla, monarch of growing Nandipuri,
*
May he grow in prosperity, benevolence and in good looks and health,
To live with fame on this good earth.
* Nandipuri was another name for Pazlayarai
After hearing the poem all the poets showed appreciation
with words like "Good, good, well done!"
"It is surprising that the buddhists are so thankful about the
help!" said one of the poets who was a fanatic Saiva.
"Yes, it is quite a surprising thing. My service to the
monastery at Ulaga Puram was very meager. Do I deserve
such praise for that?"
"Who among those who have enjoyed the benevolence and
kindness of the Emperor will not praise his name? Even
Indra the King of Gods, Surya the Sun and the Great Lord
Shiva have enjoyed his generosity!" said another poet.
With a smile playing upon his lips Sundara Chozla asked,
"How is that? The King of the Gods and the Sun God?
Even Lord Shiva? Why should they be beholden to me?"
"Permit me to repeat a verse to that effect," said the poet.
When the monarch nodded assent, he opened the leaves of
the book in his hand and started reading the following
poem:-
An elephant he did present for Lord Indra to mount;
Seven horses did he give, for that flame-bodied Lord, creator of the day;
A palanquin for that good Lord Shiva and his gentle spouse;
Such is the benevolence of Sundara Chozla
With whom on this earth can we compare his glory?
After the poet had recited these lines everybody in the
group applauded, by clapping their hands and by saying
words like "Aha! Aha! Good! Good!"
With a pleased expression the Emperor asked, "Can any of
you explain this poem in detail?"
Several of them rose at the same time. Seeing the chief
poet Sattanar the others sat down. Nallavan Sattanar then
explained the poem as follows:-
"Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a war
between the King of the Devas and the Demon Vritta. In
that war the great elephant named Iravatha which belonged
to Lord Indra died. Indra was looking around for another
elephant comparable to that great beast. Finally he came to
Emperor Sundara Chozla of Pazlayarai and begged for `An
elephant comparable to Iravatha.' The monarch replied, `I
do not have any elephants comparable to Iravatha but I
have several better ones.' After saying this he took Indra to
his elephant stable. The Lord of the Gods saw the
thousands of beasts standing there like little hillocks and
was confused, `Which one shall I choose?' Seeing his
bewilderment, Sundara Chozla selected one good elephant
and presented it to Indra. `How am I going to control this
rogue elephant. Even my weapons the thunderbolts, may
not be sufficient!' thought Indra with fright; on seeing that,
the Emperor presented him with a good ankush (elephant
goad) for controlling the new elephant given to him.
"Later at one time, there was a terrible battle between the
God Surya of the radiant red rays who spreads light over
all the world and the Demon Raagu, who causes eclipses.
Raagu tried to swallow the creator of day and night; but he
could not do so: the brilliant light of the Sun God
consumed his body. However the seven colorful horses
yoked to the Sun God's chariot were killed by the poisons
spilt by the demon. While the Sun stood still, wondering
how he could resume his daily passage across the skies,
Sundara Chozla considered his helplessness and presented
him with seven new horses. `Please yoke these horses to
your chariot and spread the grace of your brilliance to all
living beings' prayed the monarch. The Sun God acclaimed
the earthly King who was a descendant of his clan i.e.
Surya Vamsa (Sun Kings).
"Several years ago the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvathi
Devi was celebrated with pomp in the mountains of
Kailasa. The friends and relatives of the bride had come
with several costly presents. But they had forgotten to
bring a palanquin for the wedding procession. They
67
whispered amongst themselves `There is nothing but this
bull available to carry the bride and groom in procession.
What can we do now?' Sundara Chozla heard this and
ordered his servants to bring his ivory palanquin inlaid
with pearls, from the carriage house. He then offered it
with much devotion, as a present at the wedding of the
great God Shiva.
"Who else is there in this wide world surrounded by the
seas, to compare with such a benevolent, gracious
monarch?"
Sundara Chozla who was listening to all this, burst out
laughing. The Emperor who had been suffering with
illness had not laughed like that for a long time. On
hearing his laughter and seeing his mirth even the Empress
Vanama Devi smiled; the maids in the palace and even the
doctors in the chamber smiled.
The Commander of Tanjore, Younger Lord Pazluvoor, had
been standing apart all this time. Now he came forward
saying, "My Lord! I have committed a grave crime, please
forgive my mistake and pardon me!"
"Is it the Commander? What crime did you commit? Why
should you be forgiven? Perhaps you seized the elephant
and horses that I gave to the Gods and brought them back?
Did you confiscate the palanquin given to Shiva? --
Because these things were not properly accounted for? Ah
yes! You are quite capable of doing that!" said Sundara
Chozla with a voice chocking with laughter. The poets
laughed with the Emperor. Vandiya Devan laughed louder
than everyone else. The Younger Lord Pazluvoor noticed
his laughter and looked at him with blazing eyes.
The Commander then turned to the Emperor and said,
"King of Kings! My mistake was just this: I had been
preventing persons like these poets from coming to your
presence all these days. I followed the orders of the palace
doctors. But now I realize my mistake. These poets have
made you cheerful. You have laughed loudly after
listening to their poems! Smiles blossomed on the faces of
the Udaya Pirati, (Queen Consort) and even the maids
upon seeing your mirth. Wasn't it my mistake to not let
such people who could cause such happiness into your
presence?"
"You said the right thing Commander! Do you realize it at
least now? I keep telling you don't bother about the
doctors."
The palace doctor tried to mumble some reply in a reverent
manner, Sundara Chozla made a sign to stop him and then
looked at the bards. "Does anyone here know who
composed this exquisite verse? If anyone knows, please let
me know!" said the Emperor.
Nallavan Sattanar replied, "King of Kings that is what we
do not know. All of us have been trying to find out that! If
we knew, we would crown that poet with the title
`Emperor of Poets' and carry him in procession around the
city. We have not been able to find that poet's identity."
"There is nothing surprising about that. I am sure that the
great poet who can stuff that many untruths in four lines
will hesitate to come forward!"
When the Emperor said these words, all the bards felt
totally dejected; their faces fell as if swallowed by an
eclipse! None of them knew a reply for this comment! At
this point, our hero Vandiya Devan stood up boldly and
said, "My Lord! We should not dismiss this verse
completely as absolute untruth. When common folks utter
words that are not factual, we call them lies; when people
involved in the conduct of nations say such things, it is
known as political shrewdness; when poets say such
things, it is imagination, creativity, alliteration, prosody,
meter, rhyme, lyric."
All the poets now turned to him, saying, "Well said, Good!
Good!"
The Emperor also looked at him, scrutinizing his face:
"Oh! Aren't you the messenger who brought letters from
Kanchi? Clever! Well parried argument! Good rebuttal!"
praised the Emperor.
He then looked at the group of poets and said, "Though it
was a good poem, there is no need to find its author and
crown him with titles. I know the poet who wrote this
verse. He is already burdened with the weight of the
jeweled crown of the Chozla Empire. Titles such as
`Emperor of the Three Worlds', `Emperor of the Good
Earth and the Seven Worlds' are already being borne by
that King of Poets."
And if this author says that the poets who heard his words
drowned in the ocean of surprise and struggled -- readers
should not disregard it as lies. It is the author's
imagination, lyric, comparison, raphsody. You must accept
it as some such grammatic convention of literature!
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 28 -- Iron Grip
When he had survived from the flood of surprise that
drowned him, the court poet Nallavan Sattanar said, "My
Lord! Does it mean ...? The poet who wrote these verses
is..."
"It is this Emperor of the earth who lies on this sick-bed
without the use of his legs," spoke the Emperor.
Several exclamations of surprise rose among the poets as
they talked and whispered quietly amongst themselves.
They moved their hands and heads in an agitated manner,
not knowing how to express their thoughts; others sat
68
perfectly still immobilized by the declaration they had
heard!
Sundara Chozla continued to speak. "Dear poets! Long ago
some poets and bards came to see me in Pazlayarai. Some
of you may have been in that group. Each of them sang
verses in praise of the benevolence of my clan, my
forefathers. Some of them sang a few lines about me also.
They praised me saying, `I gave this to that one and that to
this person.' My young daughter Kundavai, the Younger
Pirati was also seated beside me. Soon the poets left after
receiving gifts and awards. Kundavai kept singing their
praises commenting on the excellence of their poetry. I
challenged Kundavai, saying that I could compose much
better verse, more imaginative and extravagant than any of
those poets. And I composed those lines playfully at that
time and asked Kundavai for a reward. My darling child
clung to my back and pinched my cheeks saying `Here is
your reward.' I can remember that incident as if it was
yesterday. But it must be more than eight or nine years
now."
"Great! Remarkable! Surprising! Astounding!" rose
several voices from the group.
As soon as he heard the name Kundavai, Vandiya Devan's
whole body became attentive. He had heard much about
that Princess of the Chozla clan: about her beauty, her
intelligence, her ability and learning. Here is the fortunate
father who gave birth to that astonishing Princess and her
mother is seated close by. The Emperor speaks of his
daughter with such pride! His voice quivers when he
mentions her name...
Vandiya Devan's right hand searched in his pouch hidden
in his waistband. The palm leaf roll of letters that he was
carrying for Kundavai, were in that pouch. His searching
palm halted in startled alarm. He was appalled.
Dear me! What is this? I cannot find the letter! Where is
the letter? Where could it have fallen? Could it have fallen
accidentally when I took out the letter meant for the
Emperor? Where would it have fallen? In the audience
chamber ... Perhaps it will fall in the hands of the
Commander! Is there any danger if that happens? Oh!
What a blunder! What a great mistake! What shall I do ...
He could not remain in that place patiently after he
realized that he had lost the letter meant for Kundavai. He
did not hear any of the conversation in that room.
Whatever he heard his mind did not comprehend.
Sundara Chozla was still talking to that astonished group
of poets. "Kundavai must have repeated the verse I
composed in playfulness to some one. Perhaps she recited
it to her teacher, the Priest Esanya Bhattar of Pazlayarai.
He has spread it all over the nation and made me the object
of mockery!"
"My Lord! So what if the poem was written by you? It is a
wonderful poem. There is no doubt about that! Besides
being the Emperor of the Nation, you are also an Emperor
among Poets!" said the court poet.
"However, if I had sung this poem now, I would have
added one more line. I would not have stopped with giving
an elephant to Indra, horses to Surya and a palanquin to the
Great Shiva. Remember Lord Shiva kicked the Lord of
Death to protect his favorite devotee Markandeya? When
he was kicked, that fearsome Lord of Death escaped with a
few wounds. But Death's vehicle, the water-buffalo fell
down dead right there. The Lord of Death suffered without
a proper vehicle to execute his duties... Sundara Chozla of
Pazlayarai saw his problem and presented Yama, the Lord
of Death, with a huge water-buffalo! Yama now rides upon
that beast comfortably and is fast approaching me. Even
my able Commander of Tanjore cannot stop Yama riding
on his buffalo from coming to me."
When she heard these words, Vanama Devi seated next to
him, looked at her lord with tears streaming down her face.
Even the poets were moved, filled with a tremendous
sadness. Only the Younger Lord Pazluvoor seemed
unshaken. "My Sire! In your service, I shall be ready to
wage war even with death!" he declared.
"I have no doubt about that, Commander! But no human
being has the power to fight death. We merely have the
power to pray and ask the God's to give us the ability to
not fear death. Perhaps one of you remember those verses
of one of our Tamil saints who sang, `We shall not fear
death.' Does anyone know that poem?" asked the Emperor.
A poet rose up to repeat that verse:
We are bondsmen to none; nor do we fear the Lord of Death;
We shall not suffer the horrors of hell;
Neither are we at all times incapable
To overcome the misfortunes of ill health.
The Emperor intervened at this line to say "Ah! Who but a
great soul who has seen the vision of the Lord could sing
this daring verse so fearlessly? Saint Appar had suffered
with fearful consumption. But he overcame that ill health
with the grace of God. That is why he sang the line about
`Overcoming the misfortunes of ill health.' My dear poets!
Please stop composing verse in praise of me or my clan.
Sing such poems about divine grace from now onwards.
Appar, Sambanda and Sundara Murti have sung thousands
of such exquisite devotional poems in sweet Tamil. How
wonderful it would be if we could collect all those verses
in one anthology? One lifetime will not be adequate to
read and enjoy all of it!"
"King of Kings, with your permission we are ready to
begin that task right away!"
69
"No; it is not a task that can be completed in my lifetime.
After me ... " the Emperor hesitated and became immersed
in his own thoughts.
The palace physician came close to the Younger Lord
Pazluvoor and whispered something in his ears. Sundara
Chozla seemed to recover from his contemplation as if
startled from a nightmare. He looked around, his eyes
searching for something. He seemed to be a man returning
from a different world; as if he had glimpsed at the world
of the Lord of death.
Lord Pazluvoor, the Commander, asked, "My Lord! You
had expressed a wish to hear some verses composed during
the Sangam Age. Can these poets leave after they recite
one such poem?"
"Yes, yes. I had forgotten. Not only my body, even my
mind seems to be deteriorating. Let me hear the poem."
The Commander made a sign to the chief poet Nallavan
Sattanar. Upon that sign, the poet stood up and began
speaking the following words:
"My Lord! One of the most famous kings of your clan was
Karikala Valava of the Sangam Age. He was the brave
warrior who placed his tiger-flag on the Himalaya
Mountains. During his reign, the capital of the Chozla
Kingdom was Poompuhar or Kaviri-poom-pattinam. It was
the port where goods and produce from various foreign
nations came in ships. One of the poets of that period
composed several verses in praise of that town describing
its wealth and prosperity. Here are a few lines describing
the various goods that came into the port of that famous
town:
Horses of noble gait came by the sea;
Bagsful of black pepper brought in carts;
Gemstone and gold from the northern mountains;
Fragrant sandal and myrrh, forest produce of the Kudagu hills;
Pearls from the southern seas, corals of the western ocean;
Wealth of the Ganga and yield of the Cauvery;
Food from Lanka and manufactured goods of Malaya...
Sundara Chozla made a sign and stopped the poet when he
came to this line. The poet stopped; silent.
The Emperor looked at his commander and said with some
harshness, "Commander, the poem speaks of the times of
Karikala when food came to us from Lanka. You brought
these poets here to tell me this. Is it not so?"
"Yes, My Lord!" the words of the Commander came
faintly.
"I understand. Please send these poets away; give them
appropriate gifts," said the monarch turning his face away.
"Poets! Sirs! You can all take your leave now." The
Commander announced firmly. The whole group rose and
departed through the door. But, they did not forget to raise
cheers and blessings for the Emperor as they left.
Vandiya Devan who was quite agitated at not finding the
letter he had brought for Kundavai, tried to mingle with
that group and escape. But, his intention did not succeed.
Near the doorway a vise like grip took hold of his left
hand. Vandiya Devan was quite strong. But that iron grip
shook him from head to toe and made him stand still. He
looked up and his eyes confirmed that the iron grip
belonged to the Commander, the Younger Lord Pazluvoor.
By now, the poets had left the inner bed chamber.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 29 -- "Our Guest"
After the poets had departed, the palace doctor mixed a
medicinal potion and brought it to the Emperor.
Malayaman's daughter, the Queen Consort received the
goblet in her hands and gave it to her lord the Emperor.
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor, who waited patiently till the
Emperor had finished, did not let go of his vise like grip on
Vandiya Devan's hand. The Commander dragged him
closer to the Emperor's bed. "My Lord! Do you see any
improvement after this new medicine?" he asked.
"The doctor says that there is some benefit and Devi also
believes it. But somehow, I do not feel any hope.
Commander, I feel that all this is wasted effort! My fate
beckons me. Yama, the Lord of Death must have gone to
Pazlayarai in search of me. When he knows that I am not
there he will arrive here in search of me..."
"My Lord! You should not talk in this depressed fashion.
You should not distress our hearts like this. The ancestors
of your clan ..."
"Ah! You are about to say that my forefathers were not
afraid of death! If I too am fortunate like the forefathers of
my clan, to go into the forefront of a battlefield and give
up my life, I shall not fear such death. Nor will I despair. I
shall welcome death with enthusiasm. My elder uncle
Raja-aditya fought in the battle field at Takkolam from
atop an elephant and lost his life while fighting. He
established the fame of Chozla bravery for ever in that
battle of Takkolam. He became famous as the `Lord who
reposed atop an elephant.' What fame will I acquire? Will I
come to be known as `Sundara Chozla who reposed atop
his sickbed'? My other elder uncle, Gandara Aditya was
involved in his devotions and had overcome the fear of
death. He travelled to the nations on the western ocean on
pilgrimage and died on the seashore. He is known as `The
Lord who reposed in the west.' I am not devout like him;
nor am I capable of embarking on a pilgrimage like him.
How long can I lie upon my bed like this? A burden to all
70
those near and dear ... But something tells me in my heart,
I shall not remain on this delightful earth much longer..."
"My Majesty! The palace doctor says that there is no
danger to your life. The astrologers also say that there is no
danger. But this youngster talked to you about some
danger ..."
"Ah! Isn't he the young man who came from Kanchi City?
Yes, he was saying about some danger about something.
What were you saying Thambi? Were you talking about
my situation?" asked the Emperor.
Vandiya Devan's mind worked at lightning speed. If I own
up to having warned about danger, suspicions about me
will rise and I will surely be in danger. I must escape from
this plight. Good, let me try one tactic. Let me secure the
help of grammar and prosody to turn a mountain into a
molehill!
"My Majesty! Who am I to warn about danger! What
danger can approach you when you have the brave
Commander, Lord Pazluvoor, the palace doctor and the
Empress who looks like the Divine Savitri (mythical queen
who saved her husband from the Lord of Death) next to
you? I petitioned to you as a stranger -- a stranger! I, an
ignorant, lone youth, I alone am left to represent the
ancient clan of Vaanars. I have been serving the Chozla
Empire to the satisfaction of your elder son the Crown
Prince. I beg your grace to return to me at least one tiny
portion of the lands of my ancient kingdom. I am a
stranger! This stranger seeks the protection of you the
King of Kings!" Vallavarayan spoke quickly without any
hesitation.
The Commander who heard his words, frowned. Sundara
Chozla's face brightened once again. Kindness filled the
face of the Empress.
"As soon as he was born, Saraswati, the Goddess of
Learning, must have written on this boy's tongue. His
command over words is quite remarkable!" said the
Empress.
Making use of the opportunity, Vandiya Devan turned
towards her and said, "Thaye! I Beg your grace to put in a
word on my behalf! I am an orphan without mother or
father. I have no other patron or sponsor. I myself have to
petition on my behalf. Just like the Goddesses Lakshmi
and Parvathi speak to their Lords Vishnu and Shiva on
behalf of devotees, I beseech you to speak on my cause. I
beg to be given back at least ten villages of my ancient
kingdom. I shall be very satisfied with that."
Sundara Chozla was filled with surprise and happiness as
he heard these words. The Emperor called his Commander
and said, "Commander, I am becoming very fond of this
youth! Look at Devi's face: she seems ready to adopt him
as her third son! Why not fulfil his petition? There should
be no problem about that? What is your opinion?"
"What place does my opinion have in this matter! Should
we not consult the opinion of Prince Karikala?" asked the
Commander of Tanjore.
"Your Majesty! If I ask the Prince he says that he has to
consult Lord Pazluvoor! Lord Pazluvoor says that he has to
ask the Crown Prince. Between the two of them my
petition ..."
"Young man, don't worry. We shall ask them both at the
same time," said the Emperor.
He then said, "Commander, this youth has brought a letter
from the Prince. About my going to Kanchi. Like before,
Aditya wants me to come to Kanchi. Aditya writes that he
has built a new Golden Palace there. He wants me to go
over there and live in it at least for some time."
"We shall act according to thy wishes," said the
Commander.
"Ah! You will act according to my wishes! But my legs
refuse. It is impossible to journey to Kanchi. The very
thought of travelling in palanquins with drawn screens,
like women of the palace, disgusts me. We must write a
reply asking Aditya Karikala to come here ..."
"Is it advisable to ask the Prince to leave Kanchi at this
time to come here? Our enemies in the north continue to be
strong!"
"Parthiban and Malayaman can stay back and take care of
that. Something in my heart tells me that I must have the
Prince here beside me. And that is not enough; we must
send a message to the younger Prince who has gone to
Lanka -- ask him to come back here immediately. I wish to
consult both of them and come to a conclusion about an
important matter. When Arulmozli is here we can talk to
him about your objection in sending rice and foodstuffs to
the Lankan campaign."
"Your Majesty! Forgive me! I do not object to sending
foodstuffs to Lanka. Neither does the Officer of Resources
& Food Supply object. The citizens and countrymen of the
Chozla nation object to it. The last harvest in our country
was poor. When supplies are limited to meet our needs,
people object to sending shiploads of foodgrains to Lanka.
Now they murmur and complain in words. After a while
their complaints will become louder. Their shouts will be
heard even inside this palace, disturbing your health!"
"Arulmozli will never wish to undertake anything to which
the people and citizens object. Anyway considering
everything it is best if he comes here at once. After the
Elder Lord Pazluvoor returns we shall decide about
sending a messenger to Lanka. When is he coming back?"
"He will definitely return by tonight."
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"We can write the letter to Kanchi also tomorrow. Can we
send this young man back with that letter?"
"This youngster seems to have journeyed from Kanchi
without any rest or stop. Let him stay here and relax for a
few days before he returns. We can send the letter with
some other messenger."
"Do that. Perhaps he can remain here itself till Karikala
arrives."
At this point Malayaman's daughter stood up. The
Commander spoke up, "I have spoken for a long time and
disturbed you today. Please forgive me for extending this
interview till being warned by My Lady!"
The Empress spoke, "Commander, this youth is our guest.
Make all arrangements for his comfort. If the Emperor had
been keeping good health we could have accommodated
him in this palace itself."
"I shall take care of that, My Lady! You need not concern
yourself about it. I shall take care of him very well!" spoke
the Younger Lord Pazluvoor. The fingers of one hand
twirled his thick moustache as he spoke these words.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 30 -- Art Gallery
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor dragged Vandiya Devan to
the audience chamber along with him. The explanation
given by the youth about his conversation with the
Emperor had not completely satisfied him. Perhaps it was
a mistake to have permitted him to meet the Emperor in
privacy. It is routine to suspect him since he is a messenger
from Aditya Karikala. But there is no room for suspicion
since my brother has sent him with the signet ring. Ah! No
one has to advice the Elder about caution in such matters.
Howsoever, the sight of the youth hesitating with a fear-
filled expression, as he entered the bed chamber came
before the Commander's eyes. He remembered very clearly
that the youth had spoken the words "Danger! Danger!" --
Is it possible that the words "Stranger! Stranger!" could
have sounded like "Danger! Danger!" in his ears?
Considering all possibilities it is better that I do not send
him back immediately. After the Elder returns, I must find
out details about him and do the appropriate thing. I must
try and recruit such capable young men in my secret police
corps. He would be useful in times of need. Perhaps I can
procure part of his ancient lands for him. Such young men
will remain beholden and loyal to me if I help them once.
Ah! But if it proven that he is an enemy, I must make
appropriate arrangements. Anyway, for all things, let the
Elder return. Let us see.
Upon reaching the large audience chamber, Vandiya
Devan began looking about here and there anxiously. He
peered again and again at the spot where he had taken out
the letter to give it to the Commander.
Perhaps by accident the other letter, the important letter
has fallen there. If I cannot retrieve that letter there is no
greater fool than me! I shall never be able to meet the
world renowned Princess Kundavai. I shall not be able to
complete half the task assigned to me by Prince Aditya
Karikala.
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor looked at one of his servants
and said, "Lead this young man to our palace. Take him to
our guest house and make all arrangements for his comfort
-- look after him. Wait there till I come."
Vandiya Devan and the servant left. Another servant
approached him and respectfully extended his hand with a
palm leaf roll in it. "This was lying in the corridor on the
way to the Emperor's bed-chamber. It might have fallen
from the waist-belt of the youth who left just now."
The Commander accepted it eagerly and examined it. His
eyebrows shot half way up his forehead in a frown! A
dreadful expression came upon his face.
"Ah ha! A letter written to the Younger Pirati by Aditya
Karikala. In the Prince's own handwriting: -- `... .. you had
asked for a retainer -- a capable, courageous youth for use
in confidential matters; I am sending him to you for that
purpose. You can trust him completely regarding all affairs
and entrust any task to him. He will personally give you
my message and details of the situation here...' -- Ah!
There is some mystery in this! I wonder if the Elder Lord
knows about this letter. I must be more careful in handling
this youngster!" The Commander of Tanjore muttered
these words to himself as he read some parts of the letter.
He beckoned to the servant who had picked up the letter
and whispered some words in his ear. That man
immediately left the audience chamber.
All courtesies and comforts were shown to Vandiya Devan
in the palace of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor. They led him
to a luxurious bath and helped him wear new clothes.
Vandiya Devan who was fond of wearing new fashionable
clothes, dressed himself in the fresh garments with
enthusiasm. He almost forgot his worry about the lost
letter. After he had dressed in the new raiment, they served
him courteously and elegantly with a tasty meal of many
courses. Being hungry, Vandiya Devan did justice to the
meal. Later they led him to the art gallery in that palace.
"Till the Commander returns you can enjoy the beautiful
pictures and art-works in this gallery," said the servant.
After saying this, three men -- guards -- sat down outside
that chamber, near the doorway and began a game of dice.
In those days, Tanjore, the new capital of the Chozla's, was
famous for its art and painting. Just as music and dance
72
were nurtured in Thiru-vai-aru, painting and sculpture
were encouraged in Tanjore.
The art gallery attached to the palace of the Younger Lord
Pazluvoor was famous. Vandiya Devan entered that art
gallery now. He looked again and again at the several large
pictures painted on the walls of that chamber and was
enthralled. He forgot himself in that happiness; he forgot
the task for which he had come.
The portrait gallery on one side, depicting the pictures of
ancient rulers of the Chozla clan and important events in
their history attracted his attention. A large part of that
gallery was given to depict the history over the last
hundred years of the Chozla nation. Those were the
pictures that aroused the greatest interest in Vandiya
Devan.
At this point, the author wishes to briefly remind our
readers of the history and genealogy of the Chozlas who
ruled for hundred years before the times of this story, from
Pazlayarai and Tanjore. It would be very useful to know
these details to understand further incidents in this tale.
We have mentioned earlier about Vijayala Chozla who
bore ninety-six scars of battle wounds like ornaments on
his body. Chozla kings customarily bore the titles
Parakesari and Rajakesari one succeeding the other. After
Parakesari Vijayala, his son Rajakesari Aditya Chozla
came to the throne. He was a deserving son to his father. In
the beginning he fought on the side of the Pallava
monarchs to defeat their common enemy, the Pandiyas and
establish the Chozla entity. Later he engaged in battle
against his former ally the Pallava King Aparajita. Pallava
Aparajita entered the battlefield seated on a howdah atop
an elephant. Aditya jumped onto that war elephant and
fought his enemy, killing him and thus captured all of
Thondai for the Chozlas. Later the Kongu Kingdom came
under Aditya's rule. Rajakesari Aditya I, was an ardent
devotee of Shiva. He constructed several Shiva temples
along the banks of the holy Cauvery -- from the Sahasya
hills where the river rose till it entered the seas in the east.
After Rajakesari Aditya, Parakesari Paranthaka ascended
the Chozla throne. He ruled for forty-six years. Next to
Karikala of the ancient times who had established his tiger-
flag over the Himalayas, this Paranthaka was the greatest
of Chozla kings. He had several honors and titles like
"Veera-narayana", "Lover of Poets", "Best among
Wrestlers", "Jewel among the Braves", etc. He was also
known as the `Chozla who took (conquered) Madurai and
Lanka'. Even during the times of this Paranthaka I, the
Chozla nation spread from the shores of Cape Comorin to
the banks of the Krishna-Tungabadra rivers in the north.
For some time the tiger-flag flew over Lanka also. He was
the same Paranthaka who became famous for having
covered the roof of the temple at Chidambaram with gold.
Towards the end of his reign several dangers seized the
Chozla Empire. In those days, the Rashtrakutas who were
very powerful in the north tried to contain the growing
powers of the Chozlas. They led an army against the
Chozlas and were successful to some extent.
Paranthaka had at least three sons. The eldest among these
sons was Raja-aditya. Expecting an invasion from the
north, this Raja-aditya waited with a very large army for
several years in Thiru-munai-padi. He constructed the
large Veera Narayana Lake in the name of his father.
A terrible war was fought between the Chozla forces and
the Rashtrakuta armies at a place known as Takkolam near
present day Arakonam. In that battle, Raja-aditya fought
valiantly and showered havoc upon the enemy forces. But,
he lost his life in the battlefield and went to the heavens
meant for braves. He too fought from the howdah of an
elephant like the Pallava Aparajita. Since he died while
riding the battle elephant he was referred to as the `Lord
who reposed atop an elephant' in latter day stone-
inscriptions.
If Raja-aditya had not died in the battlefield, he would
have ruled the Chozla nation after his father Paranthaka I.
His descendants would, in the normal course, have
ascended the throne after him. But since he died before
ascending the throne and without any offspring, his brother
Gandara Aditya was crowned as king with the title of
Rajakesari according to the wishes of their father.
Like his father and grand-father, Gandara Aditya was a
devotee and follower of Shiva. In addition, he was fond of
Tamil literature. In fact, he did not have much interest in
ruling his nation for he was more involved in worship at
temples and in enjoyment of poetry. Following the
tradition of the Saiva Nayanmar saints, he composed
several devotional poems on God Shiva. In an anthology
of these poems known as Thiru-isai-pa he refers to himself
towards the end:
Like his noble Sire who covered
The roof of the dancer at Chidambaram with red gold,
May Gandara Aditya, monarch of flourishing Kozli,
Lord of the people of Tanjore, expert in exquisite Tamil verse,
May he attain everlasting greatness and happiness.
Though the kings after Vijayala Chozla ruled from
Pazlayarai and Tanjore, they did not forget their rights to
their ancient capital Uraiyoor, which was also called Kozli
(rooster). Chozla monarchs styled themselves as `Rooster
Kings.'
Though Gandara Aditya sat on the Chozla throne and ruled
in name, his younger brother Arinjaya took care of the
governing of the nation. Arinjaya had been stationed in the
northern provinces helping his eldest brother Raja-aditya.
He fought bravely in the battles against the Rashtrakutas.
He was the instrument for turning the terrible defeat of the
Chozla armies at Takkolam into a victory by stopping the
invading forces at the northern banks of River Pennar.
Therefore, Rajakesari Gandara Aditya chose his younger
brother Arinjaya as the Crown Prince and designated him
73
as his successor to the throne. There was another important
reason for this decision of Gandara Aditya. His first wife
had died several years before he came to inherit the throne.
After her death, Gandara Aditya had not married again for
several years. However, his younger brother Arinjaya
already had a handsome, capable and intelligent son.
That son named after his grandfather Paranthaka, was
known as Sundara -- the name bestowed on him by the
people. Gandara Aditya willed that after him his brother
Arinjaya, and after Arinjaya, Sundara should succeed to
the Chozla throne. He obtained the approval of all the
leaders of the land, the chieftains, the commanders, the
chiefs of the cities and guilds, and announced his
intentions publicly.
After all such arrangements were made, a surprising
incident occurred in his life. He happened to meet the
young daughter, of a petty chieftain named Mazlava-raya.
The beauty, modesty, virtue and piety of that jewel among
maids, Sembiyan Madevi, attracted him. In his advanced
age he married that young maid. As a result of this
marriage a child was born in due course. They named the
child Madurandaka and cherished him. But, both the King
as well as the Queen did not wish to change any of the
arrangements they had made earlier about the kingdom.
The couple were both involved in piety, devotion and
renouncement of the world; they wished to raise their son
in a similar ascetic fashion. Once again the King
proclaimed his wish that after him, his brother Arinjaya
and Arinjaya's descendants should have the right to ascend
the Chozla throne.
Thus, bypassing the two lines of the elder brothers Raja-
aditya and Gandara Aditya, the line of Arinjaya Chozla
became heirs to the Chozla throne.
Parakesari Arinjaya who ruled after Gandara Aditya, did
not live for a long time. Within one year he followed his
elder brothers to the heavenly abodes.
After him, the citizens, chieftains, leaders and guildsmen
happily crowned Prince Sundara as their king. Rajakesari
Paranthaka Sundara Chozla was an able ruler of the
kingdom that came to him by good fortune. In the early
years of his reign he performed various deeds of valor and
once again acquired the lost Pandiya and Thondai
Territories. He drove away the Rashtrakuta armies from
the banks of the Pennar.
Aditya Karikala and Arulmozli Varma, the two sons of
Emperor Sundara Chozla, were able warriors and worthy
sons of their father. Both sons cooperated and helped their
father with complete devotion. These sons had experienced
battlefield and war at very young ages. In every campaign
they participated, the Goddess of Victory stood on the side
of the Chozlas.
*****
Principal Characters in Ponniyin Selvan
Aditya Karikala -Crown Prince of the Chozla Empire, Sundara Chozla's eldest son.
Amudan's Mother -A deaf-mute, garden keeper on the outskirts of Tanjore.
Anirudda Brahma-raya -The Prime Minister and confidant of Sundara Chozla.
Arinjaya Chozla-Sundara Chozla's father, King Gandara Aditya's younger brother, died after ruling for
merely one year.
Arulmozli Varma -Sundara Chozla's younger son.
Astrologer of Kudanthai- An astrologer patronized by Kundavai, a spy of sorts.
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi, Thirumalai Appan - A follower of the Vaishnava faith, step brother of Esanya
Bhattar, a spy.
Esanya Bhattar -A priest of Pazlayarai, elder brother of Azhvar-adiyan Nambi.
Gandara Aditya -Sundara Chozla's elder uncle, a devout follower of the Saiva faith, ruled before Arinjaya
Chozla.
Idumban Kari -A footman from Kadamboor, a conspirator against Chozla royalty, member of a gang
sympathetic to Pandiyas.
Kalyani of Vaithumba- Widow of King Arinjaya Chozla, a famous beauty, Sundara Chozla's mother.
Kandamaran- A young man, son of Sengannan Sambuvaraya of Kadamboor.
Kundavai, Younger Pirati - Sundara Chozla's daughter.
Lord Velir of Kodumbalur, the Elder, Bhoothi Vikrama Kesari - An important chieftain of the Chozla
Empire, Commander of Chozla Armies in Lanka. Elder-uncle to Vanathi
Lord Velir of Kodumbalur, the Younger, Paranthaka Vikrama - Younger Lord of Kodumbalur, Vanathi's
father who lost his life in a battle in Lanka.
74
Lord Pazluvoor, the Elder, - Ambalavan An important and powerful chieftain, - Officer of Taxation,
Food Supply and Finance for the Chozla Empire, elder brother of Kalanthaka, Nandini's husband, about
65 years old.
Lord Pazluvoor, the Younger, Kalanthaka - Commander of Tanjore Fort, Captain of the Guard Corps.
Madurandaka Deva -A Chozla Prince, son of Gandara Aditya and Sembiyan Madevi, a few years older
than Aditya Karikala.
Malayaman Milad-udayar of Thiru-kovalur -A nobleman and petty chieftain of the Chozla Empire,
Empress Vanamadevi's father and thereby grandfather to Karikala, Arulmozli and Kundavai.
Manimekala - Kandamaran's younger sister and daughter of Kadamboor Sambuvaraya.
Mazlava-raya - A nobleman, Sembiyan Madevi's brother.
Munai Raya - A nobleman, not very confident in Lord Pazluvoor's schemes.
Nallavan Sattanar - Court poet at Tanjore.
Nandini, Young-Queen - An extraordinarily beautiful Pazluvoor woman with a mysterious past, Azhvar-
adiyan's adopted sister, raised by a priest's family near Madurai.
Parthiban Pallava - A nobleman of the Pallava clan, Crown Prince Aditya Karikala's confidant.
Poonkuzlali - Daughter of the Lighthouse Keeper of Kodi Karai, Sendan Amudan's cousin.
Ravidasa, the Sorcerer - Leader of the Pandiya conspirators, a former retainer of Veera-pandiya, had a
mysterious hold over Nandini.
Sambuvaraya of Kadamboor - A nobleman and crony of Lord Pazluvoor.
Sembiyan Madevi, Elder Pirati - Widow of King Gandara Aditya, Madurandaka Deva's mother, fond of
Sundara Chozla and his children, devout.
Sendan Amudan -A flower vendor of Tanjore, lived with his deaf-mute mother in the outskirts of the
city.
Soman Samban - A conspirator against Chozla royalty, member of Ravidasa's gang, sympathetic to
Pandiyas.
Sundara Chozla Paranthaka - Emperor of the Chozla Kingdom.
Vanamadevi of Thiru-kovalur - The Queen Consort, wife of Sundara Chozla, mother to Karikala,
Kundavai & Arulmozli.
Vanathi Devi - A young noblewoman of the Kodumbalur clan, Kundavai's friend, in love with Prince
Arulmozli.
Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan - A scion of the Vaanar clan of Vallam, Aditya Karikala's messenger.
Vasuki - Nandini's maid.
Veera-pandiya - Pandiya King vanquished and killed by Prince Aditya Karikala.
Glossary
Aadi A month of the Tamil calendar, about July-Aug
Aavani A month of the Tamil calendar, about Aug-Sept
Advaita A philosophy, belief in the non-dual nature of God
Akka Elder sister, a respectful greeting for an older girl
Amma Mother, a respectful greeting for women
Ankush A goad used by elephant drivers
Anna Elder brother, respectful address for older men
Araya, raya, arasa King, chieftain, Raja
75
Ayya Father, mode of address for an older man
Bharata Natyam Classical dance style
Chakra Discus
Champaka A fragrant flower
Chanakya A medieval personality of political cunning, a Machiavelli
Devi, Deva Lady, Lord
Iruvatchi A fragrant flower
Jaamam A period of time 3 hrs long;
1 Jaamam = 7 Nazli; 1 Nazli = 24 minutes
Jaggery Unrefined or brown sugar
Kaadal Love
Kaadam A league or about 10 miles
Kaavi Reddish, ocher dye
Kadal Sea
Kadamba A flower
Kama Love, Passion
Karadi 1. A musical instrument 2. Bear
Karagam Folk dance with balancing decorated pots
Karaiyar Coastal, fisherfolk
Karppu Sanctity of a married woman. Chastity
Kavi 1. Poet 2. Monkey
Konnai A flowering tree
Kumkum Red powder, used to decorate the forehead
Kummi A folk dance of women circling while clapping hands
Kunrimani A tiny red-black berry or bead
Kural Ancient Tamil couplets
Kuravai Koothu Gypsy dance or dance by maidens
Malai Mountain
Mariamman A village deity, a pagan Goddess
Marudai A shade giving tree, a colloquial name for Madurai City
Mattalam Drum
Maya Illusion, Deception, unreal
Moringa A leafy tree
Mu-ttholl-ayiram A collection of romantic verse in Tamil
Muzlai Cave
Naadu Country
Naamam A vertical, make-up like, caste mark worn by followers of Vishnu
Nanal A sedge like grass
Nandavan Garden
Netri-chutti Forehead ornament
Padai Veedu Army Housing
Padinettam Perukku Eighteenth day flood
Palli Padai Memorial temple
Panchayat Council of Village Elders, often five persons
Parai A kind of country drum, an announcement
Perumal Lord, God
Pirati Lady, Royal Princess
Pitam Monastic seat
Punnai A tree with yellow flowers
Rudraksha A multifaceted bead, a sacred berry
76
Saelai Loose pleated garment of women worn with one loose end thrown over a shoulder
Saiva A sect of Hinduism, follower of Shiva
Salli A musical instrument
Selvan Beloved, Darling (masculine)
Selvi Beloved, Darling (feminine)
Silappadikaram A Tamil Epic
Sindhu Folk song
Puli -Tamarind A shade giving tree bearing a sour fruit
Thambi Younger brother, mode of address for young men
Thaye Mother, mode of respectful address for women
Thaazlai A fragrant cactus
Thevar-aalan, Divine man, dancers
Thevar-aatti Divine woman, dancers
Thevaram Devotional Poems
Thiru-vai-mozli Devotional Poems
Thinnai A raised platform or dias on the front porch of houses in South India. Often used like a living
room; for family gatherings, seating visitors, and sleeping in the night.
Udukku Small palm held drum
Uriyadi A game to get the prize-pot tied to a pole similar to the Maypole
Vaetti Loose lower garment of men
Vaishnava A sect of Hinduism, follower of Vishnu
Vamsa Dynasty
Veena A musical stringed instrument
Velan Attam A semi-religious dance, usually by a man
Villu-pattu Folk songs accompanying a string instrument, story telling
Vinnagara Vishnu temple




"Ponniyin Selvan"
of Kalki Krishnamurthy


English Translation
by Indra Neelameggham

Part IB New Floods (chapters 31 57)


1993 Indra Neelameggham

Kalki's
Ponniyin Selvan
Part 1-B
[Chapters 31- 57]
New Floods
Translated 1990
By
Indra Neelameggham
Salt Lake City, Utah.
With much thanks to
R.Neelameggham and
Elizabeth Ramadorai
for editing help.
Translation Copyright Indra Neelameggham
1
Kalki's
Ponniyin Selvan
Ponni's Beloved
Part I -- New Floods [Part B]
Chapter .............. Page
31 "Thieves! Thieves!" .............. 2
32 Examination .............. 3
33 A Beauty Among The Branches .............. 5
34 Garden Gazebo .............. 8
35 A Sorcerer .............. 10
36 "Do You Remember?" .............. 13
37 Lions Clashed .............. 16
38 Nandini's Sulks ............... 18
39 The World Swirled .............. 20
40 Dark Mansion .............. 22
41 The Vault .............. 24
42 "Is This Friendship?" .............. 26
43 Pazlayarai .............. 29
44 "All Her Doing!" ............. 31
45 A Spy Who Committed A Crime ............. 35
46 The People Murmur .............. 37
47 Mr. Esanya Bhattar Of Pazlayarai ............. 40
48 Swirling Pools And Flashing Eyes ............... 42
49 Surprise Of Surprises .............. 45
50 Paranthaka Infirmary .............. 47
51 Mamallai .............. 50
52 An Old Man's Wedding ............... 51
53 Malayaman's Anger .............. 54
54 Venomous Fiend .............. 56
55 Nandini's Lover ............... 58
56 A Palace Incident ............... 60
57 Enchantress .............. 62
List of Principal Characters .............. 65
Glossary .............. 67
2
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 31 -- "Thieves! Thieves"
Our gallant Vandiya Devan looked at the portraits of the Chozla monarchs beginning from Vijayala to Paranthaka II
Sundara Chozla and enjoyed them.
Ah! How capable each of them was! What brave men! What great deeds they accomplished, considering their very
lives to be trivial! I have not read about such people even in the stories and epics! Surely, this Chozla nation is fortunate to
have such a ruling dynasty and all the territories under the sway of their empire are truly fortunate!
Vandiya Devan noticed another important fact in the history of the above Chozla monarchs: every Chozla king was
helped considerably by a chieftain of the Pazluvoor clan. The chieftains had performed several deeds of bravery while helping
their kings.
During the siege of Tanjore, when it was under the control of the Muthu-arayas, it was a Pazluvoor chief who first
entered the conquered fort. When the lame warrior Vijayala entered the battlefield at Thiru-puram-biyam, it was a scion of the
clan of Pazluvoor who lent him his shoulders to carry him to the front. It was another chief of Pazluvoor who placed the golden
crown upon Aditya's head and anointed him as an independent king. He was the same Lord Pazluvoor who lent his shoulders
for Aditya to step on and jump upon the war elephant to kill the Pallava Aparajita. The chieftains of Pazluvoor had carried the
tiger-flag and led the victorious Chozla armies in the various campaigns of Emperor Paranthaka I. A Lord Pazluvoor had
picked up Raja-aditya who lay slain in the battlefield; shouting "The Rashtrakuta's are thwarted!" he turned the defeat into
victory. The present day chieftains had similarly served Arinjaya and Sundara Chozla in various ways.
Vandiya Devan who saw all these incidents depicted in the art gallery was immersed in boundless surprise. He
realized that there was justification in the present Lords of Pazluvoor, the two brothers, enjoying such prestige and authority in
the Chozla Empire. There was nothing remarkable in Sundara Chozla consulting their opinion in every matter of state.
But, I am now caught in a huge dilemma; that much is sure. The Commander feels some suspicion about me for some
reason. If the Elder Lord returns, the suspicions will be confirmed. The truth about the signet ring will be unveiled and after
that my situation will become defenseless!
He had heard details about the infamous dungeons -- Tanjore Prisons -- under the supervision of the Younger Lord
Pazluvoor.
Perhaps they will throw me into those underground prisons -- it will be impossible to escape from there. Even if it was
possible for a fellow to escape, he would emerge as a mere bag of bones and skin, a fool who had lost his mind. Aha! How am
I to evade this terrible menace? I must concoct some hoax and get away from the fort before the Elder Lord Pazluvoor returns.
He even gave up his wish to meet the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor once again. All that he wanted was to escape from
the terrible fate of the dungeons, save his life and get away from the fort. Even if I don't have the letter, I can meet the Princess
Kundavai personally and explain things to her. It's fine if she believes me; if not, it cannot be helped. But how am I to get out
of this fort?
Suddenly he began to wonder about the old clothes he had worn in the morning. What could have happened to them?
They gave me all these new garments and showed me consideration just to examine my old clothes! The letter to Kundavai
must have fallen in the Commander's hands. There is no doubt about that now! I now understand why he caught hold of me in
that vise-like grip and did not let me leave with the bards. That is why he sent, not one but three men to serve me here. Ah!
What can I do? Some strategy, some trick is needed! I must find a way before the Elder returns. Yes an idea occurs to me ... let
me try it ... I must not hesitate any more ... thought Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan.
He looked out at the road through the decorated window of the art gallery. The Commander was coming down the
street, seated on a horse, surrounded by his retinue. Yes! This is the perfect opportunity, I must not hesitate.
The three men who had been playing at dice while seated on the doorstep now stopped their game and stood up. They
too had heard the noise of their master returning. Vandiya Devan approached the doorway and asked those men, "My dear
brothers! Where are the old clothes that I had been wearing this morning?"
3
"Why do you ask about those dirty clothes now? According to the master's orders haven't we given you new silken
raiment?"
"I don't want these new clothes. My old clothes are enough. Bring them back quickly!"
"They have been sent away for being washed. We shall give them back when they come back from the wash."
"Nothing doing! You are all thieves! I had some money in my old pouch. You have taken away my clothes to steal
that money. Bring it back immediately. If not..."
"If not .. What will you do Thambi? Will you chop off my head and send it to Tanjore? But this is Tanjore! Don't
forget that!" laughed the man.
"Hey fellah! Are you going to bring back my clothes immediately or not?"
"I can bring them back only if I have them! We threw those dirty old clothes into the river. How can we get back what
has gone into the innards of a crocodile?"
"Thieving knaves! Are you playing tricks with me? Here, I will report you to your master!" saying this Vandiya
Devan tried to cross the doorstep. One of the three men came forward to block his way. Vandiya Devan bunched his right fist
and delivered a well placed hit upon the fellow's nose! That was it; the fellow toppled to fall heavily to the ground. Blood
began gushing out of his nose.
The other fellow now ran forward with outstretched arms as if to wrestle with Vallavarayan. Vandiya Devan caught
hold of both the outstretched arms; he thrust his foot between the legs of the enemy and gave a sudden twist... .. then ... the
fellow sat down shouting painfully "Ammma...!" The third man had come closer by now. Vandiya Devan stepped aside and
kicked with his left leg, aiming at the knee cap of the man. He too fell roaring with pain! None of them had expected this
sudden attack!
But all the three men recovered almost instantly and came rushing towards Vandiya Devan. Now they came more
carefully and slowly. By now they heard the hoof beats of the horse stopping outside the palace courtyard.
Vandiya Devan used all his strength and shouted loudly, "Thieves! Thieves!" He began attacking the three men
furiously. They tried to catch hold of him. He was continuing his shouts. "Thieves! Knaves!"
The Commander, Younger Lord Pazluvoor, now entered the hallway asking, "What is the commotion down here?"
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 32 -- Examination
Upon seeing the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor, Vandiya Devan stopped fighting and walked towards him. By now the
guards had come up to hold him tightly.
Without being bothered one bit by their hold, he walked up a few steps saying, "Commander! You have come back at
the right time. These knaves have not only stolen my clothes but they are also trying to kill me. Is this the way to treat guests?
Is this the custom of Tanjore? I am not merely your guest. I am also a guest of the Emperor, you must have heard the words of
the Empress! I am the messenger who brought letters from the Crown Prince. These fellows who treat me like this will not
hesitate at anything. I am surprised that you keep such knaves as servants. In my Thondai country we would first hang such
fellows and then do other things!" He did not stop the tirade.
The Commander was still in the grip of astonishment about the youth who had single handedly tackled three of his
strong men. His eagerness to recruit such a youth in his personal corps of guards increased. He replied in a calm voice, "Be
patient Thambi, be patient! I don't think they would have done anything like that! Let me enquire."
4
"That is my request also! Question them and then dispense justice! Please arrange for the return of my clothes and
belongings."
"Hey you! Let go of him and come here! What were my orders and what have you fellows done? Why did you start a
quarrel with him?" asked the Commander angrily.
"Master, we followed your orders explicitly. We took him to the luxurious bath with unguents and then gave him the
silken robes and new ornaments. We then served him a six course meal and led him to this art gallery. For some time he was
enjoying the paintings. We do not know what happened or what he thought suddenly: he came out asking for his old clothes
and began attacking us!" the servant replied carefully.
"Three of you louts were beaten up by a single youth!" snarled the Commander with fiery eyes.
"Master! We were hesitant because he was the palace guest! Permit us now; we will take care of him."
"Enough of these boasts of your bravery! Stop it! Thambi, what do you say?"
"I too say that you give them permission. Permit me also. It has been quite a while since I fought Chozla enemies. My
shoulders itch. Let me give them a lesson on how to treat palace guests."
The Commander smiled, "Thambi, restrain your itching shoulders to fight with Chozla enemies. It is my order that
there shall be no duelling or commotion inside the fort when the Emperor is in ill health!"
"If so, please ask them to return my clothes and other belongings."
"Where are they, you fellow?"
"Master, we have stored them in a safe place as per your orders!"
"Commander! See how they lie! Just now they declared that they had sent my clothes to be laundered. Now they say
that you asked them to store it in a safe place. If we give them time they may declare you to be the thief!" Vandiya Devan
spoke without hesitation.
The Commander now looked at the leader of his guards: "Fools! My orders were to give new clothes to this young
man. I did not say anything about his old garments... These fools are blabbering nonsense, Thambi! Why are you so concerned
about your old clothes? Did you have something valuable in them?"
"Yes. I had some gold for expenses on my journey ..." before Vandiya Devan could finish he was interrupted by the
Younger Lord Pazluvoor: "Don't worry about that. Whatever gold you need for your expenses, I shall give you."
"Commander, I am the messenger from Prince Karikala. It is not my practice to seek alms from others!"
"Then I will make arrangements for the return of your clothes and belongings, don't worry! There was no other
valuable in your pouch, was there?"
"There was one other important item in my waist pouch. I think that your men would not have touched that. If they
had done anything like that ..."
"Ah! How angry you sound! You forget whom you are talking to. I forgive you because of your youth. What is that
precious item?"
"Commander! I cannot reveal that; it is a personal secret."
"There can be no secret unknown to me in Tanjore."
"It is a personal matter placed in my responsibility by Prince Karikala."
"The Prince is the Commander of the Northern Forces. His authority prevails nor th of the Palar. Here, it is the
5
authority of the Emperor."
"Commander, wherever the tiger-flag flies, it is the authority of the Emperor. Is there any doubt about that?"
"That is why there can be no secrets unknown to me inside this fort. I am thinking of the welfare of the Emperor."
"Commander! This Chozla nation is beholden to you and your brother the Elder Lord Pazluvoor, for guarding the
Emperor so carefully. Today, I personally heard the Emperor praising your effort. The Emperor declared that even the Lord of
Death is afraid to enter Tanjore because of you. How significant those words were!"
"Yes, Thambi. If we had not asked the Emperor to move here from Pazlayarai to be guarded more carefully, who
knows what untoward thing would have happened? Perhaps the intentions of those Pandiya conspirators might have
succeeded."
"Oh! You also agree! So, what I heard must be true!"
"What did you hear?"
"I heard that there was a conspiracy against the Emperor and that there was another kind of conspiracy against the
esteemed sons of the Emperor."
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor bit his lower lip with his strong teeth. He realized that he was not faring very well in this
discussion with the youth. He was more or less in a situation where he had to defend himself from the accusations of the youth!
He decided to cut the conversation short.
"Why are you concerned about that? We are here to break any conspiracy and guard the Chozla Dynasty! What is
your request? All that you want is the return of your old clothes .. is that all?"
"I want my old clothes back and I also want all my possessions that were inside my pouch to be returned."
"You have not yet said what those things were!"
"If you insist, I have to tell you. The responsibility is yours. Besides the letter meant for the Emperor, the Prince had
given me one more letter ..."
"One more letter! For whom? You never told me that."
"I did not tell you because it was a personal matter. I am telling you now because you insist. The Prince had sent a
letter for the Princess at Pazlayarai, the Younger Pirati Kundavai."
"Oh! Is that so? That means you cannot go back to Kanchi immediately tomorrow, taking the reply from the Emperor!
What was the urgency now, for the Prince to send a secret letter to his sister?"
"Commander! It is not my practice to read letters meant for others. I have no objection to your reading this letter also,
just like you read the letter meant for the Emperor. It is your responsibility. All that I want is the return of the money and letter
which were in my waist pouch."
"Don't worry about that. I will see to it personally."
The Commander began walking in towards the palace. Vandiya Devan was ready to follow him. Seeing that, the
Commander made a sign with his eyes; one of his footmen noticed it and blocked the way of Vandiya Devan. About five
footmen carrying lances surrounded Vandiya Devan. He too stopped and waited thinking that there was no use in fighting with
those men.
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor returned after some time. A man followed him carrying a heavy, large platter. Vandiya
Devan's old clothes and waist belt came on that platter as if some tribute was being presented.
"Thambi, here. Your clothes are safe. Examine them carefully and make sure that all your belongings are there!" said
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the Commander.
Accordingly, Vandiya Devan searched carefully. He found more gold coins than what he originally had in his waist
pouch. The letter meant for Kundavai Devi was also there. How did these extra gold coins come here? How did the letter which
he had not found on his previous search come back? The letter must have fallen in the hands of the Commander of Tanjore. He
must have read it and put it back in the waist pouch when he came back now. Why has he done this? Why has he placed the
extra gold coins in here? He is a very dangerous fellow. In what other manner will he examine me, I wonder! I must be very
careful in dealing with him!
"Is everything alright, Thambi? The gold and other items you had?"
"Please, give me one moment..." Vandiya Devan counted the gold coins he had. He separated the extra coins and
placed them in front of the Commander, "Sir, I am born in the noble Vaanar clan. I am a messenger from Prince Karikala. I do
not covet the possessions of others," spoke the youth.
"I congratulate you on your integrity. However, you can keep this extra money for your expenses on the journey.
When do you wish to leave? Today itself? Or, would you care to stay tonight, relax, meet my elder brother and then go?" asked
the Commander.
"I surely wish to stay on tonight and meet the Elder Lord before I go. But please warn your men not to touch me or my
belongings." After saying this Vandiya Devan picked up the extra gold and secured it in his new waist pouch.
"I am glad. You will have no further trouble here. Ask freely for whatever you wish."
"Sir, I have a desire to go around sightseeing in this large Tanjore City. I can do that, can I not?"
"Surely! Here, these two men of mine will come with you and guide you and show you all the places in the city. My
only request is that you don't leave the fort. The fort doors will be closed after sunset. You cannot reenter tonight if you go out!
Roam around as much as you wish inside the fort!"
The Commander then made a sign to two of his men and whispered some instructions to them. In a way, Vandiya
Devan was able to guess what those instructions were.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 33 -- A Beauty Among The Branches
Vandiya Devan departed for sight-seeing in Tanjore, with the two men sent by the Commander following him on both
sides. He had no doubt about the fact that they followed him to prevent his escape. Surely, orders would have been given to
stop him if tried leaving the fort by the gates.
Nevertheless, I must escape before nightfall. Escape may become impossible after the return of the Elder Lord of
Pazluvoor. My very life may be in danger. Therefore, while he roamed here and there looking at the sights of Tanjore City,
Vandiya Devan's mind was active trying to formulate a plan of escape.
First, I must escape from these messengers of death and then I must get away from the fort. How? That is the question.
It is not a big deal to escape from these two men ... I can attack suddenly and overpower them and then run away. But where
can I run away? The whole world knows how well fortified this fort is, under the guard of the Lords of Pazluvoor. People say
that even the breeze cannot enter without their permission. This morning, the Emperor himself declared that even death cannot
enter! How am I to escape from such a fortress?
I must handle these two louts; they may immediately start shouting for help. The next instant, I may be thrown in the
underground prison. Or, I may loose my life. There is no use in attacking these two men. Not attack, but trickery is needed for
escape. After I am free of these men I must ponder about a way to get out of the fort. However strong the fortification, it must
surely have some secret outlets or underground passages. How am I to find one such passage? Who will know about it? Even if
they know will they let me into the secret?
7
Thinking various such thoughts he walked around. Suddenly he recalled the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. Ah! If
anyone would help me in this fort it is likely that she would! Even that is doubtful... But I can try some hoax in the name of
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi. If I am to meet her, I must first find out the whereabouts of the palace of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor. Even
if I find the palace these louts must not know that I am meeting the Young-Queen. If they know, they will report the incident to
their master. Who knows the consequences of that? Moreover, what will happen if the Elder Lord returns when I am inside his
palace? It will be like deliberately thrusting one's head into the lion's cave.
While thinking such thoughts, his eyes and lips did not keep quiet. His lips kept questioning his guides, "What is
that?" "Who is that?" "Whose mansion is this?" "What building is there?" "What is this tower?" His ears were eager to hear
something like "That is the mansion of Lord Pazluvoor" or "It is the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor's mansion" -- but nothing like
that was said. His eyes searched and noted details in all directions.
One thing was revealed in this examination. He noticed that though the two wide, main streets inside the fortress were
busy and crowded, there were several side-streets which were quite empty. Alleyways, and lanes abounded. One could enter
those lanes and by-ways and escape into the thickly wooded parks; hiding in there would not be difficult even for a couple of
days. But he must hide unnoticed by anyone and no one must search for him. Hiding was not possible if the Commander
ordered a search by all his men.
Or, I must seek asylum in someone's house. Who in this fort will give me asylum? The only possibility is the Young-
Queen of Pazluvoor. I must use all my imagination and make up some story to force her into believing me. Before that I must
free myself of these two men. Oh! What is this cheering and shouting? Such commotion! -- Who are all these men marching
by? Oh God! I now have no doubt about you being on my side! Here is the opportunity -- here I see the strategy for escape...
When they had turned into one side-street, Vandiya Devan had seen the large group of men walking past the
intersecting main street. He recognized that crowd to be the men of the Velaikara Battalion. As usual they had presented arms
to the Emperor and were leaving the fort by sunset.
If only I could mingle into that crowd of men. There will be no better opportunity to escape.
The men following him would not let go of him so easily. If he mingled into the procession, they too would follow
him. Then it would not be easy to exit from the gate. The gatekeepers would not be easily fooled. They would be able to easily
stop him. Still I must try. There is no other way .. God has given this opportunity, I must make use of it ... If I don't, there is no
greater ignoramus than me!
As usual, he looked at his guides and asked, "What is this crowd?" They replied, "Velaikara Battalion of Velirs." He
showed an eagerness to learn more details of that battalion. He declared that he too wished to enlist into such a brave battalion,
therefore he wished to examine the procession more closely. While conversing in this fashion he had approached the marching
men. Declaring a wish to look at the men in the front who were beating the kettle drums he quickly mingled into the
procession.
As the procession marched on, he did not stay in the same place for he too moved up and down the column, here and
there along the line. He cheered more lustily and loudly than the enlisted men. Some of those men peered at him with
suspicion. Others looked at him thinking he had drunk more than his share of country liquor! But none held him back or
stopped him.
The footmen of the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor who were guarding him, did not have the courage to mingle with the
men of the Velir Battalion. They felt confident of catching him when he emerged from the procession once again. Trying to
keep an eye on their quarry they walked on, along the sides of the procession.
At that moment, a woman who was selling dairy products came down the street. Trying to avoid an encounter with the
rough soldiers of Velir, she attempted to move into a side-street. One soldier, accosted her asking, "My dear, I am thirsty. Give
me some sour buttermilk to drink!" The maid replied pertly, "No milk to drink; if you want, I can give you two slaps on your
cheeks."
Another soldier, hearing her words, stepped out saying, "Why don't you give me at least that?" he tried to take hold of
her hand. The milkmaid began to run in fear; the two men followed her. The running men shouted something to each other. No
one could understand what was happening. Everybody thought that some prank was afoot. Vallavarayan noticed the episode.
8
He made up his mind in one second! We already know that determination and execution are one and the same to our hero. So,
with shouts of "Go", "Catch", he too began following the other two men -- running into the alley behind them. The milkmaid
ran into an alley and turned into a tiny by-lane. When the men following her turned into the path, she had disappeared. The
man chasing her, now gave up. He and his friends turned back to rejoin the parade. But Vandiya Devan did not turn back. He
ran further into the by-lanes and alleyways leading off it. He ran down a few such streets and then slowed down to a steady
walk.
Was it not usually sunset, by the time the Velaikara Battalion exited the fort? The side-streets through which he
walked were now covered in darkness. In one street he noticed towering walls enclosing both sides. Tall fences abutted the
street in some parts. Thicket fences hid the grounds beyond the street in some places. Vandiya Devan kept walking without
stopping anywhere, unconcerned about the direction.
If I avoid the main or larger streets and wander through these lanes, I must finally reach the outer walls of the fortress.
Once I am there I can decide about what to do. I have the whole night to think of some scheme. Very soon it was night and
darkness encompassed everything. The path on which he walked dead ended into a towering wall. Walking in the darkness he
collided lightly into that wall; but, he could not make out anything about what that wall was or how high it was.
Perhaps this is part of the outer ramparts. Then it is best to sit right here. The moon will soon rise and cast some light.
There can be no safer place to hide than this dead end! By now the men would have gone back to report to their master. The
Commander would have sent his men in all directions in search of me. Perhaps he will suspect that I have escaped and gone
outside with the parade of the Velir men. They will search for me inside as well as outside the fort. Let them search; search
very well. If I don't fool all those men and escape from this fortress, my name is not Vallavarayan of Vaanar family.
After moonrise the light will help the searching men also. They may even show up in that dead end in search of him!
Let them come. So what! If they come, I will jump across the wall and hide in the woods. Then, who can find me?
The gentle breeze, the swishing sounds of tree branches rubbing against each other and his tiredness after the long day
compounded together to make Vandiya Devan sleepy. He sat down leaning against the wall -- and soon was asleep.
When he woke up after some hours, he saw that the moon was riding the low skies. Moonlight filtered through the
leaves of the thick trees and cast shadows on the ground. He could make out the outlines of the buildings around him. He tried
to recall his situation. He was incredulous about having fallen asleep like that. Even more, he was astonished at awakening
suddenly like that. What was that noise that woke him? Some voice had called to him ... Was it human or was it the call of
some beast? Or was it the call of some night bird that startled him? -- Did he really hear something?
Vandiya Devan looked up above him. In the half light of the moon, he saw the high rising wall. Ah! this cannot be the
fortress wall. The fort will have thicker and taller ramparts. Perhaps it is an inner wall encircling the city inside the outer
ramparts. Or, could it be the outer fence-wall of some mansion?
He stood up, examining the top of that brick-wall more closely. For a second his heart stopped beating. His intestines
rose from his stomach to come and choke his throat. Such terror possessed him!
What is that figure, on the wall hiding amongst the tree branches? He had read and heard too many stories about
ghosts and vampires that dwelt in trees.
But, can ghosts talk? Will the vampire call out softly? That too in the sweet voice of a woman? This vampire seems to
be talking, saying something?
"What Sir? Did you fall asleep leaning on the wall? How many times am I to call you?"
Oh! this was no vampire. It was a beauty of the human kind. She was talking. It was a beautiful maid seated amidst
the branches of the tree and speaking. Was this some dream? Or reality, happening truly?
"Quite nice! Your sleepiness has not fully cleared, it seems. Here, I am going to let down the ladder. Climb carefully
and come up. Don't fall down and vex me."
While saying this the girl had pulled up a thin bamboo ladder from inside the wall and let it down on the outer side.
Vandiya Devan did not understand anything. But will he let go of such an opportunity -- an opportunity that came in search of
9
him? Let what may come, come! Let whatever happens, happen! Let me go up this ladder onto the top of this wall. I can find
out the details later.
When he was half way up the ladder, the girl spoke again, "What a tardy fellow you are! the Young-Queen is waiting
out there. Here you are asleep against the outer wall!"
In the astonishment of hearing these words Vandiya Devan almost fell off the ladder! Luckily he caught hold of the
top of the brick wall and climbed up.
Young-Queen -- it can only mean the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor! How did she know about me coming and sitting
here in this alley? She must know some magic or sorcery! Why does she have such an obsession in meeting me? Perhaps,
perhaps I am going up the ladder meant for some other fellow! So what? -- I am not going back now. I can find out everything
soon enough.
The girl lent her hand and pulled him up onto the wall. The shining moonlight almost revealed his face. But the girl
did not say anything. He was now ready to accept any astounding happening that was about to take place.
"Umph! Why are you sitting and gaping like that on the wall? Pull up the ladder and throw it inside; jump; quickly."
With such quick orders the girl climbed down the tree deftly.
Vandiya Devan followed her instructions. He realized that he was now in the grounds of a large garden. In the
distance he could spy the lighted windows, turrets and balconies of a mansion, as if in some dream world. He cleared his throat
to ask whose mansion it was. Immediately the girl placed her index finger upon her sealed lips and hushed, "Ushh!" She
walked ahead down a garden path. Vandiya Devan followed her.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 34 -- Garden Gazebo
The maiden walked briskly down the garden trail winding through a thick grove of mango trees. Vandiya Devan
followed as quickly as he could. It was quite difficult to walk in that darkness without running into some bush or creeper.
Once, when he hesitated, almost colliding against a flowering bush, the girl looked back to ask, "Why do you stop? Have you
forgotten the way? Are you not the fellow who can see in darkness?"
In reply, Vandiya Devan imitated her earlier action and placed his finger upon his lips saying, "Ushh!" They could
now hear some noises outside the garden wall and they could hear the presence of some men. They walked on further. Vandiya
Devan laughed lightly when they had gone some distance. The girl looked back and asked, "What did you see, to laugh at?"
"I didn't see anything -- to laugh at. I heard and laughed."
"What do you mean?"
"Did you not hear the footsteps of the men who came in search of me? I laughed thinking of them being fooled."
She now asked with some fear, "What? Is someone looking for you? Why?"
"Otherwise why should I be sitting in this pitch darkness, leaning against the wall?"
The breeze parted the upper branches to throw a moonbeam on Vandiya Devan's face. The girl now looked at him
with some surprise and incredulity.
"What are you staring at?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"I wondered if you were you!"
"If I am not me, who else will I be?"
10
"When you came last time, did you not have a big moustache?"
"What a question! How can fellows like me who have to come in by jumping over walls not change their disguise?"
"You look younger than the last time!"
"Youth comes with enthusiasm!"
"Why the enthusiasm?"
"Why lack enthusiasm when I have the patronage of a great queen like yours?"
"Don't jest! Today my mistress is merely the Young-Queen. One day she will surely become The Great Queen!"
"That is what I said."
"Is that all you can say! Perhaps you will declare that she became the Queen because of your magic and sorcery.
Perhaps you will even demand half the kingdom."
Vandiya Devan now guessed half of what he wanted to find out. He did not talk further but walked on in deep
thought.
Whom am I going to meet? It may be the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. Or, it could be the Princess who married Prince
Madurandaka, who is the daughter of the Commander. This maid is leading me on, thinking I am some magician or
fortuneteller. How should I behave when I meet that Young-Queen, whoever she is? -- Dear heart! Do not give up your
courage! Courage will lead to victory. Some idea will occur at the right moment. I have survived all sorts of tricky situations so
far .. How can I loose in front of a woman?
They neared a large mansion. But they did not go around to the front porch. Neither did they go towards the back
doorway. They walked towards a creeper laden pathway that connected to a flower laden bower -- a garden gazebo.
Upon coming closer he saw that the flower arbor was situated in the middle of two mansions and connected to both by
covered walkways. The mansions connected by the gazebo differed from each other in one important way. The mansion on the
right was shining with brilliant lights that could be seen through its windows. They could hear the noise and activity of several
persons inside it. There was not even a tiny lamplight in the building to the left. He could see its tall walls in the moonlight. But
silence and darkness dwelt in that mansion.
Upon reaching the steps of the gazebo, the maid made a sign for Vandiya Devan to wait. He stood on the steps. His
nostrils now realized the fragrance of the blooming flowers around him. What aroma! What a heady fragrance! They filled his
nose and made his head swim.
The maid entered the gazebo; he could hear the noises of her talking to someone else with a pleasant voice. "Ask him
to come in instantly! Why ask? Haven't I been waiting here all this while?" the words filled him with dizziness! It was the
voice of the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. No doubt about it: It was Nandini Devi.
I am going to stand in front of her this next minute ... How am I going to manage that situation? What will she think
upon finding the man who dashed against her palanquin, instead of the soothsayer she was expecting? Will she be surprised?
Show anger? Perhaps be happy? .. Or maybe, appear emotionless?
The maid who had led him there made a sign from the doorway. Vandiya Devan went up and looked into the flower
arbor. In one second, the scene before him was registered by his eyes to be embossed in his mind.
The light burning brightly in the tall metal lamp spread a golden glow. The lamp must have contained some unique
fragrant oil. The burning light spread a heady fragrance all around in that bower. A beauty was reclining comfortably on the
soft pillows of a swinging couch spread with multicolored fragrant flowers. She was the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. In the
daylight inside the ivory palanquin she looked ravishing. Now in the night, in the glow of the golden lamp she looked like
beauty personified.
11
The fragrance of the flowers, the smell of the incense and the enchanting face of the Young-Queen intoxicated
Vandiya Devan.
Vandiya Deva! Be careful! You have drunk intoxicating liquor before. At that time you realized the confusion to your
intellect and after that you took an oath to never touch liquor -- remember that now! Do not loose your intellect in this
mesmerizing power more intoxicating than liquor! warned his mind.
Upon seeing Vallavarayan, the Young-Queen Nandini stared at him with surprise: slightly parted coral lips revealing
tiny sparkling pearls. Her speechlessness helped Vandiya Devan.
He laughed lightly and said, "My Lady, your maid had a sudden doubt! Whether I was the magician or not! Do you
know how she expressed her doubt? `Are you, you?' she asked!" Vandiya Devan laughed again.
Nandini smiled. Lightning flashed in front of him. It showered honey and nectar!
"She gets such sudden doubts quite often! Vasuki! Why are you standing here like a pole? Go to your place. If you
hear any footsteps bang the door shut," said Nandini.
"Yes my Lady!" said Vasuki as she ran out of a doorway towards the right of the Gazebo. She went down the covered
walkway and sat down on some steps leading down to the lighted mansion.
Nandini lowered her voice as she spoke, "Did that foolish girl doubt you being a magician? Half the fellows who
declare themselves as "sorcerers" and "magicians" are utter fools and liars. You are a true magician! What magic and sorcery
did you employ to arrive here now?"
"My Lady, I did not employ any magic trickery to come here. I climbed a ladder leaning against a wall to come here,"
declared Vandiya Devan.
"That is obvious. I asked about what magic you employed to fool my girl."
"I smiled at her in the moonlight. That's all! If she had not been charmed, I was planning to use the signet ring you
gave me."
"Oh! You have it safe -- don't you? You could have come here openly in broad daylight when you have that. Why this
intrigue in darkness?"
"My Lady! Do you know your brother-in-law, the Younger Lord Pazluvoor? His men are complete knaves and
scoundrels. First, they tried to steal my clothes and possessions. Then they followed my shadow without parting even for one
second. It took great effort to part from them. After cutting loose from those fellows I entered the lanes and byways around
your palace walls wandering aimlessly. At that time when I saw the ladder leaning against the garden wall I thought of you and
your kindness in making this arrangement in consideration of this poor fellow. Now I realize my mistake. Please forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive."
"How is that My Lady?"
"Your expectations were not very wrong. Do you know why I called for the Sorcerer?"
"I don't know, My Lady. I know no magic or sorcery; nor do I know any astrology."
"I have been thinking of you since I met you yesterday morning. I wished to find out why you had not come back to
see me. That's why I summoned the magician."
"Very surprising."
"Which?"
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"What you said just now. Since meeting you yesterday, I too have been thinking about you."
"Do you believe in the bonds of previous incarnations?"
"Meaning ....?"
"People say that if two persons had been friends or had some relationship in a previous birth, they would have a
similar relationship in this birth also. That's what I am talking about."
"I had no such belief till recently. That belief was born in me yesterday!"
When Vandiya Devan uttered these words, outwardly he was lying. But, when he said those words his inner heart
thought of the lady he had seen in the house of the Astrologer of Kudanthai. However, Nandini had no way of knowing that!
She thought he was talking about her!
"But, ... you have not come here to see me because of that! You talked about some message sent by Mr.Azlvar-adiyan
Nambi ..."
"Yes, My Lady. At first I wished to meet you mainly to deliver his message. After seeing you once, all those old
reasons flew away."
"Where did you meet Mr. Azlvar-adiyan? What was his message?"
"I met Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi near Veera-narayana-puram. He was using the powers of his wooden staff to prove
that Vishnu was the greatest among Gods. At that time the retinue of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor came by in procession. Your
palanquin followed him. Perhaps to see what the commotion was about, your golden hand parted the silk curtains. Recognizing
you at that time Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi wished to send a message to you. Since, I too was staying at Kadamboor that night,
he made me his messenger. But I could not meet you in Kadamboor. I could only meet you on the road near Tanjore. Even that
was possible only because your palanquin dashed against my horse!"
Nandini was staring at the roof as she reclined on the couch, while Vandiya Devan talked. Therefore he could not
surmise anything from her face or its expression. In the end, when she heard his words, she looked at him with a dazzling
smile.
"Yes, my palanquin is a very mischievous palanquin!" she said.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 35 -- A Sorcerer
In the distance the booming of large drums could be heard. Cymbals sounded and men raised cheers. They heard the
fortress-gates close shut with a bang; hoof-beats of horses and elephants. Vandiya Devan realized that those noises had
distracted Nandini's attention. The maid sitting on guard came up, "My Lady! it seems that the Master has returned."
Nandini said, "I know. Go back to your place." She then turned towards Vandiya Devan, "The Finance Officer is
entering the fort. He will go to the palace to enquire after the health of the Emperor. Then meet and talk with the Commander
and then come here. You must depart before he comes here. What was the message from Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi?" she
asked.
"My Lady! That fanatic Vaishnava fellow declared that you were his sister. Is that true?"
"Why do you disbelieve that?"
"Can I easily believe, if someone says that the jeweled parrot and the wild ape are born of the same mother?"
Nandini laughed, "In a way what he said is correct. We grew up in the same house in the same family. He loved and
13
cherished me as his own sister. It's a pity! I disappointed him greatly."
"Then it is alright. The message from Mr. Nambi is this: God Krishna is waiting for you. All the ardent Vaishnava
devotees are waiting anxiously to see you wed the holy Lord Krishna!"
Nandini signed loudly. "Ah! He has not forgotten those foolish dreams. If you see him again tell him this from me:
Ask him to completely forget me. Tell him that I am in no way deserving to become a great apostle like Andal."
"I don't agree with that, My Lady."
"What don't you agree with?"
"I don't agree with your saying that you cannot become another apostle like Andal! Andal had to immerse herself in
devotion and worship, sing verse and psalm -- shed tears and weave flower garlands before she could marry the Lord. But you
will have no such difficulty. All that is needed is that Lord Krishna see you -- He will forsake all those divine maids like
Rukmini, Bhama, Radha and the mystic milkmaids. He will seat you on his throne besides him!"
"Sir! You are an expert in flattery. I have never liked that."
"My Lady, what is the meaning of flattery?"
"Praising someone to their face."
"If so, please turn around a little and show me your back."
"Why? ..."
"To praise you, without looking at your face. That's why. Is there anything wrong in that?"
"You talk very cleverly."
"Now, you are flattering me!"
"Why don't you also turn around, and show me your back?"
"Great Queen, it is never my habit, be it in the battlefield or in the presence of women, to turn my back. You can
freely flatter me."
Upon hearing this, Nandini laughed loudly, gleefully. "You are surely a magician. There is no doubt now. It has been
a long time since I laughed so joyously."
"But My Lady, it is very dangerous to make you laugh: the lotus in the pool bloomed in joyous laughter; the honey
bee fell swooning down!" said Vandiya Devan.
"You are not only a magician; you also seem to be a kavi!"
"I am not afraid of flattery; nor do I fear scolds."
(The Tamil word kavi has two meanings: 1. poet 2. monkey.)
"Who scolded you?"
"Did you not call me `kavi' just now?"
"So?"
"When I was a youngster, some of my playmates used to call me `monkey face.' After many years, I have heard that
nickname uttered by your coral red lips!"
14
"You were called `monkey face!' Who were those scholars?"
"None of them are alive now."
"I didn't call you that! I said you seemed like a poet able to compose verse!"
"Oh yes! I can also compose verse; but I usually sing in front of my enemies. Those who do not die by my piercing
arrows can die by my piercing words!"
"My dear Sir! Oh you bravest lion among poets! You have not yet told me your name?" asked Nandini with laughter.
"My given name is Vandiya Devan. I also have the title Vallavarayan."
"Of a noble family?"
"I come from the ancient and famous Vaanar clan."
"These days ... Your kingdom ...?"
"The sky above me; the earth below my feet; now I am the sole emperor of all the known worlds!"
Nandini examined Vallavarayan from head to toe for sometime.
"There is nothing impossible. You can get back your ancient territories."
"How is that possible? How can anything swallowed by the tiger come out again? Can I get back my kingdom
swallowed by the Chozla Empire?"
"I can arrange to get it back!"
"My Lady! Please don't! No need! I never had any wish to rule a kingdom. Whatever tiny wish I had, it totally
vanished today, after I saw Emperor Sundara Chozla. It is better to remain a free pauper without knowing where my next meal
comes from than be a prince beholden to everyone."
"That is my opinion too." Nandini spoke again as if she remembered something that she had forgotten. "Why are the
Commander's men looking for you?"
"Like your maid, he too had a suspicion about me!"
"What suspicion?"
"About how I came to posses a signet ring with the palmtree symbol."
A tiny shade of fear engulfed Nandini's face. "Where is the ring?" she asked in a shaken voice.
"Here it is my Lady. Will I loose it so easily?" saying it, he took out the ring from his pouch and showed it to her.
"How did he know that you posses this?" asked Nandini.
"For a long time now, I had the wish to meet Emperor Sundara Chozla. I used this signet ring to fulfil that ambition.
After being presented to the Emperor, the Commander asked me about how I came to possess this ring ..."
"What reply did you give?" asked Nandini in a frightened voice.
"I did not bring up your name, My Lady! I said that the Elder Lord Pazluvoor had given it. I said that he gave it to me
at Kadamboor ...."
15
The fear on her face and voice had now disappeared, "Did he believe you?" she asked.
"I don't think he believed me fully. That's why he must have sent those guards to follow me. He might have intended
to place me before his elder brother and find the truth when he returned."
Nandini said with a smile, "You don't have to fear the Elder Lord. I shall take care that he does not chew you out."
"My Lady! The whole world knows of your influence over the Finance Officer. But I have some urgent chores outside
the fort. That's why I seek your help in escaping."
"What are those urgent chores?"
"I have several. For example I have to meet Mr. Azlvar-adiyan and give him your reply. What shall I tell him?"
"Tell him to completely forget that he had a sister known as Nandini."
"I can tell him that; but it may not be possible."
"What?"
"Forgetting you completely. I who have casually met you twice cannot forget you. How can he who spent his lifetime
with you, forget you?"
A trace of victory and pride dwelt on Nandini's face. Her lance like eyes pierced through Vandiya Devan's heart as she
looked at him. "Why were you so eager to meet the Emperor?"
"What is so surprising about my wanting to see that world famous, handsome personality? Most monarchs on this
world wish to establish the fame of their bravery, their prestige, and the grandeur of their empires for ever. Their subjects pray
for such fame. But do you know what the buddhist monks in the monasteries pray for?
... May Sundara Chozla
grow in prosperity, benevolence, and in good looks and health; ...
I had a long time urge, to see this modern day Cupid, the God of Good Looks. ..."
"Yes; the Emperor is quite proud of his good looks. His darling girl is even more proud ....."
"His girl? ... Whom are you talking about?"
"She who lives at Pazlayarai. That arrogant, proud and prejudiced female -- I am talking about that Younger Pirati
Kundavai Devi!"
Vandiya Deva! You are fortunate! The tool you were searching for has come to you, here it is in your hands. Use it
well! Vandiya Devan's mind advised him thus.
Nandini, who had been reclining languorously all this time, now sat up suddenly. "Sir! I shall tell you one thing. Will
you agree?"
"Tell me, My Lady!"
"Let us, you and I make a pact. You will help me and I shall help you. What do you say?"
"My Lady! You are the Queen of the all powerful Finance Officer of the Chozla Empire! You have the power to
translate thought into deed. I am a nobody with no authority. In what way can I be of help to you?" he asked.
Nandini wishing to find out if he was sincere or if he was merely mouthing words of courtesy, looked at him with
piercing eyes.
16
He stood undisturbed.
"I need a confidential retainer. If I find you some such job in this palace, will you accept?" she asked.
"I have already agreed to serve another Lady in such a fashion. If she refuses to accept me, I shall surely come back to
you."
"Who is she? In competition with me?"
"You talked with great affection about her a little while ago, that very same Younger Pirati Kundavai Devi."
"Lies! Lies! It can never be possible! Are you jesting with me ..."
"Great Queen, several persons have already stolen and read this letter. There can be no harm in you also reading this."
Saying this, Vandiya Devan extended the letter given by Aditya Karikala to Kundavai.
Nandini held the letter under the lamp light and read it. As she was reading, the lightning darts that jumped out of her
eyes seemed like the forked, darting tongue of a king cobra to Vandiya Devan. Unconsciously, his body shivered.
Nandini looked at him with great dignity, "Sir! You intend to escape from this fort with your life, don't you?"
"Yes, My Lady, that is why I sought your help and came here."
"Only on one condition will I help you escape from here."
"Tell me the condition, My Lady."
"Whatever letter Kundavai gives in reply to this, you must bring that and come back to me. Do you agree?"
"A very dangerous condition!"
"You boasted some time ago about not minding any danger."
"Being courageous in such danger should merit an appropriate reward? ..."
"Reward? You want a reward? You will get a reward beyond your wildest dreams. You will get a reward for which,
the all powerful chief of this Chozla Empire, the Elder Lord Pazluvoor has been yearning for years. Such a reward will be
yours!" saying this, Nandini once again threw her weapons of enchantment at Vandiya Devan.
Poor Vandiya Devan! His head swam in dizziness. He muttered to himself: "Dear heart be courageous, don't loose
your reason."
In that moment, as if to help him, the horrible screech of an owl could be heard in the garden. Once, twice, thrice --
they heard the hoot.
His body shivered. Nandini looked towards the garden -- from where the hoots were heard -- saying, "The real
sorcerer has come."
She looked at Vandiya Devan again and continued, "I don't need him anymore. But let me say a few words to him
before sending him away. Perhaps he will be useful in helping you escape. Please step aside for a while and hide yourself in
that darkness!" She pointed in a direction quite opposite to the doorway in which her maid sat guarding the path.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 36 -- "Do You Remember?"
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Nandini came out to stand near the doorway of the gazebo and clapped her hands thrice. One could not say if it was
the shadow of darkness or the trace of fear that covered her face. For some distance one could see the huge trees and creepers
that climbed their thick trunks; beyond was pitch darkness. The Sorcerer emerged from behind one such tree, cleaving the
darkness, pushing aside creepers.
Nandini went back to recline on her flower-laden couch. Her face now appeared calm and composed. The Sorcerer
entered the gazebo, and the golden light of the lamp now fell on his face.
Haven't we seen this face before? Who is he? -- Oh yes! He is one of the conspirators who met near Thiru-puram-
biyam at midnight. He was the one who threw the tinkling gold coins on the ground from a bag; he is Ravidasa who urged,
"Kill Azlvar-adiyan instantly, wherever you see him."
Even as he stepped inside, his face seethed with anger. On seeing Nandini, reclining calmly on her swinging couch,
rage filled his cat-like eyes. He sat down on the wooden bench in front of the couch and stared at Nandini. His lips muttered
some incantations like, "Hoom, kreem, hareem, haraam!"
"Enough! Stop it! My maid, the idiot must have gone to sleep on the doorstep. Say what you have come to say and
leave quickly. I think he has returned to the fort." Nandini spoke with authority.
"You degenerate fiend!" snarled Ravidasa, like a hissing king cobra.
"Whom do you mean?" Nandini asked quite calmly.
"Thankless Nandini; Young-Queen of Pazluvoor; I mean you!" Ravidasa pointed at her with one finger.
Nandini kept quiet.
"You woman! You have forgotten the incidents which you should remember, I shall remind you."
"Why those old stories, now?" asked Nandini.
"You ask why? Why now? I will tell you -- I will first remind you of those incidents and then tell you ..." Ravidasa
spoke with fury.
Realizing that there would be no way of stopping him, Nandini sighed and turned her face away.
"Hey Queen! Listen, three years ago, one midnight, a corpse was burning in the cremation grounds beside the Vaigai
River. No final rites according to the sacred texts were offered and no priest officiated. They had built the pyre with dried
leaves and deadwood from the forest. They threw a body hidden behind trees onto that pyre. Then they set fire to it. The dry
wood of the forest caught fire easily and burned bright. At that time some men dragged you out of hiding in the forest. Your
hands and feet were bound and your mouth was stuffed with cloth. Your lovely tresses, which you have beautifully dressed
with flowers today, those tresses were unkempt, sweeping the dust, that midnight. Those men intended to throw you in that
burning pyre and roast you alive. One of them said, `Let the fire burn a little more furiously.' They threw you on the ground as
they sat a little apart. Each of those men, individually, took a terrible oath. You were listening. Though your limbs and mouth
were bound, your eyes and ears were free. So, you watched and listened. After they had all sworn their oaths, the men
approached you again. You, who were quiet till then, tried to make some signs -- trying to free your hands from the rope,
rolling your ravishing eyes. One of the men noticed, `She seems to wish to say something,' he said. `Must be the old story,
throw her into the fire,' said another. `Wait, before we throw her into the fire, let us at least hear what she wants; remove the
cloth from her mouth,' spoke a third fellow. Because he was their leader, the other men removed the cloth stuffed into your
mouth. Do you remember the words you said at that time?" asked Ravidasa and then stopped.
Nandini did not reply. Neither did she turn around to look at him. Her face reflected the disgust and terror in her heart
as well as the firmness of the terrible oath she had taken. Two tiny teardrops glistened at the corners of her dark eyes.
"Woman! You do not talk! Never mind. I can tell you. You declared that you too, would take the oath and observe the
vow just like those men. You maintained that you had more cause for vengeance than those men. You swore to use your beauty
and intelligence for their cause. You said that you would help them as much as you could. You also swore, repeatedly, that
once the vendetta and vow were fulfilled you would readily give up your own life. None of the others believed you, but I was
18
convinced. I trusted you, and prevented them from throwing you into that burning pyre. I saved your life. Do you remember all
that?" asked Ravidasa.
Nandini turned towards him slightly, "Are you asking me, if I remember? Those incidents have been burned with fire
upon my heart."
"After that night, one day we were all walking along the banks of the wide, South Cauvery. Suddenly we heard the
pounding noise of a cavalry coming down the path. We decided to hide in the forest, each on their own, till those horse-men
had gone past. But you broke the pact, forsook us and stood on the road side. Those men caught hold of you. Their leader, that
fellow of Pazluvoor, fell victim to your charms: Later, you married him. All my men taunted me, saying that you had betrayed
us. But I did not let you escape. Somehow, one day I managed to meet you. I intended to kill you, a betrayer, with my knife.
Again you employed your wiles and begged for life. You maintained that you came here, merely to fulfil our oath. You
promised to remain in this palace and arrange for all sorts of help for me and my men. Is all this true?" Ravidasa finally
stopped.
"Yes, everything is true. Who refuted it? Why do you keep repeating that story? Why did you come here now? Tell
me that."
"No, wretched woman! No. You have forgotten everything. You have become engrossed in these comforts and
luxuries of being the Queen of Pazluvoor and forgotten your oath. Eating six course meals, enjoying silken garments and new
ornaments, reclining on silken couches and sleeping on soft beds, travelling in ivory palanquins -- you are a queen now! How
will you remember those old happenings?"
"Rubbish! Who wants these soft couches, rich clothes and jewels? You think I live for such luxuries? Never!"
"Or, you have been charmed by the handsome face of the wayside youth! Perhaps you have forgotten the old oaths in
the light of this new love?"
Nandini was slightly startled. But she overcame her feelings to shout, "Lies! Lies!"
"If it is false, how come that even though I had sent you word that I was coming, you had not sent your servant girl to
the usual place?"
"I did send her. Some other fellow came up the ladder meant for you. That stupid girl thought that he was you and
brought him here. Is that my mistake?"
"How does it matter whose mistake it was? For a few minutes my very life was in danger! The soldiers searching for
that youth would have imprisoned me. I hid myself in the pond near this garden -- immersing myself by holding my breath --
till those men left and then emerged from the water to come here. See I am dripping wet!"
"You deserve it. You suspected me! You atoned for your thoughts by immersing yourself in the pool."
"Woman! swear the truth -- are you sure that you haven't been seduced by that youth's beauty?"
"Absurd! What do you mean? Will anybody praise the `beauty' of men? It is only in this shameless Chozla country
that the people celebrate their Emperor's `beauty'. The beauty of men lies in their valor, the battle scars on their body!"
"You say it well. If you speak the truth, then why did the young stranger come here?"
"I told you earlier. Vasuki thought that he was you and brought him here."
"Why did you give him your signet ring -- which you have not given even to me?"
"I gave it to bring him here and talk to him. I am now going to take that signet ring back from him."
"Why did you want him here? About what were you drooling with him?
"I was chatting with him for an important reason. He will be very useful in fulfilling our intentions."
19
"You wretched female! In the end you showed your tendency? You disclosed our secret to some unknown stranger..."
"You get perturbed unnecessarily. I didn't tell him anything. I discovered his secrets."
"What did you discover?"
"He is a messenger taking letters from Kanchi to Pazlayarai. He his carrying the letter for the tigress at Pazlayarai, he
showed it to me. I was trying to convince him to bring the letter given in reply back here to me. You came in at that time."
"Damn the letter; damn the message; what is the use of all that to us?"
"That shows the limit of your understanding. We have sworn an oath to destroy the tiger clan and its very roots. But
you men have been thinking only of the male tigers, you forget that clans will also thrive because of female tigers. Moreover,
who do you think really rules this Chozla Empire? Is it the old man lying on his sickbed without any strength or use of limbs?
Are they the Princes in Kanchi and Lanka? ..."
"No; it is that Lord Pazluvoor who is fortunate to have you as his queen. The world knows it."
"Even that is inaccurate. The world may think so; this old man may also think it and feel self-satisfied. You too have
been mislead. In reality, that female tiger-cub at Pazlayarai is ruling this nation. That arrogant female sits in her palace and
pulls the strings to make everyone dance. I shall put an end to her exploits. I shall use this youth for that purpose."
Surprise and even respect now replaced the rage on Ravidasa's face. "You are a truly capable female! No doubt. But
how am I to believe all this as truth? What is the proof?"
"I shall deliver that youth to your responsibility. You lead him through the underground passage and take him outside.
Bind his eyes and then lead him. Go with him till Pazlayarai and wait. Bring him back here with Kundavai's reply. If he tries to
escape or hoodwink you, kill him!" said Nandini.
"No way! You and he can go to hell. The Commander's men are now searching for him inside the fort. Very soon they
will begin to look for him outside the fort. If I go with him, I too will be in jeopardy. What do you say about the matter on
which I have come?"
"You have not yet told me why you have come."
"Arrangements have already been made to send men to Kanchi and Lanka. The plight of those going to Lanka is very
difficult, they have to be very cautious over there. ..."
"What am I to do about that? Do you need more funds? There is no end to your demands for money!"
"The gold is not for our personal use, it is for completing the task we have undertaken. Why do you think I have left
you alive, here? Those going to Lanka cannot use Chozla coins. It would be good to have some Lankan funds."
"You took all this time to say that! I have made arrangements even before you asked."
Nandini then bent down to look below her couch. She pulled out a bag and placed it in Ravidasa's hands. "This is full
of Lankan gold coins. Take it and leave quickly. He may return any time now."
Ravidasa took the bag and was about to leave. She stopped him with the words, "Wait a bit, lead that youth and at
least leave him outside the fort. He can then go his own way. I don't wish to show him the secret passage."
She then stood up and went towards the doorway leading to the darkened mansion. She could not see anything
outside. Her fingers made a sign of beckoning, she even clapped her palms lightly. But there was no use.
She walked down the walkway leading to the darkened mansion, with Ravidasa. They came up to the steps going to
the huge mansion clothed in darkness. But Vandiya Devan was not to be found. He was nowhere nearby, anywhere near that
vicinity!
20
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 37 -- Lions Clashed!
The people of Tanjore had a special affection for the two brothers of Pazluvoor. Were not the Lords of Pazluvoor the
ones who brought a new prominence and prestige to that old city? Tanjore folk always enjoyed parades of elephants, horses,
camels and footmen. That too if the Elder Lord Pazluvoor, the Officer of Finance, left the fortress of Tanjore or reentered it, the
people would gather to stand on both sides of the street to watch, to cheer and praise. Oftentimes they would shower flower
petals along with their well wishes.
Normally, if the elder brother returned from a journey outside fortress, the Younger Lord would come outside the
main gates to welcome him back and lead him home. The two brothers would embrace each other in greeting upon such
occasions; it would appear like the Nilgiri Mountains hugging the Vindhya Range. Both would go down the streets in
procession side by side, on horseback or atop elephants; ten thousand eyes would not suffice to see the sight.
Some persons compared the two brothers of Pazluvoor to the demon kings of myth -- Hiranya-aksha and Hiranya-
kasipu; others referred to them as the brothers Sunda and Upasunda of the fable. They had been compared to the ideal brothers
Rama and Bharata (of the epic Ramayana); or to those best among brothers, Arjuna and Bhima (of the other epic Mahabarata).
But today, when the Elder Lord Pazluvoor entered Tanjore, though the footmen and retinue accompanying him raised
the usual cheers and announced the usual honors, there was not much of the usual enthusiasm and cheering among the crowds
that lined the streets. In fact there was not much of a crowd. The Younger Lord Pazluvoor had not come to wait outside the
fortress gates to welcome his brother.
The Officer of Finance did not mind this too much. Once inside the fort, he went directly towards the palace of his
brother. He thought that his brother must be engaged in some important matter.
Perhaps the Emperor's health has taken a turn for the worse. Or, .. Or, the `Big thing' has happened! He worried.
Therefore, his procession hurried through the streets quicker than usual and soon neared the portals of the Commander's
mansion.
The Commander who had stepped outside his mansion to welcome his elder brother, seemed quite worried and
restless. He greeted his brother and heartily embraced him. Both entered the mansion. They went directly to their private
conference chamber. When they were private, the elder brother asked, "Thambi, Kalanthaka! Why do you seem out of sorts?
Is there any special news? Is the Emperor well?"
Kalanthaka, the Younger Lord Pazluvoor, replied, "The Emperor remains as usual. His health has neither improved
nor worsened."
"Then why do you look so crestfallen? Why did you not come to the gates to meet me? Even the city seems quiet, not
much activity?"
"Anna! A minor incident happened; nothing very important. I'll tell you about it presently. How about the affairs on
which you journeyed?" asked Kalanthaka, the Commander.
"The affair on which I ventured was completely successful. All the persons invited had come to Kadamboor. All of
them unanimously agreed that your son-in-law Madurandaka is the rightful heir to the throne. They approved with cheers. All
of them are ready to establish the right, with swords if need arises and if justice is not obtained. There can be no obstruction to
our intentions. Even Kolli Mazlava-raya and Munai-raya agreed. Sambuvaraya is ready to extend the use of all his resources,
his fortress, forces everything for this cause. His son Kandamaran is even more eager. We don't have to worry about the central
provinces or Thiru-munai-padi. Chozla lands are now under our control. Why think of anything else? The only three persons
who may oppose us are Thiru-kovalur Malayaman, Pallava Parthiban and Kodumbalur Velir. Amongst them, the Kodumbalur
fellow is not here; he is in Lanka. What can the other two do? We have to disclose everything to the Emperor, very soon, and
come to a decision." Lord Pazluvoor spoke with enthusiasm.
21
"What you say is fine about all the chieftains, but the people? What if the people dissent?" asked Kalanthaka.
"Ah! Who is going to ask the people? Are all affairs of state conducted with the approval of the people? If the people
are emboldened to object, we should ensure that they do not interfere in such things anymore. I don't think anything like that
will occur. If we declare it as the Emperor's wish, they will keep quiet. Moreover, fortunately Arulmozli is in Lanka. If he is
here the people may try to demonstrate their blind loyalty. People do not have any such fondness for Aditya Karikala. It is easy
to turn their loyalty towards Madurandaka. He already has a name for being `Religious' and `Good natured'. You know that
your son-in-law has a more charismatic face than even the sons of Sundara Chozla? It would be surprising if the witless people
who consider that `Inner beauty reflects on the face' do not start cheering `Long live Madurandaka'. Whatever happens why do
you worry when I am here?" spoke the Elder Lord Pazluvoor.
"But, what about the Velaikara Battalion? How do we handle them?"
"The Velaikara Battalion has sworn blood oaths to protect the person of Sundara Chozla; not his sons! Even if they
interfere what happened to your Guard Corps in this fort? Within a few hours you should be able to round up their leaders and
throw them in the dungeons?"
"Anna, the main opposition will be from Pazlayarai. We do not know the machinations of those two -- the old and the
young woman. We must watch for that..."
"Thambi, Kalanthaka! Are you telling me to be afraid of two women, after all this? I have a good rejoinder to all their
schemes, don't worry."
"The Emperor has ordered that I send messages to both his sons, asking them to return to Tanjore immediately."
"Aditya Karikala will never come. Arulmozli may follow orders and come back. If he tries to come back we must stop
him. Those two can return only after we have placed Madurandaka on the throne as Crown Prince with all due honors and
powers. They should not come back before that. Leave this matter to me -- I can handle it. Apart from that you said that there
was some incident here, what was that?"
"A youth came here from Kanchi. He brought one letter for the Emperor and another for Kundavai."
"What did you do with him? Hope you have confiscated the letters and thrown him in prison?"
"No, Anna! He said that he had met you at Kadamboor and that you asked him to see the Emperor and deliver the
letter. Is that true?"
"Oh! Utter falsehood! An unknown youth -- calling himself Kandamaran's friend, did arrive at Kadamboor. But he did
not tell me anything about bringing letters! I suspected him when I saw him. I hope you have not been duped by him?"
"Yes, Anna! I have been deceived by him. I was fooled because he mentioned your name."
"You fool! What did you do after that? Did you give the letter to the Emperor? Did you at least read it?"
"Yes, there was nothing in it. All it did was invite him to Kanchi. After delivering the letter the youth was saying
something about danger ..."
"Didn't you suspect him at least after that? And throw him in the dungeon?"
"I did suspect him, but I didn't arrest him."
"Then? What did you do?"
"He said that he wanted to go sightseeing. I sent him with two men. He tricked them and escaped from their
observation. I was making arrangements to find him. That why I couldn't come to the gates to receive you. I have also warned
the city ..."
"You idiot! Are you a man? Fooled by a youth without whiskers? I must blame my own foolishness in nurturing you
22
and making you the Commander of this fort. Aren't you ashamed to say that a wastrel has fooled you in my name?"
"He didn't merely mention your name, he showed me your signet ring. Did you give it to him?"
"Never! Am I foolish like you to be deceived like that?"
"He had the signet ring. That is true. He showed it to me and also to the gatekeeper before entering the fort. If you
didn't give it to him, he could have obtained it only from one other source."
"Whom do you mean?"
"Can you not guess? I mean the Young-Queen ..."
"Damn you! Be careful! I shall cut off your tongue!"
"Cut off my tongue if you want; chop off my head if needed. I shall tell you something that I have been intending to
say for some time. You have brought a poisonous snake into the house thinking it to be beautiful. One day it will surely strike.
Avoid that! Throw her out before you do anything else!"
"Kalanthaka! I too shall tell you something that I intended saying for a while now. You can freely tell me your opinion
about any other matter; you can bravely criticize my activities if you do not like them. But if you utter even one word belittling
the maid who is wedded to me, it will be enough. I will kill you with these very same hands that raised you. I who taught you
to use your sword, will pluck that very same sword and cut your throat. Be careful!"
That wordy duel, full of rage, between the brothers, seemed like a battle of roaring lions clashing against each other.
Their voices rose like the roar of lions. Even though they were in their conference chamber, their voices could be heard like the
sound of thunder by those waiting outside. No one knew the cause; all of them shivered wondering what the `trouble' was
about.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 38 -- Nandini's Sulks
When the Elder Lord Pazluvoor finally returned to his palace, it was well past midnight. The storm in his heart raised
more dust than a swift breeze that blew upon a dusty field swirling the dust again and again. He was slightly sorry for having
been so harsh with his dear brother. There was no measure to the affection that his younger brother showered upon him.
He said something because of his affection for me. But still, a suspicious fellow! Why must he unnecessarily find fault
with Nandini? It must be human nature. It is natural that one should try to escape the consequences of ones own mistakes by
throwing the blame on someone else. But, why does he stoop to that lowly practice? Is it commendable of him and his courage
to let go of the culprit in his hands and then blame a woman, that too his own sister-in-law? It's alright! He did beg forgiveness
for his words. Why should I keep thinking of it?
Nevertheless, could there be some atom of truth in his words? Perhaps in my old age I am enslaved by a madness for
womankind? For the sake of some female whom I picked up on the wayside, I had to be harsh with my dear brother who stood
beside me in several battles; a brother who has guarded me with his very life! Anyway what is so great about her? I have no
idea of her antecedents. Her behavior and talk often raise suspicions. Damn it! My brother's words have raised confusion even
in my mind!
How unjustified? She loves me dearly; she behaves with such reverence towards me! Such enthusiasm she has, about
my affairs. Sometimes she even gives me great ideas! Must I not consider her courage in marrying this sixty-six year old-man?
Her beauty would evoke the jealousy of even divine nymphs -- if one were to hold a competition for her hand, even the king of
the heavens would come running ... Which king on this earth will not covet her? Ah! If this fellow Sundara Chozla had only
seen her! Why should I doubt such a person?
I have heard that old men who marry very young girls give in to useless doubts and worries, making their lives hell. I
23
have seen such instances. Should I subject myself to such mockery? Even so, I must find out certain truths from her. She often
borrows the signet ring. Why? She goes and sits alone in the gazebo, why does she do that? I hear rumors that some sorcerer
visits her frequently; in fact she herself agreed to it -- but why? What does she have to ask a sorcerer or magician? Who does
she have to seduce with sorcery? And apart from all this, what about this fate of mine: how long do I have to remain like this,
a celibate bachelor ever after the wedding? She keeps putting me off by talking about some vow or penance -- never explaining
what the vow is or what the penance is about. Her methods seem like the tricks of some cunning heroine in a fable! I must not
let this continue! Tonight I must talk firmly about it and decide once for all.
When Lord Pazluvoor returned to his own mansion, other womenfolk living there, clansmen and servants came to
receive him in the outer courtyard. His searching eyes did not find the Young-Queen whom he was eager to see! Upon query,
he found that she was still in the garden gazebo. What is she doing out there after midnight? he wondered if she was being
indifferent. He walked down to the garden with some rage.
When he neared the covered walk-way he saw Nandini and her maid walking towards him. She stopped upon seeing
him. But, instead of looking at him, she turned her face away, peering into the darkness that shrouded the garden. The maid
waited a little behind. She did not look up at him, even after Lord Pazluvoor had come very close. Now, he had to forget his
intentions of scolding Nandini; instead he had to soothe her anger!
"Nandini! My darling! Why this anger? Why don't you look at me?" asking this he placed his iron hard palm softly on
her silken shoulder.
But Nandini pushed his sturdy, battle hardened hand away with her flower like fingers. Oh! can gentleness and
softness have such strength?
"Dearest! You push me away with your silken hands! That itself is my good fortune. You achieved what could not be
accomplished by warriors from the Tricone Hill to the Vindhyas! That is my good luck! Still, shouldn't you tell me the cause
for your anger? My ears thirst to hear your nectar sweet voice." That great warrior of the battlefield begged in front of her.
"How many days is it since you parted from me? Isn't it four full days?" spoke Nandini with a tiny sob in her voice.
That sob melted Lord Pazluvoor's heart which had withstood the assault of several swords and spears, like wax thrown in
flames.
"All this anger for that? Couldn't you bear to be parted from me for four days? If I have to go on a battle campaign
what will you do? We might have to be parted for months together!"
"My Lord! If you have to go to the battlefield do you think I will remain content to be parted from you for months
together? Forget the thought! I shall follow you like a shadow and come with you on the campaign."
"Wonderful! If I take you on the campaign what war can I fight? My darling! My shoulders and chest have borne the
piercing sharpness of several swords and lances. The world praises me for having sixty-four scars from such wounds. But if
your soft flower like body is pierced by even one thorn, my heart will split open. The tiny thorn which hurts your small foot
will achieve that which could not be done in several battles by swords and arrows. How can I take you to the battlefield? Even
this -- you standing here on this granite walkway -- hurts me! Come here, come and sit on you flower laden couch! Let me gaze
upon your divine face. You think that this parting of four days was difficult only for you? Every second away from you was
like an eon for me! At least now, let me look at your face and satisfy my longing."
He took hold of Nandini's hand and led her to her couch. Nandini wiped away her tears and looked up at him. He
looked at that pearly smile on her shining face in the golden light. Ah! I can give her all the three worlds for such a smile! I
don't posses all the three worlds, so let me offer my life, my soul all my possessions to her! But she does not ask anything of
me! So ran the thoughts in that powerful chieftain's mind. He had completely forgotten all his intentions of questioning her or
being harsh with her. He was reduced to a state of executing every whim and fancy of Nandini with all his resources. All forms
of slavery are evil. But there is nothing that makes a man loose his spirit like being enslaved by a woman!
"You returned after staying away in distant parts for four days! Why did you not come back here immediately upon
your return? Your brother is more important to you than me!" asked Nandini. She then glanced at him sulkily.
"It is not like that my dear! My heart wished to fly to you like a swift arrow from the expert bow. But I had to tarry in
my brother's mansion to make sure that the foolish Prince -- Madurandaka, had returned safely through the secret underground
24
passage."
"My Lord I am interested in all your undertakings. I wish success for all your efforts. But, I feel uncomfortable at the
thought of you taking a young man in a palanquin meant for me. People think that you are taking me along with you wherever
you go. ..."
"You think I am happy about this? Never! But our effort is important. I am tolerating the situation for the sake of the
important undertaking. Moreover, it was you who gave me that idea! You told me to take Madurandaka in your closed
palanquin. Didn't you give me the idea of conveying him in and out of the fort by way of the secret passage?"
"I merely did my duty. Is not the wife bound to help in the efforts of her husband? Somehow, I merely expressed some
idea that occurred to me. Because of that, you ..."
"Was that all? Think of this fellow Madurandaka -- wearing ashen marks on his forehead, shoulders draped with holy
beads, forever immersed in worship and devotion, going form one temple and holy place to another, proving himself to be his
mother's son! We had tried several times, to interest him in affairs of the state, in ruling; but, we could not shake his resolve.
But, you met him twice and he changed completely! Now, no one can contain his eagerness to rule. His dreamland now
stretches from Lanka to the Himalayas! From the earth to the skies! He is more restless than any of us, waiting to ascend the
Chozla throne! Nandini! I don't know what magic you used on him! But you yourself are such a sorceress, why do you seek the
counsel of some other sorcerer? People talk unnecessarily about that ..."
"My King! It is your responsibility to cut off their tongues and punish anyone who talks loosely about that! I have told
you earlier, about why I consult a sorcerer. Shall I remind you if you have forgotten? It is to milk the poison of that female
snake in Pazlayarai. You are all men, you would enter the battlefield and confront other men. You think it disgraceful to fight
with women. But one woman can create more havoc than a hundred men. A snake knows its own kind! You know nothing
about the cunning of that Kundavai. I know her. You might have forgotten about how she humiliated both you and me. I
cannot! She asked me in the midst of a hundred women, `That old fool in his death bed has gone woman-mad and lost his
senses, where did your sense go? Why did you go and marry that old man?'-- can I forget that? `You look ravishing, shining
like a heavenly enchantress! Didn't any prince garland you and take you as his queen to place you on his throne? After all, did
you have to stoop to marry that old buffalo?' She asked that! How can I forget those words? I can never forget it as long as I
live." Nandini spoke these passionate words and began sobbing. Tears overflowing her eyes cascaded down her cheeks to wet
her heaving breasts.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 39 --The World Swirled
Lord Pazluvoor had heard that people talked with derision about his marrying a young girl in his old age. That
Kundavai was one such person had reached his ears. But no one had told him explicitly till now, about what exactly Kundavai
had said. Now, when he heard the words from Nandini's lips, his heart burned like the furnace in a smithy. "Puff, puff," came
fiery sighs from his nostrils. Nandini's tears added further fuel to the fire in his heart.
"My dearest! Is that what that wretched fiend said? Did she call me an aged buffalo? Wait -- let her, let her ... See
what I shall do to her! I will trample her and throw her out just like the water-buffalo which tramples a lotus vine! And then,
watch ... she ... I will, I will ..." Lord Pazluvoor could not talk because of his rage.
Nandini tried to calm him down. She picked up his iron-hard palm and twined her flower-soft fingers with his. "My
dear Lord! I knew that you could not tolerate any insult offered to me. But the powerful lion which is capable of breaking the
pate of a rogue elephant and drinking its blood, cannot pounce on a mere cat. Kundavai is a female cat and a powerful witch.
She controls and orders everyone with her witchcraft and sorcery. She makes this Chozla Empire dance. Her sorcery can be
overcome only by sorcery. If you don't like it, tell me. I shall leave this palace this very day." Her voice was still sob-laden.
Lord Pazluvoor's angry rage subsided and passion took its place. "No, no! Never. Call a thousand sorcerers if you
wish and talk to them, but don't go! You are all my life! Why `all'? You are my life! And if life departs what can this body do?
... Even now, your keeping me away, is killing me alive! You know so many magic spells -- can you not teach me one such
spell?"
25
"My dearest Lord! When you have a sword and spear in your hands what need for magic spells? Leave the spells and
sorcery to a hapless female like me. Why do you need witchcraft or sorcery?"
"Darling, when you open your coral lips and call me `Dearest', my very being is filled with happiness. Your golden
face makes my head swim. Yes, I do have a sword and spear in my hands. But, I can use them only against my enemies in the
battlefield. What can I do with such weapons in this flower laden bower? I have no arrows against Cupids's darts! You have
them! You ask me why I need magic spells! This fire of passion that burns constantly, consuming my very life and body -- I
need spells to quench it. Do you have any spells for that? Teach me, if you know them? If not, let me have the fortune of
touching your flower like body and enjoy that happiness. Save my life, darling! It is more than two and a half years since we
have been man and wife as per the laws of the land and the sacred texts. But still, we do not lead a normal wedded life. You put
me away with excuses of vows and penances. You are torturing your husband who took your hand in marriage. At least, once
and for all, give me some poison with your own hands...."
Nandini covered her ears, "Dear dear me! Don't utter such cruel words! If you say such things again I will do as you
say! I will drink poison and die. Then you can live without worry!"
"No, no! I won't say anything like that again. Forgive me! How can I be at peace if you drink poison and die? Now I
am half mad, then I will become totally deranged."
"Dear Lord, why should you become mad? On the very day we wed, we became one soul in two bodies. Your soul
and mine became one; heart and heart mingled. Every heartbeat of yours echo's in my heart. Every thought that rises in your
mind is reflected here in my vision. When you frown, my eyes fill with tears. Thus, when we have become one heart and soul,
why bother about mere bodies? This body is made of dust for one day it will burn to ashes, turn to dust again..."
"Stop! Stop! My ears burn with your cruel words." Lord Pazluvoor continued, without letting her talk: "Are you
saying it is made of dust? A lie! An untruth! It can never be so! There are several women in this world -- the creator might have
made them of dust or dirt, stone or lime; coal or ashes. But, do you know how Brahma, the creator, fashioned your divine
form? He collected delicate mandara flowers from the gardens of heaven and came to this Tamil land and collected the
blushing lotus from our creeks. He threw the flowers in a golden bowl full of nectar from paradise. He then took that mixture
and added moon-beams to it. He called for the bards of ancient times and asked them to play the veena, blending their melody
into his mixture. With that unique mixture he created your divine form..."
"My Lord! You talk as if you stood besides the creator and watched all this! Am I the only person available to you for
such descriptions? You have several other queens in your palace -- nobly born women. You have lived with them for several
years. It is merely two and a half years since you met me..."
Before Nandini could finish, he intervened. Perhaps he wished to express his desire at least with words. He perhaps
wished to quench the fire of passion at least with a shower of words!
"Nandini, you talk about those other women in my palace. I married them only to establish the ancient line of the
Pazluvoor clan. Some of them remained barren and the others merely gave birth to girls. I accepted it as God's decree and
remained tranquil. I had forgotten a desire for women for a long time. Affairs of the state occupied all my attention and time.
There was no place in my heart for anything but the welfare of this Chozla Empire. Then we fought the final battle with the
Pandiyas. Even though the campaign was led by several younger generals, I could not remain behind. Anyway, if I had not
entered that battlefield, our forces would not have won such a decisive victory. My skill and strength helped. After destroying
the Pandiya forces completely and occupying Madurai, I went to the Kongu Kingdom. I was returning from there along the
banks of the Cauvery.
"On the way, beside a forest path, I saw you. At first I could not believe that I saw you; I blinked my eyes to make
sure. You were still there. `She must be a forest nymph; she will disappear if I go closer,' thought I. But, I came closer and you
did not go away. I decided that like in myths, you must be some heavenly nymph who came down to this earth because of some
curse or misdeed. `She may not know our language,' I thought as I asked, `Girl, who are you?' You answered in sweet Tamil: `I
am an orphan; I seek sanctuary with you; please protect me.' I carried you back in my palanquin, with all sorts of wild
thoughts. I felt that I had seen you somewhere, sometime long ago. But the more I thought about it, the less I could remember.
Suddenly the veil of deception that covered my mind was lifted. Truth dawned. I realized that I had never seen you before in
this birth, but I had seen you in earlier births several times! I recalled all those previous births easily.
26
"You were born in this world as Ahalya; I was Indra. I gave up my kingship over paradise and braving the curse of the
learned ascetics, I came down in search of you. Much later, I was born as the Emperor Santhanu. I went along the banks of the
Ganga on a hunt. I saw you -- you were divine Ganga in the guise of a earthly woman. I loved you then. Much later, several
eons later, I was born as Kovalan in Kaviri-pattinam. You were Kannagi. For some time I had forgotten you, because of the
cloak of maya that covered my eyes. The cloak fell and I realized your worth. I took you to Madurai and left you in the
farmhouse to go into the city, to sell your anklet. I lost my life because of treachery. In revenge for that, in this birth, I
destroyed the Pandiya clan and came back to find you once again. You were that same Kannagi whom I had seen several
hundreds of years ago ...."
(Note: The myth of Ahalya and Indra is from the epic Ramayana. The story of Santhanu and Ganga is from the epic
Mahabarata. Kannagi and Kovalan are from the romance Silappadikaram.)
As the Elder Lord Pazluvoor was recounting the tales of his past births, Nandini had turned her face away looking into
the darkness. Because of this, Lord Pazluvoor did not notice the changing expressions on her face. It is doubtful if he would
have continued talking in the same fashion if he had seen them.
When he stopped to take a breath, Nandini turned back to him, "My Lord! Your examples are not very appropriate.
Everything is slightly inauspicious. If you want, call yourself Manmatha (Lord of Beauty and Love) and me Rathi (Goddess of
Beauty and Passion)!" she smiled once again.
Lord Pazluvoor's face brightened with pride and happiness. Which man will not feel happy, however ugly he may be,
if his sweetheart calls him Manmatha, the God of Love and Beauty? But still, he spoke as if he did not wish to praise himself.
"My dearest, it is quite appropriate to call you Rathi. But can we compare me to Manmatha? You call me so because
of your love for me."
"My Lord, in my eyes you are Manmatha! Bravery is beauty for menfolk. The world knows that there is no warrior
who is your match in this land. Men acquire allure because of their kindness to waifs like me. You gave sanctuary to me, an
orphan girl, without questions about my past. You protected me and showered all your love on me. I will not make you wait for
long. The time for ending my penance and fulfilling my vow is drawing close," spoke Nandini.
"Dearest, tell me clearly what that vow is and what your penance is about. I will complete it for you as quickly as
possible."
"None of the descendants of this Sundara Chozla who thinks he is the handsomest man in this world, should ascend
the Chozla throne. The pride of that prejudiced female, Kundavai, must be wounded ...."
"Nandini, think them done. Aditya and Arulmozli will not get the throne. All the chieftains of this nation have agreed
to crown Madurandaka as the next Crown Prince."
"Have all agreed? Truly?" asked Nandini sharply.
"Except two or three, all have agreed. That fellow of Kodumbalur, Malayaman and Parthiban will never join us. I
have no worry about them."
"Nevertheless, we must be careful till the deed is done."
"No doubt about that. I am taking care of everything. Mistakes may occur because of the foolishness of others. Even
today such a mistake happened. A young messenger from Kanchi who arrived today, duped Kalanthaka and met the Emperor
to deliver a letter and message."
"Ah! You keep praising your brother all the time. I always maintain that he is not capable enough."
"Yes, he was mislead in this affair. He was saying something about that youth showing our signet ring."
"Those who have been duped will try and find some excuse like that! Haven't they made any efforts to arrest that
youth?"
27
"Why no effort? the search for him has begun -- inside and outside the fort. They will find him. This will not hinder
our plans in any way. After the Emperor, the throne is surely for Madurandaka."
"My Lord, the time has come for me to reveal the aim of my penance..."
"Dearest, I have been asking you to tell me that ..."
"My vows will not be fulfilled by placing that foolish youth, Madurandaka -- he who shows his teeth to smile at every
woman -- that idiot, on the throne."
"What will fulfil your vow? Tell me your desire. I will accomplish it."
"My King! A famous astrologer read my horoscope when I was very young. He said that I would be troubled by
various incidents till my eighteenth year."
"And then what did he say?"
"He said that my luck would change after my eighteenth year. He said that I would achieve an incomparable position
of prestige."
"Ah! He said the truth. Who is that astrologer? I will shower him with gold coins."
"My Lord!"
"Dearest!"
"He said one more thing. Shall I say it?"
"Surely, you must tell me!"
"That astrologer said, that the man who takes my hand and weds me will sit upon the throne of a large empire and
kings of all the fifty-six nations will come and bow to him as he sits on the throne of an emperor. That's what the astrologer
said. Can you fulfill that?"
When Lord Pazluvoor heard these words -- Nandini, the couch on which she was sitting, everything, swam before his
eyes. The flower laden gazebo swirled; its pillars twirled. The dark garden in front began revolving. Treetops bathed in the
moonlight began turning. The mansions on both sides revolved. The world swirled!
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 40 -- Dark Mansion
Let us now consider Vandiya Devan who had disappeared. Remember he went towards the dark mansion to hide from
the Sorcerer? At first, he tried to listen to the conversation between Nandini and the Sorcerer. But he could hear nothing
clearly. In fact he was not particularly eager to listen to their talk. He realized that while talking with Nandini he had lost
control of his faculties and he was now in a state of semi-intoxication.
It would be best if I can escape without meeting her once again. It is more dangerous to be caught in the wiles of this
Young-Queen than it is to be arrested by the Lords of Pazluvoor. In the midst of those men, my intellect functions sharply; my
arms feel strong and my hand is always upon the hilt of my sword. I can manage with my mind as well as my hands. But all my
senses are dulled in front of this enchantress and my hands loose the power of handling weapons. Who knows what may
happen if I stand before her once again? To top it all, she seems to have some liaison with some sorcerer! Lord knows what
spells they may contrive in each other's company. Dear me! What a hatred she has against Kundavai Pirati! Her hatred and
rage burn like sparks in her eyes. Perhaps she will change her mind and give me up to Lord Pazluvoor! The fickle nature of
women is well known and it would be better if I can escape without meeting her once again. But how? Let me go into this
garden and find a way out. Maybe I have to jump over the wall. What if the men who are searching for me are waiting outside
28
the wall? ... Is there no other way? Dear me! What happened to the good fortune that was helping me all these days? Let me
think. Let me use my brain and think! Let me also use my eyes and look all around here. Why is this mansion lost in darkness?
What is there inside? If I enter this dark building where will it lead me? Maybe I should explore in here. If not now, it will
come in useful some day. Who knows? But how is one to enter this mysterious building? What a huge door! My Lord! Such a
strong lock on it! Well ... What is this? ... a wicket gate embedded on the huge door! Ah! My good fortune has not abandoned
me, this tiny door seems to open easily if I push it in.
Vandiya Devan entered the mansion by pushing open the tiny doorway hidden cunningly in the larger door. As soon
as he was inside, the first thought that occurred to him was that Nandini should not find out that he had gone that way. So, he
gently pulled the door shut. It latched close with a click and drowned him in total darkness. The darkness seemed to grow
deeper because even the glimmer of light from the garden was now gone. In that one second as he stepped inside, his eyes had
glimpsed several huge pillars. Not even those pillars were now visible. Pitch black, unimaginable darkness!
Idiotic! I stepped in from comparative light, that is why my eyes can see nothing. After a while, I shall be able to
decipher shapes as my eyes get adjusted to this darkness. Why should I fear this darkness? Let me walk ahead instead of
standing here like a pole. I can grope with my hands and walk forward. Where could the pillar I just saw disappear?
He groped with his hands like a blind man and took a few steps. His hands found a pillar. It was a huge, granite pillar.
His hands felt along its circumference and he went around it. Few more steps ... another pillar. Still, he could see nothing.
What is this? Have I suddenly become blind? How foolish! How can I suddenly become blind. Why is this ... my
hands are not finding any more pillars ... Ah! Am I stepping into some pit? Oh! here is a step ... Luckily he steadied himself
and started down the steps feeling with his foot before placing it down. How long was he to grope in the darkness like that! An
unexplainable terror took hold of him. He could not go any further.
Let me go back. Let me go back to the gazebo through the wicket gate. It is better to face Nandini and somehow
overcome here wiles than face this utter darkness. I can promise whatever she wants for now and manage later.
He turned around and tried to climb back, up the steps. Once he was back on the level floor he was not sure of the
directions. His groping hands found no pillar or post. In fact they found nothing for a while. After he had taken several steps
his hands found a wall, but he was totally lost. O Lord! Am I to wander in this mansion all through the night till I become
deranged? What a predicament! .... Hey, what's that noise? Are they bats beating their wings? No, this is not that kind of a
noise ... sounds like footsteps. Somebody is walking. Are they human beings or ...?
His throat felt parched and his tongue stuck to his mouth. Somebody was brushing against his face! He used all his
strength and with a bunched fist he struck out. "Awwwh." He felt as if his hand was pulled apart. In the darkness he had struck
a granite pillar! He would have laughed loudly if he had not been in such great pain. But, the pain made him forget his fear. He
could now hear the footsteps growing louder, coming closer. Sometimes they seemed to be moving away from him. Sometimes
they came closer. He waited and listened carefully. His eyes stared in to the direction from which the footsteps came.
Ah! Some light! It's slowly becoming brighter and also coming closer. Smoke along with light! Is someone coming
with a lighted torch? Maybe Nandini is coming in search of me. Then it is good. But, if it is somebody else? Anyway let me
hide and watch.
In the light of that distant torch he could make out that he was in a huge vestibule like chamber full of huge pillars. All
the pillars were carved with frightening gargoyles and demons. Towards one end, he could see a flight of steps rising out of the
floor and curve around as it rose to reach an upper storey. The light was coming from the stairwell.
It cannot be Nandini coming from down below. Is this the entrance to those infamous dungeons of Tanjore? Is
someone coming from there? Is that why this mansion is clothed in darkness? Vandiya Devan had heard quite a number of
tales about the tortures and horrors of the dungeons of Tanjore. The very thought of them made his hair stand on end with
fright. He was drenched in sweat and he could taste fear in his mouth. He hid himself behind one of the pillars. Every limb and
bone in that courageous warrior's body shivered with fear.
Three figures came up the steps. All three were human: men. One of them held the lighted torch; another had a spear
in his hand and the man in the middle held nothing. In the light, Vandiya Devan could clearly see their faces. His fear
disappeared without trace and fright was replaced by surprise. The first man was none other than his dear friend Kandamaran.
The face of the man in the middle gave rise to a strange impression for one second: it seemed like the Young-Queen of
29
Pazluvoor dressed up like a man. But the impression was dispelled within a second for he recognized him to be Prince
Madurandaka whom he had seen in the half light of the courtyard in Kadamboor. Vandiya Devan had never seen the third man
who was holding up the torch. He seemed to be some kind of a guard or palace servant.
Vandiya Devan's brain functioned rather efficiently and he was soon able to deduce why they were coming up the
steps from the underground passage.
The Young-Queen of Pazluvoor had come back in the palanquin yesterday itself. The Elder Lord Pazluvoor had come
back openly by the main gates some hours ago. But no one must know that this Prince had left the fort or that he had come
back! Therefore they were making use of this secret passage. Ah! This is the mystery of this dark mansion! Kandamaran must
have met Lord Pazluvoor somewhere along the road after he parted from me at Kollidam. Lord Pazluvoor has employed him
on this secret mission sending him as an escort for Prince Madurandaka. Oh yes! I now remember Kandamaran saying, `I too
have some affairs in Tanjore. I might come there.' What will he say if I suddenly appear before him now?
Vandiya Devan abandoned the idea as soon as it occurred. Kandamaran might even kill him in view of his secret
activities. Or I might have to kill my dear friend if a skirmish results in view of these circumstances. Why cause unnecessary
problems?
By now the three men had ascended the steps and gone up. The light was growing dimmer and dimmer every minute.
Vandiya Devan wondered if he should follow them and abandoned that idea also.
I am sure they are going to the palace of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor. What's the point in going back there? I have
escaped from the lion's den and why should I go back to its lair? There is no point in going back to the gazebo and finding
Nandini. Lord Pazluvoor must surely be back there now. In fact it may be dangerous to go back ... What can I do? Why
shouldn't I go down these steps and see where they lead?
With these thoughts our heroic youth began walking down the steps.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 41 -- The Vault
Vandiya Devan walked along the dark underground passageway, carefully placing each step firmly one after the other.
The steps went down for a while and then a level floor; steps again after some distance. Another length of level ground. He
stretched out his hands to find some grip but could find no wall. The passage must have been fairly wide. After some time the
steps began going up once again. They began to curve around and wind upwards. How long must I grope in this utter darkness?
What can I do? What is this ... am I seeing some light, very faint light...
He could not find the source of the light which reduced the darkness in that passage. Perhaps it was a hidden window
or a light hidden in some alcove. He stepped over some ledge.
Oh no! Not at all! What is this wondrous thing? Is this real? Is what I see true? Or, is it some hallucination of a
deranged mind?
It was a fairly large, well proportioned chamber. A vault, carved out of the subterranean rocks. It's roof was rough and
low, almost scraping his head as he stood erect. But the dim glow was not moonlight shining from outside! There was neither a
window nor an opening in the ceiling. The light came from the stuff lying in mounds scattered all ar ound on the floor of that
vault! The stuff glowed and shone like moonlight! There, in the corner was a heap of jeweled crowns, embedded with
diamonds and rubies. And here was a mound of pearl necklaces -- how many strands! Intricate necklaces and bracelets studded
with gemstones... ruby, emerald, coral, lapis, sapphire, topaz and diamond! What was that in that huge cauldron? It overflowed
with pearls, perfectly formed, shining pearls; each like the fresh buds of jasmine flowers. Big, heavy pearls! There, in those
pots placed in a row ... filled to the brim with shining coins of yellow gold. Here, these little mounds all over the floor are bars
of pure gold!
Oh! This must be the treasure vault of Tanjore! It is not surprising that the vault is next to the mansion of the Chozla
Finance Officer, the Elder Lord Pazluvoor! Dear Lord! How did I manage to enter this underground vault! Is it my good
30
fortune? The Gods of good luck and wealth must have brought me here! What a fantastic secret, what a fortunate secret I have
discovered without any effort! How am I to make use of this good luck! Will I have the heart to leave this chamber?
He felt that he would know no hunger or thirst if he remained amidst all those riches. Neither will he need sleep
amidst all that wealth collected by the Chozla armies in their campaigns over hundreds of years. The fortune of Kubera, the
God of Wealth, was laid before him. Why should he go away, leaving all that?
Vandiya Devan wandered round and round that vault. He touched and felt everything. He thrust his hands deep into
the pots of pearls and let them trickle through his fingers. His hands picked up the shining gold coins and showered them on his
head. He threw the ropes of pearls and jewelled necklaces around his shoulders and took them off .... not enough, the other
ones seem richer... He saw something else shining in the far corner and walked towards it eagerly. At first he did not
understand what it was, but then he realized! He bent low and touched it with his fingers. Oh God! It is a skeleton! It is the
skeleton of a man who was a living being with flesh and blood, skin and hair, eyes and lips, with life and strength once upon a
time.
The skeleton seemed to move and make a rattling noise just like the trickle of gold coins. Was it sending some
message to Vandiya Devan? Every hair on his body stood upright with fear! He felt that he had gone mad! Stupid! Idiotic! The
skeleton is not rising. A rat was running out from the rib cage! See it ran over my feet ... look, the skeleton is still there in the
corner. But, it is definitely giving me a message! "Go away! Don't hesitate! Run away from here!" It is warning me. I must get
away from this vault and escape ... if I hesitate, my fate will be the same as it's own ... once a living, flesh and blood creature...
Vandiya Devan decided to leave that vault, but, there seemed to be no way out! He could not find the opening through
which he had stepped into that chamber. Along one edge of that vault was a deep precipice. He could see no floor in the
darkness when he looked down the side. The steps by which he came up must be somewhere. He tried to find them, wandering
here and there felling every inch of the wall on the opposite side. While he searched in this fashion, he saw in one corner, a pile
of old gold coins. A spider had spun a cobweb to cover the pile. The cobweb made him think.
The learned ancients often compared the greed for land, women and gold to a spider's cobweb. A spider spins it's web
and waits patiently. Insects fly in from somewhere and fall into that web, unable to escape .... the spider slowly, slowly draws
the insect close and eats it up. All the three greeds, the lust for land, women or wealth was like that. Man wanders into the
wrong path of desire and falls into the web of avarice.
Today, I have experienced the nature of all three types of lust. Nandini, a woman, the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor,
tried to entice me into her wiles. She tried to seduce me with promises of attaining the lands of my Vaanar forefathers. And
finally here in this dark dungeon, the demon of lust for wealth tried to swallow me! I have escaped from the first two
temptations and must overcome this .... Why do I need all this? Why do I need a kingdom? Lands? Why wealth? Why want
the company of women? The earth with the sky as its roof is my palace. All the world is my home and all men my kinfolk! My
life is to wander from place to place; to look at the new floods in rivers and creeks; to enjoy the new buds blossoming on trees
and shrubs; to climb the sky high mountains and cross thundering rapids; to gaze upon wonderful birds and beasts. I eat when
hunger gnaws; rest when sleep beckons. That is a carefree life! Why should I give up this pleasant existence and seek a life of
treachery, passion and danger? I must get out of this vault and escape from this Fort of Tanjore. Never again should I become
embroiled in such complications.
Suddenly, piercing the silence in that vault, he heard a door open and shut somewhere ... far away. Footsteps once
again! There was no end to the mysteries and surprises of that night. No dearth of wonders as well as dangers! This time, the
footsteps seemed to come from very far away. They seemed to approach him from two different directions. Vandiya Devan
listened carefully. In a short while he was spectator to an astonishing scene!
The scene he witnessed was like the happenings on a stage, as might appear to an observer seated very far away from
the stage in a theater. The scene seemed to take place on a ledge high above him, far away in the distance. One side of the vault
seemed like a picture window capturing a theatrical skit. A torch entered the stage from one side. Another torch entered from
the opposite side! The torches moved closer and closer.... the light of the first torch revealed two tall figures. The other torch
also shed light on two forms. One was tall, dark and dignified with a recognizable headgear; the other was a rather short, dainty
figure. Both parties were nearing each other. Vandiya Devan stared at this spectacle and recognized the persons. The two tall
figures coming from the left were Kandamaran and the palace servant. The two coming from the right were the Elder Lord
Pazluvoor and his Young-Queen Nandini.
What will happen when they meet? Will there be an incident? Or, will each group let the other pass and then go on
31
their way? Vandiya Devan held his breath and watched.
They met. From the way Kandamaran stood -- awkwardly, hesitantly, moving from one foot to another, he surmised
that the meeting was unexpected. But, nothing untoward happened. Lord Pazluvoor seemed to ask something of Kandamaran
and he replied something. Vandiya Devan could not hear either the question or the reply. Then, Lord Pazluvoor made a sign
with his hand and pointed towards some steps descending to the underground passage. Kandamaran bowed low with reverence
and walked towards that direction. Lord Pazluvoor made a sign with his hands to the palace guard behind him. That man with
the torch, bowed his head in understanding, with his palm covering his lips and followed Kandamaran going down the steps.
Lord Pazluvoor and his Young-Queen walked on, towards the left.
All these took place like a puppet show lasting a few minutes. Vandiya Devan realized that they were near a fork in
the underground passage. How fortunate that I did not tarry anywhere in that passage, but wandered into this hidden vault. I
must have accidentally taken another secret path and come down into this chamber. Oh God! If I had encountered any of those
two groups, what would have been my fate! Luckily I escaped ... and now, to get out of here, what next? I am sure that
Kandamaran is going out once again by the same passage through which he had led Prince Madurandaka. If I follow
Kandamaran, I will surely find the exit from this maze. And then I can escape outside the fort. Perhaps I may be able to even
seek the help of Kandamaran by concocting some story. If he does not cooperate I can always handle him and his servant with
my sword! Let me follow him.
For a few minutes, the torch light seemed to approach the treasure vault. Vandiya Devan waited with bated breath.
Then the light appeared to move away. By then, Vandiya Devan had looked around and found the narrow opening through
which he had stepped into the treasure vault. He quickly squeezed his way out of the opening. From there, in the faint light he
could barely see the entry way. He walked silently, quickly following the torch light, neither moving too close nor staying too
far behind. He could never have found his way through that twisting, turning, narrow passage which went up, down in all
directions. Long live Kandamaran! How am I going to repay him for this help he is extending unwittingly?
Vandiya Devan did not realize that he would soon have the opportunity to do that. The passage came to an abrupt end
at a heavy, roof-high wall. None could guess that there was an exit or doorway in that wall. But there must be a way. The secret
underground passage must surely have an exit!
The servant changed his lighted torch from his right hand to his left. He placed the palm of his right hand on some
spot on the wall and did something. Perhaps he was turning some mechanism. A thin line appeared on the wall to slowly widen
till it became a narrow, alcove-like opening. Soon it became wide enough to accommodate a man. The servant pointed with his
torch towards that opening. Kandamaran spoke some words to him and stepped into the opening. One leg was across the
threshold of the opening and the other was still in the passageway. Only his back was visible as his body blocked the narrow
exit.
Ah! What was this? What was the servant doing? He removed his palm from the mechanism on the wall and quickly
drew a curved dagger from his waistband. Oh Lord! He has plunged the dagger into Kandamaran's back! Dastardly, scoundrel!
Knave who strikes from the back!
Vandiya Devan ran up from hiding in the darkness behind. In one swift leap he pounced upon the servant who turned
on hearing the noise. As the torch fell to the ground, the servant could clearly see the angry, rage filled face of Vandiya Devan.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 42 -- "Is This Friendship?"
Vandiya Devan's first thought was to somehow or other save the life of his friend Kandamaran. But, Vandiya Devan
realized that in that attempt his own life would meet a similar fate. Therefore, he decided to tackle the horrible servant before
looking at his friend. When he pounced upon the startled man, he hooked his right arm around the fellow's neck and at the
same time kicked away the fallen torch with his left foot. The light began growing dim and smokey. Using all his strength,
Vandiya Devan squeezed his arm around the servant's neck and threw him down. The man's head dashed against the granite
floor. Vandiya Devan picked up the fallen torch and looked at the fellow's face. He seemed to be senseless, dead. But, as a
precaution he tied his hands together behind his back, using his upper scarf. All this did not take more than a moment.
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He then ran towards his friend and saw Kandamaran lying with a knife stuck on his back, half outside the exit and half
inside the passage. Kandamaran's spear had fallen on the floor inside. After picking up the spear, Vandiya Devan stepped
outside the passage. Once outside, he pulled his friend's body out. The doorway closed shut automatically when the obstruction
was removed. The wall hid its secret and stood tall and impregnable, shrouded in darkness. There was a swift breeze and the
smell of water. Vandiya Devan realized that he must have come outside the fortress. Dense tall trees and the high, curving
walls of the fortress hid the moon. Only a dim light was visible.
Vandiya Devan picked up his friend and draped his body over one shoulder. He had Kandamaran's spear in one hand
as he took one step. He felt the ground under his foot break loose and cascade noisily down a slope. Quickly, he steadied
himself with great effort and looked around. In the shadow of the wall and trees, he could see flowing water down below. The
flow seemed rapid, with swirls and whirlpools.
Oh God! From the frying pan into the fire! Death awaits every step I take! My guardian angel saved me. That
wretched scoundrel of a servant! What's the point in blaming him? -- he was merely following his master's orders. He must
have intended to kill my friend as he stepped across the doorway and then throw his body down into the flood water below. If
my foot had slipped some more, both of us would have fallen into the ravine. I might have been able to swim and escape, but
Kandamaran's fate would be sealed.
Vandiya Devan knew that the River Vadavaru encircled the fortress of Tanjore on three sides. This must be it. The
river itself may not be deep, but here around the fort the current may be fast. Who knows?
He pushed the spear into the water to feel its depth. Even after all its length was immersed in water, he could not feel
the floor. What horrible, merciless killers these men are! But there is no time to think about them now. I must escape and also
take my friend to someone who can treat his wound.
Vandiya Devan walked along the bank carefully, without slipping into the flood. Kandamaran on his shoulder and a
spear in his hand. His friend moaned lightly once or twice. This revived his spirits and gave him hope. After he had walked in
this fashion for a while he realized that the fortress walls were moving away from the river bank. Thick groves of trees
appeared. The way became thorny and seemed overgrown. It was rather difficult to walk. He then saw that a large tree had
been toppled by the rising flood waters washing away the soil around its roots. The big tree-trunk was now in the water almost
spanning it like a bridge to the opposite shore. He stepped on it and walked across, wobbling unsteadily.
The tree was being tossed about by the swift water below. Its upper branches were being tormented by the torrent; the
wind was swishing noisily all around. When he could find no more footholds on the tree, he once again felt the depth of the
water with his spear. Luckily, Lord Muruga saved him! It was not too deep. He stepped into the water steadying himself with
the spear and walked across to the shore. His courageous heart tackled the swirling flood and blowing wind. His strength
helped him walk with the burden of his wounded friend. By now his whole body was shivering with the cold and fear. Twice,
Kandamaran almost slipped off his shoulder. But somehow he climbed up the bank. With all his clothes dripping wet and the
heavy, tall body of Kandamaran on his shoulder, he staggered like a ghost and soon sought cover under the grove of trees on
the bank.
He stopped under a mango tree and eased his friend slowly on to the ground. He needed to rest and catch his breath.
Also, he wanted to make sure that his friend was still alive. What would be the use of carrying a dead body in this dangerous
night? He might as well leave it near the river!
No! No! He seems to be alive, for I can feel his breath. I can feel his quick pulse and heaving chest. What should I do?
Should I pull out the knife from his back? If I pull it out the blood would gush out and he may die! His wound must be cleaned
and bound with medicines. I cannot do that ... who can help?
He suddenly remembered Sendan Amudan and recalled that his house was amidst the gardens on the banks of the
Vadavaru. It must be close by somewhere near here. I must somehow carry him to Amudan's house and treat him there. Let me
try. When he tried to lift him up again, Vandiya Devan was surprised and happy to see that Kandamaran's eyes were open.
"Kandamara, do you recognize me?"
"Yes! I can see very well! You are Vallavarayan. How can I fail to recognize such an exceptional friend as you? Can I
forget you? Are you not my dear friend who would strike me from behind my back?"
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His words fell like whiplashes on Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan.
"Dear me! You think it was me, who struck you with the knife on your back ...!" Thinking of something he stopped
suddenly.
"You didn't strike me. Your knife gently caressed my back! You thankless sinner! It was for your sake that I came
hurrying through the secret passage at midnight. I wished to meet you before those men of Pazluvoor arrested you. I wanted to
prevent them from harming you. I had sworn a promise that I would find you and recruit you into the Guard Corps of the
Commander of Tanjore! You have betrayed me, your good friend with good intentions towards you! Is this friendship? How
many times have we sworn loyalty to each other? Promised to help each other? You have forgotten all that! I wanted to tell you
and warn you about some important changes in Chozla politics that were about to take place soon. Oh dear! Who can I trust in
this world anymore?" He groaned and fainted once again.
"Aren't there men to trust? Why not trust the Lords of Pazluvoor?" mumbled Vandiya Devan. But his eyes brimmed
with tears. He decided that it was best that he had not revealed the real culprit to his friend. He lifted his friend's body once
again on his shoulders and began walking.
Very soon he could smell the fragrance of the night blooming flowers. He soon found Sendan Amudan's gardens. Oh!
What a sight they were! What a difference between their appearance yesterday and tonight! The garden now resembled the
garden Ashokavana destroyed by Hanuman or like the gardens of Madhuvana torn apart by the horde of monkeys.
Oh! Pazluvoor soldiers have come here in search of me. They have committed these atrocities and destroyed this
garden! Oh dear, how much effort Sendan and his mother must have put in to establish this garden? And all that is destroyed?
Immediately he remembered the danger surrounding him and forgot the sympathy he felt for the ruined garden. What
if those soldiers and spies are still waiting for me here? I may have to confront them ... but, there, my horse is still tied to the
tree in front of the house! Perhaps they have left it there to lure me here to arrest me ... Anyway what can I do now? I can leave
this friend of mine with the folks in the house and escape on my horse. Maybe I can somehow reach Pazlayarai.
He walked as silently as possible and reached the front door of the house. He tapped on the shoulder of Sendan
Amudan who was sleeping on the porch. Amudan sat up startled; Vandiya Devan covered his mouth with his palm and spoke
in a soft voice, "Thambi! You must help me. I am caught in a big scrape. This man is my dear friend, Kandamaran, a son of
Kadamboor Sambuvaraya. I found him on the way, someone had stabbed him on the back. I carried him here."
"Oh what scoundrels! They have stabbed him on his back! What courageous warriors they must have been!" said
Amudan.
He then said, "I can look after him to the best of my ability. Since this evening, several groups of soldiers have come
in search of you. They have totally destroyed my garden! But that's all right if you are safe. Luckily they did not confiscate
your horse. You must ride away immediately."
"That is my intention. But we must somehow save this fellow's life."
"Don't worry about that. My mother is skilled in such matters. She can doctor him." Sendan then rose to open the front
door and step into the house. He woke up his mother. They carried Kandamaran to the inner room in the house. Amudan's
mother had brought a lamp. He talked to her making signs with his hands. She seemed to have understood him clearly. She
examined Kandamaran and the knife which was still stuck on his back. She went into the kitchen and came back with a bunch
of herbs and some clean rags. She then signed to her son.
Amudan held down Kandamaran tightly and asked Vandiya Devan to pull out the knife in one quick stroke. When he
pulled it out, blood gushed out of the wound and Kandamaran roared in pain. The woman deftly stuffed the herbs and cloth into
the gushing wound. She bound it tight with another cloth. Vandiya Devan covered Kandamaran's mouth and tried to keep him
quiet. They heard the sound of footsteps outside.
"Go! Go quickly!" said Sendan Amudan.
Vandiya Devan picked up the blood stained knife and the spear, and hesitated. "Thambi, do you trust me?" he asked.
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"I trust in God and I like you. Why do you ask?"
"I need your help. I am not familiar with the roads in these parts. I need to reach Pazlayarai as quickly as possible. I
am carrying messages to Kundavai Pirati. Can you come with me as a guide?"
Sendan Amudan immediately stood up and made some signs to his mother. She did not seem too surprised and signed
back saying that he could go. She also promised to look after the wounded man. Sendan Amudan and Vandiya Devan walked
out of the back door and circled back to the horse. They climbed on its back. Vandiya Devan held the reins and guided the
horse to walk silently out of the garden. Once they were out, it galloped quickly down the road.
By now five or six soldiers had come up the front porch of the house. They were banging loudly on the door.
Amudan's mother opened the door and stood in the doorway.
"There was some noise here. What was it about?" shouted one man.
Amudan's mother tried to say something. It came out as garbled un-understandable sounds.
"What is the use of talking to this dumb woman? Let us go in and look."
"But she is blocking the entrance!"
"Where is that flower seller?"
"Push her aside and go in."
Amudan's mother was now loudly saying something in her garbled sounds. She had pushed away t he man who was
trying to go past her and was trying to bolt the door. All the men converged upon her and pushed upon the door; she quickly let
go and two of the men toppled into the doorway. The others stepped across pushing her aside. She began moaning and
screaming even louder.
"The man is here!" shouted one of the soldiers.
"Is he found?" asked the other.
"He might try to run, hold him and bind him," ordered another.
The dumb woman was crying and moaning and trying to kick at the men holding her back.
"The whole place seems a bloody mess!" said the leader.
"Bae bae" said the woman.
"Hey! This fellow seems to be somebody else!"
"Bae bae."
"Did this man come here yesterday?"
"Bae bbae bae."
"Where is your son?"
"Bae bbbbae."
"Dumb female! Shut up! Hey you ... examine him! Does anyone recognize this fellow?"
"Not him."
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"It is the same fellow."
"No, no. This is not the man."
"Bae bbae ba."
"Whatever you say. This fellow is another stranger. Lift him up. Let's take him."
"Bae bbae baaa." She tried to prevent them.
"Wretched fiend! Keep quiet."
Four men lifted up Kandamaran. Amudan's mother was now wailing even more loudly.
"Hey what's that? A horse galloping?"
"Two of you can carry him. You others run out and see."
"Throw this fellow down. He won't go anywhere. Let's all run and see."
They dropped Kandamaran down roughly and ran out. The woman's incessant wails followed them.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 43 -- Pazlayarai
We welcome our readers to visit Pazlayarai City even before Vandiya Devan arrives there after overcoming several
mishaps and dangers.
Let us stop on the southern banks of River Arisil and gaze upon that city. Ah! Is this an ordinary city? It is the gem
encrusted head-jewel of Mother Tamil! It is like her jewelled forehead ornament, netri-chutti, studded with rubies, pearls,
emeralds and sapphires. Rivers, streams, creeks and fields are filled to the brim with fresh water. Coconut palms and punnai
trees spread cool shadows. The greenery is emphasized by the strings of golden yellow flowers on konnai trees. Piercing all the
greenery are tall towers and turrets of temples and palaces crowned with golden cupolas rising sky high.
Ah! How many townships are enclosed in this great metropolis called Pazlayarai! Nandipuram, Thiruchatti
Mutram, Patteesuram, Mazlavarpadi, Arichandra-puram -- all these towns and their respective temples were part of this
Chozla capital. The four Shiva temples known as West Tali, East Tali, North Tali and South Tali were situated on the four
borders of the city.
The Padai Veedu areas (army encampments) known as Aariya, Puduppu, Manappu and Pambai providing housing for
the various battalions of Chozla armies and their families were spread out in one direction. The Chozla Maligai or Chozla
Palace was found in all its splendor rising majestically in their midst. The Chozla Palace was not merely one single building.
Before the times of Vijayala Chozla it was a single mansion. But since his times, every prince and princess of the Chozla
Dynasty had built new mansions and palaces thereby adding to and extending the complex that was now know as the Chozla
Maligai. A thousand eyes would not suffice to gaze upon its magnificence and beauty. The imagination of ten thousand poets
will not be adequate to describe its splendor.
With ochre-red streets packed by jewelled chariots is Pazlayarai,
a city of long lasting fame in this world.
The poet Chekkizlar wrote the above lines about this city two hundred years later. Therefore, our readers can guess
how great it must have been during the times of Sundara Chozla. Still, when we are entering this ancient city for the first time,
we are not fortunate to see it in all it's splendor. We did not have the opportunity to come here when Sundara Chozla was
seated on the throne in the Chozla Maligai and ruling from this city.
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After the Emperor had taken to his sickbed and moved to Tanjore, the regional chieftains, provincial kings, councilors
and ambassadors from foreign lands stopped coming to Pazlayarai. The retinue and supporters who surrounded such dignitaries
also stopped coming here, for they had all moved to Tanjore. The soldiers who used to live in the army cantonments were now
engaged in the front in Lanka and were part of the peace keeping forces in Madurai and Kanchi. So, these neighborhoods were
now mostly empty except for the womenfolk, the elderly and children.
The families of the Velaikara Battalion of Velirs who had lived in the township of Mazlavarpadi had moved to
Tanjore; consequently that neighborhood seemed lifeless with locked houses and unkempt streets. Most of the government
officials and ministers had relocated to Tanjore with their families.
In spite of all this, there was no dearth of people on the streets of Pazlayarai. These days its streets were filled with
architects, stonemasons and temple builders; poets, religious ascetics, singers of Thevaram and priests thronged the streets.
Palace servants mingled with crowds of out-of-towners who had come to worship at the various temples and participate in the
several street festivals.
Today seemed to be the day of some carnival. Men, women and children were dressed in beautiful clothes and jewels
as they wandered about the streets. People gathered in groups here and there at street crossings. In the midst of such groups one
could glimpse players in vivid costumes performing some mime or play.
Let us watch. Yes; these actors seem to be dressed and made up like Krishna and his cowherds. Who is that in the
middle of that group? It seems like Lord Krishna standing there with a mountain lifted up in his hand! Look the King of Deva's,
Lord Indra is coming up and bowing to him! Look over there! Brahma with four faces seems to be talking to little Krishna! Oh!
It's clear now: today is Sri Jayanthi, the birthday of Lord Krishna! The people are celebrating that holiday with all these
festivities and enthusiasm.
Tall slippery poles had been setup in street corners; pots containing treasures were tied to their tops. Young men
participating in the game of uriyadi tried to climb the slippery poles or hit the mud pots with sticks to collect the treasures and
the butter.
The merrymaking seemed to be more colorful in the streets surrounding the Vinnagara (Vishnu Temple) of Nandipuri.
What is this?
We saw, we saw, we saw
We saw things pleasing to our eyes.
Who was singing? The voice seems familiar? Here he is, our old friend Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai Nambi in
person. He is singing! A group gathers around him; some listen with religious devotion while others are heckling. We are
concerned about whose head will suffer from the wooden staff in his hands.
Some disturbance outside the portals of the Vinnagara Temple. Chariots and palanquins parked in the street come
closer. Some noblewomen are coming out of the temple. Yes, these are the noblewomen and royalty living in the Chozla
Maligai of Pazlayarai.
First comes Lady Sembiyan Madevi, revered by one and all as the Elder Pirati. She is a daughter of the Mazluvoor
chieftains, the Queen Consort of King Gandara Aditya the Devout. Even in the garb of an elderly widow, how attractive and
majestic she looks! The daughter of Vaithumba Kings, Queen Kalyani, the widow of King Arinjaya is walking behind her --
even at this age how beautiful and enchanting she appears! Her face shines with radiance. How great she must have looked in
her youth? There is nothing surprising about her son Sundara Chozla being famous for his good looks. The Chera Princess,
who was another wife of Sundara Chozla, was walking by her side. Behind these older women came a group of young maids:
they looked like heavenly nymphs who had decided to pay a visit to beautiful Pazlayarai. They are the noblewomen we had
met earlier on the banks of River Arisil. Princess Kundavai Pirati with Vanathi Devi of Kodumbalur and their other friends.
The families of the Chozla Dynasty after Vijayala Chozla had worshipped Shiva and Durga as their clan deities. Even
though they espoused the Saiva faith they had nothing against Vaishnava teachings or in worshipping Vishnu in all his
incarnations. Because today was the festival of Krishna's birth they had come to worship at the Vishnu temple.
When the Elder Pirati, Sembiyan Madevi was about to step into her palanquin, she heard the song of Azlvar-adiyan.
Perhaps he was singing so loudly so that she would hear him. She made a sign to her retainer, to bring him to her. Azlvar-
37
adiyan came up with humility and reverence and bowed before her.
"Thirumalai, I have not seen you for some time. Have you been on some journey or pilgrimage?" asked the Elder
Pirati.
"Yes, My Lady! I had been on a pilgrimage. I went to Thirupathi, Kanchi, Veera-narayana-puram and several other
places. I saw several astonishing things wherever I went!"
"Come to my palace tomorrow and tell me about all that you saw and heard."
"No, Madam! I am leaving again, tonight on another journey."
"Then come and see me this evening itself."
"As you wish, My Lady! I shall be there."
All the palanquins and chariots now moved down the street towards the Chozla Maligai. Kundavai pointed a finger at
Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-adiyan and said something to her friends. They burst into merry laughter. Azlvar-adiyan turned
around to find the cause for their laughter. Kundavai's eyes talked with his eyes in some secret language. He bowed his head
slightly, indicating that he had understood.
Lady Sembiyan Madevi's palace was situated in the middle of the Chozla Maligai complex. She was seated on a
jewel-encrusted, golden throne in the audience chamber. She seemed to have followed the tradition of the great ladies, Karaikal
Ammai and Tilakavathi, in being a devout follower of the Saiva faith. She was dressed in simple white silk, with sacred ashes
adorning her forehead and holy rudraksha beads around her neck. She seemed to be confirming the possibility that one could
live like an ascetic in the midst of all riches and splendor. Though she wore neither crown nor any other rich adornment, her
very posture and radiant face proclaimed her royalty. There was nothing surprising about the fact that each and every member
of the Chozla clan, without exception, revered her and almost worshipped her as a Goddess and did nothing against her wishes.
But, there was a flaw to such devotion and veneration. Her son, Prince Madurandaka Deva had acted against her
wishes, disobeyed her orders and married a daughter of the Pazluvoor family. Not only that, she had been hearing vague
rumors that he was coveting the Chozla throne. All these had given rise to a wrinkle of worry in her life.
The courtyards of her palace were always teeming with visitors of various kinds. Groups of musicians who were
experts in singing the Thevaram, religious savants from distant lands, poets and artists, sculptors and temple architects, priests
bringing sacraments from holy temples -- all such folk gathered in the courtyards of the Elder Pirati's palace.
That day there were delegations of temple trustees and architects from the towns of Thirumudu-kunram,
Kurangadu-thurai and Mazlapadi: they had come with petitions for grants to renovate in granite, the temples in their
respective towns. They carried bundles of drawings and small models to show the proposed changes.
She agreed to provide funds for the temples in the first two towns and then asked, "Mazlapadi? Which Mazlapadi?"
"It is that same Mazlapadi which has a temple that is the abode of the Lord who called out to Saint Sundara Murti and
made him compose a song for Him!" said the leader of the delegation from Mazlapadi.
"O! What is that story?"
The man retold the following tale in reply to her question:--
"Saint Sundara Murti was on a pilgrimage visiting all the Shiva temples in the Chozla Kingdom. Once he had to ford a
river and as he stepped into the water he heard a voice call out, `Sundara, Sundara! Have you forgotten me?' Sundara Murti
was startled, for he realized it to be the voice of the Lord calling to him. He turned to his disciples following him and asked, `Is
there any Shiva temple nearabout here?' They replied, `Yes sir! There is a tiny temple of Lord Shiva in that grove of konnai
trees which belongs to the village of Mazlapadi.'
"Sundara Murti turned back immediately to enter the grove and found a beautiful little brick temple of Lord Shiva
amidst all those konnai trees burdened with golden yellow flowers. He worshipped at the shrine and composed a verse in praise
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of the Lord, recalling His grace and benevolence in taking care of His devotees.
O Lord of golden hued body with a tiger skin draped around the waist;
Upon matted locks, burnished red, you wear the shining crescent!
My beloved King! My Jewel who dwells in Mazlapadi,
Of whom but you will I think, at all times henceforth?
"My Lady, that temple remains tiny, hidden in the flower grove even to this day. We are asking permission to enlarge
and renovate that temple."
"So be it! I shall arrange for funds," said the Elder Pirati.
Thirumalai Nambi and another man had now entered the chamber and come forward.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 44 -- "All Her Doing!"
An expert architect in the tradition of the master builders of Mamallai came forward. He had brought a model for a
large granite temple complex he had designed in a new fashion using all his imagination. He was now explaining and showing
all its innovative features to Lady Sembiyan Madevi.
Her Majesty examined all its details and was greatly impressed. She turned towards the gentleman standing next to
Azlvar-adiyan and said, "Mr. Bhattar, do you see this unique design for a temple tower? My heart brims with an eagerness to
renovate all the Shiva Temples in our country in this remarkable fashion!"
"Thaye! There is nothing to stop your wish being fulfilled. All Shiva Temples mentioned in the Thevaram psalms can
be renovated in this new fashion. Then people will immediately recognize the place as being sanctified by being mentioned in
the psalms." Mr. Esanya Bhattar of Pazlayarai spoke with enthusiasm.
"Yes, yes! We must collect all those poems written by the saints Appar, Gnana Sambanda and Sundara Murti and
make an anthology of Saiva devotional poems. All those pilgrim centers hallowed by their presence and sanctified by their
divine poems must be renovated in granite, possibly with this new design of towering entry-gates for the temples. These two
wishes are my dreams. I am doubtful if they will ever be fulfilled. If only my dear lord had not journeyed west and reached the
abode of Gods in such an untimely fashion, if only he had lived longer ... all my dreams would have been fulfilled."
"Thaye, even now, nothing is lacking. Has not the Emperor ordered that your every wish must be fulfilled and your
every order executed? His sons, the two Princes, are ready to undertake and execute your every whim and fancy even before
you can think of them. When such is the case ..."
"Even so my heart feels no happiness. I hear all kinds of rumors. Some persons are apparently complaining that I am
emptying the state treasury by my temple building and renovation activities. They ask `Why so many temples for Shiva?' I am
not concerned by the questions raised by someone or other. Even Prince Karikala in Kanchi ..."
While the Elder Pirati was talking, Azlvar-adiyan Nambi had come forward. He now interrupted her by saying,
"Thaye! I am also one of the persons asking such questions."
She turned to look at him with surprise. The others in the audience chamber stared at him with an expression of
disquiet that asked, "What is this impropriety?"
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi continued with a rage filled voice, "My Lady, my heart burns. Can there be such injustice? How
can you who are said to be an incarnation of justice tolerate such atrocities?" He spoke with anger.
Mr. Esanya Bhattar, standing next to him spoke in a soft voice. "My brother often babbles such nonsense; he suddenly
becomes possessed of an unexplainable fanaticism. Please forgive him and pardon us."
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In those days persons of the Saiva faith and those of the Vaishnava faith were not separated by strict caste
demarcations. Persons who espoused both sects often hailed from the same family. The same priest offered services both at the
Shiva Temple and the Vishnu Vinnagara. Esanya Bhattar was one such broad-minded person. Thirumalai was his step brother.
They loved each other dearly except on this matter of their faith. That's why he begged pardon on his brother's behalf.
The Elder Pirati smiled and asked, "What is the injustice? Thirumalai please talk a little calmly."
"My Lady! Why does Shiva, a ghost ridden ascetic, a beggar who wanders with a broken skull for his begging bowl,
need so many temples? Why so many sculpted mansions? Such lofty granite towers? Isn't there at least one tiny temple for the
great Lord, Sri Maha Vishnu who is guardian of all living worlds? At least shouldn't one of His old abodes be renovated?"
wailed Azlvar-adiyan.
"My Lady! The Lord who dances for the welfare of all the worlds (Shiva-Nataraja) needs a stage, an audience
chamber, a golden temple and walled mansions. Isn't a small place sufficient for Thirumal who sleeps constantly? All he needs
is a darkened bed-chamber without any light. Why does he need mansions or granite towers?" asked Mr. Esanya Bhattar.
"Anna, the Lord who sleeps constantly is the Perumal who measured all the worlds. He is the Great God who pushed
the tyrant King Mahabali to the netherworld." Azlvar-adiyan retorted in a self-righteous voice.
Mr. Esanya Bhattar replied with disgust, "Such a great Lord who measured the whole universe had to dig up all the
earth to go in search of our great Shiva's lotus feet. Even in the netherworld he could not find them!"
"All I ask is this: why does your Shiva, if he is so great, need so many places to stay? If he is so big, all his temples
will come crumbling down as he enters their portals!" said Azlvar-adiyan with impatience.
Lady Sembiyan Madevi asked with laughter brimming in her eyes, "Can you both put an end to your bickering for
some time? Thirumalai! What are you saying? Did anyone here say that there should be no temples built for Lord Vishnu?
Which Vinnagara do you wish to be renovated? Why don't you put in a petition in the normal manner?"
"My Lady! Your father-in-law was the world famous Emperor Paranthaka. I had been to Veera-narayana-puram, the
town established in his name. Lord Veera-narayana-perumal of the Vinnagara in that town is awake day and night to guard the
ocean like Veera Narayana Lake and shower his grace upon all the country-folk. But in His temple even the brick walls are
crumbling. The people believe that if the temple falls down, even the lake will break its shores and drown hundreds of
surrounding villages. I request that the Vinnagara of Veera-narayana-perumal be renovated in granite."
"Fine! It shall be done! Tell me all the details of that place after these people are gone."
Understanding her wish, everyone including Mr. Esanya Bhattar left the chamber.
The Elder Pirati lowered her voice and asked, "Thirumalai, where have you been? What have you seen and heard?
Tell me all the details. You have some important information. That's why you intervened in that hasty fashion. Is it not so?"
"Yes, My Lady. I have brought much important news. Even so I would have waited patiently for your pleasure. But
you were about to say something about the Prince in Kanchi; that's why I interrupted. Who knows if there was a spy among the
people who were here some time ago? All sorts of discord is rampant in the nation. No one knows who will turn traitor or when
they would betray us."
The Elder Pirati sighed. "Clansmen of the same family, blood brothers have started suspecting each other! Once upon
a time how devoted Aditya Karikala had been towards me! He used to love me and shower me with hundreds-fold more
affection than what he has for his own mother! Even he suspects me now. Thirumalai, it would have been good if I too had left
this blessed earth in the company of my dear lord. He did not take me with him! He left me behind to fulfil so many tasks!
How unfortunate I am!"
"Dear Lady, your husband was a saint who knew the past and the future. In this modern age he ruled from the Chozla
throne like King Janaka of the myth. That you have remained behind is the good fortune of this empire. It has now become
your responsibility to ensure that this Chozla nation which has been growing in strength for the past hundred years is not
destroyed by a quarrel among brothers. Only you can do that."
40
"I don't know. When my own son fails to obey me, how can I persuade others? But that apart, you talked about spies.
Who could have sent spies to my court? Do you think Aditya has spies in my palace? Why does he suddenly distrust me?"
asked that pious lady.
"I heard it with my own ears, My Lady. If not, I would never have believed that the Prince was suspicious of
you."
"What did you hear Thirumalai? What did you hear with your own ears?"
"I sat behind one of the sculptures on the sea shore in Mamallai and heard them talking."
"Them means who?"
"First was Prince Aditya Karikala; second was Malayaman of Thirukovalur and last was Pallava Parthiban. Those
three were talking. I was hidden in the darkened shore temple and listening. Malayaman and Parthiban were quite enraged.
They claimed that your son had conspired with both the Lords of Pazluvoor and imprisoned the Emperor in Tanjore.
Malayaman felt that you must be involved in that conspiracy. The others concurred. Parthiban suggested that they should
invade and take Tanjore by force, free the Emperor and take him to Kanchi. The other two agreed with this also. But the Prince
felt that he must make one more attempt to bring the Emperor to Kanchi without any conflict. Upon that, they decided to write
a letter and send a messenger to the Emperor. I also found out who that messenger was. He is not an ordinary fellow. That
messenger is a very capable, courageous and intelligent man. Besides being a messenger he can also be a spy. I tried talking to
him. If I tried to jump across the stream, he leaped across the river! Without disclosing anything he tried to pry secrets from
me. Even the Astrologer of Kudanthai tried his tricks on him. Nothing worked. After that, I heard that he had somehow entered
Tanjore and delivered the letter to the Emperor."
"Then what happened? What was the Emperor's reply?"
"Apparently he had promised to write a reply the next day. However, by then, the Commander of Tanjore had some
suspicion about the messenger. But, he overcame all his guards and somehow escaped from Tanjore."
"He really must be very capable. Then what did you do? Where did you go from Kanchi?" asked the Elder Pirati with
some anxiety.
"I had intended coming back here directly. But I stopped on the way at Veera-narayana-puram to worship at the
temple. And when I stopped there, with the grace of the Lord, I was able to uncover a great secret."
"What was that? Another secret?"
"Yes My Lady! I found that there was a big banquet at Kadamboor Sambuvaraya's fort that night. The Elder Lord
Pazluvoor has come to that feast. His Young-Queen's palanquin had also come."
"Thirumalai, all this is her doing! All these dangers surrounding this Chozla nation are caused by her. Were you able
to meet her and talk to her?"
"No; I could not do so, My Lady, I could not do so. Upon your orders I raised and nourished that snake as my own
sister for several years. How I wandered all around the country, teaching her all the holy scriptures! When I think of all that,
my heart is filled with rage. After she became the queen of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor, she has refused to even see me."
"What is the use of being saddened by that? That is human nature. We think of one thing and something else happens.
Then, what happened at Kadamboor?"
"I went to Kadamboor because I was sure that Nandini was in the palanquin. I intended to meet her somehow or other
or at least write her a note, warning her... Braving grave danger, I jumped over the outer wall of Kadamboor Fort. It was then
that I came to know that surprising, mysterious great secret."
"Thirumalai! This has become a bad habit with you! You keep arousing one's interest but never tell the news. What is
that mysterious secret ..?"
41
"You must pardon me My Lady. I hesitate to even speak of that secret. The person in that closed palanquin was not
Lord Pazluvoor's Young-Queen. All of us who have been thinking that Lord Pazluvoor takes his Young-Queen wherever he
goes, in her closed palanquin, all of us are totally mistaken."
"Then who was in that palanquin? Is there no end to that old man's craze for women?" asked the Elder Pirati with
impatience and disgust.
"My Lady, there was no woman in that closed palanquin."
"If it was no woman, which man would go around like that? Hiding in a closed palanquin?"
"Forgive me My Lady! The person who came hidden in that closed palanquin was none other than your divine son,
Prince Madurandaka."
For a while Lady Sembiyan Madevi was shocked into silence. Then she muttered to herself, "Oh God! Such a huge
punishment for an offense I committed!"
After that Azlvar-adiyan told her the details of the secret meeting of treachery which took place in Kadamboor. Upon
hearing those details, there was no limit to the distress felt by the aged Queen.
"Oh Lord! My Son! I tried to raise you as a pious follower of Shiva. Is this the result? Should you be the cause of such
dishonor to the Chozla clan? Should you be the cause for such grave calamity for this empire?" she moaned in this fashion for
quite a while.
Finally, wiping her tears, she spoke, "Thirumalai, come back and talk to me again before you go on your journey. By
then I will consult Kundavai and think of some solution to overcome this danger!"
Azlvar-adiyan spoke hesitantly, "My Lady, it may be better if you do not disclose this information even to Kundavai."
"Why? Do you suspect even her?"
"Why not Thaye? She is the dear sister of Aditya Karikala."
"So what? Thirumalai, I can believe you even if you maintain that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. But I
cannot accept it if you blame Kundavai. Do you know this? On the day she was born, the palace midwife picked her up and
brought her to my arms. From that day I have raised her with my own hands. She is more precious to me than any daughter that
could have been born to me. She considers me more revered than her own father or even mother and loves me dearly."
"My Lady, let me ask you one thing. Did Kundavai discuss with you about having been to meet the Astrologer of
Kudanthai?"
"No; so what?"
"Did she mention that she had seen a youth of the Vaanar clan in the Astrologer's house and that she met him once
again on the banks of the Arisil?"
"No. What is all this? What is the meaning of your questions?"
"The Princess seems to be guarding it as a secret that she does not share with you. That's what it is. He was the youth
about whom I mentioned earlier; Aditya Karikala's messenger, the spy ..."
"Thirumalai, stop this nonsense. Whatever it may be. If Kundavai did not share a secret with me, there must be some
good reason. I would rather give up my very life than suspect her!" spoke the Queen Consort of Gandara Aditya the Devout.
"Pardon me! Don't even think of it. I sincerely hope that your trust is justified. The Younger Pirati had signalled to me
saying that she wished to meet me. I will personally tell her that you wish to speak with her." Azlvar -adiyan was ready to take
his leave.
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*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 45 -- The Spy Who Committed A Crime
About two thousand years ago, a famous Chozla monarch named Karikala Valava built banks all along the River
Cauvery. The banks remained in good repair for a long time and kept the flooding river within bounds. Later (about the seventh
century AD) the power of Chozla monarchs diminished and their enemies, the Pallavas, Pandiyas, Vaanars and Kalabras
became powerful. In those times the river which had no guardian crossed its bounds by breaking its banks. This happened
several times. Sometimes when the floods were unusually heavy, the very course of the river changed. A new course would
replace the old river and later the old river could become the new course.
If the river changed direction completely for long periods, the old river bed would become fertile farmland tilled by
the farmers. Sometimes the old river became a shallow lake or pool of stagnating water. Some lakes would grow to be rather
large with splashing waves during the rainy months.
There was one such creek or lake to the south of the Chozla Palace in Pazlayarai. Chozla monarchs had deepened the
old river bed and connected it to the new river by a canal. Because of this, the lake was always filled with fresh, flowing water.
The large body of water was in some ways a protection to the palace complex, particularly to the mansions of the Chozla
women. None could enter the palace complex from that direction easily. Only the officials closely connected to the palace
complex were permitted to enter the lake by boat or otherwise. Beautiful gardens and orchards were planted along the banks of
this lake. Womenfolk of the Chozla Maligai wandered without care in these gardens. They would gather in groups to spend
their days in pleasure and merrymaking. They would dance and sing like the peacocks and nightingales in the gardens.
Sometimes they would swim without care or hold boat races on the lake and compete with each other.
When one king died and the next came to power, the new monarch of the Chozla clan usually built himself a new
mansion and went to live in it. The old king's widows and his other children continued to live in the old palace. The Chozla
Maligai complex was full of such palaces. In that complex, Kundavai's palace excelled in beauty and dignity next only to the
grand palace of Lady Sembiyan Madevi. Was it not the palace in which Sundara Chozla had lived while in that city? After the
Emperor had moved to Tanjore, Kundavai became the sole mistress of that exquisite palace.
The garden behind this palace was exceptionally beautiful. Kundavai had filled it with rare flowering shrubs and trees.
Her garden had tall, spreading banyan trees with their roots reaching for the earth. Lofty teak-wood trees were covered with
fragrant creepers. Ashoka-cypress and mango mingled with tiny flowering bushes. In the midst of pleasing groves were
beautifully carved marble gazebos, and creeper laden arbors. Kundavai and her friends spent most of their evenings in the
garden. They would gather together teasing each other; telling stories, recounting tidbits of news. They would sing and dance
and show off their learning to one another. Sometimes they would break away in small groups sharing secrets with each other.
For some time recently, Kundavai and Vanathi were wont to go away by themselves.
That evening, Kundavai and Vanathi were enjoying themselves in the long swings hanging from the branches of the
banyan tree. They could hear the pleasing sounds of birdsong mingled with the chatter and laughter of women. But Kundavai
and Vanathi were not laughing. They were not even smiling; in fact they did not particularly seem to like the mirth of their
friends. They could hear one of the girls singing from the gazebo. She was singing about Lord Krishna because it was the day
of Krishna's birth.
The maid hears the melody of the divine flute in the moonlight. The maid who is in love with Krishna, is tortured by
the sweet music. She talks to her pet parrot about her yearning. The parrot consoles her.
Maid: Who is that wastrel who plays the flute in this moonlight that tortures me? What pleasure does he have in tormenting
me, a maid parted from her lord?
Parrot: The lord plays a sweet melody, pleasing all earth and sky. How can it torment you dear maid? Never have I heard
such a thing!
Maid: Darling bird, I adore you; I will dress you in garlands of fragrant flowers. Have you come to console me in this hour
43
when my soul is in agony?
Parrot: O Beauty, I have come to tell you of dear Kannan who suffers for love of you, He says, from the day he parted from
you, even fresh butter tastes bitter!
Kundavai who had been listening to the song now spoke up. "Fantastic Kannan -- who has come to this Tamil country
to be revered by all! If he spends all his time in eating butter and playing the flute to enchant the milkmaids, what about all
other things?" she said.
She then looked at Vanathi who had not replied and asked, "What my dear? Have you also become enchanted with
Krishna's beguiling flute?"
"Akka, what did you say?" asked Vanathi.
"What did I say! Where has your mind gone?"
"Nowhere. It's right here, with you."
"You thief! Why do you lie? Your heart and mind are not here at all! Shall I say where they have gone?"
"Tell me if you know." Vanathi smiled.
"I know very well. It has gone to the battlefield in Lanka. Your mind is conniving more tricks to enchant that
blameless youth, my brother who is there!"
"One half of what you say is true, Akka. My heart and mind often wander to Lanka. But I don't think of ways to
enchant him. All I can think of is how he must be suffering in the battlefield. Perhaps he is wounded, perhaps he has to face
other hardships. Where does he sleep? What does he eat? Who dresses his wounds? When he is suffering in such ways, here I
am -- comfortably enjoying the luxuries of this palace, eating six-course meals and sleeping on silk beds! The very thought
distresses me. If only I had wings, I would fly away this very minute ..."
"Fly away! What would you do there in Lanka? More hinderance to him?"
"Never. Like Subadra for Arjuna and Bhama for Krishna, I shall be his chariot driver. I will bear all the arrows aimed
at him on my own chest and ..."
"You think he will keep quiet, watching you receive those arrows?"
"If he does not care for that, I will wait for him in the camp. When he returns from the front, I shall clean and anoint
his wounds. I shall spread a soft bed for him to lie upon. I shall cook a tasty meal and wait for him. I shall play a melody on the
veena to soothe him."
"Impossible! Such things can never happen. Vanathi, the Chozla men don't take their women to the battlefield."
"Why Akka?"
"They are not concerned about wounds. They are more afraid of women."
"Why? What can women do to them?"
"They cannot do anything to them. But if they take beautiful women like you to the battlefield, the enemy kings might
be mesmerized into surrender. Then our men cannot display their bravery. Chozla men don't wish to become famous for having
conquered with women."
"Is that possible? Can enemy men be so foolish? To be charmed by beautiful women?"
"Why not? Dear Vanathi! Do you remember, we saw a youth in the Astrologer's house and later on the river bank?"
44
"Yes; what about him?"
"Do you remember how he stood spellbound when he saw all of us?"
"I remember that too. But, you are wrong in saying `All of us'. He stood spellbound looking only at you. Akka, in fact
he did not even see any of us standing nearby!"
"Vanathi! What lies you tell! Are you teasing me?" asked Kundavai.
"No, No! I'll ask you something. Will you answer truthfully?"
"Ask and see."
"Why did you suddenly remember that youth now?"
"You have become a real chatterbox. What is wrong in remembering him?"
"Who said it is wrong? No one said it is wrong. It's natural. Even I have been concerned. I wonder what happened to
him afterwards?"
"Why should you be concerned about what happens to him?"
"Why not? If one had met someone and if one remembered that someone often, it's natural that one should wish to
find out more about that someone!"
"Excellent nature! My dear, we should not let our mind wander like that. We should control our senses.... Oh! listen.
What is that sound Vanathi? It sounds like the drummers proclaiming something. Come let us listen."
Yes; in the distance they could hear the rumbling sounds of the proclaimer's drums. The drumbeats were followed by
a loud voice announcing something. They hurried towards the mansion, ears sharpened to catch the proclamation.
An announcer was declaring in a loud voice:
"An enemy spy entered Tanjore Fort by showing a false signet ring. He entered the fort and escaped after spying
inside the palace. He escaped after fatally wounding two men. He is young and well built. Capable and cunning like a
magician. His name is Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan. Anyone who protects him or gives him asylum will be subject
to the death sentence. A thousand gold coins is the reward for anyone who finds him. This is by order of the
Commander of Tanjore, Lord Kalanthaka the Younger Lord Pazluvoor."
After the announcement, the drums rolled like thunder, once again. For some reason, Kundavai shivered.
A maid came up to them and said, "Devi, a gentleman of the Vaishnava faith has come to see you. He says his name is
Thirumalai Appan Azlvar-adiyan Nambi. He says it is urgent."
"I'll see him," said Kundavai as she walked quickly into the palace.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 46 -- The People Murmur
Azlvar-adiyan left the presence of the Elder Queen of the Chozla clan and walked towards the mansion of the
Younger Pirati. On his way, the sights he saw on the streets of Pazlayarai gave him much joy.
These folks are celebrating the festival of Krishna's birth with such enthusiasm! There is no doubt now that the
Vaishnava faith will become well established to thrive in this Chozla nation. Oh yes! There are several reasons for the Saiva
faith to prosper; Chozla monarchs have been building newer and bigger Shiva Temples for the past hundred years. The
45
Thevaram psalms sung by those three saintly poets are made popular by being sung in those temples. Chariot festivals and
other carnivals are being held with much pomp in those temples. In spite of all this there is no lack of respect or faith in
Thirumal. The ninth incarnation of Vishnu has captivated the hearts of the common folk, for the deeds performed by the Lord
in North Madura, Brindavan and Gokula have enchanted these men and women. Good Lord! Look at the number of music
groups and bards! How many troupes of street players! What costumes and masquerades! They seem to be many more of them
than what I saw a few hours ago!
The festivities and crowds in the streets around the temple had indeed increased. More and more groups of players
from the villages surrounding Pazlayarai kept coming in. In one such group of performers there were several actors who were
dressed to play the parts of Vasudeva, Devaki, Kamsa, Balarama and Krishna. The dialogue, music and dance of these players
seemed to be much more lively than any other company. Therefore, a large crowd had gathered around them to watch their
antics. Thirumalai Nambi also lingered to watch them. They were acting the scene of Krishna challenging the Demon Kamsa to
a duel.
Krishna called out to Kamsa, "Come fight with me!" Kamsa replied to the challenge in a loud thundering voice, "Hey
you Krishna! All your tricks will not hold water against me! Here I come to kill you right now! I am going to kill your brother
Balarama and your father Vasudeva. And I am also going to kill that fellow standing over there -- the fellow who has covered
his body with namam marks of sandal paste!" When the actor uttered these words, all the crowd turned to look at Azlvar-
adiyan and laugh. Some moved closer and began to heckle and clap their hands. Thirumalai became very angry. He considered
using the wooden staff and teaching them all a lesson! He particularly wanted to pound the head of the actor playing the part of
Kamsa. But, there would be no use in hitting Kamsa's head, because the actor had hid his own head behind a huge wooden
mask carved grotesquely with big mustaches and sharp teeth. Azlvar-adiyan decided that it would not be profitable to use his
staff in the midst of such a large crowd and tried to slip away. But the voice of Kamsa called out, "Hey you fat fellow! Are you
running away from me in fright?" The crowd burst into cheering laughter. Azlvar-adiyan felt that he had heard that voice -- the
voice of the actor playing Kamsa -- somewhere before. Trying to remember who it was or where he had heard that voice, he
walked on slowly.
There seemed to be a sudden change in the joyous mood of the people. As he walked down the street he sensed that
the festive mood was becoming more and more subdued. Why the sudden change? Why are the crowds dispersing so quickly?
Drumbeats and the sounds of dancing seem to have stopped! .... The people seem to be collecting in small groups at street
corners, whispering to each other ... What are they murmuring about? Why do they walk away so quickly? Why are the house
doors being banged shut? Azlvar-adiyan was intrigued. There was cause for the change -- the drummers's proclamation about
the spy -- the same announcement which had made Kundavai Pirati shiver, had frightened the people. The drummed
proclamation had affected the festive crowd greatly and spoilt their mood. Those who walked alone were peered at
suspiciously. Unknown faces were subject to hesitant scrutiny. Some even looked at Azlvar-adiyan with doubt as they walked
on quickly.
Azlvar-adiyan soon realized the cause for the disquiet and murmuring among the people. The people talked about the
unjust rule of the Lords of Pazluvoor. It was but natural that the citizens of Pazlayarai and the country folk from surrounding
villages disliked the Lords of Pazluvoor. Those Lords had taken away their beloved Emperor to Tanjore. And since that day,
the greatness of Pazlayarai had started to dwindle.
If only the Emperor had been here in this city, on this festival of Krishna Jayanthi, how much more colorful it would
have been! All the groups of street players would have finally met in the square in front of the palace after performing in
various neighborhoods. The Emperor would have honored and awarded gifts to the best among the actors, dancers, singers and
players. It would seem as if the whole nation had converged into Pazlayarai. Trade and business in the market place would
have been hundredfold! And in the night how fantastic would be the display of fireworks as the carnival procession of the Lord
emerged from the Vinnagara! How fantastic would be the dancing and singing and the competitions in martial arts! All this
was no more because of those fellows of Pazluvoor!
The people of Pazlayarai were disgruntled for another reason also. Their darling Prince, beloved Arulmozli Varma has
crossed the sea to battle in the island of Lanka. Ten thousand men from the four army encampments of Pazlayarai had followed
him to the war. They were fighting in the wild forests and mountains of Lanka to establish the honor and bravery of the Tamils.
Did not the Lord of Kodumbalur lead that campaign earlier and depart to the heavens meant for the gallant by receiving the
deathly spear upon his chest in a battle? And did not all the men who followed him fight bravely till the very end, till death
claimed them too? Prince Arulmozli was in Lanka to avenge the souls of those dead soldiers and to establish the vict orious
tiger-flag of the Chozlas in that island kingdom. Apparently these insufferable Lords of Pazluvoor are refusing to send supplies
of food and arms to those brave men fighting for a just cause! What injustice is this? How can this be tolerated? Have they not
46
filled the granary in Tanjore to overflow with grain? What is all that for? What is the point of collecting all that wealth for
hundreds of years in the treasury at Tanjore? Why is that wealth not used for our brave men now? What are these Pazluvoor
fellows going to do with all that wealth and grain? Are they going to carry it with them to the realms of Lord Yama of Death
when they die?...
Azlvar-adiyan had known about such disquiet among the people for some time. He felt that it was natural that the
people of Pazlayarai were more disgruntled than others. The womenfolk and families of the ten thousand men who had gone to
Lanka continued to live in Pazlayarai and it was natural that they should be concerned about the lack of payment and supplies
for their men. In such a situation, when the drummers proclaimed under the orders of the Lords of Pazluvoor about a spy
amidst them, they did not like it. The proclamation became a focal point for them to express their anger against the men of
Pazluvoor.
Spy! They proclaim about a spy! From which country will a spy come into our midst? Doesn't the tiger-flag fly from
Cape Comorin to the North Pennar? Which foreign king is so powerful to send a spy into the Chozla heartland? If these fellows
from Pazluvoor dislike someone they will accuse him to be a spy and put an end to his story! Or they may throw him into the
dungeons of Tanjore! But ... why should we bother? They have the power to act with justice or injustice. But, if they accuse a
fellow to be a spy, they need not hold a fair trial by calling a panchayat (court of community elders).
Azlvar-adiyan heard all these murmurings and understood the unrest. He wondered what it would all lead to as he
neared the mansion of Kundavai.
The Younger Pirati always had a fondness to chat with Azlvar-adiyan about the affairs of the world. He wandered
throughout the country and brought back news from various places. The Princess was always eager for such news. Moreover,
she liked to listen to him as he sang the devotional songs composed by Azlvar saints. She welcomed him eagerly whenever
Thirumalai Nambi sought her presence and would enquire pleasantly about his welfare. But today, Azlvar -adiyan noticed a
change in the countenance and words of the Princess. Her face indicated that her mind was occupied somewhere else with
something else; an unnatural agitation in her words. A certain uncertainty in her manner.
"Thirumalai! What is new? Why have you come?" asked Kundavai.
"There is nothing particularly new My Lady! I thought that you wished to talk to me as usual about the happenings in
the country and came here. Forgive me if I came at a wrong time. I shall take my leave."
"No! No! Wait for a while ... I, it was I who summoned you ..."
"My Lady! I almost forgot ... I was with the Elder Pirati just now. She wishes to convey some important news to you
and wants you to come and see her."
"Fine; I too have been meaning to see her. Where had you been on this journey? Tell me all!"
"I had travelled from Cape Comorin in the south to Venkadam in the north."
"What do the people speak about in all the places you visited?"
"They speak of the greatness of the Chozla monarchs with pride. They feel that in a short time the empire will spread
to reach the banks of the Ganga and the foothills of the Himalayas in the north."
"Then ..."
"They also praise the bravery of the Lords of Pazluvoor and their men. They think that the Chozla Empire has attained
such glory mainly due to the courage and ability of the Lords of Pazluvoor ...."
"Enough. What else do they say?"
"They speak fondly about both your brothers. And particularly, I cannot describe adequately, the fondness that people
have for your younger brother Prince Arulmozli."
"There is nothing surprising or new in that. What else do they say?"
47
"They wonder why the great Chozla Monarch's divine daughter is not yet married. In fact some men even asked me..."
"What was your reply?"
"I said that a Prince qualified to marry our beloved Younger Pirati has not yet appeared on this earth."
"Wonderful! Such a fellow must be born after now! By the time he is born and attains manhood I will become an
elderly old woman. Forget my affairs Thirumalai, what other talk did you hear? Is there nothing else?"
"Why not? Everybody is quite surprised about the Young Prince Madurandaka suddenly entering into the course of
matrimony after he had been declaring that he would always follow the path of Saiva asceticism."
"How is your darling sister who used to declare that she would become the best among the devout -- like Saint Andal,
... how is she?"
"What does she lack, My Lady? She rules like an empress in the mansions of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor."
"Only in the mansions of Lord Pazluvoor? I hear that she is the all powerful force even behind the Chozla Empire ...!"
"Some even say that, My Lady! But why talk of her on this festive day? I remembered something when you
mentioned Saint Andal. I had been to the town of Sri Villiputhoor and learned some of the songs composed by Vishnu-
chittar. Listen to this song about the birth of Lord Krishna,
Gokulam full of beautiful houses sparkles on this day of Kannan's birth;
Shining oil lamps and white lime powders decorate the dark streets.
They run and jump with joy; they search and ask where is our Lord?
Aayarpadi is filled with joyous singers and dancers to gleeful drumbeats.
Today even our Pazlayarai is full of festivity like Aayarpadi of Gokulam."
"It is quite festive, I agree. But some time ago I heard a different kind of drum. What was that about Thirumalai?"
asked Kundavai.
Azlvar-adiyan had been waiting for some such question. "Apparently it is about some spy! A spy who escaped! They
have announced a reward for anyone who captures him. What would I know about such things My Lady?"
"Do you know nothing? Have you no suspicions about who it might be?" asked Kundavai.
"I have a doubt in my mind, but it is dangerous to express such doubts. When I walked down the streets of this city,
people looked at even me with suspicion. Somebody might even arrest me and throw me into the dungeon."
"That somebody must be exceptional to be able to capture you. Tell me if you think you can express your doubts
freely to me. I hope that you do not think that I will accuse you!"
"Oh Lord! No! Nothing like that! I met a brave young man at Veera-narayana-puram. He said that he was going to
Tanjore but did not reveal his purpose. In fact he questioned me about many things..."
Kundavai interrupted with some haste, "Describe him!"
"He seemed nobly born; attractive of face. Seemed brave and enthusiastic."
"What did he ask you?"
"He asked me about the Emperor's health. He asked about who was likely to ascend the throne next. He even asked
about the Prince who is in Lanka. Later I heard that he had questioned the Astrologer of Kudanthai similarly," said Azlvar-
adiyan as he peered at her.
"Oh! Had he been to the Astrologer's house?"
48
"I remember now, apparently he created a big commotion and entered the house even while you were at the
Astrologer's house! Fortunately he had not recognized you."
"My guess is confirmed!"
"What did you guess, My Lady?"
"I felt that the rough youth might soon get into some trouble."
"Yes, you are correct. I suspect that young man to be the spy. The Lords of Pazluvoor have proclaimed a reward for
his capture."
"Thirumalai! Will you do me one favor?" asked Kundavai.
"Order me, My Lady!"
"If you happen to see that youth anywhere ..."
"Shall I arrest him and claim the reward?"
"No! No! Bring him here to me. I have something important to discuss with him!"
Azlvar-adiyan looked at her for a minute as if he was surprised. He then bowed his head and said, "There will be no
need for that My Lady! I will not have to go in search of him. He will seek you and come to you all by himself." With those
mysterious words Azlvar-adiyan took his leave.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 47 -- Mr. Esanya Bhattar of Pazlayarai
After visiting the Princess, Azlvar-adiyan went towards the house of his elder brother Mr Esanya Bhattar. The house
was very near the Northwest Shiva Temple, about half-a-league from the Chozla Maligai complex. If one walked towards the
Shiva Temple from the palace complex, one could appreciate the extensiveness and greatness of Pazlayarai to some extant.
Azlvar-adiyan recognized that the festive celebrations had become somewhat quiet. In the residential neighborhood,
several groups of women had gathered in street corners talking angrily about something. These were the women who had
adorned the shoulders of their beloved brothers and husbands with garlands of vanji flowers and enthusiastically sent them to
the battlefields of Lanka. Each and every household in that street could claim to have at least one brave warrior who was a
veteran of the several Chozla wars. Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-adiyan now noticed the women from such households mumbling
in a disgruntled fashion. He worried about the consequences of such discontent.
By the time he neared the Shiva Temple, darkness had descended completely. It was one of the temples celebrated in
the song of songs composed by Saint Appar. During the times of the Saint, followers of the Jain faith had raised large brick
edifices around the temple. The brick constructions comprised of several cave-like chambers in which Jain monks sat in
meditation and prayer. These artificial caves were known as muzlai's. Even today, as if to remind us of that past heritage there
exists a small village called Muzlai-oor near modern Tanjore.
When Saint Appar came to that Shiva Temple to worship the Lord, he found the place completely hidden by these
cave complexes of the Jains. Appar lamented the sorry situation and appealed to the chieftain who ruled the province at that
time. The chieftain arranged to demolish a part of the brick ramparts and make a path into the Shiva Temple. Saint Appar sang
about that incident with ecstasy. Later Chozla monarchs renovated and enlarged the temple with granite. But the Jain caves
remained like a fortress wall surrounding the temple. There was only one narrow entrance marked by a tower to ent er the
temple complex. No other way existed.
Mr. Esanya Bhattar's house was situated inside this brick fortress outside one corner of the Shiva Temple. The
49
quickest way to reach his house was by way of the entrance between the Jain caves though there was a more roundabout access
from the other end of the town. Thirumalai entered the temple through the short-cut. He noticed some devotees standing about
in the inner corridors and recognized some of them as the men who had been costumed like Krishna and Balarama in the street-
pantomime. Before he could wonder about their presence in that place, he noticed his elder brother walking hurriedly out of the
inner sanctum. Mr. Bhattar quickly took hold of Azlvar-adiyan's hand and dragged him out of the temple.
"Anna! what is this?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"Listen to this Thirumalai! Henceforth let our relationship exist only outside the temple. You are an atheist; a
disbeliever who ridicules Lord Shiva; Don't enter this holy temple anymore! Do you understand? I have been patient too long. I
could not tolerate your behavior in the presence of the Elder Pirati today. If you want, feel free to come home and fill your
large stomach! But do not enter the premises of this temple! If you come here I cannot be responsible for the consequences!"
With these words Mr. Bhattar pushed Azlvar-adiyan outside and pulled the entrance door shut. He did not spare even
a moment to listen to Thirumalai who was trying to say something ... He firmly drew the bolts and locked the entrance door
and went back into the temple.
"Aha! Is that the matter!" muttered Azlvar-adiyan as he dusted himself off. He stood about for a while and then
walked around the temple two or three times. He went around the Jain caves, anti -clockwise, making sure that his
perambulations would not be misconstrued as those of a worshipper. (The devout offered prayers at temples by walking around
the sanctum in a clockwise fashion.)
He noticed that all the doors to the Jain caves were tightly shut. Finally he entered the portals of his brother's house.
His brother's wife was quite fond of her jovial bother-in-law. He chatted with her even more merrily than usual and satisfied his
hunger with extra helpings of the food from the Shiva Temple before coming to lie down in the front porch. He remembered
something he had seen along the banks of the River Kudam-urutti the previous evening.
Azlvar-adiyan had hidden himself hurriedly in a copse of bamboo canes by the roadside when he had heard the
hoofbeat of quick horses along the road. The first horse was galloping as if it was out of control. The horse appeared dripping
wet; was it sweat or had it crossed a river? This was not clear. A youth was seated on that horse; in fact he was tied with ropes
binding him to his steed. The youth's face was full of fear mingled with a certain determination. Four to five horses followed a
little behind. Men bearing lances and other weapons rode those horses. They were soon nearing the first horse. Soon they
would catch up. A soldier lifted up his lance and took aim; he was about to throw it ... another man stopped him. The
frightened youth now passed close to the bamboo canes. A thorny branch caught in his hair. The cane tugged him back as the
horse tried to drag him forward. The soldiers caught up with him.
The men looked at the youth with surprise, shock and anger. They questioned him harshly and he answered with
hesitation. Nothing was clear. "Where is he?" "Where is he?" -- the question was repeated again and again. The youth answered
tearfully again and again "He fell into the river." "He drowned in the water." The men went down the riverside taking the youth
with them.
At that time Azlvar-adiyan had not understood the meaning or significance of the incident. Something was appearing
to make sense now. Meanwhile he remembered the group of street players. He particularly recalled the voice of the man who
had mimed Kamsa, hiding his face behind the large wooden mask. He felt that he could recognize the voice of the man who
had played the part of Kamsa. Things were beginning to make sense.
Esanya Bhattar had returned home after the midnight worship. He saw Azlvar-adiyan sleeping on the thinnai, (raised
front porch.) "Thirumalai! Thirumalai!" He called angrily.
Thirumalai pretended to be fast asleep. Bhattar closed the front door noisily and went into the house. Thirumalai heard
him loudly exchanging words with his wife. He realized that the quarrel was about himself. In the morning Mr Bhattar came up
to Thirumalai and asked, "When are you about to embark upon your wanderings again?"
"I shall leave again after your anger is gone, Anna!"
"Don't call me Anna anymore! I am no longer your elder brother; neither are you my younger brother; you are an
agnostic; a disbeliever who criticizes the Lord; a rogue; a knave."
50
Bhattar's wife spoke up on Thirumalai's behalf, "Why do you curse him like this? What is it that he said newly -- that
which he has not uttered before now? It is you who have become a fanatic Saiva!"
"You know nothing! Do you know what he said in front of the Elder Pirati? `Why does Shiva who wanders the
burning grounds clad in ashes need a temple?' That is what he asked. It was like molten lead in my ears! I Believe the Elder
Pirati could not sleep a wink last night!"
"He will not say such things anymore. I shall advice him and correct him. He would listen if you talked calmly to
him."
"Enough of this calmness and quietness! Let him go to Rameshwaram immediately. Let him worship at the Shiva
shrine where Lord Rama prayed to overcome His sins; that is his penance. Till he does this I shall not even look upon his face."
Azlvar-adiyan's lips trembled with agitation to reply in kind. But he held his silence, thinking that impatience would
only ruin the situation.
Bhattar's wife intervened once again, "Why not? If we tell him to go to Rameshwaram, he will surely do so. Perhaps
we should also go along with him. Even after all these years we have no children. I wonder what sins we may have committed
in our previous births.... Thirumalai, shall we all go to Rameshwaram?"
(Some devout Hindus believe that a visit to Rameshwaram will reward childless couples with children.)
Mr. Esanya Bhattar looked at them both angrily and left the house. He returned after some hours and addressed his
younger brother calmly.
"Thambi! The elders have said wisely that anger is a wretched sin! I gave room to anger unnecessarily. I hope you are
not too upset?"
"Oh! No!" said Azlvar-adiyan.
"Well then, why don't you stay here itself for some time? I wish to know your opinion on several important matters. I
have to talk to you; hope you can stay for a while here itself?"
"I shall not go anywhere Anna! I have no intention of parting from you so soon!"
Mr. Bhattar went away once again. Azlvar-adiyan's lips trembled, "Ah! Is that so!" Soon he too left the house quickly
without even telling his sister-in-law. He went round and round the brick cave ramparts several times. If he heard any unusual
noise he quickly hid himself and watched. He was not disappointed. Soon one of the doors to the Jain caves opened silently.
Mr. Esanya Bhattar came out first after looking in all directions! Behind him came another man. Who was he? The face was
not clear. His build resembled that of the actor who played Kamsa's part. Who is he? I shall not rest till I find out! All that
anger and fury was because of this; all that pretence and deceit was for this man?
The two men who emerged from the cave went first; Azlvar-adiyan followed silently and secretly. Soon they reached
the banks of the lake. It was that very same lake which lapped on the garden banks of the Chozla Maligai. But they were on a
wharf quite far from the Palace Complex. Azlvar-adiyan hid himself in a grove of thick trees on the bank. He thrust his head
between the branches and watched.
A boat danced softly on the gentle waves; it seemed like a boat from the palace. The boat-man stood on the shore.
Upon seeing Mr Bhattar and the man following him, the boat-man dragged the boat ashore. They climbed into the craft and it
began to gently float downstream. As the boat-man began rowing vigorously, the fellow who had come with Mr. Bhattar turned
to look back.
Azlvar-adiyan could see his face clearly. Nothing surprised him. It was the same fellow he had expected. The same
youth whom he had encountered in Veera-narayana-puram and on the banks of the River Kollidam. There was no doubt that he
was the same fellow who had acted the part of Kamsa. Where are they going in the palace boat? I must find out! That is, I must
confirm my suspicions.
In the main street of the Chozla Maligai complex the very last mansion was locked shut. It was the dwelling of the
51
Prime Minister, the Honorable Anirudda Brahma-raya. The Prime Minister was now in Madurai to straighten the
administration of the newly conquered Pandiya Territories. His family lived in Tanjore. Therefore his mansion in Pazlayarai
was locked shut.
Azlvar-adiyan quickly made his way to this mansion. Upon seeing him, the watchmen respectfully welcomed him. He
ordered them to open the main door and let him in. And following his orders they locked the door shut once again after he had
entered. Thirumalai walked through the three courtyards and reached the gardens at the back. A foot-trail cut a path through the
trees and creepers along the lake shore. Azlvar-adiyan followed the path and soon reached Kundavai's garden. He hid himself
in a gazebo and waited and watched. His troubles did not go unrewarded. A scene that could have been dramatized by the great
romantic poets such as Kalidasa, took place there.
The boat soon came to the bank. Mr. Esanya Bhattar and Vandiya Devan came ashore. They began climbing the steps
leading up from the wharf.
Kundavai was seated on a marble garden seat atop the steps. When the two men had reached the top, the Younger
Pirati Kundavai Devi stood up.
It was only then that Vandiya Devan looked up to gaze into the Lady's face. And he stood looking. A tendril of a
flowering creeper stretched its gentle arm between the two of them, barring the path. A beautiful butterfly -- a multicolored
butterfly flew in to sit on a flower of that creeper. Kundavai had slightly lowered her face to look at that butterfly. Vandiya
Devan kept looking at her without blinking an eyelid.
The soft waves on the lake became quieter. Birds stopped singing. The whole universe stood still! Several eons
passed.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 48 -- Swirling Pools And Flashing Eyes
Early Man lived in a valley. The mountain cave protected him from rain and wind. The forest gave him food. Beasts
of the wild feared him. He lived freely without care or concern just like the birds in the sky. Yet, in his heart of hearts he had a
yearning; an unexplainable longing was his constant companion. Some powerful force seemed to be drawing him. His hear t
and soul desired some unique entity -- some unseen, unexperienced pleasure. He fantasized about it in the day and dreamt of it
in the night. "When will I see that unique thing created just for me? Where will I meet the fantastic force that attracts me thus?"
At the same time God created Early Woman. She lived in another valley on the other side of the mountain. She had
food to satisfy hunger, spring waters to quench her thirst and mountain caves to protect her. She lacked nothing, but her heart
burned with an inner flame of desire. Some powerful force was enticing her. Where was the force that lured her, where was it
pulling her -- nothing was clear. A huge mountain rose high between Early Man and Early Woman, an obstacle preventing
them from meeting each other.
In the hot months, by course of nature there arose a large forest fire that grew rapidly encompassing the forest all
around the mountain. Man and Woman realized the danger of going into the blazing forest. They began climbing the steep
mountain slopes. At the peak they saw each other. They gazed at each other without blinking an eyelid. The forest fire was
forgotten. Hunger and thirst was forgotten. They forgot why they had climbed the mountain. Intuition said that they had lived
all their lives only for that meeting. They realized that this was the powerful force that nagged them all their lives. What each
lacked could be fulfilled by the other. They were sure that there was no power in creation that could separate them, now that
they were together.
God the Creator watched this remarkable meeting and was happy that his task of creation was progressing so well.
***
At that moment in time, our Vandiya Devan and Kundavai were like this Early Man and Early Woman. Their intuition
declared that the very purpose of their birth and life on this earth was for this moment, this meeting! But unlike Early Man and
Early Woman they were civilized people living in a civilized world. They could not forget the differences in their station. They
52
did not let their feelings take total control. For one moment they would look at each other gazing into each others eyes, in the
next instant they would look away at the flower, the tree, the butterfly or the lake.
Only after Mr. Bhattar cleared his throat did they remember that they were meeting on those steps to talk about some
important matters.
"Is it true that you told Mr. Esanya Bhattar that you wished to meet me in privacy?" asked Kundavai in an abrupt
voice.
The stern, masterful tone of her voice steadied Vandiya Devan.
"I can answer your question only if I know in whose presence I am in. I suspect that Mr. Bhattar has brought me to the
wrong place."
"I too have such a suspicion. Whom did you wish to meet?"
"The light of the Chozla Dynasty, Emperor Sundara Chozla's darling daughter, beloved younger sister of Prince
Aditya Karikala, the cherished elder sister of Prince Arulmozli, the Princess Kundavai, the Younger Pirati... I wished to meet
her... I asked Mr. Bhattar ..."
"It is me who bears all those honors and responsibilities," said Kundavai with a smile.
"Then you cannot be the Lady whom I met at the Astrologer's house in Kudanthai and on the banks of River Arisil,
can it be?" said Vandiya Devan.
"Yes, yes! It is I who behaved in such a discourteous fashion with you in those two places. You would not have
expected to meet that uncivilized woman once again so soon."
"My Lady! It is incorrect to say that we are meeting once again!"
"Why?"
"Only if we had parted can we say that we are meeting again ... You have not left my thoughts even for one
moment..."
"I did not expect the people of Thondai to be such experts in conversation."
"Will you reserve all expertise only for Chozla men? Will you not let any other nation claim any greatness?"
"Yes; I have such a fault in me. Why? Do you not like our Chozla lands?"
"Like it? Why, I like it very well. But there are two great dangers in this Chozla land. When I consider them I am
filled with fear!"
"Yes the lances and swords of Chozla men are very dangerous weapons. Foreigners should enter our borders with
caution. Particularly fellows who come in to spy upon us ..."
"Princess! I am not referring to those two dangers. I too have a sword and a spear. I am an expert in their use ..."
"Oh yes! I have seen your dexterity with a spear on the banks of the Arisil the other day! How swiftly your spear did
pierce a dead crocodile's back! In one throw it pulled all the stuffing out."
"My Lady! I did not know that Chozla womenfolk were brave young women who trembled with fear at the sight of a
dead crocodile. Neither did I know that Chozla men were fearless warriors who attacked dead reptiles. I thought it was alive
and threw my spear. It was not my fault; neither was my spear at fault."
"It was the fault of that foolish crocodile! It died without waiting for brave Mr. Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan of the
noble Vaanar family to arrive with his lance and spear. It deserves that disgrace. What are the two dangers that you fear?"
53
"The swirling whirlpools in the fresh floods of the Chozla territory are dangerous; one should never trust those waters.
They made me strain and struggle."
"How did you get caught in the whirlpool? You seem to be a brave man who would never step into water!"
"Having caught the vampire how can I refuse to climb a moringa tree? Because I entered these Chozla lands, I had to
drown in floods and get caught in whirlpools. It happened because of a foolish youth who came with me as a guide. Listen to
this My Lady! That youngster refused to utter one small lie. It was the consequence of his behavior."
"You are talking riddles. It would be better if you explained clearly."
"I shall do so. I came as a messenger carrying letters from your dear brother; but, the Commander of Tanjore, the
Younger Lord of Pazluvoor accused me of being a spy and sent his men to capture me. I did not like being arrested before my
assigned task was completed. Therefore, I requested the youth who was my host in Tanjore to be my guide and left the place."
"In whose house did you stay in Tanjore?"
"I stayed in the house of a flower seller outside the fort. The woman was a dumb-mute.... "
"Oh! Her name?"
"I do not know her name. But I know her son's name. He is Sendan Amudan."
"Yes! What I surmised is correct. Please go on."
"I placed him also on my horse and rode towards this Pazlayarai. By then some of Lord Pazluvoor's men were nearing
us. I did not want to be caught before I met you. When we reached the banks of the Kudam-urutti, I told the boy `Thambi, I am
going to get down here. You stay on the horse. They will think that you are me and follow you. If they catch up with you they
will be disappointed. If they question you about me say that I drowned in the river.' That youngster seems to have descended
from King Hari-chandra who never told a lie. `When you did not drown how can I tell a lie?' he said. Because the youth did not
want to tell a lie, I had to jump into the floods and pretend to drown after binding him to my horse. Oh dear God! What
swirling whirlpools in the rapids of these Chozla rivers, that too so close to the bank! Caught in those swirls I suffered a lot!
Somehow I grabbed a tree root and pulled myself ashore and saved my life. My Lady! Do you know what I recalled when I
was being tossed about in those swirling whirlpools and loosing my mind?"
"How will I know? Perhaps you thought of Gajendra's deliverance (Lord Vishnu saving the Elephant from a
Crocodile)."
"No! No! In those swirls of water I saw some beautiful fish caught helplessly, just like me, being tossed here and
there. Those darting fish reminded me of the flashing eyes of Chozla women.... A fellow caught in the whirlpool can somehow
or other escape; but a fellow enmeshed in the flashing eyes of Chozla women has no escape. That is what I thought."
"Some men think it is fashionable to find fault with women in this manner... It is common for men to blame
everything on women for the mistakes they make ...."
"I too followed that tradition. Is anything wrong?" asked Vandiya Devan.
The melodious notes of a flute floated down from the palace. The tinkle of ankle bells and booming resonance of
hand-drums mingled in the air. The soft voices of young maidens floated down to them. They were singing the milkmaid's song
from the romance Silappadikaram.
When that enchanter who gathers fruit to feed his calves comes into town dear friend,
Can we listen to the melody of a reed-flute playing on his rosy lips?
When that cowherd who lived in the gardens as a baby comes home with the cattle dear friend,
Can we hear the ballads on his beguiling flute?
Kundavai and Vandiya Devan were engrossed in the melody as they stood listening till the song was over. Drums
54
sounded again indicating that the dancing was about to begin.
"Those sounds from the palace ... seems to be the gypsy-dance. I saw a kuravai-koothu at Kadamboor; it was quite
unusual!" said Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan.
"Yes. My friends are practicing the dance. They will soon come looking for me. What is your business with me?"
asked Kundavai.
"This is my business: here is the letter from your brother. I bring it to you after escaping several dangers --
overcoming swirling pools and flashing eyes I have brought it to you," said Vandiya Devan as he gave her the letter.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 49 -- Surprise of Surprises
Kundavai Pirati accepted the letter given by Vandiya Devan and read it. Her face which had worn a slight frown until
then, now brightened. She looked up at Vandiya Devan and asked, "Sir, you have delivered the letter. What do you plan to do
now?"
"I have delivered the letter to you and my commission is discharged. I must now return home."
"Your assignment is not over; it is just about to begin."
"I do not understand, My Lady!"
"The Prince has written that I can entrust any confidential matter to you. Are you not going to follow his orders?"
"Yes, I did agree to serve you as a confidential assistant. But, I beg you My Lady, please do not delegate any
important responsibility to me."
"I don't understand you Sir! Is it the tradition of the Vaanar clan to break their promises?"
"The Vaanar clan does not sing its own praises; neither is it their tradition to break a pledge."
"Then why the hesitation? Is it a hatred for womenfolk or is it that you dislike me?" asked the Princess with a smile.
Aha! What a question? How can the deep ocean dislike the moon? Does it not reach out for the full moon with
thousand fingered waves? Who can say that the blue skies dislike this divine earth? Doesn't the inky sky gaze all night long at
beloved earth with thousands of twinkling star-eyes? How can the cloudburst dislike a flash of lightning? Does it not hug the
piercing flashes to its heart? Can anyone say that bees dislike flowers? Do they not constantly buzz around them and drown in
their enticing honey? Can anyone believe if one says that a moth dislikes the flame? Does it not fall into that very flame and
give up its very life? What a question My Lady! If I dislike you why would your glance reduce me to such speechless fervor?
Why does the smile playing on your lips drive me crazy? -- all these thoughts raced through Vandiya Devan's mind. But, not a
sound did he utter.
"Sir! Why do you not answer me? Do you hesitate because you think it demeaning for a gallant of the Vaanar clan to
serve a mere female? Didn't the Prince tell you all the details when he wrote this letter to me?" asked Kundavai once again.
"My Lady! I knew about the contents of that letter and had accepted the assignment wholeheartedly before I left. But,
I think I had not begun my journey in an auspicious moment. I have acquired foes all along the way. I have made an enemy of
my dearest friend. My adversaries are looking for me in all directions. In such a situation how can I promise to complete any
task you assign to me? I hesitate because your business should not be thwarted because of me."
"Who are these enemies? Can you tell me?" asked Kundavai in a worried voice.
"The Lords of Pazluvoor have sent men in all directions to arrest me. My dear friend Kandamaran thinks that I tried to
55
stab him in the back and kill him. An imposter called Azlvar-adiyan Nambi masquerading as a fanatic Vaishnava devotee has
been following me everywhere. Nandini, the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor has sent a sorcerer to kill me. I do not know when and
by whom I will be captured ..."
Vandiya Devan recalled his encounter with the Sorcerer on the night he had escaped drowning. Realizing the danger
of traveling during the day he hid himself in bamboo groves and plantain orchards. In the night he walked swiftly along the
river bank. He was tired after walking for a long distance; in the early hours before daybreak he reached a dilapidated old
building on the wayside. Moonlight threw some light on the structure and brightened the entryway. Vandiya Devan walked in,
past the bright spot, and lay down to rest in the dark corner. Just as he was about to fall asleep he heard the hideous screech of
an owl somewhere nearby. He remembered hearing a similar sound while he had been talking the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor
in her garden and was startled awake. Two spots of sharp light peered at him from the dark interior of the ruin. He took a few
steps intending to walk out, when heard footsteps coming inside. He held on to a broken pillar and hid behind the tumbled
stones.
A moonbeam threw some light on the newcomer's face. Vandiya Devan recognized him as the Sorcerer who had
visited the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. The man kept walking towards the pillar. Vandiya Devan hoped that the fellow would
not know that he was hiding behind the pillar and that he would walk inside. But, the fellow walked with soft cat-like steps till
he neared the pillar and then pounced upon him with a horrifying shout. The Sorcerer squeezed Vandiya Devan's throat with
one large palm and said, "Give it! Give me the palmtree signet ring! If you don't, I'll strangle you to death!"
Vandiya Devan felt that his neck was about to break; his eyes were ready to pop out; his breathing was choked. He
steadied himself by tightly holding the broken pillar. He lifted one leg and kicked back with all his strength. The Sorcerer fell
down with a roar of pain. At the same instant the old pillar collapsed. Stones began tumbling down from the roof. A bat flapped
its wings and flew out. Vandiya Devan followed swiftly. He neither stopped nor turned to look back for quite some time. He
stopped running only after he was sure that no one followed him. He shivered with fright when he recalled this incident.
In the midst of these thoughts Kundavai's voice steadied him. She was asking, "Sir! How long is it since you left
Kanchi?"
"A week and a day."
"It is quite astonishing, a surprise among surprises, that you have acquired so many foes in such a short period! How
did you accomplish this feat?"
"That is a long story, My Lady."
"Doesn't matter! Tell me. Only after I hear your story will I be able to disclose your next assignment."
After saying this, the Princess beckoned to Mr. Esanya Bhattar and asked him, "How about the boat-man?"
"He is totally deaf; even a thunderstorm will not disturb him."
"Very good. Come, let us go in this boat for some time. I wish to listen to this gentleman's complete story."
Vandiya Devan was enthralled. Was it a common fortune to ride in the same boat with the Chozla Princess? I must
have done penance in seven births to obtain this opportunity. Once I am in the boat I must prolong my story as much as
possible. What is the hurry to finish quickly? Why should I miss this chance?'
Vandiya Devan was not in a hurry; but, as the boat floated down the lake and he began his narration of the incidents in
Kadamboor Sambuvaraya's mansion, Kundavai became more and more agitated and restless. She hastened him with questions
such as, "Then what happened?" "What next?" He prolonged his tale as much as he could. But the longest story must come to
and end! By then the boat had returned to the wharf. As they walked back to the garden they heard ankle bells and dance beats
indicating that the dance practice was still going on in the palace.
The following song from The Silappadikaram could also be heard:-
What eyes are they that do not gaze upon the Great Lord,
The dark-hued Lord whose navel bears the mystic lotus
Which encompasses all universe,
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What eyes are they that do not unblinkingly gaze upon His lotus feet,
His long arms and divine coral-lips?
What tongue is it that does not sing the praises of the dear Lord,
Of Him who took revenge on the foolish Demon, Evil-hearted Kamsa,
Of Him the praiseworthy messenger to the evil-hundred from the five-brothers,
What tongue is it that does not sing the praises of Narayana, Narayana!
Upon hearing this song, Vandiya Devan said, "Kamsa may have been an evil-hearted demon, but, he helped me a
great deal yesterday." He then retold the following story.
Vandiya Devan suspected that Lord Pazluvoor's men would have come to Pazlayarai even before he reached the city.
He knew that they would be waiting at all the entrances. They were sure to arrest him on suspicion. "How am I to enter the city
without being arrested by them?" with this worry he stood on the banks of the River Arisil, a little away from the city. He saw a
band of street-play actors walking down the road. They were variously costumed as Balarama, Krishna, Kamsa, Devaki etc.
Kamsa alone was wearing a wooden mask. Vandiya Devan had an idea. He mingled with their group and struck up a
conversation with the actors. He then declared that the actor playing the part of Kamsa did not look very convincing. Upon
hearing his words the Kamsa-actor became enraged. Vandiya Devan enraged him further by saying "Even I can act the part
much better than you; you look drunk and incompetent." He grabbed the wooden mask and bound it to his own face as he
began dancing. Some of the youngsters in the group began supporting him saying his steps were more lively than that of their
villager. The old actor became angry and refused to go on with them. Vandiya Devan was waiting for this. "Let him go; I will
come with your group to the city and dance for you and win the prize" he declared. The group gladly accepted him and led him
into the city.
After all the street plays were over, Vandiya Devan parted from his group and as per the instructions of Prince
Karikala, went to the Northwest Shiva Temple to meet Mr. Esanya Bhattar. That gentleman hid him in one of the Jain caves
and after informing Kundavai about his arrival took him to the palace by way of the lake.
After hearing all these details, Kundavai looked at Vandiya Devan with eyes full of surprise, "The good wishes of
Kottravai, the Goddess of Victory must be completely in the favor of Chozlas! That is why you have been sent to me in these
difficult times!" she said.
"My Lady! You have not given me any orders. There has been no opportunity so far to use all my capabilities."
"Don't worry about that! I am going to send you on a mission that is so dangerous, compared to which, your past
experiences are nothing."
Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan stood with a brimming heart and ardent enthusiasm. He was ready to accomplish any
task assigned by her; if needed he was ready to swim across the seven seas, battle a thousand lions without any weapons, climb
the tallest mountain to pluck the heavenly stars from the skies.
There was a tiny marble pavilion in the midst of the garden. Kundavai walked towards this structure. Mr. Bhattar and
Vandiya Devan followed her. From inside an alcove Kundavai took a palmleaf and a writing instrument made of gold. She
wrote the following sentence on the palmleaf:
" Ponniyin Selva! Come immediately upon seeing this letter. The gentleman bringing this will give you all
details. You can trust him completely."
At the end she drew a tiny symbol of a fig-leaf. Giving the letter to Vandiya Devan she said, "Take this letter and go
to Lanka without any delay. Give it to Prince Arulmozli Varma and bring him back here with you."
Vandiya Devan was engulfed in waves of happiness. One of his life-long ambitions was already fulfilled. He had met
the famous Chozla Princess, the Younger Pirati. Through her, his second ambition also was about to be fulfilled. He was soon
going to meet Prince Arulmozli!
"My Lady! You are assigning a pleasing task. I shall depart immediately with this letter." He extended his right arm to
receive the letter. When Kundavai placed the letter in his palm, her flower-soft fingers touched his lucky hand. He was over-
whelmed with happiness. Thousands and millions of colorful butterflies fluttered around him! A million nightingales sang for
him! Mountains of fragrant flowers showered on him! He looked up into Kundavai's eyes. His heart brimmed with an
eagerness to say all sorts of words. But, mere words had no strength to express his feelings.
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His eyes spoke all that was meant to be said. There was no comparison to the poetry that his eyes composed in that
moment. Even Kalidasa the Great had not written such romantic verse; even the ancient Tamil bards who composed the poems
of Mu-ttholl-ayiram had nothing comparable!
Somewhere outside the pavilion, the wind whistled trough some dry leaves. Mr. Esanya Bhattar cleared his throat.
Vandiya Devan came back to this world.
*****
[Note: Ponniyin Selvan means "Beloved of the Ponni". Ponni is the ancient Tamil name for River Cauvery. Prince Arulmozli
Varma was popularly known as "Ponniyin Selvan" or "Beloved of the Cauvery".]
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 50 -- Paranthaka Infirmary
In the morning the Sun God rose to cover the whole world with light. His reddened rays fell upon the cupolas of the
palace and made them shine like burnished gold. A large, well decorated elephant with a howdah came to stand in front of
Kundavai's palace. Kundavai and Vanathi came out of the palace and climbed up some steps to get into the howdah atop the
elephant.
The elephant began walking with a ponderous gait towards the Paranthaka Chozla Infirmary situated in the Padai
Veedu neighborhood. The elephant keeper walked beside the animal making it go slowly. On hearing elephant bells, women-
folk hurried out of their homes. Upon seeing the two royal ladies their faces brightened as they bowed in greeting.
The elephant walked through the streets of the army encampment. The very appearance of those streets was
remarkable. Well nourished fighting cocks wandered in and out of the alleyways. Huge rams with sharpened horns stood about
as if asking "Who is coming to lock horns with me?" Hunting dogs were secured with leather straps and leashes to the front
porches of the houses. Youngsters practiced martial arts -- silambam, with short bamboo sticks. The silambam sticks rubbed
against each other raising sounds like "chata chata pata pata!"
Front porches and walls were decorated with various drawings made with kaavi (red-ocher dye). They mostly depicted
the exploits of Lord Muruga and incidents from the history of the heroic Chozlas. Most were war scenes. The picture of Lord
Muruga severing the heads of Demon Surapadma one after the other and of Goddess Durga killing the Demon Mahisha were
depicted in horrifying detail. The battlefields of Thellar, Tanjore, Kudamooku, Thiru-puram-biyam, Velloor, Thakkolam and
Chevoor had come alive on those walls showing the exploits of Chozla soldiers.
When the elephant entered these streets, everything became even more lively. The fighting cocks flew up to the
rooftops with noisy wingbeats and began crowing. Children called to each other and came running up. They knocked upon the
doors of neighbors and announced the news. People stood in front of their houses and raised slogans in praise of Kundavai.
"Long live Younger Pirati Kundavai! Long live Sundara Chozla and his dear daughter!" they shouted with happiness. Some
began following the elephant. The crowd began to grow larger.
As mentioned earlier, womenfolk and elderly relatives of the men who had gone to the Lankan war lived in that
neighborhood. Kundavai had established an hospital for their welfare with grants from her personal income. The Chozla
royalty had a tradition of honoring their forefathers. Among her ancestors, Kundavai's great -grandfather, Paranthaka the First,
was distinguished; in his honor, she had established the Paranthaka Infirmary. With an excuse of inspecting the hospital she
would often visit the community and enquire about their welfare.
The elephant stopped in front of the Infirmary. It folded its forelegs and then its hind legs and lowered itself to the
ground. The two noblewomen descended. After the elephant had moved away to one side, the people, particularly women,
surrounded the ladies.
"I hope the hospital is useful to you all. Are the doctors coming regularly and giving medicines to those who need
them?" asked the Younger Pirati.
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"Yes Thaye! Yes," replied several voices.
"I had an annoying cough for over three months. The doctor's medicine has cured me," said one woman.
"My Lady! My son broke his leg while climbing a tree. The doctor set his bones and bound it up. He is fine now; and
is in fact running and climbing once again!" said another.
"My mother felt that her eyes were getting dimmer day by day. She has been coming here for treatment for the past
forty days and is feeling much better."
"Look Vanathi! How knowledgeable and learned our ancestors have been! I wonder how they know about which herb
has the medicinal value to cure which ailment?" asked Kundavai.
"They must have had magical foresight! That's how they found use for all those herbs. How else could it have
happened?" replied Vanathi.
"Yes, it is quite true that they have several exceptional herbs for curing illness. But they have found no medicine to
cure the mental illness of a person like you! What can one do?"
"Akka! I have no mental illness. Please do not say things like this. My friends tease me ceaselessly about it."
"You deserve it my dear! You have intruded upon and bewildered my bother who lived without a care in this world.
Every time he sends a messenger from Lanka, he asks about your health!"
"Make way for the Doctor, make way for the Doctor!" rose the shouts. Footmen parted the crowd. An elderly
gentleman, the Chief Doctor of the Infirmary came to receive the Princess and her companion.
"Mr. Doctor! You had mentioned that several rare medicinal herbs and plants were available in the forests of Kodi
Karai. I had sent you a youth who could go there to gather those herbs for you, did he meet you?" asked Kundavai Pirati.
"Yes My Lady! That smart young man did come and meet me last night with Mr. Esanya Bhattar. I am sending one of
my sons also with him. My son will return after collecting the herbs at Kodi Karai. Your agent says that he will be going to
Lanka before he returns ...."
"Does he have to collect medicines from Lanka also?" asked Vanathi with surprise.
"Yes My lady! According to the myth, Hanuman carried the Sanjivi Mountain full of life saving herbs to treat
Lakshmana via Kodi Karai before he went to Lanka. At that time some herbs from the mountain fell into the forests of Kodi
Karai. That is why even now we get good medicinal herbs from there. The herbal mountain itself is in Lanka. So we are likely
to find even rarer medicines in the island. If only I could lay my hands on some particular plants, I can surely cure the
Emperor's illness ...."
"With God's grace it may be possible. Where is that young man now?" asked Kundavai.
"He is waiting inside My Lady. They are getting ready for the journey and are waiting to take leave of you."
The two noblewomen walked inside led by the Chief Doctor. They saw the patients in the hallways and chambers
waiting for treatment and medicines. When these patients saw Kundavai their faces brightened with pleasure and they came up
to talk to her with words of praise. Two men waited in the chambers of the Chief Doctor. Kundavai smiled at Vandiya Devan
disguised in the robes of a Doctor. Somehow Vanathi also recognized him. She whispered into Kundavai's ear, "Akka, this man
seems like the person we met in the house of the Astrologer at Kudanthai."
"I too think he looks like that. He has come to see a doctor after visiting an astrologer! Perhaps he also has some
psychological problem, just like you!" said Kundavai; she then turned to Vandiya Devan and said, "Sir! Are you the gentleman
who agreed to go to Lanka and get the medicinal herbs for treatment of the Emperor?"
Vandiya Devan's eyes spoke a different secret language. But he said, "Yes Princess, I am going to Lanka. Perhaps I
59
may be able to meet the young Prince over there. Is there any message for him?"
"If you see him, give this message to him without fail. The Lady of Kodumbalur is not keeping good health at all. She
often falls down in a faint. If he wishes to see Lady Vanathi alive, he must return immediately to Pazlayarai. Tell him that!"
said Kundavai.
"I shall give him the message exactly." Vandiya Devan looked at Vanathi.
These teasing words of Kundavai covered Vanathi with a shyness which made her face even more beautiful.
Somehow she overcame her shyness and bashfully uttered these words, "Sir! Please don't give him any such message. I
beseech you! Just let him know that Kodumbalur Vanathi is very well under the care of the Younger Pirati, eating four times a
day and sleeping well."
"I shall deliver the message exactly," said Vandiya Devan.
"Fantastic! You said `I shall deliver the message exactly,' to my message. And you agree to deliver her message also
`exactly'. Only one of these messages can be true?" asked Kundavai.
"So what My Lady! I shall deliver the messages of both parties. Let the Prince be the judge of the truth."
"But, please do not the deliver the message of one as coming from the other!" said Vanathi.
Kundavai wished to put an end to this conversation. She asked the Doctor, "Did these men get the letters of permit
from the Palace Officer?"
"They have the letters My Lady! `These men are travelling on official business to collect medicinal herbs for the
treatment of the Emperor's illness. One and all are ordered to help and aid them in their journey,' says the general letter of
permit. There is a separate letter for the Lighthouse Keeper of Kodi Karai."
"Then, there is no reason for delay. Let them start."
"Yes! We must depart!" said Vandiya Devan. But leave taking was not easy.
They came out of the Infirmary. The decorated elephant waited to carry the Princess and her friend. Two swift horses
from the palace waited restlessly to carry Vandiya Devan and the Doctor's son on their journey. Vandiya Devan had several
sudden doubts. Kundavai had several last minute instructions. She warned him repeatedly to be careful of the several dangers
along the way. Finally, the two women climbed onto the elephant. Vandiya Devan and his companion mounted their steeds.
The elephant did not move. Kundavai signed and indicated that those leaving on the longer journey must depart first.
Vandiya Devan turned his horse reluctantly. He turned his head to look at the Princess, eagerly once more. Then he struck his
horse as if in anger, the steed galloped forward swiftly. The Doctor's son had a tough time catching up with him.
The elephant turned back towards the Chozla Maligai and Kundavai was immersed in thought. How capricious is this
nature of my heart! Why am I, who rejected kings and princes, so concerned about the welfare of this wandering cavalier? Why
am I so anxious that he should return safe and victorious?...
"Akka, what are you thinking about?" Vanathi's voice brought her back to earth.
"Nothing Vanathi. I was thinking about the arrogance of that young man. I am wondering if I should have sent a
message to my brother through him."
"Yes Akka! He is quite artful! One could even say a clever bandit."
"What is this? Why do you think he is a bandit?"
"An ordinary thief would burgle ordinary things like silver and gold. I am afraid that this young gallant would loot the
very guardian deity of the Chozla Empire. You will not let that happen, will you?" asked innocent Vanathi.
60
"You rogue! Do you think that I am also like you! I will never let any such thing happen."
She saw a group of women gathered on the wayside and signalled for the elephant to stop. "Why have you all gathered
here? Do you wish to speak with me?" asked the Younger Pirati.
One of them came forward and spoke, "Thaye! There is no news about our menfolk in Lanka. We hear that those
Lords of Tanjore are not even allowing the shipment of foodstuffs for them. How can they fight a war My Lady, without
enough food?"
"Do not concern yourselves about such matters. Enough supplies are being shipped to them from Mamallai Port. What
ever the intentions of the authorities in Tanjore, your Prince will not keep quiet. He will not let the brave men of our Chozla
nation die of starvation."
If it had been some other day, Kundavai would have tarried a little longer and soothed their worries some more. Her
heart was now filled with a disquiet of another kind. The elephant walked back towards the palace.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 51 -- Mamallai
We welcome our readers to Mamallai Port. More than three hundred years have passed since the times of Mahendra
Pallava and Mamalla Narasimha who had made this port town into a dream world with spectacular sculptures and rock cut
temples.
The town appears somewhat dull and this does not delight our hearts. Mansions are in ruin; palaces appear
dilapidated. Not much of a crowd in the streets or in the port. There is not much trade now. Nor are there many large
warehouses. Export and import goods are not piled into mounds in market streets.
In those early years, the sea had come inland as a deep channel, a safe, natural harbor for sailing ships. Now the
channel is silted, shallow and filled with dirt. Only tug-boats and small rowboats could now go in that shallow sea channel.
Ships and sailboats had to anchor far away in the deep sea. Tug-boats or barges must carry goods to load and unload those
ships.
But, in these past years Mamallai had acquired several new attractions. The beautiful stone-cut temples along the
shoreline particularly captivate our attention. They are not like the temples excavated from boulders and rocks during the times
of Pallava Mahendra and Narasimha. They were built of stone quarried from rock-mounds. They seem like beautiful crowns
adorning the Ocean King's forehead. How is one to describe the beautiful architecture of those temples?
A Vinnagara for the Perumal who measured the three worlds, Lord Vishnu, can be seen in the midst of the town. It is
a temple built by Parameswara Pallava who nourished both Saiva and Vaishnava sects equally, considering them his own two
eyes. Thiru-mangai Azlvar had visited this holy place and worshipped the Lord in Eternal Repose and sung several sacred
psalms in sweet Tamil. Even during the times of that saint, the Pallava Empire must have existed in splendor; the following
psalm attests the fact:
Worship Him with all your mind,
Oh! worship Him my foolish heart,
Worship Him the Lord in Eternal Repose,
Him of Mallai Port,
Where ships come ashore to be loaded,
With wealth from far lands,
Trumpet handed elephants and gemstone mounds.
A Hundred years after Thiru-mangai Azlvar's time, the sun had set on the glory of the Pallava Empire. The greatness
of Kanchi, `A City without equal for Learning,' had diminished. Trade in the `Mallai Port where ships anchored,' has
dwindled.
But, there is no decline to the magnificence of the astonishing art treasures in that town which brings undiminished
61
fame to Tamil culture. The intricate sculptures carved on rock-faces and the delicate art work on stone towers remain fresh
even after three hundred years. The town was filled with tourists who came to enjoy these art treasures rather than with traders
who came to import or export goods.
A beautiful chariot yoked with twin horses ran through the streets of Mamallai. The trimmings of the decor ated
horses, the jewelled embellishments on the chariot and the gilded canopy which shone like another fiery sun in the evening
light declared its occupants to be of noble birth. Yes, three noblemen were seated inside the spacious, golden chariot.
One of them was the bravest among brave, Aditya Karikala, the eldest son of Emperor Sundara Chozla. This Prince
had entered gory battlefronts at a very young age and performed several remarkable deeds of valor. In the final battle he had
killed Veera-pandiya of Madurai and won the title, `The Valiant Prince who wrung the head of Veera-pandiya.' Sundara
Chozla had fallen sick only after this victory over Veera-pandiya which had brought all the Pandiya lands under Chozla rule. In
order to establish without doubt that Aditya Karikala had all rights to ascend the Chozla throne, Sundara Chozla coronated him
as the Crown Prince. From then the Prince also had the right to issue edicts on his own under the title Parakesari, as well as
record such edicts in stone inscriptions.
Later, Karikala journeyed north to free the Thondai Territories from the rule of Kannara Deva the Rashtrakuta. Here
too, he performed several deeds of daring. He drove the Rashtrakuta armies north of the River Pennar. Before he went further
north, he had to consolidate the strength of his forces. Therefore, he came to Kanchi: to collect a larger army and equip it with
the necessary armaments and supplies for a northern invasion. In this situation, the Lords of Pazluvoor began to raise
objections to his endeavors. They said that the northern invasion should be attempted only after the campaign in Lanka was
concluded. All sorts of other rumors began floating around. It came to be known that adequate supplies and food was not being
sent to feed the forces in Lanka. Because of all this, Karikala's brave heart was filled with rage and anger.
For about three hundred years before and after the times of our story, several brave men, comparable to the great heros
of the epics, were born to serve at the lotus feet of Mother Tamil. Warriors comparable to Bhima, Arjuna, Bhishma, Drona,
Gatotkacha and Abimanyu appeared in the Tamil Kingdoms. Their deeds of bravery astonished the world. Each victory in the
battlefield gave them added vitality. Old men had the strength to move mountains. Youth had the capability to fly across the
skies and gather stars from the heavens. Two such brave men were seated in Karikala's chariot along with him that day.
One of them was Malayaman of Thiru-kovalur. His mountain stronghold was popularly known as `malai-nadu' or
`miladu' country. Therefore he had the title Milad-udayar. Sundara Chozla's second wife, Empress Vanama Devi was his
daughter. Thus, he was Aditya Karikala's grandfather. In age and experience he was comparable to Grandfather Bhishma of the
epic Mahabarata. Though Karikala had a great regard for his grandfather, sometimes the older man's advice irked the Prince's
patience.
The other man in the chariot was Parthiban. He was the scion of a minor family of the ancient Pallava Dynasty. He
was somewhat older than Prince Aditya Karikala. Since he had no kingdom to call his own he wished to gain fame as a brave
warrior of the battlefield; he sought the company of Karikala and functioned as a right arm to the Prince in the various
campaigns. He had gained the confidence and personal friendship of Aditya Karikala by helping him in many combats. Since
the victory over Veera-pandiya they had become inseparable friends.
As they rode in the chariot, the three of them were discussing the vague rumors that came to them from Tanjore.
"I cannot tolerate the insolence of these Pazluvoor nobles anymore, not even for a second! Day by day they cross the
limit. How arrogant they must be, to accuse my messenger of being a `spy'? I believe that they have announced a reward of one
thousand gold coins for his capture. How can I tolerate all this? The sword in my scabbard shrinks with shame! And you advice
me to be patient!" spoke Aditya Karikala.
"I am not advising patience. But, I did warn you even before, that you should not send Vandiya Devan on important
missions like this. I knew that he, an impatient youth, will mess up any assignment. Is it enough if he is proficient in the use of
his sword and spear? A messenger on political affairs must be sharp of mind also," said Pallava Parthiban.
Parthiban had never liked the affection shown by Prince Karikala towards Vandiya Devan. He would always find
some fault with that noble youth of the Vaanar clan. He would find some impropriety in his every act. He did not miss this
opportunity now.
"You have started again, your old story! You cannot pass the time of day without finding fault with Vandiya Devan. If
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he is not sharp of mind, who is? I had ordered him to somehow or other deliver my letter to the Emperor; he has fulfilled his
assignment! Those Pazluvoor fellows have become angry because of it. How is Vandiya Devan at fault?" asked Karikala.
"Oh, he wouldn't have stopped with the assignment you gave him. He would have interfered in other irrelevant
affairs," said Parthiban.
"You keep quiet for a while! Grandfather, why are you silent? What is you opinion? What is wrong if we take a large
army and invade Tanjore, free the Emperor and bring him here to Kanchi? How long are we to watch these Lords of Pazluvoor
guard the Emperor like a prisoner? How long are we to fear these Pazluvoor fellows?" spoke an enraged Aditya Karikala.
Malayaman of Thiru-kovalur, Lord Milad-udayar, who had the experience of over sixty battlefields in his lifetime,
cleared his throat as if to reply. But, catching a glimpse of the sea shore ahead of them, he said, "Let us first get off this chariot.
My son, let us go and sit down in our usual place and talk. I am too old, it is not easy for me to talk in a moving chariot."
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 52 -- An Old Man's Wedding
There were several small boulders strewn about the sea shore of Mamallai. Sometimes the tide would rise to cover
those rocks with furious waves. At other times, the sea would recede and allow those boulders to dry completely. The great
sculptors of Mamallai had not forgotten even one tiny rock face along the shore: they had used their imagination fully and
carved each stone-face with large and small sculptures.
Aditya Karikala and his two companions walked towards two such boulders which were facing each other on the
sandy beach. Treating the two rocks like two thrones, Malayaman and Karikala sat down. Parthiban stood a little apart. Waves
came up to wet their feet now and then. Sometimes the spray of water caused by the waves dashing upon the rocks showered
droplets of pearls upon them. In the far distance they could see barges loaded with goods cleaving the waves and riding
towards the distant horizon. Men were loading the goods from those barges onto ships anchored far away.
"I am filled with anger to think that all the supplies that we had collected for the northern invasion are being diverted
to Lanka," said Parthiban.
"What can we do? The best trained Chozla battalions are in Lanka, winning battle aft er battle. They have captured
Anuradapura, the ancient capital from which Lankan Kings ruled for a thousand years, and raised our victorious tiger-flag.
How can we let such brave men starve?" asked Prince Karikala.
"Who said that we must let them starve? Of course we must send food supplies. But, they could be sent from Chozla
Territories via Nagapattinam Port. Or they can be sent from the Pandiya Kingdom from the port at Sethu. Where is the need
to send food supplies from these dry deserts of Thondai? I am saying this because we must consider the setback to our plans for
a northern campaign because of this."
"I am also enraged by that thought. I wonder what those wretched Lords of Pazluvoor intend to do. How long am I to
tolerate this? Grandfather! Why are you still keeping quiet? Why don't you say something?" asked Karikala.
"My son! These sea waves are roaring incessantly. Your friend Parthiban with his ceaseless chatter is competing with
them. What can I say in the midst of all this din? I have grown feeble in my old age."
"Parthiba, You keep quiet for some time. Let Grandfather express his opinion."
"Here, I shall shut my mouth. Poor Grandfather has come down here, so far from the fort, with great difficulty in this
weak old age. I shouldn't have opened my mouth in front of him. This sea also has no sense; it is roaring incessantly! There is
none to control it. The Ocean King seems to have no fear for our Mountain Lord!" Parthiban spoke with scorn.
"Thambi! Parthiba! Once there was a time for that too. All the kings of this land would tremble; the Chalukyas of the
west, Vaanars of Vallam, Vaithumbas, Gangas and Kongu chieftains -- all of them would quake upon hearing the name
Malayaman (mountain chief), like serpents hiding from the roar of thunder. Even the Ocean King used to be quite timid. Now
that I have grown feeble, they have all raised their heads. These westerners who have come recently, these commoners of
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Pazluvoor are now questioning me of ancient lineage! They are trying to put an end to me! It can never happen. Karikala you
said that you could not understand the intentions of these Pazluvoor upstarts. I shall tell you what their intentions are. Listen to
this. They wish to separate you and your brother and weaken both your strengths. They want your brother Arulmozli to loose
his battles in Lanka and face disgrace. Here, you must be provoked into anger against your brother. The two of you should
quarrel with each other; and this old man must die of shock upon seeing that! This is their secret aspiration, ..." as Malayaman
was speaking passionately, Karikala intervened.
"This intention of their's will never succeed Grandfather! None can separate me and my brother from each other. I will
give up my very life for Arulmozli. Do you know what I think sometimes? -- I should sail away, to Lanka perhaps. I wonder
what hardships he faces over there? Here I am comfortably sleeping away my life in these palaces. Each minute is like an
endless eon. I hate staying here. Grandfather, tell me, shall I sail away in one of those ships to Lanka?" asked Karikala.
"Fantastic idea, My Prince! I too have been thinking along similar lines for some days now. Come let us go. There is
no point in asking Grandfather. If you ask him he will merely advice, `No. Wait!' Come let us leave tomorrow itself. Let us take
half our forces from here in Thondai. We will put an end to the war in Lanka once for all and then land in Nagapattinam. From
there we can march to Tanjore and teach a lesson to those Pazluvoor men...." came the tirade from Parthiban.
"Look at this Karikala? Did I not warn you? Did I not say that I can talk only if he keeps his mouth shut?" asked
Malayaman.
"I shall shut up, Grandfather, I shall shut up. You say whatever you wish to say." Parthiban covered his mouth with
one palm.
"Karikala, you are brave. There are not many men of valor like you in these Tamil lands. I have seen many wars in my
eighty years. But, I have never seen a brave youth like you who single handed entered the enemy field and fought with such
courage. You were not even sixteen during the Battle of Chevoor. I have never seen a combat like yours, when you swiftly
entered the enemy formation, swirling your sword left- and right-handed, toppling enemy heads all along the way! That scene
lingers before my eyes even now. Your friend Parthiban, is like you, quite great in valor.
But, both of you are rash youths. Impetuous in anger. Both of you lack the capacity to think clearly. You tend to do the exact
opposite of what must be done."
"Grandfather you have said such things several times ..."
"Yes; I have. But, there was not much use? Are you asking me to go back to my country?"
"No! No! Tell me what must be done now."
"You must somehow, get your brother Arulmozli to come here immediately. You and your brother should never be
physically separate. ..."
"Grandfather what counsel is this? If Arulmozli comes here what will happen to the war in Lanka?"
"Oh, the Lankan campaign is now at a standstill. Our men have captured Anuradapura. Now the rainy season begins in
Lanka and none can do anything for four months; all we can do is safeguard the captured positions. The other generals can do
that quite capably. It is important that Arulmozli is here at this time. Oh! What is the use of hiding the truth from you Karikala?
There is grave danger to the Dynasty of Vijayala Chozla and the Empire established by him. You and the ones near and dear to
you should all be at one place now; you should all safeguard yourselves with much care. We should also consolidate all our
strengths. No one knows what danger is likely to strike, when ..."
"Grandfather, why are you frightening me with such talk? What do I fear as long as I have a sword in my hand? What
danger can stalk me? I can manage, tackle whatever it is ... I am not afraid ..."
"Son! Do you have to remind me of your courage? But, consider these lines of Valluvan:
It is folly to not fear the frightful;
The way of wisemen is to fear the fearful.
When you confront an enemy in the battle field there should be no room for fear. One who is frightened at that time is a
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coward. If such a coward is born in my family, I will personally chop him to pieces which this old hand of mine. But, we must
fear secret conspiracy, treachery and unseen danger. Fearing such threats, we must take adequate precautions. Those born in
royal households, those with a right to ascend thrones must not be negligent in such matters. Such heedlessness will spell doom
for the whole kingdom."
"Grandfather! What secret conspiracy do you expect? Only if you explain can we be careful."
"I shall explain; some days ago, a secret meeting took place at midnight in Kadamboor Sambuvaraya's Fort. The Elder
Lord Pazluvoor had come to that meeting. Apparently, Munai Raya, Mazlava-raya, the Chieftain of Kunratoor, Muthuaraya,
and Rajali of the Double Canopy had come. These are the names I heard. Others may have been there."
"Let them have come; so what? All of them would have dined till their stomachs burst, watched the dance and frolic
till midnight, drunk kegs and kegs of liquor and gone to sleep. Why should we be concerned with that? What would those old
men with greying beards achieve by meeting at midnight?"
"When you have such a good opinion of old men, what is the use of my saying anything to you? I am also an old man!
In fact much older than all those fellows."
"Grandfather, don't be angry. Will I equate you with those useless old fools? What happened there, tell me?"
"Again you refer to them as useless old fools! Their chief, the oldest man among them was married only recently;
don't forget that! Understand that there is no youth more dangerous in the whole world than an old man married to a very
young maid."
When the conversation turned to a discussion of the old man's wedding, a peculiar expression covered the face of
Aditya Karikala. His eyes suddenly turned bloodshot like those of some horrible pagan deity demanding blood sacrifice. Lips
trembled; and teeth crunched in anger.
Malayaman did not notice these changes; but, Parthiban took note.
"Why talk of that wedding now? Sir, tell us what happened at Sambuvaraya's Fort after that." The Pallava nobleman
intervened again.
"That is what I was going to speak about. I have grown old and am loosing track of what I say. Listen Karikala!
Parthiba! You too listen. That midnight meeting was not convened merely by old men. Some young blades were also there.
One youth was Sambuvaraya's son Kandamaran. Another was ..." When the old man hesitated, Karikala asked with haste,
"Who else Grandfather? Who was the other youth?"
"Your Elder-grandfather Gandara Aditya's divine son -- your uncle --Madurandaka Deva, who else?"
On hearing this, both Karikala and Parthiban began laughing loudly.
"What mirth is this? What is the meaning of this senseless laughter? Are you mocking me again?" asked Milad-udayar
of Thiru-kovalur.
"No, Grandfather, no! We are laughing because you called Madurandaka a `young man!' Is he not the oldest among
old men?" laughed Karikala.
"Haven't you heard of youth returning in old age? Like that, youth has come back to Madurandaka. Till recently he
had been saying, `I'll become an ascetic; I shall follow the path of Saiva devotion.' -- Now he has embarked into matrimony not
once or twice but thrice."
"Let him; if he wants let him get married several more times! So what?" asked Parthiban.
"Thambi, Madurandaka's marriages are not ordinary marriages. They are political alliances. Organized by the
secretive treachery of the Pazluvoor noblemen."
"Grandfather, you continue talking in riddles. Why don't you explain clearly? What do the Lords of Pazluvoor really
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want? What is their intention in convening such meetings in every town? What are they going to achieve with Madurandaka
Deva?" asked Aditya with some impatience.
"Nothing. They are trying to declare that you and your brother have no rights to the Empire and place Madurandaka
on the Chozla throne. They are trying to obtain your father's consent for this. That is why they guard him in Tanjore Fort like a
prisoner," said Lord Malayaman.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 53 -- Malayaman's Anger
Of course Aditya Karikala did not faint on hearing the shocking words uttered by Thiru-kovalur Malayaman who was
capable, intelligent and experienced. Nevertheless, he was stunned into silence for a few moments. Parthiban was also shocked
into wordless silence. Even the roaring sea seemed quiet. By then even the `elelo' songs of workmen loading the ships had
stopped.
Aditya felt ashamed to have shown his shock. He quickly looked up at his Grandfather's face and said, "I too heard of
such talk in the countryside and cities. I dismissed them as mere rumors. You seem to be convinced. Are you sure? Is it
possible?"
"Why is it not possible? Didn't your Elder-grandfather Gandara Aditya rule this Chozla Kingdom before your
Grandfather Arinjaya? Doesn't his son have more rights to this Empire than you two brothers?" asked Lord Malayaman Milad-
udayar.
"Never! That fool who cannot utter four words clearly, who has never touched a sword in his life, he who should have
been a woman but was by accident born a man -- he has a right to this Empire!? What of the rights of our Prince who entered
warfront at the tender age of twelve, who has never seen defeat, who bears the title, `Valiant Prince who took Veera-pandiya's
head,' the bravest lion Aditya Karikala -- what of his rights? Sir, have you lost your senses in your old age?" screamed
Parthiban in rage.
Karikala silenced him and then turned to Malayaman, "Grandfather, this Empire is not a big thing for me. If I want, I
can establish an empire ten times larger than this with the help of my sword. But what is the justice in this? I would not have
cared if they had declared in the beginning itself that the Kingdom was for Madurandaka. With the consent of countrymen,
citizens, chieftains and the people they declared that I have a right to the throne and anointed me as Crown Prince. How can
that change now? How can you support that?"
"I do not support it and never will I do so. If you ever concede and agree to give up your throne to Madurandaka, I
will chop you to pieces with this sword of mine. Then I shall cut your dear mother to bits. After that, I who gave birth to your
mother shall hack myself to death with that very same sword. Till I have life in this body, I shall not let the Chozla Empire slip
from your hands." When the old man roared with passion, his eyes shone with a bright anger; his aged body shook with
emotion.
"Say it like that Grandfather, say it like that," shouted Parthiban as he ran up to embrace old Malayaman. Even his
eyes were filled with tears of passion.
Karikala kept gazing at the deep sea for some time. "If this is your opinion, why hesitate? Grandfather, why should we
not gather our armies and immediately march towards Tanjore? We can easily overcome the Lords of Pazluvoor and
Mazlavaraya, Muthuaraya, Sambuvaraya, Munai Raya and all the other chieftains who support them; we can capture Tanjore
Fort. We can imprison Madurandaka, free the Emperor. If I have your blessing, if I have Parthiban at my side, who on this
earth can overcome us?" asked the Prince.
"True; none can win you in warfare. But what can you both do against conspiracy and treachery? Even as you
approach Tanjore with your army, they will declare that the son has declared war on his father. They will announce that unable
to bear the shock, your father, the Emperor gave up his life. And people will believe that. What will you do in such a situation?
You too will loose courage. My son! Can you tolerate an accusation of declaring war on your own father?"
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Aditya Karikala covered his ears and said, "Oh Lord God! It is horrible, disgusting even to hear!"
"That is why I have been cautioning you from the very first: grave danger surrounds us."
"What is the solution, Grandfather? What is the solution?"
"We must first send a trustworthy messenger to Lanka and make him bring back Arulmozli with him. Your brother
will not easily leave the battlefield, abandon his men and come. We must send a capable man who can convince him, change
his mind and make him come here."
Parthiban stepped up and said, "Sir! If it is agreeable to you, I can go and bring him here."
"That depends on Karikala's wish; and your will. Whoever it is, the messenger should not get involved in extraneous
affairs like Vandiya Devan."
"See! Remember what I said!" spoke Parthiban.
Karikala asked, "Grandfather, did you get any news of Vandiya Devan?"
"In the beginning I even had some suspicions about him. I wondered if he had joined our enemies; but, later my
doubts were cleared."
"Listen Parthiba!"
"Let him finish, My Prince, let him finish; you are so hasty! Sir why did you suspect Vandiya Devan?"
"I found that he was at Kadamboor on the night of the treacherous meeting. But, later I came to know that he had no
involvement in that conspiracy."
"Grandfather, how do you know all this?"
"I did not get an invitation to the banquet at Kadamboor. That itself raised my suspicions. After that, I imprisoned the
Chieftain of Kunratoor who was returning home from that get-together and took him to my mountain fort. I learned of
everything that took place at Kadamboor from him. Apparently Vandiya Devan is a dear friend of Kandamaran..."
"Yes; we know that. They were both in our army garrison near the North Pennar. I knew that they had become good
friends from those days."
"Anyway, Vandiya Devan was at Kadamboor that night. It was not clear if he was part of the plot or not. Soon I found
the answer! When I heard that he had stabbed Kandamaran on his back at Tanjore before he escaped ..."
"Grandfather! I can never believe that story. Vandiya Devan may do anything, he would never stab someone in the
back to escape. That too he is not so wretched as to stab his own friend." Karikala spoke for his friend.
"If he had found that his friend was involved in treason against his master? If that friend had tried to recruit him also
into that treason?"
"Whatever it may be; he would have fought face to face; never would he stab someone in the back."
"I am amazed by your confidence in your retainer. Who knows the truth? Lord Pazluvoor has accused Vandiya Devan
of having stabbed Kandamaran on his back; they are looking for him; that is all I know. We can surmise that there was some
kind of a quarrel between Vandiya Devan and Kandamaran; and that he was not involved in that scheme against you."
"We need not look for such involved proof of that. If Vandiya Devan joins forces with my enemies, this earth will turn
upside down! The deep ocean will dry up! The sky would shatter and the sun will rise in the night. The Chozla Dynasty will
face utter destruction." Aditya spoke with intensity.
"I agree with the Prince. Vandiya Devan will never betray us and join forces with the enemy. I find only one fault with
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him. If he sees the face of a beautiful woman, Vandiya Devan will turn dizzy; he will loose his senses."
Aditya smiled upon hearing these words of Parthiban. "Don't I know that nature in him! That is why I ordered him to
first deliver my letter to the Emperor and then meet my sister, the Younger Pirati. If he sees my sister once, he has no escape;
he has to be her slave!"
Malayaman now asked with surprise, "Is that what you told him? I didn't know it! Did you get any news from him
after he left Tanjore? Did the Younger Pirati send any information?"
"I am expecting some message every minute. Nothing has come so far."
"After Arulmozli comes here, we must get your sister also to come here. Then we do no not have to worry about
anything. We can leave all thinking to her and follow her orders. That will be enough!" said Malayaman of Thiru-kovalur.
"You are worse than Vandiya Devan in this, Grandfather!"
"Yes Karikala! Your sister has picked up the mace of authority ever since she was two years old! She would rule over
us -- me, your grandmother and your parents -- and make us dance to her wishes when she was a child. Even now nothing has
changed as far as I am concerned. Her rule is law for me! Karikala, don't think that I am demeaning you by praising your sister.
It is added honor for you that you have such a sister. I have not seen a man or woman so far, who is possessed of an
intelligence comparable to your sister's. You know how capable our Prime Minister Brahma Raya is? He himself consults
Kundavai's opinion on certain matters. What other endorsement do you need?"
Parthiban had not overcome his rivalry over Vandiya Devan. He asked, "All that is fine, who disagreed? But, what are
we to do if Vandiya Devan has met some other woman and fallen prey to her enchantment before he has met Kundavai? For
example, if he had met that enchantress called the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor?"
He had uttered the last few words in a soft voice; the old man did not hear them. Karikala had heard; he turned to look
at Parthiban with eyes brimming with fire. That look petrified Parthiban.
Malayaman stood up saying, "Parthiba! I hope you intend leaving for Lanka tomorrow itself. You two young men
may have much to talk about. I am old; I shall slowly walk back to the palace. You can both talk about everything and come
back slowly."
After he had walked away a little, Parthiban looked at Karikala and said, "My Prince, My Master! There is some
turmoil in your mind. Some sadness engulfs your heart. I think it has something to do with the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor.
Your very appearance is transformed if there is any mention of old man Pazluvoor's wedding or his Young-Queen. Your eyes
redden and spit fire. For how long are you going to bury this sorrow in your heart and suffer? Your have called me your dearest
friend at least a thousand times. Why don't you share your secrets with me, your friend? What is your anguish? Why don't you
tell me? Why don't you give me an opportunity to wipe out that melancholy? How long am I to keep quiet, watching you suffer
like this?" Parthiban asked in an impassioned voice.
Aditya Karikala sighed deeply, "My Friend! My heart ache has no cure. It is a sorrow that will die with me; it has no
soothing solution. It is nothing that I cannot share with you. I'll tell you tonight. But, let us go back to the palace wi th
Grandfather. It is not correct to let him go back alone."
The Prince stood up.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 54 -- Venomous Fiend
The three noblemen spent that night in one of the old Pallava palaces in Mamallai. After the night meal, Malayaman
walked back to the shore temple to listen to the Story-teller recount the tale of Aravaan. Aditya Karikala and Parthiban went up
to the terrace.
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Karikala kept gazing at the nighttime view of the Mamallai coast for some time. A few lights burned indifferently here
and there. Silence prevailed in the streets. They were closing temple doors after midnight services. The roar of the ocean could
be heard as a melancholy background drone. The expert villu-pattu (folk-song) maestro and his group were retelling the story
of Aravaan, in the courtyard of the shore temple; town-folk gathered around them, to listen to their story, could be seen as dim
shadows in the light of torches.
"Look at this old man, he has gone to listen to the Story-teller at this ripe old age! Whatever you say, there is
something commendable about these old timers. Who in these days has the will of mind and strength of purpose like them?"
asked Karikala.
"Prince! You too have started talking of the glory of ancient times and oldmen. What have we not achieved in our
times that has been done by these old-timers? I have not heard of anyone even in epics and fables performing such brave,
daring deeds like you, at such a young age," said Parthiban.
"Parthiba! You are pure of heart; I know that you will not conceal something in your mind and speak something else.
If you didn't do that you will not be my friend but, my worst enemy. You flatter me too much. There is nothing like flattery to
hurl a man into the deepest abyss."
"Sir, if one makes up untrue stories about a person and recounts them with a selfish motive, such tales are flattery.
Consider Madurandaka, who is slave to those Pazluvoor fellows in Tanjore; if I go and praise him saying, `You are the bravest
among brave!' it is flattery. If you ever find me doing anything stupid like that, you must kill me immediately with the sword in
your hand. Not a single word of excess have I uttered about you. Which warrior of ancient times has achieved so much at such
a young age? Perhaps we can consider your great-grandfather, Raja-aditya who `Reposed atop the elephant,' as comparable to
you. But, I cannot say he was greater ..."
"Stop this Parthiban, stop this! How can you compare me with Raja-aditya? We are not qualified even to talk about
Raja-aditya who reached the heavens meant for the brave, after wrecking havoc on the huge Rashtrakuta forces with a tiny
battalion. How can we compare ourselves to him? Forget this Chozla Dynasty. Consider the great heros of the Pallava clan in
which you are born! Will we ever see men equal to the great Mahendra Pallava and Mamalla Narasimha in these lands once
again? Think of valiant Narasimha Pallava who established his victory pillar in Vatapi, the capital of Chalukya Pulikesi who
had ruled all the lands from Tungabadra to Narmada under one canopy! You and I are nothing compared to him! Can anybody
in our times or after us, create a dreamworld like this exquisite Mamallai? ... Oh! Look around you in all directions once more!
Look over there where the Story-teller is holding court! Do you think they are ordinary men who gouged granite boulders to
build those exquisite chariots of stone? My whole body quivers with elation to think how splendid this Mamallai must have
been three hundred and fifty years ago. Don't you feel anything like that? When you think of your forefathers don't your
shoulders swell with pride?"
"My Prince, sometime ago you accused me of flattering you. You forgot that I often point out the faults in you. This
foolishness of wasting a lifetime with sculpture, art and music has taken hold of you too. It is because of such a madness that
all the victories won by my forefathers became useless. What did Narasimha do after establishing his victory pillar in Vatapi
City and coming back? He sat here sculpting stones and gouging boulders! And what was the result? Within a few years the
Chalukyas rose back to power. They came back with large armies bent upon vengeance; destroyed Kanchi and Uraiyoor and
went as far as Madurai! If Nedumara, the Pandiya had not faced those Chalukya hordes at Nelveli and defeated them, all these
southern lands would be under Chalukya rule even to this day!" said Parthiban.
"No, Parthiba, no! We have not heard of any ruling dynasty lasting for ever in this world. Even the Ishvaku line of
Rama came to an end. Rashtrakutas appeared to overthrow the Chalukyas. It is natural for empires to achieve glory at one time
and shrink to nothing at other periods. Some empires last with splendor for long times and then disappear without trace. Think
of my own ancestors -- Karikala Valava and Killi Valava of Sangam Times ruled with such pomp! What do we know about
them now? Because some bards wrote about them and their times we at least remember their names! Who knows if those bards
sang the truth or let their imaginations run wild in a drunken stupor? But Mahendra and Mamalla created this world of
sculpture. This will last for thousands of years and proclaim their fame to all the world. What have we done, comparable to
their creations? We killed thousands of men in battlefields and raised mounds of dead bodies; made rivers of blood flow! What
else have we done to establish our fame in history?" asked Karikala with some despair.
When Parthiban heard these words, he wondered if it was Aditya Karikala talking; he was stunned into silence for
some minutes. After some time he sighed and spoke up, "Prince, if you yourself talk in this fashion about combat and war,
what can I say? Your mind is not steadfast today, that is why you are rambling in this fashion. Si r, why don't you share the
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sadness in your mind with me? Open up your austere heart to me?"
"Parthiba! If I open up my heart and show it to you, what do you think you will find inside? Whom do you think will
be inside?"
"That is what I would like to know, My Lord!"
"My mother and father who gave life to me will not be there. My sister and brother, more dear than life, will not be
there. My closest friends, you and Vandiya Devan will not be there. A woman, the embodiment of deception will be found
there. The Young-Queen of Pazluvoor, the personification of all sordid sins will be there. All these days, I have not spoken to
anyone about this torture by that venomous fiend, Nandini who dominates my heart. I have told you now." When Aditya
Karikala spoke, the fiery heat of a furnace rose from his words.
"Prince, I could guess this somewhat. Whenever the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor was mentioned, your face darkened
and eyes turned bloodshot exhibiting some unbearable pain. How did this undeserving passion take hold of your heart? You are
born in a tradition which considers every alien woman as a mother. The nobles of Pazluvoor are blood relatives to you over
several generations. Lord Pazluvoor is old in age. Though he is enemy today, it was always not the case. You father and
grandfather showed such regard for him. Such a man's legally wedded wife -- however wretched and sinful she is -- how can
you even think of her in this way?"
"I should not! I know I should not. All this mental torture is because I realize this. But, she did not take possession of
my heart after she became the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor. This poison of passion for her had gripped my heart much before,
much much before that. I have not been able to get rid of this unworthy obsession, however I try. I speak as if everything was
her fault. Only God knows whose mistake it was. Perhaps all the blame should be cast upon the Creator who brought us into
this world. Or, we must blame Fate, which made us meet and then separated us!"
"My Lord! Had you met Nandini before she became the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor? Where, when and how did you
meet her?"
"That is a long tale. Do you wish to hear it today?"
"I surely do! I shall have no peace if I do not know the details. You are asking me to leave for Lanka tomorrow; I
cannot do my duty properly over there if I leave you like this. I must know the situation and offer you some solace. Only then
will I find rest."
"My Friend! Are you going to comfort me? There is no solace for me in this birth. I am not sure if I will find peace
even in my next birth. Anyway, I will tell you; for your peace. I do not want you to go away thinking that I have secrets from
you. You should not depart for Lanka with such thoughts."
After saying this, Aditya Karikala hesitated for some time. He then began disclosing his story.
*****
Ponniyin Selvan
Chapter 55 -- Nandini's Lover
"I met Nandini for the first time when I was twelve years old. One day in Pazlayarai, I, my sister Kundavai and my
younger brother Arulmozli were playing on the lake behind our palace, holding boat races. After playing for a while we were
walking back through the garden. We heard the voice of our elder-grandmother Sembiyan Madevi. All three of us were fond of
our grandmother who spoilt us with her affection. We wanted to immediately tell her about our experiences with the boat and
so we walked into the garden pavilion where we heard her voice. Besides our grandmother, three other persons were in that
building. One of those three was a young girl, about our age. The other two appeared to be her parents. They were saying
something about that girl to my grandmother. When we three children walked in, they stopped; all of them looked at us. All
that I can recall is how that young girl's beautiful eyes widened with surprise and watched me. I can see that look clearly, even
now ...."
After saying these words, Karikala became silent, gazing at the stars in the sky above him. Perhaps he could glimpse
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the face of that young girl in those light clouds which floated across the sky, veiling the stars. Who knows?
"Sir! What happened next?" asked Parthiban, bringing Karikala back to this world. The Prince continued:-
"My sister Kundavai told my grandmother all about our boat. After listening for a while, the Elder Pirati asked her,
`Darling, did you meet this girl? See how smart she is? They have come from the Pandiya country to the house of our Mr.
Esanya Bhattar. They will be here for a while. This young girl is Nandini. Why don't you make friends with her and play with
her? She will be a good companion to you!' But, I soon found that my sister did not like this. The three of us left the pavilion
and walked back towards the palace. At that time Kundavai asked me, `Anna! Did you see that girl there? Wasn't she awful
looking? Such an owlish face! Why does grandmother want me to play with her? I cannot stand her face, what am I to do?'
When I heard this, I realized an important truth. That is, women are born with envious minds. However beautiful a girl is, she
cannot stand the sight of another pretty face. Among all the women of my clan, my sister is renowned for her beauty. She could
not stand the sight of another attractive girl! Otherwise why would she make such a comment about that new girl? But, I did
not let my sister off easily. I teased her often and praised the comeliness of the new girl just to anger her. We often got into
petty arguments and quarrels because of this. Arulmozli who was too young, did not understand this bickering and was quite
bewildered. Very soon after this, I left with my father to the war in the Pandiya Kingdom. We engaged in several combats
against the Pandiya forces as well as the troops from Lanka which came to help them. All our engagements were victorious.
Finally, Veera-pandiya abandoned the field to run away and hide. At that time we did not know if he had gone into hiding or
whether he had died in the battlefield. But, the Lankan forces which had come to help him, began retreating towards the coast.
We followed those retreating men till the Port of Sethu. All survivors of that Singhalese Battalion escaped to their island in
small boats and rafts. My father wanted to teach a lesson to those Lankan kings who often helped the Pandiyas against us. He
decided to send a large army under the Command of the Younger Lord Velir of Kodumbalur to Lanka. It took us some months
to collect supplies and organize the ships for this expedition. We camped at Sethu, organized the campaign and sent off our
army in the ships; only after we had news of their safe landing in Matottam did we return. By the time I came back to
Pazlayarai, more than two and a half years had passed.
"I had completely forgotten the priest's daughter who had come from Madurai. When I came back to Pazlayarai, I
found that both my sister and that girl had grown unrecognizably. I found them both to be great friends. Not only had Nandini
grown more beautiful, but she shone with silken garments and jewels. I found that this was due to my sister's generosity.
Unlike the earlier time, Nandini now hesitated to see me or talk to me; she seemed bashful. I tried to make her overcome her
shyness. I found incomparable pleasure in talking to her and spending time in her company. At that young age, this attraction
for her surprised me no end. Like the fresh floods of the Cauvery, a new emotion, a fresh experience was flooding my heart,
filling my soul with an ambiguous enthusiasm. However, I soon found that none of my near and dear ones liked this new
interest of mine. Since my coming back, Kundavai began to dislike that girl. One day, my grandmother Sembiyan Madevi
talked to me in privacy, `Nandini is from a priest's family; you are the Emperor's son. You are both no longer young children.
This intimacy between you two is no longer appropriate,' she advised. I, who revered my grandmother like a Goddess became
angry with her and disregarded her words. I forsook her advice and began meeting Nandini in secrecy. But, that did not last too
long. Suddenly one day, Nandini and her parents left Pazlayarai and went back to their village in the Pandiya Kingdom. When I
found out, sadness overwhelmed me; anger and rage were uncontrollable. I buried my sadness and showered my rage upon my
sister. Fortunately, I had to soon leave and go north. I came away with the battalion sent to fight the Rashtrakuta forces which
occupied Thondai and Thiru-munaipadi. It was at that time that I met you; we became inseparable friends.
"With the help of Malayaman, you and I fought the Rashtrakutas. We drove them beyond the River Palar and captured
Kanchi City. At that time we heard the bad news from Lanka: our forces were defeated, the Younger Lord Velir had lost his
life there. On hearing that news, Veera-pandiya who had been hiding in mountain caves, came out like a serpent emerging
from its mound. He collected his army once again and captured Madurai to raise his fish-flag over that city. Remember how
impassioned we became when we heard all this news? The two of us went back to Pazlayarai immediately.
"My father was already in ill health, losing the use of his limbs. Even so, he was planning the Pandiya campaign. I
begged him to send me in his stead. I promised to destroy the Pandiya army and capture Madurai once again; I swore that I
would not return home without Veera-pandiya's head. You were also with me at that time. My father agreed to send us on that
campaign. He ordered us to go under the leadership of Bhoothi Vikrama Kesari, the Elder Lord Velir of Kodumbalur who
had already been appointed the Commander for that campaign. We went gladly. On the way we met the Elder Lord Pazluvoor
and his battalion. We learned that he was annoyed at not being appointed the Commander for the campaign.
"Seeing our enthusiasm, Commander Bhoothi Vikrama Kesari gave us important assignments in the conduct of that
war. My Friend, remember? You and I performed the greatest deeds of daring and valor during those combats. There is nothing
wrong in being proud of that! We defeated the Pandiya forces and captured Madurai, but were not satisfied with that. We
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wanted to destroy every unit of that army so that it could never regroup again. We ordered our men to follow every company of
their retreating battalions and kill them mercilessly. We pursued the withdrawing Pandiya King with one compact detachment.
"A fish-flag flying high atop an elephant directed us to t