Ponniyan Selvan of Kalki Krishnamurthy
English Translation by Indra Neelameggham
part I A
(chapters 1 to 30) - New Floods also
also in Tamil:
முதலாவது பாகம் - புது வெள்ளம் ]
Contents of Part1A
||The Horse Galloped
||The Gypsy Dance
||The First Enemy
Battalion Of Velirs
||Who Is In The
Battalion Of Velirs
||A Cuckoo And A
||The Astrologer of
||Inside The Fort
||The Waxing Moon
||A Crocodile On The
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
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
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
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.
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
Come, oh ye young maidens,
Look at the North river bubbling by!
Come watch, oh ye
Look at the White river rushing by!
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
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?
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.
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
"Is it the great warrior, Lord Pazluvoor, who
is coming?" asked Vandiya Devan in a startled voice.
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.
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.
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!"
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
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 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
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?"
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
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?
of Govinda, Sing of Govinda,
Sing of Govinda, Oh foolish
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.
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
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.
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 the
crowd were ready to enter the tussle. Vallavarayan Vandiya
Devan felt that he must stop this absurd rumpus.
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
Ponniyin Selvan : Chapter 3 -- Vinnagara
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.
"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
"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
"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.
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.
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
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?"
"Me? I plan to go a little ways west and then a bit to
the south; then go around east to travel southwest."
not asking all that. I meant, where do you plan to stay
"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."
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.
interrupted these thoughts in a begging voice, "Thambi, will
you do me a favor?"
"How can I help you? I am new to these
"It is a task that is possible for you. Take me
along to Kadamboor Fort tonight."
"Why? Is some fanatic
Saiva coming there? Are you going to debate about the
greatness of Shiva and Thirumal to conclude who is the
"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
"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
"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!"
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
"To the presence of the deity
"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
"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!"
"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
"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
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
constructed a temple for Veera-Narayana at
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
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,
this earth, the sorrows of these times;
See, they have
come to worship him,
Serve him with dance and song;
saw, we saw, we saw,
We saw things pleasing to the eye;
Come, Come all ye worshippers!
Come adore him, come here
Follow the path of these souls dear to Lord
Live on this earth with dance and song of his
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
Thennan Gurukoor Maran Sadagopan's
numbering one-thousand and twenty
which would melt any
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
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?"
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 the lady who was in the
closed palanquin behind Lord Pazluvoor's elephant."
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
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 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
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,"
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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
Both friends came out from the inner
chambers. A voice from inside called out, "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?"
"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?"
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 ..."
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?"
"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
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
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
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
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
Let hunger and disease be destroyed;
enmity be routed;
Let rain and fertility increase;
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
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
"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
"Will it be offered if I ask?"
"Yes, we will
offer it. We shall surely offer the sacrifice."
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 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
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
taken hold of him. Several other emotions beyond his
experience seemed to agitate his thoughts.
Ponniyin Selvan : Chapter 6 -- Midnight
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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 let outside this fortress.
In fact it would be better to put a complete end to his
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
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
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
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.
"Why ask the astrologers? Hasn't the long-tailed comet been
appearing in the evening skies for several days? Is that not
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 ..."
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 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
"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
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,
"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."
construction of this Golden Palace been completed?"
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.
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
"Most unusual and peculiar! We cannot tolerate such
illegalities! Never heard of such behavior!" rose several
"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 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
"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
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
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!"
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
"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?
"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."
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.
"I never said
there was anything wrong about his marriage. Who amongst us
is monogamous? But ... but ..."
"But what? Ask without
"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
A laugh was heard in their midst.
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
"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,"
"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
"We request that you state your opinion on this
matter. There is no one here who has anything to say against
"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
"Madurandaka, the son of the elder brother
Gandara Aditya has the right to succeed. That is legal,
justice, tradition," said Lord Sambuvaraya.
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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 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?
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
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)!"
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
"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."
not? We shall think of it at that time. Permit me to leave
"Don't be in such a hurry. We can start after the
morning meal. I shall accompany you till the banks of River
"How can you do that? You have all sorts of
important guests. How can you leave them and ..."
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 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?"
"Oh! What a
delightful name! If her character and beauty are like the
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."
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
"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
"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?"
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.
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
"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
procure another horse for you on the other shore," said
"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.
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
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
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.
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
Praise to you, dear Cauvery;
Dress yourself in
Fragrant gardens full of humming bees;
Open wide, those large dark eyes:
Dancing fish of deep
Dancing does not melt a lovers heart:
good monarch's mace of justice;
When nightingales sing in
And peacocks dance amidst flower groves;
Dance gently, dear Cauvery:
You disturb the garlands on
The garlands at his waist are all asway;
What caused it? The very name of your dear Lord:
spear like dart;
Walk slowly, walk shyly,
Praise to you,
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.
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
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
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."
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"Anyway, whatever you say, a person born
as a woman will one day have to be married. Is that not so?"
"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
"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
"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
"Now I am quite happy."
"How is that?"
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,
"My dear girl! What happened to all the advise you
were giving me just now?"
"Am I like 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
"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?"
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
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
"Mr. Astrologer! I hope that nobody else will come
in search of you at this time?" asked Kundavai.
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
"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
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 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
"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
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
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
"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!"
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
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
"Amma, what are you saying? If my statements
are incorrect, I will give up my practice!" said the
"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
"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."
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?"
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
"Thaye! Have you ever seen the soles of this girl's feet?
"Sir! What are you saying? Are you asking me to touch
(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."
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.
you don't believe my words today, there is no harm. One day
you will believe it. Don't forget this poor astrologer on
Vanathi asked once again: "Akka, shall we go?"
Two tear drops peeped at the corners of her dark eyes.
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 ..."
"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!"
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
"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?"
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
"Sir! About my father..., the Emperor ... I am
quite worried ever since he moved to Tanjore from
"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."
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
"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
"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?"
bravest of warriors who is to marry Akka ...."
dauntless gallant ...." interrupted Kundavai with some
"Doubtless. A very capable prince..."
has all the thirty-two signs of good looks; Jupiter in
wisdom; a veritable Saraswati (deity of learning) in
knowledge; handsome as Cupid, Oh no, as Arjuna (epic
"When will that handsome prince, deserving of
the Younger Pirati come and where will he come from?"
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
"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?"
"No. It seems to be coming here, to this
"OK. Get up. Let us go."
At this time they could
hear some confused noises outside the door. Voices could be
"Is this the Astrologer's house?"
"Yes; who are
"Is the Astrologer home?"
"You cannot enter."
will do so."
"I cannot let you."
"I must see the
"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."
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
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
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."
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
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.
"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.
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
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
"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
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:
and upon searching found
the holy name,
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
"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?"
"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
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.
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
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. 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
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
"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?!"
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
"Yes. It was very captivating. I thought of you at
"I was not fortunate to see it. What happened
"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?"
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."
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
"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?"
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?"
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
After uttering these words Azlvar-adiyan began singing
the following words:
I spied upon his golden presence;
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!"
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi! I have a suspicion. Shall I disclose
"You will not come to beat me up with
"You? Is it possible for me to hit
"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!"
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.
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."
hasn't arrived yet. Tell me that story. I can listen."
`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?"
"If it is justified I will help
you. If you do not like it, don't tell me anything."
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
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
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.
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
Ponniyin Selvan : Chapter 13 -- The
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?"
"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."
"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!"
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
"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?"
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."
Everything that Azlvar-adiyan Nambi said about you seems to
"Azlvar-adiyan? Who is he? A person with that
"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."
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?"
"About seven eighths of what he
says will be full of imagination. The rest may be gospel
"So, you say that he is a very wicked fellow."
"One cannot say that! He is good to the good; bad to the
"That means we cannot trust his words and do
"Believing or not believing depends on the
"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."
is that Sir?"
"What other occupation do astrologer's like
me have? We collect the horoscopes of men and women born in
"I am not from any such famous noble
"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
The Astrologer immediately sang the following
Are there lips that do not speak of your fame: oh
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?
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.
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?"
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?"
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
"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?"
"There are two
astrologers greater than me in Tanjore. You have to ask
"Who are they?"
"One is the Elder Lord Pazluvoor;
the other is his brother the Younger Lord Pazluvoor."
is said that the health of the Emperor is in a bad state. Is
"People will say all sorts of things. Why not?
Don't believe all that they say; neither should you repeat
"Can you tell me who has the right to
succeed to the Chozla throne if something happens to the
"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
"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?"
a peculiar fortune; similar to that of womenfolk. His
fortunes are always subject to the power of others."
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
"Maybe they are talking about the power of
the new bride married by the Elder Lord Pazluvoor."
"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
"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."
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
"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
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."
thanks Mr. Astrologer. If the need arises I shall follow
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
"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
"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
"More than all her tricks, the funny thing is
that Kundavai Pirati and the Prince believed her!" added
Mandakini offered the comment, "These are times
for those who deceive and tell lies and falsehoods."
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
"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
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!
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."
consider all these things, it seems as if the Younger Pirati
really intends to wed this foolish Vanathi to our Prince!"
"If anything like that happens, I shall poison this
Vanathi and kill her," said the jealous maid, Varini.
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?
"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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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?"
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
"Akka! Who is this girl? What is her name?" he
"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."
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
"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
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
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.
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.
thief! This is not a live crocodile; it is a stuffed
carcass! Someone has already told you that!" said one of the
"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 ... ..."
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 ..."
"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.
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.
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
"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
"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!"
talking about fish?"
"Yes. My dear man! yes!"
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
"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."
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."
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.
shall come in the next ferry. You can go," said Idumban
"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
By now Azlvar-adiyan had climbed into the
thickest branches of the tree and completely concealed
himself. 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
"What is your name?" asked the newcomer.
name is Idumban Kari. What is yours, Sir?"
"I was expecting you, Sir!"
"I too came in search of you."
"Where should we go?"
"Near Thiru-puram-biyam ... "
talk so loudly. If someone hears it?"
"There is no one
here. I looked."
"If someone is hiding near-abouts?"
"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
"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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
"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 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,"
"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."
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
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,"
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.
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. 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
"I do." "I can." said a few voices.
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
"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.
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.
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
"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..."
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
"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?"
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?"
fanatic Vaishnava fellow with a topknot on his forehead
"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."
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."
You are saying this with such conviction. He must be a very
artful fellow. Who is he?"
"He? He is a terribly capable
"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."
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."
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
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
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
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:-
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 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
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
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
Teachers keep time, while beguiling
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
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
"What does you uncle do in Tanjore? Is he in service
at the Palace?"
"Oh, no! He is an inn-keeper."
that so! Then, why don't you go before us? Why do you follow
"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
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
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.
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.
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
"Yes. Great Queen! These men did that; my horse was
"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
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?
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."
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
"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 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 --
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
"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."
"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.
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 soldiers followed these men. They raised the
following cries and cheers as they marched out:
Emperor Paranthaka of the blessed earth."
"Praise to him!
Long life! Long life!"
"Long live Sundara Chozla!"
life! Long life!"
"Long life to the Rooster King!"
life! Long life!"
"Lord of Tanjore!"
"Long life! Long
"Long life to the Lord who vanquished
"Long life! Long life!"
"Long life to
the Monarch who took Madurai, Lanka and Thondai!"
life! Long life!"
"May the clan of Karikala Valava live
long with fame!"
"Long life! Long life!"
Goddess Durga, the Greatest, the all powerful!"
"Let the brave tiger-flag fly worldwide and
"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.
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
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.
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 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.
temple do you serve, delivering these flowers?"
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, ..."
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
"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?"
have magic skills; that's how! Where is your house?"
gardens are in the suburbs, a little beyond the city limits.
Our house is in the middle of the flower gardens," said
"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
"Dear, dear! Why do you say that? Perhaps
your father is...?"
"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."
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?
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
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
"Oh! Is that true? I did not know that till
"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?"
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."
has entered into matrimony after all these years."
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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
"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
"Is your cousin called Poonkuzlali? What a
"Is it just her name that's pretty!"
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"Even the Emperor is not more powerful?!"
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
"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
"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
"Why? It is well known. The Emperor has paralysis;
he has lost the use of both his legs."
"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!"
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
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 the
Emperor's palace, thought Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan as he
began walking in that direction. He thought of what he must
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
"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
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.
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
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."
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 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.
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?"
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
"What? What did you say?" he asked again.
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.
drew the letters from his waist pouch, but still reverently,
said, "Commander, the letter is for the Emperor!"
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
"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..."
didn't you say so in the first place? Did you stay the night
at Kadamboor? Who else had come?"
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
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 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.
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
"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
"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.
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
"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
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
"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.
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
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 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
"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
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."
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
May he grow in prosperity, benevolence and in good looks
To live with fame on this good earth.
Nandipuri was another name for Pazlayarai
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?"
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;
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?
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 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
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!"
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
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."
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!
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."
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 perfectly still immobilized by the declaration they had
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."
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
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 ...
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
"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
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.
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!"
"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.
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
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
"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
Horses of noble gait came by the sea;
black pepper brought in carts;
Gemstone and gold from the
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;
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.
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
By now, the poets had left the inner bed
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
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.
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 ..."
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 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.
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
"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
"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?"
will definitely return by tonight."
"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."
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
his noble Sire who covered
The roof of the dancer at Chidambaram with red gold,
May Gandara Aditya, monarch of flourishing Kozli,
the people of Tanjore, expert in exquisite Tamil verse,
May he attain everlasting greatness and happiness.
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 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.
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