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