Ponniyan Selvan of Kalki
English Translation by Indra Neelameggham
part 2B: Whirlwind (chapters 27 to 53) also
also in Tamil:
இரண்டாம் பாகம் - சுழற்காற்று]
Contents of Part 2B
||"Look Over There!"
||The Elephant Driver
||"I Am A Culprit"
||Fist Fight .
||The Elephant Turned Rogue
||Eleyla Singan Play
||Killi Valava's Elephant
||Message Of The Monolith
||The Commodore's Death
||Is Merit Honored?
||Here Is War
||Song of Sustenance
Ponniyin Selvan part 2 B : Chapter 27 --Forest Path
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama Kesari, the Elder
Lord Velir of Kodumbalur was an elderly, experienced
warhorse. He had personal experience of conducting
numberless war campaigns in varied conditions. He enjoyed a
close, friendly alliance with the Chozla clan. His younger
brother had reached the heavens of the brave, as the result
of a loosing war fought in Lanka some years ago. The armies
sent with that younger brother had faced defeat and retreat.
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama was very intent on vindicating
that slur to the name of the Velirs and reestablishing the
brave fame of the Kodumbalur house. Therefore, he had come
to Lanka as the Commander though he was slightly advanced in
For reasons of his own, Lord Pazluvoor had been
raising several obstacles to the proper conduct of this
campaign on the island of Lanka. The long time rivalry and
competition between the clans of these two Tamil chieftains
had now grown because of these disagreements.
plight of Vandiya Devan, who had been arrested with the
Pazluvoor signet ring in his possession, would indeed have
been difficult if he had been brought before the Velir
chieftain. Fortunately for our hero, the Commander had
mentioned the incident to Prime Minister Brahma-raya while
enroute to Rameswaram. The Prime Minister came to know the
truth about Vandiya Devan through Azlvar-adiyan and acted at
once. He ordered Azlvar-adiyan to cross the channel
immediately and explain the truth to Commander Bhoothi
The Commander examined the brave young man
of the Vaanar clan from top to toe. He must have been
favorably impressed. He enquired in a pleasant voice,
"Thambi, did they look after you properly? Did you have
comfortable lodging and proper food?"
"Yes Sir! There
was no dearth of comfort. They looked after me very well
indeed! Five or six men waited constantly at my door to
execute my every wish and order. I had plenty of space to
stay in that old mansion. They had even sent me a cat for my
night meal. Just when I was about to eat that creature, this
Mr. Nambi appeared to spoil my appetite!" spoke Vandiya
"This young man seems to be a jokester.
Thirumalai, is he speaking the truth?"
Thirumalai Nambi replied, "Sir, he says that his forefathers
were poets. Therefore, he possesses a lot of creative
imagination. Apart from that, he is essentially saying the
truth. When I went to see him in the guard-house, a cat
really scratched my arms and legs."
Vikrama began to laugh on seeing the bloody scratches on his
hands and legs. "A cat did this to you!? You are lucky to
have this brave young man as your companion for the journey
across the forest ..."
"Sir, I have no need for an
escort; my wooden staff would be adequate. It was a mistake
to not take my staff with me when I went to see him."
"Then, you can be his escort. Arrange for a proper meal for
him before you leave. Thambi, food services are somewhat
inadequate in Lanka at present. Mahinda's armies had
destroyed all the irrigation canals and lakes in these
provinces before they retreated into the mountains.
Agriculture and farming are greatly inhibited because of it.
Neither do we have farmers to plant crops. Even the local
population is on the verge of starvation; how can I
commandeer food for our soldiers? We do not get proper food
supplies from the homeland..."
"I am aware of that
Sir!" interrupted Vandiya Devan, "I heard the women petition
the Younger Pirati Kundavai when she was in the vicinity of
the padai veedu neighborhood in Pazlayarai. They were
imploring, `Our husbands and sons are starving in Lanka!'
The Princess was concerned."
"Oh, they are aware of
this situation over there? Good, good! What did Kundavai
Pirati say to their appeal?"
"She consoled them with
words to the effect that our men in Lanka will not suffer as
long as Commander Bhoothi Vikrama was there to take care of
them. They need not worry when Lord Velir was in command."
"Aha! Did the Younger Pirati say such words? There have been many
noble women born in various noble families of this world;
but, there is none to equal our Younger Pirati!"
"There is another we could mention, Sir."
"Lady Vanathi Devi of Kodumbalur."
"Ah! This young man is very ingenious. His creativity will
seduce even me. Thambi, did you see the light of our clan at
"I met her Sir. How could I not see her
when she is the constant companion of the Younger Pirati?
They came to the Doctor's house, riding on an elephant. The
Younger Pirati and Lady Vanathi are never separated -- like
the light from a lamp, fragrance from flowers, shadow of a
"Really! This young man is very smart.
Thirumalai, before you leave, take him to our treasury and
give him all the clothes and ornaments he likes."
"Sir. I have no wish for clothes or ornaments now. I'll
accept them on my return journey when my assignment is
completed." Vandiya Devan bowed to the Commander in thanks.
"Thambi, did the Princess send any message for me about the
darling of my clan, about Vanathi?"
"Commander, I do
not wish to utter lies in your presence."
speak falsehood anywhere to anyone."
"I beg to be
excused in that matter as far as this fanatic Mr. Nambi is
concerned. If I tell him the truth my head will split into
smithereens!" said Vandiya Devan.
"Fine, fine! So?
The Younger Pirati did not send any message for me!" The
Commander seemed slightly disappointed.
"She did not
send a message for you. But..."
"She has sent a message to the concerned person. She has
ordered me to personally deliver some messages about Lady
Vanathi to the Prince."
"I have never met a youngster
as intelligent as you!" With these words the Elder Lord of
Kodumbalur heartily embraced Vandiya Devan. He then said,
"Well, don't waste time anymore. You must leave as soon as
Vandiya Devan asked a little hesitantly,
"Sir, does this Vaishnava gentleman have to accompany me?
Can I not leave without him?"
"Why do you object to
him coming with you?"
"I have no objection. This
sword by my waist is a fanatic Saiva sword. For some days
now, it has been begging for Vaishnava blood. It might
emerge from my scabbard without my control and his lot may
become difficult. I am concerned about that!" Vandiya Devan
replied in an obscure fashion expressing his dissatisfaction
about the arrangement.
"Then leave this bloodthirsty
sword here; take some other sword from our armory. You may
not be able to find Prince Arulmozli if Thirumalai does not
come with you. No one knows the whereabouts of the Prince.
Moreover, he is also carrying an important letter for the
Prince. It is better that you both journey together. Don't
you both indulge in petty quarrels with each other on the
way and spoil the mission." The Commander appeared quite
After saying this, Lord Velir led Vandiya Devan
aside and whispered these words in his ear, "Thambi, this
fellow will not hinder your mission. But, be careful; find
out what message he delivers to the Prince and come back and
In the beginning Vandiya Devan was
concerned that Azlvar-adiyan was being sent to keep an eye
on him. Now, the roles were reversed; he was going to keep
an eye on that cunning Vaishnava spy. Vandiya Devan
preferred this situation.
Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi left by nightfall with an escort of two
footmen. For two days, they journeyed eastward. For a while
the landscape was populated with townships and villages. To
a certain extant, people seemed to be moving about on their
normal tasks. Soon, the terrain changed to encroaching
forest with short trees and shrubs. Later, the jungle grew
thick with tall trees reaching sky high; small lakes could
be seen in enclosed clearings. Such lakes and tanks were
often ruined with broken dikes and banks. Water had
wastefully escaped through ruined channels and lakes were
dry. Farmlands lay fallow. In one large open meadow, water
stagnated for a depth of few inches. Apparently, water from
River Palavi had flooded the area because of ruined banks
and wasted the land as well as water. They saw all such
sights as they walked.
pointed out the havoc and ruin caused by long time war in
those beautiful and fertile lands. He spoke constantly of
the evils of war. He and Vandiya Devan argued constantly
about this topic. After two days, the journey changed
direction. They now bent their steps southward. Forests
became even more dense. Plains turned into rocky, hilly
land. In the distance they could see tall mountain ranges.
Forests began to appear dangerous as birdsounds mingled with
frightening noises of unknown beasts. They were talking
about the wild beasts and the danger from them in those
areas. Thirumalai said that jackals, panthers, tigers,
cheetahs, bears, elephants and other such wild animals could
be found in that forest.
Vandiya Devan asked, "Isn't
it dangerous if a pack of jackals come at us?" He remembered
that horrible nightmare he had in Kadamboor.
howl of a single jackal is more dangerous than a pack of
"How can that be, Sir?"
jackal hunt together in these forests. The cheetah hides in
shadows while the jackal scouts for prey in the open. If it
sees a living prey -- a deer, or even a human being -- it
sets up a long howl. The cheetah pounces swiftly and kills
the prey. A jackal which scouts for the cheetah in this
fashion is often called as `Ori' the spy."
talked in this fashion and walked, they could hear a roaring
sound, like sea waves, in the distance. Vandiya Devan asked,
"Have we not come far from the sea? What is that noise?"
"Some lake or reservoir must be close by. An elephant herd
must be coming to drink water..." Nambi was explaining.
"Oh Dear Lord! What if we are caught in the midst of that
"There is nothing to worry about
that. Elephants coming in a large herd will not harm us. If
we stand aside, they will go their way without even glancing
at us." Azlvar-adiyan and the others had stopped under a
tree. A footman quickly climbed the towering forest tree and
looked out. He cried out as he hastily scrambled down, "Sir,
Sir! It is a single elephant. A rogue! It is pulling out
trees and breaking branches and coming this way."
"Oh! What a complication! How are we to escape this?"
Thirumalai looked about here and there in fear.
Vandiya Devan asked, "You said that there was nothing to
fear about a herd of wild elephants. Now you are afraid of a
single elephant -- why Sir?"
"My Dear Man! A single
rogue elephant is like a thousand wild elephants. No one can
withstand its fury."
"We three men have spears and
swords. You have your staff!"
"A thousand spears can
do nothing to a rogue elephant. There, look at that steep
rockface. If we climb onto that ledge we may be able to
escape. Come, let us run and try."
Azlvar-adiyan was already running towards that rocky hillock. Others
followed. After they had run a few yards, they realized that
a deep canyon crossed their path. They ran up to stand on
the edge of that steep ravine. The elephant seemed to be
approaching closer. When that huge beast lifted its long
trunk and trumpeted, the thundering roar reverberated from
all sides. On hearing its screaming roar, all four men began
to run helter-skelter in all directions.
had come closer; it came even closer and closer. It seemed
to be aiming for Azlvar-adiyan and going towards the spot he
stood. If he took two steps backwards, Azlvar-adiyan would
fall into that deep ravine. Bushes and shrubs obstructed and
prevented escape on the sides. Anyway, how could he run and
escape a rogue elephant?
Vandiya Devan raised his
spear and took aim. He felt that even thunderbolts from
heaven could not stop that beast in that moment. His hand,
lifting the spear, felt weak. Azlvar-adiyan's actions at
that time provoked laughter on one side.
Azlvar-adiyan was waving his wooden staff and shouting at
the rogue elephant, "Stop, stop! Stop right there! You are
ruined if you come closer! I shall kill you and bury you
alive. Take care! Stop right now!"
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 28
How could a rogue elephant be stopped by the
threats of Azlvar-adiyan's staff and passionate words? It
lifted it's trunk high above the head and trampled the
bushes and creepers on it's path as it came closer. There
was no doubt that in one second, Azlvar-adiyan's life-story
would come to an end. The two footmen stood rooted to their
spot as they shouted "Hey" "Hey". Vandiya Devan lifted his
spear once again thinking of making one last effort. In that
same instant, Azlvar-adiyan threw his wooden staff at that
elephant. The next moment, Azlvar-adiyan vanished. His head
scarf flew into the breeze and was caught by a tree branch.
Before they could worry about Azlvar-adiyan's plight, an
important thing occurred in that forest.
elephant stepped closer to the spot where Azlvar-adiyan had
vanished; suddenly, the beast bent it's forelegs, as if it
was kneeling down -- and toppled forward! A deafening roar
was echoing from all directions of that forest ravine. In
one second, that mountain-like elephant also disappeared. As
it's huge body rolled down and down that ravine, the rogue
elephant raised a cloud of dust caused by dislodged rocks
Vandiya Devan needed a few minutes to
understand what had happened. There was that deep canyon --
the ravine just behind Azlvar-adiyan; in the force of
throwing his staff the man had fallen into it! The rogue
elephant rushing towards the man had stepped into the gaping
hole with its forelegs. It had tried to balance itself; but,
its heavy body became it's own enemy. The elephant also had
fallen into the depths. Rogue elephant and roguish
Azlvar-adiyan had met their maker in the very same instant!
A shiver ran through Vandiya Devan's body when he realized
these facts. His heart felt heavy with a sadness. During
this journey, he had forgotten all his suspicions about that
faithful Vaishnava devotee; in fact Vandiya Devan felt a
certain affection and respect towards him. "Is this his
fate?" Vandiya Devan wondered how he could finish this
hazardous journey without the help of Azlvar-adiyan; how
could he finish his mission successfully?
Devan stepped closer to the edge which had swallowed both
man and beast and peered down. For a while everything was
covered by a dust-cloud and nothing could be seen. Dust
settled slowly and the path cleaved by the falling elephant
could be discerned because of the trampled bushes and
"Why Thambi? What are you gawking
at? Can't you lend a helping hand?" Vandiya Devan jumped
back on hearing this voice. In his astonishment, he almost
fell into the hole. Azlvar-adiyan was holding the root of a
tree that grew on a rocky outgrowth just a foot away from
the path cleared by the elephant and swinging.
Vandiya Devan was filled with delight and laughter. "Oh ho
ho! Sir! You have given salvation to that King Elephant but
have stayed back in this heaven of Trisanku!" (Trisanku's
heaven was a mythical, impromptu world created between the
worlds of the Gods and mortals.) Vandiya Devan clapped his
hands and beckoned the two footmen.
They made a rope
by binding their waist-cloths and lowered it down the
ravine. Both footmen held one end while Vandiya Devan
persuaded Mr. Nambi to let go of the tree root and hold the
other end. Then, all three of them pulled with all their
strength and with much effort lifted stocky Mr.
Azlvar-adiyan out of that deep canyon. Azlvar-adiyan
stretched out on the forest floor, heaving deep sighs and
gasping loud breaths. The other three men surrounded him,
comforting him and fanning him with their waist-bands.
Very soon, Azlvar-adiyan sat up and said, "Come on! Get
ready! We must somehow reach the Royal Way before nightfall.
Where is my scarf? Where is my stick?"
"There is no
hurry. Rest a little longer, we can leave after you feel
better," said Vandiya Devan. They heard the howl of a
jackal. Another jackal replied with equal melody from the
opposite direction. A hundred wolves and jackals seemed to
join the chorus. Sounds of movement from the high ground of
the forest towards the depths of the ravine could now be
heard. Vultures and eagles began flying circles above the
"An elephant's death is not an ordinary
incident. Carnivorous beasts and birds from all the
surrounding area will gather to feast on its dead body. We
might become their side dishes! Hurry!" said Azlvar-adiyan.
None opposed him now.
The four men walked down that
forest path as quickly as they could. A little after dusk,
they reached the Royal Way. The highway was busy with people
and vehicles coming and going in both directions. Vandiya
Devan was impressed by men riding calmly on ponderous
elephants. It was a similar beast that had created such
havoc in the forest! He asked, "Where is this highway coming
from? Where is it going? Where are we now? Which way are we
"We have come to the Royal Way that connects
Anuradapura and Simhagiri. Dampallae is less than half a
league away. We can reach it by night," said Azlvar-adiyan.
"We could have come comfortably by this Royal Way! Why did
we take the forest path?"
"If we had taken the
highway from the coast, we would have been stopped and
questioned in a hundred places. We would have been
completely stopped in Anuradapura. I have found out that the
person we have come in search of has gone towards Simhagiri.
That is why I took this forest path. Even now I am not sure
if we can meet him. I hope he has not gone away somewhere
They walked along that Royal Way. Several
houses, black-smithies and even villages were found on both
sides of this road. People living in those wayside villages
and working in those shops appeared to be Singhalese. Tamil
soldiers went up and down the highway. People living in the
communities on both sides continued with their chores
without any fear.
"Who has control over these parts,
now?" asked Vandiya Devan.
Chozla armies have
captured all areas up to Dampallae. Beyond that, Simhagiri
mountains and fortress are under Mahinda."
civilians in these areas?"
"They are mostly
Singhalese of Lanka. Since the arrival of Ponniyin Selvan,
the very nature of warfare has changed in these parts.
Battles are between Mahinda's soldiers and Chozla warriors;
fought face to face when they meet in a battlefield.
Otherwise, the villagers live peacefully. Buddhist monks are
very happy because of this arrangement. Our Prince had given
orders to repair and rebuild all the Buddhist Viharas
(temples) in Anuradapura. Did you hear that! Why wont those
monks be happy? When I meet the Prince, I'll say, `I don't
like your actions one bit!' -- that's what I shall tell
"Tell him that without fail! Who is this Prince
to do things you dislike!? What divine privilege does he
have?" spoke Vandiya Devan with his usual sarcasm.
"Thambi, he has no divine privilege. But, he has some
charming power. Whatever complaints they may raise behind
him, people are hypnotized when they stand before him; not a
single word do they utter. Only one person has that power --
to stand and talk in front of the Prince -- to influence
"Yes, yes Sir! Who in this world is not aware
of the prowess of Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi? Who is the Prince
compared to our brave warrior who opposed and overcame the
rogue elephant single-handed, equipped with a mere wooden
"You have not understood me, My Friend! How
can you compare poor me with Ponniyin Selvan? I can face
rogue elephants with my wooden staff; I can meet tigers and
bears with bare hands. But, my courage vanishes somewhere
when I stand in front of Ponniyin Selvan. My voice dies;
heart feels empathy and not a single word comes out..." said
"Whom did you mean when you talked
about the person who could influence him?"
world knows that; don't you know? I am talking about the
Younger Pirati Kundavai. Her word is gospel to him."
"Oh! You are talking about Princess Kundavai of Pazlayarai;
I thought you meant Young-Queen Nandini of Pazluvoor."
"Nandini also has an unique power; but, it is of a different
"How? What difference?"
"Suppose a man
is falling into the pits of hell and perdition; Kundavai
will stop him and turn him towards the path of salvation and
take him to paradise. That is one kind of power. Do you know
what Nandini would do? In a way one could say that her power
is even more exceptional. She will declare that the pitfalls
of perdition are paradise; she will convince the man and
make him jump happily into those pits."
A shiver ran
through Vandiya Devan. How well he has estimated Nandini's
character and her frightening, enchanting powers. This man
has gauged her well. Perhaps his claim that Nandini is his
sister, could be true. Vandiya Devan was lost in such
thought and had no other questions. They walked for a while
in silent thought.
The sounds of galloping horses
disturbed their silence. Hoof-beats approached them from the
opposite direction. Within a few minutes, four horses came
galloping swiftly. Those flying horses raised a cloud of
dust that swirled like a mini tornado as they flashed past
our foot travelers at lightning speed. Even in that short
time, Vandiya Devan recognized one of the men seated on one
of those horses.
Aha! That is Parthiban Pallava;
confidential friend of Prince Karikala in Kanchi. He does
not care too much for me. How and why did he come here to
Lanka? Where is he going or coming from?
horses had gone past the foot travelers, an imposing voice
ordered, "Stop!" The horses stopped noisily and turned
around. The man who appeared to be their leader came back,
guiding the horse capably. The others followed him. The
first horseman was none other than Parthiban, whom we had
met earlier at Kanchi. Vandiya Devan's guess was correct.
Parthiban studied Vandiya Devan and said, "What is this Sir?
How did you arrive here? They said that you suddenly
vanished from Tanjore. I was sure that the noblemen of
Pazluvoor would have put an end to your story."
nobles of the Pazluvoor clan finish my story so easily? I
belong to the ancient Vaanar clan!"
"Yes; of course.
There is none to compare with you when it comes to saving
your own life and somehow escaping ..."
"Sir! I shall
save my life when it is necessary to do so. I will readily
give up my life when it is needed. If I have to die like
that, I shall die by a fair duel with honorable scions of
the Pallava clan -- men like you. I won't die at the hands
of mere Lords of Pazluvoor." Vandiya Devan's hand was
already on the hilt of his sword.
"Chee! You want me
to duel with you! In this distant land! I'm not interested,
Thambi. I am busy with an urgent commission. What happened
to the assignment given to you by the Prince?" asked
"Completed. The letter meant for the
Emperor was delivered to the Emperor, personally. I
delivered the letter meant for the Younger Pirati also."
"Why did you come here?"
"I had a long time wish to
see Lanka. I came here with this Vaishnava as my guide."
"Oh! Have I not seen this man also, somewhere?"
honored Sir! You have seen me before. I came to Prince
Karikala to enquire if he knew anything about my sister. You
were seated by his side at that time," said Azlvar-adiyan.
"Who was that? Your sister?"
"She is now the
Young-Queen of Pazluvoor, Lady Nandini Devi."
"Really! If one considers all the evils that have happened
in the kingdom because of that poisonous snake, you must be
hanged publicly for being her brother."
"My Lord! I
have taken a vow that one day I shall die by hanging. On
that appointed day, I shall pray that you come and fulfil my
holy vow with your own hands..."
"You lout! My hands
alone will not suffice to do that task; we need a hundred
men for that. Anyway, forget it! Did you hear any news about
Prince Arulmozli on your way? Has he come back to
"How will we know anything about such
matters, My Lord? We came by the forest path. In the jungle,
a rogue elephant chased me. You know how I ...."
"Enough of your story. Who knows? I may fulfil your wish one
day and hang you personally." Saying this, Parthiban turned
his horse around.
Azlvar-adiyan had been
surreptitiously examining the other three horsemen as he was
talking to Parthiban Pallava. When all had turned and
galloped away, he asked Vandiya Devan, "Thambi, did you
notice those other three men? Did you recognize any of
them?" a little anxiously.
"No. I have never seen any
"Of course. You cannot have seen them. I
have seen two of them; at midnight near the memorial of
Thiru-puram-biyam. They were swearing a horrible oath."
Azlvar-adiyan's whole body shivered.
"What was that
horrible oath they took?"
"They swore an oath to
destroy every rootstock of the Chozla clan..."
"How did they manage to enter this island?
Cunning fellows. How did they manage to join company with
this rough Pallava Lord?" Azlvar-adiyan became quiet after
posing these questions. Vandiya Devan remembered something
from Kodi Karai. Two men had departed for Lanka in a hurry a
day before his arrival; Poonkuzlali's brother had taken them
in his boat. Could those two men be part of these three?
What is the connection between them and Parthiban?
All four were nearing Dampallae the holy city of Buddhists.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 29 --The
About two thousand years ago -- a thousand
years before the times of our story -- there was a Singhala
King called Vallaham Bahu. In those days also, a Tamil army
invaded his island. King Vallaham Bahu escaped from his
capital and hid in the mountain caves near the town of
Dampallae. Later he regrouped his army and recaptured
Anuradapura. He deepened the mountain caves that had given
him asylum and built them into a temple. To express thanks
to Lord Buddha, he placed several large and small statues of
the Enlightened One, (Buddha), in that cave temple.
Sculptors carved hundreds of images of Lord Buddha; but, in
order to express all their artistic skills they also created
myriad statues and scenes of Hindu Gods and mythology in
those caves. These astonishing sculptures can still be seen
in the caves of modern Dampallae.
When Vandiya Devan
entered that holy city, he felt that he had stepped into a
new world. Fresh flowers enchanted him with their fragrance;
street corners were filled with carts and baskets full of
lotus buds and champaka. The devout bought those flowers and
carried them in small wicker baskets as they walked towards
the temple. Groups of men and women pilgrims filled the
streets. Buddhist monks clad in ocher mingled with them.
Cries of the devout, `Sadhu, sadhu; peace, peace!' filled
All this busy activity surprised Vandiya
Devan. He looked at Azlvar-adiyan and said, "I thought that
we were coming closer to the war-zone. This seems to be Lord
"Yes Friend! This has been a famous
Buddhist pilgrim center for more than thousand years,"
"Didn't you say that it is now under control of Chozla armies?"
"Yes; I confirm it once again."
"I don't see any
"They are outside the town in army
camps. That is by orders of the Prince."
"Why? The same Prince we have been looking
for! Prince Arulmozli."
"I meant to ask you about
that, Mr. Nambi. Parthiban looked for the Prince in this
town and was going back saying he isn't here. What is the
point in us coming here and looking for him in this town?"
"Will I believe him if that Pallava nobleman declares, `He
isn't here'? I will search personally and confirm the truth.
Hiranya declared that there is no God called `Hari'; but,
did Prahlada believe him?"
"Sir! Mr. Nambi of the
devout Vaishnava faith! You were constantly picking quarrels
with followers of other faiths in our country. Look at all
these Buddhist monks -- how come you are so quiet? Why? Are
you fearful of the large numbers of the `enemy' force?"
"Thambi, what is fear? What will it look like?"
"Black, huge and demonish; large as an elephant. Have you
never seen it?"
"No." After saying this,
Azlvar-adiyan crossed the street to talk to two men who were
standing there. They appeared to be Tamils. Azlvar-adiyan
talked with them for a while before he came back.
"Mr. Nambi, what did you ask them? Did you ask if Vishnu was
greater than Shiva? If you ask anyone in this town, they are
likely to reply that Buddha is the greatest! See how huge
these statues are?" said Vandiya Devan.
didn't you know that I have packed up all my Vaishnava
fanaticism and left them in Rameswaram? I have come here on
"What did you say to those men?
Did you ask them about Prince Arulmozli?"
asked them what was the occasion in this town today."
"What did they say?"
"They said that two important
pilgrims from China are visiting this town; tonight, there
is a special festival in the Buddha Vihara (temple) in their
honor. That is why the town is filled with this festive
"Where are those Chinese pilgrims coming
"They had come here yesterday and gone to
Simhagiri. They are returning from Simhagiri and will soon
enter this town, said those men."
"About a league from here and still under
the control of the Lankans. We can see it from here by
daylight. There is a very strong fortress on top of the
Simhagiri hillock; in a cave inside that fort are some
astonishing ancient paintings with everlasting colors. The
Chinese pilgrims must have gone there to view those
paintings. They must have found it very difficult to climb
up and down that steep rockface."
After a while
Azlvar-adiyan pointed, "Look over there!" A beautifully
decorated elephant was coming down the street. Two men were
seated in the howdah on top of that elephant. Their features
and clothes proclaimed them to be the Chinese pilgrims. An
elephant driver was seated on the elephant's neck with an
ankush (goad) in his hand. A crowd of people came,
surrounding the elephant and raising cheering cries.
"Did you see?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"Yes; I see. Dear
Lord! What a huge elephant, shall we see if there is any
ravine close by?"
"No need. Let us just stand by this
roadside and watch."
They waited by the street as the
elephant procession came closer. The elephant went past,
followed by the cheering crowd. Vandiya Devan's eyes
concentrated on the pilgrims seated on the elephant. He
wondered about the devotion of those men who had crossed
many seas and many lands to come from their distant homeland
on this pilgrimage to the holy cities sacred to Lord Buddha.
Perhaps it is justified that they are shown such courtesies
in this land. How fantastic that their journey is not harmed
in any way even in these times of war! Perhaps Prince
Arulmozli arranged for their safety! He is the only one who
could have thought of it. But, where is he? Will it be easy
to find him in this unfamiliar land? Will my journey this
far with this Vaishnava fanatic be wasted?
did you see?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"What did you see?"
"I found that the Chinese are
flat faced; their clothes are peculiar."
"I am not
asking about those pilgrims."
notice the elephant driver?"
"The elephant driver! I
did not notice him."
"Incredible! When that elephant
driver glanced at us casually, did you not see his eyes
"What is that? Were any lamps lit in that
elephant drivers's eyes to make them shine?"
useless fellow you are! I am not sure if I should be
surprised at your carelessness or be astonished by the
intellect of that Younger Pirati who saddled you with such a
responsible mission! Forget it and come with me now."
They followed the elephant and the procession behind it. The
elephant stopped in front of the Buddha Vihara. The elephant
driver whispered something in the elephant's ear and it
knelt down with folded forelegs. The pilgrims descended.
Buddhist monks stood on the steps and welcomed them with
flowers and cheers. Conches were blown; bells sounded; drums
reverberated. Chants of `Strive for the grace of Lord
Buddha' `Strive for the prevalence of Law' `Strive for the
triumph of Order' filled the air. The two pilgrims and the
crowd following them, entered the temple caves.
elephant driver, who had dismounted earlier, led the
elephant away. He noticed four men standing towards one side
and handed the beast to one of them. He spoke to another
man, pointing at Azlvar-adiyan with his finger. Followed by
the other two men, he quickly walked down the street and
disappeared around the corner. The man to whom the elephant
driver had pointed out Azlvar-adiyan crossed the street and
approached our friends. He asked softly, "Sir, are you
willing to come with me?"
"I've been waiting to do
so" said Azlvar-adiyan.
"Can you show me some
Azlvar-adiyan showed him a
Kodumbalur signet ring given by Commander Bhoothi Vikrama.
"Fine. Follow me" said the man as he walked down the street.
They followed him till they crossed the town and entered a
forest trail. They followed the trail for some distance and
reached a wayside pavilion in a clearing by the path. The
man said that they may have to wait for some time. He then
climbed a tree and kept watch.
"What is all this
mystery about? I do not understand," said Vandiya Devan.
"Everything will be clear very soon; be patient," advised
Two saddled horses were tied to a post
near that pavilion. Vandiya Devan was anxious about there
being only two horses. What was the mystery about the
elephant driver? Vandiya Devan had glanced at his face for
just a second before concentrating on the Chinese pilgrims.
He tried to recall the face of that elephant driver but
could not remember it.
"Mr. Nambi, who was the
elephant driver? Can't you tell me?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"Who could it be? Can't you guess?"
"Was he Ponniyin
"I guess so, because of the twinkle in his
"Wouldn't others have recognized him, just
"No. Who would expect the Chozla Prince to
go about as an elephant driver for pilgrims from China?
Moreover, people in these parts are not familiar with his
"You said that the pilgrims were returning
"Isn't Simhagiri still
under enemy control?"
"So, is the
Prince returning after venturing amidst enemies?"
"Why stop at Simhagiri? The Prince had journeyed with these
pilgrims up to Mahi-yangana and Samanta-koota, into the
heartland of enemy territory."
"Why did he subject
himself to such grave danger?"
"He must have been
eager to see those towns and the wealth of sculpture and art
in those places."
"What an eagerness! What a Prince!
How did that astrologer in Kudanthai claim that this
reckless Prince would one day become Emperor of the world?"
"Thambi, is that what the Astrologer of Kudanthai said?"
"Do you also believe in him?"
"I have no faith in
astrology and never bother with predictions. I know without
any support from astrology ..."
galloping horses could be heard. The sound was approaching
the clearing. The footman who was watching, climbed down
quickly and unhitched the two horses. He mounted one, asked
Azlvar-adiyan to get on the other horse and said, "In a few
minutes, some horses will gallop past this trail. We should
"What about a mount for me?" asked
"I have orders only to bring him."
"I cannot reveal that."
must see the Prince immediately; I have important letters
and messages for him."
"I know nothing about that
Azlvar-adiyan had climbed upon the other horse
as he said, "Be patient Thambi. I shall tell the Prince
about you and send for you."
"Mr. Nambi, are you not
aware of the importance and urgency of the message I am
"Give that letter to me; I can deliver
"That is impossible!"
"Then be patient; I
cannot do anything else."
"Isn't there anything
Vandiya Devan boiled
with anger. It was clear that the men were about to lead
Azlvar-adiyan to the Prince. Lord Kodumbalur had asked him
to keep an eye on Azlvar-adiyan when he delivered his
message and letter. It cannot be possible with this
Some horses came closer and galloped
past them; they flashed by with the speed of lightning. When
both men on the horses by the pavilion took up the reins of
their steeds, preparing to follow, an unexpected incident
occurred. Vandiya Devan caught hold of the leg of the man on
the horse and shoved it forward with one push. Even before
the man fell to the ground with a `thud' Vandiya Devan had
leaped upon that horse and gathered it's reins, galloping
forward. Azlvar-adiyan followed. The man who had fallen set
up a hue and cry as he drew his sword and threw it at
Vandiya Devan. But, Vandiya Devan bent his body low, below
the horse's belly; the sword flew past him and struck a
Two horses galloped as swift as the wind, following the three horses
which had gone ahead. They neither went too close nor pulled
back too far. Azlvar-adiyan encouraged, "Good work, Thambi!"
But, Vandiya Devan did not reply. He was worried about the
consequences of his action. He was even beginning to
question himself about why he should get entangled in such
complications for the sake of some woman, however special
she was. The horses sprinted down that forest trail with the
speed of wind and with the speed of thought.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 30
Vandiya Devan felt that the horses were
going along an endless path. He wondered if Azlvar-adiyan
had betrayed him to the enemies. Forest encroached on both
sides, filled with heavy darkness. Who knows what danger
lurks in this darkness? Panthers, bears, elephants and
poisonous snakes, perhaps even enemy soldiers -- who knows?
They said that Dampallae was the last outpost occupied by
Chozla men; but, where are we going?
moonlight showed the way. Moonbeams played hide and seek
with the shadows of tall trees around them. The dancing
light fell on the trail to reveal shadowy silhouettes of
three horses racing ahead. Their galloping hoof-beats never
stopped. Suddenly, other sounds encroached. The babble of
many human voices; cheerful sounds of dancing and singing.
Ah! Light in the midst of a clearing. Torch light showed
huge, open-stoves bright with furnace-like fires. Who are
these soldiers camping merrily in the middle of this forest?
Vandiya Devan had very little time
to think about this; he did not notice one of the horses in
front stop suddenly and turn around. The horse which turned
back came close to Vandiya Devan's horse. The horseman bent
sideways and suddenly slugged Vandiya Devan. While Vandiya
Devan was unsettled and rattled by the force of that strike,
the horseman took hold of his ankle and shoved it over the
saddle. Vandiya Devan fell to the ground noisily. His horse
trotted ahead a few yards and stopped. By now, the soldier
who had unseated him dismounted and came closer. Vandiya
Devan was completely disoriented as he tried to get up
unsteadily when the man quickly plucked the knife and sword
from his waistband and threw it away. This act revived and
enraged Vandiya Devan; he jumped up quickly. Making a tight
fist with both hands, he landed a heavy punch on the man who
had unseated him. That man did not accept the beating
quietly. He showed his strength by striking back. A
fantastic fist fight between them was the result. They
fought like the demons Gatotkacha and Idumban. They wrestled
like Arjuna and Shiva disguised as the hunter. They threw
themselves at each other like two huge elephants engaged in
Azlvar-adiyan and the other two men had
stopped as they watched with surprise. They were looking at
this amazing fist fight in the dancing moonlight beneath
those quivering trees. Very soon footsteps approached the
spot. Some soldiers parted the branches and came closer with
lighted torches. They too stood close by, watching the
remarkable bout. Soon, a sizeable crowd had formed a circle
around the wrestling men.
Finally, Vandiya Devan was
thrown down. The victor sat on Vandiya Devan's chest and
pinned him down as he loosened his waist-pouch and extracted
the roll of sealed letters. Vandiya Devan made an immense
effort to stop him but could not succeed. After taking the
letter, that man jumped aside towards the torch light. Two
soldiers who had noticed his signal had already taken hold
of Vandiya Devan, pinning him down to the ground.
With measureless rage and exasperation, Vandiya Devan
shouted, "Wretched Nambi! Is this how you betray a friend?
Get that letter from him!"
"Dear Man! I am not
capable of doing that!" replied Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai
"Chee! I've never met a coward like you! How
foolish of me to trust you as my companion in this journey!"
Azlvar-adiyan dismounted slowly from his horse and walked up
to Vandiya Devan; he whispered, "You fool, the letter has
reached the person it was addressed to. Why are you babbling
The others had noticed the face of the
man who was reading the letter under the torch light. A
cheering cry rose from them. "Long life to Ponniyin Selvan"
"Victory to the vanquisher of enemy kings" "Long life to our
Prince" "Long life to our Chozla Prince." Their cheers
filled the forest. Birds nesting on those trees woke noisily
and echoed their ecstasy with wingbeats and shrill calls.
More men came running to find out the cause for all the
When the victorious soldier noticed the
growing crowd, he looked around and said, "Go back to the
camp, all of you. Make arrangements for a feast. I'll come
and join you soon." Upon this, the noisy crowd fell silent
as a single man and turned back into the clearing.
Vandiya Devan who had been badly beaten was watching all
this as he sat on the ground. He was drowning in a sea of
astonishment that soothed all his pains. This is Prince
Arulmozli Varma! What strength in his fists! How quick he
is! No wonder they say that even if you are beaten, be
beaten by a champion. He has the charisma and dignity of
Arjuna of the epics; strength of a Bhima of the legends. I
am not surprised that the whole world is full of praise for
Prince Arulmozli came near Vandiya Devan. For a
second he wondered if the Prince was going to display the
strength of his fist once again. But he was reassured by the
smile on the bright face of the Prince.
Friend! Welcome to beautiful Eezlam! You have come so far
across seas, to join us brave Tamil soldiers in this island.
Are you happy about the chivalrous welcome we have given
you? Would you like some more fanfare?" said the Prince with
a smile. (Note: Eezlam is the Tamil name for Lanka.)
Vandiya Devan jumped up with a reverent bow, saying, "My
Lord, the letter sent by your gracious sister has reached
you safely and my duty is done. Now, I do not have any need
to safeguard my life. If you wish, let us read the chapter
on war for some more time."
"Very well, you can say
that easily! You need not bother about safeguarding your
life anymore; but, that worry is mine now. Or else, how can
I answer my dear sister tomorrow? Dear Sir! This letter that
I read just now appears to be written in my sisters own
hand. Did she give it to you personally?"
Prince. I had the fortune to receive this letter personally
from the hands of the gracious Princess. After that I have
journeyed day and night, without stopping anywhere to bring
it to you."
"That is obvious, otherwise you could not
have come here so quickly. How can I thank you for this
unique service you have rendered?" saying this, the Prince
heartily embraced Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan of the Vaanar
clan. The gallant youth felt that he had reached paradise;
all his pains vanished magically.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 31
--Eleyla Singan Play It was a circular clearing in the
middle of the forest where trees encircled a dry pool. About
thousand Chozla men had pitched camp in that clearing.
Gigantic stew pots filled with rice and beans were bubbling
on huge stone-stoves with fiery log-fires. Meat was being
cooked in large cauldrons. Cooking smells filled the air and
aroused their appetites. The men engaged themselves with
song and dance till the food was cooked. Their darling
Prince had arrived to join them, here, at this time and
their happiness knew no bounds. The Captain of this company
of frontier guards had a difficult time in curbing their
enthusiasm and inducing some semblance of order among the
men. Finally, he persuaded them to form a semi circle and
sit in the middle of that clearing.
They had chopped
a huge forest tree leaving a seat-like stump of the trunk.
Prince Arulmozli came to sit upon this tree-stump throne. He
was no longer dressed in the clothes of an elephant driver.
Silken cloth graced his waist. A golden diadem on his curls,
pearl necklets, jewelled bracelets and shoulder ornaments
proclaimed his royalty. The Captain, Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan sat near him on tree logs. The Eleyla Singan
Play organized for his entertainment was about to begin.
About a thousand years ago, Tamil soldiers had captured a
large part of Lanka, just like the present days. Eleyla
Singan was the leader of the Tamils in those days. Lanka's
King, defeated by the Tamils, had gone into hiding in the
mountain country. The Lankan King had a son named Dhutta
Gamanu who was a very capable warrior. The brave Prince
dreamed of the day when he could recapture Lanka after
defeating Eleyla Singan. One day, when this Singhalese
Prince was a young lad, he was sleeping on his bed curled
up, cramped into a ball with folded arms and legs. His
mother asked, "My Child, why are you curled up like this?
Why don't you stretch your legs and hands as you sleep?"
Dhutta Gamanu replied, "Mother, the Tamil soldiers are
crowding me on one side; the sea forms a barrier on the
other side. What can I do? That is why I am curled up like
this." When this lad attained manhood, he collected an army
and led his men against Eleyla Singan. His small army was
defeated and scattered in no time by the well trained
Tamils. Dhutta Gamanu resorted to a cunning plan. He walked
into the camp of Eleyla Singan and said, "King! My small
legion has been defeated by your huge army. I am the only
one left now. You are born in a race of brave men,
therefore, I challenge you to come and duel with me; wrestle
with me man to man. Whoever wins has full claim on this
Lanka; the other can reach the abodes meant for those who
meet a brave death."
Eleyla Singan was very impressed
by this courage and bravery in young Dhutta Gamanu. He
agreed to the wrestling match, ordering that none of his men
should intervene or come to either one's aid. The match
began; Dhutta Gamanu's men who had scattered came back to
watch. They wrestled for a long time: Dhutta Gamanu fought
with a passion to regain his homeland while Eleyla Singan
was weakened because of compassion for the brave youth; he
did not use all his skills in that fight. In the end, Eleyla
Singan died. Dhutta Gamanu crowned himself. Later, he raised
a memorial for brave Eleyla Singan in the spot where he
fell, in praise of his compassion and bravery.
soldiers presented this unique historical incident in the
form of a dance-drama. Dance and song were exceptional. The
soldier who acted as Eleyla Singan was so good that the men
wondered if he had really fallen dead, when he acted the
last scene. The Prince and all others who watched the play
cheered loudly with shouts of praise.
While the play
was in progress, the Prince turned to Azlvar-adiyan and
said, "Thirumalai, the wrestling match between Dhutta Gamanu
and Eleyla Singan is depicted in a beautiful fresco of
everlasting colors inside the caves of Dampallae. Did you
both see those paintings?"
"No, My Lord. I recognized
you when we entered the main streets of Dampallae. We had no
time to visit the cave temples," replied Azlvar-adiyan.
"One should see those fresco's inside the cave temple
without fail. Thirumalai, there are all kinds of beautiful
sculptures and paintings in our homeland. But, more
astonishing arts are evident in this tiny island," said the
"My Lord the paintings and sculptures in this
country will not vanish anywhere. We can view them anytime
later. But, meeting you is not that easy. We were lucky in
finding you, because we came into town at the correct time.
Lord Parthiban who came here before us, returned saying `He
is not here.' We met him by the highway."
Captain said that my brother's dear friend came looking for
me. Could you guess why he came here?"
"I can speak
with certainty. Prince Karikala has sent him here to escort
you back to Kanchi City."
"How remarkable! You seem
to know the reason! Perhaps you also know what was written
in the letter brought here so safely by this friend of
"Your beloved sister has written that you
should come back immediately to Pazlayarai. My Lord, when
Princess Kundavai wrote that letter and handed it to this
brave Vaanar youth in privacy, I was watching them secretly
while hidden behind the shutters of that garden gazebo."
Vandiya Devan who was seated behind Azlvar-adiyan pinched
that Vaishnava Nambi on his back. Azlvar-adiyan smacked his
back and said, "This is a wicked forest; full of bugs that
bite at night."
The Prince was speaking with some
anger, "Chee! Are you up to your tricks even with my sister?
What is this?"
"Only because I watched them, I was
convinced to bring him here, safely, to you. Only Lord
Buddha knows the trouble I had in leading him safely without
letting him become embroiled in any scrapes on the way. I am
sure that he would never have reached you if we had taken
the road through Anuradapura. He would have duelled with
someone on the way and given up his life! That is why I led
him through the forest trail; even there he tried to fight a
rogue elephant. I killed that wild beast with my wooden
staff and brought him here safely."
"Oh! Does it mean
that you came to Lanka merely to guide him safely till he
"No, My Lord. For my part, I have also
brought you an urgent message."
"What message? Tell
"Prime Minister Anirudda sends word that
he feels it is appropriate for you to remain in Lanka for
some more time."
"All three elders send three
different messages like this? What am I to do?" asked Prince
At this point, Vandiya Devan spoke
up, "My Prince, please forgive me for interrupting. You must
listen to the directive of your sister."
"Why do you
say that, Sir?"
"Because, your heart tells you to
heed the orders of your sister. Even if you do not care to
follow her wishes, I am bound to follow her orders; she
asked me to escort you back to Pazlayarai."
been wishing for a brave young companion like you for quite
some time!" said the Prince with a delighted smile.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 32
Elephant The cooking was done by the time
the play ended. They brought bundles of large lotus leaves
and placed one each in front of the soldiers seated in neat
rows; stewed rice and gram with a steaming soup of meat and
vegetables was served. When the men had begun to eat, the
Prince wandered amidst them, enquiring about their
welfare... He stopped to ask about this man's health and
another man's family. He inquired about their hometowns and
names. Men who had been addressed in this fashion were
drowned in a sea of joy. Friends by their side congratulated
them on their good fortune.
Chozla men held their
young Prince in much esteem. This esteem and adoration had
grown tenfold in recent times. They knew about their
Prince's concerned efforts to arrange for food and supplies
from their homeland. Moreover, the Prince mingled freely
with common soldiers, interested in their welfare,
encouraging their activities. This characteristic increased
his popularity and endeared him to his men, who tried to
make him tarry longer near them. They gathered courage to
ask him some question or other. Many wanted to know "When
are we planning to attack Pulastiya City?" The Prince
replied to this query in various ways, "What is the point in
attacking Pulastiya? Mahinda is in Rohana?" To others he
said, "Be patient; let the rainy season pass." Some soldiers
expressed their disquiet about being lazy without fighting
any war. Others said, "My Lord, you must come and visit us
like this at least once in a month. We shall then try to be
After such socializing, the Prince walked
to a tent pitched for his exclusive use, a little away from
the clearing. He asked Vandiya Devan and Azlvar-adiyan to
"Did you notice the enthusiasm of
these men? If only Tanjore had cooperated, this whole island
would be under our control by now! A good opportunity has
been wasted. We can conduct no war during the rainy season
in these parts; our men have to remain idle for the next
three or four months."
On hearing this, Thirumalai
Nambi Azlvar-adiyan said, "My Lord! I am surprised at your
being concerned about this. There, in the mainland, grave
danger threatens the very foundations of the Chozla Empire!
The great Kingdom established by Vijayala, the Empire built
by Paranthaka and Sundara Chozla is about to be torn asunder
by internal strife."
"Yes, yes. Of Course! You have
both come with important information. I am foolishly
babbling about my minor worries. Well, now tell me all that
you have come to tell me. Let him begin first." Prince
Arulmozli pointed towards Vandiya Devan.
Vandiya Devan began his story. He spoke about everything
that he had seen and heard since leaving Kanchi City. He
pretended a dislike of speaking about his bravery, his
cunning, his cleverness and his daring deeds; but,
nevertheless spoke about them expansively. Finally, "Sir,
they treat your dear father as if he were a prisoner. Close
relatives, high officials and noble clansmen have come
together in treacherous conspiracy. Your sister, the Younger
Pirati is tortured by much worry because of all this.
Therefore, you should leave immediately and come with me to
Pazlayarai. Do not tarry even a single moment!" he finished
Then, Azlvar-adiyan spoke of his
experiences. He confirmed everything that Vandiya Devan had
mentioned; and in addition spoke about the conspiracy of the
assassins who met at midnight near the ruined war memorial
of Thiru-puram-biyam. Once again he reiterated the Prime
Minister's message that the young Prince should not go home
since the situation was dangerous and confusing. "The Prime
Minister asks that you should not only avoid going back but
that you should refrain from expanding the campaign here in
Lanka. He requests that you collect all the army divisions
and station them in North Lanka. The Prime Minister feels
that the conspirators will soon be out in the open revealing
their identities and intentions; at that time, this army in
Lanka would be very useful. The Prime Minister also said
that I should inform you of this: the Vanniyar Battalion,
the Kaikola Battalions and the Vellala Battalions stationed
in the Pandiya country at present, are ready to give up
their life and soul in your cause."
"Thirumalai, what is your mentor thinking about?
Does he consider himself as another master of intrigue like
Chanakya of Pataliputra -- a Chanakya of Anbil? Does he
suggest that I should feud with my kith and kin?" asked the
Prince with some agitation.
"No, My Lord! Prime
Minister Anirudda will never suggest that. But, he feels
that those who conspire treason against their chosen
monarch, those who contemplate treason against the empire --
such persons should be punished appropriately at the right
time. Is it not your duty to help that goal?"
can I be responsible? If treason and conspiracy is truly
being contemplated, it is the Emperor who has to take
appropriate action. How can I venture into this matter
without my father's orders?"
Vandiya Devan intervened
into their discussion, "My Lord Prince, your father is not
free at present. Pazluvoor nobles guard him like a prisoner,
allowing none to approach him freely, under strict guard in
the palace. Your brother has vowed to not enter Tanjore
City! Is it not your responsibility to safeguard the Empire
in such circumstances? It is your duty to return to
"Why should the Prince go to
Pazlayarai? I cannot understand that!" said Thirumalai
The Prince was lost in thought for a while.
"Lust for land is vile. Because of a lust for lands and
empires, what heinous sins are being committed on this
beautiful earth!. Do you know the history of Simhagiri Fort
-- which I visited today?"
"I have not heard about
it, Sir," said Vandiya Devan.
"Ah! Let me enlighten
you! About five hundred years ago Dadhu-sena ruled this
island. He had two sons -- Kashyapa and Magalla.
Dadhu-sena's commander and Kashyapa conspired together.
Kashyapa imprisoned his own father and ascended the throne.
Magalla ran away across the sea to Tamil Country. Soon they
raised a high wall around Dadhu-sena's prison, entombed him
and killed him. Kashyapa who was instrumental of that
hideous crime was gripped by a fright that his brother
Magalla would come back seeking revenge. Kashyapa came to
this Simhagiri and built a fortress on its peak. He lived in
the fort, confident that no enemy could capture the
stronghold on that pinnacle. He lived in such hiding for
eighteen years! Finally, one day, Magalla came back
supported by an army of Pandiya men and laid siege against
Simhagiri. After all these years, Kashyapa lost his senses.
He, who had been hiding in the fort for all these years,
emerged with foolish confidence, fought a war and died. In
that fort built by that hideous monster, the sinner who
killed his own father, there are some beautiful frescos. I
saw them today when I went with the Chinese pilgrims. The
beauty of those paintings are beyond compare. They were
painted several hundred years ago, but even today no colors
have faded... they remain fresh ... beautiful ..."
"Sir, can I interrupt with a question?" asked Azlvar-adiyan.
"Why this hesitation? Ask freely!"
still under the control of enemy forces?"
have no intention of starting anything to capture that fort
now. It would mean a foolish waste of lives."
not mean that! I am concerned if it was prudent to enter an
enemy stronghold at this time. Why did it become expedient
that you should go there as the elephant driver of Chinese
pilgrims? When I saw you on that elephant's neck, I wasn't
sure if I should believe my own eyes! Your signal, the
raised eyebrow, cleared my doubt and made me sure. Why do
you venture into such dangers?"
"Thirumalai, do you
think that my life is so precious? How many brave Tamil men
have come to this island and given up their life?"
"They lost their life in war; you sought unnecessary
"Not unnecessary; there were two reasons. I
have had a long time wish to see the frescos of Simhagiri.
My wish was fulfilled today ..."
"The other reason
"The news reached me as soon as Pallava
Parthiban landed at Tricone Hill. I did not wish to meet him
"I had met
the Prime Minister who had come to Mattotam. I expected some
message from him. If two elders send word, I will have to
obey the orders received first."
Now Vandiya Devan
was transported with joy, "Say that My Lord, say that! Now,
my suit has won!"
"Prince, this fellow tricked you
..." said Azlvar-adiyan.
"He did not trick me. I
tricked myself. I saw him push that horseman who was sent to
bring you to me. I noticed him riding that horse and
following me. I meant to teach him a lesson..."
it was a good lesson too! Each lesson was a measure full.
Even now my body aches! Is this any way to treat a messenger
who brought letters? It is no matter, if only you come back
with me to Pazlayarai...."
"Thirumalai, this reminds
me of an old childhood poem. There was an ancestor of mine
named Perum-killi Valava. He had an incredible elephant in
his possession. One of it's feet would be in Kanchi and
another would be placed on Tanjore. The third leg would be
on this Eezlam, while the fourth would be placed firmly upon
One leg in Kacchi
One leg on fertile
and fabulous Tanchai,
and of the remaining two,
One on Eezlam and another on Kozli
Thus stood that
the elephant of Killi Valava!
fabulous imagination that poet had! I have seen several
herds of thousands of elephants on this island. But how
useless? If only I had one single elephant like that
imaginary beast of the poet's, I too can be at all places --
Madurai, Kanchi, Pazlayarai and Lanka -- at the same time."
On hearing about the poet's elephant, both Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan fell into uncontrollable laughter.
Thirumalai asked, "You don't have such a fantastic elephant!
What will you do?"
"Why this doubt? Have we not
agreed that he is coming to Pazlayarai?"
both of you, for a while. Let's go to Anuradapura tomorrow.
Anyway, I ought to meet Parthiban over there. I shall decide
after hearing what he has to say."
(Note: Tanchai is Tanjore; Kozli is another old name for
Uraiyoor, a former cpital of the Chozla's.)
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 33 --Message Of The
Monolith Prince Arulmozli Varma, Azlvar-adiyan and Vandiya
Devan Vallavarayan left for Anuradapura even before sunrise
on the next day. After a short forest path they were soon on
the Royal Way. Vandiya Devan was surprised that the Prince
had not brought any other footmen or soldiers for his guard.
Vandiya Devan had never felt such joy as he felt on
the journey that day. It was an exhilarating experience just
riding on that Royal Way, in the early morning light with
thick forest trees encroaching on both sides. He was also
brimming with pride on accomplishing the task assigned by
the young Princess of Pazlayarai. Moreover, his lifelong
wish was fulfilled. He had met the darling son of the
bounteous Chozla Country. He had met the brave, young Prince
whose charm and characteristics were being celebrated all
over the land. And what a remarkable, marvelous meeting it
was? The anecdotes he had heard about Arulmozli Varma being
an unconventional Prince were indeed true.
He had completely unnerved me by suddenly turning
the horse around and attacking me! Perhaps this swiftness is
the secret of the success in the campaigns he leads. It must
be his strategy to attack the enemy at unexpected moments in
unexpected ways. Is that the only reason for his success?
How comfortable and easy going he is with his men -- they
are completely enslaved by affection! He has attracted the
affection and love of the people he has conquered. Who can
say that these lands were recently subject to battles...
Look at these people walking by freely on these roads... The
country folk in these villages on both sides are going about
their daily chores without fear or worry. Their faces bear
no signs of sorrow or anger. I can even hear the tinkling
laughter of women and children. How fantastic! What an
incredible man! Vandiya Devan recalled the incident --
Pazluvoor nobles complaining to the Emperor because they
were unwilling to supply foodstuffs for the armies in Lanka;
because they were enraged that Prince Arulmozli should
insist on supplies from the homeland instead of
commandeering food supplies from the people of the conquered
He compared Prince Karikala's gruesome style
of warfare and this compassionate, law abiding campaign of
Prince Arulmozli. He felt ashamed to find fault with Prince
Karikala who was his chosen liege lord and master till very
recently. Still, he could not refrain from comparing the
styles of both Princes whenever he saw the happy faces of
people on the road. It would be impossible to find such
sights in the lands ravished by Prince Karikala's war
campaigns. Sounds of wailing and destruction would fill
Vandiya Devan was filled with an
eagerness to ask of many things, and to talk about various
subjects with this unusual Prince. But, how could he start
any conversation while riding swiftly on these horses? Even
so, he found one opportunity to talk with Arulmozli.
When they had almost reached the outskirts of Anuradapura,
Vandiya Devan noticed a huge sculpture of Lord Buddha on the
wayside. Since he had seen several such monolithic
sculptures everywhere in Lanka, he did not pay any
particular attention to it. But, he had to pull in the reins
and stop his horse because Arulmozli had suddenly stopped
near that statue. Azlvar-adiyan who had gone ahead, also
turned back. Arulmozli quietly examined that splendid statue
for some time.
"Well! What an exquisite piece of
sculpture!" said the Prince.
"I don't see anything
particularly exceptional. They have such huge statues
everywhere in this country ... I don't know why!" said
Prince Arulmozli smiled, "You speak
your mind without hesitation; I am happy about that!"
Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai Nambi declared, "Sir, it is only
today that Lord Vallavarayan has espoused to speak the
"Mr. Nambi, it's all a result of the company
I keep. Since I met you at Veera-narayana-puram, creativity
and imagination danced on my tongue. After meeting this
Prince I have begun speaking the truth."
Arulmozli ignored their chatter and concentrated on the
sculpture. "In the whole world there are only two perfect
forms of sculpture. One is the figure of Nataraja, Dancing
Shiva and the other is Buddha."
"I have never seen
any huge sculptures of Nataraja like these monolith
"The ancient monarchs of Lanka were great
men. The land they ruled is small; but, their vision was
big; their devotion was huge. They expressed their devotion
by erecting such huge statues of Buddha. In their devotion
to the Buddhist faith they built huge stupas (spires,
cupolas). I am ashamed to think of the tiny and minuscule
Shiva temples and sculpture panels in our country after
seeing these lavish viharas (Buddhist temples) huge
monolithic statues and towers," said Arulmozli.
dismounted and walked up to the pedestal of the statue. He
examined the carved lotus, bearing Lord Buddha's lotus feet
and the fresh lotus buds decorating those feet. A carved
water-flask, perhaps filled with sacrament water, was on the
pedestal. He touched those feet reverently with both his
hands and came back to mount his steed. They walked the
horses slowly. Vandiya Devan mumbled to Azlvar-adiyan, "What
is this? Is the Prince thinking of becoming a convert to
Ponniyin Selvan smiled at them, "My
devotion to Lord Buddha is not without reason. Those lotus
feet of Lord Buddha gave me an important message."
"Oh! I did not hear anything!"
"It was a silent
message from the monolith."
"What message? Can we
"The lotus feet of the Lord announced to me
that I should come to the Lion Falls Lake in Anuradapura at
midnight tonight," said Prince Arulmozli.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 34 --Anuradapura
They had neared the City of Anuradapura a little before
sunset. Vandiya Devan became speechless, lost in a sea of
astonishment even as he saw that ancient capital of Lanka
from some distance. He had heard several men speak of
Anuradapura; from their descriptions he had formed a certain
mental picture of the city. But, that great city was beyond
What humongous ramparts that snake
around in all directions! One could not even see where the
wall turns direction! How many hundreds of towers and
cupolas raise their crowns with dignity beyond those walls!
Every spire and tower is placed at quite a distance from the
other; can so many buildings and mansions be enclosed within
one fort? Kanchi, Pazlayarai and Tanjore are nothing
compared to this great metropolis! Perhaps Ashoka's
Pataliputra or Vikrama's Ujjain or even Karikala's
Kaaviri-pattinam may have been comparable to this ancient
city. No present day city can compare with this...
they came closer to the fortress and its gates, the crowds
going towards the city increased. Tamils and Singhala's,
monks and householders, men and women, boys and girls --
they walked in groups and swarms. All appeared to be a
jubilant crowd bent upon a carnival. Some among them noticed
our friends the travellers and began pointing and
whispering. On seeing this, Ponniyin Selvan made a sign to
his two companions and turned into a lane leading away from
the Royal way. He stopped beneath a grove of trees enclosing
a man-made hillock.
He looked at his friends and
said, "The horses have come a long way. Let them rest
awhile. We can go into the city after darkness."
three dismounted and went to sit on some rocks. "Why are
these groups of people going into the city? Is there some
festival in the fortress today?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"The biggest and most important among all festivals in this
country is being held today," said Prince Arulmozli.
"I thought that a war was going on in Eezlam! Here,
everything seems to be one big carnival!" said Vandiya Devan
"Did you not say that the people of
Pazlayarai were celebrating Sri Jayanthi Festival?"
"Yes; but, Pazlayarai is in Chozla Country ...."
"Anuradapura is in Lanka. So what? Sundara Chozla rules the
Chozla Nation; his good rule encompasses Lanka also!"
"But, enemies abound in this island country ...."
"Enemies do exist. Somewhere... What can these people do
about that? Battles have to be fought on battlefields.
Cities must continue with carnivals. What do you say
Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-adiyan spoke,
"Here we have openly declared enemies; there the enemies are
hidden, concealed conspirators. The secret adversary is more
dangerous than an opponent in the open. Therefore, my humble
suggestion is that this Prince should continue in Lanka
conducting campaigns and carnivals."
concealed enemies are more dangerous than open enemies, our
Prince should be there. Brave men should face dangers and
meet all obstacles," said Vandiya Devan.
does not mean that a person should foolishly get embroiled
with traitorous conspirators and assassins. Why don't you --
the bravest among brave -- go there and get involved? Why
did you escape to this island?" asked Thirumalai.
"Stop it! Both of you, do not begin bickering." Prince
Arulmozli calmed them down.
The three men entered the
City of Anuradapura after nightfall. On that festive evening
no traveller was denied entry at the gates. All walked in
freely with no questions asked. The guards merely stood by
the side. Our three friends mingled with the crowds and went
in without being remarked.
Crowds filled the streets
of the inner city. "Peace! Peace!" the cries filled the
skies. Vandiya Devan noticed several mansions and
multi-storey buildings in various stages of disrepair and
ruin. Here and there, some dilapidated buildings were
renovated. He realized that all such renovation and
rebuilding must have been due to orders from the Prince. Why
was he doing such things? Why is he so partial to these
conquered people? These Lankan kings have been quarrelling
and fighting Tamils from the mainland for nearly a thousand
years. Instead of looting and razing the enemy capital, why
is this Prince rebuilding and holding carnivals? There is
some mystery about this. What could it be?
peculiar thought occurred to Vandiya Devan. Yes, yes! it
must be so! He has no rights in Chozla homelands. Aditya
Karikala is already the declared Crown Prince; Prince
Madurandaka has already risen as a challenge to him.
Therefore, he perhaps wishes to establish an independent
kingdom for his own self in this great island of Lanka. Who
knows? His wishes may come true! Remember the Astrologer of
Kudanthai! `Prince Arulmozli Varma is like the Pole Star.
There is no want for those who trust him!' Vandiya Devan's
heart brimmed with happiness upon having joined the company
of such a brave Prince.
They came and halted at the
front portal of an old mansion with crumbling outer walls
and darkened windows. The street was a little away from the
main roads and therefore quite deserted. They dismounted and
walked towards the door. Prince Arulmozli clapped his hands
thrice and as if by magic, a door opened on one side of that
mansion in ruins. The building seemed completely
uninhabited. Ponniyin Selvan walked into that darkness.
Vandiya Devan looked back and wondered about the horses.
The Prince said, "These horses know their way, come!" He took hold of
Vandiya Devan's hand and led him into the building. They
walked a few yards down a dark passage. A light glimmered in
the distance and soon brightened. Vandiya Devan realized
that they were in the innermost courtyards of an ancient
"We have to be a little careful in these
rooms. These are the private chambers of Emperor Maha Sena.
The Emperor might appear suddenly and try to chase us away!"
spoke Prince Arulmozli.
"Who is Maha Sena?" asked
"Maha Sena was the Emperor who ruled
this Kingdom of Lanka six hundred years ago. He performed
various acts of welfare for his people. Therefore, people
believe that his spirit still roams the streets of this
ancient city. Even now, people tie pieces of cloth to tree
branches so that his ghost may not shiver with cold. After
him, no one has lived in this palace; they have left it
Servants appeared to help the Prince and
his companions. Refreshed after a bath and a simple meal,
they went up to the terrace. They could see all around and
below; they could not be seen by anyone standing below on
the streets. They sat down in that secluded terrace.
Vandiya Devan asked, "Sir, you said that the Monolith Buddha
had asked you to go someplace at midnight?"
plenty of time. The moon has just risen. When the moon comes
in line with that Daagaba spire we can leave," said Prince
Arulmozli. He was pointing towards a large hillock like
Daagaba spire. Because such large-domed crypts were raised
over the sacred relics - mortal remains such as teeth and
pieces of bone -- of Lord Buddha, they were known as Daadhu
Garbha's (relic wombs). In the course of time the word
"Why did they build such huge
sepulchers?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"In the beginning
they built huge edifices to indicate the greatness of Lord
Buddha. Later Kings built even bigger edifices to show off
their own greatness," laughed the Prince.
Very soon a
roaring sound like the sea in a storm was heard in the
distance. Vandiya Devan turned to see a huge multitude of
people -- like an endless ocean of men -- moving
continuously down the streets. In the midst of that sea of
people were hundreds of humongous, whale-like elephants.
Like twinkling stars reflecting over dark seas, several
lighted torches cast a glow of light. People seemed to
number in millions.
"What is this? It seems like an
enemy invasion!" said Vandiya Devan with some agitation.
"No, no! This is the biggest festival of Lanka -- The
As the festive procession
approached closer and closer, Vandiya Devan's astonishment
increased. He had never seen anything like it before.
First came about thirty elephants walking in formation. All
were decorated with rich, golden face plates. The elephant
in the middle was bigger and more dignified than the rest;
its decorations were even richer and it carried a large
jewelled-gold casket on its back. A gold canopy protected
the casket. Buddhist monks rode upon the other elephants
surrounding this central-elephant. The monks held deer-tail
whisks with silver handles and fanned the casket. Several
men carrying torches, flags and intricately wrought swinging
lamps walked amidst these elephants. The golden face-plates
of the elephants and their richly embellished decorations as
well as the jewelled whisks in the hands of those monks
shone like stars in that light. A large dancing crowd
followed the elephants. About a hundred people in the midst
of that group were costumed in curious fashions as they
danced to the tunes of little hand drums. Others were
playing on cymbals, blowing on horns and other unfamiliar
instruments. It was a frenzied, fantastic dance. The
frenzied dance of the Divine-man and Divine-woman of
Kadamboor was nothing compared to this. Sometimes the
dancers jumped up in swirls, twirling in the air swiftly,
two or three times before landing on their frenzied feet.
When they swirled in this fashion, their pleated skirts
embellished with tassels bunched like balls of flowers,
opened and ballooned like colorful umbrellas.
eyes were insufficient to view this picturesque sight. At
least two thousand eyes were needed! Two thousand ears would
be insufficient to hear the music and din raised by the
instruments that accompanied the dancers. Two million ears
would not suffice! The din raised by the drums, cymbals,
horns, wind-pipes, tambourines, deafened the ears.
When this contingent of people had moved ahead another group
of thirty elephants followed; richly decorated as before. A
beautiful casket reposed on the large elephant in the middle
of this formation also. A golden canopy was held over the
casket. Monks on surrounding elephants waved their
snow-white whisks. Dancers followed this formation of
elephants also. The people in this crowd seemed to be
costumed in various attires like Hindu Gods of Love, Rathi
and Manmatha, like Shiva and his followers. Frenzied dancers
"What is this? How did Lord Shiva
appear here?" asked Vandiya Devan with some surprise.
"King Gaja Bahu of Lanka invited Shiva. After that, Lord
Shiva has stayed here adamantly!" replied Arulmozli.
"Look at this you fanatic Nambi! Do you now realize who is
the greatest of Gods?" before Vandiya Devan could finish his
question, another group of elephants and dancers followed.
The dancers behind this formation were masked like eagles
with sharp beaks and feathered wings. They too, jumped and
swirled in the air as they danced.
"My dear man, did
you see. Look at our Lord Vishnu making his presence on his
divine vehicle the eagle-Garuda," said Azlvar-adiyan.
Another elephant group followed. The dancers in this
formation carried sharp swords and lances in their hands.
They danced a frightful war-dance. The swords and spears in
their hands clashed with a reverberating sound that kept
time to the music being raised around them. After all this,
the group of dancers following the last formation of
elephants danced with silambu sticks in different poses of
the ancient martial art of defence. For some moments their
dance was a ferocious rhythm at other times it was a
graceful gentle art form.
Prince Arulmozli explained
the history and significance of this colorful festival to
Vandiya Devan who was captivated by the sights and sounds in
the streets below.
There were times when the kings of
Lanka and the monarchs of the Tamil countries maintained
friendship. Gaja Bahu of Lanka Island and Senguttuvan of the
Chera Country were friends. Once, when Chera Senguttuvan
celebrated the festival of Kannagi the patroness of
chastity, Gaja Bahu was an honored guest. He enjoyed the
other festivals being celebrated in the mainland. Later when
his friend Senguttuvan visited Lanka, Gaja Bahu held a
festival. He held a single carnival in honor of the Tamil
deities Shiva, Vishnu, Murugan and Kannagi. When he saw the
joy and jubilance expressed by his people during the
festivities, he decided to hold such a festival every year.
The place of honor, the first place was given to Lord Buddha
and the other divinities were made to follow in the festival
procession. Since that time the festival has become part of
the culture of the Singhalese people of Lanka and the
Perahara Festival is being held every year without
"But, I did not see any idol or figure
of any divinity?" asked Vandiya Devan.
notice the jewelled casket placed on the prominent middle
elephant in each group?"
"I did. Did they lock up the
deities in each of those golden caskets? Did they not want
the Gods to escape and go back home?"
replied laughingly, "Nothing like that! In the first casket
they have safely locked up a tooth of Lord Buddha. It is the
priceless treasure revered by every person of the Buddhist
faith in this country. They place that holy relic in a
beautiful casket and carry it in procession."
is inside those other caskets that followed?"
could not find any teeth of Shiva, Vishnu, Murugan or
Kannagi. Therefore they carry the sacred jewels used to
decorate the respective idols in the respective temples."
Vandiya Devan was lost in thought for some time. "Ah! If
only Lord Pazluvoor had come to conquer this island instead
of you ....."
At that time the tail end of the
procession had turned the street corner; the noisy din of
dancers and musical instruments as well as the roaring
sounds of the crowd began to die down.
"We have just
half an hour left for our appointment. Come let us go!" said
Prince Arulmozli. They came down to the street level and
began walking in a direction away form the procession. Since
everyone was involved with the carnival procession, the
streets through which they walked were deserted. Very soon
they reached the raised banks of a spreading lake. The lake
was brimming with water, gentle waves lapping at the shores.
Moonbeams skipped over those soft waves making them threads
of molten silver. They climbed down the bank entering a well
laid garden; fragrance of champaka flowers assailed their
noses; they could see bunches of white flowers dangling like
silver bells on short bushes. Man-made hillocks and
reflecting pools could be seen here and there. One such
elevated pool was carved like the face of a roaring lion: a
cascade of water flowed out of its mouth to form another
pool. The three men waited beside this pool.
Devan recalled the monolith by the wayside near the gates of
Anuradapura. The Prince had counted the lotus buds by the
feet of the statue -- twelve buds indicating twelve o'clock.
They were not flowers but buds indicating night. He
remembered the lion spouted flask by the feet -- indication
of this Lion Falls Lake. All this is fine! But, why and who
has ordered the Prince to come here? I wonder what dangers
it may involve? Why did the Prince prevent me from bringing
any weapons? Perhaps this is some sort of an rendezvous in
some affair of the heart?
Following this thought an
agitation rippled through Vandiya Devan's heart. His mind
flew across the sea towards Pazlayarai -- Younger Pirati
Kundavai and Lady Vanathi appeared in his mind's eye. He
tried to glean something by making the Prince talk. "Sir,
this place seems like some private garden of some old
Arulmozli said, "Yes, this was a palace
garden. King Dhutta Gamanu's palace was beside this garden a
thousand years ago. Look over there you can see the
indestructible ruins of that old palace."
Devan looked at those terraces in ruins and said, "Those
could have been courtyards where princesses danced. Those
beauties might have enjoyed water games in these very
"There is another astonishing story about
this garden. It happened a thousand years ago. Dhutta
Gamanu's son Saali was walking in these gardens one
afternoon. He saw a girl fetching water from these pools in
a pot and watering the flowering plants. He fell in love
with her. He found that she was a low-caste woman and that
her name was Ashokamaala. He insisted upon marrying her in
spite of her lowly social position. `Then you cannot ascend
the throne!' roared the father. `I do not care for the
throne; I love Ashokamaala!' insisted the resolute son. Do
you think any other Prince in this world can say a thing
like that?" asked Arulmozli Varma.
remembered The Ocean Princess who rowed her boat at Kodi
Karai. Aha! Is this Prince telling me this story with
thoughts of that girl...? How can I raise a comment about
Poonkuzlali.... Even as Vandiya Devan pondered about it, an
astonishing thing happened. The wall behind the cascade from
the roaring Lion's mouth was carved into a cave with a ledge
for seating two persons. A light appeared suddenly in that
cave. A hand holding the lamp appeared first; then the
austere face of a Buddhist monk appeared.
Devan stood openmouthed as he watched this magical display.
He held his breath wondering what could happen after that.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 35 -- Lanka's Throne
The Monk looked around here and there for a minute, in the
light of the lamp he held. Perhaps he recognized the Prince
and his companions standing by the shore. The lamp and its
light disappeared and very soon they could see the Monk
coming up the steps of the lake. He came and stood in front
of the Prince and examined his face.
"Beloved of the
Gods, welcome! Welcome! The Vaithulya Confederation of Monks
awaits you. Our Great Abbot Maha-thero is also present. My
heart is overjoyed and thankful that you have come at the
"Sire, I know that as a youngster I
have several faults in me. Even so, I have been observing
the code that I shall never fail my given word or promise. I
have not failed in the observance of this code."
had not arrived till sunset. I was somewhat concerned
because of that!"
"If I had entered the City before
sunset, I may not have been able to keep my promise. I have
come to the appointment."
"Surely! Cloud groups
wander to hide the shining light of the sky; we know that.
But, all those clouds are scattered by the gentle breeze
that is Lord Buddha's mercy. Who are these men standing
here? Do you know them well? Are they completely
trustworthy? Will they be bound by the pledge?" asked the
"Sire, I trust these two friends of mine as I
trust my own two hands. Even so, if you do not like it, I am
willing to leave them here and come with you, alone," said
"Oh no! I am not ready to accept that
great a responsibility. I am taking you to a very safe and
secure place. But, we have to go a long way and who knows
what danger lurks behind what pillar? They must surely
Vandiya Devan was puzzled by this
conversation. He was very pleased about the Prince having
such complete trust in a stranger like him and about his
being included in an obviously secret mission of some sort.
What was the important, secret event that was about to take
place that night? The thought was disturbing.
Monk went ahead leading the way as they followed. They went
down the steps and entered the cave behind the cascade. The
Monk felt along one wall and did something when a doorway
appeared with a good light beyond. The Monk picked up a lamp
and after all three men had come in, the entrance was
closed. They could faintly hear the sound of the waterfall
outside. But for the sound, none could imagine that they had
been standing beside a waterfall some moments ago.
They walked into a narrow tunnel that twisted and turned for
quite some distance; it seemed endless. Their footsteps
echoed in sinister sounds. Vandiya Devan wondered if the
Prince had been duped into some wicked conspiracy. The
passage began to widen and finally ended in a huge vaulted
chamber. The meager light cast by the lamp in the Monk's
hand revealed only a small part of that huge chamber. But,
he could see its several pillars made of marble. Lord
Buddha's statues were everywhere: standing Buddhas,
reclining Buddhas, meditating Buddhas, blessing Buddhas,
laughing Buddhas and praying Buddhas ... countless figures
filled every nook and cranny.
They walked through
this marble vault and entered another narrow passage. Soon
another large chamber -- its pillars were encased in shining
copper, glowing ruby red. Even the roof of this chamber was
clad in copper; beautiful fresco's adorned the ceiling and
walls. More statues of Buddha all around... In this fashion
they crossed several more chambers, a chamber made of some
unique yellow wood, an ivory chamber, a bejewelled golden
chamber. Even though they were walking at a fast pace,
Vandiya Devan did not fail to feel the textures of pillars
and walls in all these rooms. He was surprised that the
Prince did not cast a second glance at any of these wonders
but was walking straight ahead. Finally they reached an
austere, unembellished granite chamber which presented quite
an unusual spectacle.
Not a single human being had
been found in all the previous rooms which had been crammed
with Buddha statues. But, this granite room was filled with
monks of serene countenance and shining face. Their Great
Abbot Maha-thero was seated on a dais before them. A
jewelled, golden throne was before him. On a table beside
the throne reposed a tray with a pearl-crown, a shining
sword and jewelled mace. Lights shone from all corners of
this chamber. The throne, crown, mace and sword sparkled in
that light. When Prince Arulmozli and his companions entered
this assembly, the monks stood up and raised these slogans,
"May Buddha prevail! May the Law prevail! May the Order
The Prince walked upto the Abbot and bowed
respectfully. The Abbot pointed to an ordinary seat by his
side and asked the Prince to be seated.
Sire, I beg that you who are elder to me in years and in
virtue be seated before me," said Arulmozli. When the Great
Abbot was seated, Arulmozli also sat down on the seat
pointed to him.
"Great Prince who is Beloved of the
Gods, this Great Congregation of Buddhists is happy to have
your presence amongst them. You agreed to all our conditions
and have come here after much effort. No other proof is
needed to show that Lord Buddha has absolute mercy for you."
The Abbot spoke these words in the Paali language and the
Monk who had been the guide interpreted in Tamil. All the
monks in the congregation endorsed with cheers of "Peace!
Peace!" and showed their happiness.
Abbot Maha-thero continued to speak: "We are always obligated to
Barata Varsha (India) which has given us our Buddhist faith.
But, since ancient times, the Chozlas, Cheras, Pandiyas and
Kalingas who invaded our land have executed many acts of
atrocity on us and our land. They became subject to the
curse of the Divine Ones because they destroyed our Buddha
Temples, our mansions, monasteries and dwellings. Why cite
people from your country... even kings of our own have
performed such barbarous deeds. They created a division
amongst the Order of our Congregation. They destroyed the
temples and monasteries of monks who opposed their villainy;
they fed our accomplishments and arts to fire. In this great
city which is two leagues long and one league wide, once
upon a time half the area was covered with Buddha Viharas
(temples). Most of those edifices are in ruin today. Till
this day, no scion of a royal house has ordered that these
ruined places of worship be restored or rebuilt. It has been
the good fortune of Prince Arulmozli to give such an order.
This great Order of Buddhists appreciates this gesture of
yours O' Beloved of the Gods! ..."
The Prince bowed
his head and accepted these good wishes from the Abbot.
"To continue... for many years now, there have been
obstacles, and the Perahara Festival could not be held in
this city. The Pandiyas had once captured this city about a
hundred years ago. At that time, the Lankan monarchs moved
to Pulastiya City. Since then Perahara was not held here. In
this worthy year you have ordered that the great festival
could be held again. You made it convenient to hold the
carnival by making arrangements. We of the Order are
extremely happy about this ..."
inclined his head once again and said, "Great Sire, if I
could be of any other service to the Buddhist Order, kindly
Abbot Maha-thero smiled, "Yes Prince!
This Order of Buddhists is confidently expecting more
services from you. But, I have something more to say before
that. You may be aware that before his last incarnation as
our prophet, Lord Buddha has had several previous
incarnations. At one time he was born as Emperor Sibi in
this world full of cruelty, to reveal the greatness of
Ahimsa (kindness to all living things). To save the life of
a small dove, he chopped pieces of flesh from his own chest
and placed them on the weighing balance. You men of the
Chozla clan claim decent from Emperor Sibi; you even bear
the title `Sembiyan' to remember this ancestor; but, we of
the Order did not recognize this claim. We believed that
your claims were stories made up by your holy men. Now, --
after witnessing your great and good deeds -- we have to
accept that you Chozlas are true decedents of Emperor Sibi.
Illusion had made the Chozlas forget the merciful qualities
of Buddha. But, that merciful grace has descended upon you.
He turned to look behind him when some
monks carried another monk who was reposing on a plank and
brought him to the dais. The reclining monk's body was
shivering constantly. His limbs shivered, his head shook,
teeth chattered and lips trembled; even the eyebrows above
the reddened eyes twitched.
"The thirty and three
million divinities we believe in have descended upon this
monk. Please listen to what the merciful Gods proclaim!"
said the Great Abbot.
The delirious monk uttered some
garbled sounds in quick succession; his words were utterly
incomprehensible. But, when had stopped, the Abbot spoke,
"The Gods bless you. In ancient times Ashoka the Great, who
was Beloved of the Gods ruled all of India under one canopy
and spread the word of our Lord to all the world. The Gods
decree that you shall one day rule a great empire like that.
They wish that you too shall spread the word of Buddha to
all the world, just like Ashoka of yore. They order that the
virtuous deeds performed by Ashoka from his throne in
Pataliputra should be begun and accomplished by you from
this ancient throne of Anuradapura. Prince, what is your
reply to this decree of the Divine Ones?"
Sire, the Divine Ones are all powerful; they dictate and are
capable of getting their intentions fulfilled. But, my
humble mind is not able to comprehend their orders for me at
this present time," replied the Chozla Prince.
explain!" said the great Abbot as he made a sign; the monks
carried the delirious celibate away from the dais.
"Prince, look at this throne before you. Look at the crown and the
mace. Every monarch of Lanka was accepted as a lawful ruler
by the Monastic Congregations of Lanka only after they were
crowned on this throne while holding this mace and sword.
This is the throne on which Dhutta Gamanu, Thissa the
Beloved of Gods, Maha Sena and other great kings were
crowned. This is the jewelled crown that graced their heads;
this is the just mace borne by their hands. This ancient
throne -- a throne that bore law abiding kings over
thousands of years -- this throne awaits you. Are you
willing to sit on this throne, wear this crown and weild
this mace and sword?"
Vandiya Devan who had been
listening with rapt attention became very agitated on
hearing these words of Abbot Maha-thero. He wondered about
placing the Prince upon that throne that very instant ...
however, there was not even a trace of change on Prince
Arulmozli's facial expression.
Like before, he spoke
very calmly, "Great Sire, how can that be possible? The King
who sat on this throne and was crowned with these jewels is
still alive; even if we do not know his whereabouts..."
"Prince, the Gods have ordained that the dynasty that rules
Lanka has to change. It has to happen. Several great kings
have appeared in this dynasty established by Vijaya-raje who
came from Bengal where the Ganga flows; they have been
upholders of law and order. In later years men of this
dynasty committed various heinous deeds and earned the
curses of the Divine Ones. Fathers in this dynasty killed
their own sons; sons murdered their fathers; brother killed
brother; life giving mothers killed their offspring. The
Gods declare that this dynasty which has committed such
awful deeds is not fit to rule and uphold Buddhist faith and
law. The last crowned king has lost his rights to Lanka's
throne; neither does he have any children or other
decedents. Therefore, the dynasty has to change anyway. When
such a dynastic change has to take place, this Congregation
of Buddhists has the right to select the first of the new
dynasty. We of this great Congregation wish to select you.
If you accept, we are ready to crown you this very night."
The most profound silence prevailed in that assembly for
some time. Vandiya Devan was completely flustered. Prince
Arulmozli rose from his seat and greeted the assembly of
monks with folded palms. Vandiya Devan was beyond limits of
exhilaration -- he was ready to pick up the crown and place
it on the Prince's head with his own hands.
Prince said, "Great Sires, I bow to you. I appreciate your
magnanimity in presenting this ancient throne to me because
of the love and trust you have for me, a mere youngster.
But, your orders are beyond my capacity to fulfill. I was
born and raised in Chozla country. The food grown in those
lands and the water flowing in the rivers of that country
nourished this body of mine. I came here to this island in
obedience to orders of my father Emperor Sundara Chozla. I
cannot do anything without consulting his wishes."
The Abbot interrupted, "Prince, do you not know that these
days your father is without any freedom, like a prisoner?"
"Yes; my father is unwell and on a sickbed; he has lost the
use of his legs. Even then, I am bound by the orders of
those who rule in his name and with his approval. If I
accept this throne without their consent, I would be a
traitor to my country and my king."
"If you think
that, we are ready to send an ambassador to Tanjore. Your
father has a fondness for the Buddhist faith. He will not
reject our petition."
"What about the people of this
land? Who can have the right to distribute their country
without their approval?"
"The people of this country
will consider it to be the greatest of their good fortunes
to have you as their king."
"They may all agree and
be happy. In this whole world more than any other opinion, I
honor the words and wishes of my elder sister. My mother
gave birth to me; River Ponni saved my life; but, my sister
nurtured my intellect and opened my mind. But, even more
important than her wishes is the command of a voice in my
heart. My inner voice does not tell me to accept this
exalted fortune that you Sires are bestowing on this
youngster. I beg you to forgive me."
reigned in that assembly once again. His own heartbeat
sounded very loud to Vandiya Devan.
After a while, the Abbot spoke once again, "Prince, your words do not
surprise us; in a way, I expected it. This shows that you
more than anyone deserve Lanka's Throne. We, who know the
law of righteousness need no further proof; but, we do not
wish to force you. We shall give you time. We will send for
you in this same fashion after one year. At that time give
us your final answer. Remember this: in this ancient
Anuradapura, several old Buddhist shrines and monasteries
have been reduced to rubble and ruin. Till this day no harm
has befallen this Great Bhodi Monastery because it is
secreted in the wombs of the earth deep underground. Only
these abbots of various Buddhist Congregations who live here
know the way to come in here. None except those led by one
of us can enter here. Only once in their lifetime, when they
are to be crowned by the Great Buddhist Congregation, are
the Monarchs of Lanka invited to come here. This is an
unique Vihara with such secret entrances. You should not
reveal anything about your coming or going from here or
about anything that happened here to anyone else. Do not
share this secret even with your friends. If you disobey you
will be subject to terrible curses."
There is no need for curses. I had already pledged to not
reveal these secrets to anyone outside before I came here
with my friends. I shall never break my given pledge," said
After half an hour, Prince
Arulmozli, Azlvar-adiyan and Vandiya Devan were once again
walking down the moon-lit streets of Anuradapura. Vandiya
Devan who had kept his mouth tightly shut during all the
time inside the monastery, unbound all his chaotic thoughts.
"Of course the Chozla country is very bounteous; but it can
never compare with this Lanka. How could you discard the
throne of such a jewel of an island which was willingly
presented to you? Why this foolishness? On the other hand,
what can one say about the judgment of those monks in that
monastery? There I was... standing like another pillar right
next to you... Why did they not make the offer to me?"
Prince Arulmozli smiled, "Remember, I told you that Dhutta
Gamanu's son Saali gave up this Lanka's Throne for the love
of Ashokamaala; Did you not hear that?"
"I heard it
all! My Lord, which girl has captured your love like that?
Which girl prevents you from accepting a throne?"
"Not one -- but, two girls: Truth and Law. I am in love with
both these girls. I refused Lanka's Crown because of them."
"Prince, you seem to be a young man; but, you speak like an
"Who knows about who is the older
among us or whose life will end how soon?"
talking in this fashion, they were walking by an old mansion
beside the street. They heard someone clap their hands
across the street. A figure stood over there.
with me!" said the Prince as he crossed the street and went
towards that figure. The other two followed. When they were
halfway across that wide street, a loud rumbling was heard
behind them. On looking back, they saw that the facade of
the old mansion was crumbling and falling down. If they had
not turned to cross the street, the rubble would have fallen
and buried them. In one instant three lives were saved. And
such special lives too!
How true were the words of
Prince Arulmozli who had been saying `Who among us knows
whose life will end how soon?' Vandiya Devan stood in the
middle of the street looking at the rubble and wondering,
while the other two had gone ahead. When he turned to join
them, he could see the person who stood there, clearly in
the moonlight. A doubt, should he believe the sight before
his eyes or should he not? How stupid? How can it ever be
possible? How could Nandini whom he had seen in her palace
at Tanjore have come here to these streets of Anuradapura?
Why should she come and stand here in the night like this!
In an instant that figure disappeared like magic. Only two
men stood by the street.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 36 -- Is Merit
Honored? Vandiya Devan walked quickly towards the spot where
`Nandini' was standing with Prince Arulmozli. Doubts
assailed him even as he stepped across -- Is she really
Nandini? She is not bejewelled and dressed like the
Young-Queen... She looks like an ascetic wearing simple
cloth. Her face is very similar to Nandini's; but, there
seems to be some difference ... Even before he reached that
spot across the street, the woman had moved into the shadows
cast by the houses and vanished. Vandiya Devan tried to
follow her when the Prince took hold of his hand and stopped
"My Lord, who was that woman? She seemed
Azlvar-adiyan said, "That woman must
surely be the Divine Protectress of the Chozlas! Look at
that! If we had not crossed the street, we would have
reached the Hallowed Feet of Lord Buddha by now."
They looked at the spot across the street and saw a small
hillock of rubble formed by the crumbling facade of the old
mansion. The rubble could have easily buried a large
elephant -- three tiny men would be nothing...
Godmother appeared at the right time and saved our lives!"
"Sir! What did you say? Were you
referring to that woman?" asked Vandiya Devan with some
"What did you think? Why were you trying to
follow her?" asked Ponniyin Selvan.
said, "Mr. Nambi called her the Divine Protectress of the
Chozlas. To me, she seemed like an evil spirit that has come
to menace the Chozlas."
"You mean ... Whom did you
think she was?"
"Perhaps it was my imagination. I
thought she was Lady Nandini, the younger wife married by
Lord Pazluvoor. Did you both not think it?"
not see her properly. You must be imagining things; how
could the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor come here?" asked
"This gentleman's conjecture is not
unwarranted. Eyes cannot lie; I too have seen the surprising
facial resemblance sometimes. Come, let us talk as we go,"
said the Prince.
Instead of walking by the side in
the shadows cast by the buildings, the three men began
walking down the middle of the street brightened by
moonlight. After some time, Azlvar-adiyan asked, "Sir, what
did that woman who beckoned you by clapping her hands, say
"She said that two enemies have come in
search of me and that they are waiting for an opportunity to
Vandiya Devan was shocked, "Wretched fiend!
Does she mean us?"
Arulmozli said laughingly, "No,
she did not specifically refer to you both. I am not
concerned even if it is you. She has said that I have a very
strong life. She has saved my life several times before
"Sir, I think I know who those enemies are.
They are two men who came with Lord Parthiban Pallava,
looking for you. Two figures appeared on the terrace of that
crumbling mansion; it must have been those men."
"Mr. Nambi! Why did you not say this till now! You both walk
ahead, I'll go back and search that building." Vandiya Devan
was turning back as he spoke. Prince Arulmozli stopped him
once again by taking his hand.
"There is no need for
hurry. You can never find them in that old house. We can
examine that place later. I suggest that you remain by my
side till I order otherwise. Do you understand? Who knows
what other danger lurks in the nooks and corners of this
crumbling city? Brave Sir, I trusted you and did not bring
any other man to be my guard. What shall I do if you desert
me like this in the middle of the street?" asked Arulmozli.
Vandiya Devan was touched by these moving words. With a
trembling tongue he replied, "Sir, I shall not move from
your side even for one moment!"
"And I shall not
depart from your side! You guard the Prince and I shall
guard you," said Azlvar-adiyan Nambi!
Very soon, the
three friends reached the courtyard of Maha Sena's ancient
palace. In a large room, three old-fashioned beds had been
readied for them. Moonbeams danced through the wide window
that took up all of one wall.
"Lanka's emperors and
princes and their noble ladies would have slept here in this
very palace, perhaps in this very room, several hundred
years ago. These moonbeams would have peeped through this
very same window even at that time. Now, when these
moonbeams see us ordinary mortals in this chamber, they
would be disappointed! What do think of that Sir?" asked
Prince Arulmozli as he looked at Vandiya Devan.
you may refer to yourself and to this Mr. Nambi in whatever
fashion you wish. But, do not refer to me as an ordinary
mortal!" said Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan.
me! I had forgotten! Are you not a prince born of the noble
Vaanar Clan of Vallam ..."
"Yes Sir! Yes. This Mr.
Nambi may die of jealousy if he hears the song composed by
the bards in honor of my ancestor."
"It does not
matter. Thirumalai is a lover of Tamil poetry. He will not
hesitate giving up his very life for the sake of a poem,
just like Prince Nandi-varma Pallava of yore. What is that
poem? Can you recite it?"
Vandiya Devan recited the
following poem with some hesitation.
My canopy, my
My armor and my pennant
elephant and this my steed
Thus cry those crowned
Laden with liberal gifts
bestowed by Great King Vaanan,
princes of poetry,
bemoaned by mere monarchs of
Ponniyin Selvan who heard these lines said,
"Thirumalai, you are an expert in Tamil literature. What is
the meaning of these lines?"
"Sir, you are quizzing
me! Anyway, I'll try and explain. Several princes waited in
the outer courtyard of Great King Vaanan's palace hoping for
a glimpse of the king. They could not get an appointment
easily because the bards who were princes in poetry had
already entered the court. King Vaanan was pleased with
their compositions and he sent them away with lavish gifts.
Tasseled canopies, ivory palanquins, jewelled armor, caskets
of treasures, elephants and horses were given away as
rewards to those poets. The princes who waited in the outer
courtyard saw those gifts being carried away by the poets
and cried out in jealous rage. `Oh dear, that is my canopy,
that is my palanquin; here goes my elephant and there is
your prize horse. Look at those jewels given to these
wretched poets!' cried the princes. King Vaanan had given
away as gifts those very treasures that had been brought as
tribute by those monarchs and princes. Sir, is my
interpretation of the poem correct?" asked Azlvar-adiyan
"How can your explanation be wrong?
What a fantastic poem! Such subtle imagination; I wonder who
was the poet who composed this incredible piece of verse! O'
you Prince of the Vaanar Clan, Lord Vandiya Devan of Vallam,
I do not care if the kingdom ruled by your ancestors was big
or small. They were great enough to have such a song
composed in their honor. Who needs more fame than that? Yes;
you who are a scion of that clan are worthy of sleeping in
these chambers. Why be satisfied with Maha Sena's bed? If
Emperor Dhutta Gamanu's bed could be procured, you deserve
that. You are truly worthy of such greatness!"
sir! I am truly worthy of great homage. But, in these days
who honor's merit? Did those monks offer Lanka's crown to
me? They merely offered to you who were likely to refuse it.
Do you know how angry I was at that time? I felt like taking
that crown and placing it on my own head and crowning
myself. I kept quiet because this fanatic Mr. Nambi might
want a share."
Prince Arulmozli laughed joyously upon
hearing this. Vandiya Devan was gladdened by that laughter.
He continued in a similar vein of pretended anger, "What is
the point in laughing it off? How can that solve anything?"
"Sir, O' Lord Vaanar of Vallam, don't you remember my
speaking about Truth and Law? Did they not seem sufficient
explanation to you?"
"I already had some doubts about
Truth and Law. I now declare that I shall have no traffic
with them and shall in no way be partial to them."
"Dear Lord! Why? Why do you declare this? Why are you angry
with Truth and Law?"
"I have no anger with them. You
said that you were in love with those two girls -- Truth and
Law. You said that you gave up this kingdom for their love.
Even in my mind will I not consider women who are loved by
Ponniyin Selvan laughed uproariously once
again, "I have never met a jokester like you."
everything is a joke to you; I am burning with anger. If you
did not care for the throne of Lanka, you could have looked
at me, standing there beside you, and said, `Give it to
him!' Why did you not do that?"
After he had finished
laughing, Prince Arulmozli said, "Sir, is it such an easy
thing to accept a kingdom? Moreover, it is in no way correct
to accept it when awarded by Buddhist monks. It would lead
to later complications; religious leaders should stick to
religion. If religious leaders interfere in politics it
spells doom for the faith as well as the kingdom. Besides,
these monks who came forward to offer me the kingdom tonight
do not represent all the Buddhist congregations in this
country. They are leaders of one group. There are two other
equally powerful congregations. If I accept the kingdom from
them, I have to rule according to their wishes. The other
two congregations will immediately become our enemies."
Azlvar-adiyan asked, "Does the Lord of Vallam now understand
the situation here?"
"I understand pretty well. Like
the quarrels about the relative greatness of Shiva and
Vishnu in the mainland there are quarrels here too!"
"Both of you don't begin your quarrels here. It is very
late; I can hear the people coming back from the Perahara
celebrations. Let us go to sleep."
"I cannot sleep.
Only when I know the identity of that woman who beckoned us
across the street, and saved us from an instant grave, will
I be able to sleep."
"Even now, I do not know who she
is. But, I can tell you everything I know about her; if
interested, come closer both of you, and sit beside me."
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 37 -- Goddess
Cauvery Vandiya Devan and Azlvar-adiyan rose with eagerness
and went to sit besides Prince Arulmozli's bed. The Prince
"When I was a young child, I went on
a boating trip on the Cauvery with my parents. My sister and
brother were also in that boat with us. They talked of
various things amongst themselves. I was leaning over the
side looking at the swirls of water passing beside the
barge, fascinated by the kadamba flowers caught in the
eddies. My heart was pained by the sight of those tiny
flowers caught helplessly in those relentless swirls of
water. I would bend down over the side and try to save those
flowers.... when accidently I fell into the river! Since I
fell headfirst, I could not steady myself....
now, I remember my head bumping on the sandy river bed. I
remember the swift current carrying me downstream and some
distant cries of distress from the boat which had gone far
away. I struggled for breath even as I knew that Cauvery was
going to carry me away to some distant ocean. I knew that my
parents, sister and brother would be inconsolable. Just
then, someone lifted me up with their two hands. I was above
water in one instant. I was dripping water from everywhere
-- my nose, mouth ears and eyes. Even so, I saw the face of
the person who had saved me. In those few seconds, that face
was embossed in my mind. She seemed familiar; but, I could
not recognize her.
"Later, those hands gave me up to
someone else. The next minute found me on the boat
surrounded by my parents and sister and brother. Their
distress, concern, love and affection completely engrossed
me. After a while someone raised a question about who had
saved my life. They looked everywhere for her. I looked
around too; but, could not find that divine face anywhere. I
had no answers to the questions put to me. Finally, they
decided that Mother Cauvery herself must have rescued me.
They arranged to offer prayers to Goddess Cauvery every year
on that day.
"I was not satisfied. Goddess or human
-- I wished to see her again. Whenever I went by the river
bank, I would look around eagerly hoping for that Goddess to
rise from the waters once again. As I grew into boyhood I
knew that she must have been a human being. Thus, whenever I
had a chance, in every festive crowd, I would eagerly
examine every old woman's face. In the course of time I
realized that it was not very civilized to stare at faces in
that fashion. As years passed, I lost all hopes of ever
seeing her again.
"About a year ago, I came here as
Commander-in-chief of our Southern Armies. Commander Bhoothi
Vikrama had already captured several regions of Lanka;
Anuradapura had changed hands several times. It was under
control of Mahinda once again. Our men had laid siege of
this fort. During the siege, I wished to travel to various
parts of Lanka and personally know the land. The Commander
sent a detachment of hundred men to accompany me. I went to
all the places under our control; every nook and cranny,
hill and hillock, field and forest, river and lake was
examined by me. I slowly began to understand the nature of
this land and its population. You know that there are
several smaller islands along the coasts of this Lanka. I
went to survey those islands also. In the course of these
travels, I and my men had camped in a forest several leagues
towards the north of this fort. We were very close to a ford
called Elephant Crossing. The seas to the east and the seas
to the west of Lanka meet in the form of a very narrow
channel at this point. Elephant herds often crossed at this
ford while migrating to the northern parts. That it is why
it was named Elephant Crossing.
"A peculiar incident
occurred while we were camped at that spot. A wailing cry
would be heard during nighttime near that camp. We could not
discern if that cry was a bird-call or a beast or human. An
unfathomable sorrow was mingled in that cry. The men on the
outskirts of the camp ignored this cry in the beginning.
Later, the cry was heard at other places, even within the
camp. The men came to report this to me. I ignored their
fears, `Are you afraid of ghosts and goblins? Then go back
home and seek the safety of your mother's lap!' They were
roused by this statement and became determined to find out
the origin of the cries: was it human, animal or spirit? One
night, they crept upon the figure raising that cry. When
they approached, that figure began to run away. It seemed to
be a woman; but, they could never catch her. The cries never
stopped -- it was heard every night after that.
was not very concerned about it in the beginning. My men
talked about nothing but that; some of them were really
gripped by an unexplainable fear. I resolved to solve the
mystery once for all. The next night, I and a few men began
walking towards that cry. A woman emerged from behind the
bush. She looked at us for one second and seemed to stand
still with shock. She began running. If all the men followed
her we would never be able to catch her. I ordered the men
to stop and followed her by myself. She looked back and
realized that I was alone; she waited as if welcoming me. I
became somewhat frightened and hesitated. A few cautious
steps brought me to her side. Moonbeams showed her face
clearly. She was smiling; she was the divine Goddess
Cauvery! She was the woman who had saved me from the river.
I stood staring at her divine face!
"`Mother! Who are
you? When did you come here? Why? I have been looking for
you all these years! If you wished to meet me, you could
have come to me directly. Why do you stalk this camp? Why do
you wail?' I asked her several questions in this fashion.
That gracious lady never said a word in reply. I repeated my
questions with no avail. Soon her eyes brimmed with tears
that touched my heart. She seemed eager to say something but
could not utter the words. Some incoherent sounds rose from
her throat; I understood: she was a deaf-mute. I have never
felt such sadness in my whole life the likes of which
enveloped me at that moment! I did not know what to do.
Suddenly, she hugged me and kissed me on my forehead. Her
tears fell on my head. In the next minute, she let go of me
and began running again. I did not try to follow her. My men
surrounded me in the camp with questions. I soothed them,
`She is neither ghost nor goblin; a mere mortal woman. She
is mentally deranged because of some sadness in her life. Do
not follow her or worry her if she comes here again!'
"On the day after that I wondered many times if I should
break camp and move away from that place. But, I gave no
orders. I had some lingering hope that she might come again.
Night came and I was not disappointed. We heard wailing
cries again and I followed her alone, ordering my men to
stay back. She waited with a welcoming smile once again. She
looked at me for a while, trying to say something. I could
"She took my hand and led the way. I
had no fear in going with her. Her concern for me in
clearing that forest path and moving thorny bushes away from
my limbs, touched my heart. After a while we neared a simple
hut in the middle of that forest. An oil lamp cast a
flickering light in that cottage. An old man was lying down
in that room. I realized that he was very sick; he shivered
as if with unbearable cold. His whole body shook with
delirious fever; jaws were locked and eyes were bloodshot.
He was babbling something.....
"You might remember,
that monk we saw in the underground monastery tonight..?
They said that the divinities had descended upon him! He
reminded me of that old man who was shivering in that forest
cottage. In fact I doubted if the divine Gods had taken hold
of the monk or if he was in the grip of a shivering fever. I
did not voice my doubts at that time... Why raise doubts
about their belief and faith? I gave permission to hold the
Perahara Carnival this year. Perhaps I made a big mistake.
What will happen to this ancient city that is barely
surviving so many wars if it is attacked by the shivering
fever? All the remaining people may be forced to evacuate!"
Prince Arulmozli seemed to be lost in thought. Vandiya Devan
waited for a while and then asked impatiently, "Sir! Why
worry about this city? What happened in that cottage? Tell
"Nothing happened in that cottage.
Perhaps my Godmother did not wish me to remain there for a
long time. She took my hand and dragged me out very soon.
Making various signs, she conveyed her thoughts to me. `Do
not tarry in these areas for a long time. If you stay here,
this shivering fever is likely to grip you too. Strike camp
and move away quickly.' I somehow understood her. I also
realized that she had warned me in this fashion because of
the love she bore towards me. I took her signs as a warning
form the Gods and moved camp that very night. My men were
very happy about that; they did not have to hear that
horrible wailing anymore...."
(Note: The fever being
referred to in this story is likely to be malaria which is
endemic to the area. The cause of malaria -- parasite
infection spread by mosquitos -- was not understood till
recent years. The fever was believed to be contagious and
caused by naturally occurring poison gasses or by spirits.
Accompanied by chills, shivering, body ache and delirium, it
was often fatal.)
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 38 -- Eloquent
Pictures Prince Arulmozli stopped his story suddenly and
asked, "Did you hear any footsteps?"
Both friends who
had been engrossed in the story replied that they had not
heard anything. Azlvar-adiyan who was sitting on the floor
said after a little hesitation, "This place seems warmer
"I think I smell some smoke," said
"I hope this place is quite safe?"
Azlvar-adiyan voiced his concern.
will come and surely warn us if there is any danger. Don't
worry," replied Arulmozli as he continued with the story.
"We broke camp and left that place very quickly. Even then,
ten of our men were struck by that shivering fever. Oh! It
is a horrible sickness that turns even the bravest man into
a coward. Men who face battles and bear war-wounds gladly
will loose courage in three days after the fever strikes,
blabbering `let me go home!' I felt that Goddess Durga, the
patroness of our clan must have appeared in the form of that
old woman and warned us in time. Anyway, she did not forsake
me even after that. She followed me to every place I went.
She saved me from several dangers -- mountain pythons,
forest beasts, hidden enemies. She would vanish with the
same suddenness with which she would appear. Within a few
days I learned the art of conversing with her by signs and
facial expressions. My mind was soon able to discern the
thoughts of her heart. Moreover, I was soon capable of
sensing her presence near me even if she was not visible.
Even now... Good, why don't you both go back to your beds
and pretend sleep? Quick!"
They quickly sought their
beds and closed their eyes in pretended sleep. A figure
appeared by the moonlit window. She was the same woman who
had beckoned from across the street when the mansion had
crumbled. A soft hissing sound came from her. Arulmozli got
up to stand beside that window. The woman made some signs
and the Prince pointed to his two friends sleeping on their
beds. She replied in more sign language.
Arulmozli ordered his friends to quickly follow him as he
jumped out of the window, to run across the terrace. Soon
they were out of that wooden palace, following that old
woman silently. After following a tree enclosed trail for
some time, they suddenly emerged into a moonlit clearing to
be met by an astonishing sight. Several large, dark
elephants stood in formation guarding a huge sepulcher and
spire in their midst. Vandiya Devan's heart skipped a beat
when he saw them. The woman did not hesitate even for one
second as she walked towards that elephant herd. "Did you
see? Those elephants look so real!" Azlvar-adiyan's whisper
replaced shock with amazement.
elephants stood close, touching each other; their backs
supported the weight of a large domed sepulcher and spire
fashioned after the style of Buddhist shrines. Each huge
elephant had two long curving tusks. One among those several
elephants had lost one of its tusks! She went up to that
elephant and moved a large boulder by its feet. Steps
appeared in the newly revealed pit; she went down followed
by the others. After the steps, a short narrow path and soon
into a large vaulted pavilion. Two large, clay lamps cast
some light in that chamber.
She trimmed the oil-wick
and picked up one of those lamps as she indicated that the
Prince alone should follow her. The other two were a bit
concerned about this; but, their worries were calmed when
they realized that she was merely interested in showing the
Prince some pictures drawn on the walls of that chamber. The
pictures on those walls seemed to be a series depicting
incidents in some story. They were drawn in a style similar
to temple frescoes that depict stories of Lord Buddha's life
and incarnations. The face of the young girl who was the
main character in those pictures resembled the old woman who
was holding the oil lamp. Prince Arulmozli easily understood
that she had drawn the story of her life in those pictures.
The drawings showed a young girl standing on the beaches of
an island. A man, her father was riding the waves on a
catamaran, fishing the deep seas. Next, the girl was walking
down a trail; a young man was sitting on a tree; he seemed
to be a prince, because of the diadem on his head. A bear
tried to climb the tree as the prince looked away. The girl
screamed and ran. The bear was now chasing her. The prince
jumped down and threw his knife at the bear. Bear and man
began wrestling as the girl leaned on a coconut palm and
watched. Finally, the bear fell and the Prince came up to
the girl to thank her. She merely shed tears in reply. The
fisherman who was her father came to explain that she was
deaf and mute. The Prince was saddened but he made friends
with her. Hand in hand they wandered through the forests of
the island. He made a garland of flowers and placed it
around her shoulders.
A large sailing ship was
anchored near that island. Some men came down to greet the
Prince. They insisted that he should go back on the ship.
The Prince consoled her and said good bye. He sailed away on
that big ship leaving her unhappy and tearful. Her father
sensed her sadness and placed her on a boat to take her
across the sea. They reached a place with a lighthouse. A
family near that lighthouse welcomed father and daughter.
Later, they all sat in a bullock cart and journeyed over a
long road to reach a large city surrounded by a big fort. In
that city the Prince stood on a palace balcony wearing a
jewelled crown. Richly dressed noblemen and women stood
around him. The girl who saw him like this lost her senses.
She ran and ran to soon reach the sea-shore. She climbed the
lighthouse tower and jumped into a turbulent sea. The waves
cradled her and a man pulled her up into his boat. He
thought that she was possessed by ghosts and took her to a
priest who could exorcise her. The temple priest tried to
cure her with neem leaves and holy ashes.
One day a
queen came to worship at that temple. The priest spoke to
the queen about that mentally unsound girl. The queen was
pregnant and she recognized that just like her, the girl was
also expecting a child. She placed the poor Karaiyar girl in
her palanquin and took her to the palace. The poor girl
lived in the palace garden and was soon delivered of twin
babies. The queen came and asked for one of the babies for
herself. The poor girl refused. But, later she reconsidered
and decided that both babies would be better off if they
grew up in the palace. She left both babies and went away at
midnight without telling anyone.
For many years she
wandered in the forests. Whenever she felt the urge to see
her children, she would wander back into the city. She would
stand on the river bank, hiding behind the trees to gaze at
the King and his family -- his children. Once a child
accidentally fell into the river. She saved that child
before vanishing into the forest.
All these incidents
were depicted very realistically by simple ocher-stick
drawings on that wall. Prince Arulmozli had been looking at
those pictures with avid interest and astonishment. On
reaching the last picture, he signaled and said, "The baby
saved from the river was me; you saved me!" The woman
embraced Arulmozli and kissed his forehead.
him to the farther wall in that pavilion. The pictures on
this wall were not about incidents in her life. They
depicted various dangers and accidents that might befall the
Prince. She warned him with eloquent signs about those
Vandiya Devan and Azlvar-adiyan watched all
this even as they stood by one corner in that pavilion.
Vandiya Devan compared the woman's face with Lady Nandini's
and wondered about it in many ways. Realizing that it was
not the appropriate time, he refrained from voicing his
They emerged from the secret chamber guarded
by stone elephants. The woman led them up some steps that
climbed to the top of the spire. The three men were
astonished by her strength and lack of tiredness. Half way
up the tower, Vandiya Devan was tired; but he continued
without comment. Finally, upon reaching a walled ledge, they
looked around. In the distance, in the middle of the city,
they could see a fire burning brightly.
"Oh! Look at
Emperor Maha Sena's palace going up in flames!" remarked
"Is that the place where we were
"Oh! If we had fallen
"Perhaps we would have been fodder to the
Lord of Fires!"
"How can you identify from this
distance that it is the palace where we were sleeping?"
"The pictures in the chamber spoke to me."
"I did not
"I am not surprised. Pictures speak in an
unique but eloquent language. Only those who know that
language can understand."
"What else did the pictures
"They spoke of some family secrets of my clan.
They warned me to go away from this Lanka island
"Long live the eloquence of those
pictures! Mr. Nambi, my suit has won." Vandiya Devan was
"Sir! the pictures did not stop at that.
Did they not warn that as long as you remain in this island,
you should not sleep under a roof, tarry under a tree or
walk anywhere but in the middle of the street?" asked
"You are correct. How did you know?"
"You know the language of pictures;
I am proficient in sign-language. When your Godmother was
speaking to you, I was watching her," said Azlvar-adiyan.
"Great! There is very little left of this night. Let us rest
for a while at least on this terrace atop this spire. We
shall leave after daybreak," said the Prince.
sharp rays of the warm sun woke up Vandiya Devan from a deep
sleep. Apart from the real incidents of the previous night,
all kinds of conspirators, arsonists, deaf-mutes, ghosts
goblins, bears, monks, crowns and other confusions had
plagued his dreams. All dreams faded in the bright
sun-light. Confusion and fear flew away.
that Azlvar-adiyan and the Prince had risen early and were
ready. He rose quickly and readied himself in a hurry. They
came down from the tower and walked down the middle of
several streets. Soon, they reached the Mahameha Gardens in
the middle of Anuradapura. An ancient, thousand and five
hundred year old, holy ficus tree was in that garden. Monks
and householders of the faith were going around the tree in
circles and worshipping it with fragrant flowers.
Prince Arulmozli bowed in prayer before that sacred tree.
"Princes and their kingdoms will vanish in the course of
time. But, this tree remains witness that order and sanctity
will prevail for ever," he said as he looked around here and
there. Towards one corner stood three horses in readiness
for a journey. Three men stood holding the three horses.
When the Prince approached them, the men bowed in happy
recognition. The Prince spoke to them and beckoned Vandiya
Devan, "It was the same Maha Sena's palace where we were
sleeping, which burned down last night. These men were
worried that we might have been burned in that fire. They
are overjoyed to see us!"
Vandiya Devan replied, "It
is true that this ancient tree is still alive; but, law and
order is long dead!"
"Don't you dare say that! How
can law collapse as long as I am alive?" intervened
Azlvar-adiyan. They mounted those horses and left
Anuradapura by the northern gates. The carnival crowd was
still busy in all the streets and gates, so none noticed
They soon reached the small town called
Mahindala about a league and a half to the north-east of
Anuradapura. "Emperor Ashoka's son, Prince Mahinda gave his
first sermon about the Buddhist faith in this town after he
came to Lanka. What a fortunate prince he was! He did not
venture with armies and swords to conquer new lands. He did
not have to hide and wander from assassins."
chap! That was his misfortune!" joked Vandiya Devan.
"You should never part from me, Sir! With you beside me,
even the biggest danger seems petty," said Prince Arulmozli
with a laugh.
"And the best of times are likely to
turn dangerous!" quipped Azlvar-adiyan.
slowly riding along the Royal Way, when they glimpsed a dust
cloud in the distance and heard the hoofbeat of several
horses galloping towards them. Soon, they could discern a
small cavalry riding towards them. The spears held by the
horsemen shone brilliantly in that early morning sun.
Vandiya Devan warned, "Sir! Draw your sword from its
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 39 -- Here is War!
As soon as Vandiya Devan demanded that he draw his sword,
Prince Arulmozli declared, "Here, I have drawn it," as he
drew his great sword from its scabbard. Vandiya Devan had
already drawn his own sword. They were huge great-swords of
immense length and weight. The soldiers who had delivered
the horses in Anuradapura's Mahameha Gardens had also given
The Prince jumped off his horse, "Get
thee down! You! I cannot tolerate your highhandedness any
more. Let me decide once for all!" Vandiya Devan was shocked
by these harsh words. He was not sure if it was jest or
jeopardy! But, he dismounted because the Prince was already
on the ground.
"Why do you hesitate Sir? Last night,
you tried to insult me by saying that my forefathers came to
wait in the forecourts of your grandfather! You said my
folks were jealous of the bards who carried away their
canopies and horses. I cannot tolerate such comments. I must
decide once for all before we go any further!" With such
words the Prince began to swirl the great-sword with both
his hands, as he approached Vandiya Devan.
was no ordinary sword. Even the strongest of men need two
hands to merely lift those great-swords. Only by holding the
hilt with both their hands could anyone swirl or fence with
those weapons. The Prince did not appear like a delicate
flower nurtured in the comforts of palaces as he lifted and
swirled that sword -- he was like Arjuna, Bhima, Aravaan and
Abhimanyu, the great heroes of ancient times. He appeared
lofty and noble like a true descendent of those famous
Chozlas, Vijayala of the many battle-wounds, Raaja-aditya
who died on a war-elephant.
Vandiya Devan also lifted
his great-sword with both his hands and began to swirl it.
He began with some hesitation and confusion, but soon grew
more steady. The spirit of a true warrior made him forget
that the enemy was the Prince he revered. He stopped
wondering about the purpose of this duel. Only the
great-sword swirling in his opponent's hands remained in his
eyes. All his thoughts were concentrated on defending
himself from that sword and on somehow dislodging the sword
from the enemy by wounding him. The tempo of the clanging
swords began in a slow beat rising to a faster and faster
crescendo. Azlvar-adiyan could not understand the behavior
of Prince Arulmozli for some time.
There must be
some purpose to this performance. Perhaps it is a device to
stop those who are coming down the road in order to discern
their intention before acting accordingly.
he lead their horses to block the road and waited by their
side holding the reins.
The horse-men on the road
came nearer. Azlvar-adiyan's concern was cleared by seeing
the tiger-flag flying in their midst. They are our men; but,
who could it be? The heralds riding ahead answered this by
their thundering proclamations:
"The Commander of the
Lankan Forces who vanquished Mahinda in Lankan-campaigns; he
who took Veera-pandiya's head during the Battle of Vaigai,
Lord Velir of Kodumbalur, noble Bhoothi Vikrama Kesari
arrives! Make way! Make way!"
"The scion of the royal
Pallava House, bravest among the braves who took
Veera-pandiya in the Battle of Vaigai, he who demolished the
Vengi forces during the battle of North Pennar, heroic Lord
Parthiban Pallava arrives. Make way! Make way!"
About thirty horse-men followed these heralds. In their midst,
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama and Parthiban Pallava rode with
dignity on two beautiful white horses. An elephant with a
saddle on top, walked ponderously behind the cavalry. In the
dust cloud at some distance one could faintly discern a
contingent of footmen. The horse-men seemed annoyed by the
impediment on the road. "Who is that?" "Move!" "Make way!"
rose some voices. Soon, soft whispering and exclamations of
surprise and amazement went back and forth among them as
they came to a slow stop. The soldiers jumped down from
their horses and began to form a circle as they stood
watching the sword fight on the road. Commander Bhoothi
Vikrama and Parthiban also dismounted to come and stand in
front of their men. Parthiban seemed quite provoked as he
commented to the Commander, "Do you see this? Don't you see
that my remarks about the Vallam fellow are true? Utter
impertinence! Displaying his foolishness to the Prince! How
can we tolerate this quietly?" He was beginning to draw his
Bhoothi Vikrama held his hand and stopped
him. "Be patient, Sir! Let us watch. What beautiful
swordplay! It is a long time since we saw anything like
The footmen who had been following, about
three hundred men, had come close. They enlarged the circle
of men and began to watch with interest. By now, a girl
dismounted from the saddle on top of the elephant. She
parted a way through the horses and footmen and came to
stand in front of the watching circle. It is quite
impossible to describe the shock and agitation that filled
her face. When the swords flashed hither and thither, her
eyes flashed in step with them. When the two men jumped and
leaped in the course of the duel, unaware to herself her
waist swayed and feet danced. In a while she plucked a long
stemmed blue-lily that had been decorating her coiled
tresses and began swirling its stem in her hands. The flower
in her hand danced to the tune raised by the clanging
great-swords. We do not have to reveal the identity of this
girl to our readers! She was none other than Poonkuzlali!
Surely we have not forgotten!
The swordsmen fought
for a while with the Prince taking a stance facing her.
Slowly inch by inch they moved in a circle as they stepped
this way and that. After a while Vandiya Devan was in a
position facing Poonkuzlali. During the fight, with quick
glances, Vandiya Devan's eyes had taken in the growing crowd
of men. They caught sight of Poonkuzlali! He lost his
concentration for one small second in the surprise of seeing
her. That one second was enough for Prince Arulmozli. The
Prince's sword fell upon Vandiya Devan's sword with a force
like the heavenly thunderbolt! The brave Vaanar youth
stumbled; his sword slipped from his hands and fell to the
The cheer raised by the surrounding men was
like a roaring ocean. Even their loud shouts were drowned by
the peeling laughter that broke loose from the young maiden.
Vandiya Devan tried to pick up his sword when the Prince ran
up to him and heartily embraced him.
"You did not
loose to my skillful sword. You fought equally to meet every
thrust and parry. But, you lost to the swordplay of a
maiden's eyes! There is nothing to be ashamed about that! It
can happen to anyone."
Vandiya Devan tried to reply when Commander Bhoothi Vikrama and
Parthiban came closer.
"My Lord! I had sent this
youth to you. I hope he has not misbehaved. I was somewhat
anxious!" said the Commander.
"Yes Sir! I could not
tolerate his constant nagging, `You said that there was a
war in Lanka! Where is the War? Where is the battle?' I
showed him, `Here is war!'" The soldiers set up an even
louder cheer on hearing these words of their beloved Prince.
The Commander came to fondly place a hand on Vandiya Devan's
shoulder as he said, "Son, it is a long time since I saw
such a fantastic sword-fight. You are truly a good companion
to this Prince. He often gets these sudden urges to tussle.
Is he not a descendent of Emperor Paranthaka who bore the
title King of Wrestlers? Those who cannot keep up with his
duels cannot remain his longtime friends."
was beside Parthiban, "Sir, I knew that you had come here in
search of me. I was hurrying to meet you. Is my brother well
at Kanchi? How is grandfather?"
"Your brother and
grandfather have sent important messages for you. I have
wasted more than four days in search of you after arriving
in Lanka. There is no point in further delay..." even before
Parthiban could finish, Arulmozli interrupted him.
"You would not have come personally if it had not been
important. Let us not waste time; give me the message."
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama turned towards them, "We cannot
discuss anything in the middle of a road amidst all these
people. There, I can see a pavilion; let us go there.
Fortunately there is no dearth of rest-pavilions, ruined or
not, in this Lanka."
They moved towards that slightly
ruined rest-pavilion situated a little away from the road.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 40 -- Deliberation
Vandiya Devan was walking beside Azlvar-adiyan and saying,
"What is this with the Prince? He started a sudden
fist-fight on the other day; and now a sword-duel. At least
he could have given some warning! This friendship with the
Prince seems to be quite dangerous."
these words as he joined them, "Yes Sir, friendship with me
is very dangerous. You should have realized it last night
itself. If you wish to avoid danger, you should be at least
ten leagues away from my presence!"
"My Lord, I did
not mean that! I am ready to face any danger by your side,
for your cause. But, if these sudden... "
Azlvar-adiyan interrupted, "Could you not understand that
Thambi? The Prince used a ruse to identify the approaching
men before deciding how to deal with them. Any newcomer
would stop and watch a sword-fight in progress."
Prince Arulmozli said, "Thirumalai speaks the truth. But,
there is something curious about my personality: any friend
of mine is sure to earn the jealousy and enmity of others.
To prevent that, I often pick quarrels with those I choose
to be my friends. Only those who do not mind this behavior
can remain close to me."
"That's fine with me! From
now, I shall not wait for you; I'll begin the duels myself!
My Lord, I brought several messages for you; but, I forgot
one important missive. I have to give you that message
immediately. If you do not wish to listen, please draw your
great-sword once again!"
"I am sure that is not
necessary! What is the message? I'll hear it."
was a girl with a blue lily in her hands, standing in that
crowd of men surrounding us. You even mentioned that I had
lost to the swordplay of her eyes. Do you know her?"
"No. I did not see her very well. Neither is it my habit to
"Sir, she had sent a message for you. I did
not have an opportunity to tell you because, from the moment
I met you, we have been busy with wrestling matches and
escaping from crumbling mansions. Therefore I could not
deliver her message. When I saw her suddenly, I remembered
that I had not conveyed her message and I lost my guard; you
knocked my sword down.." said Vandiya Devan.
all right. Anyway, who is that girl? Why should she send me
"Sir, she is Poonkuzlali."
"Beautiful name! I have not heard it before."
do you remember the name Ocean Princess?"
Princess -- Ocean Princess! I do not remember it; I do not
recall ever having met her."
"Please remember it Sir!
If you do not recall her name, hear heart will break! You
were about to get into your boat to board your ship at Kodi
Karai. At that time, a lone girl rowed her boat and came
ashore on the beach. You watched her with amazement. She
came towards you with a curiosity to find out who you were;
you asked the Lighthouse Keeper beside you, `Who is this
maid?' He replied, `She is my daughter.' And you said, `Is
that so? I thought that she was the Sea King's daughter --
The Ocean Princess!' She has not forgotten your words. I
could come to Lanka only because of her help."
that you mention it, I remember that incident vaguely. But,
what is the Ocean Princess of Kodi Karai doing here at
Anuradapura? Why is she with these men? Perhaps she has come
in search of you?"
"No. That is not possible. She has
no reason to look for me. If she has come here in search of
someone, it must be in search of you. I have no idea why!"
As he said these words, Vandiya Devan turned back to look at
Poonkuzlali who was walking besides the Commander. He
realized that all her attention was concentrated on the
Prince, though she walked with her head bent and eyes cast
downward. Every now and then her glance skipped towards
Prince Arulmozli. She must be aware that they were talking
about her... otherwise she has no reason to walk so
bashfully; otherwise that vivacious girl's eyes would wander
hither and thither restlessly.
They reached a
roofless pavilion whose carved granite pillars stood intact.
A few tall trees growing around it gave some shade to that
raised pavilion. It had a stone bench of sorts in the
middle. Prince Arulmozli, Commander Bhoothi Vikrama and Lord
Parthiban went to sit on this seat. Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan stood by their side. Poonkuzlali went to stand
on the other side, hiding in the shadows of a pillar. From
that spot she could see the Prince and Vandiya Devan
clearly. The men surrounded that roofless pavilion and stood
in a formation of double rows. The elephant and the horses
stood beyond them.
Arulmozli looked at Parthiban and
said, "What is the message from my brother and my
grandfather? I am eager to hear it."
Chozla Empire is in great danger; you must be aware of
"Yes Sir! The Emperor has been sick for a long
"That is not the only risk. Grave peril
threatens the Empire. Officers holding important positions
have turned traitors. They have begun conspiracies against
the Emperor, the Crown Prince and you. They have resolved
that the crown is not for your brother but it is for that
Madurandaka who masquerades as a devout Saiva dressed in
false holy beads. The two Lords of Pazluvoor, Lord
Sambuvaraya and his son Kandamaran, Lord Raajali of the
double canopy, Lord Mazlava-raya of Mazluvoor and some
others like them belong to the core group of conspirators.
But, we need not be unduly concerned about their efforts.
The Northern Army and the Southern Army are both under our
control. Lord Malayaman of Thiru-kovalur and Lord Velir of
Kodumbalur are on our side. The conspiracy of enemies can be
rendered useless within minutes with the help of our allies
and our armies. But, it is not politic to give the enemies
too much time. The treachery should be destroyed before it
takes root. Your grandfather and your brother have sent me
here to escort you back to Kanchi immediately because such a
situation has arisen. Your grandfather feels that it is not
appropriate for you two brothers to be away from each other
at such times; he thinks it is important that you should be
together. In addition, let me inform you about the heartfelt
wishes of your brother. He has no interest to remain in one
place or to rule kingdoms. He is eager to sail across the
seas to distant shores and establish the Tiger-flag in those
lands after conquering them. His war-fever has grown
ten-fold since Lord Pazluvoor had placed obstacles to his
northern campaigns. Therefore, once you arrive in Kanchi,
after marching to Tanjore and destroying all those vile
conspirators and traitors, after placing you on the Chozla
throne and crowning you, ...."
Prince Arulmozli had
been listening to this long message with interest and
reverence. Upon hearing the last few words of Parthiban, he
covered his ears with his hands and said, "No! Do not utter
such alarming words. The Chozla throne and I are far apart."
"I shall not speak of it if you do not like it. It is your
brother's will and your wish. It is something to be decided
between you two brothers. But, it is important that you are
together in the matter of destroying the traitors. You must
come to Kanchi immediately. Let us destroy the very roots of
the Pazluvoor and Sambuvaraya clans. Let us send Madurandaka
the Saiva devotee to the Saiva heavens. After that you and
your brother can think about it and do as you wish," said
"Sir, how can we decide
everything? My father -- the Emperor -- Should we not
consult his opinion? Perhaps you know that too? Did my
brother get any confidential message from my father?"
"Prince, it is important that I speak the truth at this
time. There is no use in hiding things. It is impossible to
learn your father's wishes at this time. The Emperor is no
longer free. He is Lord Pazluvoor's prisoner. None can meet
the Emperor without that Lord's permission; none can speak
to the Emperor. How can we consult his opinion? Your brother
made endless efforts to bring your father to Kanchi. He sent
an invitation saying the Emperor should inaugurate the newly
built Golden Palace at Kanchi. There has been no reply from
"Everyone knows that my father is not
in good health and that he is immobile."
your father is the Emperor of the land; does he have to walk
to Kanchi? Does he not have elephants and horses? Are there
no carriages and carts? Chariots and palanquins? Thousands
of crowned nobility will come forward to carry your father
physically to Kanchi. That is no excuse. It is the treachery
of the Pazluvoor fellows; Tanjore palace is now a prison
fortress. Prince if you wish to save your father's life you
should come away immediately to Kanchi."
obvious that these words distressed Arulmozli. For the first
time, there were signs of worry on his charismatic face. He
was lost in thought for some time before he turned towards
"Commander, what is your suggestion?
Prime Minister Anirudda Brahma-raya who is a confidant and
personal friend of my father had been here some days ago. He
suggested that I should remain in Lanka for some time, and
you endorsed the idea. You somehow persuaded me even when I
asked, `There is no war here, why should I remain?' The
Prime Minister has reiterated the same message through this
Mr. Nambi, his messenger. You know the regard I have for my
sister Younger Pirati; I will not cross the line drawn by
her. I came to Lanka because of her advice. She has sent a
letter through this Vaanar nobleman. In a way, my sister's
letter confirms Lord Parthiban's message. But, she has
written that I should immediately go back to Pazlayarai. My
brother has sent word through this gentleman that I should
come to Kanchi. What do you think Commander?"
"Prince, till this morning I was of the opinion that you
should remain in Lanka. In fact I argued with Lord Parthiban
for a long time, last night. In spite of the long
discussion, I did not agree with him. But, this morning,
that girl who stands there brought some news. On hearing
that, I changed my conviction. I now think that you should
return to Kanchi as soon as possible." Thus spoke the
Commander of Lanka.
Prince Arulmozli now turned his
eyes upon Poonkuzlali who was ogling him from behind the
pillar. "I have read that Abimanyu was killed by enemies who
attacked simultaneously from all directions. It appears that
news from all directions will drown me. What news has that
girl brought?" he asked.
"Let her say it herself,"
said Lord Velir the Commander.
Poonkuzlali walked up
with hesitant steps to stand before the Prince. Her glance
swept all four directions; she stared at the Commander and
at Parthiban. She even looked towards Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan who stood on the other side. But, she was
unable to look up and speak to the Prince.
speak! Quickly!" ordered the Commander.
tried to say something, but she could not form the words.
"Aha! The whole world seems to have gone mute!" exclaimed
Arulmozli. That was enough: Poonkuzlali looked up to stare
at Arulmozli's face for the fraction of a second. By then,
her eyes were brimming with tears; she turned away to run
into the nearby grove of trees. Every one was looking at
this with some surprise!
Vandiya Devan stepped
forward to say, "Sir, she has run away like this before; I
followed and caught up with her. If permitted, I can go and
bring her back."
"Do that. Meanwhile, let the
Commander reveal the news she had brought," said Prince
"My Lord, the news can be given in two
statements! The Lords of Pazluvoor have sent two large ships
filled with soldiers to arrest you and take you back. Those
ships have come up the mouth of River Thondai and are
anchored in a hidden spot!" announced the Commander.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 41 -- "Look Over
There" On hearing the words spoken by Commander Bhoothi
Vikrama, Prince Arulmozli smiled. He mumbled to himself,
"Finally there appears a solution to the turmoil in my
Lord Parthiban had risen fuming with anger,
"What are you saying Commander? Is this true? Why have you
not mentioned this to me till this time? Now, I understand
why you dragged this foolish girl with us. I ask you once
again -- Is it true that the nobles of Pazluvoor have sent
ships to arrest the Prince?"
"Yes Sir! If this girl's
claims of seeing and hearing it personally are to be
believed, it is true."
"Oh! The words of Old Man
Malayaman are indeed true. He is the only one who truly
understands the Pazluvoor clansmen. Commander, why do you
keep quiet even after hearing this awful news? Has it come
to such a pass that those petty nobles of Pazluvoor are able
to send men to arrest this beloved Prince, -- this scion of
Emperor Paranthaka, beloved son of Emperor Sundara Chozla,
this prince revered by all the country and nation, beloved
of all the Tamil lands, Crown Prince Aditya Karikala's blood
brother -- this Arulmozli Varma to be taken prisoner? Why
deliberate? Let us go with the army to destroy those who
came to arrest the Prince, bury them in this island itself!
We can then fulfil our plans; let us go -- why hesitate?"
Parthiban could not control his emotions.
Commander looked at him, "Parthiba, I knew that you would
become agitated in this fashion; that is why I did not tell
you this information brought by the Karaiyar girl. We have
to think carefully before we act; there is no point in
"Think carefully! Think about what? Be
careful about what? Prince what do you say? Why do we have
to deliberate further? Even if you had any reservations till
now, there is no reason for delay anymore. We have to
destroy every rootstock of Pazluvoor."
Arulmozli spoke very calmly, with no sign of turmoil, "Let
us know what the Commander thinks. Sir, what is it that we
have to consider carefully?"
"The men who have come
to arrest you.... my tongue hesitates to even utter these
words.... but, I have to speak them. What can we do if the
men have come to arrest you upon orders of the Emperor? Can
we oppose them even then?"
Parthiban Pallava laughed
loudly on hearing these words, "Fantastic!! Your words!! Is
the Emperor in any position to give orders? Hasn't Lord
Pazluvoor imprisoned him?"
Vandiya Devan spoke up at
this point, "Lord Parthiban speaks the complete truth. I saw
it with mine own eyes: the Lords of Pazluvoor keep the
Emperor like a prisoner. Without their permission, none can
meet the Emperor; none can talk to him. Because I dared to
speak a few words, the torment they put me through.... Oh
Good Lord! I can still remember the iron grip of Lord
Kalanthaka Pazluvoor; my wrist is still painful!" with these
words he rubbed his wrists.
"Say it like that
Vallavaraya! I misjudged you. Explain it once more to the
Prince and this Commander."
"No need. He has already
spoken of everything he had to say," said Arulmozli as he
turned to Vandiya Devan, "Sir! You mentioned that you would
bring back that girl? Let us hear the news she brought from
her own lips. She seems somewhat cranky -- soothe her down
somehow and bring her back."
"Yes My Lord. I'll bring
her back. But, I can never tolerate you being arrested by
Lord Pazluvoor's men. It shall never happen as long as I
live." Vandiya Devan stepped down from the pavilion.
"Commander, you have not spoken your opinion."
is my opinion: You should not meet the men sent by Lord
Pazluvoor. Board the ship brought by Parthiban and go away
to Kanchi immediately. I shall go to Tanjore and meet the
Emperor personally and find out the real situation
"Your going to Tanjore is like thrusting
your head in a lion's mouth! You can never return. You will
disappear in the underground dungeons. You will not be able
to meet the Emperor."
"What are you saying! Who in
the Chozla lands is powerful enough to throw me in prison?
Which fellow dares to prevent me from meeting the Emperor?
Moreover, Prime Minister Anirudda is in Tanjore...."
"The Honorable Brahma-raya is indeed in Tanjore. But, what
is the use? Even he is unable to consult with the Emperor.
His man, this Mr. Nambi is here. Let us ask him."
Commander turned towards Azlvar-adiyan, "Oh! I forgot that
this man is still here. Thirumalai, why are you quiet? Like
the Prince said, have you also become dumb?"
the Lord God gave us two ears; only one mouth. `Therefore,
use your ears well; limit your speech!' said my master. He
has told me to practice this policy particularly when
political affairs are being discussed."
your master's orders very well. You can talk now, because we
ask you to do so. What do you think?"
"About what are
you asking, Sir?"
"About this matter we have been
discussing. What is the right thing for the Prince? Should
he remain in Lanka? Or should he go to Kanchi City?"
"Can I speak what I truly believe? If the Prince permits, I
can say it."
Arulmozli, who had been lost in some
thought looked at Azlvar-adiyan Nambi, "Speak Mr.
Thirumalai, speak freely."
"We should find the
strongest and safest prison in this island and place the
Prince inside it. We should post the strongest available
guard around it."
"What nonsense is this?!?" asked
"Is this time for jest?" asked
"I am not babbling; nor am I
joking. I spoke my mind. Last night, the Prince was walking
down the streets of Anuradapura -- the facade of a mansion
came crumbling down on him. Later, we were sleeping in one
place; because of some reason, we left that place and went
away. Soon that place went up in flames. Ask the Prince if
all this is true."
They turned to look at the Prince,
whose expression confirmed Azlvar-adiyan's words.
"Ask him who was the reason for all these accidents. Do you
think anyone would dare to burn down a mansion to kill me or
Parthiban spoke anxiously, "Someone
is trying to kill the Prince! This confirms that he should
go back with me to Kanchi."
"Never, never! Rather
than send the Prince with you, we can hand him over to Lord
Pazluvoor!" said Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai Nambi.
fellow! What did you say?!" Parthiban had begun to draw his
sword from his waist.
The Commander held him back,
"Thirumalai, why do you say this? Don't you know that Lord
Parthiban Pallava is a true friend of the Chozla clan?"
"I am aware of that Sir, I am truly aware of it. But, mere
friendship will not suffice."
"Lord Parthiban will
give up his life for this friendship. I know it Thirumalai."
"Maybe so. But let me ask a question; let him answer that.
Day before yesterday, when we were near Dampallae, we saw
two men in his company. Ask him about those two men. Who
were they? Where are they now? Ask him!"
was somewhat shocked. He replied a little hesitantly, "I met
them near Tricone Hill. They promised to guide me to the
Prince. They disappeared suddenly in Anuradapura. Why do you
ask Nambi? Do you now anything about them?"
I know that they are two of the gang that has sworn to
destroy the very roots of the Chozlas. I suspect that they
tried to kill Prince Arulmozli in Anuradapura last night.
Look over there!" Azlvar-adiyan pointed towards a grove of
He pointed to a spot away from the pavilion;
amidst the thick growth of trees stood a pretty maid and a
youth. They were Poonkuzlali and Vandiya Devan. As they
spoke to each other, Vandiya Devan swirled a dagger and
threw it. It fell into some bushes -- a sharp `screech'
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 42 -- Poonkuzlali's
Dagger Vandiya Devan who left that roofless pavilion in
search of Poonkuzlali found her leaning upon a tree in the
grove. She seemed to be sobbing softly. He called gently,
She turned around, startled by the
sound. "It's you." She turned her face away.
it's me. Why are you angry with me?"
"I am not angry
"Then why this vexed look?"
don't like any men-folk."
"Even the Prince?"
She turned to look at him with fire laden eyes, "Yes, more
than anyone else, I do not like him."
"What did he
"He did not recognize me, did not look at me."
"He remembers you very well. `Oh, I do remember the Ocean
Princess' he said, when I mentioned your name."
"Why don't you ask him yourself?"
remembered me, why didn't he talk to me?"
to you; you did not reply. You ran away."
mean that kind of speech. If you meet a known person would
you not say `hello' and `how are you?' -- you are telling
lies. He did not even see me!"
"There is a reason for
"What is it?"
difficult times for the Prince."
"Who said so?"
"All the astrologers say it. Kudanthai Astrologer mentioned
"What did he say to you?"
problem will pile upon the Prince for some time. Even those
by his side will be faced with distress, said that
astrologer. The Prince knows this. That is why he does not
want any friends by his side; he does not want his
misfortune tainting others."
"Why are you friends
"Didn't you see? Sometime ago he was
duelling with me trying to send me away. Without rhyme or
reason he picked a quarrel with me in the middle of the road
and started a sword-fight. We stopped fighting only because
of your arrival."
"So, you won't leave his side even
if he sends you away?"
"Never, I shall never leave
his company. I will share all his misfortunes."
you like him that much?"
"Yes; I like him a lot."
"Why do you like him?"
"I have no explanation. When I
saw him, I somehow liked him."
"Me too!" said
Poonkuzlali. Immediately regretting this frankness, she bit
"I know that you like the Prince. That is
why I came here to take you back to him. Come with me."
"I won't come."
"If you don't, I'll take hold of you
by force and drag you to him."
"Beware of coming near
me: look at this knife I have. Beware!" Poonkuzlali showed
him the dagger she had hidden in her waistband.
"Stupid girl! Why are you trying to kill me? Is it because I
reminded the Prince about you?"
"You lie! You did not
tell him anything about me!"
"Oh, forget it! You said
that two ships have come to arrest the Prince. Come and tell
him about it before you get lost!"
"I have told all
the details to the Commander."
"The Prince wants to
ask you personally about it."
"I become dumb in his
"The Prince is very fond of mute-women!"
"Chee! How dare you tease me!" Poonkuzlali raised her
"Does it mean that you won't come?"
"Fine; I am going back," said Vandiya Devan as
he took a step away. He turned back suddenly, once again,
plucked the dagger from her hands and threw it away with a
The dagger swirled and swirled far away to
land on a distant bush. A `screech' rose from behind that
bush. It was not clear if that was a human voice or if it
was bird or beast.
Poonkuzlali who was about to
pounce upon Vandiya Devan angrily, now turned towards that
bush with some surprise. They looked at each other
meaningfully and walked quietly towards that spot. New blood
was spilled on the leaves and ground behind that bush. There
was neither man nor beast in that place. Neither was
Poonkuzlali's dagger anywhere nearby.
"Look at this
Poonkuzlali. Do you now realize the truth in my words?
Danger plagues the Prince from all sides. No one can say,
where or from which direction or when misfortune will
strike. I took that knife from you unthinkingly and threw
it; and because of that we found that someone had been
hiding here. Think for yourself -- why should they be hiding
here? Waiting for an opportunity to kill the Prince! Do you
remember telling me that two men had come to Kodi Karai a
day before me and that your brother had taken them in his
boat; you were suspicious of them? Remember that? How can we
his friends abandon the Prince at such difficult times?"
Vandiya Devan spoke without stopping for breath.
"What can I do if he asks me to go away?"
not leave even if he asks us to go away."
thought for some seconds, "Don't we have to find out who was
"That is an impossible task for us.
Where can we look for them in this forest? If we delay too
much, the Prince might become angry. They might abandon us
here and go away. Come with me quietly."
agreed Poonkuzlali. Both walked towards the pavilion where
the others were seated.
At first, the people in the
pavilion questioned them about the incident with the dagger.
"Why did you throw the dagger? What was the screeching
"I thought that some beast -- a fox or a
jackal -- was hiding behind that bush. That is why I took
her knife and threw it there. There was nothing where we
searched," said Vandiya Devan.
"Then forget it.
Question this girl," said the Commander.
had been staring at the Prince from the minute she had come
to the pavilion. Chee! How foolish! Why is my heart beating
so quickly? What is that choking my throat? Why are tears
filling my eyes? Stupid girl where is all your pluck? Why is
your heart, which does not fear the wide ocean waves or
thundering storm, fluttering like this? Why do your eyes,
which can look into the terrible face of a tiger, cloud like
this? Foolish girl do you want to be called cranky once
again! Look at the Prince and answer him clearly. What can
he do to you. They say he is full of mercy and kindness.
what can he do to you an innocent girl....
Princess! Do you remember me?" his voice came to her from
the depths of the deep sea.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 43 -- "I Am A
Culprit" "Ocean Princess do you remember me?" ....
What kind of a question is this Ponniyin Selva? Whom are you
asking, `Do you remember?' Is it right to ask, `Do you
remember,' after we have been together for eons of eons? Or,
have you forgotten? For how many days, how many epochs you
have come sailing in my boat, with me.... Have you forgotten
the pleasure trips we took in my tiny sail-boat across
endless seas, across ceaseless white-waves? When sudden
storm clouds darkened all directions, we were friends
holding each others hands, standing together for a long time
-- have you forgotten? When the frightening whirlwind blew,
wave-mountains besieged my boat raising us sky high for one
moment and hurling us down to the depths for another minute
-- those days of glorious turbulence, when we stood hand in
hand, victorious over the sea-lord's fury, have you
Once we went flying, racing across distant space; you reached for the
stars and plucked them to make ornaments for my hair-braids,
have you forgotten that? You brought the full-moon to me
saying, `look at your golden face in this silver disc', have
you forgotten even that? Once you dived into the deepest
ocean; I stood by the shore filled with disquiet; you rose
with both hands filled with shining pearls and coral beads
to make a garland of sea-gems to place around my neck. I
cannot forget that, even if you do not remember... Oh King,
how can we forget those days when blue-black waters lapped
upon the shores of gentle lakes, where flower laden boughs
bent low to form bowers that blocked away the midday sun,
where upon emerald carpets of grass we sat gazing into each
other's faces for months on end.... How could that be
forgotten? At that time, thousands of koil's sat upon those
branches singing sweet melody to the drone raised by a
million bees that buzzed around as countless butterflies
danced in happiness.
All this cannot be forgotten
easily, not for a thousand births. You asked me, `Do you
remember?' How could you? I remember, I remember very
well.... That pathetic girl ached to say all such words;
but, her coral red lips merely mumbled, "I remember."
"Ah! You are able to open your mouth and speak, Ocean
Princess. There are several beautiful sculptures of heavenly
maidens on the pillars of several mansions in this lovely
Lanka. I was afraid that you were another such sculpture.
Fortunately, you are capable of speaking! Speak some more, I
am eager to hear your melodious voice. I understand that you
told several things to our Commander. I believe you said
that two large ships have come up the estuary of River
Thondai to anchor at a hidden spot and those ships are
filled with armed men. Is that true Ocean Princess? Did you
see those ships with your own eyes?" asked Prince Arulmozli.
"Yes, My Lord, I saw them myself."
"Ah! I am able to
hear you much better; my ears are pleased. Good, when you
saw the ships you rowed your boat into the narrows. You
wished to wait till the ships had gone away, so you went to
lie down in a secluded spot in the forest. Some men from the
ships came ashore to stop near the place you were sleeping.
They began talking; you did not wish to overhear their talk,
nonetheless, you could hear them. Did you say all this to
"I told him exactly what happened."
"When you heard their talk, you wished to warn the Commander
about it immediately. You left as soon as the men moved
away, hurrying in search of the Commander. How did you come
"I came half way in my boat; then I
walked through the forest."
"Where did you intend
"I left thinking that the Commander would be
at Mattotam. On the way I heard that he was at Mahindala. I
had quite a time trying to meet the Commander! All sorts of
men obstructing me!" Poonkuzlali turned to look at Commander
Bhoothi Vikrama; her eyes flashed lightning like the thunder
storms of summer.
"It is not easy to meet the
Commander of Lanka. You would be astonished if you hear of
the travails endured by my friend here when he tried to meet
the Commander. Anyway, it is good that you did not mind the
obstacles, that you were adamant in meeting the Commander
and telling him. Poonkuzlali can you repeat what you told
the Commander? Once more, for me? You heard them from behind
the tree; what did those men speak about?"
my lips hesitate to speak of such things."
to repeat it once again for my sake."
"They talked of
having come here to arrest you and take you back."
"Did they speak anything about on whose orders they had come
to do such a thing?"
"I could not believe it My Lord.
It must be the conspiracy of the Pazluvoor nobles, I think."
"You can express your thoughts later. Ocean Princess, just
tell me what they said."
"They said that it was on
orders of the Emperor."
"Very Good! Did they
attribute any reason for that?"
"They did. They said
that you conspired with the Buddhist monks of Lanka and
tried to crown yourself as an independent King of Lanka....
I was so angry that I wanted to kill those villains who said
"Good that you did not! Don't you know
that there should be no obstacles to the Emperor's
messengers? Anyway, do you remember if they spoke of any
other important thing?"
"They said that the Commander
should not become aware of their mission; if he comes to
know he might try to help you escape... They wanted to find
out your whereabouts and meet you personally to deliver the
orders and take you with them... That is what they said."
"Therefore you left immediately in search of the Commander!
Marvelous! You have really helped me a lot Ocean Princess.
Can you wait a little aside. I need to consult with these
men about an important thing. But, don't run away too far
like before. Don't force me to send the Lord of Vallam after
you once again."
She moved away to stand behind a
pillar; but she chose a spot from where she could gaze upon
the Prince's face! Two fat bees drowned in the honey-pot,
struggling for breath. Slowly, they managed to come ashore
and enjoy the nectar. Poonkuzlali's eyes were in such a
comfortable position now: they drank the nectar of the
Prince's charismatic face. Her heart threw tantrums that
could not be controlled; it escaped to fill boundless space
Arulmozli turned to his Commander,
"Sir, you are the chieftain of a clan that is friendly with
our family for several generations; a close friend of my
father; I regard you with the same reverence I accord my
father. You too have treated me as your own son. Therefore,
you should now help me discharge my duty. Not raise
Before the Commander could reply,
Arulmozli turned to Parthiban, "Sir, I have a request for
you. Your are a loyal friend of my dear brother. I consider
my brother's directive as divine edict. Thus I am bound to
honor your word. I beg of you that you should not place any
obstacles to my fulfilling my duty."
and Parthiban Pallava looked at each other with meaningful
glances that expressed their mutual anxiety.
Commander looked at the Prince, "Sir, I do not understand
anything you say. I have spent the better part of my life in
battlefields. I am not familiar with the subtlety of speech.
You speak of fulfilling your duty: what does that mean? How
do you intend discharging this duty?" he asked.
this time I have one and only one duty. I have to obey my
father's directive. My father has sent men with orders to
arrest me. Why should I let them wander in search of me? I
wish to go to them and give myself up. That is my duty...."
"Never. It is impossible. As long as I have life in my body,
I cannot permit that. I will prevent it," said Parthiban.
The Commander said, "Do not get agitated; be patient." He
then said the following to the Prince.
spoke of your duty. I too have a duty. Please listen to
that. I am the last male left alive in the noble house of
the Kodumbalur Velir's. All other men have died in service
to the Chozla Empire. Most died in battle. One day I too
hope to die in a similar fashion, who knows?... Please
listen to my thoughts with some patience. The Emperor
appointed you, who had been raised in the comforts of palace
life, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Armies last
year. At that time he summoned me in privacy and said,
`Parting form my son is like parting from my own life.
Nevertheless, I cannot keep him closeted in palaces because
of my love for him. He has to leave the palace one day; he
has to earn fame as a brave warrior like his brother. But,
if anything happens to endanger his life, that very moment
this life will part from my body. You are responsible to
guard him from every danger.' The Emperor gave me orders in
this fashion. Will the same Emperor who gave such orders
last year, send commands to arrest you now? What have you
done to provoke such orders? Their accusations about your
conspiring to secure Lanka's throne is utter falsehood. How
could anyone believe this slander?"
Arulmozli who had
been listening patiently till now, interrupted at this
"I do not know if anyone could believe it or
not; but, I can believe it."
"What are you saying,
"I am saying that it is indeed true that I
am plotting to secure Lanka's throne."
came forward now, "What are you saying Sir? Till a few
moments ago you were swearing by Truth and Law! Now you
utter such utter untruths! Commander, do not believe him.
Last night, the Congregation of Buddhist Abbots offered him
Lanka's throne and crown. He refused. I and this Mr. Nambi
here are witness to that."
Arulmozli smiled, "My Lord
of Vallam, a question for you... Are those who conspire
likely to have witnesses to their deeds? Perhaps I refused
Lanka's throne merely because you both were present!"
Vandiya Devan was stunned; he had no answer to this. The
Prince continued, "My Lord of Vallam, if you have any
doubts, you may question Mr. Nambi. Ask him what was Prime
Minister Anirudda's message to me. `Buddhist Abbots will
offer you Lanka's throne; refuse to accept in the presence
of reliable witnesses.' Ask him if this was not the message
sent to me."
On hearing these words, everyone in the
pavilion was startled completely. Prince Arulmozli continued
talking to the Commander, "Sir, listen to me. It is true
that I coveted Lanka's throne. My sister fostered this
desire in me, `Thambi, you are born to rule kingdoms, you
have the sign of the Discus & Conch on your palms. There is
no place for you in Tamil lands; go to Lanka and capture
that throne for yourself!' said the Younger Pirati several
times. She nurtured this desire in me. Therefore, I am a
culprit. The Emperor has reason in ordering my arrest."
"Just a minute, Prince. If such a thought existed in your
heart, it is the good fortune of this island. You are not
accountable for that! Neither is your sister responsible. It
is Emperor Sundara Chozla who is responsible. He has spoken
of that several times, even to me. He has often said that he
would like to see you placed on Lanka's throne. It was the
Emperor who first introduced this idea in Lady Kundavai's
mind. Your sister merely acquainted you with your father's
wishes. So, you are no culprit...."
"Then why should
I hesitate going to my father's presence? I shall explain
the true state of affairs to him. These two gentlemen can be
my witnesses. After that, it is my duty to follow whatever
orders the Emperor may give."
spoke with a rage filled voice, "Commander we are wasting
time in pointless chatter. There is no use of hiding
anything anymore. We have to reveal the truth to the Prince.
Are you going to tell him, or shall I do so?"
tell him; be patient," said the Commander. Lowering his
voice after looking around, he said, "Prince, I did not wish
to tarnish your unsullied mind, but, that isn't working. I
have to tell you about a distasteful affair. You are aware
that Lord Pazluvoor, in his old age, has married a very
young girl named Nandini. She is a sorceress, well versed in
frightening spells and magic. With the help of her magic,
she has enslaved the Elder Lord Pazluvoor. He obeys every
whim and fancy of her's without question. It is ill fate
that has reduced that great and brave warrior born of an
ancient noble family, to such an unfortunate situation."
"Commander, this is nothing that I have not heard before.
Every town and country in Chozla territory is talking about
"The magic of that sorceress Nandini wielded its
power merely on the nobles of Pazluvoor till recently.
Prince, forgive me -- her witchcraft is now influencing the
Emperor also. That is why he has given such orders -- these
commands to arrest you."
"Be careful Commander! Do
not dare to malign the name of my father the Emperor. As
long as my father is alive, every order he gives, whatever
the circumstance in which it was given, the order is divine
"We do not refute that. We are anxious because
even his life is in danger, not merely his freedom. Till
yesterday even I did not know the full truth about Nandini.
Lord Parthiban told me last night: it is important that you
also become aware of that frightening information."
The Commander continued, "The final battle against
Veera-pandiya was fought three years ago near Madurai City.
At that time, your brother Karikala, this Parthiban and I
would confer together about every plan before executing
action. Pandiya forces were completely destroyed. Like he
had done before, Veera-pandiya tried to escape into hiding
in the desert. The three of us were adamant that we should
not let that happen again; we were determined to capture him
somehow or other; in fact we had sworn oaths that we would
not return to Tanjore without Veera-pandiya's head. So we
did not trust anyone else, but followed him ourselves.
Finally we learned that he was hiding in some cottages near
a temple. Your brother Karikala stopped us away from the
cottage and entered it by himself. He killed Veera-pandiya
and brought his head outside. We left, happy that the task
was done. But, none of us were aware of a farce that had
been enacted inside that cottage. A girl who had given
sanctuary to Veera-pandiya tried to protect him, begging for
her lover's life. Karikala kicked her away and killed the
enemy, cutting off his head and bringing it outside. It was
Nandini who tried to save the life of Veera-pandiya the
lifelong enemy of Chozlas. Later, she appears in Tanjore,
wedded to a seventy-year old man and titled the Young-Queen
of Pazluvoor! We should be able to guess why, with what
intention she must have come. She has came to revenge
Veera-pandiya's death. She has come to completely destroy
"It is not easy for anyone who goes near her, to
escape her enchanting coils. Vandiya Devan can witness the
truth of this. Mr Nambi can bear witness to the existence of
a frightening gang that has sworn to kill every rootstock of
Chozla nobility. It is Nandini who finances that gang.
Prince, unfortunately, our beloved Emperor is also enmeshed
in her witchery. The Emperor is now considering Madurandaka
for the throne. Therefore, it is not advisable for you to go
to Tanjore, thinking it to be your father's orders...."
"Commander, I am surprised by all that you say. But, it
further confirms my decision. When such frightening problems
surround my father, it is my duty to be by his side. Why do
I need Lanka or its throne? Why should I be concerned about
my life? There is no need for further discussion. None of
you should try to stop me!" Prince Arulmozli Varma spoke
decisively. He then turned his eyes upon Poonkuzlali who was
leaning on the far pillar and gazing at him with unblinking
"Ocean Princess, please come here," he called.
Poonkuzlali came closer. "Girl, you have been of great help
to me by bringing this news; will you please help me one
more time?" he asked.
Oh Dear Lord! What is this? Is
he asking help from this poor boat-girl? I came here to be
his serving maid; he begs for my help! I came asking boons
of the Lord; the Lord is extending his own two hands and
begging me for alms! With such racing thoughts, she said,
"My Lord, I wait to fulfil your every command."
"Ocean Princess, you said that two ships are waiting near
the mouth of River Thondai looking for me. I have to reach
that place as quickly as possible. Will you be my guide and
take me there?" asked Arulmozli.
"Girl, say that you
cannot do it," roared a gruff voice. She recognized it as
the Commander's. She had been wandering in a dream world.
Only now she realized the tricky situation she was in. I
came running, eager to help him from a danger; now, he asks
my help in meeting that very same danger. She now understood
the meaning behind the Commander's order "Say you cannot do
it." Thousands of songbirds from every tree branch gave her
the same order; the trees sang the same slogan; the pillars
roared the same order; the flowers wailed.
voice in the heart of her heart whispered. `Poonkuzlali,
this is your good fortune. If you guide the Prince and go
with him, you can spend two full days in his company! You
can be constantly looking at him. The breeze that touches
his body will caress you. You will hear his voice often.
Your impossible dream -- a tiny bit of it will come true.
Why bother about other things? Accept Poonkuzlali accept!'
said the whisper in her heart.
"Why do you hesitate
Ocean Princess? Won't you help me? Do I have to find my own
way?" These words of the Prince steadied her thoughts.
"I am ready to be your guide, My Lord."
Bhoothi Vikrama cleared his throat; it was like an
earthquake rising from the bowels of the earth. He did not
give up, "Prince, I will not stand in the way of your
wishes. But, please accept this petition of mine. It is my
duty to guard you till we give you up to those who have come
to arrest you. Your friends spoke about the attempts on your
life last night. We have not yet found those assassins. We
do not even know their identity. Please forgive me for being
so outspoken -- I have some doubts about this girl. Perhaps
she is an accomplice of those killers. Maybe all this story
about ships that have come to arrest you is all her
imagination. Why is that not possible? Sometime back when
Lord Vandiya Devan plucked her dagger and threw it away, we
heard a scream. Who was it? Let her be the guide; Let her
ride ahead on our elephant. I insist on accompanying you
till we see those ships on River Thondai. It is my duty to
Prince Arulmozli stood up with a smile as he
listened to this speech by his Commander. "Let it be so. I
shall not be an obstruction to your duty."
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 44 -- The Elephant
Once the decision was reached, Commander
Bhoothi Vikrama led Parthiban aside and spoke to him in
privacy for some time. Later, he called for several of his
men and gave them separate orders.
came to take leave of the Prince. "Sir, I return empty
handed without achieving my mission. Prince Karikala will be
very angry with me about this. What can I do -- you are so
adamant. It is not my fault and these men will be witness to
"Do you have to leave in such a hurry? Could
you not come with the Commander till River Thondai?"
"I cannot be an accomplice to that atrocity. My ship is
anchored at Tricone Hill. I have to go back there and sail
as quickly as possible to Kanchi; I have to report all these
developments to Prince Karikala." Parthiban then turned to
Vandiya Devan, "Noble of Vallam, are you not coming back
with me to Kanchi?"
Vandiya Devan was somewhat taken
aback, "No. I wish to go with the young Prince."
"Suit yourself. You might regret not coming back with me!"
Parthiban left with these cryptic words, accompanied by some
Vandiya Devan asked Azlvar-adiyan, "What did
that Pallava mean? Why did he say that I would regret not
going with him? Did you understand his words?"
and the Commander are cooking up some plot between
themselves. We will soon know what it is. The root cause of
this new confusion is really this old man of Kodumbalur!"
said Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
"Why is that? How could the
Commander be responsible?"
"It's all his conniving.
Don't you know of that noblewoman of his clan living in
"I know her very well, if you mean Lady
"The Commander dreams of wedding that girl
to this Prince and making him the King of Lanka. It was he
who instigated the Buddhist Abbots to offer Lanka's throne
to Prince Arulmozli. He was not even sensible enough to keep
his efforts secret! The news reached Tanjore and that is why
Prime Minister Anirudda journeyed to Lanka and later sent
messages through me! Thambi, whatever happens, one thing
must be done without fail: we have to safeguard both our
lives! You and I may have to testify in Tanjore about the
Prince refusing Lanka's throne."
By now the
Commander's arrangements had been completed. Except for four
men, all the other soldiers who had come with him were now
dispatched in different directions. Finally the Prince and
his party left. Prince Arulmozli, Commander Bhoothi Vikrama,
Vandiya Devan, Azlvar-adiyan and four soldiers rode westward
on high-bred horses. The elephant carrying Poonkuzlali
followed them ponderously. Only an elephant driver rode on
its back besides Poonkuzlali.
They followed the
Royal Way for some distance. But, travelling along that road
was not easy. Crowds gathered all along the way. People
ahead somehow knew that Prince Arulmozli was coming down
that road. The western provinces of Lanka were mostly
inhabited by Tamils in those days. People gathered in small
crowds to raise cheers, "Long live Prince Arulmozli!" "Long
live Commander Bhoothi Vikrama!" At some places they
surrounded the horsemen and followed them in a procession.
The numbers of people following the Prince began to grow and
grow. The horses could not proceed with any quickness.
Arulmozli argued with the Commander about this; they decided
to avoid the main road but take the byways and forest
trails. Somehow they shook loose from the people and
ventured into the forest path. But, nature in the form of
thick jungle obstructed quick progress on the forest trail.
After a while they reached a lotus pond. When they reached
it's shores, they could see a large group of people waiting
on the farther shores. Upon seeing the royal party, they
began to blow conches and horns; beating drums and cymbals
-- generally raising a hue and cry!
"Please wait a while. I'll go and find out what it is all about," said
the Commander as he rode towards that crowd. He came back
soon to announce, "These villagers have somehow come to know
that the Prince is in our party! They are waiting to welcome
him into their village and honor him."
gathered closer, surrounding the Prince, gazing upon his
face eagerly, cheering for him. The cry, "Long live Lanka's
King Arulmozli!" was prominent!
A smile danced on
Arulmozli's face. He summoned a man who seemed to be the
chieftain of the country folk. "Why are these people
bestowing Lanka's Kingship upon me?" he questioned. The
head-man bowed very reverently, "My King, this territory of
Lanka has been suffering without a good king for several
years. It is our wish that Ponniyin Selvan should become our
King. It is the wish of every citizen living in this island.
Everyone -- the Singhalese, Tamils, Buddhists, Saivas, monks
and householders -- wish it."
They had made
arrangements to honor the Prince and his company with a
banquet. The Prince could not avoid these honors; he was
delayed greatly by these interruptions. During these
ceremonies in honor of their Prince, Vandiya Devan and
Azlvar-adiyan were able to converse in privacy.
"Thambi, did you see this? Isn't it obvious that all this is
the Commander's conniving? He sent his men ahead and
arranged for all these honors and celebrations."
is somewhat obvious that these are the Commander's
arrangements. But, what is the purpose of this conniving?
Does he think that the Prince who refused the crown will
change his mind when he hears the people saying things in
"Perhaps that is one intention; the main
thing is to delay our journey."
"What is the
Commander expecting to achieve by delaying our journey?"
asked Vandiya Devan.
"I don't know! But, we will know
soon enough. Did you notice the Prince -- it is obvious that
he does not like all these things."
looked at Prince Arulmozli. His countenance which normally
wore a pleasing smile now seemed to be filled with rage and
anger. Eyebrows knitted; eyes deep in thought.
this same time, Poonkuzlali was seated alone on the other
side of the lotus pond, lost in thought. This journey did
not bring her joy as she had expected. She had envisioned
that she could be alone with the Prince during the journey.
She thought that he would come to her, engage in
conversation with her... She had been eager to express at
least a few of the emotions that bubbled within her heart.
There seemed to be no opportunity for that -- people were
around him all the time! Mere blame that I handed him over
to the enemy will remain! Why should I earn that blame? Why
shouldn't I go away quietly from here? At least I will
escape the Commander's anger.... Chee! What can the
Commander's anger do to me? Whose anger can do anything! I
am not afraid of anyone's wrath. But, why should my dreams
and desires be lost in dust? How long should my heart's
desire burn me like this? Why am I alive? Why doesn't
lightning strike to kill me instantly? I have wished a
thousand times about such things, with no use.... my life
will not depart by itself; I have to do something about it
"Swish!" Oh, what is this? Am I dreaming? No,
no. How has my knife -- thrown away near the roofless
pavilion by the Prince's friend -- fallen here by my side?
Who could have thrown it here? Some enemy of his, surely!
They may have tried to kill me ... What bad luck that it did
not strike me but fell a little away! All's for the best
anyway. It's good to get back this knife. After I keep my
promise to him, after I have handed him over to those
villains on the ships, I can kill myself with this knife
before his eyes. Stupid girl! Why should I hurt him? After
he leaves, I can sail away to the shoreless ocean and jump
to my death. My darling dagger... you have come back to me
... Thanks to those who sent you back.
aimed it at the Prince when they threw this dagger. Yes,
even the Commander anticipated danger on the way. Oh why
doesn't a knife aimed at him strike me? When that happens,
when I lie bleeding to death ....
A curious vision
appeared in Poonkuzlali mind: A knife had pierced her heart
and she was bleeding. The Prince came running to her side,
"My Dear you are loosing your life for me!" he said. Her
heart brimmed with joy and more blood came gushing out. The
Prince raised her to his arms; her blood drenched his
clothes and arms. Poonkuzlali laughed merrily, "Prince do
you now know the secret of my heart?" she asked. "Wretched
girl, I knew it always; are you giving up your life because
of that?!" he cried. Her happiness knew no bounds and she
"You Fool!" called a voice; she
looked up to find Vandiya Devan standing before her. "The
Prince is already quite angry because the journey is
delayed. Come quickly without causing further delay."
Poonkuzlali rose with a smile and she ran to climb on her
elephant, hugging and kissing her dagger.
unexpected incident occurred after they had been a while on
the forest trail. An arrow came swishing through the wind
from the forest on their right. It was clearly aimed for the
Prince. But, he was swifter than the wind as he suddenly
pulled the reins of his horse and turned aside. The arrow
pierced through the turban of Azlvar-adiyan who was riding
on the other side. He rubbed his shaven pate and looked at
his head cloth with surprise. The Commander was shaken; all
others were utterly shocked. Poonkuzlali was sad because
that arrow had not pierced her heart and killed her!
"Did you see that Prince? What a calamity, if I had let you
go without any guards?" said the Commander. He ordered his
men to go into the woods and search. The men came back in a
while saying that they could find no one. The Commander
began making plans, "We should let the Prince ride in the
middle and all of us should be around him."
request Commander!" said the Prince.
"What a word!
Order me My Lord!" said the Commander.
"I wish to
reach Tanjore with my life intact. I wish to prove my
innocence to my father."
"You father will never
suspect you of any crime!"
"Not just my father. I
wish to prove my innocence to all the people. After that, I
have no worry about my life. I have no wish to die before
that on the way."
"Sir, if there is any likelihood of
danger to you, that very instant this great-sword of
Kodumbalur will pierce my heart!"
"That is not of
much use; Chozla countrymen will loose a great warrior."
"The Chozla country has no greater loss than loosing you.
How can this knave of Kodumbalur remain alive after being
instrumental in endangering you?"
"So, it is even
more important for me to safeguard my own life!"
"Nothing is more important on this earth."
"I have an
idea about that."
"I am listening Sir."
long as I am riding a horse, all sorts of impediments like
that arrow might strike me."
"Are you planning to
"I know the art of handling elephants. You
know that I am very good with elephants, they listen to me
"Yes Sir. I know that you have
surveyed most regions of this island disguised as an
"So, this is what I propose: I will
become an elephant-driver for a while once again. Let the
real elephant-driver ride my horse for some distance."
The Commander seemed a little hesitant. He looked around for
an objection to this idea. But, every man kept quiet."
"Sir, I am not sure if that man knows how to ride."
"If he does not know riding, let him walk or go back."
"That girl seems very bashful; suppose she refuses to sit by
your side on the elephant?"
"Let her get down and
"As you wish My Lord."
off from his horse and walked up to the elephant.
Poonkuzlali's dark eyes widened with eagerness. The Prince
helped the elephant-driver dismount and jumped upon the
beast's neck. The interrupted journey resumed.
Poonkuzlali was overjoyed. She leaped from the elephants
back, to promenade in distant space on flying clouds. She
reached the brink of paradise and sipped the sweet nectar of
happiness that could not be described by words. Ah! Is this
heavenly music that is so melodious? Heavenly music is not
this sweet! The Prince is saying something.
Princess are you revolted to be alone with me on this
"Lord, I have this good fortune because of
penances over seven births."
"Will you be frightened
if this elephant suddenly turns rogue and begins running?"
"With you by my side, I will not be frightened even if the
skies come thundering down."
"Where have you left
your boat, Poonkuzlali?"
"Very near the landing of
Elephant Crossing, Sir."
"On this shore or the
"I found a secret place only on the other
shore. I left my boat over there."
"How did you ford
"When I came, the tide was very low. I
could walk most of the way; I had to swim a little."
"Will you be afraid if this elephant gets into the sea?"
"I won't be afraid even if thrown into the sea. Remember I
am the Ocean Princess? You gave me that title!"
we get to the place where your boat is hidden, we can get
into it. You have to row the boat; can you pull the oars
with two people in it?"
"These hands have pulled oars
from when I was ten, My Lord. They are not soft like the
hands of women from palaces. Didn't the Lord of Vallam, your
friend, tell you that I rowed him over here?"
mentioned it. But, today you may have to row faster than
that. We have to go very quickly to the mouth of River
Thondai where the ships are anchored."
"My Lord, why
are you forcing me to do this cruel deed? I came hurrying to
help you escape being arrested. You now order me to deliver
you to those who have come to arrest you. Why this malice
towards this poor girl?"
"Poonkuzlali, don't you know
that my father, the Emperor is unwell?"
"I know My
Lord. I also know that people are talking about the comet
appearing in the skies since some days."
(Note: It was a popular belief that comets appeared
when important men, such as kings, national leaders,
prophets etc were about to die.)
"My father's life is
likely to end anytime now."
Poonkuzlali was silent.
"Suppose he were to die, is it good if he dies with a doubt
that I perhaps conspired against him, trying to capture the
"The Emperor will never think such things
of you. This is the intrigue of Pazluvoor nobles."
wish to prove my innocence even to those Pazluvoor nobles."
"Why My Lord?"
"Poonkuzlali, to tell you the truth, I
have no wish to rule any kingdom."
"What is your wish
"I wish to be on a ship sailing away,
endlessly. I have heard that there are several lands beyond
the seas, like this Lanka. I wish to see all those lands. I
wish to speak to the people of all those lands."
curious, how astonishing!"
"Why is it curious?"
"I am amazed that you too have the very same wishes that
dwell in my heart. Will you take me with you when you embark
upon these journeys across the sea?"
"I have to first
fulfill my present duty. Will you help me in that?"
"As you wish."
"There are ropes hanging on both sides
of the saddle on which you are sitting. Take them and bind
yourself tightly to the elephant."
"Why My Lord?"
"This elephant is going to turn rogue. Don't panic, be
careful." He gently rubbed the round musth-protrusions on
the elephant's forehead and spoke softly into it's ears.
Suddenly, the elephant quickened it's pace. Arulmozli spoke
more soft words into it's ears. Walk turned into a run: the
elephant lifted it's trunk high into the air, trumpeted
frighteningly and began to run. The trees and shrubs of the
jungle felt the ferocity of a whirlwind when that beast ran
helter-skelter, thrashing trees and branches. The earth
shook and shivered. Birds on tree-tops fluttered their wings
noisily and flew away in panic. Beasts hidden in the forest
emerged to run away in fright.
screamed, "Oh Good Lord! The elephant seems to have turned
rogue! What calamity is this?"
In spite of the
Prince's warning, Poonkuzlali was filled with dread; her
face reflected the fear in her heart. She was caught in a
huge tornado on a wide sea; she was swimming round and
round, caught in those swirls with Prince Arulmozli! The
elephant swirled with them! Poonkuzlali closed her eyes
tight. Like dark monsoon clouds racing across stormy skies,
the elephant ran. It finally reached Elephants Crossing.
The seas to the west and east of Lanka met at this point in
a narrow isthmus. The narrowest point of the straits were
called Elephant Crossing. The elephant entered the ford that
linked Lanka's northern province with the middle provinces.
It delved into the sea like a mountain thrown by Hanuman of
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 45 --
Elephant Crossing went past within the blink
of an eyelid; and then forest trees began running behind.
Birds flew far behind... streamlets, pools, ponds, temples
and hamlets flew behind. A herd of deer tried to compete
with that elephant and ran along for some distance; but they
too were soon left far behind. The elephant kept going, and
going, going ahead.... Poonkuzlali was not sure how far, how
long or which way. She wondered if that elephant was still
in Lanka! By now, at this pace it could have circled this
Lanka three times! No, no! This elephant has not crossed
Lanka, it has crossed this whole good earth! It has gone
from the southern ends to the northern reaches. I am riding
on its back and circumnavigating the earth! And with me is
She was a little frightened in the
beginning when the elephant ran in panic. A fear from not
being able to comprehend what was happening... The Prince
turned back twice or thrice to look at her and smile. Her
hesitations and fears flew away. Endless joy took hold; for
a while she was riding a huge elephant of this earth;
somehow, suddenly, she was in paradise. She was seated on
Iravata, the heavenly elephant of Indra the Lord of Heavens.
Iravata was ambling along the streets of paradise in
procession. Everblooming Karpaka trees showered fragrant
flowers on her. Ghandarvas the heavenly musicians, played
sweet melodies upon divine instruments and followed her.
Heavenly beauties danced. Star-light lamps glowed gloriously
on both sides of her procession. Several such eons passed.
Iravata was slowing down. Suddenly it came back to earth;
back to the forests of Lanka. The elephant-driver was
bending low, stroking its musth-protrusions; whispering into
its ears. Oh no! he is no elephant-driver --- he is the king
of heavens! He is Prince Arulmozli! Ponniyin Selvan! The
elephant was standing peacefully on the shores of a tiny
lake surrounded by trees. Poonkuzlali looked around with
concern: are there crowds of villagers waiting to welcome
their prince? No. Are there horses following? No. Look at
the pond. The water lily's and lotuses rose with their vines
and came to encircle her. The flowers and vines fell on her
cheeks, her shoulders and arms ... hugging her, choking her,
making her breathless. She shook herself free of those
clinging vines. She felt as if she was tumbling headfirst,
from heaven to earth. The elephant folded its large forelegs
and began kneeling. It folded its hind legs also to lie flat
on the ground. Arulmozli jumped down from its neck.
"Poonkuzlali have you no heart to get off this elephant?"
Poonkuzlali shook herself to consciousness. "Sir, it is
difficult to come down to earth from paradise." The elephant
stood up and broke off a large tree branch from the shore,
stuffing it entirely in its gaping mouth. Arulmozli walked
away to sit on the bank. He beckoned hesitant Poonkuzlali to
come and sit beside him.
Her face was reflected on
the placid lake. Because of the running elephant and her
agitated thoughts, her face had turned lotus red. The Prince
was looking at her face reflected amidst the lotus blossoms,
"Poonkuzlali, I like you very much!"
Once again the
lily vines and lotus flowers rose to kiss Poonkuzlali.
"Do you know why I like you?" asked Arulmozli. Everything
before her eyes -- the sky, the earth the lake and the
flowers -- everything was in a dizzy swirl. "Everyone I know
wants me to act according to their wishes. You were the only
one who happily agreed to act according to my wishes. I will
never forget this help Ocean Princess!"
was a lute; her nerves were it's strings; golden fingers
plucked those strings and played heavenly melodies.
"The Commander and Parthiban conspired to hinder my journey.
The Commander created several obstructions on our way. He
hurried the men ahead of us and made the villagers arrange
festivities. Lord Parthiban Pallava has gone to Tricone Hill
in a hurry. He intends to board his ship and sail to the
mouth of River Thondai before we reach that spot. Ah! Did
they think that I would not know their conspiracies! I
defeated their purpose with your help..."
Poonkuzlali realized the implications of her actions. She
felt the messengers of hell torturing her in an endless
oil-press. "My Lord, all of them tried to save you from
being imprisoned by enemies. I am a sinner -- leading you to
be imprisoned," sobbed Poonkuzlali.
"Oh dear, what is
this? I had such a good opinion of you! You too have become
one of them!"
"I was not in my senses when I did this
atrocious deed. I was mesmerized by your sweet words to
become insane. I am more sensible now; I think I shall
leave...." She rose with a jump.
The Prince, wishing
to stop her from running away, lightly held her hand. Divine
maidens in heaven seemed to have been free without any other
work at that moment. They mixed the essence of moonbeams
with sandal paste and showered it on Poonkuzlali. She was
completely lost; bereft of action, of thought, she sat down
"Ocean Princess, I was about to speak
with you about an important thing. If you are going to be
sobbing like this, I shall not speak of it. We better leave
She wiped away her tears to look up. He
continued speaking, "Listen; you said that they were trying
to prevent my being arrested. That is true. But, do you know
"Because of their love for you. I am the
"Patience, patience. Every one loves me!
Do you know why? Because of some predictions by astrologers
and soothsayers -- that I would one day rule as an emperor!
Therefore everyone is trying to sit me on a throne and weigh
me down with a crown on my head. Avaricious folk."
"My Lord, what is wrong if they wish such things? Are you
not qualified to rule not merely this one world but all the
worlds in creation?"
"Oh dear! You too have begun
speaking like them! My dear, in this wide world, there is no
prison like a palace; there is no sacrificial alter like a
throne; no other punishment worse than wearing a crown. If I
say such things to others, they may not agree. I thought you
Poonkuzlali's eyelids fluttered
like the wings of a butterfly. She looked at the prince with
eyes widened by eagerness. "Ocean Princess! Tell me the
truth! If you were ordered to sit upon a throne all life
long, would you do so?"
She considered this question
for a bit and then replied clearly, "I will not!"
"See! Then, why do you wish me to suffer such a punishment?"
"You are born in a royal family?!"
"So what, if I am
born in a royal family? Fortunately the Gods did not wish to
make me suffer that punishment! I have an elder brother to
rule the kingdom; also a son of my elder grandfather... he
too wishes to rule..."
"Oh dear! Has that rumor
reached your ears too?" asked Poonkuzlali.
thought! Did you think that I did not know? Anyway, the
Throne of Tanjore is not likely to suffer for want of
rulers. Moreover, I have no wish to wear a crown and rule a
"Do you have any wishes at all?"
you ask me I shall tell you! Remember our journey on this
elephant just now? I have a wish to ride like that.. a
tornado through the forests and plains beyond. I have a wish
to board large ships and sail across several seas. I have a
wish to climb the highest peaks of mountain ranges. I have
heard that across the oceans, there are many islands like
this Lanka, even larger and many continents even bigger than
our blessed country. I wish to go to all those places and
look at the wondrous marvels of those countries."
Poonkuzlali listened to this outpouring of words in open
mouthed rapture as if she was drinking in every word. She
could not control her eagerness, "Sir! When you go to all
those places could you take me with you?"
expressed my wishes. Who knows if they would be fulfilled?"
asked Arulmozli Varma.
She came back to earth from
her dream-world. "Sir, if that is your wish, why should you
go back to Tanjore now?"
"I was about to explain
that. But you changed the topic and made my thoughts wander.
Ocean Princess, there is a speechless mute woman who wanders
here and there on this island as if she is deranged. Do you
"I know her, My lord. Why do you ask?"
said Poonkuzlali with immeasurable surprise.
explain later. How do you know that woman? What do you know
"Sir, I lost my mother when I was very
young. She was the one who gave me a mother's love; she is
my master, my goddess. What do you want to know about her?"
"Does that woman have any permanent place of abode? Or does
she always wander around?"
"On the way to Lanka from
Kodi Karai, there is an island called Ghost Island. She
lives in a rock cave on that island most of the time. I saw
you for the first time on that island."
"You saw me
"Yes. In that rocky cave are several
beautiful pictures drawn by her. I saw your face in those
drawings. Later, one day when I saw you at Kodi Karai, I was
"Oh! I now understand. Things that were
confusing are now clearer. Ocean Princess, are you aware of
the relationship that exists between that woman and me?"
"I surmised that there was a relationship. But, I do not
know what it could be."
"Poonkuzlali, she is my aunt,
my Elder Mother. Lawfully, she is the lady who should be on
"Good Lord! Can this be true?"
"But, fate wove a different story. Who could undo that? It
occurred to me quite often that some secret sadness in my
father's heart distressed him. Now, I have found the truth
of that matter. My father thinks that my Elder Mother is
dead and that she died because of him. I must go back and
tell him that she is not dead, she is alive. If he knows,
his heart's distress will be expunged; the mental agony that
wastes him will be destroyed. You are aware of the Emperor's
ill health; human life is not for ever. None can predict
what may happen. A comet has been appearing on the skies for
some time now. People have been apprehensive about that.
Even the Emperor has been affected by those fears. In this
situation, before anything ill-fated happens, I must tell
him about what I have found out. Ocean Princess, that is why
I wish to reach Tanjore as quickly as possible. Do you now
realize how important your help will be?" asked Prince
Poonkuzlali, who had been listening with
interest, sighed loudly; "Oh Good Lord! Why did you design
such sorrow along with all the happiness of human life!" she
mumbled. Looking up at the Prince, she said, "My Lord, if
you are helped in any way by my unfortunate self, it is
because of my good fortune in many births. But, why do you
need my help in all this? If you had spoken to the
Commander, he would have arranged for you to go to Tanjore."
"No. I do not wish to discuss these matters with any of
them. They are obsessed with somehow placing me on a throne;
such matters will not seem important to them. Moreover, I do
not wish to share my father's personal secrets with them.
They will not be sympathetic. I need another favor of you
Ocean Princess -- that is why I stopped the elephant here
and started talking to you. The astrologers and soothsayers
who gave me a throne and made me a monarch also predicted
that several dangers will cross my path. If some such
misfortune happens to me on this journey, .... if I am
unable to meet my father, .... you must go to the Emperor.
Meet him somehow and let him know that my Elder Mother is
alive. If he wishes it, take her to him. Can you do that
Poonkuzlali?" asked Arulmozli.
"No misfortune will
cross your path. Danger will fear to face you and retreat.
You will surely reach Tanjore safely."
does happen to me, you will promise to do as I asked?"
"I promise My Lord."
"How can I entrust this
important mission to anyone else? Tell me."
entrusted the job to me. Now my usefulness is done. Can I
take leave of you?" asked Poonkuzlali with a tear laden
"How can you do that? We have not yet reached
the mouth of River Thondai. We have not yet found the Chozla
warships. How can you leave now? Don't be angry; be patient
for a while longer and bear my company. Climb back on this
elephant and come with me some more. Once we see the
Tiger-flags of the Chozla ships, we can part company," said
Without a sound in reply she rose and
walked towards the elephant. In obedience to his commands,
the elephant folded its legs and allowed them to climb on
its back. He did not goad the elephant but it did move
quickly. "Ocean Princess, I have told you about some of my
favorite wishes. What are your cherished wishes?" asked the
"I like Yama the Lord of Death who comes
riding a dark water buffalo. I love to climb the rocks at
midnight and gaze for hours at fiery ghouls that dance on
"You are a most peculiar girl!"
"Call me `foolish' like your friend did. But, I am not
bothered... And then I like to get into my small sail-boat
and float away on the waves of the vast seas. If a whirlwind
happens on the open seas, my enthusiasm will cross all
bounds. My boat will then rise to the highest crest of the
waves and touch the skies; in the next instant it will crash
into the deepest depths. There is nothing I like better than
riding the waves of a stormy sea. Just now when this
elephant ran wildly as if it had gone mad, I was ecstatic."
"Poonkuzlali, if God Muruga had come in search of your smile
he would have been at a loss. His tricks of sending an
elephant to frighten the Gypsy Valli before he won her heart
would not work with you."
They had reached the mouth
of the river. Poonkuzlali shrieked in surprise, "What is
"What is the matter?" asked Arulmozli.
"The ships flying Tiger-flags are not here, where I had seen
them. What will you think of me? This seems to confirm the
Commander's suspicions; it seems as if I tricked you and
brought you here!"
"I will not think so, Poonkuzlali.
There is no reason for you to trick me and bring me here."
"Why not My Prince? What about love, kaadal? The whole world
is full of praise for you -- handsome as Manmatha the God of
Love and gallant as the epic hero Arjuna. You are the
Darling of the Cauvery, Ponniyin Selvan; a foolish girl
could have become enamored of you and done this foul deed.
Could she not?" asked Poonkuzlali in some agitation.
"If the Commander were here, he would have perhaps suspected
such things. But, I am sure that in your heart and in my
heart there is no place for such foolish thoughts."
"Sir, will you say the same about that noblewoman Lady
Vanathi who lives at Pazlayarai?"
"Well, I have not
forgotten that! This Commander and my sister are together in
trying to foist that girl around my neck. Perhaps that
ignorant girl also nurtures hopes because of a wish to sit
on a throne. I cannot be held responsible for that.
Poonkuzlali forget that. Where were the ships when you saw
"There, they stood at that turning. I remember
"Perhaps they have moved a little here or
there. Let us go down to the beach and have a look."
"Good, if those ships have gone away. Why should we go
looking for them?" asked Poonkuzlali.
"You may think
so, but, I shall be very disappointed."
years before this time Prince Manavanman of Lanka had sought
asylum at Kanchi. Maamalla Pallava had promised to regain
his kingdom for him and sent a large Tamil army to help the
Lankan Prince. Those forces had landed in these parts when
they came to Lanka. In those days the mouth of the river was
a mere stream. The soldiers of Thondai Territories had
deepened the river channel and widened the river mouth so
that their warships could anchor safely. That river channel,
which came to be known as River Thondai, meandered in and
out as it entered the sea. Forest trees grew thickly up to
the river bank. Several ships could anchor safely in the
river without being visible from the sea.
Poonkuzlali had seen the ships that had come to arrest
Prince Arulmozli, anchored in one curve of the river. But,
the ships were not where she had seen them earlier -- that
is, she could not see the sails, or flags or mastheads. When
they came closer to that spot, a startling sight met their
eyes. A ship had moved far inland away from the deep channel
and was now buried in the mud. It's masthead, sails and
flags were broken and torn. The ship did not seem to have
any human occupants. Poonkuzlali recognized it as one of the
ships she had seen two days earlier.
She was shocked to see that one of the ships, which
had come to take her Prince prisoner, had gone adrift to be
mired in the muddy bank.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 46 --
Prince Arulmozli whispered secrets into the
elephants ear. The elephant knelt down and both Poonkuzlali
and Prince Arulmozli jumped down. They walked up to the
wooden ship now beached on the sandy shores. The ship was in
a pitiable state: mast beams were broken and strewn helter
skelter. They wondered if anyone was there or anywhere near
about. The Prince clapped his hands and called out.
Poonkuzlali cupped her hands over her mouth and called -- no
answering sound arose. They waded into the shallow water and
climbed up the sides of the ship. The bottom planks of the
ship had split; sand and water had run into the hull. Their
hopes of somehow pushing the ship back into sea and setting
it afloat were now dashed. It would be impossible to move
that ship from there into water; one elephant could not drag
it into water. Several elephants and several men would have
to work on it. They would need strong ropes and a few
tugboats. Many carpenters would have to work many months to
make that vessel sea-worthy once again.
Arulmozli picked up the torn and mutilated Tiger-flag lying
amidst the ruined deck. It was obvious that its state caused
him much anguish. "Poonkuzlali is this one of the ships you
"Seems like it. The other ship must have
completely sunk to the bottom!" Her voice seemed to have
some cheer as she uttered these words.
delight?" asked the Prince.
"Should I not be happy if
the ships that came to imprison you are sunk and beached?"
"Your delight is misplaced Ocean Princess. Some calamity
seems to have occurred. It disturbs me that such
misadventure should occur to an armed ship that flies a
Tiger-flag. We don't know how this happened. What happened
to the soldiers and sailors on this ship? I am more and more
confused by this wanton destruction I see. Do you really
think that the other ship must have sunk?"
it is sunk. It is good if that is so."
"It is not
good and it cannot be. Seeing the fate of this ship the
other one might have moved away to deeper water. Why did
this ship come so far inshore? Chozla sailors are
descendants of sea-going men of several generations. I
cannot believe that they made a mistake to accidentally
drive this ship into the sandbank. The men must have somehow
escaped from here. They might have gone aboard the other
ship or camped somewhere nearby. Come, let us look for
"Where can we look for them, Prince? The sun
is setting and darkness is gathering upon us from all
directions," said Poonkuzlali with some worry.
Princess, where did you leave your boat?"
"My boat is further up river. We came here so quickly because we rode
on that swift elephant and because you drove it so
skillfully. If we had come by my boat we would have taken
"That's alright. Let us walk a little
along this river bank before it gets too dark. These trees
are hiding the sea. Perhaps they have anchored the other
ship away from the coast. Let us go look."
the elephant there on the bank and walked towards the sea.
Very soon they were on the beach. The sea was calm; not even
the sign of a soft wave. As far as the eye could see was one
shimmering platter of jewelled green. Very far away the
green of the sea mingled with the hazy blue of the sky. But,
there was no sign of any ship or boat. One or two sea birds
flew towards the beach. That was all. After walking about
that beach for a few minutes, Arulmozli said, "Well, let us
go back to that beached ship."
They turned back the
way they had come. "Poonkuzlali, I shall never forget how
helpful you have been. But, now the time has come for us to
Poonkuzlali was quiet.
"Did you hear
me? I have decided to wait near that shipwreck. The
Commander and his retinue will soon find this place. I shall
decide on what to do next after I consult with him. So,
there is nothing more for you to do here. You may go find
your boat and leave. Remember what I told you about my
Poonkuzlali seemed tired and hesitant. She
was leaning back on one of the coconut palms on that bank;
her hands gripped the fronds of a drooping palm leaf.
"What is it Ocean Princess? What is the matter?"
"Nothing, Prince. Nothing. I shall take leave of you here
itself. God be with you"
"Angry? What right has this foolish girl to be angry with
you? I have not yet become that conceited"
have you stopped here suddenly?"
"I am not angry Sir,
but, very tired. It is two nights since I had a wink of
sleep. I plan to sleep for a while somewhere here and then
look for my boat and leave."
It was the day after the
full moon. A brilliant moon was just rising over the
seashore. A moon beam or two danced over her face. The
Prince turned to look at her face and gazed at the tiredness
and sadness reflected on the features. Her eyes were already
half closed. It is nature that a lotus closes its petals
when the moon rises. However, Poonkuzlali's lotus face was
not only closed, it was wilted.
"My dear girl? Two
days since you slept? How many days since you ate anything?"
"Two days since I have eaten. I never felt any hunger as
long as I was with you."
"How idiotic of me! This
afternoon all of us feasted at that village banquet. I did
not even remember to ask if you had eaten! Come Poonkuzlali,
come with me to the shipwreck. I saw scattered grain all
over that broken deck. Tonight we will collect that grain
and cook a meal; you can leave after eating."
after eating I will go to sleep right there. Even now I am
"So what? You can sleep comfortably on
the deck. I shall wait on the bank with the elephant and
guard you. You can find your boat in the morning." Arulmozli
took hold of her hand and half hugging her, walked her
towards the ship. She was really tired. Her unselfish
devotion touched his heart and brought tears to his eyes.
When they came upon that ship once again, they were shocked
by a new sight. Smoke rose in a spiral from behind that
deck. Perhaps the ship's men had returned after going
somewhere. If they appeared suddenly in front of them, what
would they think... So they walked softly with silent steps.
They had come very close, but, had heard no sound or speech.
Who was hidden there? How many? The sweet smell of yams
being roasted assailed their noses.
decided that his first task was to feed Poonkuzlali. He
walked around the beached ship. A woman was making
preparations to cook; she had gathered stones into a stove
and lit a cooking fire. He recognized her. She did not seem
surprised to see them. Perhaps she was expecting them. She
welcomed them silently and soon served them delicious food.
Arulmozli found the meal of stewed grain and roasted
sweet-yam more delicious than all the gourmet foods he had
eaten at royal banquets in Pazlayarai. After eating, all
three climbed up to the deck. The moon had risen high. From
the deck they could see the mouth where River Thondai flowed
into the sea, and beyond that, the expanse of the sea
itself. The water which looked like a shimmering emerald in
the light of dusk now shone like gold in the moonbeams.
Arulmozli remarked that it was very humid and stuffy with
not a whisper of a breeze. Somehow the old lady understood
him. She touched Poonkuzlali's shoulder and pointed to the
grey ring around the moon.
Poonkuzlali explained, "If
the moon is encircled by a grey ring, it means storm and
rain is soon to follow."
"Oh, let it storm, let it
rain. All I want now is a little breeze. I wonder how she
came here so quickly!"
"Nothing surprises me about my
aunt. She is capable of more astonishing deeds," said
Poonkuzlali. "There is no limit to the love she has for you.
The power of love can do anything, did you not know?"
Her aunt seemed to understand her. She turned Poonkuzlali's
face around and pointed to the far bank. Their elephant was
tied to a tree over there and by its side stood a beautiful,
well bred stallion. Arulmozli and Poonkuzlali were
"Did she ride that horse here? I did not
know that she could ride a horse!" said Arulmozli.
"There is nothing that my aunt does not know. She can ride a
horse and drive an elephant. She can row a boat. Sometimes I
used to wonder if she could glide over the winds! She
travels that quickly from one place to another. I would
often wonder how she could have come so quickly."
Prince Arulmozli was now pondering over another astonishing
fact. It was the appearance of that beautiful arab stallion
grazing on that bank. He was muttering to himself, "This
seems to be one of the best of the exquisite breeds of arab
horses. How did it come here? How did this woman get it?"
Poonkuzlali was talking in sign language to her aunt, the
Mute-queen. (Yes, from now, shall we refer to her as the
Mute-queen?) She was saying that the horse had swum ashore
near Elephant Crossing. When it had come ashore, it seemed
to be dazed and stood about wildly on the sand. Mute-queen
had patted it and talked to it till it had calmed down.
Later she had ridden it here. Arulmozli was even more
surprised by this. He noticed that Poonkuzlali's eyes were
closed and that she was falling asleep. "You said you were
sleepy. Go and rest." She moved aside and pulling a
sailcloth over herself was soon asleep. Soon, a steady
breathing indicated that she was in deep sleep. Even then
her lips trembled and warbled the words of a song softly,
When wave-filled seas are still,
Why does the inner
Ah! This is the song that Vandiya Devan
was humming all day long. Perhaps he learned it from her!
When she is awake I must ask her to sing it for me.
He turned towards Mute-queen. Ah! It is true that everyone's
heart is in turmoil. Everyone's soul brims with emotion.
But, with what can one compare the anguish of this old woman
who cannot even express her emotions in words? How many
emotions, wishes, urges, what happiness, what sorrow, how
much anger and frustration has she stifled in her thoughts?
For how long? ....
Mute-queen rose and came to sit
beside Arulmozli. She wove her fingers through his curls and
brushed his hair back. With her roughened palms she brushed
his cheeks as if caressing some exotic flower. Arulmozli did
not know what to do. After a while he rose and bowed to her,
touching her feet to his eyes. She picked up his palms and
held them to her face. Very soon, his palms were wet with
the tears pouring from her eyes. She signed that he too
should sleep. He was not sure if he could sleep. But, to
satisfy her, he lay down on the deck and closed his eyes.
For a long time his heart was in turmoil with conflicting
thoughts. After some hours, a cool breeze rose over the
water. The breeze cooled his heart and body. Soon he was
It was a disturbed sleep full of dreams,
incredible dreams. He was riding a well bred arab stallion
and flying across the skies. He had crossed the cloud world
and entered the realm of Gods. Indra the King of heavens
welcomed him to ride on Iravata, the celestial Elephant. He
was seated on the heavenly throne. "O! I do not want this; I
wish to place my Mute Aunt on this throne" King Indra
laughed and said, "Let her come here first, we can think
about it later." Indra gave him a goblet of heavenly nectar
and asked him to drink it. "Ah!, this does not taste as
delicious as Cauvery water!" Indra took him to the women's
palace. Several heavenly maids were dancing there. "Choose
the most beautiful among them for yourself!" said King
Indra. "None of them can stand a chance against
Poonkuzlali," said Arulmozli. Suddenly Younger Pirati
Kundavai came to stand beside Indra's Queen. "Arulmozli have
you forgotten my Vanathi?" she asked. Arulmozli said, "Akka,
Akka! How long are you going to keep me a slave? Lord
Pazluvoor's dungeons are better than the prison of your
love. Free me please! Or, like Prince Uttara of Virata, keep
me inside palace walls. I can spend my time in dance and
song!" Princess Kundavai placed a flower like finger on her
coral lips and looked at him in surprise. "Arulmozli, how
did you change like this? Who corrupted your heart? Yes my
dear brother, love is a kind of bondage. You must be bound
by it." He replied, "No, Akka, no. You are wrong. There is
love without bondage. Shall I show you? here, I shall call
her, you can see... Poonkuzlali... Poonkuzlali... come
here..." he called out in his sleep.
up hearing hoofbeats; day was breaking in glorious splendor.
She saw Mute-queen seated on her horse, ready to ride away.
She ran down trying to stop her. However, before she could
climb down the sides of the ship, the old woman had flown
away like the wind.
Day break was beautiful.
Poonkuzlali's heart brimmed with untold happiness. Prince
Arulmozli was still asleep on the deck. She walked along the
river bank; a huge parrot was perched on a low branch. It
did not fly away but gazed at her face as if asking, "Where
did you come?"
"My darling parrot! The Prince will be
gone from here in a few minutes. After that you are my only
companion. Will you talk to me?" asked Poonkuzlali.
She then heard the call "Poonkuzlali! Poonkuzlali!" For a
minute she thought the parrot had talked. But, the voice
came from the ship. She climbed back on the deck to see him
sleeping. But, his lips mumbled her name! She was drowned in
a sea of emotions and placed her palm on his forehead.
Arulmozli came awake from his dream world. The golden sun
was peeping up on the eastern horizon. Poonkuzlali's face
was blooming like a lotus. "You called my name, why?"
"Did I call you by name? I must have mumbled something in my
sleep. Last night you were singing in your sleep. Why should
I not talk when I sleep?" asked Prince Arulmozli. "Oh dear!
I have been asleep too long. Where is Elder Mother?"
Poonkuzlali told him about how she rode away early in the
"Good. Ocean Princess, you seem rested and
refreshed now. You can go now. I have to wait here till my
friends come. I plan to examine this ship more carefully."
"Look over there!" she pointed to the far horizon.
Far away across the expanse of sea they could see a large
sailing ship. A row boat was coming towards the beach. Four
or five persons were in that boat.
"Aha! Things may
be clearer now," said Prince Arulmozli. Not wanting to miss
that boat, he quickly climbed down from the deck and walked
towards the sea shore. Poonkuzlali followed; the elephant
ambled behind them. Soon they were upon the beach. The ship
seemed to be moving farther and farther away. The row boat
was coming closer and closer. Poonkuzlali who was hesitant
for a while, now moved forward with curiosity. The Prince
was amused by her curiosity. A smile danced on his lips.
But, there was cause for concern.
He felt that he
should have been on that ship which was going towards the
horizon. It was leaving him behind. Moreover, one person
seemed to be missing from the rowboat coming shorewards.
Yes, Commander Bhoothi Vikrama was there; Mr Azlvar-adiyan
Thirumalai Nambi was there. Two soldiers and a boatman --
they were all there. But, where is that youth of the Noble
Vaanar clan? Where was the Lord of Vallam? Where was Vandiya
Devan Vallavarayan? Where was that cheerful young man, that
brave soldier? That fearless warrior? That messenger sent by
my dear sister Kundavai Pirati ....
Even though it
had been a mere two days, Prince Arulmozli felt that Vandiya
Devan had become his long time friend. Vandiya Devan
Vallavarayan's character and nature had so enchanted the
Prince. He was somewhat disappointed and saddened to not see
him in that boat.
The boat had landed and the
Commander and other men now jumped to the ground. Commander
Bhoothi Vikrama ran to the Prince and enclosed him in a
"Sir! What have you done? How could
you frighten us like this? How was the rogue elephant tamed?
Look at it! How is that rogue so calm and quiet now? Prince,
when did you come here? Did you meet those ships sent by the
Lords of Pazluvoor? Where are they now?" the Commander
rained a shower of questions.
"Commander, I will tell
our story later. Where is Lord Vandiya Devan? Tell me!" said
"Oh that imprudent youth is on that
ship which is sailing away." The Commander was pointing at
the ship sailing away near the horizon.
Whose ship is that? Why is Lord Vandiya Devan going away in
that?" asked the Prince.
"Sir, I am totally confused
now. Ask this Nambi. He seems to understand your affairs and
the affairs of that young man."
turned towards Azlvar-adiyan and said, "Mr. Thirumalai why
is Vandiya Devan going on that ship? If you can, explain
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 47 --
We are duty bound to tell our readers about
what happened to those who were left behind when Poonkuzlali
and Prince Arulmozli rode away on the rogue elephant.
"The elephant has turned rogue!" shrieked the Commander; and
everyone believed him. They galloped on swift horses trying
to catch up with that elephant. But, that was impossible;
their journey was blocked when they reached Elephant
Crossing. As usual, Vandiya Devan rode ahead before
everyone. He drove his horse into the ford; the horse was
caught in the mud of incoming tide. It was with much effort
that they freed the beast; however, the horse was no longer
fit for travel.
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama was
perplexed and unable to take any decision. He kept banging
his palms on his forehead in dismay, "Such a mishap has
never happened in my whole life! Why are you all so quiet?
What shall we do? Tell me, how shall we save the Prince?
Does anyone have any ideas?"
forward and spoke, "Sir, I have an idea. Shall I express
"Are you waiting for an auspicious time to
speak? Tell us quickly!"
"The elephant on which the
Prince rode away. ... it has not really turned rogue or gone
"What are you blabbering? Who turned mad? you?"
"No one has gone mad or rogue. The Prince suspected that you
were unnecessarily delaying his journey. He incited the
elephant to escape from us and went away quickly. We are all
aware that the Prince is an expert in handling and taming
elephants," said Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
felt that there could be some truth in this idea. He felt a
"Perhaps. I hope so. Anyway we
should go to the mouth of River Thondai and find out what
happens over there."
"Yes we have to go. We must walk
along this sea-arm and look for a boat to cross this tide.
Or we can wait till Lord Parthiban Pallava comes with his
"Mr. Nambi! You are a cunning fellow. Perhaps
you influenced the Prince somehow..."
"Sir, I have
not spoken a single word to the Prince since we started on
After this, the party began walking
eastward along the land bridge which was now covered with
the rising tide. The northernmost tip of Lanka was a narrow
necked peninsula known as Snake Island. The sea reached
around in two narrow arms separating the two land areas.
(See Map 3.) Snake Island was connected to the main island
of Lanka by a very narrow strip of land known as Elephant
Crossing. At low tide this land bridge was usually above the
sea level and crossing was easy; at other times when the
land bridge was immersed in water, crossing was difficult
unless one had a boat. Since elephant herds usually crossed
at this point, the ford came to be known as Elephant
Crossing. In ancient times elephants were exported on ships
that sailed from here.
At this time almost all the
boats and ships in Lanka were either at Mattotam or Tricone
Hill. Still, the Commander and his company looked for some
kind of small craft that might have been left behind.
Finally they found a small rowboat belonging to a Karaiyar
fisherman. There was only one boatman and he refused to
oblige. Finally, on realizing that it was the Chozla
Commander, he agreed to take them. They crossed the ford on
the boat and reached the other side. How were they to reach
the river mouth? It was not easy to find their way across
the forest. And, it would take much time. So they decided to
continue in that same boat along the eastern coast till they
reached the mouth of River Thondai. The boatman pulled the
oars till midnight. After that, he was tired. He refused the
offer of help from others.
"The coast is not easy from now onwards. We have to
change directions very often and only those who are familiar
with these parts can venture with the boat. If it hits any
of the rocks the boat will be smashed into pieces. We can
continue only after day break," said the boatman.
Commander and his men were also tired. They decided to spend
the night in a grove of trees on that shore. Vandiya Devan
was not happy with these activities. He picked a quarrel
with Azlvar-adiyan. "All this is because of you!" He accused
"Now, what did I do?" asked
"You never speak the complete truth. I
have been watching you from Kadamboor. You say something and
keep the rest secret. You guessed the Prince's intentions
about that elephant. Why did you not share that with me? If
I had known, I too would have climbed on that elephant and
gone with him. We have once again lost the Prince whom we
found with much difficulty. What am I going to tell the
Younger Pirati at Pazlayarai when I go back?"
duty was done when you delivered the message and letter. Why
"That's not it. My duty is done only
after I take the Prince back to Pazlayarai and the Younger
Pirati. It looks as if even you will hinder my efforts."
"No, my dear man no. I shall not hinder your effort. I shall
take leave of the Commander in the morning and then go my
"Your task is done. The Prince has been
delivered to the enemy and so you wish to leave. I always
suspected you and now I am sure!" said Vandiya Devan
Vallavarayan. After this quarrel they too went to sleep.
When day was breaking in all its glory, Azlvar-adiyan woke
up on hearing the sounds of a row boat. The sight before his
eyes shocked him. A ship in full sail was a little away on
the sea. It seemed ready to lift anchor and sail away. A row
boat was going towards that ship from the shore. Three men
in addition to the boatman were in that craft. Azlvar-adiyan
did not need much time to realize that it was the boat that
had brought them here last night. Very soon he guessed how
that ship had appeared there so suddenly. The grove where
they had camped was on the shores of a sea-arm. The sea had
burrowed in a long narrow channel into the land. Trees hid
the channel from all sides. The ship must have been hiding
in that channel and sailed after day break.
ship was it? Where did it come from? Where was it going? Why
was the rowboat hurrying towards it? Who were the men in the
boat? These questions flashed like lightning through
Azlvar-adiyan's mind. "Commander, Commander," he shouted.
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama and Vandiya Devan and the other
two men jumped awake. They saw the sailing ship at first.
"That is a Chozla ship. Perhaps the ship sent by the
Pazluvoor fellows! I wonder if the Prince is on that ship?
What a terrible mistake to have fallen asleep!" said the
Commander. He then asked, "Where is our boat? Let us see if
we can catch the ship!"
By now he had spotted the
rowboat. "Oh Good Lord! That is the boat we came in. Who are
those men in it? Hey you, boatman! Stop! Turn back!" he
It is not clear if the boatman heard this or
not. He did not stop. In fact he hurried ahead. Vandiya
Devan stood listening to this and watching. The words, "The
Prince is on that ship!" uttered by the Commander,
penetrated his ears and embedded in his mind. After that
there was no scope for any other thought! No doubts about
what he should do! His legs needed no orders! The next
minute he had jumped into the sea. He pushed the waves aside
with his powerful arms and began swimming. Fortunately the
water was not too deep! Very soon he had gone far away and
reached the row boat. Now the water had suddenly become very
deep. "Oh Good Lord! I am drowning, help me!" he shouted.
Someone in that boat laughed. There was some conversation.
The boat stopped and the boatman lent a hand to pull him in.
Vandiya Devan was now seated in the boat which sped ahead.
Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan examined the other men in the
boat. One was not of the Tamil people at all! He seemed to
be of the Arab nation. How did he appear here? With some
surprise he examined the other two. They had hidden half
their faces with their head-bands. But, they were natives of
these parts, of the Tamil lands. The faces were familiar.
Where? Where did I see these faces? Yes ... these are the
men who came back with Parthiban Pallava from Dampallae!
Azlvar-adiyan identified them as the assassins who came to
kill Prince Arulmozli. In fact I have seen one of them
somewhere else! Is he not Ravidasa the Sorcerer? He hooted
like an owl and came secretly to meet Young Queen Nandini of
Pazluvoor. Oh well, perhaps they know that Prince Arulmozli
is on that ship and that is why they are hurrying there!
Another danger on the way! It is good that I hurried to
catch this boat....
The boat was fast approaching the
ship. The men maintained silence. Vandiya Devan could not
tolerate the silence. He tried to strike up a conversation.
"Where are you all going?" he asked pleasantly.
"Don't you know? To that ship over there," said the
Sorcerer. His face and mouth were half covered and his voice
"Where is that ship sailing to?"
asked Vandiya Devan.
"We will know that only after we
reach that ship!" said Ravidasa the Sorcerer.
reigned once again. Only the sea sounds reverberated.
Ravidasa disturbed the quiet, "Where are you going young
"I am also going to that ship."
then where are you going?"
"That will be known only
after we board the ship." Vandiya Devan read the lesson back
The boat stopped beside the ship. A rope
ladder was dropped from above. One by one the others climbed
to the deck. Before they could pull it up, Vandiya Devan
took hold of the ladder and clambered up. There was some
sort of talk on the deck. It was an unfamiliar language; he
quickly jumped on to the deck. He looked around quickly,
shouting, "Where is the Prince?"
Even his iron heart
was badly shaken by the sight that met his eyes. Several
Arabs of frightening stature stood around him. Each one
looked like a demon in disguise. Everyone was staring at him
and none gave him a reply.
Vandiya Devan realized
that he had made a big mistake. This is not a Chozla ship;
it cannot be. These are not Tamil sailors. These are Arabs
who bring the huge horses for trade. It is impossible that
the Prince will be on this ship. I have been too hasty in
coming here. How am I to escape? He ran to the side and
leaned over to call, "Boatman, Stop!" he was about to jump
down when an iron fist grabbed his throat from behind. One
pull and one push Vandiya Devan was on the floor of the
A humongous rage filled his thoughts as he jumped up and punched the
faced of the man who had pushed him down. That six foot tall
Arab toppled the man behind him and fell to the deck. A
frightening growl was heard behind him; fortunately, Vandiya
Devan turned back in time. Otherwise, a knife would have
plunged into his back. As he turned, with one swift motion
he pushed away the knife; the knife hit the deck with a
clang and bounced into the sea. In the next instant five or
six men had surrounded him and held him prisoner. They
talked amongst themselves in some un-understandable
Their leader gave some commands in a harsh
tone. They brought some rope and bound his hands and feet.
Four men carried him down to the lower deck. Throughout
this, Vandiya Devan kicked and struggled to get free. He was
not successful. They carried him down to the hold and threw
him on a stack of logs down below. They tied him to one of
those logs and left. The ship swayed this way and that. It
had started moving on its journey. The logs began to roll
and he could not protect himself because his hands were
"If I escape from this predicament, I shall not
venture into anything hastily. I shall do things after
considerable thought like that Azlvar-adiyan Nambi." Vandiya
Devan was making resolutions when he heard some ghoulish
laughter next to him. He turned his face with some effort to
find Ravidasa standing next to him. He had now removed the
mask hiding his face.
"Dear fellow! I came in search
of that Chozla tiger cub. I did not find the tiger cub.
Instead, I have found the Vaanar jackal. I am fortunate!"
laughed the Sorcerer.
Of these aforesaid incidents,
the men were aware only up to the point when Vandiya Devan
boarded the ship. Even the boatman did not know about the
incidents on the deck. He had quickly returned to the shore.
The Commander and his men got into the rowboat. They knew
that they could not catch up with the sailing ship; so, they
decided to continue to the mouth of River Thondai and look
around. Perhaps the other ship is still there. Maybe, the
Prince is on that other vessel. Anyway they would come upon
They questioned the boatman
thoroughly. He knew nothing, "I was sleeping in my boat. At
sunrise someone came and woke me up. They promised to pay me
a large sum of money if I took them to the ship. I thought
that I could be back before you all woke up. So, I took
them. I know nothing else."
Azlvar-adiyan retold this
history as far as he knew it, to the Prince.
"Prince, when Vandiya Devan jumped into the sea, for one
moment I considered following him. But, I am somewhat
hesitant about the sea. Neither am I a good swimmer.
Moreover, I had my own doubts about the ship that is sailing
away. I felt that you could not be on board that vessel. I
even doubt if it could be a Chozla ship. I have mentioned
this to the Commander. We decided to come here before we do
anything further. We were reassured only after seeing you
here," said Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai Nambi.
had listened attentively to all that was said by
Azlvar-adiyan. "But, I am not reassured Thirumalai. Vandiya
Devan is on that ship. The Lords of Pazluvoor will arrest
him and throw him in Tanjore's dungeons!" said the Prince.
The Commander intervened, "Prince why do you tolerate the
impertinence of those evil-doers? If only you would agree, I
would control the insolence of those Pazluvoor lords by the
next full moon and throw them in their own dungeons."
"Sir I do not think that you should even dream that I would
act against the tiniest wish of my father," said Prince
Hearing the hoofbeat of a fast approaching
horse, they turned around. The horse stopped a little away
from them. They were surprised to find a woman riding that
great stallion without any saddle, stirrup or reins.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 48 --
The Commodore's Death
Prince Arulmozli recognized the woman on the
stallion immediately. He hurried towards her; Poonkuzlali
followed. The others hesitated a little behind. By then,
Mute-queen had dismounted. She looked worriedly at the men
and then spoke in sign language to Poonkuzlali. "My aunt has
seen something curious in the forest. She asks us to go over
Prince Arulmozli made up his mind to do so
immediately. He asked Poonkuzlali to find out if the others
could go also. Mute-queen considered this for a minute and
then nodded approval.
As they followed her into the
forest, they discussed the remarkable horse she had ridden.
It was a wonderful, high bred stallion from Arabia. How did
this woman get such a horse? No troops had landed in these
parts in recent times; there had been no recent conflict or
war campaign here... how did she acquire the horse?
Our readers are aware of the Chozla ship that had run
aground in the marshes near the mouth of River Thondai.
Lanka's coast meandered towards the south-east from this
point. The sea often reached out in winding and twisting
narrow arms, going far inland and often forming deep and
narrow tidal basins. The ship that Vandiya Devan and his
friends had seen in the morning had emerged from hiding in
one such inland bay.
The Mute-queen was now leading
them south-eastward into the deep coastal forest. As they
walked quickly, Arulmozli's curiosity was aroused. Something
important must have occurred; otherwise, this lady would not
lead us so far. In an instant the incident was clear before
They could see an inland lagoon in the midst of
a clearing in the forest. Some men lay dead on the shores of
the water. The smell of dead bodies mingled with the smell
of drying blood. Dead men's bodies and bloody carnage was
nothing new to any of those warriors who had seen many
battlefields. Even so, a thought rose in their minds:
something mysterious, frightening and bizarre must have
occurred -- disgust mingled with curiosity.
closer and examined the dead bodies to find that they were
all sailors from Tamil lands. "Quick, quick! See if anyone
is still alive!" ordered the Prince. His men began to
examine each body individually. Mute-queen signed and led
the Prince further away towards a tree beyond the water's
edge. A terrifying figure lay prone beside that tree; it was
a human being though his appearance made that difficult to
believe. Every visible part of his body seemed to be
wounded. Open wounds on his head were bleeding covering his
face in a gory sight. His face, which was awaiting death any
minute now, blossomed in a faint smile when it beheld Prince
Arulmozli. He opened his lips and tried to speak; but, the
blood that had caked in his mouth came gushing out making
him appear even more ghoulish.
hurried to his side ordering, "Quickly, bring him some
That man said, "No need My Lord! This woman
gave me water a little while ago. If she had not come, I
would have died long ago. My Lord, I have suffered here in
this life itself, the consequences for committing treason
against you. I am sure that the Good God will not punish me
once again for this in my after life!"
On hearing his
quivering voice, Prince Arulmozli peered at his face,
recognizing it. "Commodore! What is all this? What are you
saying? How did this happen? What treason did you come here
and commit? I cannot believe that of you!"
you say that out of the compassion and generosity of your
nature. I came here on the orders of the Lords of Pazluvoor,
to arrest you and take you back to Tanjore. Here is the
order." The Commodore who was at deaths gate pointed weakly
at a letter pouch hidden in his waist-belt.
Arulmozli did not take more than a minute to glance through
that order. "Where is treason on your part in this? You came
to obey the orders of the Emperor. Knowing that, I was
hurrying to meet you. Meanwhile, how did this misfortune
come upon you? Tell me quickly."
"I know; I have to
be quick; else I may not be able to share it with you at
all!" After that, the Commodore retold the following tale
with many a pause to regain his fading breath.
receiving his orders from the Emperor, the Commodore left
with two ships from the port of Nagapattinam. He was not
happy with his assignment; but, unable to oppose the
Emperor's orders, he left. As he was leaving, the Lords of
Pazluvoor had given him certain strict instructions. First,
as soon as he reached the shores of Eezlam (Lanka) he was to
anchor his ships in some hidden isolated spot and proceed
after finding the whereabouts of the young Prince. Later, he
was to personally meet the royal Prince and give him the
Emperor's orders. Commander Bhoothi Vikrama should not come
to know of this matter. After the orders was delivered, if
the Prince came willingly with him, it was well and good; if
he resisted, the Commodore was to arrest him and bring him
back. After this, the nobles of Pazluvoor has sent some of
their confidential retainers to accompany the Commodore.
The Chozla Commodore left with a heavy heart; the men under
him were not aware of the details of their mission. He
worried about how he would explain the assignment to his
men. He anchored his ships near the mouth of River Thondai
and left with a small company of sailors to the port town of
Gangesan Thurai, wishing to ask around about how he could
find the Prince. He found out that the Prince was inspecting
parts of Southern Lanka and came back to his ship.
that time his seamen somehow came to know the truth about
their journey. Pazluvoor men in the ships had talked; and
the news spread. The Chozla sailors gathered around their
chief and began questioning him. "Have we come here to
arrest Ponniyin Selvan? The darling of our Cauvery?" The
Commodore told them the truth, "We are in service to the
Emperor. We have to obey his orders." The men were not
pacified, "We cannot do so; these cannot be the Emperor's
orders. The Pazluvoor nobles must have given the orders and
were are not bound to obey them!"
On hearing their
cries, the Commodore asked them, "Then what do you wish to
"We wish to go to Mattotam and join the Prince's
"The Prince is not in Mattotam."
can seek asylum with Commander Lord Velir of Kodumbalur."
The Commodore tried to argue with them and tried to convince
them in many ways. But, that was impossible. Only ten men,
including the four from Pazluvoor, were ready to stand by
his side. How was he to control two hundred men with ten?
So he gave them permission, "Fine, get lost immediately. And
be responsible for the consequences. I shall do my duty as
far as possible."
Some of the sailors wished to take
one of the ships and sail to Mattotam. Others objected.
Finally they abandoned ship and left by land. In their
hurry, they did not anchor the ship properly. In the night
the ship moved with the incoming tide and hit the sandbar.
It's hull was broken and the ship was beached. After this
mishap, the Commodore did not wish to remain in that spot
with his other ship. There was further cause for his
concern. At Gangesan Thurai he had heard some alarming news.
A few days ago, an Arab pirate ship had sunk on the rocky
shores north of Mullai Island. Some of those ruffians who
had escaped were now wandering in these parts. Therefore, he
did not wish to remain near the beached ship. He navigated
one of the narrow sea arms which went deep inland and
anchored his ship in the concealed spot. That night they
discussed further action and decided that the ten men were
to remain with the ship guarding it. He alone would journey
south and find the Prince. But, the men were not happy with
the idea. Even as they were discussing alternate plans,
several men surrounded them with terrifying cries. They were
men from Arab countries. The Tamil men did not expect this
sudden attack. They were making camp and were not prepared
for a fight. None had any useful weapons in their hands.
Still, they fought a valiant and vicious battle. And all had
lost their lives.
"My Lord, I alone ran with all my
death wounds and hid myself in the forest. I saved myself
merely to tell someone about what really happened. My
Prince, I was fortunate to meet you in person and tell you
all of this shameful tale. I have received the punishment
due for my treacherous acts. My Lord Ponniyin Selva! Please
forgive me!" said the Commodore of Chozla ships.
most dutiful Commodore! Why should I forgive you? If in
truth there is a heaven meant for the brave who die in
battlefields, you will surely reach that abode." The Prince
comforted the dying man and soothed his brow. Tears flowing
from the Commodore's eyes mingled with the drying blood on
his face. With much effort he lifted his palms and folded
them in greeting to the Prince. The Commodore's tears washed
the Prince's hands. Teardrops peeked at the corners of
Arulmozli's eyes. Very soon the Commodore's spirit left his
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 49 --
They placed the Commodore's body and all the
other dead bodies in one pile; with dry wood collected from
the forest they made a funeral pyre. Commander Bhoothi
Vikrama noticed that tears were streaming down Arulmozli's
face when the funeral pyre began burning.
shed tears for these sinners! God has given justice to the
traitors who came to imprison you. Why do you grieve for
them?" asked Commander Bhoothi Vikrama.
these men are not traitors; neither am I grieving for them.
I lament that such distressing times should become the lot
of the Chozlas!" said Prince Arulmozli.
times came as soon as Pazluvoor fellows came into our
country. Nothing new has come about now!" growled the
"Indeed, things new have come about! What
worse doom can befall a nation than the fate that a ship's
men would mutiny and disobey the orders of their Commodore!
Commander this is a small sign, a mere crack. I wonder what
other, bigger cracks are about to undermine this Chozla
Empire. If such fractures occur, the very foundations laid
by my forefather Vijayala Chozla will be shaken and this
great Empire destroyed. Should this catastrophe come about
because of me? I have heard the story of Mahabarata. When
Duriyodana, the evil cousin was born, wolves and jackals
howled ominously -- says the story. Wolves and jackals must
have howled frighteningly when I was born also!" said
Arulmozli the royal Prince.
"My Dear Sir! Whatever
good omens that can ever be seen were seen when you were
born! The astrologers who computed you horoscope ...."
"Stop it Commander, stop it! My ears are tired of hearing
these words. Forget the fate of my horoscope.... Anyway, the
time has come for us to part. I have another request of you.
If those sailors and soldiers who mutinied against their
Commodore come to you asking to join your command, you must
not accept them. Arrest all of them immediately and send
them back to Tanjore."
"Sir, we have heard the
version told by the Commodore. We have not found out what
the sailors have to say. How can we pass sentence by merely
hearing the story of one party. That is not proper law or
justice. Please come with me. When those men arrive at
Mattotam, we shall make proper enquiries and then
"Sir, that is not possible now. You do
what you think is appropriate. I cannot tarry even a minute
longer in this place. I shall leave immediately. Where is
"Where do you wish to go, Prince? Why
do you want that boatman?"
"Do you need to ask me
such a question? I have to find that ship that is carrying
away Vandiya Devan. That brave man has boarded a ship under
the control of evil Arab pirates, entrapped in grave danger
because of me! How can I abandon him? Do I have to add to
the heinous sins committed by me by forsaking a dear friend
in need?" asked Arulmozli.
"Sir, I am not aware of
any sin committed by you. Neither will the world accept even
if you swear it. Vandiya Devan is a hasty and imprudent
youth. How could you become responsible for dangers that he
tempts upon himself? How does betrayal of friendship come
into the picture here? Prince, I do not even like the fact
that you should embrace some wandering fortune seeker as a
dear friend! Only men of equal status can become friends."
"Commander, I have no time to waste on word duels. Even if I
should not call him friend, I am beholden to him. What have
all the ancients, including Valluvan the poet said? Chozlas
never forget a favor! I shall not violate that fame. I have
to leave now and look for that ship."
"How shall you
go? Where would you look?"
"I shall go in that boat
you came in....."
"How can you hunt a lion with
rabbits? How could you hope to find a sailing ship on the
high seas with this tiny rowboat? Even if you do find the
ship, what can you do?" asked the bewildered Commander.
"I can go in the boat! If the boat collapses, I shall tie
myself to a log raft and swim! Even if that ship carrying
away Vandiya Devan has crossed the seven seas, I will follow
it. After that, if I am unable to save my friend, I shall
give up mine own life in the attempt. Where is that
boatman?" said an empassioned Prince. He noticed the boatman
standing aside talking to Poonkuzlali. Mute-queen was
standing next to them. The Prince hurried towards them.
He noticed Poonkuzlali arguing with tears of rage in a
passionate manner with that boatman. "Oh Dear! What is this?
Another internal disturbance?" asked Arulmozli.
boatman suddenly fell at Arulmozli Varma's feet, "My Lord, I
have sinned unknowingly! I have sinned for love of money!
Forgive me, Oh Lord!" he said.
"What nonsense is
this? .... Poonkuzlali? Is everyone ganged up to make me go
mad? Can you explain what this is?"
"Prince I was
ashamed to say it all this time; this fellow is my brother!
He brought those two sinners, the assassins, from Kodi Karai
to Lanka in his boat. He was waiting on this shore on their
orders. This morning he took them in his boat to that ship
we saw sailing at day break. Your friend is also on that
"My Lord! Chop me with your sword and kill
me immediately! I did not know that those men were such
heinous traitors! I would have never done it if I knew!
Please kill me with your own hands," wailed the boatman who
was still prostate!
"My Good Man! At this point in
time your life is a priceless treasure for me! Come, let us
go! Take me also to that very same ship. That is your
atonement for the misdeeds committed by you. Hurry, let us
go," said Prince Arulmozli.
The boatman ran to the
beach and pulled his boat into the water. The Prince was
examining the horizon with crinkled eyes. "There! I can see
the ship. We can catch up."
Commander Bhoothi Vikrama
was also examining the horizon. "Prince, a ripe fruit had
slipped into nectar!" he said.
"What do you mean?
Such good words from you!"
"That ship which I can see
is not the ship that has Vandiya Devan on board. It is the
ship of Lord Parthiban Pallava. It seems to be coming from
the direction of Tricone Hill. It is coming towards us. Can
you not see?" asked the Commander with some joy.
"Yes! You are right! That is very good. Parthiban is coming
here with some other ideas; but, his coming is timely. We
can hunt the lion with a tiger! I am not going to wait till
that ship comes here. I shall go in this boat and reach it."
"Prince, along with you, on that boat ... I ..."
"None of you need come with me on the boat. I shall find it
very helpful if you all stay back here... Mr. Thirumalai
Nambi, the orders are for you also! Anyway you are a bit
afraid of the sea, are you not?"
"Yes My Lord. I was
intending to stay back anyway. My orders are to guard you as
long as you remain in Lanka. The Prime Minister is at
Madurai. I have to go back and report these developments to
him...." Azlvar-adiyan was saying.
was impatient, "Do that! Poonkuzlali you too must stay back.
Do not worry about your brother -- I'll take care. You said
that you had left your boat somewhere here. Find it and go
your way. I shall never forget you or your help.... Foolish
Girl! Wipe those tears away! What will those men looking at
After this the Prince went up to the
Mute-queen and was about to bow and touch her feet. She
prevented him from that, kissing his forehead and hugging
him in blessing. In an instant, the Prince had waded into
the sea and jumped into the restless boat.
and women on the shore stood watching as the boat sped away.
Prince Arulmozli in the boat kept gazing at the people left
behind on the shore. He glanced at everybody once; and his
eyes came to rest on the tear laden face of Poonkuzlali.
What a surprising phenomena! As one draws farther away,
things should grow smaller to one's eyes -- the figures of
all others on that shore did indeed grow smaller and
smaller. But, Poonkuzlali's face alone seemed to grow bigger
and bigger. It came closer and closer to the Prince.
Arulmozli shook himself once and turned his eyes away. A
scene from the previous night's dream came back to him: his
sister, Younger Pirati Kundavai Devi's words, "Thambi! Don't
forget that Vanathi is waiting here for you!" came floating
clearly above the noisy waves.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 50 --
Parthiban Pallava was filled with an
astonishment that was impossible to describe. When he saw
Prince Arulmozli on the rowboat approaching his ship, he
felt as if, God whom he had gone to worship, not only
appeared in person, but, also spoke, "Ask and every wish of
thine shall be met!" Still, why is he coming alone like this
in a small boat? What happened to the ships sent by the
nobles of Pazluvoor? Perhaps he is not aware that this is my
ship -- he thinks that this is one of the ships that came to
take him prisoner!
Soon his doubts were cleared. As
soon as he came aboard, Prince Arulmozli brought Parthiban
Pallava up to date on the events that had transpired in
northern Lanka with a few brief words. "Vandiya Devan is in
a ship seized by Arab pirates. We have to somehow free him."
Parthiban was transported with joy by the news brought by
Arulmozli Varma. "Everything is shaping up very well. If
that imprudent fellow had not been so hasty things would
have been even better. However, we should not abandon him to
foreigners. That ship could not have gone too far. We can
catch up with it."
He called for his ship's Captain
and explained the situation briefly.
"We need not be
concerned about that My Lord. If the wind blows steadily
like this, we can catch that ship before nightfall. That
ship cannot escape us. It has to go towards Kodi Karai and
sail along the coast," declared that experienced
Nevertheless, the Lord of Winds was
disposed otherwise. By and by the wind was dying down. By
mid-day even a whisper of a breeze was not alive. The sea
was utterly calm without a shimmer of a wave. An unbearable
mugginess descended on them. The Sun-god shone his fiery
light on the sky showering flames on the water. Of course,
the sea was not hot to touch: it did not appear like a sea
of water, rather sea of boiling, smoking oil. Sun-rays shone
like molten metal on the water. The ship did not move though
every sail on every mast was fully unfurled. Soon, even the
sound of fluttering sails hitting against their masts died
down. There was no sound from the masts and cross-beams; no
sound from sail cloth rubbing against ropes; no sound of a
ship cleaving through water. It was an unbearable quiet.
Prince Arulmozli was becoming more and more fretful about
Vandiya Devan's fate. "The breeze has died and this ship is
still! How long will this last? When will the wind rise
again? Wouldn't that ship escape us now?" he asked with some
Parthiban looked at his ships Captain. The
Sea-captain said, "The wind cannot die like this for much
longer. A whirlwind is rising somewhere nearby. It will come
soon and cross our path; or it might miss us and go away.
Whether the whirlwind crosses our path or not, one thing is
certain. The sea is going to rise and boil soon. All this
calm is temporary. By night, mountain sized waves will
batter this ship. We will fly up to the top of those
mountains as well as float down to the depths of deep
ravines as we rise and fall with the stormy waves."
"Is it not dangerous if the whirlwind hits our ship?"
"It is no simple danger! Only God should save us if that
"So, it may be impossible for us to find
that ship!" said a concerned Prince.
"My Lord, the
sea and the wind have no favorites. Our fate must have
befallen that ship too. At present that vessel too would be
at a standstill...."
"Perhaps, if it had reached some
"If it is near a coast, the men in it
might be able to land and save their lives. But, their ship
will surely be lost if it is near a rocky coast in the
storm," declared the Sea-captain.
"No calamity is
frightening if our near and dear are by our side!" The faces
of lively Vandiya Devan and bashful Poonkuzlali appeared in
his mind's eye again and again. Where are they now? What are
they doing? What are they thinking?
Let us now return
to Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan whom we had abandoned in a
truly dangerous situation.
He was lying tied to a
log, in the hold of that ship which had come to arrest
Prince Arulmozli. He was thrown amidst other logs and bales
of provisions that filled the hold. For a long time he was
in a daze; the thought that his hasty, imprudence embroiled
him in unspeakable danger was tormenting him. He worried
over these questions again and again: What ship is this? Who
owns it? How are these rough Arabs and Sorcerer Ravidasa
together in this? Where is this ship going? What will they
do with me? No answer could be found. All his dreams about
his brilliant future were to remain mere dreams. Sometimes a
flash of hope: I have overcome difficulties worse than this;
can I not find a way out of this too? Let me wait and see;
as long as my mind has not lost its cunning; as long as my
body has not lost its breath -- I need not lose all hope.
Once revived by such encouraging thoughts, he began looking
around. It was some time before he could discern things in
that darkness. He saw several weapons piled in one corner of
the hold. The rope was twisted tightly around his body; but,
his hands were not bound very tight. It was possible to
slowly free his hands; grab a knife from that corner; cut
the rope tied around his legs and body. After that? What?
The door to this hold is closed. How am I to get out. After
getting out, how am I to face all those rough Arab brutes,
that sorcerer and his companion? -- Even if I am able to
handle all of them, kill them all-- what can I do after
that? Can I single handed, sail this ship? I know nothing
I should not be hasty again. Patience is
a virtue to be courted now. They have not killed me; merely
bound me. That is an encouraging thought! What will they do
with me? But, as time passed, his patience was severely
tested. The hold grew more and more stuffy: he was being
broiled alive in a steam-pot. Sweat poured down his face and
body. He had not realized that a sea voyage would be so
uncomfortable. He remembered Poonkuzlali and the
night-crossing in her boat. What a cool breeze it was that
night! How comfortable it had been! A world of difference
from that and this. People talk about lime kilns. This must
be it. Soon, he sensed some change. Yes; the ship had
stopped moving. It seemed to be standing still, rooted to
one spot. The humidity became worse. Thirst increased and
his tongue became stuck to his mouth. I cannot be patient
anymore; find that knife and cut these ropes. Let me get out
and explore. There must be some drinking water, somewhere...
He looked around again -- Ah! in another corner a mound of
coconuts! Why search for salt on a sea shore? Those coconuts
will relieve my thirst and hunger! He loosened the knots
around his wrists and was reaching out towards a gleaming
Footsteps. Door opening. He pulled his hand
back. Ravidasa and his friend, who had come earlier were
standing on his two sides. "How is the sailing trip my
friend? Is it pleasure filled?" asked Ravidasa.
"Thirst is killing me; some water?" Vandiya Devan spoke with
"Ah! We are thirsty too. Those
wretched fellows did not leave any water."
Kali is more thirsty than all of us. Blood Thirst!" said the
Vandiya Devan turned to look at him.
"Do you not remember me Thambi? You have forgotten! Remember
the divine dancer who was in a trance after the Gypsy Dance
at Kadamboor? Remember his words in the trance, `Kali wants
a sacrifice; a thousand year old royal sacrifice...'
"Yes; I recall -- you are him; the
divine-dancer," mumbled Vandiya Devan.
"Yes; I am he;
Thevaralan. We came to Lanka to sacrifice a royal Princeling
of thousand-year ancestry. It was not successful. We tried
to send that Vaishnava fanatic to Vishnu's Heaven. No
success in that either! But, you came into the trap
yourself. I am happy; my Goddess must be satisfied for now
with the blood of petty nobility!" laughed Thevaralan.
"Why the delay?" asked Vandiya Devan.
"How can we
sacrifice a brave young man like you in any ordinary place?
After we go ashore, we have to gather all the priests, hold
a festival and give you up in sacrifice. Most important, the
Priestess must be present!"
"Do you not know? Nandini, the Young Queen of Pazluvoor!"
Vandiya Devan considered this for some minutes. "If you
really wish to do that, give me some water quickly.
Otherwise, I will die here of thirst."
"There is no
water on board Thambi!"
"Aren't you a Sorcerer?"
"Yes! Yes! I have cast a spell. Are you not aware that this
ship is standing still? By night, a whirlwind will rise; a
storm will swirl around us. Rain will thunder down."
"What use is rain to me? You will be above deck; I will be
"You can come up too. Quench you
thirst in the rain... if you listen to us."
"We say that those Arab fiends should be
sacrificed to the Ocean King."
wish to take this ship to Kalinga Country. We wish to
disembark at Kodi Karai or Nagapattinam."
six men; ruffians."
"Three are asleep now. The other
three are half asleep. We three can take care of the three
sleepers now. The remaining three can them be handled..."
Vandiya Devan gave no reply.
"Why Thambi? Why are you
thinking? We can loosen your knots if you agree."
Vandiya Devan thought of the Prince in Lanka. No. Never. He
will never agree to such a plan. He will never agree to kill
"I cannot. It is abhorrent to kill
"Fool! These pirates killed Chozla men
when they were sleeping."
"If others do atrocious
deeds, why should I do the same?"
"Fine; as you
wish." Ravidasa picked up a sharp sword from the pile in the
corner. Thevaralan picked up a small weapon which looked
like a pestle with a tassel of iron spikes. They left
without closing or bolting the door. Immediately after that,
Vandiya Devan grabbed a knife and cut his ropes, freeing
himself. He jumped up and picked up a coconut from the
corner. Broke it open and quenched his thirst. He then hid
the rest of the coconuts behind some sack-cloth. A good
sword that would help a good fight was soon selected. He was
ready to step out any minute.
"Thud. Thud." Twice.
Two bodies thrown into the sea. A big shout; some
altercation -- clashing swords -- various such sounds came
down from the deck. Vandiya Devan ran up with a drawn sword.
Four Arabs were attacking Ravidasa and Thevaralan. They were
in a perilous position. Vandiya Devan jumped forward with a
roar. The Arab leader turned around. One swoop of his sword
and the Arab lost his weapon to the sea. A cut graced the
pirate's face even as Vandiya Devan rushed ahead without a
paused step. With a face turned horrible by the gushing
blood, the Arab came at him with bunched fists. Vandiya
Devan danced aside and the Arab fell with his own momentum,
tripping on his own feet. A cross beam dislodged by his fall
came thudding down on him.
Vandiya Devan fenced with
a second Arab for some time and finally drove him overboard
into the sea. Ravidasa and Thevaralan were not very
experienced in arm to arm combat. They were finding it more
and more difficult to tackle the two strong foreigners.
Hearing the sound of something falling into the sea, the two
Arabs slightly turned to see what had happened to their
friend. That was enough opportunity for the Tamil men to
finish those foreigners. All was done.
victors sat down to rest on that deck.
you came at the right moment. How did you free yourself?"
"You must have cast your spell. The rope came loose by
itself! This sword appeared in my hands."
"A coconut appeared above my head. It
broke by itself and poured milk into my mouth."
you are a clever fellow!" They laughed and laughed at this
"Thambi, we were testing you. We had loosened
your ropes and left those weapons by your side; those
coconuts too," said Ravidasa.
Vandiya Devan was not
sure if they spoke the truth. he kept quiet.
think about this. Do you want to be alive? Do you want to
live and go ashore; gaze upon the faces of your kith and kin
once again? Do you wish for wealth and comfort? Position and
power? Tell us if you like that! Join us, all that will be
yours!" thundered Ravidasa.
Vandiya Devan asked, "You
killed those sleeping men. Did you not?"
only two. The third woke up by then. If you had come
earlier, our task would have been much easier."
law permits the killing of sleeping men? How could you do
"If you are hesitant of such minor dilemma,
what will you do about major problems? If you are ready to
throw your lot with us ...."
"You keep saying "us";
Who? Who are you all?"
Ravidasa spoke to Thevaralan.
"There is no point in hiding our secrets from him anymore.
He must either join our group or be sacrificed to this
ocean. Let us tell him."
"Fine. Tell Him everything,"
"Listen, Thambi, we are the
Aabathudavis, the bodyguards of King Veera-pandiya of
Madurai. We have sworn blood oaths to guard his life with
our own...." began Ravidasa.
"You could not succeed
in that! Prince Aditya Karikala won!"
"How did he
win? Because of the foolishness of a woman! She had much
confidence in the powers of her enchantments. She believed
that she could make that Chozla king-cobra dance to her
tunes. Yes, the snake did raise it's hood and dance to her
tune. But, it showed its poisonous tongue in between. Our
King's head rolled in the dust. They took it to Tanjore; The
took the head in a procession on an open palanquin. Aha!
Tanjore! Tanjore! Wait and watch the state to which that
city will be reduced! Wait Thambi, wait!"
spoke, Ravidasa's red eyes widened and spilled fire. His
whole body shook in rage. His teeth ground with each other
and raised a frightening sound. Thevaralan seemed to be in a
"What is done is done! What can you do
about that now? You cannot bring back Veera-pandiya to
"We cannot bring back Veera-pandiya to life.
Even my sorcery has no such power. But, we will take revenge
on those who killed him; we swear vengeance on the killer,
his friends and their very roots and shoots. We will kill
those snakes of the Chozla clan with offspring and family;
wreck havoc on their dwelling and land. Will you join us?
"After destroying the Chozla clan, what
would you do?"
"We will crown whoever is selected by
"Who is your Great-queen?"
"You know her, Thambi. She masquerades as Pazluvoor's Young
Queen for now."
"Then, what about Lord Madurandaka?"
"He too is a snakeling."
"Ah! You think we will take that old fool as our King? We
make use of his power and wealth, we ..."
your Queen dwells in his house!"
"Correct! You guess
"You said that a woman was the cause for
"She was also Nandini. She
had promised to guard our wounded King fallen in battle,
but, could not keep her promise. We were about to burn her
thinking that she had turned traitor. We let her live
because she swore an oath with us: we will seek blood
revenge. She has kept her promise till this date. If she had
not helped we could not have achieved this much."
"You don't seem to have achieved much!" heckled Vandiya
"Be patient, young man, be patient," said
Thevaralan now opened his mouth, "He knows
our secret now. But he has not said anything!"
"Thambi, what do you say? Will you join us? Who know? Luck
may smile upon you. You may ascend the great Tamil Throne of
If it had been some weeks ago, Vandiya
Devan would have gladly agreed! But his whole attitude to
life had changed after three days of friendship with
Arulmozli Varma. He had lost interest in trickery and
falsehood. He wished to change the topic, "How did you find
this ship? How did you make friends with those Arab
"That was by the power of my spells. We
bought some horses from them at Tricone Hill. We were able
to follow you and your friends everywhere because of those
horses. We saw the Prince crossing at Elephant Crossing. We
decided to come to Thondai Mouth before him and hurried
through a forest short-cut. There we found that our old
friends had captured the Chozla ship. They had lost their
own ship near Mullai Island. They asked us to be their guide
along the coast. We thought we were lucky."
"We overheard the conversation between that snakeling Chozla
and his Commander. We heard that he would somehow return to
the mainland. And another thing, Thambi, there is a female
ghoul in Lanka. Is was casting counter spells against our
spells and guarding the Prince. But, that ghoul will never
step on Chozla country.
Vandiya Devan remembered the
incidents of that night in Anuradapura. Ravidasa laughed.
"Why this laughter?" asked Vandiya Devan.
was thinking about those Arabs. You say how rough and
uncultured they were? These men think nothing of killing men
and women. But, they have a limitless love for horses. They
said that they do not ride horses in their country unless
the horses are shod with iron shoes over their hooves. They
called us uncultured barbarians worse than beasts because we
keep our horses unshod. They think it a crime to even sell
horses to us. Do you know what happened this morning?"
"We had all gone aboard ship. Opened sail
and were about to leave. At that time we heard a horse
galloping on the shore. That was it. They suspected that it
might be one of their horses which had escaped from the
shipwreck near Mullai Island. One of them insisted on going
back to shore and finding out. They were not ready to leave
until he found out! We came back with him."
"We did not find the horse. We found you! That was much
better. We could put an end to those horse lovers easily
because of you."
"He has not yet answered our
question," reminded Thevaralan.
"I shall answer you.
I have accepted allegiance to serve the Chozlas. I can never
join you men."
"Are you one of the Velaikara's? Have
you sworn an oath?"
"Nothing like that."
why hesitate? You are a soldier of fortune. You should join
the forces that have more opportunity."
did not reveal to them that he was now bound to the Chozlas
by bonds stronger than any blood oath. What reasons does he
need to promise life-long fidelity to the Chozla's more than
a glance in the corner of her eye or a smile dancing on
Kundavai's lips? And what about that incomparable friendship
of Prince Arulmozli. After that, could anyone change?
"Whatever it is, I cannot join your murdering group."
"Then get ready to sacrifice your life to the Ocean King,"
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 51 --
Not a breeze did blow; no sea stirred;
neither did the ship move. Vandiya Devan gazed quietly at
the sea which looked like a calm and placid reservoir; his
heart churned with a turbulence not reflected outside.
Suddenly he stretched both his hands towards the sea and
shouted, "Ohm! Hreem! Hraam, vashasht!" as if he was casting
He had already picked up the broad-sword
before swirling like a wheel, twice or thrice. "Yes, yes!
The Ocean King wants a sacrifice! He wants two braves, two
murderers who kill sleeping men. He will not let this ship
move unless he gets the sacrifice! Come, both of you!
Quickly bend your heads, quick quick!"
stared in amazement at Vandiya Devan who was laughing once
again like a maniac, "HA HA HA!"
"Thambi, what is
this joke about?"
"My Dear Brothers! This is no joke;
this is fate! Sometime ago when I lay bound below deck, I
dozed for a while and saw a dream. A huge, blue spirit, that
filled the horizon from sea to sky, stood before me and said
something. I could not understand its words. Now, it is
clear: this Ocean King wants two men, two experts in sorcery
and witchcraft, two devotees of Kali, as his sacrifice. He
refuses to let go of this ship unless he has the sacrifice.
He is not satisfied with the sacrifice of six Arab pirates.
So, come quickly." Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan raised his
Ravidasa and Thevaralan looked at each other.
"Thambi, we have not seen anyone with an imagination as
vivid as yours."
"Don't you believe my words? You
think I am making all this up? Fine ... Oh Ocean King tell
Perhaps the Ocean King had heard
his words and wished to reply! A curious thing happened over
that seascape. A shiver seemed to run through the waters
spreading towards the horizon in all directions. Tiny, tiny
wavelets, a thousand little waves rose everywhere. Just one
minute of this. Next instant, every wavelet was transformed
into droplets of white foam. Those foam waves danced across
the waters spreading here, there, everywhere. Millions and
millions of white Thumbai flowers tumbled across expanses of
green-grass meadows. Yes, a little breeze, a cool wind
hugged that ship for a minute and went away. The ship
shivered for a second. Vandiya Devan also shivered. Ravidasa
laughed even louder, "Thambi the Ocean has replied; we must
give ourselves as the sacrifice."
Vandiya Devan was
confused and shocked by the change that had suddenly come
upon the sea. What has happened to the thousands and
thousands of wavelets? Where have the million droplets of
foam gone? The sea is calm once again. Did I imagine
differently just a minute ago? Perhaps this Sorcerer had
cast some powerful spell....
"Look Thambi, the Sky
God approves of the Ocean Kings wishes." He was pointing
towards the horizon -- a blue sky mingled with the green
water -- a thick black pillar was rising towards the sky.
The pillar had a fiery red top that swirled swiftly. Vandiya
Devan would not have even remarked upon this ordinarily. Odd
shaped clouds were natural; particularly over the sea. But,
at that time, even that small cloud kindled terror in his
heart. `I should not fall into a trap of this cunning
Sorcerer.' He steadied himself once again. "Do not hesitate
come ..." said Vandiya Devan as he began to swing his sword.
"Thambi, we are ready to be sacrificed; before that, give us
a few minutes to offer prayers to our chosen Goddess," asked
"Fine, finish your prayers quickly and came
back. Do not try any of your sorcery spells on me! They will
"We will be back in a minute. See, we will
leave our weapons here." They dropped their weapons and
moved aside behind the sails. Vandiya Devan also needed a
few minutes; he wished to recuperate his strength and
collect his thoughts confused by the changes over the
seascape. He was ready to kill both those traitors with one
swoop of his sword, if the need arose. However, he was not
sure if he had the strength to do so. He needed the respite.
His eyes wandered back to the southwest horizon. The black
pillar had by now grown tremendously. Its flaming top was
less bright. It seemed to be growing even as he watched. The
breeze had picked up once again and was now blowing
steadily. The sea was beginning to stir; waves began dancing
again. The cloud group was growing and approaching closer.
The ship began to sway; wind whistled in the sails and waves
splashed against the sides ... Well! What was that other
sound? Something fell into the sea? Vandiya Devan walked
around the mast poles to the other side. Ravidasa and
Thevaralan were not there. Perhaps they have gone to the
other end ... But, what is that noise? Paddles splashing,
someone rowing a boat!
He ran to the side and looked
down. The sight that met his eyes threw him into shock! He
had not expected that! He had thought that they had gone to
confer on how to pacify him. But, they had gone aside to
lower the rowboat from the other side. They had already
climbed down and begun to row... Ravidasa laughed cunningly,
"My Dear Fellow we are not ready to be sacrificed."
Vandiya Devan realized his predicament. They were abandoning
him in that large wooden ship. He knew nothing about sailing
or ship navigation. They were truly deserting him. "You
traitors! Could you not take me with you?"
we disappoint the Ocean King? He needs at least one
sacrifice!" The rowboat was pulling away quickly. Vandiya
Devan wondered if he should jump into the sea and swim to
that boat. No, I cannot swim very well; even if I manage to
reach the boat I am not sure about those rogues. I know
their secrets; they know that I would never become one of
them. They may beat me to death with the paddle. I cannot
battle with them while trying to float on the water.
Good. Let them go; get lost. It is better to be abandoned on
a lost ship than be with them in a small boat. God has
helped me escape other tricky situations. God will show a
way... Perhaps, I should not have let them escape. Where
would they land? What other treachery have they planned?
What can I do. First, I must somehow get back to the Prince.
He should not have forsaken me like that. He could have
taken me along with Poonkuzlali on that elephant. I must ask
him about that when we meet again, "Is this an example of
that famous Chozla friendship?" I wonder if I would ever
have the opportunity to ask him that question. I am sure to
see him again. Azlvar-adiyan and the Commander know that I
am in this predicament. They will surely do something about
it. They will surely tell the Prince about me....
now the rowboat had gone quite far away. How did it go so
quickly? Ah this ship has been moving away too .... in the
opposite direction! These waves are growing bigger and
bigger; they sky seems to be becoming darker and darker. The
black cloud pillar had now grown to fill the west. Soon,
large patches of soot-black clouds were racing across the
sky. The sun quickly vanished over the west and dusk covered
everything in a blanket of darkness. It was difficult to
discern where the sea ended and sky began -- everything was
one dark black patch. Clouds were filling the eastern skies
too. He could not see the rowboat any more. It had vanished
from his sight. The wind was beginning to roar in
competition with the cacophony of swelling waves.
Unfurled sails on the ship's masts began to flap noisily.
The logs and boards on the deck began to roll and crash,
starting their own symphony of noise. He looked at the
hoisted sails and guessed that the ship was not racing
towards any one direction. It was swirling round and round
aimlessly. Whirlwind! They talk about whirlwinds. This must
be it! He had heard somewhere that sails must be rolled up
and stowed away when the ship was caught in a whirlwind.
But, how was that to be done? Could he do it alone? Perhaps
it is a job for ten men! I cannot do anything about it now.
God can take care. It is impossible to save this large ship
single handed. I know what will happen. This ship is going
to be battered this way and that; waves will dash against it
from all sides and soon break it into pieces or sink it to
the depths. There is no doubt about my fate now! Death by
drowning at mid-sea!
That astrologer at Kudanthai did
not say a word about this. Useless astrologer. If only I
meet him again .... I shall teach him some astrology.....
Something cool fell on his shoulders; one, two, many pebble
sized hail-stones showered over him. Each stone shone like
crystal gems -- see how they are falling from the sky; a
pain when they hit me, then a coolness. Look on the deck,
the sea, they are everywhere and they melt so quickly. He
had never seen a hailstorm till then. He was happy to have
enjoyed that experience before his untimely death. He began
gathering those hailstones playing with them. Their fiery
cool touch amazed him. The hail storm stopped as suddenly as
it had started. It had not even lasted half an hour! Soon a
heavy downpour came crashing down. He saw the rain cascade
over the deck, run down the ship's sides and fall into the
He was enthralled by the mastery of Chozla
carpenters and ship-builders: even if huge waves washed over
the deck, the water would flow over the sides and fall back
into the sea; as long as the door to the hold was bolted
shut tightly. Unless, the hull broke and water filled the
hold, the ship would not sink. He felt encouraged by this
observation. He ran to look at the hold-door; it was banging
noisily in the wind, letting rain get into the hold. Quickly
he pulled it shut and bolted the hold firmly.
wind and rain are unbearable, I could perhaps hide in there!
Those fools, leaving the safety of this well built ship,
venturing into this unfriendly sea! However, that boat was
also well built. It was a catamaran. Even the most turbulent
sea would not make it capsize. If indeed its boards broke,
the survivors could bind themselves to the out-rigger logs
bound to its sides. They would probably go ashore near Kodi
Vandiya Devan's mind leaped across form Kodi
Karai to Pazlayarai. How would the Emperor's beloved
daughter know about this fate that had overtaken him? Who
will tell her that he had drowned at sea while fulfilling
her orders? Will this sea tell her? This wind? Oh Good God!
Why did I not die before I met that Jewel of Womankind? Why
did I not meet glorious death in battlefields? You have made
me glimpse at paradise and then thrown me into the depths of
Wind and rain grew louder and stronger. Sails
and masts howled like ghouls and danced with the ship.
Darkness grew even darker. A sudden shaft of lightning
flashed from one end of the sea to the other; rolling
thunder followed instantly; ship boards shook; sea water
boiled over; every direction shuddered. Another lightning
stroke started low in the sky; it grew and grew branching in
every direction filling every nook and corner of the sky,
showering the world with an eerie light. Thunder broke in
world shattering splendor. Lightning and thunder danced
quicker and quicker -- which came first? light or sound?
"What an amazing sight? Why has the whole universe not split
yet?" Even before he could finish this thought, the sky
broke open shattering everything, drowning all in a deluge.
Waves danced in violent rage. Lightning flashed on swaying
mountains! Winds howled in glee and had their way with the
now tattered sails. How long could the ship bear this attack
from all the elements of the universe? It would surely sink!
Vandiya Devan was not depressed by that thought anymore. He
felt that he was going to experience a glorious death. His
heart began a dance of wild abandon, keeping step with the
devil waves. All the deck was drenched by the deluge of rain
and battering waves. Vandiya Devan began roaring with
laughter keeping in tune with the thunder reverberating all
around him. Wanting to experience every nuance of this
cosmic phenomenon, he had already bound himself tightly to
the main mast of the ship. He did not wish to be washed away
by the deluge! The ship swirled faster and faster; Vandiya
Devan twirled quicker and quicker with that swaying main
How long did that incredible dance continue?
Perhaps a few aeons? Or a few minutes? He had lost all sense
of time or direction. The wind was dying and rain had slowed
to a steady drizzle. Lightning had taken a break giving
chance to the sooty darkness.
He looked around in
disbelief. Oh wonder of wonders! I have escaped the most
terrible of whirlwinds. God must have really saved my
miserable life. I am sure to meet her once again... speak
with him again.... More patience is essential. Even if this
ship has survived the storm, where am I now. How will I
reach shore safely? The sky seemed to give him a reply: A
bright flash lit the whole sky; a hundred suns came to stand
before him. But, he could see nothing in that great light.
He was even afraid if he had lost his sight. He pinched his
eyes shut, tightly. Now, his ears were in danger. Lord
Indra's thunderbolt must have come unsheathed. This cannot
be a mere thunder of earthly skies. He could not open his
eyes and his ears were ringing with a whirring noise. After
some minutes, some new light seemed to pry his eyes open. A
new noise penetrated his ears. It was similar to the sound
made by trees in a forest fire. "oiiiieee!" He opened his
eyes to see that the main mast of his ship was on fire. Now,
he understood: that last flash and thunder -- lightning must
have struck somewhere very close, his mast had caught fire.
Wind and water were not powerful enough forces to destroy
that Chozla ship. Agni, the God of fires was succeeding
where his friend Vayu of Wind and Varuna of Water had
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 52 --
Upon seeing the main mast burning because of
a lightning strike, Vandiya Devan was sure that the ship
could not survive. Neither could he.
He was not
worried; some sort of euphoria grew in him. Laughing with
joy, he unbound himself from the mast. Why should he burn to
death in the middle of a ocean? It would be better to sink
to the bottom and drown in the water. He did not intend to
waste the last few hours of his mortal life. He wished to
gaze upon the still turbulent sea and enjoy it's beauty in
the light of the burning mast. It is good to become
completely familiar with the resting place of his mortal
remains. People say that persons who meet such unnatural
deaths would come back to haunt the place of their death.
Would my ghost wander over these parts? Float on these
winds? Dance over these waves? Will it swirl with the
whirlwinds that blow here?
Perhaps, one day, the
Princess would come here on a cruise.... The sailors would
point out `That is the spot where Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan
the noble of Vallam drowned.' Tear pearls would bloom in her
petal shaped eyes and flow down her lotus face. If my ghost
happens to see that, would it be able to wipe away those
The ship rose high upon the crest of a huge
wave. The light from the burning torch of the mast revealed
everything for some distance all around. The burning mast
poured colors of molten gold on the black crystal of the
stormy sea. Even as his eyes were drinking the beauty of
this spectacle, they spotted something else.
another sailing ship in the distance. He saw the Tiger-flag
flying over it's mast. Good Lord! There is no limit to the
marvels you have in store for us. His conscience said:
Arulmozli Varma is on that ship; he is looking for you.
Parthiban Pallava's ship was also caught in the same
whirlwind that had tormented Vandiya Devan's ship. But,
experienced navigators and seamen who knew the nature of
such storms were on board that ship. They lowered the many
sails and rolled them up. They held the rudder and turned
the ship around so that it did not have to bear the brunt of
the worst waves. For one moment it would appear as if the
ship would completely overturn; the next minute it would
manage to straighten itself. Mountain-like waves battered
that ship from every side; but, it held tight; not a single
board pried loose. The Ocean king played with that ship,
tossing it here and there like a ball. It twirled and turned
with every whim and fancy of the whirlwind. The deluge from
the skies tried to drown that fragile ship. That ship --
built by master craftsmen of Chozla lands, handled by master
seamen of Chozla lands --it bore the brunt of this assault
The Sea-captain said, "I have seen
whirlwinds and monsoon storms worse than this. I have sailed
my ship through worse waters than this. There is no need to
worry." However, he shared his concerns about another matter
with Prince Arulmozli and Lord Parthiban Pallava.
Dark clouds had gathered all around and smothered everything
in darkness. Moreover, the rain was incessant. Huge waves
screened the ship on all sides. In this situation, they
would not be able to spot the ship they were looking for,
even if it passed by their side. That ship would also be
turning and tossing just like this one. If the two ships
accidentally collided in that darkness: it would be an end
to one and all!
The experienced Captain said that the
surrounding darkness which blinded them was more dangerous
than the raging storm. Prince Arulmozli was aware of this.
He stood on the deck with sharp eyes searching all around.
With every flash of lightning, his bright eyes would quickly
swirl in search. His heart was in a turmoil of distress. His
dearest sister's messenger was a prisoner of Arab pirates
and despicable assassins. In addition, this whirlwind was
Perhaps I shall never see that brave
young cavalier again! Will I find that ship? Would he be
alive? What if the Captain's fears come true and our ships
dash against each other? Then, who will give my father the
news of the Mute-queen? I cannot share that family secret
with Lord Parthiban. He would be merely diverted by that
information and not realize its importance.
Arulmozli had not faced a setback in any venture till that
day. Would he face failure now? Never, the Ocean King will
not keep quiet if danger or distress threatens Ponni's
Beloved! He too saw that final, brilliant flash of lightning
and that last earth shattering roll of thunder. In fact he
had to close his eyes to avoid the brilliance of that flash.
When he opened his eyes again, he discerned another light --
different from the flash of lightning.
distance, a ship was dancing in a ghostly frenzy with all
its sails fully unfurled! A fire burned at the top of it's
main mast. In the light of that fire, the Prince beheld a
man bound to that main mast! God! Can there be anything more
miraculous? He was that brave cavalier Vandiya Devan of
Vallam. Why was he alone? What happened to the others? He
had no time to worry about such details; Arulmozli had made
up his mind instantly.
Others on the ship had seen
the same sight. They raised a loud cry, "There!" The Prince
ran up to the rescue-boat bound to the side of the deck
asking, "Who volunteers to come with me?"
sailors were stunned speechless when they understood his
intention. Nevertheless, several men stepped forward.
Parthiban and the Sea-captain tried to stop him.
"Prince! What is this? How can you lower this rowboat into
this stormy sea? How can we save anyone from that burning
ship? Even then, I will send some men and try. You need not
go!" protested Parthiban.
"Be careful! Anyone who
impedes me will never be forgiven by me!" he ordered in a
royal voice. He had already begun to lower the boat, "Two
men will suffice!"
The boat was lowered. Prince
Arulmozli and the two men he had selected jumped down into
it. And the boat moved away from the ship dancing madly over
the waves. All three began to pull at the oars with all
their strength. Slowly, slowly the boat neared the burning
ship. By now the fire had burned down the mast pole and was
jumping to adjacent poles. For some reason, Vandiya Devan
continued to stand at the same spot!
saw the other ship. He noticed the boat being lowered and
the men rowing towards him. He was lost in astonishment; he
was not even aware that he should move.
into the sea!" shouted Prince Arulmozli. He did not hear it
and continued standing like a statue. Soon the fire would
jump to the deck and the lower hold. The ship will sink. It
would be impossible to save him after that.
Prince made a quick decision. He picked up the rope from
that rescue boat and tied one end firmly to his waist, the
other to a hook in the boat. He warned the two seamen and
jumped into the sea. The waves, which had been playing ball
with the boat, began to toss Prince Arulmozli. They lifted
him up to the sky for a minute and tossed him down the next.
Arulmozli did not lose his sense of direction; he continued
with strong strokes towards that burning ship. A huge,
swollen wave came rolling by. If it had pushed him down, he
would have drowned in the depths; but, it was a good wave!
It carried him up its crest and tossed him onto the deck of
that burning ship.
Vandiya Devan had already freed
himself from the mast. He ran forward with a cry to help the
man tossed on the deck. Arulmozli immediately threw his arms
around his friend and held him tightly as he shouted, "Hold
me tight! Don't let go."
Next minute, both were
tossed into the sea again. Arulmozli and Vandiya Devan who
was holding tightly tried to near the rowboat. It was not
easy to reach it or get into it from that stormy sea.
Arulmozli found it impossible to carry the weight of Vandiya
Devan who was clinging to him and at the same time swim
towards the tossing boat. One moment it was within reach;
next minute it moved away. After a seemingly endless
struggle, another wave helped them. They rose with the wave
and with the help of the sailor tumbled into the catamaran.
"Pull the oars! Quick! Hurry!" roared Arulmozli. The burning
ship was about to collapse into the sea. The sinking
great-ship might topple the small boat. And if the ship
sinks and the fire goes out, they may not be able to find
the other ship in the darkness.
There! The burning
ship was beginning to sink. What an incredibly spectacular
sight it was! They were in no position to enjoy it. As
expected, a huge splash as the ship sank; a large heaving
wave; the tiny boat somehow managed to stay afloat. After
the ship sank, darkness once again enveloped them. They
could neither discern the other ship nor make out any
Were the boat and ship nearing each
other? Or moving apart? Both options held danger. If the
ship hit the boat in that darkness, the tiny craft would be
crushed. If it moved away... What would they be able to do
in the direction-less sea, in that stormy darkness?
Ocean King you must save the darling Prince, Beloved of your
sweetheart Ponni River.
By nature, the Wind God is
very very capricious. His whirlwind went away with the same
haste in which it had come. It tormented the sea all along
it's path. The whirlwind had died; however, the turbulence
raised by it would not die down soon; the stormy sea may
last for a day and a night. The storm was likely to travel
long distances. The sea would rise and invade the wide sandy
beaches of Kodi Karai. Huge tidal waves would try to destroy
the harbor ramparts of Nagapattinam. The storm would cast
its influence on Gangesan Thurai and Tricone Hill. Even
Mattotam and Rameswaram would not be untouched.
tiny boat carrying the Prince and his group tossed and
teetered. Soon the men stopped pulling at the oars. It was
useless now. They had no idea of direction or place. The
wind died; rain stopped; lightning and thunder had ceased.
But, the rage of the waves had not calmed. An unexpected
danger was slowly, slowly nearing that teetering boat.
When the burning ship sank, one of it's huge masts which had
not burned completely, came loose from the ship. It was
slowly floating closer and closer to the catamaran-boat.
Because of the darkness none in the boat saw it till it came
very close. "Pull away! Pull the oars," shouted a man. Even
before his shout died, the huge log dashed against the
bottom of the boat. That tiny craft split open with a
thundering sound. The planks split in smaller and smaller
"My Friend, Do not be afraid. That mast
pole is safer than this boat. Try and grab a hold of it,"
Arulmozli advised his friend Vandiya Devan.
Ponniyin Selvan part II B : Chapter 53 --
Song of Sustenance
Those who stood on the shores near River
Thondai watched till Prince Arulmozli reached Parthiban's
ship. As soon as the Prince had gone aboard, the boat
returned to the shore. Commander Bhoothi Vikrama seemed
happy; joy reflected upon his face.
"God must be on
our side without doubt. How can the sign of the conch and
discus on the Prince's hands go wrong? Parthiban will safely
carry him to Kanchi. We and our friends have to move towards
Tanjore." He seemed to be speaking to himself. He realized
that Azlvar-adiyan was standing by his side.
are standing here! It does not matter, there is nothing
unknown to a confidential spy of the Prime Minister. Well,
What are your plans? Will you come to Mattotam with me?"
asked the Commander.
"No Sir. There is another order
given me by the Prime Minister. I have to finish that..."
"What is that?"
Azlvar-adiyan looked towards
Poonkuzlali and the Mute-queen who stood away from them.
"Is it something to do with those women?" asked the
"Concerns one of them. The Prime Minister
has ordered that if I happen to seen a deaf-mute like her in
Lanka, I should somehow bring her to Tanjore."
"Extraordinary order! He could have ordered you to catch one
of the storms blowing in these parts and bring it instead!
It would be easier than taking hold of that mute-woman. I
wonder who she is? She seems to have a lot of affection for
our Prince. Do you know anything about her?"
that she is mute; born deaf. I am aware that it would be
easier to capture a storm than lead her anywhere. Still,
since my master has ordered it, I shall make an effort,"
said Azlvar-adiyan Nambi.
"This boat-girl seems to be
friendly with her. Look at them conversing in sign language.
Ask that girl to come here. I must warn her ....."
Azlvar-adiyan walked up to them and told Poonkuzlali that
the Commander was asking for her. She walked towards the
"Here Girl! You seem to be quite
intelligent. You came in time with an important news. You
have been a great help to the Chozlas. I shall not forget. I
shall reward you appropriately at the right time."
"Thank you My Lord! I do not wish for any reward." She spoke
"I wont forget even if you do not wish
it. Let all this confusion die down. Afterwards I shall find
you a suitable husband from among the brave soldiers of the
Chozla Army. No ordinary man can be a husband for you. He
must be an exceptional fellow like Bhima of the Epic.
Otherwise you would trample him underfoot!" the Commander
laughed at his own joke.
Poonkuzlali was looking at
her feet. Rage filled her body. She controlled herself. What
could be the point in quarreling with this foolish old man?
She calmed herself.
"Remember this one thing. Don't
think you can take liberties with the Prince because you
have helped him. Stop with throwing nets to catch
ocean-fish. Don't hope to net royalty in your catch. Be
warned Girl! It would be dangerous to get too close to him."
The Commander was not wasting any subtlety. His voice was
harsh. Each word dropped like molten lead into Poonkuzlali's
Angry words of reply bubbled to her lips. But,
she was not able to speak, her tongue stuck to her choking
throat. The molten lead in her ears must have tried to
emerge from her eyes: they burned with a fiery heat. She
walked away without raising her head, away from the beach.
Her slow steps began to quicken as she spared a glance
towards her mute-aunt. Azlvar-adiyan was trying to say
something to her. She felt like running away from every
human being. I do not want to hear any human voice. Men are
cruel beings. What harsh words they utter! How fortunate it
would have been if all of them had been born mute!
After some stretch through the forest, she reached the banks
of River Thondai. She began walking inland along that bank
aiming for her hidden boat. I must find my boat quickly; get
into it and escape out to sea. I must get away far into the
open ocean where no human voice can be heard. I must drop my
oars. The boat should dance on tossing waves. I should go
floating on endless water, timelessly. Only then will my
agony be soothed. My heart wounded by the Commander's poison
words will be healed. Anger will calm down. How could that
old man say it? `Stop with throwing nets to catch
ocean-fish! Do not try to net the Prince.' Am I casting my
net at him? Chee! Look at the turn his old mind takes!
Sea fish are much better than humans living on the land.
They never speak such harsh words. They swim and play in the
deep ocean and enjoy happiness. They have neither worry nor
sorrow. Why was I not born a fish living in the blue sea?
Then I would not be caught in these worldly emotions of
anger, love, wants and desires. I could go swimming
endlessly. Then none would try to part me from my Prince or
tattle slander. Even that is no sure thing. These horrid men
would come to the depths with their nets. What if they net
only one of the pair of fish? Villains!
Her rage gave
her legs a quickness. By mid-day, she had found her boat. It
was safe in the hiding place. That boat was her dearest
friend; her sanctuary. That small boat was her only solace
in the world full of distress and sorrow. It is a surprise
that it is not stolen! Let everyone be damned. Let that
horrid Commander guard his precious Prince. Let him hang
that Kodumbalur girl around his neck! Why should I care? I
have my boat and my oars. Strength in my arms and the wide
ocean before me. Ocean King ... You will not betray your
darling daughter even if all others forsake her, would you?
Poonkuzlali got into her boat and began rowing towards the
sea. Since she went with the flow of the river, she was at
the mouth very soon. Within minutes she was at sea. She
realized that a whirlwind was imminent. She knew the signs
-- the grey ring around the moon last night; sultry and
muggy day today; not a leaf moved on the branches. Yes,
black clouds are already gathering in the southwest. A storm
is sure to break very soon. The stormy sea would be a
beautiful sight. But, I should not get caught in the
whirlwind. Let me find shelter in Ghost Island. I can watch
the havoc of the storm from there. After the storm blows
over, and the sea begins to calm down, I can row my boat
towards Kodi Karai. Why hurry?
That ship might have
reached Kodi Karai by now. Luckily it will escape the
whirlwind. The Prince would have safely landed there.
Perhaps he has gone on to Mamallai Port? Why should I bother
about that? All that matters is he will escape the
whirlwind. Poonkuzlali did not realize that those sailing
ships were immobilized in dead calm before the whirlwind due
to lack of any wind to push them. The Commander's words, `Do
not try to throw your nets at the Prince.' were ringing in
her ears again and again and hurting her. Better that I do
not land at Kodi Karai too soon! She decided to row towards
It was not too far away; within half an
hour she was on that desert island. The storm was already
starting. She dragged her boat high up the beach and secured
it firmly. Poonkuzlali walked towards a small Buddhist
Shrine in that island. Near that holy shrine, she found
shelter from the rain and wind inside a cave-room. But, she
was restless, eager to see the tournament of the Gods of
Wind and Water. Emerging from the shelter, she walked up
some steps and climbed to the tower of that shrine.
Nature around her echoed the turbulence in her heart. The
hundreds of coconut palms on that island swayed and danced
like the demon followers of Shiva dancing at the end of
creation. Waves rose to cover the tops of those palms
sometimes. Poonkuzlali watched the ghoulish dance
accompanied by thunder and lightning. He body swayed to that
music; her long hair came unbound and flew around her; rain
drenched her and thunder deafened her ears. She stood there
for a long time enjoying that storm. She felt that nature
was putting on a show just for her.
He would have
reached safe harbor at Kodi Karai by now. Perhaps he is
staying at my father's house. Or gone to the Royal Palace at
Nagapattinam. Could he be still at sea on that ship? So
what? The whirlwind cannot hurt that big ship. He has many
men to protect him. Will he think of me? `Where is foolish
Poonkuzlali?' Will he think that? No. He may think about
that Vandiya Devan sent by his sister. He may even think
about that noblewoman of Kodumbalur. Why should he remember
this poor girl of the fisher-folk?
Late in the night,
she went back to the cave shelter and caught some sleep.
There was no peace even in that sleep. She was casting nets
in the sea. The Prince was caught in the net. Later, the
Prince and she had turned into fish-folk. After each dream
she startled into wakefulness; chiding herself for the
By the time she woke, after sunrise, the storm had
died completely. The waves were not big anymore. The storm
had unleashed havoc on that island. Tall palms had been
uprooted and strewn here and there. As she was examining the
devastation, she saw an log floating on the waves, coming
shoreward. A man was bound to that log. She ran out and
helped him ashore, reviving him with some fresh water. That
man seemed half dead. He was a fisherman from a coastal
village of Lanka. He had gone fishing and was caught in the
whirlwind. He had lost his boat mate to the sea and had more
"Earlier in the night, the storm had
passed and rain lessened. Darkness surrounded us in the open
seas. Suddenly, there was a huge roll of thunder and
lightning. In that light I could see two great-ships. One
ship caught fire and began burning. I and my mate watched
that for some time. That ship seemed deserted; no one was on
it. The other ship seemed to have some men; they were moving
hurriedly. The burning ship soon began to sink. The other
vanished in the darkness." The fisherman spoke with hesitant
Poonkuzlali worried if one of those ships was
the Prince's ship. It need not be. There are many ships on
these seas. Perhaps some of the men from that burning ship
are still in the sea. They might be floating on some log or
boat. I should help them. My boat may be able to save some
lives. Otherwise this birth is useless.
pulled her boat into the water and climbed into it. With all
the strength of her iron hands, she pulled at the oars. The
boat flew over the waves. It was difficult till she had
crossed the wave lines; after that her hand relaxed to their
usual pace. A sudden joy filled her soul. Her old song began
to tremble on her lips. It came alive with new words:
When wave filled oceans seethe
Why does the inner
soul fill with joy?
When the earth-maid is in
Why does the heart burst with bliss?
When thunder rumbles and directions tremble
that dexterous dance?
Vandiya Devan and Prince
Arulmozli who had taken hold of the drifting mast pole,
floated on the water, battered by the waves. It was just one
night, but, Vandiya Devan felt as if it was one epoch. He
lost hope very quickly. There is no chance of reaching a
shore. Each time they were pulled down the valley of a
trough, he felt it was the end. He kept lamenting again and
again, "My hasty nature has dragged you into this awful
predicament! What shall I do?"
The Prince tried to
soothe him and revive his hopes. "Men have survived even
four or five days of floating in open water like this."
"How many days since we have been floating like this?"
"Not even one night!" replied Prince Arulmozli.
"Lies! Lies! It must be many days!"
Very soon, he was
troubled by another horror. His throat felt parched with
thirst. He was floating on limitless water; but not a drop
to quench his thirst. This was the worst torture.
patient," said the Prince, "day will break soon and we will
be washed ashore."
"Sir, I cannot tolerate this any
more. Unbind me. I will drown in this water." Vandiya Devan
had given up all enthusiasm. Arulmozli tried to cheer him
up. It seemed impossible. Vandiya Devan seemed to be going
crazy. He tried to free his bindings. The Prince took note,
and moved closer. With one thump, Arulmozli rendered his
When Vandiya Devan revived, day
had broken and it was bright. Even the waves had grown
quieter. Arulmozli said, "Friend, we must be nearing some
shore. I can see palm trees. Patience for a little while."
"Sir, let go of me. Save yourself somehow."
loose hope. I will not abandon you like that! What is that?
Someone seems to be singing."
Yes they could hear
Poonkuzlali's song as she floated in her boat.
wave filled oceans seethe
Why does the inner soul
fill with joy?
It sounded like a song of sustenance
to them. Even Vandiya Devan who had lost more than half his
life, who was tired of body and mind, even he was revived by
that song. He came back to life. "Prince, it is
Poonkuzlali's voice. She must be in her boat. We are saved!"
Soon the boat was visible to their eyes. It came closer and
closer. Poonkuzlali was motionless with surprise, "Can this
be real?" she wondered.
Arulmozli unbound the ropes
around his friend and then climbed into her boat. He then
helped his friend get in. Poonkuzlali stood motionless,
holding her oars, like a statue.
Ponniyin Selvan - Part II Whirlwind is