Thursday, 31 July 2014

Chapter 54 – The Venom of a Woman

One of the old palaces of Pallava Kings was readied for the Crown Prince and his retinue. That night, Malaimaan left the palace to hear the story of Aravan – the son of Arjuna at the Mahendra Mandapam. After a sumptuous dinner, Karikalan and Parthibendran, sat in the terrace of the palace watching the beach and the harbour. They could hear the temple bells clanging along with the continuous roar of the sea waves.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Chapter 53 – Malaimaan’s Wrath

Parthibendran Pallava
When Karikalan heard Malaimaan’s words, he did not faint away in shock but he was shaken. Even Parthibendran fell silent and shocked. Silence reigned over the small mandapam for a while.

Karikalan looked at his grandfather and said, “Thatha! Even I heard the rumours but I thought they were baseless. Are you sure about this? Do you have proof? Does he have a claim at all? Is it possible?”

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chapter 52 – Old Man’s Marriage

Malayaman, Aditya Karikalan and Parthibendran
On the beach, there are numerous stones dotting the landscape as the waves weaved in and out and the ancient sculptors had converted all the big stones into small mandapams.

The men alighted from the chariot and headed towards one of these small mandapams. Malaimaan and Karikalan sat on two stone benches near the mandapam, while Parthibendran stood next to them. The waves sometimes came near the mandapam and wet their feet. At a distance, a ship was seen waiting, while some soldiers were loading something in a small boat to carry to the ship.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Chapter 51 – Mammallapuram

Mammalapuram Today
Readers! We invite you to journey with us to Mammallapuram harbour. It has been more than 300 years since Mahendra Pallava and Narasimha Pallava built stone temples near the harbour. Mammallapuram wore a weary look as the sun shone down on the harbour. Many stone palaces are in state of disrepair and what once was a busy harbour bringing in trade from different parts of the world looked deserted today. The harbour near Mammallapuram was quite deep, though during the Pallava times, ships could come close to the beach. Now, the merchant ships were stationed at a safe distance and goods were unloaded with the help of small boats.

After the decline of Pallava Kingdom, the Cholas too built many temples near the harbour from a stone quarry that was found nearby. Within the city, a huge temple for Maha Vishnu was built by Parameshwaran Pallavan, a king who patronised both Saivaites and Vaishnavaites. A holy temple that was sung by Thirumangai Azhwar, Maha Vishnu is found in a Thala Sayana form here, where he sleeps eternally on the ground. His divine verses about the temple and the harbour reveal the greatness of Pallava period, even after great kings like Mahendra Pallava and Narasimha Pallava.

Sthala Sayana Temple Today
One hundred years after Thirumangai Azhwar sang about this temple, the Pallava Kingdom grew weak and the sun rose on Chola Kingdom.

But nothing could erase the beautiful sculptural work of Mammallapuram or the significance of beautiful Kanchi temples. They remain as embodiments of iTamil culture and history even today.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chapter 50 - Paranthakar Adhurasalai

It was a glorious morning in Pazhaiarai next day. A beautifully decorated royal elephant was brought to Kundavai’s palace. Climbing through the specially built platform steps, Kundavai and Vanathi sat on the elephant’s back that had a special seat. A mahout walked next to the elephant, leading them through the streets. Hearing the clanging bells of the elephant, many came out to see the princesses riding through their streets. Happy to watch their beloved elayapirati, many women followed her behind the elephant.

The elephant led the princesses towards the Padai veedu streets where the families of the soldiers lived. Small boys who were practicing with their swords and sticks left their play and joined the crowd. On the verandahs of the houses, many pictures of Lord Muruga and his legends were drawn, while some also had pictures of famous Chola Kings. When the elephant entered the street, all residents came out of their houses to greet the princesses. Soon there was a sizeable crowd behind the elephant that shouted, ‘Long live Elayapirati!’ ‘Long live Princess Kundavai!’

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Chapter 49 – An Astonishing Tale

Princess Kundavai took the olai that Vandiya Devan gave and read her brother’s message. Her creased forehead cleared and her face bloomed, when she read the contents of the message.

She looked up at Vandiya Devan and asked, “Now that you have given this message to me, what do you intend to do next?”

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Chapter 48 – Whirlpools and Beautiful Eyes

Man, one of Brahma’s finest creations lived near a hill. It gave him shelter from rains and the sultry sun. The bountiful forest provided him enough food to survive. Other animals in the forest trembled at his sight, while he roamed around woodland without any care, free as a bird. Yet at the depth of his heart, he yearned for something, for someone. He often experienced a longing that tugged at his heartstrings, giving him sleepless nights.  He felt that he was searching for something that he has not seen, so far. He wondered incessantly about it in the morning, while he dreamed about it in the night. His heart yearned to see the thing that was attracting him so much. ‘Where will I find that thing that is giving me sleepless nights?’

Brahma had also created a woman. She lived on the other side of the hill. And just like the man, she took shelter within the caves of the hill and partook the fruits that the forest offered her. Outwardly, she was happy and carefree. But inside she was burning up with an unknown passion, an unknown quest for the one who would complete her.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Chapter 47 – Isana Shiva Pattar

Azhwarkadiyan went to his brother Isana Shiva Pattar’s house after his meeting with Princess Kundavai. Located near the Vada Mettrali Temple, the Pattar’s house was about half a kilometre distance away from the royal palace.

Vadathali Temple today
The city was quiet and the streets were empty, as all the drama and entertainment troupes seemed to be done for the day. As he walked by the houses of Padai veedu, he noticed many women were standing outside their houses and talking in groups, angrily. They were no ordinary women. Each one of them had sent their father, husband and sons armed with a sword and a spear to Eezham to fight along with Prince Arul Mozhi Varman. Every house in this street had sacrificed a son or a husband to the glory of the kingdom. He looked around wondered about the dissatisfaction that these women felt now and worried where it would all lead to, if they started protesting too loudly.

It was very dark, when he reached the temple. Situated atop a small cliff, the temple cliff was once occupied by Jain monks who meditated in the caves. When Appar Swami came here for the first time, he couldn’t see the temple, because the artificial catacombs that the Jains had built were all around. He entreated the Pallava chieftain who was ruling the Chola Kingdom to intercede. The chieftain ordered the demolition of the catacombs and within them a small shiva temple was seen and Appar sang in delight.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Chapter 46 - Murmurs and Rumours

After meeting Queen Sembiyanmadevi, Azhwarkadiyan headed towards Princess Kundavai’s palace. On the way, the sights that met him at Pazhaiarai’s streets, filled his heart with enthusiasm. He happily noted how people celebrated Krishna’s birthday with such excitement. He felt no doubt about the fact that Vaishnavam was here to stay. For over hundred years, under the patronage of Chola kings, many Shiva temples were rebuilt, many grants have been given to them, countless jewels, land and wealth have been showered, yet it did not diminish the people’s enthusiasm to celebrate a festival for Maha Vishnu’s avatar, Krishna. There is no doubt that Krishna’s many miraculous deeds and endearing stories have captured the people’s imagination. So many troupes of street dancers and drama groups, have come here to celebrate this festival. He noted how people were clapping energetically at the performance of one of the dance troupes.

Azhwarkadiyan Nambi
The actors who were playing Vasudeva, Devaki, Krishna, Balarama and Kamsa were showing their acting prowess to the public. With the public were cheering loudly, the actors sang loudly and performed many interesting japes that attracted claps and frequent shouts. Azhwarkadiyan, stopped to see their performance. The scene was where Krishna was challenging Kamsa for a duel. Krishna was played by a small boy, who listed out the many crimes that Kamsa had committed and challenged him for a duel. In his reply, Kamsa who was played by a broad chested warrior wearing a mask, thundered, “Hey Krishna! Your magic prowess will not work with me. I am going to kill you now. I will kill your brother Balaraman and your father Vasudevan. I am also going to kill that Veera Vaishnavan, who is standing there with thiruman all over his body!”

Everybody now looked at Azhwarkadiyan and started laughing. The vaishnavan looked around with anger and his hands itched to bring his staff down on the actor who was playing Kamsa. But it was pointless, as he had hidden his face with a large wooden mask. He silently slid away and left. But something was niggling his mind. That Kamsa’s voice seemed a bit familiar to him and he felt as if the actor was shouting his dialogues, just to camouflage his voice.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Chapter 45 – The Crime of the Spy

Two thousand years ago, the great King Karikala Cholan built the banks of cauvery river on both the sides. The banks protected the land for many years from river floods however when Pandyas and Pallavas rose to power, the Cholas star declined. When kingdom was torn apart by war, there was no one to safeguard the land, from flooding river waters. This resulted in floods that changed the geography of the river. Small streams and large lakes were formed where there were none earlier. There was one such lake that flowed near the palaces of Chola kings in Pazhaiarai.

Arisalaru River Today

Later Chola kings, deepened this lake and maintained it to delight their anthapura women with boat rides. It also acted as a natural security for the palace. Common people couldn’t venture near this lake easily and only those who were associated with the palace and its noble residents were allowed to take a boat through the lake. Many palaces were built along with this lake and since Pazhaiarai was once the capital of the Cholas, many beautiful gardens were laid in along the banks of the lake. Many palaces had private areas, where the palace women could swim, bathe and play in the garden away from the prying eyes of the public.

Royal custom decreed that when a new king ascended the throne, he would build a new palace here, while the wives of the old king retained their old one. In the same manner, Princess Kundavai’s palace was situated right next to Queen Sembiyanmadevi’s. It was the palace that her father had lived, when he ruled from Pazhaiarai and since he moved to Thanjavur, Kundavai became its mistress.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Chapter 44 – This is her doing!

Azhvarkadiyan Nambi
A young sculptor belonging to lineage of great sculptors of Mahabalipuram came forward to appeal with Sembiyanmadevi. Describing his dream to build a new temple, the sculptor displayed small-scale model that excited the old queen to no end.

She looked at the man standing next to Azhvarkadiyan Nambi and said, “Patterey! Look at this beautiful structure. I wish I could rebuild all the important Shiva Temple in Chola Kingdom in this new design.”

“Mother! Who can possibly say ‘no’ to such a noble design of yours? My suggestion is that we can redesign all those temples that are sung in the divine devaram to signify its importance.” Said Isana Shiva Pattar.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Chapter 43 - Pazhaiarai

Now that our hero is on his way to Pazhaiarai, braving hoards of soldiers who are out to catch him, let us go ahead and pay a visit to this city.

Let us take a glimpse at this old city from the banks of Arasalaru. What a beautiful city is this? The unparalleled beauty of this city cannot be described in words. Bountiful with flowing gentle rivers, swaying greens, scented flowers, graceful palaces and holy temples, this city issues a welcome invitation to all.

The old city of Pazhaiarai had many small villages within its borders making this erstwhile capital, an important landmark in Chola history. With four Shiva temples in four directions, the city also housed the families of Chola soldiers in four distinct streets. Amidst them, stood a whole host of palaces for kings, queens, princes and princesses built right from the time of Vijayalaya Chola.

The grandeur and the charm of the city today is so exhilarating that it makes one wonder, how it must have looked years ago when Sundara Chola was residing here. Reduced to a sleepy town today, Pazhaiarai was once the epitome of culture and religion.

Ever since Sundara Chola shifted his capital to Thanjavur, Pazhaiarai’s importance had reduced. There were no new visitors, emissaries from other countries, delegates from neighbouring kingdoms, travelling mendicants, important officials, poets, artists, artisans stopped coming here to pay their respects. Instead, they made their way to the new capital.

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Volume 1 - New Flood