Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Chapter 13: Ponniyin Selvan

Just when Vandiya Devan was finding his way by foot towards Maandotham and Anirudhar and Azhwarkadiyan were conversing about the Kingdom’s affairs, Princess Kundavai and Vanathi were on their way to Thanjavur on a royal elephant. Kundavai Devi had not visited Thanjavur for some time now, for many reasons. In the first place, Thanjavur did not have enough palaces to house the princess and her retinue. With result, she would have to stay at her father’s royal residence which was not only inconvenient but also lacked privacy. Independent by nature, Kundavai couldn’t abide by the rules of security laid down by the Pazhuvur brothers. Apart from that, she found it difficult to bear the arrogant behaviour of Pazhvur Elaya Rani whose insolence knew no bounds. Her father too accepted her reservations and did not demand her presence at the capital often.
Princess Kundavai

But after meeting Vandiya Devan, Kundavai felt that none of these reasons mattered much when the safety of the Kingdom and that of the throne were under question. ‘How can I roam joyously around the gardens of Pazhaiarai when the Kingdom is under such grave danger?’ was the question she asked herself. With the Crown Prince away in Kanchipuram and her younger brother in Elangai, ‘Who will take care of the kingdom?’ Her brother had cautioned her more than once to use spies to learn what was happening in the capital. But time for covert knowledge was past and she knew that she had to be in Thanjavur, beside her father.

So far, she had been uncomfortable with the arrogance and ambitious behaviour of the Pazhuvur brothers and when she learned about their plot to crown Madhuranthakan she knew that it was time she paid a visit to the Capital. That poor boy Madhuranthakan! God knows what they are planning to do with him. They have also somehow garnered the support of important chieftains and petty kings to help his cause. They might even stoop to kill the king to fulfil their ambition. They wouldn’t find a more opportune time to act than now with both the sons away from the Capital, it would be very easy to crown Madhuranthakan as the next king. If they were short of ideas, that Rakshashi Nandini would supply them with a few murderous ones. These were the thoughts that prompted Kundavai to leave her carefree world at Pazhaiarai and move towards the fort of Thanjavur. At the capital, it would easy to see through the machinations of the Pazhuvur brothers and hopefully save the kingdom from grave danger.

But why do they want to crown Madhuranthakan? Do they truly believe that he deserves the throne? No. They want a puppet king on the throne, someone who would listen to everything that they say while the real power would rest in the hands of Pazhuvetarayar and his queen. She would then rule over the Chola Kingdom and hold sway over everybody’s life, including hers. ‘No! This will not come to pass when I am alive.’ Let me see just how clever she really is.

While living in Thanjavur would be uncomfortable enough, her parents would undoubtedly ask, ‘Why have you come here instead of staying comfortably at Pazhaiarai?’ It would impossible to go anywhere outside the Fort without the permission of Thanjavur Commander Chinna Pazhuvetrayar. If that were not enough, the idle women folk at the palace would start talking about her marriage, which left her seething with irritation. She would have to meet Nandini upon occasion and bear her arrogant behaviour and ungracious self. But none of these were worth a consideration when the Kingdom was under such grave danger. She also intuitively sensed an imminent danger nearing her father.

Apart from all these considerations, there was yet another important reason for her travel. She wanted to know whether Vandiya Devan had reached his destination or not. She now knew that the Pazhuvur brothers had sent soldiers to Kodi Karai to capture Vandiya Devan. Will they be successful in capturing that brave youth? She thought not. But if they do, they would bring him to Thanjavur and wouldn’t it be helpful if she were there too. They dare not do any harm to a messenger sent by the Crown Prince that’s why they have brought about the false charge of attempted murder on him. If they can blame him for trying to murder Sambureyar’s son, they would be within their rights to imprison him. There was no doubt about the fact that it was a false charge but it might be difficult to prove it. She was determined to speak to Kandan Maran and learn his version of the story as well.

While Kundavai’s mind was unravelling the political intrigues and imminent threats against her father’s kingdom, her companion and friend Vanathi’s innocent mind was engaged with just one thought. ‘When would Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar come back home?’

Akka! You said that you have asked him to come home immediately? Where will he arrive? At Pazhaiarai or Thanjavur?”

She was wondering whether the Prince would arrive at Pazhaiarai when they were visiting Thanjavur.

Kundavai who was otherwise engaged didn’t hear her question properly. “Are you asking about Ponniyin Selvan, Vanathi?”

“Yes Akka. I was asking about him. You have called him ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ again. Won’t you tell me the story behind that name? We have all the time in the world, as this elephant is moving very slowly towards the Fort.”

“If the elephant were to go anymore faster than this, we wouldn’t be able to sit on it. Do you know what happened in the Thakkolam war?”

“No. I don’t. I want to know the story behind the name ‘Ponniyin Selvan’.”

“Looks like you will not forget about that. Alright, here is the story…”

In the early years of Sundara Chola’s ascension to the throne, his family life was very happy. He used to take many pleasure trips along with his family in the palace boats along the banks of the Cauvery. Along with his wife and children and palace servants, bards and musicians, they used to have a merry day of pleasure. With sounds of laughter, encouragements and poetic verses, the king loved to travel along with his family, whenever he felt the need to relax from the burden of the work.
Once while they were travelling in the palace boat thus, the King and the Queen were engaged in a serious conversation and there arose an alarm, ‘Where is the child? Where is Arul Mozhi?’ Startled they looked around to find their youngest son missing from the boat. Kundavai who had raised the alarm searched everywhere around and soon the servants and the King himself jumped into the water to search for the lost child.

Kundavai was just seven years old then, while Arul Mozhi was five years old. Arul Mozhi was the darling child of the entire kingdom. But more than anybody else, it was Kundavai who took care of him and loved him almost like a mother rather than a sister. When she found her younger brother missing, she was alarmed and shaken. Worried she looked everywhere and around the boat to see whether he had fallen into the water by accident. But how long could they search for the missing child in the water and where to search? Learning about the danger to their darling child, the queen and some of her womenfolk fainted away in fear, while some cried bitterly.

Suddenly there was a miracle. They saw her at a distance from the bank; a woman holding the missing child in her hands. Half submerged in the water, she held out the child in her hand. Her beautiful face, arms and shoulders were the only thing that were seen. 

Prince Arul Mozhi saved by Mother Cauvery

The King who was swimming nearby, immediately took the child from her and by then the palace boat had neared them. He gave the child to the servants and got into the boat and suddenly fainted. With the king indisposed and a child to take care, the queen and her servants forgot all about the woman who had saved the child. After some time when things settled down, they pondered over who saved the child. No one came forward to claim the honour of saving the little Prince’s life. No one had noticed what happened to the woman after she handed over the child to the King. After endless discussion, they decided that it must have been Mother Cauvery who had saved the Prince. And every year, they held a special puja for River Ponni (tributary of Cauvery where the Prince had drowned) and since then, the Prince was referred lovingly as Ponniyin Selvan (Ponni’s beloved).

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Chapter 12: Master and the Disciple

Anbil Anirudhar
We would like to acquaint our readers with some important historical information. In the district of Thiruchirapalli and Lalgudi Taluk, there is a village called Anbil. About forty years ago (this novel was written in 1951) a villager was rebuilding his old house and had dug the foundation pits when he made an amazing discovery. He discovered a whole bunch of copper plates inscribed with writing. Bulky and heavy, he kept this discovery of his at home for some time. Later, he handed the copper plates to Shri Lakshman Chettiyar who took them to Maha Mahopadhyay Swaminatha Iyer as he felt that the copper plates held some important historical information. Realizing the importance of these plates, he handed over the plates to Shri T.A. Gopinath Rao who knew how to decipher ancient scripts. Gopinath Rao was in turn delighted to have the copper plates in hand as they were a veritable treasure of important information related to the Cholas.

The copper plates chronicled the names of Chola Kings and that of King Sundara Chola who had granted Pathu Veli land to his Prime Minister Anirudha Brahmarayar, four years after his ascension to throne. The royal scribe who had inscribed his name as Madhava Bhattar listed the names of all the kings who had preceded King Sundara Chola. The plates also had information about the illustrious Vaishnava family of Anirudha Brahmarayar right from his great grand father to his parents. It also praised the service that this family had rendered to the temple of Sriranganathar. These copper plates were of great historical importance as it confirmed many important details of the Chola lineage and also contained many interesting information that was hitherto unknown so far. Since then these Copper plates have been referred to as ‘Anbil Sepidiggal’ (Anbil Plates). It is essential for the readers to know that Anirudha Brahmarayar was important enough for the Chola Kingdom to record the grants made to him for posterity through Copper plates. 

 The soldiers brought Alwarkadiyan Nambi inside the mandapam where Anirudha Brahmarayar was giving audience. Azwarkadiyan immediately approached the Prime Minister and went around him three times before bowing low to him.

Ohm! Hreem Shreem Hasht! Master! With your permission I will take leave.”
Smiling at his disciple, Anirudhar asked, “Thirumalai! What is this? Where do you wish to leave?”

“I would like to surrender the name Azwarkadiyan to the holy waters of this Rameshwaram and become a Kala Moogar Saivan. I would like to don a necklace of skulls and hold a large skull in hand and travel from one place to another uttering the holy mantra of ‘Ohm! Hreem Shreem Hasht’ on my lips I wouldn’t hesitate to break the head of any vaishnavan who comes in my way…”

“That’s all very fine. Will my head suffer the same fate?”

“Master! Do you perchance still follow the holy Vaishnava tradition?”

“Thirumalai! Why do you have such doubts? Who do you think I am?”

“I do have doubts about you master. Are you not the great grandson of Anbil Anandaazhwar Swamigal who had dedicated his life to the service of Shri Ranganathar?”

“Yes indeed! I am.”

“Are you the grandson of Anbil Anirudha Bhatarcharya who taught one and many about the holy scriptures of Vaishnava tradition.”

“I am. I am his namesake too.”

“Are you the son of Narayana Bhatacharya who sang the beautiful songs of our Azhwars?”

“Yes. I am.”

“If that is, then something is wrong with my eyes. I cannot believe my eyes and nor can I believe what I just heard.”

“What makes you doubt your eyes and ears?”

“I heard that you had organized for temple festivities in the Shiva temple here?”
“You heard right. I did organize it.”

“Aren’t you the same master who taught me that there is no God greater than our Lord Vishnu? Didn’t you teach me that there is no hymn holier than our Narayana Mantram?”

“Yes indeed, I taught you that.”

“Master! When you as a guru can do things that are contrary to your own teachings then you should not have objections to me becoming a Kala Moogar Saivan.”

“Thirumalai! Are you referring to my visit to the Shiva Temple?”

“Master! Which deity did you pray to at the Shiva Temple?

“To our Lord Narayana of course.”

“I have heard that Lord Rama worshipped Shiva as a Lingam in the temple here. That’s why the Veera Saiva Battars here provoke me to fight with them.”

“Thirumalai! Don’t you remember this hymn by Namazhwar?” Saying thus, Anirudhar recited a hymn from memory.

“Thirumalai! Even our Sadagopar saw the form of Lord Vishnu in all inanimate objects and you are still objecting to a visit that I paid to Shiva Temple.”

“Master! You are right. I will henceforth learn all the hymns of Nammazhwar and dedicate my life to gathering such pearls of wisdom. I beseech you to grant me a boon!”

“First tell me about this boon and then I will think about granting it.”

“Some time ago, I had visit the Veeranarayana Perumal Kovil where I had sung some songs by Nammazhwar. I met Ishwara Battar who has dedicated his life to the service of the temple. Along with him was his young son who asked me whether I knew any more songs. To my shame, I had to acknowledge that I didn’t. I wish to dedicate my life and time to the holy service of Shri Narayana henceforth. That’s the boon I beseech from you master!”

“Thirumalai! There will be many other souls who will dedicate their life to the noble work of Azhwars and Lord Vishnu. While you and I have dedicated our life to the service of the Chola Kingdom. Don’t you remember the holy oath that we swore when we started working?”

“I do remember Master. But I have been having doubts about this work for sometime, especially when I hear people talking all sorts of things about you.”

“Is that so? What are they saying about me?”

“Many are saying that ever since the King bestowed lands on your person, you have forgotten all about the holy Vaishnava tradition and had travelled across the sea in a ship without any heed to …”

“I am not worried about what people say about me. We cannot stay in one place like frogs in the well. And about the king bestowing lands to me, do remember one thing, I was the King’s Prime Minister for four long years before he made this generous grant for me.”

“Do you know how long the King and I have been friends? We studied together under the same guru and learned mathematics, astronomy, political strategy, literature and history. At that time, no one thought that Sundara Chozhar would ascend the throne. Who knew that his uncles Rajadhithar and Gandarathithar would die so suddenly? Who knew that his own father Aringzha Cholar would die of wounds suffered in the battle? Sundara Chozhar knew that there were bound to be many difficulties and hurdles if he ascended the throne. He said that he would accept the throne only if I became his Maha Mandiri. That’s when I swore to help him in governing the Kingdom and have been fulfilling that vow since then. Don’t you know all this Thirumalai?”

“I know about this Master but sadly the people of the kingdom do not know about this and they talk all sorts of things about you.”

“I am not bothered about what people talk. Even I have had many doubts about this profession of mine ever since I left the traditional service of Ranganathar to serve my king. But for the past two days, I have had no doubts about my decision. You must be aware of the fact that I came here to travel to Maandotham in Elangai.”

“Yes. I knew that.”

“Do you know, Maandotham still resembles the city that Sambandhar and Sundaramurthy sang of few years ago?”

“Master! I trust you did not travel all the way to Maandotham just to enjoy the beauty of the place?”

“No. I went there to meet Prince Arulmozhivarmar and I am thinking of sending you there.”

“Did you meet the Prince, Master?” asked Azhwarkadiyan with a trace of eagerness and impatience in his voice.

Noting this Anirudhar said, “Aha! Even you are eager to meet him I guess. Yes. Thirumalai! I met and spoke to him and learned many astounding tales about his feats in Elangai. The Elangai King Mahindan once had a huge army at his disposal. Today, that army has vanished in thin air. There were many Pandiya and Chera soldiers in Mahindan’s army. When they learned that our Prince was coming there, they too dropped their weapons and vanished without a trace. Without an army how will Mahindan fight anybody, so he too vanished into the rocky mountains of Rohana. So right now there are no enemies in Elangai for the Prince to fight.”

“Master! If that is the case, don’t you think it is better for our Prince to come back to the Chola Kingdom? As it is so much ruckus has been created over the issue of sending food from here to the soldiers there.”

“That’s not a wise move to make. I said the enemies have vanished for the time being they are not vanquished completely. If the Prince came back home, Mahindan would come out his hideout and the war would begin once again. We need to establish our sovereignty completely on Elangai and must gain the trust and love of the people there. That’s what our Prince is doing there. Do you know what our soldiers in Elangai are doing? They are helping in the rebuilding of Budha Viharas that were destroyed in Anuradhapuram.”

“That’s all very fine. Looks like our Prince will renounce Saivam and Vaishnavam and become a Buddhist ultimately. How can we let this happen?”

“Who is asking you and me here? People like us can live and die all our lives as staunch Vaishnavites but such things cannot apply to those who are born to rule. Such people need to acknowledge and embrace all religions and sects that are practiced in their kingdom. I am impressed by the fact that our Prince has realized this important fact all by himself. I have heard people say that there is a holy sangu chakra mark on the Prince’s hands. I haven’t seen it yet and nor did I ask him to show it to me. But irrespective of whether such a mark exists in his hands or not, I know one thing for sure. Our Prince was born to rule as a great Chakravarthi. Some people are born with a divine purpose to rule as a great king. Did you see the commanders of Kai Kola Padai who came to meet me a few minutes ago? They want to fight under the banner of our Prince. And the merchants of the guild who are known for their thriftiness become more than generous when it comes to our Prince…”

“A few days ago, I had met a yogi near Podhigai malai. Do you know what he said? He said that for a long period, the fortunes of Kingdoms in the South has been shrouded by a cloud but soon we will rise to form a formidable force. Soon a king will rouse to become great Chakravarthi and many other great men of worth and knowledge would appear here soon. After meeting the Prince, I have no doubt that the words of this seer would come true soon.”

“Master! You are building many beautiful castles in the air while many are trying to destroy the very foundations of this Kingdom. If you had seen the things that I have seen and heard the things that I have heard, you wouldn’t be sitting here so happily discussing about a seer’s prophesy.”

“Thirumalai! You are right. I got carried away. Come now, tell me all about your travel…”

“Master! Do you want me to tell you here? If the Wind God hears my news, he will get scared. If the sea heard about my travel, he will be stunned immobile. The news that I have brought would stun all the Gods and the Earth as well.”

“If that is so, then come let me take some place where none can hear your news.”

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Chapter 11: Therinjakaikola Padai

There were many islands dotting the landscape of Rameshwaram. Prime Minister Anirudha Brahmarayar was staying in one of these islands in an ornate mandapam along with his entourage. Royal scribes, bodyguards, soldiers and palanquin bearers stood at their stations, while the Prime Minister got down from the boat and walked up to the mandapam to listen to the petitions of many of those who had come to meet him.

Anirudha Brahmarayar
Five people came forward to meet him. They looked prosperous and rich and came bearing a plate that held a navarathna (nine precious gems) haram (long chain). Offering the plate respectfully to the Prime Minister they bowed low and offered salutations. Anirudhar took their gift and gave it to his master of coins and said, “Keep this aside for Sembiyan Madevi’s temple renovation.”

He looked at his visitors and asked, “Please introduce yourself,”

“We represent the Nanadesai Tisaiyayirattu Ainnutruvar (a popular merchant guild),”

“Good. Is your business prospering in Pandiya Kingdom?”

“Yes indeed. Our business is expanding in Pandiya Kingdom.”

“What do people in Pandiya Kingdom talk about?”

“Most are of the opinion that Chola reign is better than that of the Pandiyas. Many ardently admire Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar’s generosity and bravery. The Prince’s brave exploits in Elangai are known even in Pandiya Kingdom…”

“What’s the state of business across the sea in the island kingdoms?”

“Business is flourishing thanks to the peaceful reign of King Sundara Chola. All our merchant ships returned with precious goods and merchandise,”

“Did you ships face any trouble with the sea pirates?”

“We haven’t faced any trouble in the past year, not since our Chola Navy destroyed the pirates who were looting merchants in the manka vaar theevu (Malay Peninsula).”

“Very good. What arrangements have you made regarding the message that I had sent to you?”

“We have followed your orders. We have brought thousand sacks of rice, five hundred sacks of corn and hundred sacks of pulses along with us to Rameshwaram. Please make arrangements to send it to Elangai.”

“Can you send it to Elangai in your ship?”

“Yes. We can send it. Can you tell us when the war in Elangai will end?”

“Ah! Now how can I predict that? You merchants have an official astrologer in you guild don’t you? What does he say?”

“Brahma Rajarey! We are finding it difficult to believe our astrologer’s predictions…”

“Why? What does he say?”

“He says that there will be victory wherever Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar goes.  He says that under his reign, Chola navy will capture all the island kingdoms beyond our seas. He says that our flag will fly high over many kingdoms…”

“If that is so, then your fortunes would rise surely…”

“That’s true. He has assured us that our business with the island kingdoms will flourish…”

“Very good. With the blessings of Shri Ranganathar, may his predictions come true… Until the war goes on in Elangai, you will need to send food supplies once a month. You may leave now.”

After the merchants left, a soldier announced, “Commanders of Therinja Kaikolla Padai are waiting for an audience,”
“Ask them to come.”

Three men bearing arms, armour and long swords approached the Prime Minister. Tall, broad chested and gaunt, they had a commanding presence that proclaimed their vocation. (Today the Kaikola community is involved in making handloom products but during the medieval Chola Period they were an elite army that was formed to protect the merchants. A selected handful of soldiers and commanders from this army would become the elitist bodyguards of the King. This handful of soldiers were called Therinja Kaikola Padai. This unit of soldiers normally took on the name of the ruling king.)

Therinjakaikola Padai

Anirudhar looked at the men in front of him and said, “You are the commanders of Sundara Chola Therinja Kaikola Padai?”

“That’s right Prime Minister. But we are ashamed to call ourselves thus.”

“Why is that?”

“We have been whiling away our time idly here, we are afraid that we might forget how to fight.”

“How many regiments are there in your army? How many soldiers?”

“There are three regiments in our army. We each of us are commanders of these regiments. Each regiment has 2000 soldiers lazing around on ample food.”

“What is it that you wish?”

“We wish to be sent to Elangai. We wish to join Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar and fight along with him,”

“Alright. When I go to Thanjavur, I will petition your appeal to the king.”

“Brahmarajare! What if the war in Elangai comes to a conclusion before that?”

“You don’t have to worry about that. The war in Elangai is unlikely to end so fast,”

“Is that so? Are the Elangai soldiers so proficient in the art of war? Please send us there, we will win it soon,”

“I have no doubt about it. The bravery of Therija Kaikola Padai is legendary. Your war tactics and brave deeds are worthy enough for poetry and songs.”

“Yes. The brave deeds of our soldiers is indeed worth a song. Thanks to them, we were able to vanquish the Pandyas and the Cheras…”

“The Pandiya and Chera army came out in the battlefield to fight with us. It was easy to battle them as they were there in plain sight. But in Elangai, the situation is different. How would you fight an army that you cannot see?”

“Are you saying that the Elangai soldiers have learnt magic tricks? Do they belong to the era of Ramyana to vanish in thin air? Do they fight with us from magic chariots that can ride the sky?”

“They have vanished. And the war has come to a stand still right now because our army needs to find their hideout to fight. Elangai King Mahindan has also gone missing. Our soldiers in Elangai haven’t fought any battles in these six months, as they are busy searching for Mahindan and his army. What’s the point in sending your army there? You would sit idle there too.”

“Maha Mandiri! Please send us there. We will find Mahindan and his army even if they have hidden themselves within the bowels of earth. If we fail, we will name our army as ‘Vellar’s slave army’…”

“Please don’t resort to such drastic measures. Everybody knows about the valorous deeds of your army. When I reach Thanjavur, I will consult with Chakravarthi about your request and send you a message. Please be patient until then. In the meanwhile, your army can help to restore peace and order in the Pandiya Kingdom…”

“Maha Mandiri! There is no uprising or rebellion happening in Pandiya Kingdom. The people are happy about the peace that we established and are busy rebuilding their life. The royal line of Pandiya Kings has been destroyed…”

“Ah! That’s wrong. There are still many out there who would claim the Pandiya throne and they would try to regain their right through force…”

“Who are they? Where are they? We will take care of them immediately…”

“You will know about them very soon. The dead Pandiya king, Veera Pandiyan has hidden his valuable ancient golden crown, diamond studded sword and the precious gemstone haram that gifted to his ancestors by God Indra somewhere in the Rohana Mountain in Elangai. Until we find these treasures, the Pandiya war is far from over…”

“True. We need to retrieve these treasures and we need to crown Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar with the golden crown of the Pandiyas…”

“What? Why do you say that?”

“We have merely expressed the wishes of everybody in this kingdom…”

“Be that as it may but let us not discuss successional matters here. I have another news that would please you people…”

“Yes Maha Mandiri…”

“Once Elangai is totally under Chola sovereignty, Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar is planning a battle campaign to capture Island Kingdoms that lay beyond Elangai. He is also planning an expedition towards Vengai, Kalingam and towards the northern kingdoms. He wants to follow on the footsteps of his ancestor Karikala Vallavan and hoist the tiger flag in Himalayas. Brave Commanders! Our Prince will soon undertake these expeditions and when he does, he will need brave soldiers and astute commanders like you to accompany him. Please advice your soldiers to be patient until then…”

Delighted by the future plans of Arul Mozhi Varmar, the commanders, shouted themselves hoarse, “Long Live Sundara Cholar! Long live Arul Mozhi Varmar! Long live Maha Mandiri!”

“Maha Mandiri! We have just one more petition! You do know that the name of our army is ‘Sundara Chola Therinjakaikola Padai,”

“Yes. I know,”

“We have taken a sacred oath to fight and die in the service of Chakravarthi Sundara Chola…”

“I know that too…”

“Our loyalty binds us to the King and we will not join anybody else nor will we listen to anybody else...”

“That’s exactly what I would expect from you…”

“We were once a part of Pazhuvetrayar’s army. We do not wish to be suspected unduly because of that…”

“Why do you say that? Now who would suspect you?”

“We have heard many alarming rumours from Thanjavur…”

“They are mere rumours. I request you not to believe in any of them or repeat them elsewhere.”

“We are worried that Kodumbalur Vellar’s supporters and followers might create such suspicion about us…”

“They will not. Even if they do, no one will believe them…”

“There is nothing certain in this world… human life is futile.”

“May the Chakravarthi live a long life…”

“But he has been unwell for some time now,”

“There is a comet seen in the sky…”

“If something untoward happens to the Chakravarthi, our army wishes to swear a holy oath to serve Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar,”

“It is your duty to follow the commands of your King.”

“Then please petition to the King on our behalf or else grant us permission to meet the Chakravarthi in person.”

“No. I do not think it would be wise for you to go to Thanjavur. It will give rise to unnecessary conflicts and confusion. I will place your petition before the King and let him decide. I will let you know his decision soon. You have my permission to take leave…”

After the commanders left his presence, the Prime Minister murmured, “Aha! What is this magnetic attraction that people have for the Prince? Many seem to fall under his spell after meeting him once.”

Later, he called aloud and said, “Bring that fat Vaishnavan here. I wish to speak to him.” 

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