Friday, 27 February 2015

Chapter 21: The Dungeons

Life is a mystery. One can't really predict the reason for sorrow or happiness in one's life. Sorrows, pain, anguish, happiness, contentment and peace are a part of this mystery. For some, life is an endless canvass of joy and happiness without a dark cloud in the horizon but when fortunes change their sky is crowded with dark clouds and fierce storm blows through their life. Kundavai felt that she was living through such a storm. For many years, this Princess was the apple of everybody’s eye. Her parents, brothers, relatives, friends and her people made life a happy dream. It was an endless stream of happiness, contentment and gracious living. But sadly even royal Princesses are not free from troubles and life soon dumped a whole avalanche of problems on her head.

Her father’s health was worrisome and his mental anguish was a cause of worry. While her brothers were away from the capital, the noblemen who had pledged their sword and fealty to her father were busy plotting to crown her uncle. There were rumours and whispers of an unknown danger that would soon overwhelm the kingdom. A comet has been seen on the sky heralding a period of doom and catastrophe. Astrologers and wise men of the kingdom were seen debating and discussing the disasters that would come upon them, while the common people were disturbed by these portent signs.

Kundavai was iron-willed and none of these would have troubled her much. Born in a dynasty that produced great warriors and wise rulers, she had enough wisdom to solve knotty problems. But something happened… she met someone and her heart that was hitherto untouched, experienced love. But they had no time to explore their feelings for each other. Their time together was shrouded with danger and secrets and their love seemed like a flower that would be plucked even before it could bloom.
Vandiya Devan, A Homeless Prince

Troubles and tribulations multiplied for Kundavai after meeting her homeless prince and her heart experienced an anguish that was alternatively new and painful for her. She couldn’t bear the pain that was caused by the words, ‘Vandiya Devan might be arrested’ and when Nandini said that her soldiers might have killed him, it took all the self-control that she possessed to remain calm.

Nandini’s poisoned words hurt her so much that she was surprised by it. Could it be possible that her regard for this orphaned soldier surpassed the love she bore for her parents, brothers and friends? But there was no time to think or debate about these things. She had to find what happened to that brave soldier, she had sent to Elangai.

That afternoon, right after she had met Nandini and Kandan Maran, she sent a message to Chinna Pazhuvetrayar about visiting his palace. On her arrival, the royal women of Pazhuvur clan invited her respectfully in their midst. After conversing with them for a while, the Princess went to the Chithirai Mandapam where Chinna Pazhuvetrayar was waiting for her. He showed her around the mandapam proudly explaining the brave feats that his ancestors and forefathers had performed in the service of their kings.
Chinna Pazhuvetrayar's Chithirai Mandapam

After looking at all the paintings, Kundavai said, “Ayya! Undoubtedly the Pazhuvur clan has performed many great deeds for this kingdom….”

“Princess! We are ready to serve our kings with our life.”

 “and undoubtedly this kingdom would be the apt prize for such service….”

“Noble Princess! What are you saying?”

“Nonetheless, you could have waited until my father’s demise to seize power.”

It was evident that Kalanthaka Kandar was shaken by Kundavai’s words as his face reflected shock, guilt and surprise. Drops of sweat came upon his brow and he chided himself for acting nervous with a young girl like Kundavai.

Amma! Why are you saying such things? Why are you so angry with me? Do you plan to send me to yamalokam with such words?”

Ayya! They say that even Lord Yama trembles to near Kalanthaka Kandar. Dare I hope that my words have such power? I am but a helpless woman here.”

“Princess! I am shaken to hear such words from you. What folly of mine has angered you thus?

“My Lord! Who am I to talk about your follies? You need to tell me what mistake I have made in wanting to cure my father? I sent two men to Kodi Karai to fetch medicinal herbs for my father, could that perhaps be my mistake?”

“Noble Princess! How could that be a mistake?”

“My Lord! Am I mistaken in assuming that you knew that it was ‘I’ who sent the Pazhaiarai Physician’s son to Kodi Karai?”

“No Princess. I knew about it.”

“Today, I saw your soldiers dragging him towards the dungeons. Undoubtedly all this happened with your knowledge and your express commands even when you knew who had sent them."

 “Yes Princess. But you could have been fooled by that young man. I fear that you sent them on their noble task without knowing that they were spies of the crown.”

“Do you want me to believe this ridiculous story that our Pazhaiarai’s Physician’s son is a spy?”

“My Princess! What if he admits to being a ‘spy’?

The commander’s words startled the Princess, “What do you mean he has admitted? What has he admitted?”

“He has admitted the fact that his companion was a spy and that he had not come to Kodi Karai to fetch herbs instead he was going to elangai taking a message to someone…”

“The physician’s son is a witless fool. Whatever he says should not be considered seriously. It was ‘I’ who sent his companion along with him.”

“Devi! I knew that but I also know that he has fooled you. His name is Vandiya Devan and I know that he is a spy.”

“I do not believe that. He came from Kanchipuram as my brother’s messenger.”

“Princess! He got a message for Chakravarthi too. Spies do need a pretext to learn information hence they undertake such tasks.”

“Ayya! Do you have any evidence that proves that he is a spy?”

 “If he is not a spy, then why did he travel through hidden paths instead of using the king’s road? Why did he go to Kudanthai Jodhidhar and ask about your father’s horoscope?”

“Even I have asked the Jodhidhar about my father’s horoscope…”

“You are the daughter of Chakravarthi’s daughter. You have all the right to ask about your father’s horoscope. But it’s suspicious when someone who is unrelated to the family does so… In my experience, spies from the enemy king behave thus.”

“This is merely your surmise. Do you have other reasons?”

“Why didn’t he ask for my permission to enter the fort? Why did he show Pazhuvur emblem ring to gain entry and lie that he got from my brother?”

“How did he get the ring then?”

“I do not know yet. I intend to find out…”

“Why haven’t your soldiers found that out for you yet?”

“Noble Princess! My soldiers are not magicians. They need to find the spy to find out where he got that ring from?”

“And how would you know whether he is telling the truth?”

Devi! There are ways to make men talk. Our dungeons are proof enough for that… That’s why he escaped from this fort that night and on his way out he stabbed Kandan Maran on the back.”

“Is there any evidence that proves that he stabbed Kandan Maran?”

“Kandan Maran says that it was Vandiya Devan who did it.”

“His testimony is not enough. What if I say that he didn’t stab Kandan Maran?”

“Noble Princess! You are talking as if you were standing next to him when he was stabbed.”

“Commander! I have sense enough to discern when a man is telling the truth and when he isn’t.”

“This spy is then indeed lucky. He has somehow hoodwinked you into believing his version of the story.”

“Ayya! Please do not call him ‘spy’ again in my hearing…”

“Princess! If he wasn’t a ‘spy’ then why did he disguise himself as a street actor to enter Pazhaiarai? Why did he travel to Kodi Karai in disguise? Why did he hide himself in the woods of Kodi Karai from my soldiers and take a boat to Elangai during the dead of the night?”

“So you are saying that he has escaped to Elangai?”

“Yes Princess! That spy is very ingenious. He escaped in a boat to Elangai during the night and my soldiers couldn’t catch him. Instead they captured the Physician’s son,”

Ayya! I do not care about this spy. But the Physician’s son is innocent. I request you to release him from the dungeons immediately,”

“But Princess, even if he was not a spy, he has helped the spy. He has been spinning many wild tales about his friend but I suspect that he has had a hand in helping him escape…”

“I do not care for such suspicions. I want you to release him from the prison immediately,”

“If that is your wish, I cannot take the responsibility. There are dangers lurking at every corner in this kingdom. Our enemies are waiting to march upon us. King Veera Pandian’s bodyguards have sworn a blood oath to kill the seed of the Chola kings. There is treason everywhere…”

“Ayya! If you were to imprison all those who commit treason, I am afraid you will run out of room in the dungeons…”

“We can fill it as much as possible…”

“I suggest that you leave some space for the real culprits… Please release the Physician’s son,”

“Princess! I refuse to take on this responsibility…”

“Commander! Will you release him if you get the Chakravarthy’s orders? Or will you defy that too?”

“Noble Princess! I do not need Chakravarthy’s orders to do it; just the Princesses’ word would suffice. Everyone knows that the Chakravarthy would never refuse you anything. Here is the key to the dungeons…You can free whomsoever you want from the prison. And whatever consequences that follow these actions, will rest solely upon your noble head…”

Saying thus, Kalanthaka Kandar took out a large key from his waistcloth and handed it over with mock respect to Kundavai. Kundavai struggled to control her anger and received the key from him. “Alright Commander! Let the consequences rest on my head…”

“Calamities and disasters will come upon our kingdom through two women…”

“I am one of them and pray who might be the other…”

“Pazhuvur Elaya Rani, Nandini Devi.”

Despite her anger, she smiled and said, “You are placing me on par with the power of the Kingdom indeed. If Periya Pazhuvetar were to hear this, he might just banish you, my lord!”

“I would welcome it whole-heartedly!”

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Chapter 20: Two Tigresses

Kundavai and Nandini with Kandan Maran

When Nandini’s handmaiden announced about the spy being captured, all present in the room became restless. Kundavai’s anxious heart grew more worried when she heard that the soldiers were dragging the spy through the streets of Thanjavur.

Devi! Shall we go and see this cunning spy?” asked Nandini.

Kundavai hesitated and said, “Why should we bother?”

“Alright” said Nandini and sat down with a smile.

“I am going to see this spy.” Said Kandan Maran and got up slowly from his bed. 

“Don’t. You cannot walk that far. You will fall and hurt yourself again.”

Restless and anxious to see the spy, Kundavai had to accede defeat when she said, “Let us go and see how his friend looks like. Can we watch the streets from the terrace upstairs?”

“Yes we can. Please come with me,” said Nandini and got up.

Devi! If it is indeed my friend, I want to petition mama (Periya Pazhuvetarayar) to meet him in the prison.” Appealed Kandan Maran.

“How will we know whether he is your friend or not?” asked Nandini.

“If that is so, then I will come along with you.” He said and hurriedly got up from the bed and followed them with unsteady legs.

In the terrace, Nandini led them both to a small balcony overlooking the streets of Thanjavur. A group of horsemen on a slow trot were approaching and they appeared to be dragging a man bound by ropes in the middle. The horsemen in the front and the back held his ropes and were dragging him slowly through the streets of the city. Looking from the balcony with her heart in her mouth, Kundavai waited impatiently for the horsemen to near Periya Pazhuvetrayar’s palace. At first, they couldn’t discern the face of the captured spy who was being dragged ingloriously amidst taunts and disgrace through the streets. Kundavai’s anxious eyes scanned through the crowds to see the prisoner while Nandini was busy looking at the street and alternatively noting Kundvai’s reaction to the events that were unfolding before them. Kandan Maran relieved their tension when he declared, “No. This is not Vandiya Devan,” and Kundavai let out sigh of relief.

By then the soldiers had come near the palace and their prisoner looked up and Kundavai recognized him as the son of Pazhaiarai’s physician. Though she was relieved that the captured spy was not Vandiya Devan, she was nonetheless incensed when she realized that Pazhuvur soldiers had captured her messengers. “What is this madness? Why did these soldiers capture the son of Pazhaiarai’s royal physician?”

Pinagapani, Pazhaiarai Physician's Son
Even Pinagapani (Physician’s son) had recognized the princess on the terrace and tried to say something but he was soon dragged by the soldiers away from the gaze of the royal onlookers.

“Is that so Devi? I have always said that my brother-in-law’s soldiers are totally incompetent.“

“I knew all along that they wouldn’t have caught my friend. He was clever enough to outwit me. He would have surely escaped.” Said Kandan Maran.

“You still call him your friend?” asked Nandini

“What to do? He has turned a traitor yet I feel sorry for him,” said Kandan Maran to which Nandini said, “These soldiers might killed your friend. They went in pursuit of two people all the way to Kodi Karai. Maybe they killed one of the them and brought the other for a trial,” said Nandini with a satisfied smile fully aware of how torturous, Kundavai found her assertions. 

Smiling complacently Nandini thought, “My dear headstrong princess! Now I have the perfect weapon to torture you and I will not hesitate to use it.”

Kundavai’s anguish took the form of anger and she lashed out at Nandini’s brother-in-law, “Spies! These old men have become more senile than ever and they seem to see spies everywhere and everybody is under suspicion. It was ‘I’ who sent Pinagapani to Kodi karai to bring medicines for my father. How dare they capture and drag my messenger through the streets like he is some common thief? I am going to ask your brother-in-law for an explanation.”

Devi! You sent this man to Kodi Karai? I suspected that it would be so. Devi! Did you send only this Pinagapani to Kodi Karai or somebody else along with him?”

“I sent another person along with him and he was to go to Elangai to bring more medicines for my father.”

“Aha! Now I understand everything. It is just as I suspected.” Said Nandini triumphantly.

“I do not understand your meaning. What did you suspect?”

“Devi! The man that you sent along with Pinagapani, was he known to you?”

Kundavai hesitated a bit and said, “He was known to me. He had brought my brother ‘s message from Kanchi.”

“It’s him! It’s him.”

“Him who?”

“He is the spy. He came here too saying that he has a message from your brother for the Chakravarthi.”

“Why do they suspect him to be a spy?”

“How will I know about that devi? Maybe he acted suspiciously and that’s probably why my brother-in-law’s soldiers are after him. If he were not guilty why would he escape from the Fort and hurt poor Kandan Maran on the way.”

“I do not believe that he stabbed Kandan Maran. If he had indeed stabbed him, then why did he save his life?”

Devi! You are talking as if you were right there when Kandan Maran was stabbed. It looks like this spy has earned your confidence. But what is done is done. I am sure these soldiers would have killed him…”

Kundavai broke into cold sweat as she tried to control her anguish. “That would never happen… never.” She told herself and countered Nandini with a question, “What if this spy is as clever as he says he is?” pointing towards Kandan Maran.

“Yes Princess. I don’t think he is dead. He would have escaped surely…”

“If not now, he will be caught one day for sure…” said Nandini

Kundavai almost ground her teeth and said, “Who can predict the future indeed?” and then continued angrily, “I can’t bear to see the Kingdom falling apart thus. How dare they catch the messengers that I had sent and brand them as spies? Who gave them this right? I am going to report this outrage to my father…”

Devi! Please do not disturb your father about this small matter. Why don’t you directly ask my brother-in-law? Maybe he didn’t know that they were your messengers. If he knew they were your men, I am sure this wouldn’t have happened, after all there is no one in this kingdom who would go against the wishes of their beloved elaya piratti.”

Nandini won this round of battle of wits and words and emerged a victor while Kundavai was left to lick her wounds in private. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Chapter 19: The Spy is Captured

Periya Pazhuvetrayar was irritated beyond words at the end of the festivities that day. The event had ultimately had bolstered the popularity of the King and his children and had also served as an opportunity to learn how unpopular he and his clan had become.

“These people! Brainless creatures! When will they grow brains?" he ranted. “By the time Chakravarthy is dead, I am sure the Kingdom will be thoroughly ruined! ‘Make this village tax free! Let’s not collect taxes from them.’ If we persist thus, there would no village in the Chola Kingdom that would pay any tax. But I am supposed to get money somehow to pay for the army and the supplies in Elangai. Where will I send it from?” he shouted.

Anna! There is no point in shouting about all this now. Let us wait patiently until the right time comes.” Said his brother, trying to pacify him.

To further his irritation he learned that Princess Kundavai was expected in his palace that day. He immediately went to Nandini and asked, “What is this that I am hearing? Why did you call that woman to our palace? Have you forgotten all the insults and slights that she has given you?”

“I never forget anybody’s insult and nor do I forget those who have supported me. You still haven’t understood me, if you are asking this question.”

“Then, why is she coming here?”

“That’s her wish and will. She is the daughter of the Chakravarthi. She is a princess. She can do whatever she wants.”

“But I heard that you invited her.”

“I didn’t invite her. She invited herself. “I heard that Sambuvrayar’s son is in your palace. I want to see him,” she said. Now, how can I say ‘Don’t come’? One day I might be able to say that. Until then, I have to wait on her thus.”

“I cannot and will not wait on her. I don’t want to be here when she comes to this palace. And what more, I don’t even want to be in this city. I have some work in Mazhapadi today, I will attend to that.”

“That’s a good thing my lord! Let me deal with this snake. I know how to counter her poison. However when you come back, don’t be startled if you hear some unexpected news…”

 “What kind of unexpected news?”

“That Kundavai is to marry Kandan Maran or that Aditya Karikalan is to marry Kandan Maran’s sister…”

“What are you saying? If these things happen then what will happen to our plans…”

“Don’t panic. Just because someone is talking about this doesn’t mean that it would actually happen. For instance, you have been telling everyone that Madhuranthaka Devar would be the next king but is that really going to happen? Are we working so hard to crown that effeminate creature Madhuranthakan?” asked Nandini with a seductive glance at her husband.

Overcome with emotion, the Pazhuvur lord took her hand in his and lovingly touched his eyes and said, “My love! I solemnly promise that you will soon be the queen of this realm.”


Ever since Kandan Maran heard that Kundavai was coming to see him, he had grown not only nervous but also restless. Kundavai’s intelligence, grace and beauty were well known everywhere. On one hand, he felt very gratified and proud that she was coming to meet him. He wouldn’t have minded few more bruises and injuries if they would make a Princess like Kundavai want to come and meet him. But on the other, he felt ashamed lying abed injured in the back, stabbed by a friend turned foe. ‘Why did I have to get injured in this manner? Why couldn’t I have been injured in a battle?’ It would indeed have been a proud moment then but instead she has to come and express regrets over a stab wound given by that scoundrel and that too in the back!

He also felt guilty about the role he was playing in the conspiracy against Kundavai’s family. Kandan Maran was a good-natured man and he was also very na├»ve about many things in life.  While he was enamoured by Nandini’s seductive beauty, he was constantly aware of the fact that she was a married woman. But Kundavai was not married and he found himself getting nervous about how to speak to her. Should I speak to her normally or should I try to hide my true feelings and talk what is expected of me? Should I act as if I am enamoured by her beauty? What if I forget my oath and become truly besotted with her? No! That will not happen! I might as well say something foolish and drive her away before letting that happen.

With over a hundred thoughts speeding through his mind, Kandan Maran’s resolution to act foolish vanished the minute he saw Kundavai. Her enchanting beauty, inherent goodness and sincere concern acted like a medicine on him. Wanting to create a good impression he told her all the great things that he had achieved in battle against their enemies though he unsuccessfully tried to sound falsely modest about it. He also showed her the wounds that he had got while fighting for the Kingdom at the border and regrettably added “I don’t really mind him hurting me thus but I can never forgive him for stabbing me on the back. Now I am forced to explain his treachery to everyone or else I might be branded as a coward who was escaping from the battlefield.”

Kandan Maran’s emotional outburst seemed very genuine to Kundavai and for the first time since she met Vandiya Devan, a germ of doubt grew in her mind. Did Vandiya Devan truly stab his friend? Did he fool me with his story? She bid Kandan Maran to tell her all about their fight and Kandan Maran gave free rein to his imagination, so much so that even Nandini was surprised by it.

“Devi Vandiya Devan fooled on the day he arrived as our palace in Kadambur. He never told me why he was going to Thanjavur. He gained entry into the fort through a fake emblem ring and has met the Chakravarthy. He also lied about bringing a message from the Crown Prince. And is that all? He has also involved your name in this by saying that he has got a message for you! Our Fort Commander tried to hold him under guard here to verify his stories but he escaped. I can’t help but admire his cleverness there. At first, I didn’t believe that he could be a spy. Though I know that he is not straight forward or honest, I still couldn’t believe that he could be a spy.  I thought that he must have done some harmless mischief by interfering in some unwanted business. I begged the Fort Commander to forgive him and vowed to find him. I didn’t take along any soldier with me as I didn’t want to shame him. My instinct told me that he would somehow find his way out of the fort through the Vadavatru river. And I was right. I saw him jumping down from the high walls of the Thanjai Fort. I went to him before he ran off again and asked, “My friend! What have you done?” But that treacherous cheat started beating me. I couldn’t bear the fact that he would attack someone who has come all the way to help him. I attacked him too. And soon we were rolling on the ground wrestling. After struggling for half hour, he yielded and I asked him, “Why did you come here? Tell me the truth!”

And he said, “I am tired. Let us sit and talk.” So we got up and tried to walk towards the bank of the river. I was walking in front of him when he suddenly pounced on me again with a knife. The last thing I remember is that I fell down and when I woke up next I was in the house a deaf and mute woman.”

Listening intently to his story, Nandini laughed in her head while keeping a serious expression on her face. Kundavai however was confused. She couldn’t decide what to believe or who to believe.

“How did you end up in a deaf and mute woman’s house? Who took you there?”
Kandan Maran, Nandini and Kundavai

“That’s a mystery that I haven’t solved yet. That woman didn’t know anything and we couldn’t understand what she was trying to tell us. He had a son it seems but ever since that night even he has disappeared. I will have to either wait for him to return or wait until the Pazhuvur soldiers capture my friend and then ask him about it…”

“Do you really think that they will capture him?”

“I am sure of it. Where else can he run? That’s why I am still waiting here. I wish to plead for his life with the Pazhuvur Lord and hope that he gets a pardon…”

Ayya!  You have the most generous heart.” Said Kundavai but in her heart she whispered, “I wish that they never capture him even is he was a treacherous traitor.”

Suddenly, one of Nandini’s handmaidens came inside hurriedly with a message, “Amma! They have captured the spy. They are dragging him through the streets…”

The minute they heard this, both Nandini and Kundavai looked startled and horrified. Nandini however quickly brought a calm look on her face but Kundvai couldn’t!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Chapter 18: What is the Worst Betrayal?

Those who have read the history of ancient Tamil Nadu would know that women played a very important role in the social affairs of the kingdom. This is true, especially of women belonging to the royal family. Royal women, princesses and queens had their own income and assets through lands, villages and pastoral property. They used the income that came through these assets in various ways. Some devout women used it to renovate and rebuild temples, while some donated huge sums to temples to light lamps, some donated food and shelter to mendicants and sages.

While most women spent their income on temples, King Sundara Chola’s daughter spent hers in a different manner. She used her income to open free adhura salai (medical clinics). With an intention of providing free medical service she wanted to open adhura salai (clinics) all over the Chola Kingdom. We saw that she had established one such free clinic in Pazhaiarai in the name of her grandfather. She had long wanted to provide the citizens of Thanjavur with an adhura salai in her father’s name. She took the opportunity of her visit to the city to start this service on the auspicious day of Vijayadashmi (Navrathri).

Outside the Thanjavur fort, near Purampadi there was a Perumal Temple (Lord Vishnu Temple). Kundavai had arranged for festivities at the Garuda mandapam of this temple to proclaim the grants that were being given for the adhura salai. People thronged to the Garuda mandapam to participate in the festivities and to have a glimpse at their beloved princess. Important ministers and officials of the Chola court too attended the ceremony. Court scribes and stone inscribers were at hand to engrave the grants that were to be made to the adhura salai in stone edicts for posterity. Soldiers of the Thanjavur Fort Guard came in large numbers shouting cheers and along with them came the Pazhuvur Brothers mounted on elephants. Prince Madhuranthakan too came along with them perched on a shifty white horse seemingly uncomfortable with his mount. Princess Kundavai, Vanathi and many other royal women came in their palanquins, while Pazhuvur Elaya Rani’s came in hers.

Seated in a separate enclosure made of sheer silk, Princess Kundavai and other women watched the inaugural ceremony, which began at the signal of Periya Pazhuvetrayar. The ceremony began auspiciously with a devaram song ‘mandiramavadu Neer’ rendered by court singers in accompaniment to Yazh, and Madalam (ancient string instrument and drums). Their sweet voices brought on a silence and engrossed the audience completely.

But there were some faint whispering in the woman’s enclosure. Pazhuvur Elaya Rani and Kundavai were conversing in low tones. “Princess! There was once a time when Sambandha Perumal sang this beautiful song and cured the Pandiya King with just his Thiruneer (holy ash). Why do you think this song does not work the same for others today? Even the Thiruneer has lost its power so people have to resort to other medicines like herbs, roots and odd potions.”

“Very true Rani! In those days, Dharma was upheld by all. That’s why Sambandhar’s song held the power to cure the King. But today, people commit sins without any conscious. For instance there are people who plot and commit treason against their own king in today’s times. That’s why Sambandhar’s song and the Thiruneer has lost its potent magic.” Saying thus, Kundavai looked at Nandini trying to discern her thoughts through her reaction.

But there was no reaction on Nandini’s face. “Is that so? Are there people who plot against the king? Who are they?” she asked innocently.

“That’s what I am trying to find out. Some try to blame others while the other try to blame somebody else. I am finding it tough to gleam the truth out of it. That’s why I have decided to stay here for a while. How will I find the truth if I stay in Pazhaiarai?”

“That’s a good decision Princess. If you ask me, it would be best for you to stay here otherwise this Kingdom will lose its power. I can help you too if you stay and so will the guest who is staying in my house.”

“Who is this guest?” asked Kundavai.

“His name is Kandan Maran. He is the son of Kadambur Sambuverayar. Have you met him? He is a tall young man who keeps muttering ‘spy’, ungrateful friend’ and ‘betrayal of trust’ all the time. A moment ago, you spoke about Raja Dhrogam (betrayal of king’s trust) what do you think is the worst betrayal of all?”

“I think that the worst betrayal that anybody could do is to break the heart and trust of a man who has sworn to protect you. A wife who betrays the trust of her husband is surely worse than royal treason.” Saying this Kundavai yet again waited for some reaction from Nandini but there was none to be had.

Unfazed Nandini replied, “Very true Princess. But Kandan Maran will not agree. He will say that the worst betrayal of all is the betrayal of a friend. Did you know that he was stabbed in the back by someone who Kandan Maran had considered as his most close friend.”

“Who is that? Who is capable of doing such a foul deed?”

“Someone called Vandiya Devan it seems. He belongs to a place called Thiruvallam that his ancestors ruled once upon a time. Have you heard about him?”

Kundavai bit her teeth in seething frustration and said, “Seems a bit familiar to me. What happened next?”

“This Vandiya Devan ran away after stabbing his friend in the back. My brother-in-law sent his soldiers to catch the spy.”

“Do we know for sure that he is a ‘spy’?”

“How will I know that? I only know what Kandan Maran says. Why don’t you come and talk to him?”

“I will. I had heard that his injuries were dangerously grievous. Has he been staying long at your palace?”

“Yes. They brought him to my palace right after the day he was stabbed. It fell on my head to cure him. His wound was very deep and is not fully healed.”

“It is quite surprising that he is not fully healed despite the loving care that you must have showered on him. Rani! I will come and meet him for sure. His father and their clan have rendered many services for the Chola Kingdom right from the time of King Paranthaka I.”

“That’s why I called you. At least on the pretext of meeting Kandan Maran, you will visit our poor little palace…”

At the end of this conversation, the devaram song ended and the court scribe read out the grants that were to be given to the adhura salai. As with all royal documents, it began with King Sundara Chola’s great deeds and that of his ancestors. At the end of it read, “The village named ‘Nallur Mangalam’ whose deeds were drawn up in the name of our beloved daughter Kundavai Piratti will henceforth be declared as iraiilli village (Tax free village). The income from this village will henceforth be used for the Thanjai Purampadi Adhura Salai.” After reading the olai, the royal scribe handed it over to Periya Pazhuvetar, who received it with due ceremonies and gave it over to his tax official.

After this, Kundavai’s grants for the Adhura Salai that was inscribed in a stone edict was read out aloud. “The lands of the village Nallur Mangalam will henceforth belong to the villagers. Instead of the tax that they have to pay to the Kingdom, the villagers under the leadership of their village head man must deliver 200 bags of rice every year. They should also deliver 50 padi cow’s milk (uri) and goat’s milk and hundred coconuts every day to the athura salai.” Meticulously inscribing all the details, the court scribes had also has engraved the names of those officials who had written the deeds.

After reading the grants aloud, the court official presented the engraved stone edict and the deeds to the village headman of Nallur Mangalam, with due ceremony. The villagers placed the stone edicts atop an elephant that was richly decorated to carry around their village proudly.

Princess Kundavai
The audience gave a resounding cheer and shouted “Long live Sundara Chola Chakravarthi” “Long live the Slayer of Veera Pandiyan, Crown Prince Adithya Karikalan” “Long live Ezham Konda Devar, Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar” “Long live Princess Kundavai” While there was a loud echo to these cheers, when the Pazhuvur soldiers shouted “Long Live Pazhuvur Devar Periya Pazhuvetrayar!” “Long live the Commander of Thanjai Fort, Chinna Pazhuvetrayar!” there was almost no response from the crowd.

Smug with this blatant display of public opinion, Kundavai wanted to see Nandini’s face to discern some truth from her expressions however she was disappointed (which was just as well) because if she had seen her face when the crowd was cheering the Crown Prince, she would have been frightened.

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Volume 1 - New Flood