|Vandiya Devan and Azhwarkadiyan|
Next morning, Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar, Vandiya Devan and Azhwarkadiyan left for Anuradhapuram before dawn. They sped through the woods and reached the King’s road soon. Vandiya Devan was surprised by the fact that the Prince did not take his guards or an entourage along with him. Vandiya Devan felt exhilaration, pride and enthusiasm in equal measures all through the ride that morning. He was exhilarated and proud because he had completed the mission that the Princess had tasked him with. And that’s not all. He had long wanted to meet the Prince to whom the entire Chola Kingdom was devoted. He had accomplished that as well. He also reminisced about their meeting and still found himself surprised by how well the Prince disguised himself and had attacked him when he least expected it. Who thought that the Prince would be the mahout and who knew that he would turn the horse suddenly and attack him?
The Prince was a strange man indeed! This is how he won the war in Elangai; by taking the enemy unawares and by attacking them unexpectedly. Vandiya Devan was also very much taken by the Prince’s behaviour towards his soldiers. He was completely at ease with them and assumed no airs about being a Prince. It was no wonder that the soldiers all over the Chola Kingdom were ready to give up their life for him.
What surprised him more was the benevolence that the Prince showed the people of Elangai? In which conquered land can the people go about their work freely without any fear or persecution? Looking around he noted how the people of Elangai lived happy and secure in their villages while a war raged in their land. Women and children who were the worst casualties of a war were seen laughing and smiling! Vandiya Devan knew that the Prince who rode next to him was the man responsible for their happiness. The Prince had stubbornly refused to take food and supplies from the conquered people and had convinced his father to send the same from their land. He remembered how this had irked the Pazhvur brothers who had complained to the King about the Prince’s unorthodox warfare in Elangai.
He also remembered the battles that he had fought along with Aditya Karikalan. He couldn’t help compare the Crown Prince’s savage war tactics with his brother’s benevolent warfare. Vandiya Devan never dared to criticize or think less of his master until then, but he couldn’t help it when he noted the happy faces of Elangai people. If his master, Prince Aditya Karikalar had come campaigning here, would these people be so happy and in peace? He remembered the wails and cries of the people on whom the Crown Prince had warred. One could only see savagery, destruction and death wails of women who had lost their home, husband, children, virtue and honour.
Vandiya Devan wanted to learn more about the Prince and share information, opinions and news but they were on galloping horses that were steadily speeding on the King’s road. But they did get one opportunity to talk.
They were nearing Anuradhapuram when they saw a huge statue of Buddha alongside the road. Vandiya Devan had seen many such statues in Elangai and didn’t find it strange. But the Prince for some reason reined his horse and stopped it abruptly near the statue. The other two did the same and came near the Prince. The Prince watched the statue intently for some time and then exclaimed, “Aha! What a beauty?”
“I don’t see any beauty here. Elangai is littered with such big statues everywhere though I wonder why?”
The Prince turned towards Vandiya Devan and smiled saying, “I am happy that you choose to speak whatever your heart feels, truthfully,”
“Ayya! Let me assure you that he is speaking the truth only now,”
“Vaishnavarey! When I met you in Veeranarayanapuram, I found myself lying more and more with every passing day. But ever since I met the Prince, I feel like speaking the truth. It is true that the company that we keep decides our character for better or worse,”
The Prince however was not listening to their war of words. He was intently admiring the art of the Buddha statue when he said, “I have found that the art of carving stones does complete justice to two forms – one is divine form of Natarajar and the other is Buddha. But sadly we do not make such massive statues for our Gods in our Kingdom,”
“There were many great kings who ruled over Elangai in the past. Though their island was very small, they were large hearted and their devotion was true and pure. They showed their devotion to Lord Buddha by building huge statues, gigantic stupas and monasteries. I am ashamed of the temples and the small statues that we have built to pray to our Gods in our land,”
Saying thus, the Prince dismounted from his horse and went near the statue and bowed low touching the Lotus buds that adorned the feet of the Buddha statue.
|A secret message from Buddha|
After mounting the horse they rode on a slow trot and the Prince heard Vandiya Devan comment, “What is this? Looks like the Prince will join the faith of Buddha,”
“My friend! I have immense respect and faith for Lord Buddha but my piety has its own reasons. The lotus feet of Lord Buddha had a message for me,”
“Aha! But we didn’t hear any message,”
“The message was given to me in silence,”
“What message was it? Are we allowed to know?”
“I have been asked to come to near the Simhatharai Pond at midnight by Lord Buddha.” Said Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar.