Thursday, 24 September 2015

Chapter 5: Rakkammal

After Pazhuvetarayar and Parthibendran left to oversee the search for the lost Prince, Nandini stood by the beach watching the sea in silent contemplation.

Rani Amma!” called out a voice and she turned back to find the daughter-in-law of Thyaga Vida Karayar standing there.

“Who are you?” asked Nandini

“I am Rakkammal,”

“What do you want?”

Instead of replying to Nandini, Rakkammal stared at her face with a strange expression.

“What are you looking at? What’s there in my face?”

“Forgive me amma! I was reminded of somebody else when I saw your face. But that can’t be so,”

“What are you blabbering?

“No, that’s not possible. There can be no relation between that mad mute woman and yourself,”

“Who is that mad woman?”

“There is a mad woman in Elangai. She is my father-in-law’s uncle’s daughter. Sometimes she would come here too,”

“Why are you reminded of her when you see me?”

“There can be no relation as far as I can see but you resemble her,”

“Rakkammal! Where is that woman now?”

“In Elangai I suppose. She comes very rarely here. But like I said there can be no relation,”

“Why are you so sure?”

Rani! You are from Pandya Kingdom, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and you?”

“I too am from Pandya Kingdom. But that the mute mad woman is from Chola Kingdom, therefore…”

“No matter; there are many others who have told me about her. If you happen to see her again, bring her to me. If you do, I will reward you amply,”

Rani! Trying to bring her anywhere would be impossible. She is like a ‘storm’. She will not be listen to anybody and nor stay in one place. She has lost her senses and is mad…”

“Fine. Be that as it may. Why are you here now?”

Rani! A few days ago, some people came here on a royal errand from you,”

“Did they say my name?”

“Yes. They said that they had to go to Elangai on a task that you had set upon them. I sent my husband along with them to ferry them across the sea,”
“Is he back?”

“No. That’s why I am worried. What if something had befallen him…”

“Don’t worry. Nothing would have happened to him. If at all something unfortunate has occurred, I will look after your well being. What about the people who went with your husband? Do you know anything?”

“They have come back. Didn’t you hear that owl’s call a little while ago?”

“I heard but what of it?”

“Didn’t you recognize it as Mandiravadi’s voice?”

“How do you know about him? Are you one of them?”

“Yes Rani!” she said and bent down to draw a secret symbol on the sand.

Nandini looked at her in surprise and asked, “Where is Mandiravadi? Do you know?”

“He is waiting to meet you.”

“Then why didn’t he come? Why wait?”

“He doesn’t wish to meet the Pallavan who was here a little while ago. He has met him in Elangai it seems. And he doesn’t wish to meet your Lord Husband either,”

“Did you meet him?”

“Yes. I heard the owl’s call and went into the woods. He sent me here to bring you to him. He is waiting near Kuzhagar temple,”

“But how could I go? What will I tell my husband?”

“Tell him that you are visiting the temple,”

“That’s a good idea. Should I bring an escort?”

“Not necessary but if you wish I will send Senthan Amuthan along with you,”

“Who is he?”

“He is the son of Thanjavur mute woman,”

“Shiva Shiva! How many mute women are around here?”

“Our family is cursed. Some are born mute while some remain mute despite the gift of speech, like my husband,”

“Does that Elangai mute woman have children?”

“I heard that she had given birth to twin children once but no one knows what happened to them. I tried to find out the secret but in vain,”

“Why is Senthan Amuthan here?”

“He has come in search of Poonguzhali, his uncle’s daughter. She is not here hence he is waiting for her,”

“Where has she gone?”

“I meant to tell you about her. Two people came here right after my husband left with Mandiravadi. One of them wanted to go to Elangai but some Pazhuvur soldiers came here to capture him but Poonguzhali helped him to escape and she took him in her boat to Elangai,”

“Does she know to ply a boat?”

“That’s how she makes her living. When she is not in the sea, she is normally found roaming around the beach or the woods. There isn’t a nook in the woods that she hasn’t explored,”

“If she hasn’t come back so long, what do you guess could have happened to her?”

“The whole of Kodi Karai is searching for someone who is lost at sea but I am not so sure about it until Poonguzhali comes back,”

“What if Poonguzhali too had drowned in that storm?”

“She will not drown. The sea is but a cradle for her. Moreover…”

“Moreover what?”

“I was atop the lighthouse a little while ago, and I saw a small boat approaching the beach…”

“And then?”

“But it didn’t come,”

“What do you think happened to it?”

“I think the boat might not have approached the beach because of the crowd. They might have taken it towards the backwaters…”

“Is that possible?”

“Nothing is impossible for Poonguzhali. Senthan Amuthan was with me in the lighthouse and he too thought the same,”

“Fine. Let’s then go to Kuzhagar temple,”

“Shall I call Senthan Amuthan?

“No. Let him search for his uncle’s daughter,”

Both walked through the beach and entered the woods. Rakkammal too was very familiar with the quick sands that abound the woods of Kodi Karai and she guided Nandini around them carefully.

When they reach the Kuzhagar temple, the priest was very surprised. “Rani! What’s this? How could you come alone so far? Where are the guards? If you had only told me earlier I would have welcomed you in a more befitting manner!”

“I fear that wouldn’t be appropriate battarey! A great mishap has befallen the Chola Kingdom. The most beloved Prince of the Cholas is lost in the sea. I came here to pray for his safety,”

“Do not worry Rani! The Samudra Rajan will not harm the Prince, I am sure of it,”

“How are you so sure about this?”

“The Prince’s horoscope has many favourable planets and stars. He was born to rule this world and not even the Samudra Rajan can dare to drown him. He would come back safe,”

Saying thus, the priest showed the Aarathi to Kuzhagar and brought out the holy flame for Nandini.

Amma! I am very pleased to see you living so nobly with your Lord Husband,”

“Do you know me, before I got married battarey?”

“Yes Amma! I have seen you many times in Pazhaiarai and later near the Vaigai river island temple. Your brother Thirumalai, how is he faring these days?”

“He goes around from one place to around singing the divine verses of Azhwars. I haven’t seen him in a very long while,”

“He too is pained by the fact that you haven’t met him since your marriage. The last time I saw him, he told me all about it with great sorrow,”

“What can I do ayya? My lord husband’s family are staunch Saivars. Thirumalai is a Veera Vaishnavan who bears the name ‘Azhwarkadiyan’. He goes around challenging the Saivars for debates and indulges in petty skirmishes. How can I claim my relationship when he acts thus? My Lord Husband’s noble family name will be shamed by his actions,”

“Very true Amma! It is your duty to act in a manner that pleases your husband’s family. Azhwarkadiyan can go to hell,”

Nandini then took her leave from the priest brushing aside the Priest’s concerns for her safety.

Amma! You are leaving alone. If you could tarry for a while, I can escort you back,”

“That wouldn’t be necessary Ayya! You need not hurry through your daily chores just for our sake. I will be quite safe. This woman knows her way through the woods and will guide me safely. Moreover today Kodikarai is overrun by Pazhuvur soldiers who are guarding the beach. I have no fear. I will take your leave now,”

They both then came out of the temple and then headed towards the woods again. Rakkammal led Nandini through the dense forest by holding her hand carefully and soon they were near the canal.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Chapter 4: In the woods

In the middle of the sea, the boat was drifting along the placid sea. It seemed rather inconceivable that this gentle sea could throw up huge waves big enough to swallow a war ship!

In the boat, the Prince, Vandiya Devan was arguing vociferously while Poonguzhali with an oar in hand, was watching them silently. The subject of the argument was what they ought to do once they reach Kodi Karai? Vandiya Devan wanted the Prince to come with him to Pazhaiarai. He came forth with many reasons for this.

“Your sister wishes to see you most urgently to discuss the affairs of the Kingdom. I swore to her that I would bring you along with me. You will need to heed this request of mine,”

“I can’t refuse to obey my father’s commands just so that you could honour your word!”

“Those are not your father’s commands. They are Pazhuvetarayar’s commands!”

He further added, “Moreover, do you wish to meet your father as a ‘free man’ or as a ‘prisoner’. Listen to me! If the people of this Kingdom learn that the Pazhuvur lords have imprisoned you, they will take up arms to free you but at a heavy cost of blood. Do you really want that to happen? God in his benevolence sent that storm to aid us. Do you really wish to go against the God’s will and surrender yourself to the Pazhuvetarayar?”

Vandiya Devan’s words slowly changed the Prince’s intention to meet his father. He knew the love and devotion that his people had for him and it was all too possible for them to rise up and revolt on his behalf if they heard that he had been imprisoned. After thinking about it for a while he said, “Even if I were to agree to your idea, how do we avoid the Pazhuvur soldiers who would be waiting for me at Kodi Karai?”

“We have Poonguzhali to help us. She will take us through the Kodi Karai backwaters away from these soldiers. Poonguzhali are you listening?”

Poonguzhali was in the seventh heaven! Saving the Prince’s life in the sea had given her more happiness than she could imagine but she was also pained by the fact that she would have to part with him, once they reached Kodi Karai. When Vandiya Devan proposed that she help them hide away from the Pazhuvur soldiers she was elated!

“If we go towards the west of Kodi Karai there is a narrow canal that takes us through the dense woods. I could take the boat through there. It is a very dense wooded place and very secluded,”

“You could leave us there and go back to Kodi Karai to learn the news, couldn’t you?”

“Yes. There are many places where the boat can be hidden,”

“Prince! Did you hear that?”

“I heard! You are asking me to enter my own kingdom like a thief. Samudra Kumari! Why have you to stopped the boat?”

Poonguzhali immediately started plying the boat.

“Poor woman! How long will she ply the oars without any help? Let me help you. Here, give me that other oar,”

The Prince smiled at his friend and said, “My friend! All your schemes will go waste. I don’t think I will reach Pazhaiara or Thanjavur. In all probability, I will die here and reach Kailasam soon!”

Vandiya Devan turned towards him worriedly and said, “Ayya! What has happened to you? Why is your body shivering uncontrollably?”

“This is the shivering fever, my friend! Don’t you remember I told you how this fever had claimed many lives in Elangai. Only a lucky few have escaped the ravages of this fever,”

Vandiya Devan who didn’t panic even when the sails of his ship caught fire panicked now! Poonguzhali who looked up to see the Prince, dropped her oar in shock and stared at him silently.

The Prince’s body started shivering uncontrollably and Vandiya Devan cried, “Ayya! What do I do? Where do we take the boat? Poonguzhali! Is there a physician in Kodi Karai?”

But Poonguzhali was in great shock and wouldn’t respond. The Prince immediately stood up and shouted, “Take me to my sister immediately. Take me to Elaya Piratti,”

Vandiya Devan’s confusion vanished when he heard this but the Prince in the grip of his fever shouted, “Akka! I am coming to you. I will not heed those who try to stop me,” and tried to jumped out of the boat.

The Prince who was very strong became uncontrollable and Vandiya Devan found it impossible to restrain him. He shouted for help, “Poonguzhali! Come here fast,”

Poonguzhali sprang forward and held the Prince’s hand in hers and the Prince became a docile child.

Akka! Don’t be angry with me. I will listen to you. I will lie down now,”

After this, Ponniyin Selvar lay down shivering. His eyes looked around blankly without recognizing anything or anyone. His mouth churned out gibberish and long-forgotten conversation that largely didn’t make any sense!

Vandiya Devan had by then realized that it was pointless to ask the Prince’s advice. It was his responsibility to save the Prince’s life but thankfully he had the aid of this intelligent boat girl who was not only resourceful but also loyal to the Prince.

“Poonguzhali! Let us not tarry anymore. We need to reach Kodi Karai as soon as possible,”

Poonguzhali immediately took up the oars and started plying them fast. The boat veered through the waves intent upon their destination.

Vandiya Devan sat next to the Prince. He was alarmed by the fact that the Prince tried to jump into the sea. What if he tried the same again? He also tried to chart out the next course of action.

“Poonguzhali! What do you think we should do? Shall we dare our way to Kodi Karai? Will your family help the Prince?”

Ayya! It is difficult to know whom we can trust these days. My brother’s wife is a greedy woman and our family is employed by Pazhuvetarayar to take care of the lighthouse. Moreover, the soldiers who had come chasing you, might still be waiting to catch you. And the number of Pazhuvur soldiers might have increased as well, in the hope of Prince’s arrival,”

Vandiya Devan was glad that he took her advice and thanked his lucky stars that sent her to aid him.

“So it is best that we do not go to Kodi Karai immediately,”

“Look there!” said Poonguzhali suddenly.

There was a large ship standing in the direction that she pointed out and beyond the ship the lighthouse of Kodi Karai was visible.

Aha! That’s a big ship. I wonder if it could Pallava Parthibendran’s. If that were so, wouldn’t it be better to take the Prince to Kanchipuram,”

“It could be Pazhuvetarayar’s ship as well. Did you notice anything beyond the ship?”

“I could see the lighthouse,”

“Did you notice anything strange about it?”


“I did. There were some people atop the lighthouse looking at the sea,”

“Will they be able to see us from there?”

“No. But if we go near the beach, we will be visible,”

“Then it is best to be careful, let us go through the canal that you mentioned earlier,”

“Let us go there when the dusk begins. Ayya!  Do you remember I made you stay in that dark mandapam for a whole day? This canal flows near that place. If you could take the Prince there for a while, I could go and find out who has come,”

“Does that canal stop there, Poonguzhali?”

“No. It goes all the way to Nagapattinam,”

At that moment, the Prince started his fevered talk again, “Yes, Akka! You had mentioned about Buddha Bikshus of Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam. Everything happened just as you anticipated. The Maha Boddhi Sangam of Anuradhapuram came forward to crown me as the next king of Elangai but I refused it. Akka! I have no interest in ruling the kingdom. I will listen to any other advice that you give me but please do not make a ruler of me. I would prefer to sail in the sea in a small boat. Nothing gives me more happiness than that. Akka! Do you know, I met this boat girl in Kodi Karai…”

Poonguzhali blushed when she heard the Prince talk about her in his fevered state. Vandiya Devan listened to all this curiously and waited eagerly for the Prince to continue but the Prince regained consciousness now. He got up and looked around asking faintly, “Have we reached Kodi Karai yet?”

Vandiya Devan said, “There! We can see the beach,”

Even when Vandiya Devan was thinking about whether to consult the Prince, the latter lost consciousness yet again!

Poonguzhali found it difficult to meet Vandiya Devan’s eyes or to look at the Prince after that fevered speech. She looked ahead instead and mechanically plied the oars. She deftly set the boat in the western direction and they soon moved away from the beach towards the backwaters of Kodi Karai.

Even while the sun was setting, they reached the canal that she spoke of. The dense woods and the thicket that surrounded the forest shielded the canal from many prying eyes that were roaming in the beach.

Poonguzhali stopped the boat near a dense thicket and said, “Ayya! If you could mind the boat for a while,” and then got down near the bank and nimbly climbed the nearest tree. “Thank the Gods we came here. There are over a hundred men watching the sea near the beach. Near the lighthouse a huge tent has been pitched and there are many soldiers there too!”

“Who do you think it could be?” asked Vandiya Devan.

“I can’t tell but it must be Pazhuvetarayar. Who else could it be? Let us go to the place where I hid you. And then I will go home once it darkens well enough and find out all the information,”

“Poonguzhali! If something were to happen to you, our fate is sealed,”

Ayya! I have never worried about my life before but I am now. Do not worry. I will take care of myself and nothing will happen to me,”

Poonguzhali got into the boat and slowly plied the oars so that no one hears them approaching. After rowing thus for about an hour, she stopped near a dense thicket and got down. She bid a silent farewell to Vandiya Devan and went through the woods. Walking swiftly through the woods, she made her way to Kuzhagar temple. She reached it just on time to watch the priest close the temple gates.
Poonguzhali and Kuzhagar Kovil Priest

“Oh! It’s you Poonguzhali! I wondered who it could be. There are too many people in Kodi Karai today. Where did you go all these days?”

“I had gone out in the sea, Ayya! You said there are too many people in Kodi Karai, who are they? Who are those people standing near the beach?”

“Didn’t you go home Poonguzhali?”

“I did, but I turned away when I saw many strangers. You do know that I hate meeting new people. Who are they?”

“Periya Pazhuvetarayar has come along with his younger queen and a huge entourage. Parthibendra Pallavan from Kanchi too has come and he didn’t come empty handed. He has brought bad tidings that will soon engulf this kingdom in sorrow.”

“What bad tidings? I know nothing about this,”

“Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar had come in this scoundrel Pallavan’s ship it seems and on the way a fierce storm hit their ship and the Prince jumped into the sea to save somebody. They searched everywhere for him and then came back ashore. That’s why Pazhuvetarayar has stationed his men all through the beach, hoping that the Prince might have survived the storm somehow. Why, even he is roaming around the beach restlessly and so does his queen! Poonguzhali! All those people who talk about the Pazhuvur Queen are woefully wrong. I have never seen anybody else so concerned about the Prince’s fate than her,”

“Is that so ayya? Thanks for telling about the good nature of Pazhuvur queen but why did she come here?”

“She came here to pray for the welfare of the Prince and to beseech the Kuzhagar to spare his life. Not everyone is stone hearted like you are. I don’t see you mourning the Prince’s fate,”

“I don’t think mourning his death is going to help him in any way. Who can overcome fate indeed? I don’t wish to go home when so many important people have come there. If you could give me that Prasadam that you bear in your hand, I would be grateful to you. I will eat and sleep in the temple tonight,”

“You are a strange creature indeed, Poonguzhali! When important people come to our home, one would want to make their acquaintance but you shy away from them. What do you think they would do to you? Why do you want to stay alone in this forest tonight?”

Ayya! If you do not wish to give that Prasadam, it’s fine. Please don’t scold me thus,”

“Shiva Shiva! Now why would I scold you? I am worried that this Prasadam might not be enough for your hunger. Take it,” said the Priest and handed over the cloth bundle that held the prasadam.

Poonguzhali opened the bundle and said, “You are right, this is not enough to fill my belly. What do you have in that jar, swami? Is that water?”

“No. It is the anointed milk. I was taking it home for my child.”

“Today let me be your child. Please be kind enough to give it to me,”

“Well. Here take it. At least, return the jar later,”

As the priest exited the temple, Poonguzhali heard an owl hoot near the temple.

Ayya! What’s that sound?”

“Don’t you know? That’s the owl hooting. There is no dearth of owls in Kodi Karai woods but they won’t harm you,” said the priest and left.

After he disappeared, Poonguzhali went in the direction of the owl’s hoot. Weaving her way through the thicket of shrubs and wild plants, she reached the dense part of the woods and waited. And there she heard them talking. A man and a woman!

Mandiravadi! Everybody believes that the Prince is dead. Pazhuvetarayar too is very shaken up by this news but I don’t believe it,” 

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Friday, 11 September 2015

Chapter 3: The Owl’s Call

Kodi Karai Lighthouse

Nandini looked at the sea and saw the boat nearing Parthibendran’s ship. She sighed deeply and it flared Parthibendran’s protective instincts.

Devi! Tell me what you want me to do? Whatever makes you happy will make me very happy!”

Many strange thoughts were coursing through Parthibendran’s mind at that instant. He wanted to rescue this beautiful woman from that old wild cat!

Why can’t I take her away from that old brute? If only she could tell me her heart’s desire, I would imprison that old man in the ship and banish him to some uninhabited island. How dare he marry a beautiful young woman who is probably younger than his own grandchildren?

But Nandini was still watching the sea intently as she noted Pazhuvetarayar climbing on the rope ladder to get into the ship.

“Thank the Gods! He got into the ship! Though he is a great warrior he keeps forgetting that he is quite old. I was worried that he might slip and fall into the water while climbing aboard the ship,”

Parthibendran was disappointed when he heard the words.

Why is she so concerned about the old man? Would it be so bad if he were to die? This kingdom would surely benefit from it and this woman would be ‘free’.

Kodi Karai

“Today, I learned how loyal the old man is towards the Chola Kings. I was astonished to see him wail his heart out. Ayya! Is there any chance that the Prince might have escaped the ravages of the storm?”

“I can’t say anything for sure. The storm was at is peak when he jumped into the sea. It was fate!”

“Don’t put all your blame on fate. It was Kundavai’s greed that brought about this calamity. Do you know, that Kundavai has great belief in astrology and palmistry? She would constantly look at her brother’s horoscope and believe that he would one day become a Chakravarthy! Poor woman, what would she do if she learns that her dear brother died in the storm? I wish I could offer some consolation in her grief!”

Devi! Why do you wish to console her? She brought this upon herself thanks to her own ‘greed’”

“She is the Chakravarthy’s daughter and if she were to shed even a single tear, the people of this kingdom would fall upon their feet to wipe it away. Such is the legendary beauty of this Princess,”

“At one time, I thought the same but after I met you…”

“After you met me?”

“After I met you, I realized that Kundavai’s beauty couldn’t match the beauty of your little toe!”

“Your eloquence is unsurpassed but I wouldn’t believe it. Tomorrow once you meet Kundavai you will forget me!”

“Never! That will never happen! Devi! Why don’t you test my devotion to you? You will know for yourself the extent of my affection for you,”

“Who am I to command you, my lord? I can merely request you. Ever since, I married Periya Pazhuvetarayar, many in the Kingdom have been berating me for causing confusion and chaos. I request your help to prove that lie,”

Parthibendran was fiercely disappointed by her request. He had hoped that Nandini would bid him to do something impossible and that he would accomplish it forthwith and thus gain her favour. But she was talking about the kingdom’s affairs instead!

“Tell me, Devi! What do you wish me to do?”

Ayya! Kundavai is responsible for the present difficulties of the Kingdom. Her vain and headstrong behaviour has alienated all the noble lords from the Chakravarthy’s camp. She has decided to enthrone her brother Arul Mozhi in the Chola throne. That’s why she never encouraged any peace talks among the noble lords. But now that she has suffered an irreparable loss and we can strive to make peace. Ayya! Most of the noble lords wish to see Prince Madhuranthakan ascend the throne after Sundara Cholar and the Chakravarthy too wishes the same,”

“Is that so?”

“That’s right Ayya! Why else would the Chakravarthy approve a royal order that decrees the imprisonment of Arul Mozhi? But I didn’t think this was the right way to proceed with peace talks. I have instead proposed that we split the kingdom from the South of Vellattru for Aditya Karikalar and the Northern region to Prince Madhuranthakar. Didn’t the old Pallava Kings rule the Thondaimandalam region and remain happy? Didn’t Cheras and Pandyas rule within their small kingdoms and remain contented?”

Devi! Why are you telling me about this? How does it matter to me if Chola Kingdom is split into two?”

Ayya! I thought you were the trusted friend of Prince Aditya Karikalar!”

“I have spent years toiling loyally for other people’s fame and glory. I have lived all my life under the shadow of other people’s glory. I wish to live for myself now. Devi! Listen to me. I have often wondered why I was born in this world. My forefathers ruled the Pallava Kingdom for many years. They built Mammalapuram to resemble heaven on earth! I often wondered whether I was born to re-establish the Pallava rule again but my heart wasn’t in it instead I fought for the Cholas and earned their patronage. I became the trusted friend of Prince Aditya Karikalar and was happy to earn glory with him. I thought I would spend the rest of my life in this manner but today I have realized the purpose of my birth!  There! The sea lord too is acknowledging it. Devi! Do not talk to me about splitting the kingdom. Let’s talk something else instead. Ask me to get you precious stones and corals from far away island kingdoms. Ask me to bring precious white pearls from the deepest of the seas in this world. Ask me to get Sanjeevini herb from the lofty mountains of Meru. Let me travel to the sky and make a necklace of those stars for you. Let me bring that full moon for you so that you can use it as a mere mirror…”
“Enough! Ayya! Enough! Kundavai has called me ‘mad’ on many occasions and looks like I might become one, if I heard one more word from you!”

Parthibendran looked a bit abashed and said, “I think it is ‘me’ who is going mad. Forgive me. Tell me, what you wish for?”

“I wish to clean the taint to my name in this Kingdom. The people are saying that the calamity and disaster has come to the Cholas ever since I married Periya Pazhuvetarayar. They say that because of my influence, Prince Madhuranthakar desires the Kingdom that he had earlier refused! They say that the entire conspiracy hatched by the noble lords is my doing! I do not wish to die without making an effort to clear my name,”

“Why do you talk about dying? Do you wish to torment me?”

“Pallava Kumara! Are you familiar with the ancient art of Palmisty? Do you believe in it?” asked Nandini changing the subject abruptly.

Instead of answering her directly, Parthibendran said, “Show me your hands,”
Nandini and Parthibendran

Nandini showed him her left hand and Parthibendran looked at it intently and said, “You have many interesting lines. It is quite astonishing to see these in anyone! Show me your other hand!”

Nandini showed him both her hands and Parthibendran looked at them carefully and said, “Devi! Has anyone ever seen your hands to predict your future?”

“Yes. Princess Kundavai saw my hands and said to me once…”

“What did she say?”

“She said that I would die very young,”

“That is true!”

Ayyo! You too are saying the same thing!”

“It looks like she hasn’t studied the art of palmistry completely. One of your lines does indicate a short life while the other indicates that you might survive the danger and live a long life. After that you will travel across the seas to far away kingdoms and live a happy contented life that even the Kings and Queen would envy. You will gain this happiness through a young man whom you met near the sea and he will move the earth and the sky to fulfil even the smallest of your wishes. These lines indicate it very clearly…” said Parthibendran and then suddenly took her hands and reverently held them to his eyes.

Nandini shook his hands from hers and said, “Chi! How dare you touch me?”

“Forgive me! For an instant I forgot that they were your hands. I thought they were a pair of blooming lotuses!”

“If my lord husband had seen this, he would have put you to death immediately!”

Devi! I regret the fact that I have just one life to give up for you,”

“Then why do you wish to squander your life like this? Use it to help me instead,”

“Tell me what I should do,”

“I wish to save the Chola Kingdom from fratricidal strife. I need your help,”

“How can I help?”

“Bring your friend, Prince Aditya Karikalar to the Kadambur Sambuverayar’s palace. Lord Sambuverayar has a daughter. If only we could get her married to the Prince, my wish will be fulfilled,”

“This is an easy task for me. I will surely bring the Prince to Kadambur, what else?”

“If we get the Prince married to Sambuveryar’s daughter, the troubles that have plagued this realm will lessen by half. Then we will need to convince him about splitting the Kingdom into two…”

“and then…”

“If I could bring peace in this Kingdom, the taint of my bad reputation will be gone. I will then embrace my fate and end my life in the deep sea,”

“Then I will follow you and save your life. We will be reborn in this world again. I will take you to an island far away from here and establish a kingdom for you,”

Ayya! I beseech you don’t talk in this manner. I am a woman born and bred in this kingdom and I am bound by the dictates of society. I am the lawful wife of Periya Pazhuvetarayar,”

Devi! Tell me the truth! Why did you marry this old man? Do you truly love him or did he force you to submit?”

“Please don’t blame my husband. I married him willingly,”

“Why? What for? What did you see in him?”

“I didn’t see anything in him. But he did offer me a life in the palace, troop of servants and maids for me to command and a gracious life of a queen,”

“I can’t believe this!”

“It is difficult to believe but that’s the truth. When I was young, there was someone who abused me for being an orphan and for being poor. She told me that I had no right to play with Prince and Princesses of the realm. I wished to prove her wrong and that’s how I ended being married to the old man,”

Devi! Who is this woman who insulted you thus?”

“Can’t you tell? Can’t you guess?”

“It was Princess Kundavai, wasn’t it?”


“I will teach her a lesson one day,”

“God has taken care of it. With one stroke of his hand, she has been deprived of her brother and lover. I feel pity for her,”

“I think she deserves a much harsher punishment that this,”

“If you fulfil my wish by bringing the Prince to Kadambur, it will be a just punishment for Kundavai. Her wish to rule over the Chola Kingdom will turn to dust,”

“If I fulfil your wish, what will you give me in return?”

“Whatever you wish will be yours, provided you do not demand anything that would besmirch the honour of my marriage to my Lord Husband,”

Rani! In the desert kingdoms of Arabia they follow a new religion where married couple can separate and remarry whomsoever they desire…”

“I have heard about it,”

“Let us go to this Kingdom and join their religion…”

“I have had daydreams about doing something like that but it is not possible,”

Devi! Why do you say thus? It is possible. If you could only say ‘yes’ I will make it possible for you. I will take you across the seven seas and conquer rich islands. I will carve out a new empire for you. I will seat you beside me on golden thrones studded with precious gems. I will place upon your beautiful head a sparkling crown and make the people pay homage to you. It is our fate to be together, that’s why I survived many deadly wars just so that I could rescue you…”

Ayya! My lord husband is coming back. His boat has almost reached the shores. Calm yourself, we can talk about these things, later.”

“Later, when Devi?”

“Come along with us to Thanjavur. If my husband doesn’t invite you as a guest, then come with us as our prisoner,”

“Your invitation alone is enough for me,”

Pazhuvetarayar’s boat came ashore and he stomped furiously through the beach to reach the tent. Nandini and Parthibendran stood up when they saw him approaching. Poor old man! His anger knew no bounds when he realized that Nandini and Parthibendran had been talking all the while when he was away.

Nadha! Did you inspect the ship properly? Did you speak to the sailors? Did he say the truth about the Prince?” asked Nandini with a loving voice. Her voice calmed the storm that was blowing in her husband’s heart.

“Yes. Whatever he said was true. The beloved Prince of this realm, that lovely boy is dead, thanks to this scoundrel!” said Pazhuvetarayar grounding his teeth.

Ayya! I am not responsible for his death. Don’t lay the blame on my head. This tragedy is not of my doing but of that vile woman who rules the Chola Kingdom!”

The old man’s anger was frightening to behold. He thought that the Pallavan was talking about Nandini!

“What did you say?” he shouted and took out a spear that was struck on the ground and aimed at him in anger.

Nandini sprang forward and clutched his hand tightly, “Nadha! What are you doing? How could a great warrior like yourself smear your hands and reputation by killing a guest under your own roof?”

Rani! Is he a guest? Didn’t you hear what he just said about you?”

“My lord! Are you sure that he was talking about me? If he were indeed talking about me, I wouldn’t wait for you to take revenge. I would kill him myself,”

Ayya! Am I mad to talk about the Pazhuvur queen? I was referring to the headstrong princess of Pazhaiarai. Kundavai sent a message to Prince Arul Mozhi with Vandiya Devan and signed his death warrant. The Prince jumped into the stormy sea to save him, despite my objections. That’s why I said Kundavai was responsible for the Prince’s death,”

Pazhuvetarayar felt a bit ashamed for jumping to conclusions but instead of accepting his mistake he said, “Don’t try to hide your mistakes by blaming others. What were you doing when the Prince jumped into the sea? How could you allow him to do such an insane act? Go! Get lost! I don’t wish to see you anymore!”

Nandini interjected and said, “Nadha! Wouldn’t it be prudent to take him to Thanjavur along with us? Let him narrate whatever happened to the Chakravarthy or else we will be blamed for the Prince’s death,”

“Let people talk whatever they want, I will chop their heads one by one. I am not afraid of idle talk. But yes, it is better to take him along with us to Thanjavur. Parthibendra! Why are you looking hither and thither? Do you plan to escape?” he said and signalled his soldiers to come near.

“Bind him with ropes!” shouted Pazhuvetarayar and the soldiers surrounded Parthibendran. The Pallava scion stood silently for a while and then showed his prowess in arms. Soon the soldiers lay on the ground moaning and groaning in pain!

Ayya! If you wish to bind me then don’t send these mere soldiers. I would submit only to that warrior who has won 64 glorious scars in the service of Chola kingdom,”

Despite his anger, Pazhuvetarayar found himself smiling. “You are indeed the scion of the brave Pallava kings, there is no doubt about that. If you agree to come along with us to Thanjavur willingly then there is no need to bind you,”

“I wish to come with you to Thanjur. I want to speak to the Chakravarthy and tell him everything that occurred. I too do not want to be blamed unnecessarily for the Prince’s death,”

“Fine. Let us leave instantly!”

At that moment an owl hooted at a distant in the woods. Nandini looked immediately in that direction.

“The woods of Kodi Karai is very strange indeed! How could an owl hoot in the broad daylight?”

Nandini immediately looked at her husband and said, “Do we leave immediately? Shouldn’t we wait for two or three days here? What if the Prince had survived the storm by clutching a wooden log or something? He might come ashore here,”

“Parthibendra! Do you see how wise the queen is? We didn’t think about this! Yes, let’s tarry for two more days here and we can search the sea near here for any sign of the Prince.”

“I have no objection Ayya! But I don’t think that the Prince would be found. If you had seen the storm that raged that night, you too would be discouraged thus.”

But the old man didn’t listen. He stationed his men in boats all along the coast watching for signs of survivors.

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Volume 1 - New Flood