Monday, 28 March 2016

Chapter 16: Madhuranthaka Devar

We met Prince Madhuranthakan at the beginning of this story and then had a mere glimpse of him while he was in the underground chamber in Thanjavur. It is quite unfortunate that we failed to introduce this famous prince (who would later ascend the Chola throne as Parakesari Uttama Chola) in a befitting manner to our readers. We shall take this opportunity to do so now.

Before we introduce Prince Madhuranthakar to the readers, it is important that we learn more about his ancestors. Before the reign of King Sundara Chola, his uncle King Gandharathithar ruled over the kingdom for many long years. The King and his young wife Queen Sembiyanmadevi were devout saivaites who were keen on piety, art and architecture rather than expand the Kingdom through war. King Gandaharathithar’s one great wish was to bring all the Devaram poems written and sung by divine mystic poets under one fold but it remained unfulfilled during his lifetime. Nonetheless he did bring together many Devaram poems that he had heard and that’s not all he was also a prolific poet who penned many poems glorifying Lord Shiva. One of his poems describes eloquently about Chithambaram temple where his father had given all the gold in the Chola treasury to gild the roof golden for Lord Shiva.

Queen Sembiyanmadevi worshipping Lord Shiva at Uma Maheshwarar Temple, Konnerirajapuram (aka Thirunallam) 

Gandharathithar abhorred wars and had no ambition to expand the borders of Chola Kingdom. He believed that the common people were the true casualties of war and therefore rooted for peace all through his reign. His noble intentions notwithstanding the might of Chola Empire declined considerably during his reign. He had married Sembiyanmadevi at a very advanced age and their son Prince Madhuranthakan was an infant when he breathed his last. The Kingdom was undergoing turmoil during that period. His brother Aringzha Chola was grievously injured in the war and was in his deathbed while his son Prince Paranthakan (Sundara Chola) was a young warrior who had proven his might in many battles. During the final years of his reign, Gandaharathithar decided to crown his nephew as the next heir apparent and decreed a will to that effect. He also wanted his Queen Sembiyanmadevi to bring up their son Madhuranthakan as a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva lest power and riches of the Kingdom tempt him.
Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi as goddess ParvatiIndia, state of Tamil NaduChola period, ca. 998 Bronze; height 92.1 cm (3614 in.), Freer Gallery (Washington D.C.)
Sembiyanmadevi kept her promise to her lord husband and brought up their son with devotion and piety. She tried to instil in him the deep devotion for Lord Shiva and kept him away from the affairs of the kingdom.

Prince Madhuranthakan until the age of twenty fulfilled his mother’s wishes and devoted himself to the worship of Lord Shiva. He was disinterested in the affairs of the kingdom and to tell the truth he had no inkling about the fact that he had any claim on the Chola throne. However after his wedding to Chinna Pazhuvetrayar’s daughter two years ago, there was a sea change in his outlook and attitude. From a shy introvert Prince he transformed into a resentful angry young man. Pazhuvur Queen Nandini Devi had much to do with his transformation as did the Pazhuvur brothers. He resented the fact that Sundara Chola had ascended the throne and that his own mother played an important role in denying him the kingship. His wishful dreams of being a king became a raging wild fire after he learned that the most powerful noblemen of Chola Kingdom supported his claim. While these noblemen wished to wait for Sundara Chola’s demise, the Prince was unwilling to wait that long. He believed that Sundara Chola never had any claim to the Kingdom and that it had rightfully belonged to him in the first place.

Now that Sundara Chola was bedridden and unwell, why can’t he take over the reigns of the Kingdom?

The Pazhuvur brothers found it difficult to keep the Prince’s desire for the Kingdom in check. They feared that the Prince might do something foolish and foil all their plans to secure his succession. King Sundara Chola’s sons were brave warriors who commanded much respect and love from the army and the masses. Two powerful noblemen – Thirukovaloor Malayaman and Kodumbalur Vellar, supported the Crown Prince’s claim to succession. The Pazhuvur brothers felt that it would be impossible to stake a claim to the throne for Madhuranthakan, while the King was still alive. Therefore they had decided to stall their plans until Sundara Chola breathed his last.

In the meanwhile, when they learned that the King wished to crown Madhuranthakan instead of his own sons, they felt that an amicable solution was possible after all… If the King himself wished to deny his sons the throne and crown his cousin there was no more need for any subterfuge.

Only two women were capable of opposing such a scheme – one was Elayapirati Kundavai and Sembiyanmadevi. It would be easy to foil Kundavai’s plans but how could they counter a woman who was highly respected and worshipped by the masses.

Sembiyanmadevi has been resolutely against Madhuranthakan ascending the throne and everyone knew about it. This they felt was a real hurdle in the path of succession and even if Madhuranthakan were to ignore his noble mother’s words, the people of this kingdom would never forgive him for it. They felt that there were two solutions for this problem… either the Dowager Queen should breath her last after which the Prince can pursue his heart’s desire or he could try and change her mind. And who but her beloved son can try to attempt this?

Therefore the Pazhuvur brothers had explained all this and more to the Prince and had literally drummed it into his head that Sembiyanmadevi’s approval was of paramount importance if his succession plans were to materialize. However the Prince was less than enthusiastic to undertake this mission. Though he was more than ready to take charge of the Kingdom he hesitated to broach the subject with his mother. What more… he had no desire to meet her as well.

Meanwhile Sembiyanmadevi had sent him a message saying that she wished to fulfil an important wish that her lord husband had held dear to his heart and wanted her son to be present at the occasion. Chinna Pazhuvetarayar persuaded the Prince to make the journey to Pazhaiarai accordingly and also to try to change her heart so as to make her favourably disposed towards his succession to the Chola throne.

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