Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Chapter 26: Anirudhar’s Request

When Anirudhar’s presence was announced the crowd parted on both sides to allow his palanquin through to the courtyard. They had immense respect for his person and had total trust upon his loyalty towards the king. As he made his way through to the forefront of the crowd, many spoke to him expressing their distress about Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar’s fate. He soothed their fears and allayed their fears about the Prince by telling them about the rescue plans that were underway. When the palanquin reached the courtyard, the bearers lay it down and he emerged out of it and looked up at the balcony. Noting that the dowager queen and princess were standing, he bowed low to them in respect. Next he saw the fist fight that was still underway between Vandiya Devan and Pinagapani (Physician’s son). Yes… they were still fighting there completely unaware of what was happening around them.

The Prime Minister then told the guards who had come with him, “Arrest these ruffians…” The guards along with Azhwarkadiyan moved through the crowds and pulled Vandiya Devan away from the physician’s son. Azhwarkadiyan signalled him to keep quiet therefore he held his peace while they bound them both in ropes and dragged them away.

Anirudhar in the meanwhile made his way to the balcony and addressed the crowd.

“I can understand your distress and anguish very well. The Emperor and the Empress too are equally distressed and worried for the Prince’s welfare therefore I request you not to indulge in any activity that would elevate their worries. I seek your support in this and hope that you will give it. I have made adequate arrangements to search for the Prince in the sea and all about the coast and I am sure he will be found soon. I request you all to go back home peacefully.”

In response to his request many other voices rose with questions again…

“We wish to see the Emperor. We want him to return to Pazhaiarai,”

Yet another one asked, “What about the soldiers who went along with the Prince to Elangai?”

“The Emperor is safe in Thanjavur and his palace is being guarded by Velkarar soldiers. I will bring him back here very soon…Do not worry about our soldiers in Elangai. We have won the war in Elangai and our soldiers will soon be on their way back home.”

Hearing the Prime Minister’s explanations the crowd burst out in cheers and soon began to disperse. After watching this for a while, Anirudhar turned towards Sembiyanmadevi and said, “Devi! I need to discuss many important matters with you. Shall we proceed to your visitor’s chambers?”

Next he turned towards Kundavai and said, “Princess! I need to talk to you as well, I will come to you afterwards,” Kundavai nodded her assent and went to her palace. Her troubled heart swirled with many worries. The Prime Minsiter was one person in the Chola Kingdom of whom she was scared. He was a man with an eagle’s eye and was privy to many secrets that would bring his enemies to the knees. The depth of his knowledge about the kingdom and its affairs was unfathomable and no one could actually be sure what secrets he knew. Kundavai was often at a loss to know for sure what to tell him because he inevitably seemed to know at all times what she had been up to behind his back.

When Vandiya Devan was arrested at the courtyard, the Princess was enraged beyond words but she couldn’t reveal her anger and nor could she openly support that warrior.

So he wants to talk me is it? Let him come, I will give him as good as it gets. She thought to herself and went to her palace.

Prime Minister Anirudhar
It’s a fact that Sembiyanmadevi commanded universal respect among the people in the Kingdom and the Prime Minister too treated her with utmost devotion. Despite that, the Dowager Queen stepped into her Visitor’s chamber with trepidation and fear about what he would talk about.

Ayya! For the past few months, I have been hearing many an untoward news that has pained by heart immensely. Have you perchance come here to console me or to give more shocking news?”

Amma! I don’t know whether the news I have brought to you is ‘shocking’ or not. It depends on how you react to it.”

“Is this news about Arul Mozhi true? I cannot believe it at all. We had so many dreams about him… were they in vain? We believed that he would rule this world as one strong empire…”

Amma! It is true that many astrologers had predicted that he would one day be an emperor but I never acknowledged it and neither did I deny it.”

“Alright. I am asking you now directly. Is this news true or not that the Prince is dead at the sea?”

“I know not whether it is true but I do know for sure that all through the Chola Kingdom this news has spread like wild fire.”

“If this happened to be true then I can’t imagine what kind of horrors are in store for our Kingdom.”

Amma! These horrors that you speak of, is not going to wait until the news about the Prince is confirmed and they are unleashed upon us even as we speak…”

“True! One spark of a rumour is merely enough to start a wildfire. I have never seen the people of Pazhaiarai so enraged and angry before this…”

“You speak of Pazhaiarai but I have seen scenes like this all over the Kingdom. People in Thanjavur are enraged as well.  People within the fort broke through the palace gates and surrounded Pazhuvetarayar’s palace. Finally we had to let loose elephants upon them to get them to disperse…”

Ayyo! This is horrendous.”

“I am glad that Prince Madhuranthakar came to Pazhaiarai or else he too would be blamed for the Prince’s fate,”

Ayya! You will be surprised to learn how much Madhuranthakan has changed in these past few years?”

“I will not be surprised Devi. These are things that I have known for a while now.”

“If you had known about it, then why didn’t you make any attempt to change his mind? Alright at least now you can help me change him.”

Amma! I see no reason to change the Prince’s mind about ascending the throne. I came here to speak to you on his behalf…”

“What do you mean by that? I do not understand.”

Amma! Madhuranthakar thinks that this Chola Kingdom belongs to him by rights. He wishes to ascend the throne after the Emperor’s reign. It is not merely a wish but a dream that has been sown deep into his heart and any attempt to uproot this would end in disaster for him and for the Kingdom as well. I think it would be more prudent of us to fulfil this wish…”

Ayyo! What are you saying? How dare you say such treasonous words against the Emperor?”

Amma! I will never betray the confidence that the Emperor has placed upon me. I am here at his request pleading you to relent from your rigid decision. The Emperor wishes that Prince Madhuranthakan ascended the throne after his reign. The Pazhuvur brothers are openly conspiring for this for a long time but now with the turmoil in the Kingdom, the Emperor wishes to crown the Prince right away and retire from public life. He wants your assent for this…”

“I will never agree to such a scheme. Do not imagine that I would shirk my responsibilities and my promises to my Lord Husband. You are the Prime Minister of this Kingdom and you know everything about everything. Even if the Emperor has bid you to do this, how could you come here with such a request? Have you totally forgotten that there are certain truths that we both know? Have you forgotten all about them?”

Amma! I haven’t forgotten anything. There are many other secrets that I am privy to, of which you have no inkling. That’s why I have come here on behalf of the Emperor to convince you…”

Ayya! The whole world knows about your wit, intelligence, political acumen and strategies but I beg you do not use them on me.”

Amma! I didn’t come here to debate with you and nor to prove to you my superior intelligence. I came here to beg you to consider the Emperor’s request as you alone can save this Kingdom from utter disaster.”

“Direct your pleas to the God, my Lord Shiva or to your Ranganathar. May they shower their blessings upon us all…”

“Mother! If you refuse the Emperor’s plea we have no other recourse but the Gods, as we are at the brink of a disaster.”

“What sort of disaster are you talking about and how can Madhuranthakan’s ascension to the throne help avert it?”

“Amma! Today you saw the people of this city enraged and up in arms, in the same manner when the news about Prince Arul Mozhi spreads around, everywhere people will rise up against the Kingdom swearing vengeance. If this were not enough, Kodumbalur Periya Vellar is mustering all the forces in Elangai and is preparing to march towards Thanjavur. When this news reaches Aditya Karikalan, he too will bring his forces to the capital. Pazhuvetarayars and the other lords who support your son’s claim have been busy recruiting an army to match the forces of Karikalan and Kodumbalur Vellar. A fratricidal war is imminent and you will see your kith and kin perish just as Pandavas and Kauravas destroyed each other. Would you watch such a carnage silently?”

“Prime Minister! I have no kith or kin. Adi Sankarar once told –

Matacha Parvati Devi
Pita Devo Maheshwara
Bandva: Shiva Bakthacha

My mother is Parvati Devi, my father is Lord Shiva and all those who worship are my family. I too believe in the same. I have no one else and nor do I need them…”

Devi! Let me remind you the fourth phrase of the same hymn

Swadesho Buvanathrayam

The same Adi Shankarar also told us that the land of our birth holds more importance than all the three worlds. Will you see your land of your birth and the land where you ruled as a queen, torn apart in strife?”

"The land of my birth is important to me Prime Minister but there are many other places that I would love to visit. I want to go to Kashi, to Kashmir and if God wills I will go to Kailasam. I have been wanting to start on a pilgrimage for a long time, I request you to make arrangements for the same.”

“Mother! Bharatakandam is facing many new threats today. Mughai warriors and Turk warriors are on the look out to capture new lands and their eyes are upon us. A thousand years ago the Yavana warriors (Greek) and in the same manner these warriors too are here to loot our land. They follow a strange religion where they are taught to raze our temples to dust and destroy our Gods. There is no kingdom in the North that is strong enough to fight these hoards. Only we have the strength of arms to go beyond the borders of Ganga and stop these murderous fiends who have come to destroy our faith. This has been my dream for many years now, only you can help me fulfil it. If you agree to the ascension of Madhuranthakan on the Chola throne we can arrive at a compromise and avoid a fratricidal strife and our armies can help uproot the invaders.”

Sembiyanmadevi remained quiet for sometime after hearing this and then she said, “Ayya! I am but a mere woman, how can my decision affect the course of Bharatakandam. If our lands are under such dire threat then I shall pray to my Lord Shiva to avert the danger. That’s about the only thing that I can do. Beyond that, I cannot and will not forget my promise to my Lord Husband just before he died and nor will I act in a manner that would break my word to him.”

“If that is your decision then I believe that it is time that you know the truth.”

Before he could continue, Prince Madhuranthakar burst into the room in a hurry, “Amma! What is this that I hear? Did Arul Mozhi drown in the sea?”

Amma! Do console your son. I will speak with you again at a later time.” Said the Prime Minister and left the room but not before he heard the Prince’s comment about him, “There… there goes my first enemy. He dares to come here even while I am present in the city to incite you against me.” 

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Volume 1 - New Flood