Friday, 18 November 2016

Chapter 41: Madhuranthakan’s Gratitude

When the Prime Minister tried to lift the Prince, he wailed in pain.

“Ayyo! I am dead! Don’t touch my legs…. they are gone and broken.”

Anirudhar asked him, “Prince! What happened to you? How did this mishap occur?”

“My legs are gone… they are broken. I can’t walk… nor can I stand.”

The Prime Minister called out his men to bring the palanquin nearby and then turned towards the Prince and said, “Ayya! What happened to you? How did you end up alone in the forest, hurt and broken? Where is your entourage? Where are your royal guards and servants? How dare they leave you alone in the forest in this rain? I can’t think of a punishment that would be tough enough for such scoundrels!”

“Prime Minister! There is no need to punish anyone. I started out of the palace in the evening, alone on a horse. I was going by the riverbank when it started raining heavily and then the lightening struck. My horse bolted and started galloping wildly. I couldn’t control it. Then I fell down near this tree, that’s when my legs either broke or I might have sprained them. I can’t get up without any aid. Thankfully you came in the dead of the night to help me.”

“It was your father King Gandarathidhar’s blessings and good deeds that saved you today Prince, that’s what sent me this way towards you. Bear the pain for a little while, my men and I will put you inside the Palanquin. We will discuss the other details while on the way to my house near Nadan Kovil.”

Anirudhar’s men brought the palanquin nearby and kept it down and then they helped Madhuranthakar up on his feet and placed him inside amidst many painful groans from the Prince.

After that, the bearers lifted the palanquin and walked slowly, so that the Prince didn’t get jostled during the journey. The Prime Minister walked alongside the palanquin to help the Prince.

After a while, they reached Nadan Kovil village where the Prime Minister had a house near the temple. Anirudhar and his men took the Prince inside and laid him down on a bed. Next, they lit a lot of lamps inside the room and proceeded to check the Prince’s leg and found that he had indeed sprained his leg and that they were not broken. This relieved the Prince a lot and his panic subsided.

The Prime Minister’s servants got food from the temple that he partook along with the Prince.

“My Prince! Sleep well tonight. In the morning, I will make arrangements for you to go wherever you wish. I am on my way to Thanjavur, if you wish, I can accompany you there.”

“Ayya! You have harmed me many times for many years but your actions today negates all the hurt that you have caused me. I will never forget the help that you rendered me today. If I become the Emperor of Chola Kingdom tomorrow, I will retain you as my Prime Minister.”

“Prince! I am indebted to the Chola dynasty. It is my duty to guide and offer apt suggestions and render help to all those who belong to your dynasty. Therefore, there is no need for you to thank me in any way. I was merely doing my duty. I am however intrigued by your other statement. You said that I have harmed you many times. I do not understand that. To my knowledge, I don’t think I have harmed you in any way but if I have, I would like you to tell me how to redeem myself.”

“Ayya! Your reputation in this Kingdom is great. You are well known for your political acumen; intelligence and brilliance in strategic affairs, therefore, please do not use your superior skills on me. You very well know what harm you have caused me but I am willing to forgive you and forget all about it only because of the help that you rendered me today. In return, if you need any help from me, I would be happy to give it.”

Anirudhar smiled at him and said, “Yes, my Prince. There is something that this old man wishes from you. I wish that you detest from going anywhere alone on a horse. It would be best for you to travel in a palanquin with your entourage and soldiers guarding you.  People of this Kingdom are very angry due to various reasons. You saw how people came together and protested in Pazhaiarai. In fact, I am of the opinion that instead of an open palanquin, a veiled palanquin would be much safer for you and if we can get Pazhuvur Queen palanquin for the same, it would be much easier. No one would suspect that you are travelling.”

Maduranthakan was flabbergasted. He didn’t think that the Prime Minister knew anything about that subterfuge. Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead as he tried to gather his thoughts and respond to the old man. “Prime Minister! What are you saying? Are you intentionally trying to humiliate me? Why would I travel in Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin?”

“My Prince! I didn’t know that you found it humiliating to travel in the Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin! You were travelling all over the Kingdom in her palanquin and the last journey that you made was to Kadambur Palace wasn’t it?”

Madhuranthakan looked truly scared now.

“Prime Minister! I… I went to Kadambur…”

“Prince! You went to Kadambar on the month of Aadi, on the 18th Aadi Peruku day. On that day, even Periya Pazhuvetarayar had accompanied you. You were taken there on the Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin. To tell the truth, I didn’t like it much. Travelling in a palanquin is recommended for old men like myself. For young men like yourself, travelling on an elephant or a horse is more suitable, however, you do need to train yourself to do that. Once you regain your health and the use of your legs, I will arrange to train you…”

“Anirudharey! Careful! You have been humiliating me with your words ever since you brought me here. Just because I fell down today, do not conclude that I know not how to control a horse. You can’t be more wrong to conclude that I travel in Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin all the time. I am patient now only because you are an old man who helped me today…”

“My Prince! I am happy about the fact that you are patient. There is a saying that goes, ‘Those who are patient, rule the earth.’ Do you know what great poet Valluvar said once? He said that there is none more patient than our Mother Earth. It bears the wounds that we men visit upon the earth. We dig the Earth deep but in return, we are gifted with water. I believe that those who wish to rule too must have the self-same patience that Mother Earth has. Therefore if this old man talks something inappropriate, kindly bear it with patience.”

“Ayya! What are you saying? Are you accusing me of trying to covet this Kingdom?” Madhuranthakan’s face had by then become red with anger, his lips were trembling and his eyebrows were knitted together in fury.

The Prime Minister was unperturbed by the Prince’s anger. He said, “My Prince! Why would I accuse you of anything? If you wish to rule this Kingdom, how would it be wrong? You are the young scion of King Vijayalaya Chola’s dynasty and the son of King Gandarathidar Chola. You have all the rights to ascend the throne and no one can accuse you of trying to covet anything when it belongs to you by rights. However, if someone is advising you to the contrary and saying that what you wish for is wrong and that you need to indulge in conspiracies against the Kingdom to attain your wishes, then I beseech do not believe these people. Prince! Please listen to this old man. Your parents didn’t wish that you rule over this Kingdom and you listened to them for a while but now your wishes and desires have changed. No one can fault you or accuse you of trying to covet the Kingdom that should have come to you by rights. You can march up to the Emperor and openly state your wish to ascend the throne as his heir, instead of trying to garner the support of the Kalamugars and joining hands with the Pazhuvur brothers to claim the backing of the noblemen in this Kingdom. Those who are giving you such ideas are doing a great disservice to your reputation and you must consider them as your enemies.”

Madhuranthakan was confused. Firstly he didn’t anticipate the fact that the Prime Minister knew everything about his activities. 

“Ayya! How do you know so much about my activities? Who is that traitor who has been acting as my friend and telling on me behind my back?”

“My Prince! It is futile trying to learn my sources. I have eyes and ears all over this Kingdom. Be rest assured, nothing can happen in any part of the Kingdom without my knowledge.”

“If that is so, then does the Emperor also know about all this?”

 “No. I haven’t seen it fit to inform him about all this yet. I bear many and more secrets than I care to reveal, My Prince. I reveal them only when the time and circumstances are right.”

“True. Your heart bears many and more dangerous secrets and if by some chance they get revealed won’t it shake the very foundation of this Kingdom?” said Madhuranthakan with his voice dipped in irony and malice.

The Prime Minister, however, continued and said, “The Emperor is my friend but there are many secrets that even he doesn’t know. His illness is the biggest source of pain and torment for the Emperor and his heart is wounded. I don’t wish to burden him more with the conspiracy that the noblemen are hatching at the behest of the Pazhuvur brothers. My Prince! Be rest assured, I will never inform the Emperor about your involvement or activities in this regard.”

“Ayya! I wonder why this sudden love for me that too, now of all times?” said Madhuranthakan and laughed derisively.

“My Prince!  I have no ‘sudden love’ for you. Whatever respect and love that I bear for the sons of Sundara Chola are also yours to claim. I have always had the utmost respect and love for you since your birth though there was no occasion to reveal the extent of it to you before…”

“Until today, when you helped me after the mishap with the horse. But if this mishap had happened a couple of days earlier, you wouldn’t have hesitated to kill and leave me to the wolves in the forest, wouldn’t you?”

“Narayana! What are you saying, Prince?”

“Ayya! I am not a fool who would believe anything that is told to me and neither am I a simpleton who has no knowledge of anything. You have been conspiring against me ever since I was but a babe in my mother’s womb. You tried to kill me on the day that I was born… there you are looking surprised. You thought that I didn’t know? Do not be under the wrong impression that you alone know all dark secrets about this Kingdom.”

Anirudhar did indeed look surprised and shocked by the Prince’s words but he soon gained his composure and said, “My Prince, you are right. There have been many times when I have been vain enough to believe that I alone knew all the secrets of this Kingdom. Today, however, my pride is broken. Now that you knew all about my plans to kill you at birth, how did you escape my murderous clutches? If you would tell me, I would be much obliged.”

“You wish to know how much I know about everything. All right, I will tell you. Your sent murderers to kill me right after I was born and they snatched the child without even checking whether it was a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy’ and when they learned that it was a girl they came and told you. You allowed the girl child to live and gave her off to some priest and asked them to bring her up. A half-hour after she was born, my mother gave birth to me and since my horoscope and stars seemed to be fine, you allowed me to live. Since you failed to kill me at birth, you have been determined to stop me from ascending the throne. You tried to influence my mother and asked her to bring me up as a Shiva devotee so that I would willingly refuse the throne. You failed in that too. I didn’t turn out to be the mad Shiva devotee who would renounce the kingdom and this world in turn. Ayya! Why are you looking so stunned? Won’t you argue that all that I am saying is a blatant lie?”

The Prime Minister was indeed looking stunned and it took him great effort to think of a reply for the Prince. “Prince! There is indeed no point in refuting all this, especially when you know so much about everything.”

“Yes. There is indeed no use. I also know why you have this sudden love for me. You have no love or regard for Aditya Karikalan. You wished to crown Arul Mozhi Varmar instead but now that he has drowned in the sea, you have developed a sudden love for me. Despite all the wrongs that you have done to me, let me tell you this. I will forget the past only because of the help that you rendered me today. I will also retain you as my Prime Minister once I become the Emperor of this kingdom.”

“My Prince! Your words are a great source of happiness for me.” Said the Prime Minister.   

Friday, 4 November 2016

Chapter 40: Aanaimangalam

We know that one of our heroines Vanathi, had the annoying habit of fainting at the end of momentous chapters. We hope that you would excuse her this one time because she would soon be cured of this habit.

When Vanathi gained consciousness again, she felt as though she was swaying in the sky. Drops of rain fell all around her and she could smell the rain and the freshness of the earth and the drip drop sound of the rainwater. Though it was dark all over she could still make out flashes of lightning in the sky and a cold wind blew all over her.

She remembered the Prime Minister’s words about the going to the nether world and the elephant lifting her in its trunk.

Anirudhar’s words came true. My life in this world has ended and I am traveling towards the nether world. I will probably see Gods and Goddesses in this world. But he wouldn’t be there. The one person whom she had enshrined within her heart as a God will not be there. So what’s the use of going to the netherworld?

Why am I swaying thus? Why is my mount shaking? But the place where I am sleeping is so comfortable and soft just like a mother’s lap. No… more than my mother’s lap it reminds of Princess Kundavai’s lap who loves me just like my mother.

Ah! I wonder what she is doing in Pazhaiarai right now? When would she learn of the terrible fate that befell me?

Alright! I am travelling to the heavens through the clouds but what kind of vehicle am I on? Could it be Pushpaka Vimanam that comes in Ramayana or would it be Airavatham – Indra’s magnificent white elephant? My God! Why am I thinking about an elephant now? That life is over and done now.

Though she tried to convince herself about her death, Vanathi’s curiosity got better of her and she tried to find out where she was lying. She touched the place where her head was placed and found it as soft as silk. Someone was touching her cheek and her eyes and was calling her…

“Vanathi! Vanathi!”

Akka! Is that you?”

“Yes. It’s me. Who else?”

“Are you travelling with me to the heavens?”

“Why do you wish to go to the heavens, my girl? Are you so tired of this world now?”

“Then… where are we going?”

“You have forgotten about it so soon? Don’t you remember that we are going to Aanaimangalam?”

“Where? Where are we going?”

“Great! We are going to Aanaimangalam perched atop an elephant no less.”

Ayyo! An elephant!”

“Are you afraid of elephants now? Why are you shivering?”

“Akka! Did I fall asleep?”

“Yes, you did. You were cherishing the joy of travelling in an elephant and fell asleep happily.”

“Fell asleep happily! There was nothing happy about it. I had the most frightful dreams.”

“I thought so as well. You were blabbering many things in your sleep.”

“What did I blabber?”

“You spoke about Kalamugars… sacrifice and then Gajendra Motcham and then Elephant’s trunk! After that you abused our poor Prime Minister Anirudhar and called him names! I do say that he totally deserves being abused thus… though if he had only heard it, I doubt if he would sleep peacefully for days.”

“I can’t believe that it was all a dream, Akka.”

“What was the dream… tell me that?”

“I dreamt that the Kalamugars kidnapped me and took me to the Prime Minister who asked me many questions about the Prince. I refused to answer his questions and he got irked by my refusal and commanded the elephant to throw me to death. I wish you had seen me then, Akka. I didn’t flinch away from the danger and nor did I give away to despair. I remembered you then… I wished you were there to see me stand up to that man bravely.”

“Well… I am glad that at least in your dreams you turn out to be brave.”

Vanathi remained silent for a while and then said, “I still can’t believe it.”

“What can’t you believe?”

“All that can’t just be a dream…”

“Sometimes dreams can be that realistic too…I have had many such dreams that seem so real that I can’t believe it when I wake up.”

“What dreams are these? Tell me.”

“Why? I dream of my brother all the time. It’s been so long since he went to Elangai but in my dreams, he is there with me.”

“You are lucky akka!”

“Lucky am I? What do you know of my heart that has been in pain ever since he disappeared in the sea?”

“What if that too had been a dream and never happened?”

“If only it were so Vanathi, but it is true. The Prince did jump into the sea and people who saw it has come back to tell us about it.”

“You are talking about the Vandiya Devan, aren’t you? Didn’t he say something else about the Prince and the boat girl and mention Choodamani Viharam as well?”

“It must be one of your dreams then. Now that I recall, you did blabber something about the boat girl Poonguzhali and Choodamani Viharam in Nagapattinam. You also said that you would become a Buddha Bikshuni! Have you lost interest in this world so soon that you wish to give up its pleasures?

Akka! Don’t you know my heart? I have no wish to live now that he is no more! I truly wish that the elephant had thrown me to death.”

“Wretched Girl! You would die and leave me alone!”

“You are different Akka!”

“True! You bear more love and affection towards my brother than I do perhaps?”

Akka! I didn’t mean that. I was about to say that you have a strong heart that has the forbearance to weather through dark times…whereas I don’t have such fortitude and I have no wish to live on after he is gone…”

“Stop! Why do you say that he is dead? Why should we believe such a thing? Do you know for sure? Did you see? Pazhuvur brothers and their queen and that poor Madhuranthakan might mourn my brother in the public and feel happy about it privately but why should we do it?”

“What are you saying then? What do you think happened to him after he jumped into the sea during the fierce storm? If he had escaped, don’t you think he would have come back home by now?”

“Foolish girl! When someone jumps into the sea, should we just assume that they died?”

“If he had escaped, then why didn’t he come back home?”

“Vanathi! Do you know what happened to my father when he was young? For many months in row, he was missing and no one knew where he was. They searched for him high and low in the seas and then brought him back to the kingdom and made him the heir apparent to King Gandarathidhar. My own grandfather Aringzha Cholar went missing after the Thakkolam war and returned after many years. Listen to me Vanathi! My beloved Ponni River saved my brother and gave him back to me years ago… in the same manner Samudra Raja too would give him back to me. There are many small islands dotting the coast of Elangai, it could be possible that the Prince might have taken shelter there. I started on this journey just to ensure that no effort is spared in searching for the Prince. Don’t you remember I told you all this just before we started? I can’t fault you though… you have been in a state ever since the news about the Prince came.”

Vanathi remained silent for a while and then asked, “Akka! What’s the name of the place where we are going?”


“Where is it?”

“It is near Nagapattinam. In your dreams, you had blabbered about Choodamani Viharam that too is near Aanaimangalam. If you truly wish to become a Buddha Bikshuni, it would be very convenient for us. But don’t be in a tearing hurry to give up this world and don ochre robes… you can decide about it after we get more news about Ponniyin Selvan.” Said Kundavai and laughed.

Akka… you are laughing. How can you? Are you so sure that the Prince has escaped?”

“If I am not sure, then would I be like this Vanathi? The astrologer’s predictions have certainly come true. The divine couch and the Sudarshana Chakra mark in his hands will come true… so far whatever was predicted about him has come true.”

“I don’t know how you can believe all that…”

“What do you know, girl? You have not been yourself ever since you heard the news. Almost all the astrologers that I had consulted told me that Arul Mozhi would have to pass through many dangers to his life and that has come true. I am sure the rest of the predictions about his life too would come to pass…”

“What were the rest of the predictions?”

“I have told you so many times…why do you want me to repeat it now? Sleep now… we will talk about it later.”

Vanathi remained silent for a while and then said, “Why are we travelling in the night that too on the elephant, Akka?”

“You don’t remember? If we travel in the light, people from nearby villages would come to us with questions about the Prince… It would be impossible to answer them… and they in turn would curse the Pazhuvur brothers of conspiracies and abuse the Pazhuvur queen in our hearing. Why should we hear all that? The Pazhuvur brothers might even go to the length of accusing me of inciting the public against them. That’s why we are travelling in the night. I told you all this when we left Pazhaiarai but you seem to have forgotten. I hope we find some cure for you at Choodamani Viharam… Now go to sleep… even I am feeling sleepy. There is nothing else to do on this moving mountain…”

Vanathi resolved to remain silent from now on and thought back to the day’s events… they seemed real to her now.

I am not dreaming and nor am I imagining things as Princess Kundavai seems to believe… she concluded.

She wondered what might have happened to her after the elephant had lifted her with its trunks but she couldn’t remember anything. One possibility was that Princess Kundavai might have arrived there on time, to save her…

She imagined how the Prime Minister must have felt after seeing Kundavai but the elephant had lifted her in its trunk to throw… how could Kundavai save her from this danger?

What if this is the same elephant that had lifted me with its trunk? She could faintly remember seeing a hooded seat on top of the elephant.

What if Kundavai had been sitting in the hooded seat all the while when the Prime Minister was talking to me? The elephant might have placed me in the hooded seat instead of throwing me to death!

Vanathi had seen elephants do that feat many a time. She wondered whether Kundavai and the Prime Minister had concocted this plan just to stop her journey or maybe they wished to check how brave she was?

Didn’t Kundavai do a similar thing by arranging a dead crocodile to frighten me?

Be that as it may…travelling alone to Nagapattinam was a stupid plan in the first place. It is so comforting to be with Princess Kundavai and sleep on her lap instead. She wondered whether to believe in Kundavai optimism or not? She now knew for sure that Kundavai wouldn’t be so unless she knew for sure that the Prince is alive and well.

Will I meet the Prince at the end of this journey?

When she thought about the meeting, her heart bounded with love and anticipation.

The elephant walked on and on through the night. The royal guards accompanied it guarding its front and rear. The rain had stopped after a while and the stars came out.

Vanathi looked at them and wondered whether they can truly influence the lives of countless people who live in this world.

For many years now, she had heard astrologers comparing Ponniyin Selvar’s stars and hers as a perfect match.

Is there any truth in all that? Kudanthai Jodhidhar had predicted that the son born to her would rule the world! Would it really come true?

They also say that the appearance of a comet in the sky indicates grave danger … if so what danger would it be?

Is the danger averted now that the Ponniyin Selvar jumped into the sea or could it be something else… something more fatal?

Will he truly return just as Kundavai believes?

With these and many other thoughts swirling through her mind, Vanathi slept for a while. When she woke again, it was early in the morning.

Kundavai too was up and she parted the veils of their hood and looked out and said, “There we have reached Aanaimangalam. We have arrived at the Chola palace…”

They both ascended from the elephant hood and entered the palace. The palace retainers welcomed the Princesses warmly and showed them the place. In the end, they went to the rear of the Palace where a canal could be seen that later joined the sea.

Akka! You said that you would be making arrangements to search for the Prince. What are these arrangements?”

“Yes, Vanathi… the arrangements have been made. See there… do you see a boat? The people in the boat might bring us some information.”

Vanathi saw that there were two people in the distant boat. “Akka! Who is coming in the boat?”

“The boat is rowed by Senthan Amuthan… remember him? We released him from the Thanjavur Underground prison and the other person in the boat must be Poonguhazli, his cousin.”

Goose pimples rose on Vanath’s body and she said, “Akka! I do not wish to meet that woman, I will go inside.”

“What is this? Why are you so afraid of that girl now? Stay where you are and don’t say anything.”

The boat neared the palace even as both the women waited for it.

How did Vanathi escape from the elephant? Her guess proved to be right in this case. The elephant as she had anticipated did not throw her to death. Instead, it had handed her over to the hood where Princess Kundavai caught the unconscious girl and had laid her down.

After that, the Prime Minister had looked up and said, “Devi… I will take my leave now. May your journey be successful and fruitful.”

Ayya!  I thank you for your help.”

“You said that the Kodumbalur Princess was a coward? I haven’t seen a braver girl than her…”

“She was a faint-hearted girl before but off late she has become braver…”

“That must be because of you Princess… She must think that I am the worst demon in the three worlds… but then many people think about me in that manner and I am not bothered about other people’s opinions… I will take your leave now.”

Saying thus, the Prime Minister got into his palanquin and headed west while the elephant and its guards turned south.

Right after the Prime Minister’s journey began, it started raining but the bearers and the guards didn’t stop for respite anywhere. In a little while, the rain too stopped and that’s when the Palanquin stopped.

“Why have you stopped?” asked the Prime Minister.

“Master… it looks as though someone is lying under the tree there.”

The Prime Minster looked out and at that time, a lightning flashed through and he could see clearly that someone was indeed lying there.

“Yes… It looks as though someone is there.” said the Prime Minister and got down from the palanquin and then walked towards the tree.

He could hear someone moaning in pain…

“Who is there?”

“Is that the Prime Minister?” asked the person who was lying there.

“Yes. This is the Prime Minister. Who are you?”

Ayya! Don’t you recognise me? I am Madhuranthakan.”

“Prince! What is this? What happened to you? How did you end up thus?” said the Prime Minister and hurried towards him.

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Volume 1 - New Flood