Sunday, 15 January 2017

Chapter 1 – Banks of Kedilam

Kedilam is one of the rivers that made the Kingdom of Thirumunaipadi fertile and green. Along the banks of this river is a Shiva Temple much celebrated by Appar Perumal. Further down this river is yet another temple of Lord Shiva where Sundaramurthy Nayar had composed many of his poems in Thirunuyavalur. Situated betwixt these two places lay the king’s road that led one from Thondai Mandalam to the Chola Kingdom. The banks of Kedilam were always busy thanks to the many pilgrims who bathed in the river before visiting the temples. 

That year in the month of Aipasi (October to November) there were many people gathered near the banks of the river and the flow of the water too was very high. Drowning the sounds that these pilgrims made, yet another noise was heard on the King’s road. Startled by the noise, many went up trees to see what was happening. At first, they could only see the dust of the road rising up and soon they could see an entourage of elephants, horses, royal chariots and palanquins, royal heralds, flag holders, drum beaters marched at the head of the procession.

The clear voice of the herald soon cleared the people’s doubt about who was approaching. 

“A Warrior born and bred on the battlefield! A Prince who became a seasoned warrior at the tender age of 12 years! The lion from whose shadow the Rashtrakutas flee! Noble Lord of Erattai Mandalam! The Crown Prince of Chola Empire! The Eldest Son of Emperor Sundara Chola! Prince Aditya Karikalar arrives!”

The thunderous voice of the herald caused a busy flurry of activity at the banks of the river. Those who were half way across the river came back to the banks to watch and cheer for the Prince. Those who were bathing hurriedly dried and dressed themselves to watch and gawk at the royalty who would soon arrive.

After the herald and the flag holders there came three warhorses bearing three warriors. Even when they were at a distance, people pointed towards and started talking.

“You see the one in the middle, that is Aditya Karikalar. Don’t you see the golden crown that he is wearing? See how it glows in the sun!”

“This crown is not as glorious as Karikala Valavan’s crown. You should see that. They say that it glows with the radiance of over thousands of suns.”

“The one that you are referring is not the crown of Karikala Valavan. Though they call it the same, for tradition’s sake, it was made during the time of Parthaka Chakravarthy. That’s the crown that was given to Sundara Cholar during his coronation. Though we don’t know how long he would wear it.”

“People have been saying that for a very long time… but the Emperor is still lingering.”

“I hope that he does. So long as he is alive, there won’t be any confusion or chaos in the Kingdom.”

“That too is not certain. Ever since the news about Ponniyin Selvar came, the entire Kingdom is troubled. Who knows when there will be a civil war?”

“Who is going to fight whom?”

“They are expecting a fight to erupt between the Kodumbalur clan and the Pazhuvur clan. To avoid this, they have organised for peace talks at Kadambur Sambuverayar’s palace. Aditya Karikalar is also on his way there.”

“The horses are coming near, talk softly…”

As the horses neared them by, they said, “Why is Prince Aditya Karikalar looking so grim and upset?”

“Isn’t it natural? His brother is lost in the sea and no one has any news about him. Everyone knows how much he loved his brother and his father has become invalid.”

“That’s not the reason why the Prince is looking grim. He is upset because his plans of invasion against the Eratai Mandalam have been foiled.” 

“Who foiled his plans?

“Who else but he Pazhuvur brothers. I heard that they refused to give the Prince the supplies that are needed for an invasion.”

“You people don’t know the real truth, that’s why you are carrying on with such lies. The real reason as to why the Prince is upset is not known to one and all…”

“Really! So it is you who knows everything. Why don’t you tell us then?”

“I have heard that the Prince was in love with some woman from the Pandya Kingdom. When the Prince was battling with the Pandya army, Periya Pazhuvetarayar swooped in and married that woman. Now she has become the Pazhuvur Queen and is literally ruling over the Kingdom. Ever since the Prince heard about this, I have heard that he has lost his mental balance.”

“It’s possible… Our elders say that women are the sole reason for most wars.”

“Who are these elders who say such absurd things? This is sheer madness and I haven’t heard a more malicious lie than what you told. So what if the Prince had loved a woman? What possessed her to go and marry an old man instead? I can’t believe that people are peddling such lies…”

“If that is so, then why the Prince still unmarried? Tell us if you know everything.”

“Be quiet! The horses are coming closer. The one on the right side of the Prince is Parthibendra Pallavan. Who is the warrior on the left? Is it Vallavareyan Vandiya Devan?”

“No! No! It is Kadan Maran, noble Sambuverayar’s son. Instead of sending a message, Sambuverayar sent his son instead to invite the Prince to Kadambur Palace.”

“That itself shows that something important is going to be decided at Kadambur Palace.”

“They probably want to decide who would succeed the throne next. And until Karikalan is unmarried and single, all these noblemen will try to get him as their groom. He is the heir apparent and the crown prince after all. And the woman who marries him first will become the queen!”

Such were the conversation and conjectures that the people debated upon. The three horses went all the way to the banks of the river and stopped. Aditya Karikalan got down and went towards the chariot that had followed them behind.

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Volume 1 - New Flood