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Ponniyin Selvan Part II (30 – 33)

June 21, 2015

From Part II of the novel Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki Krishnamoorthi.

30. DUEL

It seemed to Vandhiyathevan as if the horses were traveling on an unending path. Has this Vaishnavan actually deceived me? Is he going to hand me over to the enemies?

On both sides the forest was dense. If one tried to penetrate it with one’s eyes there was only a terrifying pitch black darkness. It was impossible to know what dangers awaited in what form in that eerily dark forest. Tigers, bears, elephants and poisonous critters – along with these enemies can also be hiding; who can see? Didn’t they say that the Chola garrison had captured only up to Dambulla in the south? Where is he taking me?

Fortunately there was some light from the moon. It played on the tops of the trees that towered toward the sky. Intermittently its rays fell below on the path as well. Sometimes the shadows of the three horses going in front were visible to the eye. But the sound of their hooves was a constant.

Suddenly a few other sounds were heard. Sounds that are not expected in the middle of a forest. Cheerful sounds arising from many human voices. The jubilant sound of dancing and singing. Ah! There is a light seen between the trees. Together with the light from flame torches, there is also light coming from large cooking pits. Aha! Who are these soldiers happily camping in the middle of this forest? Are they soldiers from Chola Nadu? Or are they soldiers who belong with the enemy?

It was for a very short time that Vandhiyathevan had these thoughts. During that very short time he missed seeing the horses in front coming to an abrupt stop and one of the horses making a swift turn. The horse that turned advanced and approached Vandhiyathevan’s horse. The man on top suddenly leaned towards Vandhiyathevan and struck him with force. While Vandhiyathevan was still reeling in its shock, he grabbed one of his knees and pushed him upwards. ‘Plop’ – Vandhiyathevan fell on the ground. Carried away by its speed the horse galloped a little further and then stopped.

Meanwhile the soldier who pushed him jumped from the horse and came near Vandhiyathevan. As Vandhiyathevan still in a daze struggled to get up the man pulled the knife from Vandhiyathevan’s waist and threw it away. At once new life surged into Vandhiyathevan. With it rose anger. He bounced back up. Closing both hands tightly into fists tough as diamond he punched the man who had pushed him. Would the recipient be still? He too displayed his skill. Between the two of them took place an inadvertent duel. They fought like Kadothgajan and Idumban. They rolled like Sivaperuman as hunter and Arjunan. They collided as two displaced thickacham colliding against each other.

Azhvarkadiyan who accompanied Vandhiyathevan, and the soldiers who were riding in front looked in surprise as they stood to a side. In the intermittent moonlight that filtered through the moving branches they witnessed this extraordinary fight without batting their eyelids. Soon footsteps were heard. With burning torches in hand some soldiers came pushing aside the tree branches. Those who came also stood in wonder watching this duel. In a short time a big crowd had gathered.

Finally Vandhiyathevan was pushed down. The soldier who pushed him sat over his chest and unwrapped the cloth-roll tied around the waist. He took hold of the ola inside. However much Vandhiyathevan tried to prevent this, his attempts were not successful.

Once the soldier took hold of the ola he jumped up and went near the light shed by the flame torches the surrounding soldiers were holding. With a signal from him two of the soldiers came running and held Vandhiyathevan down so he could not get up from the ground.

Vandhiyathevan with unspeakable anger and anxiety shouted, “Evil Vaishnava! How can you commit such a crime against a friend! Grab that ola from him!”

“Appan! This matter is out of my hands!” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Cheechee! I have never seen a coward like you! I trusted you for a guide and came?” said Vandhiyathevan.

Azhvarkadiyan with prudence alighted from the horse and went near Vandhiyathevan and said into his ear, “Aday, fool! Whoever you brought it for, the ola is with him! Why are you wailing for no reason?”

The other soldiers had seen the face of the one reading the ola in the light of the flame torch. At once a loud cheer rose from them.

“Long live Ponniyin Selvar!”

“Long live the destroyer of foreign kings!”

“Long live our Ilanko!”

“Long Live the son of the Chola tribe!” Shouts of this kind rose and spread all over that jungle terrain. As their echoes the birds that were asleep on the branches waking up produced a variety of sounds beating their wings ‘chada chada.’

Apart from those who had already arrived some more soldiers came running pushing away the shrubs and vines to find out what was going on. When the soldier – seeing the crowd increase in number – turned and said, “All of you go to the encampment. Make the arrangements for dinner. I will be there in a short time,” all of them turned as one person and hurried away from that place.

Vandhiyathevan who had been well beaten and pummeled was watching all of this seated on the ground. He was drowned in a sea of surprise that made him forget the painful beating his body had taken.

‘Aha! So he is Prince Arulmozhivarmar! How strong his hands are! What speed! If cuffed at all, let it be with a jeweled hand – they have said! If I am to be cuffed let me be cuffed by his hand. He has Arjunan’s splendor and stateliness! He also has the physical strength of Beemasenan! Surely there is nothing surprising about the entire town and country praising him!’ he was thinking.

Untimely and in this awkward manner we have had to introduce the prince who gave this story its name, Arulmozhivarmar who was later known as Rajarajar. It is only natural for readers to feel disappointed! Yet what can be done? If this is the first time our hero Vandhiyathevan is meeting him, then how could we have seen him before!

Arulmozhithevar approached Vandhiyathevan. For a moment Vandhiyathevan was stunned whether he was going to once again test the strength of his fist.

But when he saw the smile on his face he relaxed.

“My friend! Welcome! Welcome! Welcome to beautiful Ilankai island! You have come a long way crossing the sea to join the Chola Nadu warriors! Are you satisfied with the heroic reception I gave for the trouble you have taken? Or do you think that it was not enough, that we should continue the hostile reception?” the prince said smiling.

Vandhiyathevan jumped up and said with respect, “Prince! The letter that your sister gave has reached you, my duty is over. After this there is no necessity for me to protect myself. If it is your wish we can continue for a while reading the chapter on hostilities!”

“Aha! Easy for you to say! You are not worried about your life anymore. That worry has become mine. Or else how will I answer the junior stateswoman tomorrow? Friend, the letter that I read now appears to have been written by the beautiful hand of my sister. Did she give it to you herself?” he asked.

“Yes, Prince! I was fortunate to be given this letter by the junior stateswoman herself. After that I came traveling day and night without stopping anywhere,” he said.

“That is self evident. Or else could you have arrived here so fast? How can I repay someone for such extraordinary service?” The prince hugged Vandhiyathevan to his chest. Vandhiyathevan felt that he was in heaven. As if by magic his body’s aches disappeared without a trace.

31. ‘Aeylela Singhan’ Performance

About thousand Chola soldiers had set up camp in the space created by the dried up pond surrounded by rows of trees. For their dinner there was rice cooking in large brass pots over open fire blazing from very large stone built stoves. In pots and pails there were vegetables steaming. The aroma arising from it produced saliva in the soldiers’ mouths. To pass the time until the rice was cooked they entertained themselves with singing and dancing. At this time when the prince who had captured their hearts also arrived their joy became boundless. With great difficulty the colonel of this border patrol troop kept them under control. He made everyone sit in rows forming a half circle.

They had cut a giant tree leaving behind a stump at its base. The prince came and sat on this tree stump turned throne. He was not dressed like an elephant keeper now. He was seated dressed in a gold silk cloth around his waist, pearl necklaces on his chest, bracelets on his arms and a gold crown on his head. Around him were seated the colonel responsible for border security, Vandhiyathevan and Azhvarkadiyan.

As planned, for the entertainment of the prince the historical theater of Aeylela Singhan began. Just as the Chola soldiers have now captured a large part of Ilankai once a thousand years ago Tamil soldiers have captured Eezha nadu. The leader of these Tamil soldiers was Aeylela Singhan. Driven away by him Ilankai king had for a while hid himself in the mountains. His young son’s name was Thushtagemunu. He was a ruthless warrior. He had been dreaming about retaking Ilankai from Aeylela Singhan for a long time. When this soldier was a small child he was one day sleeping on his bed with his hands and legs tucked underneath him. His mother said, “Child! Why are you crouched in this manner? Why don’t you stretch your legs and hands and sleep comfortably!” Thushtagemunu answered, “Mother! On one side the Tamil soldiers are squeezing me. On the other side the sea is encroaching. What can I do? That is why my body is crouched in this  manner!” When this soldier came of age he gathered an army and went to war with Aeylela Singhan. His army got shattered and scattered in all directions. At that time Thushtagemunu came forward with an idea. He faced Aeylela Singhan directly and told him, “King! Before your large garrison my small army had been shattered. I am the only one remaining. You were born in the ultimate heroic tradition. Therefore I beseech you to duel with me. Let the winner claim this Ilanka kingdom; the other can have the soldiers’ heaven!”

Aeylela Singhan admired the courage and fortitude of Thushtagemunu. Therefore he agreed to have a duel. He ordered his soldiers not to intervene. The duel began. Thushtagemunu’s soldiers also returned when they heard this news. All were watching without even batting their eyelids. The fight went on for a long time. Thushtagemunu fought furiously to redeem his birthright. Because Aeylela Singhan was sympathetic towards the young man he was not utilizing all of his strength. Therefore in the end Aeylela Singhan died. When Thushtagemnu was crowned, to celebrate Aeylela Singhan’s courage and generosity he built a pallipadai temple on the spot where he died.

This extraordinary event in history was dramatized as an opera by the Chola soldiers in front of Arulmozhivarmar. Dancing and singing took over. The actor who portrayed him captured the mood so well, the audience wondered if Aeylela Singhan was truly dead on that stage. Watching the drama the prince and the other soldiers responded with cheers of ‘aha’ frequently.

During the course of the performance the prince turned to Azhvarkadiyan and asked, “Thirumalai! At the Dambulla cave temple there is a painting of the fight between Thushtagemunu and Aeylela Singhan, have you seen that painting?”

“No, Sir! I saw you on the streets of Dambulla. I have not had time to go visit the cave temple,” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Aha! Those paintings in that cave temple must be seen! Thirumalai! There are many murals in our Tamil Nadu. There are greater wonders in this Ilankai island,” said the prince.

“Prince! The murals in this country are not going anywhere! They can be seen anytime. But seeing you is nothing like that. We happened to come at the right time to see you! Parthipenthira Pallavan who arrived ahead of us was returning convinced, ‘he’s not here!’ We saw him on the way,” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Yes; even the colonel said that my brother’s beloved friend had come looking for me. Can you guess why he was here?”

“Certainly. Athitha Karikalar had sent him to bring you to Kanji.”

“Adaday! You know about it! Your friend had brought this letter so carefully, it looks as if you know what’s written in the letter as well?”

“Your sister has written asking you to come immediately to Pazhaiyarai. Prince! When Kundavaidevi wrote this letter confidentially and gave it to this Varnar tribe warrior I was watching from the arbor house nearby…”

Vandhiyathevan who was behind Azhvarkadiyan pinched him sharply on his back.

“This is a terrible jungle; even at night I am stung by a bee!” said Azhvarkadiyan raising his hand and swatting himself on his back.

The prince slightly angered said, “Cheche! What is this work? You have started to show your expertise even on my beloved sister?”

“It is because I saw that, that I brought him here with such caution. Prince! Lord Buddha knows the difficulties I went through to keep him out of trouble on the way and bring him here safely. If we came via Anuradhapura he certainly would not have reached here. He would have died fighting with someone on the way. That is why I brought him through the forest. There also he tried to fight with an rutting elephant. After finishing off that elephant with my stick I have brought him here safely!”

“Oho! So you came to Ilankai just to bring him to me safely, is that right?”

“No, Sir! For my part I too have brought you some news.”

“What is that? Tell me quickly!” said the Prince.

“Chief minister Aniruthar had sent word that it is advisable for you to remain in Ilankai for some time.”

“If three people send word in three different ways which one should I be listening to?” said Arulmozhivarmar.

At that time Vandhiyathevan interrupted and said, “Prince! Pardon me! It is your sister’s wish that you should listen to!”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because your heart is telling you that it is your sister’s word that you should respect. Even if you don’t listen to her, I must make you listen. The junior stateswoman has ordered me to somehow bring you!” said Vandhiyathevan.

The prince after looking Vandhiyathevan up and down said, “I have been praying for a long time for a brave friend like this!”

32. KILLI VALLAVAN’S ELEPHANT

Just when the theater ended dinner was ready. Bundles of lotus leaves were brought and placed in front of the soldiers. Rice and curry were served.

While the soldiers were eating the prince did his rounds. Every now and then he paused and made inquiries about their health. He asked for their name and birthplace. Those who were attended to in this manner slipped into a sea of happiness. Others congratulated them on their luck.

Already the Chola nadu soldiers were very fond of Ilanko.  In recent times this affection had increased many fold. They knew about the great effort that the prince had undertaken to get them the necessary food products from the mother-country. In addition the prince socialized  with ordinary soldiers at their level asking about their welfare and thereby being a source of encouragement for them. This aspect of the prince had made the soldiers treat him like the apple of their eyes.

Therefore, the soldiers here and there tried to stop him. They forced themselves to be bold and ask him something. Most importantly, the question most of them asked was, “When are we attacking the city above?” Answering the question the prince said to some, “What is the use in attacking the city above? Mahinthan has gone into the mountains!” To some others he said, ‘Be a little patient; let the rainy season pass.” Some soldiers expressed their dissatisfaction in being lethargic in the absence of war. Some others said, “If you would at least once a month visit us like this then we would be patient.”

Once the social inquiries were made, the prince went to the tent that was set aside for him. He took Vandhiyathevan and Azhvarkadiyan with him.

“Did you see the enthusiasm of these soldiers? If only we had received the necessary cooperation from Thanjai, by now this entire Ilankai island would be under us. An extraordinary opportunity was wasted. We cannot have a war here during the rainy season. At least for another three or four months our soldiers will have to be idle!”

Thirumalai responded, “Prince! Your concern about this surprises me. There is great danger there, for Chola empire itself. The kingdom founded by Vijayalaya Cholar, the empire expanded and prospered by Paranthakar and  Sundara Cholar is about to break into pieces through infighting!”

“Yes, yes! Both of you have brought important news. Here I am talking about my small worries. Good; Now tell me everything you have to say in detail. Let him begin first!” The prince pointed to Vandhiyathevan.

Vandhiyathevan immediately began his story. He told about everything he saw and heard since he started from Kanji. Pretending to not want to elaborate too much on the daring acts he had had to perform to escape the many dangers he nevertheless at the same time told them of his heroism. Finally he concluded, “Sir! They are keeping your beloved father as if in prison. Close relatives, high-ranking officials and petty chiefs are jointly hatching a dangerous plan. Because of all of this your sister the junior stateswoman is plunged into a deep depression. Therefore you must leave immediately and come with me to Pazhaiyarai. You should not wait even for a minute!”

Azhvarkadiyan then told his part. He agreed with everything that Vandhiyathevan had said. In addition he told about the meeting of the murderers at midnight near the Thirupurampiyam pallipadai. He again emphasized Chief minister Aniruthar’s message that because of the prevailing dangerous atmosphere in Chola Nadu that it was better for the prince to stay away for the moment.

“Not only that you should not come to Chola Nadu now; the chief minister has requested not to extend the war front here. He is requesting to gather all the troops and wait in northern Ilankai. The saboteurs will soon emerge and display their true colors. The chief minister is of the opinion that at that time the troops here in Ilankai will be very useful. At present in Pandya Nadu there are the kaikola troops, the Vanniyar troops and the Velahlar troops – all three are prepared to sacrifice their mind, body and wealth for the sake of the prince. The chief minister commanded me to inform you of this also!” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Thirumalai! What is your Guru thinking? Like the Jains of Padalipuram does he think he is the Jain of Anbil? Is he telling me to fight with my family and relatives?” The prince asked angrily.

“No! Sir! Aniruthar didn’t say that. But he is saying that those who plot against the emperor, those who have begun to hatch plans against the empire must be punished at the proper time. Isn’t it your duty to assist?” said Thirumalai.

“How can I be the leader for this? If the perfidy is real, isn’t it the emperor who should take the proper action against it? Without my father’s orders how can I take part in this matter?” said the prince.

Vandhiyathevan now interfered. “Prince! Your father does not have free agency! The Pazhuvertaraiyrs are keeping him like a prisoner. They are keeping him inside the palace in a way that no one can go near him. Your brother has vowed not to come to Thanjai. In these circumstances isn’t it your responsibility to protect the empire? Isn’t it your duty to come to Thanjai immediately?” he said.

“What is the necessity for the prince to be in Pazhiyarai? This is what I don’t understand!” said Azhvarkadiyan.

After thinking for a while the prince said, “To be greedy for land is very dangerous. How many atrocious sins have been committed in this world because of love of land? Today I went to the Simmakiri fortress, didn’t I? Do you know the history of that fort?”

“I haven’t heard,” said Vandhiyathevan.

“I will tell, listen! About five hundred years ago a king called Thathusenan ruled this Ilankai island. He had two sons. One’s name was Kasiappan; the other was Maghallan. Thathusenan’s colonel and Kasiappan joined together and plotted. Kasiappan put his own father in prison and took the throne. Maghallan crossed the sea and ran to Tamil Nadu. After some days they erected a wall around Thathusenan’s prison and killed him. For committing this atrocious sin, Kasiappan began to be afraid that his brother Maghallan would return to take revenge. He came to this Simmakiri hill for that. He built a fort on its summit and lived there. Because of its perpendicular incline he thought that it would be impossible for the enemies to capture. For eighteen years he lived in hiding in this manner. Finally one day Maghallan arrived bringing along with him the Pandya king’s garrison for support. He approached the Simmakiri fort. At that time Kasiappan had lost his mind. After hiding in the fort all these years he came out vaingloriously and fought and died! That kind of cutthroat, an evil man who killed his father, – in the fort that he built are some extraordinarily colorful paintings. Today when I went with the Chinese pilgrims I saw. Adada! How to describe the beauty of those paintings? They were painted a hundred years ago. But even today the color has not faded and they remain as new…”

“Sir! Can I ask a question?” said Azhvarkadiyan.

“Why hesitate? By all means.”

“Simmakiri fort is still in the hands of the enemies?”

“Yes; I have no intention to begin the process of capturing it now. There will be unnecessary loss of life because of that.”

“I am not asking about that. Sir! I asked if it was prudent for you to enter the enemy’s fortress. What was the urgency that made you go as the elephant-keeper for the Chinese pilgrims? I began to question my eyesight when I saw you on the elephant’s back. Only by the crease over your eyebrows I was able to overcome my doubts. Should you place your life in such danger?”

“Is my life that precious, Thirumalai! How many Chola Nadu soldiers have come to this Ilanakai and lost their lives?…”

“They lost their lives in the battlefield. You placed your life in danger unnecessarily!”

Not unnecessarily; There were two reasons. I have for a long time wanted to see the Simmakiri frescoes. I fulfilled that desire today…”

“Prince! The other reason?”

“As soon as Parthipa Pallavar landed in Trincomalee, I heard about it. I didn’t want to see him today. Because…”

Because…?”

“I also knew that the chief minister was in Mathottam. I expected word from him. If there is word from two elders, shouldn’t I follow the one I receive first?”

“Aha! Tell me again, isn’t it my side that won?” Vandhiyathevan rejoiced.

“King! He deceived you by his tricks…”

“He didn’t deceive me; I willingly got deceived. I had seen him following on his horse after pushing down the soldier who was meant to bring you. I wanted to teach him a lesson…”

“Good lesson you taught! Each lesson weighs like twenty five pounds. My back and chest are hurting even now when I think about it! Is this any way to treat a courier? Never mind; if only you would go with me to Pazhaiyarai…”

I am reminded of an old song, Thirumalai! Among my ancestors was a king called Perunkilli Vallavan. He had a special elephant. Its one leg would be in Kanji; it would press down Thanjai with another foot; with another it would stomp down Eezha Nadu. The fourth leg would remain planted in Uraiyoor.

‘One leg pressing down the city of Conjeveram another
the flowing waters of cooling Thanjai – next one
stomping Eezham thus arrives our
Chola king Killi’s bull elephant!’

A poet had thus sung with extraordinary imagination. Herds following herds one sees thousands and thousands of elephants in this Ilankai. What is the use? If there was an elephant like the poet’s imaginary elephant then I too can be in Kanji, Pazhaiyarai, Madurai and Ilanaki at the same time, can’t I?”

Vandhiyathevan and Azhvarkadiyan rolled with laughter upon hearing about the poet’s elephant. “There is no such elephant! What are you going to do?” asked Thirumalai.

“Is there any doubt? It has been decided to leave for Pazhaiyarai!” said Vandhiyathevan.

“Stop your fight for a while. Tomorrow we will go to Anuradhapuram. There I must somehow meet Parthipa Pallavar. I must decide only after hearing him also,” said the prince.

33. MESSAGE FROM THE STATUE

The next morning before sunrise Arulmozhivarmar, Azhvarkadiyan and Vandhiyathevan left for Anuradhapuram. After a short distance on the forest path they reached the royal thoroughfare. Vandhiyathevan was surprised that the prince was not accompanied by any other soldiers. But he has never been as excited as he was on this journey. It was a pleasant experience just traveling on that tree lined thorughfare at dawn. His heart was brimming with pride that he had accomplished the mission that the Pazhaiyarai princess had entrusted in him. Is that all? His years-long desire had also been fulfilled. He had seen the favorite child of Chola nadu. The young hero whose brave deeds and character the entire country was singing about in praise; he had met that young prince also. How extraordinary was that meeting? It is true what he has heard, that Arulmozhivarmar was an exceptional man! How suddenly he turned his horse shocking him out of his wits? This is perhaps the secret of victory after victory wherever he leads an army! His war strategy is to attack the enemy where and when he is least expected! But is this the only secret of his unending victory lap? How courteously he mingles with the troops? How he had captivated them with his affection!

Is it only the troops? How he had charmed even the people of the country that he conquered? Can anyone say that there has been a war fought in this country recently? How carefree the people on the streets are? In the villages on both sides how the people are going about their affairs fearless and worry-free? On their faces there isn’t even a trace of sadness or fear? Even the mirthful laughter of women and children falls on the ears frequently! What a wonder! What a wonder is this man! Vandhiyathevan was reminded of the prince stubbornly arguing that food ought not to be taken from the people of the conquered country, his insistence that food products must come from Chola Nadu for the garrison, Pazhuvertaraiyars’ fury over this matter, and their complaints to Sundara Cholar. In addition he compared in his mind the ruthless war practices employed by Athitha Karikalar and the generous and lawful war-time conduct of Arulmozhivarmar. He didn’t want to in any manner think lowly of Athitha Karikalar, who had been his employer until only a few days ago. Yet he could not help himself but compare in the above manner whenever he glanced at the happy faces of the village people living on both sides of that Anuradhapura royal thoroughfare. Ammammah! Is this sight possible in the places where Athitha Karikalar had been at war? Won’t it be the wailing and crying all over?

Vandhiyathevan’s heart beat rapidly in the anticipation of discussing with this prince of such wondrous nature many topics, inquiring about various matters. But where is the place to talk while traveling at high speed seated on horses? Yes! There was but one opportunity for talk.

As they were approaching Anuradhapuram, Vandhiyathevan saw on the roadside the standing figure of an enormous Buddha statue. Vandhiyathevan didn’t pay much attention as these kind of statues had been present at various places in Ilankai. But when Ponniyin Selvar suddenly pulled the horse and came to a stop next to the statue he too had to stop. Azhvarkadiyan who was a little ahead of them also stopped his horse and turned towards them! Ponniyin Selvar stood there taking a close look at that majestic statue of Lord Buddha for a while.

“Adada! How splendid an art!” he said.

“I don’t see any splendor. These enormous Buddha statues are present wherever one looks in this country. I don’t know why!” said Vandhiyathevan.

The prince smiled at Vandhiyathevan. “You speak your mind; I am happy about it,” he said.

“Prince! Only today Vallavariyar is practicing the art of speaking the truth!” said Thirumalai.

“Vaishnava! It’s all a result of the company I keep. Ever since I met you at Veera Narayanapuram imagination had taken hold of my tongue. Once I met the prince the tradition of speaking the truth had resumed!” said Vandhiyathevan.

The prince was not paying attention to their verbal tug-of-war. He was engrossed with the appearance of the statue.

“There are only two figures in the world that exemplify the wondrous art of sculpture. One is Nadarajar; the other is Buddha,” he said.

“But we don’t make Nadaraja figures so huge in our country?”

“Some of the ancient kings of Ilankai were great men. The kingdom they ruled was small, but their hearts were big. They showed their devotion to Lord Buddha through these enormous configurations. They showed their devotion to Buddhist religion by building large stupas. After seeing the Buddha statues, stupas and viharais in this country I feel embarrassed to think of the tiny Sivan temples of Chola nadu!” said Ponniyin Selvar.

Then he got down from the horse and went near the statue. He looked closely at the artfully constructed feet of the statue and the lotus buds that adorned the feet. He touched the feet in worship before returning to climb back on the horse.

The horses went slowly. “Why? It looks as if the prince would join the Buddhist religion?” Vandhiyathevan’s comment to Thirumalai fell on the prince’s ears.

Ponniyin Selvar looked at the two of them. “My devotion to Lord Buddha has reason. The beautiful feet of the Buddha statue conveyed me an important message!” he said.

“Aha! Nothing fell on our ears?”

“The news was conveyed silently.”

“What is that message? Can we find out?”

“The lord’s flower adorned feet informed me that I should come to the Simma-fountain pond in Anuradhapuram at twelve midnight today!” said Ponniyin Selvar.

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