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Ponniyin Selvan Part V (70 – 74)

February 3, 2018

Translated from the novel Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki Krishnamoorthi.

70. Fortress Command

Kalanthaka Kandar could not help but stare at the elephant and palankeen entering the fort.

“Strange!” He said.

“What? What is strange?” Aniruthar asked.

“That prince Mathuranthakar is indulging in such attention! The prince is rather bashful. He even keeps the curtains down on the palankeen normally!”

“One day he will have to overcome his bashfulness. Soon he will be wearing the crown!”

“Has it been decided to crown Mathuranthakar? Who made the decision?”

“Why? The emperor of course! Once we all go to the emperor and inform him of our consent …”

“What is the use of our consent, … or the emperor’s decision? Kodumbalur troops must agree! It is a wonder that Prince Mathuranthakar should be entering amid such hoopla a fort – that they are guarding,” said Kalanthaka Kandar.

After walking a few steps towards the elephant he came back. He said to the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar, “Brother! I am not going to stand in the way. All of you may enter the fort. But I will not. I cannot enter the fort that was under my control only yesterday. And suddenly now it is under someone else’s control. I cannot find it in my heart to go against my principle. You meet the emperor and find out his wish. I will remain outside with our troops. Moreover, Kanthamaran has gone in search of Vandhiyathevan. I am eager to know what news he brings. I must know how Vandhiyathevan escaped from prison, who helped him to escape. All of you go, please forgive me!”

Kodumbalur Velar was about to speak. But the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar interrupted. “Colonel! This fool’s brain is mangled up. Let him get lost. We will go, come!” He said.

But the next day when the emperor was informed of the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s stance, he chose to disagree with the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar’s point of view. He insisted on the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s presence.

“My dear colonels! All of you have my trust. But more than any of you I have relied on the fortress commander Kalanthaka Kandar. Why is he not here? Until he comes we cannot attend to the matter on the agenda,” he said.

The elder Pazhuvertaraiyar answered, “Emperor! Pardon me! Any decision that I agree with, my brother also will! He does not have to be here in person.”

“Treasurer! Like Raman was blessed with Lakshmanan, you have Kalanthaka Kandar.  The world is aware of this. Yet, why is he not here today? The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar is usually present at all of my meetings. We have never made any decisions without him. Why should this wise soldier be absent now?” The emperor asked.

Chief minister Aniruthar said, “Lord! I will answer that. Kalanthka Kandar the disciple has surpassed the guru. The younger brother has surpassed the elder one. Even after being told of the emperor’s invitation he chose not to come. Even after the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar advised him to the contrary, he did not change his mind. He is refusing to step inside the fort.”

“But, don’t forget! He has agreed to abide by any decision that is made here today,” said Parthipenthiran.

“But why is the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar refusing to come here? Is he harboring some dubious suspicion?”

The deluded eye sees a ghost in every dark corner – the saying goes. Nowadays he is suspicious of everything. He is uncertain about Mathuranthakar’s safety here. He questions Vandhiyathevan’s escape from prison …”

When the emperor said, “If Kalanthka Kandar is suspicious, it won’t be without a reason,” silence took over for a while. Each person had his own trajectory of thought.

The elder Pazhuvertaraiyar cleared his throat. “Lord! There may be good reason for my brother’s suspicions. Or there may not be. I don’t want to criticize him. But I will say the real reason for his refusal to enter the fort. Apparently Thanjavur fort was his to command for a long time! Now it has gone to the elder Velar! This is why he cannot come into the fort, he says. Who can deal with such high handed rhetoric?” He said.

“Why? In that case, justice must be served!” Sundara Chola emperor replied.

Everyone remained silent.

Again Sundara Cholar spoke. The fundamental reason for the Chola tribe’s success is its adherence to the rule of law. All of you know the story of one of my ancestors who gave capital punishment to his son for killing a calf with his chariot. If cows were given justice how much more would the people have received? How much would they have secured for the colonels who supported their rule? Why should I deviate from that tradition marring the Chola tribe? The elder Velar made a grave mistake in taking away Thanjai fort from the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar. Because I was innundated in grief, mourning the death of my beloved son, I did not pay attention to the injustice done to the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar. Colonel must hand over the fort back to him!” He said.

Kodumbalur periya Velar’s face fell.

Thirukovalur Malaiamman came to his aid. Stepping forward he asked, “Sir! It does not appear that the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar was doing his work. A traitor entered this fort, came up to the anthapuram, and threw a dagger at the emperor himself! A deaf-mute stranger had to intervene and save your life! If she had not stepped in at that moment what would have happened? What is the use of hoarding countless number of swords, spears and daggers? What is the use of all the soldiers and velakara troops guarding the fort? Can anyone claim that the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar did his job? How can the elder Velar be wrong in taking over the command of the fort?”

“Uncle! How can we blame anyone when fate chooses to be ruthless? Were you able to save your beloved grandson Athitha Karikalan? All of you tried so hard,” said the emperor.

“We must look into that as well, Emperor! There has been no inquisition to find out who was responsible for the tragedy that took place at Kadampoor palace. There also, the truth has not been revealed yet,” said Malaiamman.

“We were waiting fro the arrival of the eleder Pazhuvertaraiyar. Now that he is here, we must start the inquiry,” said colonel periya Velar.

“Before we start an inquiry, how was it possible for Vandhiyatevan who was charged with the crime, to escape from prison? We must find out who was responsible for that as well,” said Parthipenthiran.

“Yes. I heard about that also. Colonel! How did Vandhiyathevan escape from prison? Who is responsible for that,” asked the emperor.

“Emperor! Chief Minister Aniruthar must answer that,” said the elder Velar.

“Lord! I take responsibility for that. Vandhiyathevan escaped because of a small mistake that I made. But I will take the responsibility to bring him back. If I fail in that I will accept due punishment,” said Aniruthar.

“My friend Karikalan has already taken on that responsibility. He has gone after the escapee,” said Parthipenthiran.

There were two women seated in that room. They were empress Vanamadevi and the junior stateswoman Kundavai.

Only chief minister Aniruthar noticed the change in Kundavai’s face upon hearing that Kanthamaran had gone chasing after Vandhiyathevan.

He told Parthipenthiran, “Pallava Kumara! Your friend Kanthamaran is very smart. But there is no use entrusting him with certain matters. He could not save the prince – the apple of our eyes, Karikalar – who was a guest in his Kadampoor palace! Will he catch Vandhiyathevan who escaped from prison? I don’t think so!”

He saw that Kundavai understood his veiled remark.

“Furthermore, I have heard that Kanthamaran and Vandhiyathevan are close friends,” said Colonel Velar.

“That is an old story, Emperor! No one who betrayed the Chola tribe can remain a friend of the Sambuvaraiyar tribe,” said the elder Sambuvaraiyar.

“There is no need to broach that subject now. Chief minister Aniruthar has accepted the responsibility of finding Vandhiyathevan. Colonel must hand over the fortress command to the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar,” said Sundara Cholar.

“If this is the emperor’s order I am prepared to carry it out,” said Colonel periya Velar.

The tone of his voice exposed the anger swelling in his heart.

“Kodumbalur uncle! You are much more senior to me in age and experience. I am loyal to you like a son. Can I order you around? I expressed my opinion. Let’s find out what the others think and do what is necessary,” said the emperor.

“I don’t like the idea! The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar failed in his duty. Therefore the fort’s command must not be returned to him!” Thirukovalur Malaiamman stated his opposition firmly.

“What is the chief minister’s opinion?” The emperor asked.

“What happened has happened. There may be some difficulties in changing the fortress command now. You have invited us to make a decision about the crown’s succession. Once we reach a decision about it, we can discuss this,” said Aniruthar.

“We cannot come to any decision without the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar! Treasurer! What is your opinion,” asked Sundara Chola emperor.

“I agree with Malaiamman’s opinion. My brother has failed in his duty. Therefore there is no need to place the fort’s safety in his hands,” said the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar.

As they all knew how much the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar loved his brother his response astonished them all. More than that the emperor’s response produced more surprise.

“Treasurer! The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar did not fail in his duty. It is you and I who failed to listen to him. Both of us did not pay close attention to his warnings. Listen everyone. The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar warned me repeatedly about Madurai Veerapandyan’s rescue squad. He told me that these men had friends inside this fort. Because of that he urged that we must increase the security of my palace and anthapuram. He urged that we close the secret passageways between my palace and the treasurer’s, and place guards between the two palaces. It is no secret how stubbornly loyal Klanathaka Kandar is to the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar. Yet, he complained to me about the treasurer himself. He informed me that his elder brother is being deceived, and the saboteurs have been visiting his palace. He asked me to advise the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar to move to a different palace, and to move the treasure also to a different location. I did not take those warnings into my ear! …”

At this time the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar cleared his throat. The emperor paused in his speech expectantly.

“Emperor! I will add what you have omitted out of kindness for me. You did not want to expose my shame. I will do it. My brother warned me about Nanddhini in whose lascivious net I fell, and whom I married in my old age. He warned me that the leader of the Pandyanadu troublemakers visited her under the pretense of a magician. Blinded by lust I did not lend him my ears. Yet, he did fail in his duty! If he was so informed he should have found this treacherous visitor and killed him, along with his mistress. If I had stopped him, he should have overlooked the fact that I was his brother, and killed me also with his sword. Failing to act in that way is a failure of his duty!” Everyone felt goosebumps as they listened to the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar. They felt the sadness of knowing the unspeakable torment that hung in his words.

“Treasurer! Hold on! Your brother, the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar is capable of doing all of that. I was the obstacle. I ordered him not to sight me if he was going to complain about you or your Ilaiyarani. I rejected the idea of moving you from your palace and housing the velakara troops there. I asked why I should live in such fear. The sorrow in my heart, and the illness of my body had made me hate life. Pazhuvur Uncle! You are not responsible for any of the tragedy that has visited me or my kin. Your brother is also not responsible. I brought these on myself!”

In response tears streamed down from the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar’s eyes.

“Yes; the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar did not slip even one iota. Kalanthaka Kandar warned me after the young man Vandhiyathevan’s first visit here. He told me that the young man had secretly met with the Pazhuvur Ilaiyarani in her palankeen outside this fort. He suspected that he may also belong with the Chola tribe’s enemies. He said that he had entered the fort using the Pazhuvur signature ring, and that he must have escaped from the fort through the secret passage that leads out from the Pazhuvur anthapuram. I chose to ignore all of that. Even our supremely intelligent chief minister and my beloved daughter Kundavai were fooled by Vandhiyathevan. They chose him to carry important letters …”

Aniruthar interrupted at this time. “Emperor! I may have been fooled. But the junior stateswoman is not easily fooled. After sending Vandhiyathevan with her letter, she asked me to keep an eye on him. I sent my disciple Azhvarkadiyan to Eezham. Then I sent him to follow Vandhiyathevan to Kanji also …”

“Be that as it may. Let’s assume that both of you weren’t fooled by him. Isn’t it true that he and another man have escaped from the prison? Can any of you deny that? Under the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s control they could never have escaped. Therefore, Colonel! Bring the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar. Hand over the fort’s security to him immediately. You may take this as my order,” said the emperor.

“It will be, Lord! Shall we now take our leave,” asked Colonel Poothi Vikramakesari. Anger had subsided from his voice. The affection and support Sundara Cholar had shown the Pazhuvertaraiyars, his friendly nature that overlooked mistakes and valued character, had melted the colonel’s heart also. At that juncture he had run out of words.

“Yes; now all of you may leave. Once the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar is here, we will again meet and discuss what’s ahead. I have not finished talking to my aunt, the elder stateswoman, about the crown. I need some time for that,” said the emperor.

While everyone was getting ready to leave Parthipenthiran said, “Sir! The chief minister took on the responsibility of bringing back the friend-betrayer and enemy of the kingdom, Vandhiyathevan. I would like to remind him of that. Whoever else may forget I can never forget the tragic death of my beloved friend Prince Athitha Karikalar. We must find the guilty person responsible for his death and punish him!”

This time the sound of the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar clearing his throat was akin to an old lion’s fierce growl. Everyone expected him to speak. Apparently having changed his mind he walked out without another word. The others followed him silently.

That evening itself Thanjavur fort’s security was handed back to the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar. At first he was reluctant to accept it. He expressed his objections also. He expressed his suspicion that perhaps there was another conspiracy underway now. After the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar firmly asserted that this was the emperor’s insistent order he complied.

Other than a few of the Kodumabalur soldiers all others were evacuated from the fort. At the entrance and on the fortress wall Pazhuvur soldiers took their positions as before.

This change led to unpleasant results. Often there was disagreement between the Pazhuvur and Kodumbalur soldiers resulting in altercations.

Competing vocal expressions such as, “Long live Ponniyin Selvar!’ and ‘Long live Mathuranthakar!’ alternated.

These outbursts spread throughout the country. Citizens also joined.

Within the next three days the entire Cholanadu was in chaos. Verbal fights turned into fist fights which in turn ripened into armed confrontation. Clubs and maces, swords and spears took over.

Just like the storm and flood that had wreaked havoc a few days ago, now the storm of anger and a torrent of frenzy spread all over the country wrecking it.

71. ‘A High Birth’

After Sundara Cholar repeatedly sent word that he wanted to see Chempian Madevi, the elderly woman finally came to visit the emperor. When the emperor was told that she was on her way he walked to the palace entrance and waited there to receive her. Upon her arrival he welcomed her and escorted her in. He invited her to be seated next to him on the throne.

“King of kings! After so much sadness I am happy to see you in good health. By god’s grace may you live long and tend to this earth!” The elder stateswoman said.

“Madam! Do you mean my legs that have regained their ability to walk? I am also happy about it. I am now able to stand on my legs and welcome the person whom the entire country reveres. The power of a deaf-mute woman’s love cured my legs. Yet, Devi! I am neither happy about my life, nor do I want to live long. That is not the blessing I am seeking. Send me soon to sivapatham with your blessing,” said Sundara Cholar.

“Emperor! All of your ancestors are in warrior’s heaven. They will have a place for you there. When the time comes Sivan’s helpers will come and take you there. But you must not be in a hurry to leave. You still have work here in this world. People are happy under your rule. Temples are flourishing; Saivars, Vaishnavars, Buddhists and Jains are praying that you live long …”

“Madam! They should stop doing that. Praying for my long life is the same as praying to prolong my heartache. After losing the greatest soldier that Cholanadu ever produced should I keep living? I should have died before Athitha Karikalan! …”

“Emperor! Losing a child is cruel. Yet, I need not tell you about fate’s vice. Krishna Baghvan was Arjunan’s good friend. He is the incarnation of the protector, Thirumal. Even he could not save Aravan and Abimanyu for his friend. Even after losing his brave sons didn’t Arjunan live? Wasn’t Arjunan fond of his children? ‘To save the earthlings you must keep your life,’ – Arjunan accepted Krishnan’s verdict and lived. Emperor! Krishna Baghvan’s advice to Arjunan is good advice for you also.”

“Madam! Abimanyu was in a battle. He died in the battlefield. He went to warrior’s heaven!”

“Your son is no less in valor than Abimanyu! The world will never forget the brave performance of Athitha Karikalan at the age of twelve in the Sevur battlefield, and at the age of eighteen in the last battle with Veerapandyan. Abimanyu was in the end surrounded, his weapons taken away and killed unjustly. In the same way Athitha Karikalan was isolated through foul play and attacked by several men …”

“Madam! At least if I know how he died I will have some peace.”

“Why should you torment yourself with details? Karikalan’s fate has ended. The long tailed star has fallen. Cholanadu has lost a great warrior. What is gained by asking why and how?”

“Because when truth is murky suspicion falls on everyone. Madam! Some people are even pointing the finger at the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar. In the same way Athiseshan carried the earth, he has carried Cholanadu. He is under unnecessary scrutiny.”

“We can ask him. We can find out the truth from him.”

“Who has the temerity to question the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar? I don’t, Madam! He has somehow become entangled in this and is hurt himself. Unless he tells what happened, who can question him? Madam! After my great uncle Rajathithar died on the elephant in the Thakolam battlefield and reached warrior’s heaven, the Chola battalion scattered. Its men were running in all directions. The great soldier who stopped them from running, brought them together as a force to defeat Kannara Thevar’s troops, was the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar. If he did not act at that time, there would be no Chola kingdom today. In the Thakolam battle he suffered sixty four wounds on his body. Yet he did not give up. He battled on until he saw victory. After that we banned him from going to battles. We made him treasurer. This great warrior, is like a father to me; how can I question him?”

“Is there no way for the truth to come out?”

“I heard that Varnar tribe Vandhiyathevan was next to Karikalan’s body. I was hoping to speak to him about what happened. He also has escaped from prison. The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar is somewhat responsible …”

“Father! The chief minister has agreed to find the escaped warrior,” Kundavai who had remained silent until then intervened.

“Child! The chief minister has taken responsibility on several occasions before. But the results are never a certainty. I hear that Sambuvaraiyar’s son Kanthamaran has gone after the runaway prisoner. Kanthamaran is not very intuitive. He is impulsive. Furthermore, he is angry that his tribe’s reputation is at stake. His being there only adds to my worry.”

“Sir! It is best to forget the past and think about the future.”

“Madam! That is why I have brought you here, sending messenger after messenger. Please advice me about what needs to be done now.”

“Emperor! You have many wise men to advice you. What can this poor woman say? Even when the great man who married me and made my life holy, I did not pay attention to matters of the kingdom. After he departed to heaven I keep myself immersed in temple service. What advice can I give?”

“Devi! Please don’t be angry. The women of our Chola tribe are not all helpless. Take my beloved daughter Kundavai, I have not seen anyone as intelligent as her …”

“Pardon me, Emperor! I am not of the Chola tribe! I was born in the Mazhavaraiyar tribe,” said the elder stateswoman.

“Wherever they come from women can be intelligent. They can bring good to where they were born as well as where they marry. Women can also be stubborn and bring destruction to both places. Madam, are you going to be one of them?”

Chempian Madevi jumped as if she had stepped on fire. “Emperor! What kind of a question is this? Why would the Chola tribe be destroyed by me? I don’t have that kind of power,” she said as tears filled her eyes.

“Devi! You must forgive me for speaking unkindly. The knowledge that I keep living while my eldest son isn’t, is breaking my heart. But I sense a greater tragedy looming. If the Chola empire that has taken root and flourished since the time of my ancestors, should fragment and disintegrate, there is no greater punishment for me. For three years I put on hold meeting my son Karikalan. He built a palace of gold in Kanji. He wanted me to visit him. I did not go. I gave my health as excuse. But that was not the reason. I did not want to undermine the Pazhuvertaraiyars’ trust, the loyalty of the other petty kings and high ranking officials. The fear of disturbing the status quo here kept me from going to Kanji. If I had gone, perhaps my beloved son Karikalan will be alive today …”

“Great King! You are a wise man. You are a man of action. But even you cannot rewrite fate!”

“Yes, Madam! I agree. I cannot change fate. But I missed my chance to be with my son in his final hour! I would have spared myself the grief today that I never knew the agony that lived in his heart. Why am I pouring my heart out to you? To let you know how I had sacrificed my personal happiness for the wellbeing of this Chola empire that Vijayalaya Cholar and the warriors who came after him built through blood shed and loss of life. For some reason the Pazhuvertaraiyars and the petty kings on their side did not like Athitha Karikalan. They tried to place your son, my brother – Mathuranthakan on the throne. There is nothing wrong with that. The son of the saiva devotee, the great Kandarathithar, is in everyway qualified. In truth, my coronation was a mistake. At that time I carried on for the sake of the elders, unable to say no. I am facing the consequences today. I am living after losing my beloved son. That agony is more than enough. I don’t want this great kingdom destroyed by civil war also. You must prevent such calamity befalling the Chola empire,” said Sundara Cholar.

Wiping the tears from her eyes Chempian Madevi said, “King of kings! None of what you are saying appears right to my puny intelligence. After my husband, my brother-in-law, your father Arinjaya Thevar ascended the throne. That was my husband’s wish. It was his wish also that after Arinjayar you would be next. Your grandfather Paranthakar who ruled the three worlds also had deemed it. Therefore there is nothing wrong about you ascending the throne. My husband became a saiva devotee enriching himself in matters of the soul. Therefore during his time the Chola kingdom was shrinking. After you ascended the throne the empire spread again. The enemies who had sprouted in the north and south were defeated. The main force behind this imperial advancement was your son Athitha Karikalan. He was crowned prince before the world. How can I agree to change that and give my son the empire? Even if I did would the world agree? Would the citizens of the empire agree? Emperor! You said that you wanted to prevent the destruction of the country by civil war. If Athitha Karikalan had been rejected and my son was crowned wouldn’t the same civil war have happened? Wouldn’t the empire have been destroyed?”

“Yes, Madam! That is why I have been reluctant. I tried to compromise and reach a decision that was acceptable to everyone. Before that, fate has intervened. Karikalan’s life has ended. Mother! What should I do now? Please tell me! I cannot bear the burden of this kingdom any longer. I want to hand it over to someone else and fulfill Karikalan’s last wish. I want to spend my last days in the gold palace that Karikalan built for me in Kanji. Please tell me whom to crown. Mathuranthakan is older than Arulmozhi. Though Mathuranthakan is younger than me, he is Arulmozhi’s uncle. Kodumbalur Velar and Thirukovalur Malaiamman want to crown Arulmozhi. How can I consent to their wish which is against the rule of law, against tradition? Or, how can you for that matter? Madam! Please help me! Please give your permission to crown Mathuranthakan. With you on my side I can bring colonel senior Velar and Thirukovalur Malaiamman around. Please give your approval and permission and reap the benefit of saving this Chola kingdom!”

“Sir! Don’t ask for my approval. I cannot go against my late husband’s order. But I will no longer be a part of this. Find out from Mathuranthakan what he wants and do what is best!”

“Yes, yes! We must have Mathuranthakan’s word before we proceed. I need your help there also, Devi! Where is Mathuranthakan?” The emperor asked.

Her voice choking with tears Chempian Madevi said, “Where is Mathuranthakan? I too have been asking that question for the last three days. No one has an answer. King! Where is my son? Please ask the fortress commander, the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar!”

“The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar says that I must ask you. He is acusing that you and the chief minister have conspired together and hidden him. Madam! I will summon the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar and the chief minister here now. Please grant me permission,” said the emperor.

“Yes, please bring them. I will also ask them,” said Chempian Madevi.

Kundavai left immediately and sent word through the soldiers at the entrance.

In a short time the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar and the chief minister arrived.

The emperor facing the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar said, “Colonel! The elder stateswoman is asking the same question as you. ‘Where is Mathuranthakarn,’ she is asking. Please tell what you know about Mathuranthakan. Please be open about your suspicions also!”

The younger Pazhuvertaraiyar spoke: “The elder stateswoman is known all over the world for her good nature and saiva devotion. With the Cholanadu people I also celebrate her as a goddess among us mortals. What I am about to say is not criticism. For whatever reason the elder stateswoman did not want her son ascending the throne. This is also public knowledge. No one including me can have more affection for her son than the elder stateswoman herself. Yet certain mysterious events must be brought to light. Furthermore, since the emperor has ordered me, ‘Bring Mathuranthakar,’ I am obliged to express some of my suspicions. Three days ago the elder stateswoman and Mathuranthaka Thevar left the fort. They went to the flower seller Senthan Amuthan’s hut to inquire after his health. Only the elder stateswoman returned to the fort. Later that evening my brother and I were speaking to Kodumbalur Velar near the fortress entrance. As I brought the subject of Mathuranthaka Thevar, a retinue of people with an elephant and a palankeen entered the fort. A chorus of, ‘Long live Mathuranthaka Thevar,’ was also heard. The chief minister called our attention to the scene. He said that it was Mathuranthaka Thevar who was seated on the elephant. I had my doubts. Later, following the emperor’s order I regained control of the fort. Mathuranthakar lives in my palace. That night I did not make any inquiries. The next day when I did I came to know that he had not come home. We searched the entire fort, we made inquiries from various people; we could not find any traces of Mathuranthka Thevar! How did the person on the elephant upon entering the fort disappear so magically? The elder stateswoman and the chief minister must forgive me for my impudence; for what I am about to say. It is my suspicion that both of them have through some perfidy, frightened Mathuranthakar with some tale and driven him out of this city and country. If I am mistaken, again, I ask for the elder stateswoman’s forgiveness.”

Chempian Madevi said emotionally, “Colonel! You are completely wrong. I swear on Sivaperuman’s feet. I have neither spoken to the chief minister about my son in recent days, nor have we conspired together. It is true that my son and I went to Senthan Amuthan’s hut that evening. When I left from there Mathuranthakan said he will be back in a short time. After that I have not seen him. For three days I have also been looking for him.”

“I accept the elder stateswoman’s statement. Then it is the chief minister who must solve this mystery,” said Kalanthakar.

“What mystery?” The chief minister asked.

“The mystery of the elder stateswoman’s missing son.”

“Colonel! Is it true that you have searched this entire fort?”

“Yes. Except for your palace the rest of the place has been scoured.”

“Why was my palace left out?”

“Indeed it is only out of respect for Chola empire’s chief minister!”

“Aha! In that case you have not done your duty well. Never mind. Emperor! Your great aunt and the celebrated saiva scholar the elder stateswoman did not talk to me about her son. I did not conspire with her. But I will say this. For three days the son this great lady gave birth to has been in my palace. Now he is here waiting to see his mother and the emperor. If permitted I will bring him in!”

To say that everyone was surprised by the chief minister’s words would be an understatement. “Chief Minister! What is this mockery? Why do you need permission to bring the elder stateswoman’s son? Bring him at once,” said the emperor.

The chief minister went to the door and clapped his hands. Next second Azhvarkadiyan nambi entered the room with Senthan Amuthan in front of him.

Angrily the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar said, “Is there a limit to the chief minister’s derision?”

But when Chempian Madevi extended both her hands and lovingly called, “Son,” the colonel was baffled.

“Mother! At least now you found it in your heart to call me son! My prayers have been answered,” Senthan Amuthan said as tears filled his eyes.

Chempian Madevi who gave birth to the saiva devotee whom history would later hail as Mathuranthaka uthama Cholan hugged her son amid tears of joy.

72. Competing Generosities

Stone engravings from the time of the Mazhavar tribe descendant and wife of saiva scholar Kandarathitha sivagnana Cholar, Chempian Madevi refer to her as the, ‘udaiya piratiyar, who carried in her womb the great Chola king Mathuranthka Thevar.’

Normally prior to birth infants grow in their mothers’ wombs for ten months. Some children are then raised by others who care for them as their own. Perhaps because it was known that Chempian Madevi had brought up another child as her own for a very long time, the stone engraving is specific about the fact that the great and good king known in history as ‘Mathuranthka Thevar’ was her son by birth.

* * *

Chempian Madevi first saw uthama Cholar when he was five years old. She was meeting Vani ammai after a long time. She inquired after the woman’s health and wellbeing. She was naturally drawn to the little boy with her whom she took for Vani’s son. When she asked about the child she saw fear and perplexity on Vani’s face. She did not understand why, but because of Vani’s handicap communication was not that easy. In any case, considering Vani’s help to her at one time, and because of the empathy she felt for the little boy, she helped the mother and son lead a life devoid of worry. She provided the funds for them to live near Thanjai city and make a living supplying flowers to thalikulathar temple.

Senthan Amuthan excelled in education, character, and saiva devotion as he grew bigger. He was also enthusiastic about helping his mother at the temple. Observing his good behavior Chempian Madevi grew fond of him. One day a curious thought appeared in her mind. It made her happy, fearful and hurt at the same time. She could not rid herself of the thought, however much she tried. Her mind thought about her dead baby constantly. Her peace of mind was lost.

Finally one day she decided to talk to Vani and put her mind at ease once and for all. She had Vani brought to her alone. She told Vani that she wanted to build a pallipadai temple in memory of her dead baby, and asked her where the burial site was. The subject was painful, and talking to a deaf-mute woman did not ease the pain in any way. Vani hesitated to provide any answers at first. In the end she broke down and told the truth. She described how the baby given to her was not really dead, and that it was a stranger named Karuthiruman who first pointed it out to her, and that she was afraid of the consequences if she came back to the queen, so she went to Thirumaraikadu with Karuthiruman; that she returned to Pazhaiyarai when Karuthiruman deserted her after some time. On the one hand Chempian Madevi was exhilarated that Senthan Amuthan was the child whom she carried in her womb for ten months. She felt goose bumps all over her skin. Tears streamed down from her eyes. She wanted to shout, “Son,” and embrace Senthan Amuthan. But she controlled herself. She was afraid of the consequences if the truth should come out. Because her mind had weathered to a new higher spirituality she was able to control her motherly love and tell herself, “All children born in this world are god’s children. Palace or hut, what difference does it make? Aren’t all the luxuries of this mortal life a mere pretense? What matters is where one ends up upon leaving this world! Perhaps because my husband rejected the comforts of royalty and chose to live in the shadow of Sivaperuman’s feet, his son had earned this magnificient fate of living in this hut and serving god!” She drew courage from such sentiment.

But, the knowledge that Senthan Amuthan was her real son further affirmed her conviction not to crown her adoptive son Mathuranthakan. Already she had confessed to Kandarathithar her crime and been forgiven. “What difference does it make whether the child was born to you, or to an orphan woman? Before god they are equal. So bring up Mathuranthakan as your own. But don’t think of placing him on the throne! That will be a travesty against the Chola tribe. If such a situation arises please don’t hesitate to tell the truth!” Kandarathithar had extracted this promise from Chempian Madevi. The elder stateswoman was prepared to keep this promise at any cost.

But the great king died without knowing that his real son was growing up in Vani’s hut. What would he have done if he knew? With regard to Senthan Amuthan what orders would he have left? Chempian Madevi thought about this a lot. “This is god’s will; that a deaf-mute’s child must grow up in the palace and the great king’s son must reside in a hut. We must not interfere. Trying to change matters will only lead to confusion. My adoptive son will be very hurt. I cannot commit this sin,” she decided.

She could abide by her decision only through her immense belief in god. Yet she could not help thinking about Senthan Amuthan from time to time. Such thoughts naturally made a mother’s love surge in her heart. This battle went on deep within her heart for many years.

Doesn’t the flood that has been contained by a dam occasionally break its barrier? When it surges through a breach how fast and powerfully it travels! Many would have seen and experienced such a specter. The motherly live that has been kept under control in Chempian Madevi’s heart now broke its dam and surged.

The reason was chief minister Aniruthar’s remark, ‘the son borne by her.’ When she heard these words Chempian Madevi relived in one second the ten months she had carried her baby in her womb. Forgetting herself, forgetting her resolution, she hugged Senthan Amuthan calling him, ‘my son,’ through her tears.

But Senthan Amuthan’s words dealt her a blow wrenching her out of her emotional state. ‘Mother! At least now you found it in your heart to call me ‘son,’ he had said. What did he mean? Had he known already that she was his mother? Knowing it did he pretend ignorance all these years?

Chempian Madevi pulled herself together. “Son! Did you know already that I was the foolish woman who gave birth to you? Were you angry at me? Is that why you never questioned me about it?” She asked Senthan Amuthan.

As if the sea had broken its bounds Senthan Amuthan responded with a torrent of emotionally strung words.

“Mother! I have known for some time that I am your son. I longed for the country’s most revered saiva devotee to call me her son. I was preparing myself to be deserving of such a revelation. I meditated at Sivaperuman’s feet day and night. Even if you didn’t come forth I was about to come to you. But I decided to wait until the issue of the crown was settled. Three days ago my life faced a great danger. It happened moments after you visited my hut. A good friend saved me from this danger. I was not so exhilarated about it then. I did not even thank him. Now I realize the magnitude of my debt to him. I have lived to see the day when my mother would claim me as her own. I am satiated. I want nothing more from life. Let this secret be known to only those present here at this moment. Let no one else know about it. Let no more calamities befall the kingdom. Please bid farewell to me and Poongkuzhali so that we may leave for Kodikarai immediately.”

Chempian Madevi’s reaction to these words cannot be described in words. In a faint voice she said, “Child! You are my true son! You are my divine husband’s true son!”

Until then Sundara Cholar, the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar and the junior stateswoman had stood by unable to believe their ears. The secret that was just unmasked and its looming consequences left them speechless.

Kundavai was the first to regain her composure. “Father! Only now the reason why the elder stateswoman was adamant about not crowning Mathuranthakar becomes clear!” She said.

A baffled Sundara Cholar replied, “Yes, my Daughter! But that reason is no more! She cannot have any objections to crowning this true son of my great uncle, can she?”

Visibly agitated Chempian Madevi said, “Emperor! Didn’t you hear my son? Let this secret stay in this room. My son is not seeking his royal heritage. He said it himself!”

“Yes. Great King! There is much going on already. I don’t need to create more problems. Please bid me farewell! Give me and Poongkuzhali your blessing and send us off! Poongkuzhali! Come here,” said Amuthan.

Senthan Amuthan and Poongkuzhali bent down and touched the feet of Chempian Madevi and the emperor. Standing up Senthan Amuthan said, “King! Let us go to Kodikarai now. Mother! Bid us farewell!”

Chemian Madevi told the emperor,” Yes, Sir! Let us say goodbye. When I want to I will go and visit them in Kodikarai.”

“That will never happen. I will never allow it,” answered the emperor.

The chief minister intervened. “Emperor! Let us not make a decision now. Let them stay at my residence a few more days. The elder stateswoman’s son is here. But the younger Pazhuvertaraiyar’s son-in-law is not. Until we have news of him let them remain here. Until then let’s keep this secret to ourselves,” he said.

“We must at least tell Arulmozhi,” said the junior stateswoman.

“No, no! Let’s not do that,” beseeched Senthan Amuthan.

In the end the emperor said, “Madam! Whatever the future may hold – your son has come to you after a lifetime of separation. I will not allow to separate the two of you so quickly. At least spend a few days together here. Be in my palace or at the chief minister’s. After the matter of the throne is finalized we can think about sending them to Kodikarai. Until then let no one else know about this!”

73. Vanathi’s Mischief

Arulmozhivarmar was baffled. The reason was the ever escalating turmoil in the country regarding the matter of the throne. When he approached the citizenry they reacted with more fury. “Ponniyin Selvar is our King!” Arulmozhivarmar must be crowned!”  – Time and time again these slogans were heard producing echoes that reverberated throughout the land.

In competition there were also the slogans, “Long live the ancient Pazhuvertaraiyars!” and “Down with the despotic Kodumbalur Velar!” coming from some corners. Assuming that he may find a receptive ear in these places Arulmozhivarmar went to the people there. But at the sight of him their slogans turned into, “Long live Ponniyin Selvar!” and the like. Why? Even the Pazhuvur soldiers guarding the fort forgot who they were and started shouting, “Arulmozhivarmar must be crowned!” and “Long live Ponniyin Selvar who conquered Eezham!”

Ponniyin Selvar was perplexed to see that not only he failed to change the minds of the public and the troops, he was adding fuel to their militancy. He was also worried about the prolonged absence of Mathuranthaka Thevar. He knew that younger Pazhuvertaraiyar had accused Kodumbalur Velar about it. It wasn’t entirely unreasonable. Even Arulmozhivarmar had his suspicions. Kodumbalur Velar, Thirukovalur Malaiamman and others were determinied to crown him. It seemed as if the chief minister was also conspiring with them. Have they all hidden Mathuranthakar somewhere? Or have they actually taken his life?

Velar and Malaiamman were convinced that the Pazhuvertaraiyars and Sambuvaraiyars were responsible for the death of his brother Athitha Karikalan. Seeking revenge, have they hurt Mathuranthakar? Aha! what do they care? In the end he will have to shoulder the blame.

Today the Chola people are chanting his name. They are adamant that he accepts the throne. Will their fervor last? The minds of people are fickle. Tomorrow these same people will charge him with the crime of murdering Mathuranthakan! Why? They might even blame him for Athitha Karikalan’s death! God! Is this why he was saved by Manthahini from drowning in river Kaveri? Only she who resides in heaven today must protect him from these sinister accusations!

The stories of rivalry and murder among the royal clan of Eezhanadu in their pursuit of the throne were deeply embedded in Arulmozhivarmar’s mind. Therefore even the thought that such ill reputation may one day be his gave him unbearable anguish. He needed counsel but no one appealed to his senses. He felt that everyone was conspiring against him. Some were truly against him. Others caught in the illusion that they were helping him were about to burden him with disgrace and shame.

Under such circumstances he could not turn to anyone for advice. Why? Even his sister Kundavai had lost his trust. And Vanathi! Even she is hiding something from him. Here she is with a mysterious expression on her face …

Arulmozhivarmar decided that Vanathi’s seeming deception was the last straw. When he saw her carefully inspecting her surroundings and then leaving on a mysterious journey, he decided to follow her. She kept going along the corridors on the upper level of the palace, then down along the secret path that lay on the lower level between towering walls. Arulmozhivarmar decided that she was on her way to the secret place where they were holding Mathuranthakar captive. With anger and excitement he followed her.

Finally, Vanathi reached another large area of the palace on the lower level. She was about to enter a room. As she was closing the door behind her Arulmozhivarmar took a leap and placed his foot in the doorway. He grabbed her hand firmly. He said to her angrily, “Vanathi! Your mischief will not work with me? Who are you hiding in this room?”

“Sir! My mischief worked! If I had asked you to come, you wouldn’t have. Please come inside and take a look for yourself!” She said.

Arulmozhivarmar who had expected to see Mathuranthaka Thevar there, was surprised and gladdened to see Vallavaraiyar Vandhiyathevan lying on a bed.

When Vandhiyathevan saw him he sat up on the bed. “Sir! Come! I have been expecting you for two days. Please release me from these women’s prison,” he said.

Ponniyin Selvar ran to his friend’s side. Sitting beside Vandhiyathevan he said, “Pal! What happened? How did you get here? After escaping the dungeon how did you get caught to these women? I was expecting you to be in Eezham by now! I was hoping to join you there myself!”

“Yes, Prince! I should have been in Eezhanadu by now! I should have been looking for the Pandyanadu crown and the diamond necklace given to them by Indran. I got into this ill fate by trying to save the saiva lunatic Senthan Amuthan from the doctor’s son’s murderous weapon. When Pinnakapani’s short spear struck me I fainted. When I opened my eyes again I found myself here. You must kindly help me to escape this prison. Or else, they will falsely accuse me of murdering your beloved brother, my good friend Athitha Karikalar!” Vandhiyathevan said.

Vanathi interrupted. “Sir! He is wrong. Only if he runs away this crime will fall on him. It is your beloved sister’s wish that he be here until the truth comes out,” she said.

“There is truth in what she says. Only if you try to escape this crime will fall on you. It may even fall on me. It is better to prove to the world what really happened. First, tell me! Tell me everything that happened in Kadampoor,” said Ponniyin Selvar.

Vandhiyathevan told what happened as he knew it. Even after listening to his account the prince could not determine how Athitha Karikalar’s death occurred.

74. ‘The Crown is Mine!’

In the end Vandhiyathevan said, “Prince! If one person finds it in his heart, he can solve the mystery and prove my innocence. That person is the elder Pazhuvertaraiyar. I am guessing that it was him who pushed me down and made me unconscious in that room in Kadampoor palace that day. He must have come to spy on Nandhini in the disguise of a kalamugan. Idumbamkari who belongs to the kalamuga saiva crowd would have helped him come through the secret path. But he has developed a hatred of me from the first time he laid eyes on me. With time that hatred has only increased. He is not going to come to my rescue by revealing what he knows about that day. He probably will be happy if I take this terrible accusation with me to the grave. Therefore, Prince! Allow me to run away! I will go to Eezhanadu and try to find the diamond necklace and the Pandyanadu crown. Or, take my life away here in this place with your sword. Don’t leave me to the fate of being hung at the carrefour charged with the crime of killing your brother! Instead, dying by your hand will be more comforting. Or, there is no harm in death by poison from the hands of the Kodumabalur Princess. She and your sister have brought this man back from yamalokam’s doorstep. They will not be receiving any thanks from him!”

At this point Vanathi exclaimed indignantly, “Listen, Sir! Listen for yourself! This soldier does not yearn to die in the battlefield fighting the enemy; to reach warrior’s heaven! He is eager instead to die by a woman’s hand eating poison.”

“Prince! The princess and your sister want to kill me with their insults. What difference does it make whether I die of their insults or poison from their hands?” Vandhiyathevan retorted.

Arulmozhivarmar was listening with only one ear. His mind was elsewhere.

Then suddenly he jumped up. “Aha! I have decided. I will be the Chola emperor. All over the country the people are clamoring for my coronation. The soldiers also want that. I will fulfill their desire. Why? To set you free as an innocent man. If my reputation will be tarnished because of it, so be it! It will not affect me. Certain petty kings who feel antagonistic towards me may spread such infamy. But people will not believe them. If they dare to charge me with wrongdoing it will only ricochet back to them. I will say that the petty kings invited the prince to Kadampoor palace and killed him. I can punish all of them for such betrayal of trust and criminal behavior against the king. Whatever the consequences I am going to crown myself. If necessary I will go against my father and sister also. But I cannot bear to see you hurt!” He said.

A jubilant Vanathi said, “It is a pity that the junior stateswoman is not here to hear your words. Please repeat them in her presence also!”

“Not once! I will repeat it over and over. I will prove it in action also,” said Ponniyin Selvar.

Wiping the tears from his eyes Vandhiyathevan said, “Sir! It is the good fortune of Cholanadu, if you change your mind for the sake of this poor orphan. In my opinion Mathuranthakar is unqualified for the throne. Can a person who engages in perfidy traveling about in a covered palankeen be fit to rule this empire? Is it fair to place the crown that adorned the heads of Vijayalaya Cholar and Paranthaka Cholar on a coward? It is no surprise that the people of this country are outraged!”

“Perhaps Mathuranthakar realized the folly of his quest; perhaps that is why he has disappeared into thin air!” Vanathi said.

“Yes, indeed. I am going to stop looking for him. I am going to crown myself!” Arulmozhivarmar answered.

As she entered the room at that time Kundavai heard his words. “Brother! Give up that idea altogether! You have no crown or throne. Have you forgotten Vanathi’s promise to stay away from Thanjai throne? I can never look at another woman by your side while you wear the crown!” She said.

“Sister! You simply will have to keep your eyes closed. I can close them for you!” Vanathi quipped.

Ponniyin Selvar looked at Kundavai. “Sister! Can the Chola kingdom be without a king for the sake of your friend’s vendetta? Our father wants to unburden himself of the responsibility and retire to Kanji. Mathuranthaka Thevar has mysteriously disappeared. What other solution is there? One way or another the crown keeps pointing to my head!”

“Brother! There is good news. I came to inform that Mathuranthaka Thevar has come out of hiding. The penance of Chola kings will not be in vain. You don’t have to worry about the kingdom. Even if he refuses we must be firm and crown him,” said the junior stateswoman.

Her enthusiasm surprised the others. It was true that Kundavai had for some time supported the idea of crowning Mathuranthakan. But she had never shown this level of enthusiasm as now.

Supressing his astonishment Ponniyin Selvar asked, “Sister! Where was he hiding? Why? What made him come into the open now?”

“He was right by our side. It was we who missed seeing him. Brother! Chempian Madevi’s son is the one qualified to ascend the throne. By law the kingdom belongs to your uncle. You should forget about the crown entirely. Listen to this miracle! Brother! Few days ago our uncle faced a great threat. A murderer was taking aim at him with his short spear. If he had thrown it Mathuranthaka Thevar would have lsot his life. There would have been one more unfortunate and untimely death in the Chola tribe. Do you know who prevented it? Do you know the heroic soldier who saved our uncle’s life?” The junior stateswoman directed her beautiful eyes towards Vandhiyathevan. The eagerness and love, the gratitude and respect, the support and sympathy in that glance touched Vandhiyathevan’s heart. He felt overwhelmed.

Ponniyin Selvar pulling himself out of a deep well of astonishment said, “Sister! What is this? I don’t understand. My friend never mentioned this!”

“He won’t have! Because he does not know the importance of his action. He does not realize how much the Chola tribe owes him!”

“Sister! You are speaking in riddles! It is all very mysterious. Without subjecting us to unnecessary bewilderment, it is better if you explain a little! How, where and what kind of danger did this Varnar tribe warrior save Mathuranthakar from? Where is Mathuranthaka Thevar now?” The prince asked.

“Ponniyin Selva! In a few seconds he himself will be here! Hearing that you are here, I asked that he be brought here. You can find out from his own mouth. Or, you can ask Poongkuzhali who saw everything with her own eyes … Here, they are here, I think!”

Yes; footsteps were heard outside the room. Soon four people walked in. They were Chief Minister Aniruthar, Azhvarkadiyan, Poongkuzhali and Senthan Amuthan. Senthan Amuthan alone was dressed differently from his normal way. He wore the crown of a prince on his head, a silk vestment and other jewelry usually worn by members of the royal tribe.

Those present in the room looked at them with raised eyebrows. “Sister! You said that Mathuranthakar was coming? Where is he,” said Arulmozhi.

“Brother! Here, standing in front of you wearing the crown of a prince is the son of sivagnana Kandarathithar and Chempian Madevi. He is the saiva devotee who is also our uncle. Until now he lived in obscurity by the name of Senthan Amuthan. It is the Chola tribe’s good fortune that he has come to us today.  It was his life the Varnar tribe warrior saved a few days ago. The chief minister’s disciple – this brave vaishnavar – not even caring that he is a saivar, smuggled him into the fort! …”

Thirumalai interrupted at this point. “Madam! I did not help this saivar in any way. I did not even want to. It was to bring the vallathu prince in the palankeen, I put him in a disguise and on the elephant,” he said.

Kundavai said, “Yes; Thirumalai nambi has helped in two ways. He probably was not aware that he was bringing the future prince of Cholanadu. Or perhaps, he did it knowingly. I don’t know. Regardless – Brother! The person whom we knew as Mathuranthaka Thevar until today is not the real Mathuranthkar. Here in front of you stands the true son of the elder stateswoman. For reasons we cannot fathom, God’s thiruvillaiyadal has kept him living in a hut until today for reasons. Yet he had surprised us all from time to time by his manner that hinted of an association with the ancient Chola tribe. We know of his attempt to save this Varnar tribe warrior once. And, Brother, can you forget the time when he and Poongkuzhali safely transported you from Kodikarai to Nagapattinam.  Today we found out from Chemipan Madevi herself that he is our uncle. Brother! Today I welcome him to our palace, or rather … in fact, his palace! I welcome him into our family. We must celebrate this event, but the circumstances will not allow that. We must keep this information to ourselves. So let’s celebrate among ourselves. Uncle! Whenever my brothers went anywhere it is the custom to bless them with holy powder and vermillion on their foreheads. Let me welcome you in the same way!”

Kundavai proceeded to apply the holy powder and vermillion on Senthan Amuthan’s forehead.

Chief Minister Aniruthar gave his blessings saying, “Long live the Chola descendant Ilango Mathuranthaka Thevar!”

“Long live! Long live!” Azhvarkadiyan echoed.

Until then Arulmozhivarmar could not believe what he was seeing and hearing. At first he thought it was another one of Kundavai’s pranks. Then he wondered perhaps there was some legitimate reason for this charade. But gradually his doubts disappeared. He understood that Kundavai was speaking from her heart. Her happiness caught on to him also. He told Senthan Amuthan, “Uncle! I was fond of you already. I had even wished that you were my brother. Perhaps it is the common blood that runs between us!” His eyes glistened with tears as he embraced Senthan Amuthan.

“Aha! I knew it! I knew that a valorous ancient tribe was trapped inside the saiva devotee Senthan Amuthan. If not would he have taken in this vagabond and helped him to escape. Son of the great king! Please give me the same help that you gave once before. I do regret that I won’t be present at your coronation. What can be done? But I will say this. I am not thrilled about the Chola kingdom in the hands of Senthan Amuthan; but I am exhilarated that Poongkuzhali ammai who helped me cross the ocean will be maharani! Even she will not have expected that the Ocean Princess’s dream will come true so fast!” Vandhiyathevan said.

Kundavai interrupted. “Sir! It is better if you don’t talk too much for a few days. Only then you will be able to run fast, in case you need to escape,” she said.

Then she told Arulmozhi, “Brother! We now know why our beloved grandmother objected to crowning her son. Even we were not happy about crowning the old Mathuranthakar. He did not seem to possess any of the brave Chola attributes. Even saiva devotion – which our grandmother coaxed him into – did not appeal to him. Yet we agreed to crown him. The new Mathuranthakar on the other hand gives us immense joy. I also like the idea of Poongkuzhali next to him on the throne. Our chief minister has a lot of work now …”

“Madam! The elder Pazhuvertraiayar must shed some light on what went on in Kadampoor palace. We also must find the missing old Mathuranthakar. Without resolving these two issues, how can we look ahead towards coronation?” Aniruthar asked.

“I will talk to the elder Pazhuvettaraiyar. It is your responsibility to find the old Mathuranthakar!” Kundavai said.

At that time Prince Mathuranthaka Thevar – Senthan Amuthan as he was known until now – addressed Ponniyin Selvar. “Prince! You gave me due respect and called me, ‘Uncle!’ I am also being called, ‘Prince!’ But I cannot call you, ‘Son!’ I cannot also consider myself the ilango born in the great king’s tribe after having lived twenty two years of my life in a hut. I beg all of you. I was locked up in the dungeon for helping Vandhiyathevan escape. At that time I came to know about my birth from the man in the adjacent cell. It became clear to me then why the elder stateswoman had always been kind to me. All I wanted was to hear her call me, ‘Son!’ That wish had been fulfilled. I do not want anything else!” He said.

The chief minister interrupted. “Young King! It is not a question of what you want! We must think about what is right and what is lawful!” He said.

“Aha! Think as much as you want to. As far as I am concerned there is nothing to think about. I have done my thinking and come to a decision. It had been a dream of Poongkuzhali to marry a king and be on the throne. She had even rejected my love because of it. At those instances I have been on the verge of saying, ‘Girl! I am the prince. If I wanted the Chola kingdom can be mine!’ I controlled myself. I prayed to god that I would never be consumed by the desire to rule. To that end I was even prepared to lose Poongkuzhali. Fortunately, this Ocean Princess decided to give up her unsuitable quest and agreed to marry this poor servant of the temple.”

Poongkuzhali obviously had objections. “Sir! How can you say, ‘unsuitable quest?’ I am good enough to be the empress of the three worlds, even though I have agreed to marry you and spend my life stringing garlands and plying boats!” She said.

“Bravo, Poongkuzhali! This statement alone is enough to prove your suitableness. How is one suited and not suited? ‘all life is equal,’ said the divine poet of Tamil thirumarai. Therefore do not give up your old ambition. Join our side and tell this future husband of yours! Uncle! It is understandable that you had rejected this kingdom. It only shows your inherent greatness. But now all of us are asking you, the emperor, the chief minister, my brother and myself! My friend Vanathi is asking you. She is going to change the mind of her uncle! Why must you refuse us,” asked the junior stateswoman.

“Madam! All of you want this. But what do the citizens of this country want? You probably don’t know. Having lived among them I do. I know very well what the people of Thanjai, Pazhaiyarai, Kudanthai, Kodikarai and Nagapattinam want. I have also heard what the people of Pandyanadu, Pallavanadu, Kongunadu and Eezhanadu want. ‘Arulmozhivarmar must be crowned,’ is the unanimous verdict of the people. Can I swim against such a deluge? Even if I wanted to can I rule this big Chola empire? God! I know how much the people hated the person you are now calling, ‘old Mathuranthakar.’ Do you want me to be the object of all that hatred? No! Don’t hurt me so. I have never harmed any of you!”

Before anyone else could speak Ponniyin Selvar took over. Speaking in a stately voice he said, “Let this discussion end here! When all of you entered this room I was saying, ‘I will wear the Chola crown! I will. I now know the viewpoint of this good friend and son of the elder stateswoman. Let’s not talk about the right to the throne anymore!”






















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