Book 1 | Chapter 1 | Veeranarayana Lake
On a windy august evening, a horse and a rider trudged along the banks of the Veeranarayana Lake. The horse was tired, but the rider was not. The lake was brimming with the newly flooded waters flowing in from the River Vadakaveri (present day River Kollidam). This was a man-made lake built by Rajaditya Chozhan, son of the great Parantaka Chozhan.
The Chozhas were indeed great rulers — impartial in justice, able in administration, and did ample service to God and God fearing citizens. Their engineering and architectural marvels, including this lake, and its numerous sluices were unmatched.
The young warriors name was Vandhiyathevan. It had been a long ride from Kanchipuram. He was taking with him personal messages from his Master, the Crown Prince of the Chozha kingdom, and commander of the Northern provinces, Prince Aditya Karikalan. The messages were for the Chozha Emperor, Sundara Chozhan and his daughter, Princess Kundavai. He was counting the number of sluices that led the controlled waters out of the lake to numerous canals. He wanted to check if there really were seventy four of them.
As he reached the edge of the lake, where the Vadakaveri was emptying its waters into the lake, he realized that today was the 18th day of the Tamizh month of Aadi, and it was the festival of Padhinettaam-Perukku. It was a harvest festival, and the common folk were celebrating by picnicking on the river banks. There was celebration everywhere. Ladies were singing folk songs which praised the Emperor. Young girls and boys were giggling and running around flirting with each other.
And then suddenly there was commotion. A fleet of ships sailed down the river. The ships in the front had soldiers with their spears glistening. The ship in the center had a flag with the palm tree insignia. Vandhiyathevan quickly realized that this convoy was that of the Pazhuvettarayar family.
The Pazhuvettarayar family, originally from Pazhuvur, had been loyal to the Chozha emperors for generations, due to which they enjoyed special privileges — including the privilege to fly their own flag. The two brothers, known as the Periya Pazhuvettarayar and Chinna Pazhuvettarayar, were brave in battle and had many a scar from victories over rival kings. The brothers no longer fought battles because of their age. Instead, the family controlled the treasury and the granary of the Empire.
The soldiers from the first ship jumped onto the river bank and began forming a cordon. The people, recognizing who it was, did not resist, and moved away from the cordon.
Vandhiyathevan had heard about the bravery of Periya Pazhuvettarayar, and was in half a mind to go closer and take another look. But his Master had explicitly asked him to not indulge in any distractions. He had asked Vandhiyathevan not to pick or participate in fights along the way. His Master knew him too well. He spurred his horse forward.
He decided to stay the night at the Palace of Kadambur Sambuvarayar, and continue on his journey the next morning. He would probably have to change his horse too.
And yes, there were indeed seventy four sluices leading out of the lake.