Book 1 | Chapter 10 | Kudandai Josiyar

Modern day Arasalar — splits off from Kaveri somewhere just before Anicut (pic:

The Arasalar was one of the tributaries of the River Kaveri before it emptied into the sea. The river had such dense foliage on both embankments. A river boat cruised silently towards the bank. Sitting on a cushioned chaise on the craft was Princess Kundavai, the daughter of the Emperor of the Chozha Kingdom. Smart, sophisticated, learned in world affairs, the Princess was respected by her father and loved by the entire kingdom.

Around her sat her close friends and hand-maidens. Each of these ladies was a princess in their own right. They were Princesses of smaller vassal states in the Chozha kingdom. The air was filled with melodious singing by one of them. Another was accompanying the song with a Veena in perfect sync. It was as if the Arasalar had stopped making any noise so that this music would not be disturbed.

The boat made landing on the shore.

“Vaanathi, come with me!” — Kundavai motioned to her best friend. She looked at the rest of the ladies and said — “Please wait here. We will be back as soon as we can.”

There was a chariot with swift horses waiting nearby. The two ladies got in. The charioteer knew where to go, and got the horses on their way.

“Akka, why are we going to the Kudandhai (present day Kumbakonam) Josiyar’s (astrologer) house? What are you going to ask him?”

“We are going to ask him about your future. In the last few months, you have been looking so depressed and lost. I want to ask him, when you will step out of this reverie.”

“Akka, please do not tease me. If that is why we are going there, let us turn back right now.”

“Haha. No, we are not going there for asking about you. I want to ask about me. Whether I will get married? Or whether I will be a spinster all my life?”

Vaanathi laughed and said — “You must be joking. If there is even a talk about arranging a match for you, there would be a long line of suitors waiting at the doorstep of the Chozha Palace. The 56 kings from all over India, from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas, are waiting for an alliance with your family. I would even say, Kings from kingdoms afar would be interested too.”

“There is a problem though. If I do get married to a Prince from another state, I would need to move away from this beautiful Chozha land. I cannot leave this land behind.”

“Akka, just marry him and make him stay here.”

“Do you realize how much of a problem that could lead to? If at all this happens, I will marry a brave wandering warrior from this land. That way, he will not take me away from here.”

“I am so happy Akka that you will never leave this kingdom. That way, I can also always stay with you. I am never going to marry, so I do not have the worry of being taken away by the groom.”

The Princess looked deep into Vaanathi’s eyes and said — “Is that right? Do you think I do not know of what is happening in your heart, dear girl? Your love for the Chozha kingdom is out across the sea in the Eezham heartland, fighting bravely with his spear.”

“Akka”, Vanathi launched into poetic prose — “I am but a dew drop. And he is the Sun. The dew drop likes the sun, and for a little time, it even traps the sun within itself. But does the Sun love the dew drop back? Does he not leave the dew drop every evening?”

The Princess laughed the analogy off and said — “Do not worry. I am glad that you have accepted this. Until now, you were not even accepting your feelings towards my brother.”

The two ladies laughed at this, and realized that they were very near the astrologer’s house. The ladies got down from the chariot and instructed the charioteer to park the chariot under the shade of the large banyan tree besides the Kali temple nearby.

The astrologer and his disciple came to the doorstep and welcomed the Princess and her friend inside.

“Josiyare, I hope no one else would come in search of you at this time of the day?”

“Princess, no one would come, do not worry. People come in search of astrologers only when they have troubles. With your father as the Emperor, no one has any troubles. The only affected by this, is this poor astrologer, who is having a dip in his revenue.”

He addressed his disciple to stand guard at the door and asked him to ensure that no one enters the house.

The Princess and her friend sat on raised wooden seats that the astrologer had put up for them to sit. The astrologer sat on a mat in front of the ladies.

“May I know how I can help you, your Royal Highness?”

“Josiyare, can you not use your mystic powers to find that out also?”

The astrologer closed his eyes and chanted some incantations, and then gently opened his eyes after a few minutes.

“You have come to check on the horoscope and future of this young lady who has come with you.”

“Aaha. Your powers are matchless, Josiyare. Yes, you are right. About a year ago, she came to Pazhayarai to stay with me. She used to be the most jovial and energetic girl in my company. But in the last four months, she has become very reserved. At times, she becomes a bit depressed even.”

The astrologer smiled and said — “Isn’t she the daughter of the great warrior Kodumbalur Ilaya Velar? I think I have her horoscope with me. Let me take a look.”