Book 1 | Chapter 16 | Vaanathi and Arulmozhi
The current Emperor Sundara Chozhan had been ruling this kingdom for twelve years now. The Chozha Empire had been expanding since he ascended the throne. He had been a just and able ruler. A few years back, he had waged a war against the Pandiya king, Veerapandiyan. The Sinhalese king had sent a significant army to help the Pandiya king. The Chozha Army under the able leadership of Sundara Chozhan defeated this combined army. Veerapandiyan had fled the battlefield to save his life. It was said that he had taken refuge in a hidden cave in the mountains.
Emperor Sundara Chozhan had wanted to stop this unfair practice of the Lankan kings interfering in these local wars. He had sent an army led by the able general Kodumbalur Paranthaka Siriya Velaan. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a large naval force, the army had to be moved in phases. The Sinhalese army had annihilated the Chozha army led by the Kodumbalur General. The general himself had lost his life in this war.
When the Pandiya king in hiding had gotten to know about this defeat of the Chozhas, he had begun raising a new army. With renewed confidence, he had waged a second war against the Chozha army. In this war, the elder son of Sundara Chozhan, Aditya Karikalan, played a large role. The Chozha army routed the Pandiya army again. This time, the Prince had taken no chances, and had killed Veerapandiyan himself.
The thought of repressing the interfering attitude of the Sinhalese king, had not yet gone away from the minds of the Chozha kings. A large force was regrouped again to go to war with the Sinhalese. The Chozha kingdom was contemplating who should lead this second attack. The elder Prince was away in the north, where he was driving back the Irattai Mandalam forces away from Thondainaadu and Thirumunaipaadi. There had been stiff competition between the senior generals of the army on who would be chosen to lead the attack on Lanka. It had become a matter of prestige.
It was at this time, the young Prince Arulmozhi Verman had approached the crown Emperor — “I think I have had enough of being the spoilt younger prince in the palaces of Pazhayarai. I would like to step up and take up the fight in Eezhanaadu. Please grant me this honour.”
Arulmozhi was barely 19. He had a special place in the heart of the King. Why, he had a special place in the heart of everyone in the palace, or should we say, in the hearts of all the people of Chozhanaadu.
Sundara Chozhan’s father was Arunjaya Chozhan. He had won over the Vaidumbaraayars and on victory, fell in love with a beautiful girl named Kalyani from their kingdom. The son born out of this marriage was a beautiful boy. The name that was given on birth was Paranthakar. Paranthakar inherited his good looks from his mother and people started calling him Sundara Chozhan. The Princes born to Sundara Chozhan also inherited the good looks, but the youngest, Arulmozhi surpassed everyone else in beauty.
Arulmozhi had been the favourite among all the ladies in the palace. And the one, who was closest to him, was his sister, Kundavai. Though she was hardly two years elder to him, she had singularly taken on the task of bringing him up. Arulmozhi reciprocated the same level of love and respect for his sister. When he was young, Kundavai had seen what looked like Shanku-chakram on his palm.
She knew, within herself, that this boy would make a fine Emperor, but she often wondered how it would ever happen, because there were two elder siblings. She had consoled herself that, perhaps he would conquer some distant land and become Emperor there. She had heard about the Prince from the Gangetic plains, who had sailed all the way down the Bay of Bengal and had become the Emperor of Eezhanaadu.
Princess Kundavai was the one who had initiated the thought of Arulmozhi leading the forces in Eezhanaadu.
Prince Arulmozhi did go on to lead the forces in Eezhanaadu. But the war was far from swift. It was an extended war. The war policies that the young Prince followed were quite different from the traditional policies. According to him, the food supplies and other materials for the forces should come from the mainland, and should not be looted from the common man of the conquered lands.
Mid-way through the war, there had been a time, when the supplies were not coming in regularly. And so, he had paid a visit back to the mainland. He had made the appropriate requests to the Emperor, and was getting ready to head back to war.
Princess Kundavai had arranged for a grand send-off function for the warrior returning back to the battlefield. There had been singing and dancing as was customary. After the function, the Prince had stepped out of the hall to the spectacular sight of all of the royal maidens waiting with an aarthi plate with a lamp in it. The prince had smiled and had accepted the kind gesture warmly and started walking slowly towards his horse.
At this point was when, our dear friend Vaanathi had let her aarthi plate slip and fall down to the ground. For a moment, everyone had thought it was an inauspicious happening, but they had noticed the lamp wick was still burning, and had changed their minds. A minor commotion had followed, when Princess Kundavai and the rest of the maidens hurried the unconscious Vaanathi to one of the front ante rooms of the palace.
The kindly prince followed them as well.
“Akka, who is this girl?” the Prince had asked.
“She is the daughter of Kodumbalur Siriya Velar. She gets very easily frightened.”
“Oho. Perhaps that is why she got fainted. Her father died in battle in the same place, where I am headed to.”
“Do not keep her in your thoughts. We are here to take care of her. You go now, and return a victorious warrior.”
At this time, perhaps due to the mellifluous voice of the prince, Vaanathi had regained consciousness, and slowly broke into a wide coy smile.
“Akka, I am really sorry. I …”
Arulmozhi said in a soft voice — “Think nothing of it, Vaanathi. These mistakes can happen to anyone.”
“Akka, please take care of this girl. The forces are waiting. I should leave now.”
“Go, my brother. Be victorious. Do keep sending messages regularly.”
“I will, Akka. And when you do send me messages, do let me know about the health of this girl.”
Vaanathi had been pleasantly surprised at the kind words of the Prince.
Ever since that day, there had been a special bond between the Princess and Vaanathi. She took her everywhere she went. She taught her everything she knew.
She had fainted a few more times after this incident. Princess Kundavai treated her well and ailed her to consciousness every time. Every time she regained consciousness, she would wake up sobbing and weeping. And each time, she could not describe why she woke up crying.