Book 1 | Chapter 19 | Thiruppurambiyam Pallipadai

Kalanatha Swamy temple — A Pandya Pallipadai temple, Pallimadam (near Madurai). Img src: TheHindu

In the Tamil nations of yore, there were memorials built for those who fought bravely and succumbed to wars. If it was just a memorial for the slain hero or heroes, it was called Nadukkal temple. If it also had a deity, then it used to be called a Pallippadai.

There was a Pallippadai temple that was built in Thiruppurambiyam, after a bloody war that happened in that area. This was in memory of the Gangainaadu Emperor Prithivipadhi. This war was one that changed the political landscape of the Tamizh country.

After the initial successful Chozha rulers like Karikal Peruvalavan, who ruled the Chozha kingdom very well, there was a dark period of about 500 years, when the Chozha kingdom had a very decrepit existence. The Pallavas in the North and the Pandiyas in the South were crushing the Chozhas in the middle. At some point in time, the Chozhas fled their capital Uraiyur (present day Trichy) to settle in Pazhayarai. Emperor Vijayalaya Chozhan was one of the bravest Chozha kings and was succeeded by his son, an equally brave warrior, Aditya Chozhan.

There used to be prolonged wars between the Pallavas and the Pandiyas. The wars used to be fought in the Chozha land in the middle, making life very difficult for the Chozhas.

It was at this time, that there was a final war, on the banks of the River Manni, and near the village of Thiruperumbayam. The Chozhas, led by Aditya Chozhan and the Gangainaadu Emperor Prithivipadhi had allied with the Pallava king, Aparajitha Verman to fight the Pandiyas. The Chozha army was miniscule compared to the Pallava and the Pandiya armies. The battle was bloody and lasted for three whole days. Elephants and horses were killed en masse. Soldiers were decimated on both sides. The Pallava army was tired. But the tireless Pandiya army just kept attacking.

While the Pallava Emperor and his allies were discussing, if they should retreat, there happened a miracle. The old Vijayalaya Chozhan made an appearance on the battle field. He knew if this war was lost, the Chozha kingdom would be blotted out of existence. He soon realized that there were no more elephants or horses.

He got two brave soldiers to lift him on their shoulders. An army of brave Chozha soldiers, now invigorated by the old king, followed. The old king screamed into battle with twirling of double swords. The remaining Pallava and allied soldiers got renewed energy seeing the old king fighting so bravely. The Pandiya army got pushed behind, and they retreated. The Gangainaadu Emperor Prithivipadhi fought with extreme bravery and died on the battlefield after vanquishing many.

It was after this brave warrior, that the Pallippadai at Thiruppurambiyam was built.

After the bloody war, this area became extremely infertile. Thick forest and foliage took over. There was very less human movement. The Pallippadai was in ruins by now.

To this place is where, our friend, Alwarkadiyaan Nambi arrived around sunset. He climbed on to one of the trees close to the memorial hall, and settled down on one of the branches, ensuring he was camouflaged enough.

He looked around in all directions, waiting for someone to arrive. It had become dark, and hours passed by. The darkness enveloped him. The wild sounds from the forest were terrifying. Wild dogs were running around the foliage. Owls were hooting. Bandicoots were scurrying on the tree branches. Terrifying perhaps to you and me, but not our brave friend Nambi, who waited patiently.

Finally, he saw two people approach with a small torch lighting their way. They went past the ruins to a clearing in the woods. “They must be very brave people. They also should also be familiar with this area, to move so confidently in the darkness”, thought Nambi.

One of them sat down in the clearing. The one with the torch looked around. They looked like they were waiting for someone else. They spoke among themselves, but Alwarkadiyaan Nambi could not hear them talking. “I cannot hear them talk. I hope my coming all the way here, does not go to a waste. I certainly want to hear them talking”, thought Nambi.

Two more people came to the meeting. One of the new arrivals had a large bag with him. He untied the knot of the bag, and emptied the contents on to the ground in front of the rest. In the light of the torch, he could see gold and jewels glimmering.

One of them laughed like a mad man.

“Ravidasare, please stay calm.”

“Why should I stay calm? Who is going to hear us here? The only things that can hear us are the owls and the bandicoots. And they cannot go and tell anybody.”

“This is genius. Genius”, he screamed. “We are fighting the Chozha Empire, with jewels stolen from the Chozha treasury itself.” And he roared in laughter again.

Nambi, by now, had become extremely impatient. He had to move closer to the men. He had to hear them. He gently jumped down the tree. There was a rustling of leaves.

“Who is there? Identify yourself”, cried one of them, and looked in Nambi’s direction.

At just that very time, an owl flapped its wings rapidly and flew from one branch to another. The owl made an eerie low pitched hooting sound.