Book 1 | Chapter 23 | Sendan Amudan

Flower market near the Thanjavur temple. pic credit — natgeotraveler

The soldiers towards the end of the parade were indeed indulging in brash rowdy behavior — grabbing a tray of sweets from a sweet seller and distributing to the forces, stealing a basket of flowers to strew on the streets. The observers indulged in laughter and merriment.

Vandiyathevan was feeling thankful to the young man, who had advised him to dismount. He was sure, if the soldiers had played a prank on him, Vandiyathevan would not have taken it easily, and would have started a fight. He looked around to thank the young man, but could not find him.

Vandiyathevan also knew that the doors of the fort would be locked after the bodyguard forces had left. He decided that, there was no point in trying to get into the fort in the night. It would be better to give his horse and himself some rest. He decided to enter the fort the next day morning. He now had to find a place to stay.

The streets were filled to the brim with traders from faraway lands, tourists, and all kinds of people. The markets were flourishing, and trading was brisk.

While he was observing all of this, he saw the young man again. This time, his flower basket was empty.

“Thambi, where are the flowers? All sold?”

“I do not take the flowers to sell. It was for the Thalikulathaar temple.”

“Is that a big temple?”

“No. These days the Durga temple is much more famous. Not many people come to the Thalikulathaar temple.”

“This pushpakainkaryam (service to God by means of offering flowers) that you are doing for the temple, do you get paid for this?”

“I get a stipend for this from the royal treasury. We have been getting this from my grandfather’s time.”

“Is the temple a brick one or stone?”

Vandhiyathevan had seen several temples in his journey that were being converted to stone temples.

“It is currently a brick temple. The Royal Matron at Pazhayarai is very keen on converting this temple also to stone, but ..”, his voice trailed off, and he looked around him.

“We should be careful in talking about these things in public.”

Vandiyathevan noticed the young man’s hesitation to talk about royal matters in public. He did not want to induce any doubt into the young man either. He seemed to be a good person, and his friendship might be useful at a later time.”

“I am looking for a place to sleep for the night? Can you point me to a good place?”

“There are several places to stay for the night. There are choultries for regular people and exquisite hotels for foreign traders. But if you wish ..”.

“What is your name, Thambi?”

“My name is Sendan Amudan.”

“Aha. What a beautiful Tamizh name. You were going to say, if I wished, I could stay at your place, right? I would love to do, that if it is Ok with you.”

The two had gotten along well. With a laugh and a sprightly step, they walked towards Amudan’s home. His home was on the outskirts of the city. It was small cottage with a large flower garden surrounding it.

As they neared the garden, Amudan called to one of his helps, who lived in the thatched house near the cottage, to take care, and feed Vandiyathevan’s horse.

They stepped into the house, and Amudan’s mother welcomed them inside. Amudan looked at Vandiyathevan and said — “Anna, no need to be shocked. My mother is most unfortunate. She is deaf and dumb.”

Vandiyathevan looked at the kind eyes of Amudan’s mother. Her kindly looks and her hospitality, more than made up for her challenges.

The two new friends chatted for some time. It was time for dinner and Amudan’s mother served them a sumptuous dinner of Idiyaappam and Coconut milk, followed by Maize Panihaaram. It was the most delicious dinner that Vandiyathevan had had in a very long time. After dinner, Vandiyathevan got some information from Amudan about the people whose residences were inside the fort. He got to know that, other than the royals, others such as the Pazhuvettarayars, the Chief Minister and advisor to the king, Aniruddha Brahmaraayar, and the officers of the army, treasury and granary, and their families stayed inside the fort. The priests and their assistants of the Durga temple also stayed inside the fort.

“Does Prince Madhuranthaka Thevar also stay inside the fort?” asked Vandiyathevan.

“Of course he does. Since he has married the daughter of the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar, he stays in the palace next to the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar.”

“Oho, I did not know about that wedding.”

“Since the king is unwell, the wedding was not done on a grand scale.”

“Does the Prince come out often?”

“Since he is mostly into doing service to Lord Shiva, he does not come out that often.”

“But then, he has recently married..”

“Yes. I also hear that, this marriage has changed his mind. But let us not talk about these people in high places. It is best not to interfere.”

Though Vandiyathevan wanted to ask so much more from Amudan, he stopped. He did not want Amudan to suspect him of anything abnormal. It was a good thing so far, that he had gained a good friend in Thanjavur, and a good place to stay as well.

Amudan helped him unroll a mat for him to sleep. Vandiyathevan settled down to sleep. The first thing that came to his mind was the beautiful Pazhuvur Queen Nandini. He tried getting rid of that thought. And in crept thoughts about the beautiful lady whom he had met at the Arasalar banks. He smiled to himself. While these two ladies were trying to seduce his thoughts, there was only a third lady who succeeded — Nidra Devi — the Goddess of sleep.