Book 1 | Chapter 46 | Maamallapuram

Mahabalipuram Beach Temple (img src: wondermondo)

We wish to take the reader to Maamallapuram. This port town was built by Mahendra Pallavan and Maamalla Narasimhar. Three hundred years later, the town was not the model city that the founders had planned it to be. The market places and the streets were empty. The warehouses were bare. Some of the palaces were on the brink of crumbling. The massive natural harbor had been ignored and there was so much silt deposited, that only small vessels could come into the harbor. The big ships had to anchor further away, and the goods had to be transported to land using smaller boats.

Not all was gone in this town. There continued to be some masterpieces. Most significantly, there was the beautiful stone temple on the beach. In the middle of the town was another famous Perumal temple. Thirumangai Alwar sang the praises of the reclining Perumal of this temple. The years after Thirumangai Alwar saw very little development in this town. However, there was one thing that did not diminish at all, in this beautiful harbor town — the art of sculpture. Beautiful sculptures were everywhere. This art kept the town alive with tourists swarming in to see the beautiful sculptures of chariots and kings.

On this day, three important people were riding on a chariot towards the beach to discuss important matters of the state.

Prince Aditya Karikalan was one of the bravest warriors, who had gone to war at a very young age. Having killed the Pandiya king, he had earned the title of Veerapandiya Koppara Kesari. He had been crowned heir to the throne right after the Pandiya war was won. He had expanded the Chozha kingdom significantly. He had been camping in Kanchi so that he could coordinate expansion efforts to the north of the kingdom. It was at this time that the Pazhuvettarayars started objecting to the Prince’s plans. They had suggested that the northern expansion should happen only after the war in Lanka was over. He had also heard rumors that food and supplies were not being sent properly to the warriors in Lanka. The Crown Prince had been getting very perturbed with such news.

Sitting beside him in conversation were two other warriors. One of them was Thirukovilur Malayamaan. The Emperor’s second wife, Vaanama Devi, was his daughter. He was hence, Aditya Karikalan’s grandfather. He could almost be called the Bhishmacharya of this clan, respected for his strategy and bravery. He was the Prince’s advisor. But there were still some times when the sane advice irritated the young impatient Prince.

The third person in conversation was Parthibendran. His lineage was through one of the branches of the Pallava dynasty. He was slightly older than the Crown Prince. While he did not have an opportunity to exhibit his prowess as a ruler, he made up for it with his courage on the battlefield. He was the right hand of the Crown Prince, closest confidant, and dear friend.

Aditya Karikalan was speaking, “The Pazhuvettarayars are stepping too much out of their bounds. How dare they brand my messenger warrior as a spy? They have apparently announced a reward for the one who helps in his capture. How can I stand all this? My patience is running out.”

Parthibendran spoke, “Patience is important now. I had told you earlier, not to send Vandiyathevan. He does not have that much maturity. It is not enough to just be able to wield a knife and spear. When he goes as a messenger carrying an important state message, he needs to use his intellect more.”

It was clear that Parthibendran did not favor the Crown Prince’s showing so much trust in Vandiyathevan.

“Heh. You have started again. If you do not find fault with Vandiyathevan, you will not be able to sleep peacefully. If he does not have a sharp intellect, I do not know who else has. I had asked him to personally deliver the message to the Emperor. That must have made the Pazhuvettarayar very angry. That is not Vandiyathevan’s fault.”

“He would not have just stopped at that. He must have …”

“You keep quiet, Parthibendra. Thatha, why are you so quiet? I want to know your opinion. Should we take a large force to Thanjavur and bring my father back to Kanchi? How much longer should we tolerate these foolish Pazhuvettarayars?”

Malayamaan cleared this throat to speak. They could now start seeing the waves of the sea.

Thambi, let us first get to our usual spot. I will talk after we get out of this chariot. I am getting old and feel very uncomfortable speaking while riding.”