Book 1 | Chapter 51 | Deeply Wounded

Gangai Konda Chozhapuram (img src:

It looked like the cultural program had ended. There were loud cheers praising the Emperor and the Crown Prince.

“The cultural program has finished. Malayamaan will return soon.”

“The program might have finished, but your story has not finished.”

“Haha. I am still wondering about Malayamaan. Look at his energy at this old age.”

“My lord, men from those days, have a reason to be fit — both physically and mentally. Kings of those days did not get caught in the traps of love. They never fell in love with daughters of a common priest. Even if they did, they would not wallow in the self-pity of love. They would have brought the lady immediately and added her to their andhapuram.”

“Parthibendra, Nandini is not the daughter of a temple priest. There is some secret of her birth that I do not know, yet”

“Who cares if she is the daughter of a priest? So what if she is a princess? Or even an orphan? Look at what the Periya Pazhuvettarayar did. He saw her in the middle of a jungle trail. He lusted. He brought her back to his andhapuram. End of story.”

“Which is what is still a mystery to me. The lady whom I loved. The lady who said she was in love with Veerapandiyan. How could she accept to be the wife of this old man?”

“I don’t find it a mystery at all. Actually, what you did seems more of a mystery to me. The lady who gave refuge to the enemy that you had sworn to kill — you left her unscathed and came back. That is something which I cannot digest.”

“In fact, now I remember. You brought out the decapitated body of Veerapandiyan and laid it in front of us. We were flooded with euphoria. I heard someone wailing from inside the hut. I remember asking you who was inside the hut. You had said that it was some temple priest’s daughter, and that she had been shocked with the happenings. You asked us not to go into the hut. We were in the throes of victory. So we did not care. We took the head of Veerapandiyan and rode back to the camp.”

“I also remember that you did not partake of much of the celebrations that night. You were not yourself. I even asked you if you had any hidden wounds.”

“I did not have any physical wound, Parthibendra. It was my heart that was wounded. When she stood pleading for his life, my heart was torn. How could I have given what she was asking for? She was important to me, but what she was asking for, that could not be done. I cursed myself for it.”

“My prince, you did the right thing that day. If not, for the sake of a few fake tears, you would have forgiven the Pandiya king, and things would have been much different now.”

“Friend, you are an unlucky one who hates women. You hate even the word love. You would not understand.”

“Yes. I am like that. I would not fall for any woman. Look at your friend Vandiyathevan. He falls in love with anything with a face smeared with turmeric. And perhaps, that is why you like him more than you like me.”

“Oho. I was wondering how you had not brought in Vandiyathevan for so long.”

“Anyways, let him be. What happened next? Did you not meet her ever again? Have you asked her recently why she married the Pazhuvettarayar?”

“After the celebrations, you had all gone to sleep. I could not get a wink of sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, the events of the evening kept flashing by me again and again. I had to meet her. I had to console her. I had to maybe apologize to her. I took my horse and went back to the priest settlement.”

“The huts had all been burnt to ashes. I saw an old couple wailing uncontrollably nearby. They saw me and asked where their daughter was. They had been to the other side of the river to attend to their elder daughter, who was about to give birth. Nandini had refused to come. While coming back, they had seen a few men roughing up a girl, whose hands and feet were tied. They were trying to push her onto a burning pier, where a human corpse was burning. The couple had silently slipped unnoticed and came back to their settlement, only to see that it was burnt to cinders.”

“I had known earlier that they were not Nandini’s real parents. Now it was confirmed. If they were her real parents, would they have let their daughter alone at a time like this?”

“I was choking with sorrow, anger, frustration and many more emotions that I could not describe then, nor can I describe now. I cursed them — `Your daughter went searching for the corpse that was burning. You also go and burn.’.”

“I came back before dawn and fell asleep. None of you knew that I had even slipped out.”

“Yes, my prince. None of us knew. And I, as a friend, did not know that, you had hidden so much in your heart, for so long.”

“Let us not talk about the past any more. Did you meet or talk to her after that? Did you talk to her before her wedding with Pazhuvettarayar?”

“Hah. If I had seen her before her wedding with Pazhuvettarayar, she would not be his wife now.”

“If you remember, the two of us were not in town, when their wedding happened. A few months later, there was a function when I was crowned as the heir-apparent of the Chozha kingdom. It was the idea of my father and grandmother. They did not wish there to be any discussion on who would be the next Emperor. Perhaps they knew that someday, someone might attempt changing the mind of Madhuranthakan.”

“Every one of our vassal kings and the people of our land had unanimously agreed on this. In this joyous moment, I had completely forgotten Nandini. Right after the coronation, the Emperor, my father, took me to the andhapuram, to get the blessings of the royal ladies. My mother, grandmother, my sister, all of her handmaidens, and several others were in full attendance. But, out of all of them, only one face was visible to me. Yes. It was Nandini. Yes, the same love of my life, whom I had thought to have been burnt to ashes. How did she come to the andhapuram? She was bedecked in the finest of clothes and jewelry. She had a charming smile on her face too. I thought, due to some magical happening, the love of my life had also returned on the same day of my coronation. I thought, perhaps, she would become the queen-apparent.”

“My grandmother then stepped forward and blessed me. At that very moment, my father let out a cry, and fell down unconscious. We focused on my father then. All the ladies except my immediate family went inside. We sprinkled water on my father’s face and he regained consciousness. I took my sister aside and asked her how Nandini had gotten there. Kundavai had revealed the news of the Pazhuvettarayars wedding. Parthibendra, it felt like someone pierced me with a spear. I have been wounded in many a war. I have recovered from all of them. But the inner wound that was caused when my sister told me that Nandini was the Pazhuvoor queen, has still not healed.”

Karikalan wept silently. Parthibendran could see that the wound had not healed.