Book 1 | Chapter 7 | Successor to the Throne

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After hearing all this, Vandhiyathevan decided that he would need to hear all of this discussion. He had to clear his confusions. He had to know the truth. He settled down and started listening astutely.

The Periya Pazhuvettarayar started speaking.

“I have some important news that I want to tell you all. It is for this reason that, Sambuvarayar has arranged for this meeting. The health condition of King Sundara Chozhan is deteriorating by the day. I have discreetly asked the royal doctors. The doctors are not giving him too much time to live. We need to start thinking about what next.”

“What do the astrologers say?” asked someone in the coterie.

“Why ask astrologers? Haven’t you all seen the comet that has been striking the evening skies every day (dhoomakethu vaal nakshatram)? That spells impending doom”, asked another.

“What is there to start talking about next steps? Has it not been decided that Prince Aditya Karikalan would be the heir-apparent?”

Pazhuvettarayar intervened — “Yes, but was any one of us consulted when that decision was made? Each one of us sitting here, we have served the Chozha Kingdom for four generations. We still are serving. Our children are serving the kingdom. But to decide on the heir-apparent, we were not consulted. Even King Dasaratha, when he wanted to appoint Lord Rama as heir-apparent, consulted a committee of respectable people. Are we not entitled to that?”

“It seems our emperor consulted only two people to make this decision — the elderly royal matron Sembiyan Maadevi and his daughter Kundavai”, he continued.

“The Chozha kingdom has been expanding for the last three generations. It has now stopped expanding. We are not expanding towards Irattai Mandalam in the north. We still have not captured Eezhanaadu. The two reasons why we have not expanded are — Prince Aditya Karikalan in the North and Prince Arulmozhi Verman in the South.”

“The Elder Prince, instead of raising forces against Irattai Mandalam and Vengainaadu, is sitting quietly in his capital city of Kanchipuram. He is apparently building a palace with walls of gold. Has anyone in our land ever built a palace of gold? Even the King of Kings, Paranthaka Chakravarthy did not create one. Instead he created a roof of gold for Thillai (Chidambaram) temple. All the gems and jewelry that he had looted from lands conquered; none of that came to the State Treasury here. It is all being used to adorn his golden palace. Apparently the Prince is calling the King to the palace to stay for a few years.”

The coterie could sense the frustration and angst in Pazhuvettarayar. There was contempt that spewed out of his voice.

“Has the King agreed to go to Kanchi?”

Pazhuvettarayar roared in evil laughter — “To make sure something like that never happens, I am there. My younger brother, Chinna Pazhuvettarayar is also there. No one can enter into the Thanjavur palace without either of us knowing. No one can bring any message to anyone there.”

Some in the group praised Pazhuvettarayar by raising slogans of “Long Live the King from Pazhuvoor. Long Live the Periya Pazhuvettarayar.” Others nodded in agreement.

But Pazhuvettarayar was not done. “The younger Prince, Arulmozhi has been fighting the war in Eezhanaadu for the longest time now. He has been complaining that he does not have food for the troops. Generation after generation, there has been only one way by which we feed the troops. We loot the country on which we are waging war, and feed the troops. This young whippersnapper thinks that this is not right. I have been sending food and grains by ship from the mainland.”

Pazhuvettarayar continued — “Please also listen to his justification. He says that the war is between two Kingdoms, but the common man should not be affected. What rubbish.”

Several people in the coterie shook their heads in disagreement.

“Because of these two young Princes, the Chozha treasury and granaries are suffering. As someone who is in charge of the treasury, I am now forced to collect more taxes from all of you. I am doing this against my wishes.”

One of the kings in the group asked — “Did you try and tell the Emperor Sundara Chozhan about all of this?”

“Hah. Of course, I have asked him. Each time I go to him, he asks me to check with either the Royal Matron or the young Princess. Like I mentioned before, his health is not well enough for him to make any sane decisions. It is disgusting and beneath our status, that we elderly statesmen and warriors have to take orders from these two ladies. Disgusting. Since the birth of the Chozha lineage, I have never heard of ladies interfering into royal matters ever.”

Pazhuvettarayar was playing the trump card just as he was expecting, and leading the coterie in exactly the direction he wanted them to be taking.

“I almost feel like I should resign from all of this royal work, and retire to my kingdom.”

The rest of the coterie, almost in unison said, “No, no. Please do not do that. You are our only support. Without you, this kingdom would very quickly disintegrate.”

A very satisfied Pazhuvettarayar said — “Then you brave kings need to help me with the solution.”