Book 1 | Chapter 8 | Covered Palanquin
There was commotion in the group with the kings talking to themselves about the problem at hand.
One king named Vanangamudiyar raised his voice and said — “I have something that I would like to ask Pazhuvettarayar. I am sure several in this group have the same thoughts. Please may I ask?”
Pazhuvettarayar was a bit taken back, but remained composed.
“We have all heard of Pazhuvettarayar’s recent marriage to a young lady. The talk in town is that, the young Queen accompanies you everywhere. We also hear that you take her opinion while making decisions in royal matters.”
Pazhuvettarayar replied with surprising composure — “Is it wrong for a person to marry a young lady? Is it wrong to love a person so much that he cannot part with her? I agree to your first question. Yes. I married a young lady recently. But, I strongly object to your second accusation that I take her opinion in royal decision making. I have never done that, and will never do that.”
Several kings nodded in agreement, but Vanangamudiyar did not relent.
“If that is so, why is the palanquin here? What is the business that the young queen has, here?”
It is now that Vandhiyathevan realized that the closed palanquin he had seen earlier in the day was placed near where the discussion was happening.
“Hah. Excellent question and I am glad you are asking these questions, Vanangamudiyaare. I will respond to your question, but please give me just a little more time. But I promise, I will respond before the end of this discussion.”
Vanangamudiyar also clarified — “I have full faith in Pazhuvettarayar. Despite these questions and whatever responses he gives, as a vassal warrior king, I treat him as our leader, and will abide by his decision.”
Pazhuvettarayar nodded approvingly and continued — “But first, let us discuss what needs to be discussed right now. Long live King Sundara Chozhan. But in the case, what the doctors and the astrologers have said are true, we would need to decide who would be the heir-apparent.”
“What is your opinion on this? All of us will abide by it”, said someone in the group.
“That is not right. Each one of us should think deeply and decide on this. It is an important decision. I would like to refresh you with some historical facts that might help you think about this decision.”
Pazhuvettarayar continued — “The Great Kandaraaditha Chozhan passed away unexpectedly 24 years ago. His son, Madhuranthaka Thevar was a child, barely a year old. His dying wish was to make his brother Arunjaya Thevar the king. This was told to us by the late Kandaraaditha Chozhan’s wife and now the Royal Matron, Sembiyan Maadevi. Upon this wish, we all crowned Arunjaya Thevar as the Emperor. It was fate that Arunjayar did not live for more than a year after he sat on that throne. Arunjaya Thevar’s son, Paranthaka Sundara Chozhan was a strapping lad of 20 years. All of us were consulted and we agreed to make Sundara Chozhan as the Emperor. And we did not regret that decision. Until about two years back, our Emperor has ruled over our kingdom in a very just manner. He has won several wars, won over several kingdoms, and has been one of the best rulers of the Chozha dynasty so far. With him unwell, who is the next successor?”
Pazhuvettarayar paused for a dramatic effect. The whole group was waiting for him to say something.
“Madhuranthaka Thevar, son of Kandaraaditha Chozhan, is now 20 years old. By means of wisdom, age, and dedication to God, he is now a capable Prince. On the other hand, we have Aditya Karikalan, who is one year younger, and has been crowned as heir-apparent. Now you brave warrior kings, tell me, who should be the heir-apparent? According to Rajya-neethi, who should be the successor? Madhuranthaka Thevar, or Aditya Karikalan?
Everyone in unison said, “Madhuranthaka Thevar is the right one.”
Pazhuvettarayar smiled to himself. The trap was laid.
“My opinion is also this. But all of us need to work hard to achieve this outcome. Are we all together in this? Can each one of us promise in front of Durga Devi, that we are all together in this?”
The group was silent momentarily.
Sambuvarayar spoke about — “Yes, we all swear by the Goddess herself. We are all together in this. But, we all have one more question. Does Madhuranthaka Thevar agree to this? Has he agreed to take up the crown? We have heard that he has renounced his royal life and taken up service to God.”
The King of Pazhuvoor had been prepared for this question. It was all playing out exactly as he had planned.
“Yes. It is true that Madhuranthaka Thevar had renounced royal life and had taken up service to God. This was something the Royal Matron Sembiyan Maadevi had a part to play in. When the prince was young, she had received a threat that, if the prince becomes heir-apparent, there would be a risk to his life. The Matron loved the prince too much to lose him forever. With this intention, she had brought up the prince with an intention to serve God, and not indulge in royal matters. But more recently, the prince has been experiencing a change in heart. He has now expressed an interest in the crown.”
There was a hushed silence again in the group. Pazhuvettarayar could hear someone in the group whisper to another — “How can we trust this man?”
With a dramatic flourish, Pazhuvettarayar got up and walked up to the closed Palanquin and said — “my dear Highness, could you please grace us by stepping out of the palanquin?”
Vandhiyathevan’s heart stopped. He was looking slack-jawed at the scene unfurling before him in the courtyard. The same fair hand he had seen earlier in the day opened the screen. Madhuranthaka Thevar stepped out of the Palanquin.
Vandhiyathevan realized his earlier mistake of assuming that the person traveling inside the covered palanquin was a lady. He then thought of Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, who must have made the same assumption. He looked up at the fort wall to check if Nambi was still there. He could not spot Nambi in the darkness of the shadow.
Meanwhile, all the vassal warrior kings gave a rousing reception to Madhuranthaka Thevar chanting slogans of “Long Live the Heir apparent.”
Vandhiyathevan decided that, it was probably not a good idea to stay in that hallway any longer. He silently slipped back to the balcony allotted to him for the night, and lay down for the night.