Book 3

Book 3 | Chapter 17 | Thirunaarayur Nambi

They rode through the streets of Pazhayarai. The city seemed old and ancient. Some of the people stopped and stared at the procession. It was obvious to note that Madhuranthakan did not garner enough respect or love from the people of this city. This was actually a good thing for Vandhiyathevan, who was hoping that no one recognises him.  

There was an open chariot that was coming in the opposite direction. There were people cheering in front of the chariot and behind it. They were cheering, “Thirunaarayur Nambi Vaazhga!” 

Madhuranthakan looked at the procession with envy. He did not like the fact that he was not getting enough attention.  

They reached the Royal Matron’s palace, where she was waiting at the gate. She greeted him with a smile. “Son, you have come at a wonderful time. Thirunaarayar Nambi is almost here. Please refresh yourself, and come to the Sabha Hall as soon as feasible.” 

After the Prince refreshed himself, he looked around for Vandhiyathevan, who was eager to go to the Sabha Hall along with him. The Prince chose Vandhiyathevan and a few others, and made his way to the Sabha hall, which was already full.  

On one side of the dais were seated the Royal Matron, Princess Kundavai and a few other royal ladies. In the centre was seated a young man, smeared with vibhuti and adorning rudraksha. He looked very knowledgeable, and his face looked blissful. There was an old man seated right next to him, who was also smeared with vibhuti and wearing rudraksha. Vandhiyathevan realised that the young man was the one who came in the open chariot, and he had seen the elder person on the boat, when he crossed the Kollidam earlier. 

Vandhiyathevan’s eyes found the Princess immediately, and for a moment, she gave a startled recognition, but tried to not show it.  

Madhuranthakan sat down on his seat.  

“Son, this is Nambi from Thirunaarayur, blessed by the Polla Pillayar of the temple there. He has somehow acquired several Devaram songs that no one has had access to so far. Once, Queen Mangayarkarasi of Madurai invited the saint-poet Thirugnanasambandhar to debate with the Buddhists and Jains, and the saint won. Nambi has been able to access some of those beautiful songs. I listened to a few of them, and they are brilliant. I wish your father had been here to listen to these songs.” 

“I will listen to them, Mother. Please ask him to start.” 

Madhuranthakan did not look happy though. He was still irritated with the fact that a young man smeared in vibhuti was getting such a grand treatment with a seat in the centre of the dais.  

Nambi read a few songs from scrolls in his hand. He sang about Queen Mangayarkarasi, the Pandian Queen, and of Madurai, the city. Nambi even alluded to the Royal Crown of the Chozhas, which distracted Madhuranthakan, who started day-dreaming about the Chozha kingdom.  

Vandhiyathevan could not concentrate on the songs. His mind and eyes were only on Princess Kundavai. He was thinking on how to meet her in private.  

Sembiyan Maadevi was moved by the songs that Nambi sang. She looked at the saint and said, “Ayya, please travel all over the kingdom, and collect all the songs that Appar, Sundarar and Gnanasambandar have sung. This is what my late husband desired.  I would like to start this project at least in my lifetime. All costs and help that you require for traveling will be borne by the state. My son will take this news to the Emperor and get his approval as well. The crowd erupted in cheers. Madhuranthakan was incensed internally, on why this was getting so much attention and praise.