Book 3 | Chapter 21 | Are you a mother?
The Royal Matron continued, “When your father ascended the throne, it was a difficult time for the kingdom. You have heard about the great reign of your grandfather, Paranthaka Chozhan, who had expanded the Chozha kingdom all the way from Lanka in the south to the River Krishna in the north. But, in his last years, the kingdom and the royal family had several losses.”
“Paranthaka’s elder son, the brave Rajaditya Chozhan went to war at Thakkolam against the massive forces of Irattai Mandalam. There was a lot of bloodshed. Rajaditya Chozhan lost his life fighting this war and winning it for our kingdom. His younger brother, Arinjaya Chozhan had been grievously injured. Arinjaya Chozhan’s son, Sundara Chozhan who was a young man at that time, had left to Lanka for war, and had not returned.”
“Your father was at the Emperor Paranthaka’s side. Your father had already decided to not indulge in royal matters, and wanted to dedicate his life to the service of God. He hated war. He hated to even touch the sword and the spear. He hated the concepts of politics, espionage, expansion, administration and economics. He wanted to spend his life going on pilgrimages, renovating temples, and collating the famed poetry of the Tamizh saints.”
She sighed again.
“Your grandfather’s health deteriorated fast. On his deathbed, he called your father and told him that he would need to take up the throne of the kingdom. Your father could not refuse.”
“Thankfully, at that time, a search party that had been searching for your uncle’s son, Sundara Chozhan, found him on one of the islands near Lanka, and brought him back. Emperor Paranthaka had great love for Sundara Chozhan. Astrologers had also predicted that Sundara Chozhan would do great things for the Chozha kingdom. Paranthaka Chozhan crowned Sundara Chozhan as heir to the throne, and announced that Sundara Chozhan’s lineage would inherit the throne going forth.”
“Your father had absolutely no intention to be the Emperor. He had left all the royal work to his younger brother Arinjaya Chozhan and his son, Sundara Chozhan, and spent his time meditating on Lord Nataraja. He had no intention of marrying, until he saw me. I guess he noticed a lot of similarities between us. He proposed marrying me, and my family and I agreed. I had seen him as Lord Shiva himself, the very first time.”
“Soon after marrying your father, devotion to him as a God turned into love for a human being. I wanted a child to pour my affection on, and had requested him. He agreed to my request too, and you were born. While I was overjoyed when you came to this world, I was also afraid that your father would be mad at me, for making him break his promise to himself. But he did get angry at me. Instead, he made me promise that I would raise you as a devout follower of Lord Shiva, and not expose you to the luxuries of a royal life. Soon, he left us all.”
“I thought I had kept my word, until recently. I am hearing things about you that make me doubt myself. Things that I want you to convince me as false.” Tears streamed down her eyes.
Madhuranthakan grunted, “I do not understand your mysterious talk. What are you hearing? And what do you want me to promise?”
“I am hearing that your pious mind, which was only chanting the Lord’s name has been polluted by some enemies of the state, and is now lusting for this kingdom’s throne. Is that true?”
An infuriated Madhuranthakan stood up. His eyes were red. His hands were trembling. “No one has polluted my mind. People who have knocked some sense into me about me being the rightful heir are not enemies. People who are willing to lay down their lives to make me Emperor are not my enemies. You want to know who is my enemy? It is you! A mother who does not want the best for her son.”
In his anger, he had spoken in utter disrespect. Chinna Pazhuvettarayar had asked him to convince her using kind words.
He screamed, “You are my biggest enemy. Are you even a mother? I cannot imagine how a mother can do this to her own son. You are a rakshashi. I will not let go of the throne. I will not listen to you, or even if my father comes back and tells me. I want this great Chozha throne.”
His face was red. His blood was boiling.
The Royal Matron could not bear to see Madhuranthakan’s angry face.
She continued in a soft tone. “I am only protecting you, my dear child. This throne is fraught with dangers. Dangers to your life. If you take this throne, the two brave princes of Sundara Chozhan, Arulmozhi and Aditya Karikalan, would become your enemies. These are seasoned warriors. You, my dear child, have not even wielded a sword before. Is it not a mother’s duty to protect her own child?
“The princes have allies within the kingdom and even neighbouring kingdoms. What do you have, my son?”
Madhuranthakan calmed down a little bit. “Mother, if that had been your fear, you could have told me before. I am not that isolated. I have the Pazhuvettarayar, a good number of vassal kings of our own Chozha kingdom such as Sambuvarayar, your own brother, Mazhavarayar, and several others backing me. They have all promised their support.”
“Son, their promises mean nothing. Years ago, they also promised Sundara Chozhan that they would support him and his sons.”
“The vassal kings have promised to bring their troops to support me if required.”
“Son, that is not what is required. The people already hate the Pazhuvettarayars, and are blaming them for the current situation in the kingdom. If you side with them, the people will hate you too.”
“I do not care about the sentiments of the people, mother.”
“The people who have been teaching you all this, have not taught you the first principle of being a ruler. You need the love and support of the people, for an Emperor to have a long reign.”
While the Royal Matron was saying all this, they heard a huge commotion outside the palace. They heard people wailing. They heard angry questioning cries.
“Son, something is happening outside. I fear that this is the beginning of the fall of the great Chozha empire. I pray that it is not. Let me go out and check. You stay right here.”