Book 3

Book 3 | Chapter 44 | The Nandi Grew

Amidst the bushes, they found a clearing where they could dock the boat. There were beautifully-carved Nandi statues, which gave this mandapam its name. The carving was exquisite. Once a year during the Vasantha Utsavam, the deities of the adjoining Shiva temple – Kayarohanar and Neelayadakshi – came out of the temple and graced this mandapam, an event that was celebrated with fervour.  

As the boat neared the mandapam, the Prince caught sight of the two Princesses waiting. Princess Kundavai came down the steps to receive him. Vanathi stood in the mandapam. Sendhan Amudhan helped the Prince climb out of the craft. Poonkuzhali and Amudhan paddled the boat a little further downstream and waited.  

Thambi, you have lost so much weight.” 

Akka, forget about me. Tell me, why is your face so dull? What is troubling you? Where is the happiness that I usually see in you, when we meet? There must be something so deeply troubling you. Else, you would not have sent me the scroll asking me to come urgently.” 

“Yes. There are a lot of things that I need to tell you and ask you.” 

Tears washed down her face. She sobbed uncontrollably.  

“I am not even sure if I should have gotten you here today. The head monk said you have recovered, but the fever has affected you very badly. I could not resist meeting with you either.” 

“It is ok, Akka. I am cured now. If you had not called me, I was preparing myself to leave for Pazhayarai. Ever since I saw your scroll, I have been itching to come back to see you. The messenger that you sent the scroll with, the brave Vanarkula warrior – I have never seen anyone as courageous as him. I tested him in many ways, on several days. He passed every test. Where is he now, Akka?” 

There was a hint of a smile on her face.  

“There are so many other things that we need to talk about. Why do you worry about him now?” 

“Why are you saying that Akka? Did he say or do anything that you thought was wrong?” 

“Oh no. Nothing like that. I had given him a task to bring you here, and he has done that successfully.” 

Akka, the things that he did to execute that task, are amazing. When I heard that you were going to be here, I thought Vandhiyathevan would be here as well. Instead you have brought this girl, who faints for everything.” 

“You do not know how brave this girl has become now. Yesterday, the Chief Minister’s elephant took her by the trunk and threw her. The elephant threw her right onto my lap, but she did not know that. She has indeed become very brave now.” 

Akka, I do not want to hear about this girl now. Tell me, where is my friend now?” 

“He finished his tasks, and I have sent him back to his master Aditya Karikalan.” 

“Hmm. In which case, he has gone back on his word. He told me he is never going to leave Chozhanaadu.” 

“How can that be possible, Thambi? The fate of the people of Chozhanaadu itself is questionable now. If you are so fond of your friend, talk to the Emperor and get back his small kingdom.” 

“What will this warrior do with his small kingdom?” 

“He will do what all other small kingdom rulers do. You refused the Lankan throne. You think he will refuse his kingdom?” 

Akka, I refused the Lankan throne, with witnesses. Yet, my father has accused me of treason and ordered my capture.” 

Thambi, if you had taken up the Lankan throne, father would have been happy. He would have bifurcated this kingdom into two. North of the Kollidam would have been given to Adityan and the southern part to Madhuranthakan. That is the plan, which is being hatched, even now.” 

“If you are here, you would be of help to the Emperor, to effect this. Earlier, when he had called you, and you had refused to come. So, he resorted to this way, to get you here now.” 

“I will never agree to split the kingdom. I would rather give away the entire kingdom to Uncle Madhuranthakan.” 

“It looks like the Chief Minister and you are thinking on the same lines.” 

“Yes. The Minister and I spoke in detail about this, when he was in Lanka. This was the main reason he had come to Lanka.” 

“Would you want me to tell you the true reason why I refused Lanka?” 

“If you will not tell me, who will share all your secrets,” said the Princess, with a chuckle.  

“Lanka is a small country. I did not know this before. You can go from coast to coast in a single day on horseback or elephant back.” 

Thambi, the Chozhanaadu is not too big either. You can cross the entire kingdom in a day by horseback.” 

“Yes. Chozhanaadu is small as well. If someone gave me the throne of this kingdom, I would refuse it as well. Whoever split this large Tamizh kingdom into Chozha, Chera and Pandya, has committed the biggest sin. That is why, even though there are so many warriors in this kingdom, it has not grown. Look at North India. There were Chandragupta, Ashoka, Samudragupta, Vikramaditya, Harshavardhana – so many of these kings ruled very large kingdoms. There was Mahendran and Maamallar in Kanchi. Even that kingdom is gone now.” 

“If at all I rule a kingdom, I will rule one that extends from Lanka all the way to the Ganges. I will rule a Chozha kingdom from the Male islands (Maldives) all the way to the Javaga islands (Indonesia).” 

Akka, are you smiling because you think I am mad?” 

“No, Arul Varma. I am smiling because I am glad there is one more person like me who builds such large castles in the air. I heard that our great grandfather, the great Paranthaka Chakravarthy, had such large ambitions. It never materialised. I think I am going to see those ambitions being fulfilled in my lifetime. Once upon a time, I thought our brother Aditya Karikalan would accomplish this feat. However, he lacks control of his feelings, and he will not be able to achieve this.” 

Thambi, if all of this does not get done by you, I will not get disheartened. I will ensure that I train your son to do this. I will train him from the day he is born. I will ensure that he does not get distracted by small desires. I will raise him with the highest ambitions.” 

Akka, I think you are a bigger fool than me. I am not even thinking of marriage, and you are talking about a son who would be born to me. If there is anyone in your coterie, who is dreaming of marrying me and sitting with me on a throne, please tell them that it would never happen.” 

The Prince stole a glance at where Vanathi was standing and then looked at the Nandi statues. 

Akka, Lanka might be a small country, but the kings who ruled that kingdom are worthy of praise. They built huge Buddha statues, large viharas with hundreds of rooms, and huge halls with thousands of pillars. They have built Buddha statues the size of that coconut tree you see, behind you. Akka, look at this Nandi statue near us. How small it is! Do you think the mount of the Great Mahadevar would be so small? Kailasa was filled with Boodhaganas; and Nandi-devar was the one who guarded the gates of the abode of Lord Shiva. How can he be depicted so small?” 

“Imagine, this Nandi becoming bigger. Even bigger. Big enough that it would hit the roof of this mandapam. If the Nandi statue itself is so big, imagine how big the Shivalinga would be. If the Shivalinga is so big, imagine how big a temple we should have to house it? Our current Shiva temples are all so small that they can house only the sage Agastya. They are not suitable for Lord Shiva. I do not want this throne at all. All I ask for is to be appointed as the Officer of Temple Upkeep.” 

“I think we are competing against each other, on who the bigger fool is. Our dear kingdom is now under a much bigger threat – from enemies within and outside. These days, I am having a recurring nightmare. I keep seeing a massive sword in front of me, ready to fall on someone. I do not know who it is going to fall on. I do not know if it is going to fall on the Chozha kingdom, splitting it into two. I think that the two of us need to discuss and plan our next move.” 

“Yes, Akka. I agree. After hearing all that my friend, the Vallavarayar, said, even I feel our kingdom is under threat. You do realise who the biggest threat is, right?” 

“It is the Pazhuvoor Ilayarani, Nandini.” 

“Yes. And do you know who she really is?” 

“Yes. After hearing Vandhiyathevar, I got to know that as well. That is why I came to see you so urgently.”