Book 3

Book 3 | Story so far

Around 1200 years ago, the Chozha dynasty started as a small kingdom under the able leadership of Vijayalaya Chozhan. He conquered the city of Thanjavur from the Muththarayars. He laid the foundation of a long list of brave Emperors, including Paranthaka 1, who conquered Pandianaadu and parts of Eezham (Lanka). He is also credited for the golden dome of the Chidambaram temple. His son Rajadityan waged a massive war at Thakkolam (near modern day Arakkonam) against the forces from Irattaimandalam in the North, and died in battle. Paranthaka’s second son Kandaraadityar ascended the throne after him.

Kandaraadityar was childless for long, and made his younger brother Arinjaya Chozhar’s son, Sundara Chozhar as the heir designate. Kandaraadityar was a devout Shaivite. He married Sembiyan Maadevi in later years, and they gave birth to a son, named Madhuranthakan. After Kandaraadityar’s death, Arinjaya Chozhar ascended the throne, but unfortunately died within a year. As per the original arrangement, Sundara Chozhar ascended the throne and ruled the land wisely. During his time, the Chozha dynasty grew far and wide. He governed his subjects and was loved by his people. He married Vaanama Devi and gave birth to Aditya Karikalan, Arulmozhi Varman and Kundavai.

Aditya Karikalan was a brave war leader and had earned his name and pride when he killed Veerapandian after a fierce battle at Madurai. He was named heir-apparent soon after. Arulmozhi was a people’s man, and had won the hearts of all the Chozha citizens. He had been sent to battle in Sri Lanka. Kundavai was an excessively smart young woman, who was keen on maintaining peace within the family and masterminding the success of her brothers.

At the time this story is set, the Emperor is confined in bed due to a debilitating disease. Thanjavur is in the control of two vassal leaders – Periya Pazhuvettarayar (who managed the treasury and administration) and his younger sibling Chinna Pazhuvettarayar (who managed the fort and security). Periya Pazhuvettarayar, had recently, at the age of 60, married a young lady named Nandini; and hence earned a bad reputation with the people of the land. Nandini had a secret hatred towards the Chozha dynasty and was funding a group of traitors to kill the Chozha royalty.

Aditya Karikalan is living in Kanchipuram and preparing for a campaign to push the boundaries of the Chozha empire northwards. Having built a golden palace, he wants the Emperor to come and live with him for a while. Not just to experience the new luxuries of the new palace, but also because he was uncomfortable with his father being under the ‘control’ of the Pazhuvettarayars. To this purpose, he sends a message through a trusted emissary, Vandhiyathevan. Kalki’s narration begins with Vandhiyathevan travelling on a horse from Kanchipuram to Thanjavur, carrying messages from Aditya Karikalan.

On the way, Vandhiyathevan stops at Kadambur to meet his childhood friend Kandanmaran. During his stay, he eavesdrops at a secret meeting, and learns that the Pazhuvettarayars had brought together a band of loyal vassal kings, and were plotting a coup to overthrow the current regime and crown Madhuranthakan as a puppet Emperor (who also happens to be Chinna Pazhuvettarayars son in law)

Vandhiyathevan meets Nandini during his journey and, using her help, gets into the Thanjavur fort. Vandhiyathevan successfully passes on his master’s message to the Emperor, and escapes out of the fort through an underground treasury tunnel. He then reaches Pazhayarai and delivers his final message to Princess Kundavai. The Princess sends him off on his next mission to Lanka to meet Prince Arulmozhi and request him to come back to Thanjavur. The Prince was also known as Ponniyin Selvan (Son of Ponni), due to a childhood incident, when the Prince had accidentally fallen into the river Cauvery, and had been rescued by an unknown woman, who disappeared soon after. The loyal subjects started believing that it was the Goddess Cauvery (Ponni) herself who had rescued the Prince.

Vandhiyathevan reaches Kodikkarai, and with the help of a girl named Poonkuzhali, reaches Lanka. He meets the Prince at Lanka, they bond instantly, and become good friends. During his stay in Lanka, the Prince had met a deaf-and-dumb lady who had saved him quite a few times from danger. He came to know that this was the same lady who had saved him from the river Cauvery when he was young. She also told him the story of how she first met and fell in love with Sundara Chozhan (before he became Emperor) at Boodha Theevu. The Prince realises that this lady is rightfully the Queen Matron, and yearns to tell the Emperor that she is alive. Prince Arulmozhi also got to know about the twin children that she had given birth to.

At the same time that Vandhiyathevan had come to take the Prince Arulmozhi back to Pazhayarai, Prince Aditya Karikalan had also sent his close confidante and commander, Parthibendra Pallavan, to bring the Prince back to Kanchi. The Prince is confused as to where he should head. At that time, Poonkuzhali also comes searching for the Prince, with news of two Chozha ships moored near the coast, carrying men sent by the Pazhuvettarayars to capture and bring back Prince Arulmozhi.

The Prince decides to go and surrender himself, to respect his father’s wishes. He travels with Poonkuzhali towards the place where the ships are moored. But by the time they reach the coast, one of the ships has run aground, and the other hijacked by Arab traders. Assuming that the Prince would be in the latter ship, Vandhiyathevan hastily swims towards the ship, only to find the magician Ravidasan and his companion, with the Arab traders. The two rogues, with the help of Vandhiyathevan overpower and kill the Arab traders, but escape in a small boat, leaving Vandhiyathevan alone in the craft.

A severe squall hits the sea at this time. Lightning strikes the mast of Vandhiyathevan’s ship and it starts burning. The Prince, who had now boarded Parthibendran’s ship to search for his dear friend Vandhiyathevan, spots the burning ship in the storm. He jumps into a small boat with a couple of oarsmen, and rows towards Vandhiyathevan’s ship. The high waves help the Prince reach the craft quickly. However, the storm tears down the craft into bits, leaving the Prince and Vandhiyathevan clinging to the strong mast.

As the mast, with the two friends, drifts towards Boodha Theevu, fate has it that Poonkuzhali is also out in her boat. She rescues them from the cold waters.