Book 2 | Chapter 12 | Nammazhwar corrects Nambi

“Thirumalai, please tell me what you have seen and heard during your travels. Tell me as is, without hiding anything.”

“Are you asking me to narrate here? Things that I say might shock anyone who hears them – even Vayu Bhagavan, the Wind God, Bhooma Devi, the Earth, and Samudrarajan, the Lord of the Ocean.”

Anbil Sri Vadivazhagiya Nambi Perumal temple – img src: divinetraveller.net

At this time, we would also like to bring to the attention of the reader some archaeological facts. About a hundred years ago, in the village of Anbil, in the Lalgudi Taluk of the Tiruchirapalli district, a merchant had wanted to renovate his old house. While digging its foundation, he found metal plaques with a lot of historical inscriptions.

He handed these to Shri RSL Lakshmana Chettiar, who then handed it to two experts in archaeology and Chozha history – Shri Swaminatha Iyer and Shri Gopinath Rao.

These plaques had a lot of details regarding the Emperors of the Chozha dynasty. These included land grants by the Emperor Sundara Chozhan to his Chief Minister Anbil Aniruddha Brahmaraayar. The plaques also had details about the Chief Minister and his family. These details had great archaeological value and confirmed several historical events.

Alwarkadiyaan entered the room, circumambulated his Guru three times and prostrated before him.

“Please give me permission to leave my Vaishnavism and the obligation to serve you right now. I will now convert to the Kaalamugam sect in Shaivism. I will grow a beard, take up a skull, and roam the country. I will use this same staff to break open every Vaishnavar who comes my way.”

“Stop! Stop! I fear you now.”

“Why should you fear? Only Vaishnavites need to fear.”

“But I am still one.”

Nambi was clearly confused.

“Are you the one hailing from the illustrious family that unfailingly served Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I also hear that you went to the Shiva temple today and did pooja there?”

“Yes. That is also true.”

“Sire – please clarify all this to me. You were my Guru, who taught me that Lord Narayana is the only God in this whole wide world.”

“The fact that I went to the Shiva temple is true. But the God that I saw inside was Lord Narayana.”

“How is that possible? “

“Nammazhwar himself has said that one can see whichever God he wants to see, wherever he wants. He never used to hate any of those who worshipped other Gods.”

“I am sorry. I have not heard all of Nammazhwar’s songs. He does make a lot of sense. I also doubted you. Please forgive me.”

“I would like to go and settle down in Thirukkurugur. I would like to spend the rest of my life collating and spreading the thousand songs that Nammazhwar sang. Will you grant me that wish?”

“What leads you to ask me this wish?”

“Earlier this month, I was at Veeranarayanapuram. When I was singing an Alwar Paasuram, the temple priest Ishwara Bhattar was overjoyed and requested me to teach him more such songs. I felt very ashamed that day, that I did not know many more of these beautiful songs. That led me to think that I should spend some time towards this noble purpose.”

“Thirumalai, the Gita says that each one should do what they are supposed to be doing – swadharmam. There will be people born to collate and spread the Paasurams. But for you and me, our dharmam is to serve the Empire. Service to the Emperor is our duty.”

“I have not forgotten our promise. There are just things that make me doubt if we are on the right track. I am also hearing things about you.”

“And what are you hearing?”

“I hear that the Emperor has given you a large tract of land in Anbil, in return for your converting to Shaivism. I also hear that you are going against dharma by traveling across the seas.”

“You should not believe these rumours. It is true that the King has given me land. But do you know that I had become minister at least four years before that? Do you know when our friendship started?”

“The Emperor and I were classmates when we were young. We studied together. At that time, no one thought Sundara Chozhan would become Emperor. But you know the turn of events that led to him becoming the Emperor.

He anticipated several problems if he ascended the throne. He made me promise to be with him as a minister always. He said that he would not take up the throne if I refused. I promised him that day, that I would be with him always.”

“I know about all this. But the rumourmongers on the road do not.”

“I do not care about the rumourmongers. You probably guessed that I did not come to Rameswaram to go to the temple. I just got back from Maathottam.”

“I guessed so, sire.”

“The so-called learned pundits claim that Sundarar and Sambandhar wrote about Maathottam from here. The songs described the place so well that I am pretty sure that the saints must have crossed the sea to go there.”

“Sire, did you go to Maathottam to see the beauty that these poet-saints have described?”

“No. I described all that because I am going to send you there. I went there to meet the Prince.”

“Did you see Ponniyin Selvar?”

“Aha. Anybody who hears the Prince’s name gets enthused so quickly – even you, Thirumalai. Yes. I saw him. I confirmed with him all the news I had been hearing from Lanka.”

“The Prince confirmed that most of Mahendran’s army has been defeated. Several of the army has dropped their arms. Mahendran, himself, has escaped into the hilly regions of Rohana.”

“Why doesn’t the Prince then come back with our army? The whole confusion of sending rations to our troops will also stop.”

“That is not what the Prince thinks, and I agree with him. If the Prince comes back now, Mahendran will come out of the hills and will regroup another army. And there would be another war. Either the people of Lanka would have to become our friends, or we would have to establish a permanent Chozha empire there. One of these needs to happen.”

“Do you know what our forces are doing in Lanka now? They are rebuilding and renovating the temples and monasteries in Anuradhapuram.”

Nambi smirked, “Oho. The Prince is building temples for the Buddhists? I hope he would not convert to their faith also. Do you also approve of this?”

“It does not matter if you or I approve or disapprove of this. You and I can fight over which God is better than the rest. But someone like the Prince, who is the ruler of a Kingdom, needs to take care of all of his subjects, immaterial of religion. I approve of that ideology.”

“After speaking with the Prince, I realise that he is one of the few people who command respect naturally. The entire kingdom is ready to do anything for him. The merchants I met earlier today are willing to give away wealth. The chieftains are ready to give their lives.”

“I met a yogi recently, who said something very profound. He said, in the recent years, Indian rulers have predominantly come from the northern states. He said that there would be an invasion soon from outside of the region. They would come and destroy the temples of the country. They would impact the culture of the country.”

“And at that time, a Prince from the South will emerge and rule large parts of India and protect our culture. I think the time is now, and the Prince is ours.”

“Gurudeva, it seems to me that you are building castles in the clouds. If you had seen all that I have seen and heard in the recent past, you would not be so celebratory. There is danger lurking for the Chozha kingdom.”

“Thirumalai, please tell me what you have seen and heard during your travels. Tell me as is, without hiding anything.”

“Are you asking me to narrate here? Things that I say might shock anyone who hears them – even Vayu Bhagavan, the Wind God, Bhooma Devi, the Earth, and Samudrarajan, the Lord of the Ocean.”

“Hmm. Ok, then. I know of a cave deep inside this island, where no one can hear us.”

Book 2 | Chapter 11 | The Chief Minister

Aniruddha Brahmaraayar held office on one of the smaller islands near Rameswaram. He was surrounded by accountants and other administrative personnel.

Aniruddha Brahmaraayar held office on one of the smaller islands near Rameswaram. He was surrounded by accountants and other administrative personnel. Several people had come to see him. Some merchants came and visited the minister. The minister recognized them as merchants from the Pandiya Empire.

“How is the trade in the Pandiya Empire?”

“It is going very well, sire. People are mentioning that the administration is much better under the Chozha Empire than what it was before. Our ships are all returning safe. The great Chozha navy has completely vanquished the pirates of the Indian Ocean.”

“Did you get my scroll about supplies for Lanka?”

“Yes. We have readied enough food grains and supplies to be sent to the Chozha army fighting at Lanka. We would like to know when the war would end.”

“That is a very hard question to answer. Why don’t you ask your astrologer?”

“He says that, wherever Prince Arulmozhi goes, there would be victory. He would conquer distant lands across the ocean.”

“That means very good news for you as traders, is it not?”

“Yes. By God’s grace, this would mean a good future for us.”

“Please make sure that you send similar supplies to Lanka every month. You may leave.”

Once the merchants left, the chieftain and commanders of the Kaikolar clan requested an audience. They were a tribe of very brave soldiers, who had been hand-picked by the Emperor himself.

“Hmm. Brave warriors of the Sundara Chozha Chakravarthy’s Kaikolar clan, welcome.”

“Thank you, sire. But these days, we feel ashamed to be addressed so. We have been idle for the last six months, and not participated in any war activity. Please send us to Lanka. We would like to help Prince Arulmozhi to win the war there.”

“I will mention this to the Emperor, when I reach Thanjavur.”

“What if the war ends by that time?”

“Do not worry. It will not. “

“Are those warriors so powerful that our army cannot vanquish them so easily? Let us try our hand at them.”

“No. It is not that. The Lankan army is not to be found anywhere. They are hiding in the dense forests. Their king Mahendran is also missing. He is also in hiding. If an army is not in your sight, how will you fight them? There has been no war in Lanka for a few months now. What is the use of sending you also there?”

“Send us there. We will hunt down the Lankan army and bring them to the Prince’s feet.”

“Please be patient. I will speak to the Emperor. I want you to protect the Pandiya empire until then.”

“But the Pandiya empire is a peaceful Chozha land now. There is no one to claim the throne.”

“You are mistaken. There are still some people who wish to bring back the old Pandiya Empire. Do not be complacent. The Pandiya royal crown and the bejeweled royal sword are still in Lanka, hidden somewhere in the mountains. Until we capture that, the Pandiya war is not over yet.”

“The royal jewels must be brought back and Prince Arulmozhi crowned as Pandiya king.”

“These are royal matters. Let us not get into such topics. But do listen – I have good news for you.”

“Once the Lankan war is over, the Prince has plans to take the naval fleet towards the south and south-eastern seas and expand the Chozha Empire to faraway lands. He also hopes to go westwards to Kerala, and then north to Kalingam and onward. Your services will definitely be required then. Be prepared. Keep your men trained and ready.”

The chieftains hailed the Emperor, the Prince, the Chozha Empire and the Chief Minister.

“There is one more request from all of us.”

“I would like to hear it.”

“As you know, we are a select group of warriors handpicked by the Emperor to serve him and his family. We would like to tell you that we will do just that. We will serve only him and his family.”

“This is what I expect from you.”

“We keep hearing rumours from Thanjavur. We keep hearing stories about the Pazhuvettarayars.”

“Let rumours be rumours.”

“We also know that the Emperor is not keeping good health. And if something happens to him, we request orders to serve under Prince Arulmozhi.”

“Your obligation is to do what is ordered by the Emperor.”

“And we would like you to take on an obligation to let us know what the Emperor has ordered.”

“I will definitely take it upon myself to do the same. Please rest assured.”

“Minister, we feel much better now.”

The warriors left. The Chief Minister then summoned his guard to bring Nambi in.