Book 1 | Chapter 7 | Successor to the Throne

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Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

After hearing all this, Vandhiyathevan decided that he would need to hear all of this discussion. He had to clear his confusions. He had to know the truth. He settled down and started listening astutely.

The Periya Pazhuvettarayar started speaking.

“I have some important news that I want to tell you all. It is for this reason that, Sambuvarayar has arranged for this meeting. The health condition of King Sundara Chozhan is deteriorating by the day. I have discreetly asked the royal doctors. The doctors are not giving him too much time to live. We need to start thinking about what next.”

“What do the astrologers say?” asked someone in the coterie.

“Why ask astrologers? Haven’t you all seen the comet that has been striking the evening skies every day (dhoomakethu vaal nakshatram)? That spells impending doom”, asked another.

“What is there to start talking about next steps? Has it not been decided that Prince Aditya Karikalan would be the heir-apparent?”

Pazhuvettarayar intervened — “Yes, but was any one of us consulted when that decision was made? Each one of us sitting here, we have served the Chozha Kingdom for four generations. We still are serving. Our children are serving the kingdom. But to decide on the heir-apparent, we were not consulted. Even King Dasaratha, when he wanted to appoint Lord Rama as heir-apparent, consulted a committee of respectable people. Are we not entitled to that?”

“It seems our emperor consulted only two people to make this decision — the elderly royal matron Sembiyan Maadevi and his daughter Kundavai”, he continued.

“The Chozha kingdom has been expanding for the last three generations. It has now stopped expanding. We are not expanding towards Irattai Mandalam in the north. We still have not captured Eezhanaadu. The two reasons why we have not expanded are — Prince Aditya Karikalan in the North and Prince Arulmozhi Verman in the South.”

“The Elder Prince, instead of raising forces against Irattai Mandalam and Vengainaadu, is sitting quietly in his capital city of Kanchipuram. He is apparently building a palace with walls of gold. Has anyone in our land ever built a palace of gold? Even the King of Kings, Paranthaka Chakravarthy did not create one. Instead he created a roof of gold for Thillai (Chidambaram) temple. All the gems and jewelry that he had looted from lands conquered; none of that came to the State Treasury here. It is all being used to adorn his golden palace. Apparently the Prince is calling the King to the palace to stay for a few years.”

The coterie could sense the frustration and angst in Pazhuvettarayar. There was contempt that spewed out of his voice.

“Has the King agreed to go to Kanchi?”

Pazhuvettarayar roared in evil laughter — “To make sure something like that never happens, I am there. My younger brother, Chinna Pazhuvettarayar is also there. No one can enter into the Thanjavur palace without either of us knowing. No one can bring any message to anyone there.”

Some in the group praised Pazhuvettarayar by raising slogans of “Long Live the King from Pazhuvoor. Long Live the Periya Pazhuvettarayar.” Others nodded in agreement.

But Pazhuvettarayar was not done. “The younger Prince, Arulmozhi has been fighting the war in Eezhanaadu for the longest time now. He has been complaining that he does not have food for the troops. Generation after generation, there has been only one way by which we feed the troops. We loot the country on which we are waging war, and feed the troops. This young whippersnapper thinks that this is not right. I have been sending food and grains by ship from the mainland.”

Pazhuvettarayar continued — “Please also listen to his justification. He says that the war is between two Kingdoms, but the common man should not be affected. What rubbish.”

Several people in the coterie shook their heads in disagreement.

“Because of these two young Princes, the Chozha treasury and granaries are suffering. As someone who is in charge of the treasury, I am now forced to collect more taxes from all of you. I am doing this against my wishes.”

One of the kings in the group asked — “Did you try and tell the Emperor Sundara Chozhan about all of this?”

“Hah. Of course, I have asked him. Each time I go to him, he asks me to check with either the Royal Matron or the young Princess. Like I mentioned before, his health is not well enough for him to make any sane decisions. It is disgusting and beneath our status, that we elderly statesmen and warriors have to take orders from these two ladies. Disgusting. Since the birth of the Chozha lineage, I have never heard of ladies interfering into royal matters ever.”

Pazhuvettarayar was playing the trump card just as he was expecting, and leading the coterie in exactly the direction he wanted them to be taking.

“I almost feel like I should resign from all of this royal work, and retire to my kingdom.”

The rest of the coterie, almost in unison said, “No, no. Please do not do that. You are our only support. Without you, this kingdom would very quickly disintegrate.”

A very satisfied Pazhuvettarayar said — “Then you brave kings need to help me with the solution.”

Book 1 | Chapter 5 | Kuruvai Koothu

Theru koothu — Street play — source wikipedia (Gowri Sankar Photography)

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

They walked along a long passageway to the other end of the courtyard, to the andhapuram (the ladies quarters). Kandanmaran introduced his friend to his mother and to the other ladies in the room. Vandhiyathevan looked around the room to see if he could spot the lady whose fair hands he had seen earlier in the covered palanquin, but in vain.

As they left the room, Vandhiyathevan heard the ladies giggling and laughing.

“I wonder what they are so amused about now”, said Vandhiyathevan.

“They were talking about the Pazhuvettarayar’s new wife. There is a lot of talk about whether this old man, who had crossed the ripe age of 50, needed to have wed such a young lady. The lady is supposed to be extremely beautiful. One of the hand-maidens who had seen the new young queen was describing the lady as we walked in.”

“Yes, with such a fair hand, I am sure she must be a very beautiful maiden”, said Vandhiyathevan, surprising his friend.

“You have seen her? Be careful. Pazhuvettarayar might even kill you. They say that, the warrior king does not spend even a minute without her. He takes her in the covered palanquin everywhere he goes. He does not even let the young queen to come to the andhapuram.”

Vandhiyathevan laughed and said — “I did not do anything wrong to go see her. Neither am I afraid of all these threats of Pazhuvettarayar. I was in Veeranarayanapuram earlier today, when the convoy of the Pazhuvettarayar passed by. At that time, I saw a fair hand from inside the covered palanquin open the silk screen of the palanquin. The hand and her bangles were all that I saw.”

“Judging by the color of her fair hand, she is probably from Kalingam or Kashmiram. Or perhaps from across the ocean like Kadaram. Or maybe even from an Arab country. I have heard that ladies from the Arab countries cover themselves from head to toe, right from birth.”

“I heard that the elephant, the soldiers, and the grand reception were all arranged by the Kadambur palace?”

“Yes, why do you ask, my friend?”

“No. I was just thinking about the reception given to Pazhuvettarayar, and the reception that was meted out to me.”

Kandanmaran laughed heartily and said, “With Lord Muruga’s blessings, if you marry my sister, we will give you a befitting maapillai (bridegroom) reception.”

At this moment, the sound of musical instruments filled the air.

“Kandanmara, what is that sound?”

“Kuravai kootthu is going to start. Would you like to see it?”

“Aha. I have never seen this wonderful art form before. I would love to see it.”

A stage had been set up in one of the open courtyards surrounded by the fort walls. There was adequate lighting with torches. Kuravai kootthu was a dance art form glorifying Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva. The artists sang songs describing the valour of the Lord. Nine dancers danced graciously to these songs.

Once the Kuravai kootthu finished, a male dancer and female dancer ascended the stage to dance another traditional art form — devarattam (the dance of the Devas). Vandhiyathevan noticed that this was much more intense. The percussionist drummed an intense beat and the dancers seemed to go into a trance as the dance progressed. At the end of the dance, the two dancers were in a trance and were dancing in a wild frenzy.

The fort temple priest started a slow eerie beat with his udukkai. He stepped up onto the platform and asked the possessed dancer — “Vela, Muruga, please tell us the future of this great kingdom.”

To this, the dancer in trance replied — “The kingdom will prosper. Rains will come. Crops will flourish. But you fools forgot one thing. You forgot to give your sacrifice to my mother. Mother Kali is upset. She is asking for the sacrifice now.”

“What is it that she desires?”

“Will you be able to give? Whatever she asks?”

“Yes. We will definitely please the Mother.”

“She wants narabali (human sacrifice). She wants the blood of a royal. A royal from a family which has ruled for a 1000 years. Can you give this?”

Sambuvarayar looked at the priest and made a sign. The priest stopped beating the udukkai. There was a hushed silence. And then the possessed dancer fainted. He was taken away swiftly. And the crowd dispersed.

In the deathly silence, Vandhiyathevan heard the sound of howling wolves. Instinctively he turned towards the direction of the sound. And he caught sight of a familiar face. Someone was clinging atop the tall fort wall. A face so familiar. Where had he seen this face? It was Alwarkadiyaan Nambi.

Book 1 | Chapter 5 | Kuruvai Koothu

Theru koothu — Street play — source wikipedia (Gowri Sankar Photography)

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

They walked along a long passageway to the other end of the courtyard, to the andhapuram (the ladies quarters). Kandanmaran introduced his friend to his mother and to the other ladies in the room. Vandhiyathevan looked around the room to see if he could spot the lady whose fair hands he had seen earlier in the covered palanquin, but in vain.

As they left the room, Vandhiyathevan heard the ladies giggling and laughing.

“I wonder what they are so amused about now”, said Vandhiyathevan.

“They were talking about the Pazhuvettarayar’s new wife. There is a lot of talk about whether this old man, who had crossed the ripe age of 50, needed to have wed such a young lady. The lady is supposed to be extremely beautiful. One of the hand-maidens who had seen the new young queen was describing the lady as we walked in.”

“Yes, with such a fair hand, I am sure she must be a very beautiful maiden”, said Vandhiyathevan, surprising his friend.

“You have seen her? Be careful. Pazhuvettarayar might even kill you. They say that, the warrior king does not spend even a minute without her. He takes her in the covered palanquin everywhere he goes. He does not even let the young queen to come to the andhapuram.”

Vandhiyathevan laughed and said — “I did not do anything wrong to go see her. Neither am I afraid of all these threats of Pazhuvettarayar. I was in Veeranarayanapuram earlier today, when the convoy of the Pazhuvettarayar passed by. At that time, I saw a fair hand from inside the covered palanquin open the silk screen of the palanquin. The hand and her bangles were all that I saw.”

“Judging by the color of her fair hand, she is probably from Kalingam or Kashmiram. Or perhaps from across the ocean like Kadaram. Or maybe even from an Arab country. I have heard that ladies from the Arab countries cover themselves from head to toe, right from birth.”

“I heard that the elephant, the soldiers, and the grand reception were all arranged by the Kadambur palace?”

“Yes, why do you ask, my friend?”

“No. I was just thinking about the reception given to Pazhuvettarayar, and the reception that was meted out to me.”

Kandanmaran laughed heartily and said, “With Lord Muruga’s blessings, if you marry my sister, we will give you a befitting maapillai (bridegroom) reception.”

At this moment, the sound of musical instruments filled the air.

“Kandanmara, what is that sound?”

“Kuravai kootthu is going to start. Would you like to see it?”

“Aha. I have never seen this wonderful art form before. I would love to see it.”

A stage had been set up in one of the open courtyards surrounded by the fort walls. There was adequate lighting with torches. Kuravai kootthu was a dance art form glorifying Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva. The artists sang songs describing the valour of the Lord. Nine dancers danced graciously to these songs.

Once the Kuravai kootthu finished, a male dancer and female dancer ascended the stage to dance another traditional art form — devarattam (the dance of the Devas). Vandhiyathevan noticed that this was much more intense. The percussionist drummed an intense beat and the dancers seemed to go into a trance as the dance progressed. At the end of the dance, the two dancers were in a trance and were dancing in a wild frenzy.

The fort temple priest started a slow eerie beat with his udukkai. He stepped up onto the platform and asked the possessed dancer — “Vela, Muruga, please tell us the future of this great kingdom.”

To this, the dancer in trance replied — “The kingdom will prosper. Rains will come. Crops will flourish. But you fools forgot one thing. You forgot to give your sacrifice to my mother. Mother Kali is upset. She is asking for the sacrifice now.”

“What is it that she desires?”

“Will you be able to give? Whatever she asks?”

“Yes. We will definitely please the Mother.”

“She wants narabali (human sacrifice). She wants the blood of a royal. A royal from a family which has ruled for a 1000 years. Can you give this?”

Sambuvarayar looked at the priest and made a sign. The priest stopped beating the udukkai. There was a hushed silence. And then the possessed dancer fainted. He was taken away swiftly. And the crowd dispersed.

In the deathly silence, Vandhiyathevan heard the sound of howling wolves. Instinctively he turned towards the direction of the sound. And he caught sight of a familiar face. Someone was clinging atop the tall fort wall. A face so familiar. Where had he seen this face? It was Alwarkadiyaan Nambi.