Book 1 | Chapter 14 | Crocodile on the Arasalar Bank

Crocodile that strayed off the Kollidam bank near Thanjavur (2017) img src:indiatimes.com

Want to read from the Beginning — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery/preface-and-introduction-d41b2fd6f2ee

In those times, to get from Kudandhai to Thanjavur, one would either have to cross the river Arasalar or cross the River Kaveri and head towards Thiruvaiyaaru, and then cross the river again to proceed to Thanjavur.

Vandhiyathevan headed towards the Arasalar River. On his way, he saw the famed prosperity of the Chozha kingdom that he had only heard of. He saw the fertile fields, the hard-working people, and flourishing industries. In the midst of all these sights, his mind kept going back to the beautiful face, that he had seen in the astrologer’s house. How he wished, he had heard the voice of the beautiful lady.

He reached the banks of the Arasalar River and rode close to the bank. He suddenly heard the sound of laughter. It seemed to be coming from a direction that he was riding towards. Suddenly he heard a lady scream “Ayyayo”. Sounds of commotion, alarm, fear.

Vandhiyathevan rode at a brisk gallop towards where the sound came from. He saw a half a dozen young ladies on the banks of the river. He recognized two them as the ones whom he had seen in the astrologer’s house. He turned to see what was frightening them. He saw a large crocodile close to the shore with its jaws menacingly open.

Without a further thought, he took aim, and flung his sharp spear at the crocodile’s mouth. The sharp steel tip hit right on target. In a flash, he unsheathed his sword and started running towards the crocodile.

Halfway, he realized that some of the ladies had started giggling. The fear was gone. Had they been pretending until now? He stopped mid-way. Confused. Embarrassed?

The giggling continued.

He looked again at the crocodile again.

The lady whom he had seen earlier came forward to address him.

“Dear Sir, Greetings. There is no need to worry.”

Book 1 | Chapter 12 | Crossing the Kollidam

Kollidam river during rains near Mukkombu

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

To understand how our hero Vandhiyathevan landed at the astrologer’s house, let us go back in time, when the Shaivite saint, Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, and Vandhiyathevan had boarded the boat to cross the Kollidam River.

The Shaivite saint said, “Young man, please tell your friend here, that we can ride the boat together, only if he does not utter the eight syllable name (Namo Narayana). If he does mention the word, these oarsmen are known to me. I will make sure he will be pushed into the river. “

“If he does not say the five syllable word (Namah Shivaya), I will also try not to say my Lords name.”

“Who is this person to say I should not say my Lord’s Name?”

“The Lord’s name of Namah Shivaya is what protects the entire earth”, sang the Shaivite saint.

“Seeking the truth of my Lord, I repeat his name Namo Narayana”, sang Nambi.

Nambi continued, “Thambi, you ask this Shaivite saint. This great river that we are riding on, first washes Lord Narayana’s feet, and then flows down to Thiruvaanikaval, where Lord Shiva himself is immersed in it. So who is more important?”

On hearing this, the Shaivite saint pounced on Nambi, and the fight now became physical. Vandhiyathevan and the oarsmen had to separate the two, with great difficulty.

“Listen to me, the two of you. By fighting like this, both of you will end up going straight up to your respective Lord’s abodes now.”

One of the oarsmen said — “Whether they will reach the Lords abode or not is debatable, but they will definitely go into one of these crocodile’s stomachs”, as he pointed out a large crocodile in the water.

“I do not have any fear with crocodiles. Lord Narayana, in the form of Aadimoolam, came and rescued the elephant Gajendran from a crocodile.”

“Hmm. Lord Narayana would only come here if He is not flirting with the gopikas of Brindavan right now.”

And the debate continued unabated.

Vandhiyathevan sat bemused in between.

This is probably a good time to briefly explain to the reader, why this kind of rivalry was prevalent at that time. For about 300 years before this time, Buddhism and Jainism had started to percolate the predominantly Hindu fabric of the region. There were several good things that happened during this time, such as a new flourish of art and poetry. The Hindu factions however felt threatened, and regrouped to bring back Hinduism at large. The three main Shaivite saints sang the praises of Shiva and the Alwars sang the praises of Narayana. At this time, a third faction had emerged as well, with the birth of Adi Shankara at Kaladi, in Kerala. This great man brought about the neutral concept of Advaitha. With these three factions trying to outdo each other, there was a great deal of verbal and sometimes even physical conflicts.

On reaching the other bank, the Shaivite saint gave a final curse at the Veera Vaishnavite — “May you go to hell!”

The warrior that Kandanmaran had sent along with Vandhiyathevan went to Thirupanandal to get a horse for Vandhiyathevan.

Meanwhile, Vandhiyathevan and Alwarkadiyaan Nambi sat beneath a large tree, with each of them trying to get the other to talk about the midnight meeting at Kadambur. Both succeeded in not revealing too much.

Vandhiyathevan told him about his entrance into the Kadambur palace and about his meeting with his childhood friend. He described his visit to the andhapuram. He added some spice to the story here though.

“The young queen of Pazhuvettarayar is so beautiful that, not even the Deva apsaras like Ramba and Mohini could compare against her. She stood so much apart from all the other ladies in the andhapuram.”

Vandhiyathevan described the Kuravai kootthu performance.

When Nambi tried asking him about the guests and what they were speaking, Vandhiyathevan feigned ignorance on state matters.

“Being a young lad, you should become more responsible. You should know what is happening in the kingdom.”

“I have also been thinking on the same lines, since morning. Kandanmaran was talking very mysteriously today morning about some meeting that happened last night. He was also saying that something was about to happen very soon. He refused to tell me anything more. Nambiyaare, do you know anything about all this? About the Chozha Emperor? Who will succeed the Emperor?”

“I am a wandering Vaishnavite minstrel. How would I know about any of this?”

“Nambiyaare, if you will not get upset, I would still like to ask you one question.”

“Go ahead, I will not get upset.”

“At this age, and with your wisdom, I still find it amusing you have a thing for the young queen of Pazhuvettarayar. I feel that this entire Veera Vaishnavite outlook is all a farce. Pray tell me why you still have this physical longing.”

“Ahem. I do find it offensive that you ask me this question, but I will respond to it. It is not a physical attraction like what you call it. It is much more than that. It is a long story.”

“My horse is still not here. We have time. And I love your stories.”

“It is a story. A real story. And not a fantasy.”

“When I was young, we grew up in Pandiyanaadu, on the banks of the river Vaigai. One day, when my father went to the riverside garden (nandavanam), he found a beautiful baby girl. We searched for her parents in the vicinity, but in vain. My family decided to raise the child. Since we found her in the nandavanam, we named her Nandhini.”

“She grew up to be a devout Vaishnavite singing the Alwar paasurams so beautifully. After my father’s death, I took care of Nandhini. We went around to different temples singing the praises of Lord Narayana.”

“About 3 years ago, the Chozha kings routed the Pandiya kingdom. The Pandiya king was wounded very badly. However, close aides somehow rushed him to a safe house — my house. I was not in town. I was on a pilgrimage. Nandhini took care of the grievous wounds of the Pandiya king.”

“But very soon, the Chozha warriors found out about the safe house. They came and beheaded the Pandiya king right in front of Nandhini. The Pazhuvettarayar saw Nandhini and captured her as his wife, for her beauty.”

“I have been trying to meet Nandhini ever since. If she wished, I will do anything to free her. Until now I have not succeeded.”

Vandhiyathevan was moved after hearing this story that Nambi had just recited. He almost felt like telling him that it was not Nandhini in the palanquin, rather it was Madhuranthaka Thevar. But something in his mind, told him not to reveal this. He could not get himself to believe in this man completely.

It was at this time, the Kadambur warrior came back with a horse.

Vandhiyathevan decided to probe Nambi one last time.

“Nambiyaare, do you mean to say you do not know anything about the State matters? Who will ascend the throne if something happens to Emperor Sundara Chozhan?”

He observed Nambi’s face for any reaction, but could not sense any change.

“How would I know anything? You can maybe ask the Kudandhai Josiyar.”

“Is this astrologer so good?”

“He is the best. He can predict anything with his great astrological skills.”

Book 1 | Chapter 12 | Crossing the Kollidam

Kollidam river during rains near Mukkombu

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

To understand how our hero Vandhiyathevan landed at the astrologer’s house, let us go back in time, when the Shaivite saint, Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, and Vandhiyathevan had boarded the boat to cross the Kollidam River.

The Shaivite saint said, “Young man, please tell your friend here, that we can ride the boat together, only if he does not utter the eight syllable name (Namo Narayana). If he does mention the word, these oarsmen are known to me. I will make sure he will be pushed into the river. “

“If he does not say the five syllable word (Namah Shivaya), I will also try not to say my Lords name.”

“Who is this person to say I should not say my Lord’s Name?”

“The Lord’s name of Namah Shivaya is what protects the entire earth”, sang the Shaivite saint.

“Seeking the truth of my Lord, I repeat his name Namo Narayana”, sang Nambi.

Nambi continued, “Thambi, you ask this Shaivite saint. This great river that we are riding on, first washes Lord Narayana’s feet, and then flows down to Thiruvaanikaval, where Lord Shiva himself is immersed in it. So who is more important?”

On hearing this, the Shaivite saint pounced on Nambi, and the fight now became physical. Vandhiyathevan and the oarsmen had to separate the two, with great difficulty.

“Listen to me, the two of you. By fighting like this, both of you will end up going straight up to your respective Lord’s abodes now.”

One of the oarsmen said — “Whether they will reach the Lords abode or not is debatable, but they will definitely go into one of these crocodile’s stomachs”, as he pointed out a large crocodile in the water.

“I do not have any fear with crocodiles. Lord Narayana, in the form of Aadimoolam, came and rescued the elephant Gajendran from a crocodile.”

“Hmm. Lord Narayana would only come here if He is not flirting with the gopikas of Brindavan right now.”

And the debate continued unabated.

Vandhiyathevan sat bemused in between.

This is probably a good time to briefly explain to the reader, why this kind of rivalry was prevalent at that time. For about 300 years before this time, Buddhism and Jainism had started to percolate the predominantly Hindu fabric of the region. There were several good things that happened during this time, such as a new flourish of art and poetry. The Hindu factions however felt threatened, and regrouped to bring back Hinduism at large. The three main Shaivite saints sang the praises of Shiva and the Alwars sang the praises of Narayana. At this time, a third faction had emerged as well, with the birth of Adi Shankara at Kaladi, in Kerala. This great man brought about the neutral concept of Advaitha. With these three factions trying to outdo each other, there was a great deal of verbal and sometimes even physical conflicts.

On reaching the other bank, the Shaivite saint gave a final curse at the Veera Vaishnavite — “May you go to hell!”

The warrior that Kandanmaran had sent along with Vandhiyathevan went to Thirupanandal to get a horse for Vandhiyathevan.

Meanwhile, Vandhiyathevan and Alwarkadiyaan Nambi sat beneath a large tree, with each of them trying to get the other to talk about the midnight meeting at Kadambur. Both succeeded in not revealing too much.

Vandhiyathevan told him about his entrance into the Kadambur palace and about his meeting with his childhood friend. He described his visit to the andhapuram. He added some spice to the story here though.

“The young queen of Pazhuvettarayar is so beautiful that, not even the Deva apsaras like Ramba and Mohini could compare against her. She stood so much apart from all the other ladies in the andhapuram.”

Vandhiyathevan described the Kuravai kootthu performance.

When Nambi tried asking him about the guests and what they were speaking, Vandhiyathevan feigned ignorance on state matters.

“Being a young lad, you should become more responsible. You should know what is happening in the kingdom.”

“I have also been thinking on the same lines, since morning. Kandanmaran was talking very mysteriously today morning about some meeting that happened last night. He was also saying that something was about to happen very soon. He refused to tell me anything more. Nambiyaare, do you know anything about all this? About the Chozha Emperor? Who will succeed the Emperor?”

“I am a wandering Vaishnavite minstrel. How would I know about any of this?”

“Nambiyaare, if you will not get upset, I would still like to ask you one question.”

“Go ahead, I will not get upset.”

“At this age, and with your wisdom, I still find it amusing you have a thing for the young queen of Pazhuvettarayar. I feel that this entire Veera Vaishnavite outlook is all a farce. Pray tell me why you still have this physical longing.”

“Ahem. I do find it offensive that you ask me this question, but I will respond to it. It is not a physical attraction like what you call it. It is much more than that. It is a long story.”

“My horse is still not here. We have time. And I love your stories.”

“It is a story. A real story. And not a fantasy.”

“When I was young, we grew up in Pandiyanaadu, on the banks of the river Vaigai. One day, when my father went to the riverside garden (nandavanam), he found a beautiful baby girl. We searched for her parents in the vicinity, but in vain. My family decided to raise the child. Since we found her in the nandavanam, we named her Nandhini.”

“She grew up to be a devout Vaishnavite singing the Alwar paasurams so beautifully. After my father’s death, I took care of Nandhini. We went around to different temples singing the praises of Lord Narayana.”

“About 3 years ago, the Chozha kings routed the Pandiya kingdom. The Pandiya king was wounded very badly. However, close aides somehow rushed him to a safe house — my house. I was not in town. I was on a pilgrimage. Nandhini took care of the grievous wounds of the Pandiya king.”

“But very soon, the Chozha warriors found out about the safe house. They came and beheaded the Pandiya king right in front of Nandhini. The Pazhuvettarayar saw Nandhini and captured her as his wife, for her beauty.”

“I have been trying to meet Nandhini ever since. If she wished, I will do anything to free her. Until now I have not succeeded.”

Vandhiyathevan was moved after hearing this story that Nambi had just recited. He almost felt like telling him that it was not Nandhini in the palanquin, rather it was Madhuranthaka Thevar. But something in his mind, told him not to reveal this. He could not get himself to believe in this man completely.

It was at this time, the Kadambur warrior came back with a horse.

Vandhiyathevan decided to probe Nambi one last time.

“Nambiyaare, do you mean to say you do not know anything about the State matters? Who will ascend the throne if something happens to Emperor Sundara Chozhan?”

He observed Nambi’s face for any reaction, but could not sense any change.

“How would I know anything? You can maybe ask the Kudandhai Josiyar.”

“Is this astrologer so good?”

“He is the best. He can predict anything with his great astrological skills.”

Book 1 | Chapter 9 | Riding with Kandanmaran

Kollidam river in full flow

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

Vandhiyathevan could not sleep. He rolled around thinking about the discussion in the courtyard. He felt like a wasp stuck in a honey pot. He now knew more than he should. Tornadoes of thoughts ripped his confused mind apart. Slightly before dawn, tiredness took over him, and he fell asleep.

He did not awaken until well after dawn, when Kandanmaran came to wake him up.

“Did you sleep well?”

“I slept like a log Kandanmara. It must have been the tiredness.”

“Yes, I came and checked on you after taking care of the guests, and you were deep in slumber.”

Vandhiyathevan knew that his friend was not telling the truth, but what could he do?

“Kandanmara, I must get ready and leave soon. It is getting late.”

“Why are you in so much of a hurry? I thought you would stay for a while.”

Vandhiyathevan quickly responded, “I had gotten news that my uncle in Thanjavur is terribly sick and is on his death bed. If I get delayed any further, I will not be able to see him alive.”

“Hmm. Ok. I will then accompany you to the Kollidam river bank.”

Vandhiyathevan tried protesting; citing that Kandanmaran had several high profile guests to attend do, but Kandanmaran would have none of it.

The two friends rode their horses alongside, chatting happily about old times. They had almost reached the river shore, when Vandhiyathevan broached the topic about Kandanmaran’s sister.

“It is a pity that your sister is so shy. I was searching for her when we went to the andhapuram. She hid behind your mother most of the time. What is her name?”

“Manimegalai.”

“Ah. What a beautiful name.”

Kandanmaran shifted uneasily in his horse. “Vandhiyatheva, my friend, I would like to ask a favour from you. I would like you to please forget my sister. My parents have arranged another alliance for her.”

Vandhiyathevan was shocked, but tried his best not to show it out. “What happened, my friend? Even yesterday you were alluding to giving her in marriage to me?”

Kandanmaran blurted out — “Something has come up. Just last night.”

Vandhiyathevan smiled and said — “I am not surprised though. One of the rich influential guests must be the lucky one. Who would marry off their girl to a wandering poor soldier like me?”

Kandanmaran protested.

Vandhiyathevan could easily guess who the bridegroom would be. It would have to be none other than the Prince who rode in the covered Palanquin — Madhuranthaka Thevar. A marriage alliance to forge the leadership alliance.

“I have taken no offense Kandanmara. And I will not talk about it anymore. I can see it hurts you”, said Vandhiyathevan.

“There is more to this marriage. I cannot tell you more than that, Vandhiyatheva. We will fight together on the same side again. Please do not ask me any more details. I guarantee you though, that our friendship will remain the same ever.”

They had reached the Kollidam river bank, and there was a boat with two oarsmen and a single passenger, that was about to leave. The oarsmen decided to wait for Vandhiyathevan.

“One of my men will take your horse back to Kadambur, and another will accompany you on the boat. Farewell my friend, until we meet again.”

The lone passenger in the boat looked like a staunch Shaivite. He had sacred ash smeared all over him. The oarsmen were about to push the boat away from land, when there came a scream from afar — “Stop. Stop the boat. I would like to cross the river too.”

The voice sounded familiar and as the rotund figure neared, Vandhiyathevan recognized the familiar Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, who clumsily clambered onto the boat.