Book 1 | Chapter 16 | Vaanathi and Arulmozhi

The current Emperor Sundara Chozhan had been ruling this kingdom for twelve years now. The Chozha Empire had been expanding since he ascended the throne. He had been a just and able ruler. A few years back, he had waged a war against the Pandiya king, Veerapandiyan. The Sinhalese king had sent a significant army to help the Pandiya king. The Chozha Army under the able leadership of Sundara Chozhan defeated this combined army. Veerapandiyan had fled the battlefield to save his life. It was said that he had taken refuge in a hidden cave in the mountains.

Emperor Sundara Chozhan had wanted to stop this unfair practice of the Lankan kings interfering in these local wars. He had sent an army led by the able general Kodumbalur Paranthaka Siriya Velaan. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a large naval force, the army had to be moved in phases. The Sinhalese army had annihilated the Chozha army led by the Kodumbalur General. The general himself had lost his life in this war.

When the Pandiya king in hiding had gotten to know about this defeat of the Chozhas, he had begun raising a new army. With renewed confidence, he had waged a second war against the Chozha army. In this war, the elder son of Sundara Chozhan, Aditya Karikalan, played a large role. The Chozha army routed the Pandiya army again. This time, the Prince had taken no chances, and had killed Veerapandiyan himself.

The thought of repressing the interfering attitude of the Sinhalese king, had not yet gone away from the minds of the Chozha kings. A large force was regrouped again to go to war with the Sinhalese. The Chozha kingdom was contemplating who should lead this second attack. The elder Prince was away in the north, where he was driving back the Irattai Mandalam forces away from Thondainaadu and Thirumunaipaadi. There had been stiff competition between the senior generals of the army on who would be chosen to lead the attack on Lanka. It had become a matter of prestige.

It was at this time, the young Prince Arulmozhi Verman had approached the crown Emperor — “I think I have had enough of being the spoilt younger prince in the palaces of Pazhayarai. I would like to step up and take up the fight in Eezhanaadu. Please grant me this honour.”

Arulmozhi was barely 19. He had a special place in the heart of the King. Why, he had a special place in the heart of everyone in the palace, or should we say, in the hearts of all the people of Chozhanaadu.

Sundara Chozhan’s father was Arunjaya Chozhan. He had won over the Vaidumbaraayars and on victory, fell in love with a beautiful girl named Kalyani from their kingdom. The son born out of this marriage was a beautiful boy. The name that was given on birth was Paranthakar. Paranthakar inherited his good looks from his mother and people started calling him Sundara Chozhan. The Princes born to Sundara Chozhan also inherited the good looks, but the youngest, Arulmozhi surpassed everyone else in beauty.

Arulmozhi had been the favourite among all the ladies in the palace. And the one, who was closest to him, was his sister, Kundavai. Though she was hardly two years elder to him, she had singularly taken on the task of bringing him up. Arulmozhi reciprocated the same level of love and respect for his sister. When he was young, Kundavai had seen what looked like Shanku-chakram on his palm.

She knew, within herself, that this boy would make a fine Emperor, but she often wondered how it would ever happen, because there were two elder siblings. She had consoled herself that, perhaps he would conquer some distant land and become Emperor there. She had heard about the Prince from the Gangetic plains, who had sailed all the way down the Bay of Bengal and had become the Emperor of Eezhanaadu.

Princess Kundavai was the one who had initiated the thought of Arulmozhi leading the forces in Eezhanaadu.

Prince Arulmozhi did go on to lead the forces in Eezhanaadu. But the war was far from swift. It was an extended war. The war policies that the young Prince followed were quite different from the traditional policies. According to him, the food supplies and other materials for the forces should come from the mainland, and should not be looted from the common man of the conquered lands.

Mid-way through the war, there had been a time, when the supplies were not coming in regularly. And so, he had paid a visit back to the mainland. He had made the appropriate requests to the Emperor, and was getting ready to head back to war.

Princess Kundavai had arranged for a grand send-off function for the warrior returning back to the battlefield. There had been singing and dancing as was customary. After the function, the Prince had stepped out of the hall to the spectacular sight of all of the royal maidens waiting with an aarthi plate with a lamp in it. The prince had smiled and had accepted the kind gesture warmly and started walking slowly towards his horse.

At this point was when, our dear friend Vaanathi had let her aarthi plate slip and fall down to the ground. For a moment, everyone had thought it was an inauspicious happening, but they had noticed the lamp wick was still burning, and had changed their minds. A minor commotion had followed, when Princess Kundavai and the rest of the maidens hurried the unconscious Vaanathi to one of the front ante rooms of the palace.

The kindly prince followed them as well.

“Akka, who is this girl?” the Prince had asked.

“She is the daughter of Kodumbalur Siriya Velar. She gets very easily frightened.”

“Oho. Perhaps that is why she got fainted. Her father died in battle in the same place, where I am headed to.”

“Do not keep her in your thoughts. We are here to take care of her. You go now, and return a victorious warrior.”

At this time, perhaps due to the mellifluous voice of the prince, Vaanathi had regained consciousness, and slowly broke into a wide coy smile.

“Akka, I am really sorry. I …”

Arulmozhi said in a soft voice — “Think nothing of it, Vaanathi. These mistakes can happen to anyone.”

“Akka, please take care of this girl. The forces are waiting. I should leave now.”

“Go, my brother. Be victorious. Do keep sending messages regularly.”

“I will, Akka. And when you do send me messages, do let me know about the health of this girl.”

Vaanathi had been pleasantly surprised at the kind words of the Prince.

Ever since that day, there had been a special bond between the Princess and Vaanathi. She took her everywhere she went. She taught her everything she knew.

She had fainted a few more times after this incident. Princess Kundavai treated her well and ailed her to consciousness every time. Every time she regained consciousness, she would wake up sobbing and weeping. And each time, she could not describe why she woke up crying.

Book 1 | Chapter 15 | Why, Vaanathi?

img src: blog.sidhshakthi.tv

To understand this a little further, we need to go back in time again, and see what happened when the Princess and Vaanathi left the other girls in the boat, and left by chariot to meet the astrologer.

“I do not know why the Princess has such an unfair love to this Vaanathi. What is there so special in her? said one of the girls.

“It is nothing special. Vaanathi has not been feeling so well these days. She seems to be very detached and dejected. Sometimes she even goes to the extent of fainting. Our Princess wants to find out if there is anything wrong with her stars, and when she will become OK.”

“Sometimes, I feel, Vaanathi is faking all of this. Remember the time, when she dropped the aarthi plate, in front of Prince Arulmozhi. I think that was a ploy, to make the Prince notice her.”

The others laughed, but acknowledged the probable truth in the statement.

“That is probably true. Remember, when the Prince came back after the first journey, he did come and enquire about Vaanathi and her health.”

The girls giggled for a little more time, making silly jokes about Vaanathi.

“Hey girls, let us not forget the task that the Princess asked us to do. We have to finish that before they return.”

They went down to the galley of the river boat, and brought out a dead crocodile. The crocodile was stuffed with hay and mud, to make it look like a real crocodile. They took the decoy crocodile to the nearby tree and tied it to the nearby roots of a tree.

“By the way, why does Princess Kundavai want us to do this?”

“The Princess wants to cure Vaanathi of her fears.”

“It all seems like the Princess has made up her mind to marry off Vaanathi to her brother.”

“If that only happens, I will poison Vaanathi with these very hands”, cried another jealous girl.

“I doubt it. There are kings from all over India, queuing up to give their daughters for marriage to the young prince. Compared to all of them, where does this Kodumbalur Vaanathi stand?”

“Those emperors may stand in line, but in the end, isn’t it the wish of the Prince? Apparently he has been saying that he would marry only a Tamizh girl.”

“Then, let us all weave our nets that we can cast on the Prince.”

Book 1 | Chapter 11 | Vaanathi’s Horoscope

Naadi scrolls (img src: http://www.sarvajnapeetha.org)

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

The astrologer had collected horoscopes of several of the royal family and associated vassal kings and their families. It is this reason why he was able to find the horoscope of Vaanathi in his ancient wooden box. He pulled out the horoscope palm leaf carefully and started studying it. He looked at it deeply without making any comment, intermittently looking at Vaanathi’s face once in a while. After a while had passed, the Princess asked, “Josiyare, you have been studying the leaf for a long while now, and you have not spoken. Is there anything wrong?”

“Oh Princess, there is nothing wrong in this horoscope. In fact, quite contrary. I have not seen a better horoscope than this in my life. This lady here is going to have a future that is unimaginable for any normal person. She is going to become the Queen of Queens. Her husband will rule a large kingdom. And the child that she will give birth to — a boy — aha — that boy will rule over an even larger kingdom.”

The Princess asked — “Where will her husband come from?”

“The husband would not need to come from afar. This warrior prince is not here right now. He is right now fighting a war across the ocean. The prince who will marry this lady would have a Shanku-chakram pattern on his palms.”

“Akka, this old man is making fun of me. I do not want to stay here any longer.”

“You will not believe me now. But my astrology never lies. When all of what I tell you happens, please do not forget this poor astrologer.”

“The horoscope also tells me that the warrior prince who will marry this lady will have several obstacles while becoming the great ruler that he will become. But he will overcome each and every one. However the boy who will be born out of this lady, will have no obstacles. All that he touches will become gold. Places where he steps foot on, will become his kingdom. Wherever his eyes set sight on, the tiger flag will fly high.”

Suddenly, Vaanathi fainted and fell. The Princess caught her mid-fall and made her lie on her lap.

“Nothing will happen to her, your Highness.”

“Yes, I know. This has become common now. She has fainted like this a few times now. After a while she will slowly wake up, without knowing where she is.”

“Meanwhile, I would like to ask another important question. What is going to happen to the Chozha kingdom? I hear all kinds of ominous speak in the streets.”

“Your highness, please do not ask me about that. I do not foretell about state matters. States do not have horoscopes, do they? I have only enough skill to foretell future considering the horoscopes of people and the positioning of the stars.”

With a smile on her lips, the Princess said — “You are playing very safe, sire. I agree that the state does not have horoscopes, but you can tell the future of my father, the Emperor, and my brothers? They have horoscopes and available with you. I have been worried about my father ever since he moved from Pazhayarai to Thanjavur.”

“As I had earlier said, Princess, your family is going through a difficult time. There will be some obstacles. But, with the grace of Durga Devi, all will end well.”

“Akka, where are we?” said Vaanathi, groggily getting up.

“Vaanathi, we are still in this earth only. Come, let us get back on our chariot, and leave from here.”

“Josiyare, you said so much about me — not that I believe any of it — but you did not tell anything about the Princess? When and where will her Prince come?”

The astrologer smiled and said, “He will come very soon.”

Princess Kundavai asked — “How will he come? By horse, or chariot, or will he jump directly from the heavens, breaking through this roof?”

“Akka, I can hear a horse approaching.”

They could hear the gallop of a fast horse. The horse came to a stop right outside the astrologer’s house. There was a commotion of the rider arguing with the astrologers disciple about getting inside the house.

Vandhiyathevan forced open the door and walked into the house, with the disciple tugging at him from behind. As he came in, he saw the two ladies sitting in front of the astrologer. His eyes met the eyes of the Princess. For a few seconds, he stood mesmerized. Her mischievous smile on her lips, her large eyes, her strikingly beautiful face. Within those few seconds, this entire sight got imprinted in his heart.

He shook himself out of his reverie, and turned to the disciple — “You could have told me that there were ladies in the house. I would not have come in.” And he stepped out of the house immediately.

The Princess asked, “Josiyare, who is this young man?”

“I do not know, your Highness. But he does seem to be a brash young man.”

The astrologer gave the two ladies kumkum, as was customary, and led the ladies out of the house.

Vandhiyathevan was standing in a corner outside the house.

As the Ladies walked towards the charriot, Vandhiyathevan yelled — “Please pardon me. This wise disciple did not tell me about ladies in the house. I truly would not have come in if I had known.”

The Princess gave a mischievous smile and tugged at Vaanathi’s hand and boarded the chariot.

As the chariot began to move, Vandhiyathevan shouted again — “It seems that Kudandhai ladies do not even have the basic courtesy to respond to a genuine apology from this young man.”

The chariot raced towards the Arasalar River.

Book 1 | Chapter 10 | Kudandai Josiyar

Modern day Arasalar — splits off from Kaveri somewhere just before Anicut (pic: https://alchetron.com)

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

The Arasalar was one of the tributaries of the River Kaveri before it emptied into the sea. The river had such dense foliage on both embankments. A river boat cruised silently towards the bank. Sitting on a cushioned chaise on the craft was Princess Kundavai, the daughter of the Emperor of the Chozha Kingdom. Smart, sophisticated, learned in world affairs, the Princess was respected by her father and loved by the entire kingdom.

Around her sat her close friends and hand-maidens. Each of these ladies was a princess in their own right. They were Princesses of smaller vassal states in the Chozha kingdom. The air was filled with melodious singing by one of them. Another was accompanying the song with a Veena in perfect sync. It was as if the Arasalar had stopped making any noise so that this music would not be disturbed.

The boat made landing on the shore.

“Vaanathi, come with me!” — Kundavai motioned to her best friend. She looked at the rest of the ladies and said — “Please wait here. We will be back as soon as we can.”

There was a chariot with swift horses waiting nearby. The two ladies got in. The charioteer knew where to go, and got the horses on their way.

“Akka, why are we going to the Kudandhai (present day Kumbakonam) Josiyar’s (astrologer) house? What are you going to ask him?”

“We are going to ask him about your future. In the last few months, you have been looking so depressed and lost. I want to ask him, when you will step out of this reverie.”

“Akka, please do not tease me. If that is why we are going there, let us turn back right now.”

“Haha. No, we are not going there for asking about you. I want to ask about me. Whether I will get married? Or whether I will be a spinster all my life?”

Vaanathi laughed and said — “You must be joking. If there is even a talk about arranging a match for you, there would be a long line of suitors waiting at the doorstep of the Chozha Palace. The 56 kings from all over India, from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas, are waiting for an alliance with your family. I would even say, Kings from kingdoms afar would be interested too.”

“There is a problem though. If I do get married to a Prince from another state, I would need to move away from this beautiful Chozha land. I cannot leave this land behind.”

“Akka, just marry him and make him stay here.”

“Do you realize how much of a problem that could lead to? If at all this happens, I will marry a brave wandering warrior from this land. That way, he will not take me away from here.”

“I am so happy Akka that you will never leave this kingdom. That way, I can also always stay with you. I am never going to marry, so I do not have the worry of being taken away by the groom.”

The Princess looked deep into Vaanathi’s eyes and said — “Is that right? Do you think I do not know of what is happening in your heart, dear girl? Your love for the Chozha kingdom is out across the sea in the Eezham heartland, fighting bravely with his spear.”

“Akka”, Vanathi launched into poetic prose — “I am but a dew drop. And he is the Sun. The dew drop likes the sun, and for a little time, it even traps the sun within itself. But does the Sun love the dew drop back? Does he not leave the dew drop every evening?”

The Princess laughed the analogy off and said — “Do not worry. I am glad that you have accepted this. Until now, you were not even accepting your feelings towards my brother.”

The two ladies laughed at this, and realized that they were very near the astrologer’s house. The ladies got down from the chariot and instructed the charioteer to park the chariot under the shade of the large banyan tree besides the Kali temple nearby.

The astrologer and his disciple came to the doorstep and welcomed the Princess and her friend inside.

“Josiyare, I hope no one else would come in search of you at this time of the day?”

“Princess, no one would come, do not worry. People come in search of astrologers only when they have troubles. With your father as the Emperor, no one has any troubles. The only affected by this, is this poor astrologer, who is having a dip in his revenue.”

He addressed his disciple to stand guard at the door and asked him to ensure that no one enters the house.

The Princess and her friend sat on raised wooden seats that the astrologer had put up for them to sit. The astrologer sat on a mat in front of the ladies.

“May I know how I can help you, your Royal Highness?”

“Josiyare, can you not use your mystic powers to find that out also?”

The astrologer closed his eyes and chanted some incantations, and then gently opened his eyes after a few minutes.

“You have come to check on the horoscope and future of this young lady who has come with you.”

“Aaha. Your powers are matchless, Josiyare. Yes, you are right. About a year ago, she came to Pazhayarai to stay with me. She used to be the most jovial and energetic girl in my company. But in the last four months, she has become very reserved. At times, she becomes a bit depressed even.”

The astrologer smiled and said — “Isn’t she the daughter of the great warrior Kodumbalur Ilaya Velar? I think I have her horoscope with me. Let me take a look.”