Chapter 13 – The Waxing Moon
The Astrologer led Vandiya Devan into the house after the chariot carrying the princesses had disappeared from view. He seated himself on his best seat. He asked the youth who was looking around to sit down and examined him from head to toe.
“Thambi, who are you? Where have you come?”
Vandiya Devan laughed.
“Why are you laughing, my son?”
“Nothing. You are such a famous astrologer. You ask me such questions! Can you not find out by your astrology about who I am and why I came here?”
“Oh! Is that so? I can find out. But if I find out and predict things on my own behalf, I am wondering who will pay for my services.”
Vandiya Devan smiled and then asked, “Sir! Those two who came here before me, who are they?”
“Ah! Them? I realize whom you are asking about. I know Thambi, I know. Are you not asking about the persons who were in here when you dragged my disciple and made a sudden entry into my house? You are asking about them aren’t you? Those two, who left in that swift chariot raising the road dust behind them, you are asking about them?” said the Astrologer in a rambling fashion.
“Yes. Yes. I am asking about them…”
“OK. Ask. Ask as much as you wish. Who said not to ask? Those two persons were two women!”
“That was obvious even to me! Sir, I am not blind. I can differentiate between men and women. Even if it is a man masquerading as a woman I can find out.”
“Then, why did you ask …”
“Women means, who are they, what kind? …”
“Oh ho! You are asking about that! According to the science of beauty, women are classified into four kinds: padmini, chittini, gandarvi, vidyadari. You seem to have some expertise in the study of beauty! According to that fourfold classification those two women belong to the padmini or gandarvi class.”
“What, my son?”
“If I call out to God, why do you answer?”
“What is wrong in that? Haven’t you heard that God is everywhere? It seems that you have not kept company with learned people. God is in me. God is in you too. My disciple, whom you dragged inside, God is in him too…”
“Enough. Enough. Please stop!”
“God asked me to talk all this time; and now God commands me to stop!”
“Sir! Mr. Astrologer, those two women who left just now – – who are they? What is their family? Where do they come
from? What is their name? — that is what I asked. If you can answer me without rambling like this …”
“If I answer you, what will you give me, my son?”
“I shall offer you my thanks gladly.”
“You can keep the glad offering to yourself. If you are willing to give some gold offering, let me know.”
“Will you answer clearly, if I make a gold offering?”
“I will answer only if an answer is possible. Thambi, listen to this. Several persons will come and go from an astrologer’s house. One should not talk about one visitor to another. I will not tell you anything about the persons who left just now. Neither will I disclose a single word about you, to any person who may come later and ask about you.”
“Ah! Everything that Azlvar-adiyan Nambi said about you seems to be true!”
“Azlvar-adiyan? Who is he? A person with that name?”
“What, don’t you know him? He talked as if he knew you very well. Have you never heard of Azlvar-adiyan Nambi?”
“Perhaps I know the man. Don’t remember the name. Describe him a little, let me see.”
“He is short and squat. He wears his hair in a topknot on his forehead. He wears his vaetti (loose lower garment of men) tightly around his young paunch. Making a paste of sandal powder, he wears it in vertical marks all over his body; readily enters into fiery fights with devout Saivas; if he sees an Advaita philosopher, he raises his wooden staff. Sometime ago you said `You are God; I am God.’ If Azlvar-adiyan had heard it, he would have raised his staff and rushed over to beat you, by saying `God is hitting God.’ He …”
“Thambi, From what you say, I think you are talking about Thirumalai.”
“Does he go by other names like that?”
“That fanatic Vaishnava has a different name in different towns.”
“Does he also disguise himself in different garbs for different persons?”
“Oh yes! He will put on masquerades appropriate for the occasion and time.”
“Will everything he utters be mixed with fancy and falsehood?”
“About seven eighths of what he says will be full of imagination. The rest may be gospel truth.”
“So, you say that he is a very wicked fellow.”
“One cannot say that! He is good to the good; bad to the wicked.”
“That means we cannot trust his words and do anything.”
“Believing or not believing depends on the words uttered.”
“For example, he said that if I come to you and asked you for astrological predictions, you will give expert answers…”
“Did I not say that about one eighth of his speech will be gospel truth? That statement belongs to that category!”
“Then predict something for me by your astrology; foretell something. It is getting late and I have to go in a hurry.”
“Where do you have to go in such a great hurry, my son?”
“Can you not reveal that also from your astrology? Where should I go? Where should I not go? If I do go, will my endeavor be successful? — I came to ask you all these things.”
“I need some basis to foretell or predict by my astrology; I need a horoscope to study; if there is no horoscope, I must at least know the day and star under which you were born. If you do not know even that, I need a name and address.”
“My name is Vallavarayan.”
“Aha! Of the Vaanar clan?”
“Yes I am that very same Vandiya Devan Vallavarayan.”
“Say it like that! Thambi why did you not say this before? I think, I even have your horoscope with me. If I search for it I can find it.”
“How is that Sir?”
“What other occupation do astrologer’s like me have? We collect the horoscopes of men and women born in noble families…”
“I am not from any such famous noble family.”
“How can you say that? Do you not know of the fame and prestige of your clan? How many poets have sung the praises of the Vaanar clan in how many poems? Perhaps you have not heard the poems?”
“Recite one such poem. Let me hear it.”
The Astrologer immediately sang the following poem:
Are there lips that do not speak of your fame: oh noble Vaana?
Are there chests that do not have your name tattooed on: oh brave Vaana? Are there flagpoles that do not bear thy colors: oh victorious Vaana?
Are there domains that stand beyond your survey: oh majestic Vaana?
When he sang, it was quite obvious that the Astrologer was not a musical expert. Nevertheless, he sang the poem clearly and with involvement.
“How is the poem?” he asked.
“The poem is pleasing to the ear! But now, I have to tie my colors to the horns of some bull! I have to stand atop the branches of a banyan tree to survey my domain. Even that is doubtful. My weight might break the branch and throw me down!” said Vandiya Devan.
“Today your situation is like that. How do we know what can happen tomorrow?”
“I thought that you might know; that is why I came here.”
“What can I know Thambi? Like everybody I am a short lived human being. But the planets and stars foretell the future. I have learned to understand a little of what they say and then explain it to those who seek me.”
“What do the planets and stars foretell about me, Mr. Astrologer?”
“They foretell that you will grow day by day.”
“Dear me! That is pretty good! The height that I have now is itself quite too much. I had to bend low as I entered your house! What can I do if I grow taller? There is no use of such generalities. Say something specific.”
“If you ask me about something particular, I can answer more specifically.”
“Tell me, the enterprise on which I am going to Tanjore, will it succeed?”
“If you are going to Tanjore on your own behalf the endeavor will succeed; if you are going on someone else’s behalf, I have to see that persons horoscope before I answer.”
Vandiya Devan shook his head in astonishment and placed a finger upon his nose. “Sir, I have never encountered as astute a fellow as you.”
“Do not flatter me, Thambi.”
“Ok. I shall ask what I want clearly. I wish to meet the Emperor in Tanjore. Is that possible?”
“There are two astrologers greater than me in Tanjore. You have to ask them.”
“Who are they?”
“One is the Elder Lord Pazluvoor; the other is his brother the Younger Lord Pazluvoor.”
“It is said that the health of the Emperor is in a bad state. Is that true?”
“People will say all sorts of things. Why not? Don’t believe all that they say; neither should you repeat such things.”
“Can you tell me who has the right to succeed to the Chozla throne if something happens to the Emperor?”
“That throne is not for you nor for me. Why should we bother about it?”
“From that fate we are saved!” said Vandiya Devan.
“It is true Thambi. The rights of succession to an empire is not an ordinary matter. It is a very dangerous topic. Is that not so?”
“Sir! At present the Prince who is in Kanchi, the Crown Prince Aditya Karikala…”
“Yes he is there; you have come on his behalf. Haven’t you?”
“You have found that out in the end; no harm done. What about his fortune?”
“I don’t have his horoscope in my hands now Thambi. I have to study it.”
“What about the fortunes of Prince Madurandaka?”
“His, is a peculiar fortune; similar to that of womenfolk. His fortunes are always subject to the power of others.”
“Even now people say that the Chozla Empire is under Women’s Rule. They say that it is worse than the rule of the Queen Alli?”
“Thambi, where do they say such things?”
“To the north of the Kollidam.”
“Maybe they are talking about the power of the new bride married by the Elder Lord Pazluvoor.”
“I heard differently.”
“What did you hear?”
“They said that the beloved daughter of the Emperor, the Younger Pirati Kundavai, is the one ruling like that.”
The Astrologer peered into Vandiya Devan’s face carefully. He tried to read the face to find out if he was saying these words after recognizing Kundavai, who had left his house a little earlier. There was no sign to support the doubt.
“Totally wrong Thambi. Emperor Sundara Chozla is in Tanjore. Kundavai Pirati lives in Pazlayarai. Moreover …”
“Moreover what? Why did you stop?
“During the daytime one must look in all four directions before speaking; at nighttime not even that. But, there is nothing wrong in telling you, I think. What power or influence does the Emperor have these days? All the authority is held by the Lords of Pazluvoor.” After saying this the Astrologer examined Vandiya Devan’s face once again.
“Sir! I am not a spy of the Lords of Pazluvoor. You do not have to suspect me of that! A little while ago you talked about the impermanence of kingdoms and royal dynasties. You gave me the example of my own Vaanar clan. Please tell me the truth. How is the future of the Chozla Dynasty?”
“I can tell truthfully without any uncertainty. Towards the end of spring the River Cauvery and its tributaries will be filled with new floods. The people living on the river banks know very well that it is a flood that will rise day by day. Till the beginning of the summer months the flood will keep rising. By the autumn months the waters start receding. The people living along the bank realize it to be a ebbing flood. The Chozla Empire is now like the fresh flood of springtime that grows day by day. For several more hundreds of years it will grow and spread. The Chozla Empire is now a Waxing Moon. The day of the Full Moon is far away. Therefore the Chozla power will expand more and more.”
“After talking all this time, you have said one thing explicitly! Thanks! If possible, just tell me one more thing. I have a great desire to go on a ship and travel to distant lands…”
“That wish will definitely be fulfilled. You have the fortune of the wheel. You will be travelling constantly, as if you have wheels on your feet. You will go by walk; ride upon horses; go on elephants and you will also travel aboard ships. You have the fortune to go on a sea voyage very soon.”
“Sir, about the Commander of the Southern Armies, Prince Arulmozli Varma who is now conducting a campaign in Lanka — what do the planets and stars say about him?”
“Thambi, those travelling by ship use an instrument made of the magnetic stone to find their directions. Lighthouses also help these sailors. But do you know what aids the ship in the midst of the wide open seas? What is the constant friend of the sailors? It is the pole star seen in the low northern skies. The other stars and planets all keep moving from their positions. Even the group of the `seven seers’ (little dipper) travels in a circle. But the pole star is never shaken from its fixed position. The younger son of the Emperor, Prince Arulmozli, is like that pole star. He has the firmness of mind unshaken by anything. In addition to the virtues of selflessness and morality, he possess the goodness of bravery and chivalry. He excels in worldly knowledge as much as in learning. He has a charming face, like that of a young babe which calms the aches of those who gaze upon it. He is the darling son of the angel of good luck. Just as sailors take direction from the pole star, it will be very useful, if youths like you who embark on the adventure of life, take direction from Prince Arulmozli.”
“Dear me! What is all this that you describe about Prince Arulmozli? It appears like a lover describing his beloved?”
“Thambi, if you ask any fellow of the Chozla country on the banks of the River Ponni, he will say the same.”
“Many thanks Mr. Astrologer. If the need arises I shall follow your advice.”
“Because I saw that your lucky planets are also on the rise, I said this.”
“I shall take leave of you Sir! Along with my heartfelt thanks, offered gladly, please accept this small tribute of gold offered to you.” Saying this, Vandiya Devan placed five gold coins in the palms of the Astrologer.
“The benevolence of the Vaanar clan has not died even now!” said the Astrologer as he hid the coins in his waistband.