Chapter 26 – Danger! Danger!
Vandiya Devan entered the audience chamber ahead of the poets. He guessed that the stately person seated on the high throne was the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor. Several persons stood around him in deferential postures with hands folded and lips sealed. One person stood with several bundles of palm-leafs, letters which had arrived that day. The accountant waited on the side with his books to render the previous day’s accounts. Leaders of the guard patiently awaited his orders for the day. Servants lingered in readiness to execute any order that was given. A couple of maids stood behind the throne waving the white-whisk fans. Another fellow stood ready with the box of betel leaves and condiments.
Even Vandiya Devan, who had no dearth of self-esteem or pride, approached the Younger Lord Pazluvoor with some humility and timidity. The younger brother seemed even more imposing than the elder. Upon sighting our gallant, he asked with a cheerful face, “Thambi, who are you? Where have you come from?”
The usually harsh mein of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor always brightened upon seeing brave young men. He was eager to recruit fearless young men from all over the country into his company of guards.
“Commander! Sir! I come from Kanchi. The Prince has sent me with letters.” Vandiya Devan answered in a deferential voice. Upon hearing the word Kanchi, the Commander’s face darkened.
“What? What did you say?” he asked again.
“I have come from Kanchi City with letters from the Prince.”
“Where are they? Give them here!” he commanded with contempt, but his face showed some disquiet.
Vandiya Devan drew the letters from his waist pouch, but still reverently, said, “Commander, the letter is for the Emperor!”
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor did not care about that, he snatched the roll of palm leaves from him and looked at the seals eagerly. He then gave the roll to a subordinate, asking him to read it.
After listening, he mumbled, “Nothing new!” He seemed involved in his own thoughts.
“Commander! The letters I brought,” started Vandiya Devan.
“What about the letters? I shall give them to the Emperor.”
“No! Sir! The Prince asked me to deliver them personally into the hands of the Emperor.”
“Oh! You don’t trust me? Did Prince Aditya tell you that?” asked the Commander of Tanjore with anger clouding his face.
“The Prince did not say anything like that. Your elder brother ordered it.”
“What? What? Where did you see the Elder?”
“I stayed in the house of Kadamboor Sambuvaraya for a night on the way. I met him there. He sent me, with this signet ring…”
“Ah! Why didn’t you say so in the first place? Did you stay the night at Kadamboor? Who else had come?”
“Several dignitaries from Mazluvoor, the Central Provinces, Thiru-munai-padi and elsewhere had come…”
“Wait! Stop! I must talk to you at leisure. First, you can go in and deliver this letter to the Emperor and come back. Those Tamil poets will be here soon and if you give them a chance they will not stop their blabberings. Come back here. Hey! Who is there …? take this man to the Emperor’s bed chamber!” ordered the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor.
Vandiya Devan followed the servant into the inner courtyards of that palace.
For some time now, the throne of the Chozla Empire — bound by the roaring seas on three sides — had been transformed into a sickbed. Emperor Paranthaka Sundara Chozla was reclining on that bed. Though he had delegated all affairs of the state to his officials and ministers, oftentimes he had to receive particularly indispensable persons on certain important occasions. These days he was mostly under the care of his physicians. But, it was essential for the welfare of the empire that his ministers, army generals, captains, and the leaders of the Velaikara Battalion should come to his presence daily.
When Vandiya Devan saw the emaciated, sickly appearance of the Emperor — who had performed celebrated deeds of valor in various battles and acquired fame as a brave warrior, who was called `Sundara Chozla, the Handsome One’ by all the country and nation, who was renowned to be like the God of Love in looks — he could not utter a single word. His eyes filled with tears. He approached closer to the bed and bowed low; then submitted the letter.
The Emperor began opening the letter as he asked in a faint voice, “Where are you coming from? Whose letter is this?”
“My Majesty! My Lord! I come from Kanchi City; I bring this letter from Prince Aditya.” Vandiya Devan spoke the words with a trembling tongue.
Immediately, the Emperor’s face brightened. The Empress, Vanama Devi, daughter of Thirukovalur Malayaman, was seated near him. He looked at her saying, “Devi, your son has sent a letter!” he began reading.
“Ah! The Prince has built a Golden Palace at Kanchi! He wants me and you to come and live there for a while!” saying this, the Emperor’s face became sadder than before.
“Devi, look at this activity of your son! My grandfather, that famous Emperor Paranthaka, collected all the gold in the palace vaults to cover the roof of the temple at Chidambaram making it a Golden Temple! No person born in our clan built a golden palace for their personal dwelling! They considered the building of temples to be more important than the building of palaces. But look at what this Karikala has done? Ah! How can I atone this outrage against the Gods?” said the Emperor.
Devi’s face, which had cheered up on hearing that there was a letter from her son, now became more melancholy than before. She could not give any reply.
At that instant Vandiya Devan gathered courage and boldness. “My Lord! There isn’t anything so very wrong in what your esteemed son has done! He has done the right thing. Are not his mother and father the first Gods for a son? So, is it not right that your son should build a Golden Palace for your dwelling?” he asked.
Sundara Chozla smiled, “Thambi, who are you? Do I know you? You seem very intelligent. You talk very cleverly. Even if his parents are Gods to their son, they are not that for others! Golden temples should be built only for Gods worshipped by one and all!”
“My Lord! His father is God to the son; the king is God to all his subjects. The religious texts says that a monarch possesses the qualities of God. Therefore, it is quite appropriate to build a golden palace for you.”
Sundara Chozla looked at his wife, Malayaman’s daughter, once again, “Devi! Look at this boy; see how resourceful he is? If our Aditya has the council of such men we do not have to be so concerned about him. We need not worry about his heedless nature,” he said.
He then looked at Vandiya Devan, “Thambi, Whether it is right or wrong about building the Golden Palace at Kanchi, one thing is clear. It is not possible for me to come to Kanchi now. You are seeing my condition. I am completely bed ridden like this. It is not possible to undertake a long journey. Aditya must come here to see me. We too wish to see him. Come back tomorrow. I shall have a letter prepared in reply,” said the Emperor.
Vandiya Devan, could hear the noise of several people coming down the corridor. Oh yes! That group of bards and poets is coming here. The Younger Lord Pazluvoor is perhaps coming with them. Then, I may not be able to disclose to the Emperor all that I have to narrate to him. I must briefly tell him everything right now. Vandiya Devan made this decision within a few seconds; “My Lord! Sire! I seek your grace, please listen to my petition. It is important that you leave Tanjore. Danger surrounds you here. Danger! Danger!” said Vandiya Devan.
As he was speaking these words the Younger Lord of Pazluvoor entered the chamber. The bards and poets followed him.
The last few words uttered by Vandiya Devan fell in the ears of the Commander of Tanjore. Anger flashed brightly on his face.