Chapter 30 – Art Gallery
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor dragged Vandiya Devan to the audience chamber along with him. The explanation given by the youth about his conversation with the Emperor had not completely satisfied him. Perhaps it was a mistake to have permitted him to meet the Emperor in privacy. It is routine to suspect him since he is a messenger from Aditya Karikala. But there is no room for suspicion since my brother has sent him with the signet ring. Ah! No one has to advice the Elder about caution in such matters.
Howsoever, the sight of the youth hesitating with a fear-filled expression, as he entered the bed chamber came before the Commander’s eyes. He remembered very clearly that the youth had spoken the words “Danger! Danger!” — Is it possible that the words “Stranger! Stranger!” could have sounded like “Danger! Danger!” in his ears? Considering all possibilities it is better that I do not send him back immediately. After the Elder returns, I must find out details about him and do the appropriate thing. I must try and recruit such capable young men in my secret police corps. He would be useful in times of need. Perhaps I can procure part of his ancient lands for him. Such young men will remain beholden and loyal to me if I help them once. Ah! But if it proven that he is an enemy, I must make appropriate arrangements. Anyway, for all things, let the Elder return. Let us see.
Upon reaching the large audience chamber, Vandiya Devan began looking about here and there anxiously. He peered again and again at the spot where he had taken out the letter to give it to the Commander.
Perhaps by accident the other letter, the important letter has fallen there. If I cannot retrieve that letter there is no greater fool than me! I shall never be able to meet the world renowned Princess Kundavai. I shall not be able to complete half the task assigned to me by Prince Aditya Karikala.
The Younger Lord Pazluvoor looked at one of his servants and said, “Lead this young man to our palace. Take him to our guest house and make all arrangements for his comfort — look after him. Wait there till I come.”
Vandiya Devan and the servant left. Another servant approached him and respectfully extended his hand with a palm leaf roll in it. “This was lying in the corridor on the way to the Emperor’s bed-chamber. It might have fallen from the waist-belt of the youth who left just now.”
The Commander accepted it eagerly and examined it. His eyebrows shot half way up his forehead in a frown! A dreadful expression came upon his face.
“Ah ha! A letter written to the Younger Pirati by Aditya Karikala. In the Prince’s own handwriting: — `… .. you had asked for a retainer — a capable, courageous youth for use in confidential matters; I am sending him to you for that purpose. You can trust him completely regarding all affairs and entrust any task to him. He will personally give you my message and details of the situation here…’ — Ah! There is some mystery in this! I wonder if the Elder Lord knows about this letter. I must be more careful in handling this youngster!” The Commander of Tanjore muttered these words to himself as he read some parts of the letter. He beckoned to the servant who had picked up the letter and whispered some words in his ear. That man immediately left the audience chamber.
All courtesies and comforts were shown to Vandiya Devan in the palace of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor. They led him to a luxurious bath and helped him wear new clothes.
Vandiya Devan who was fond of wearing new fashionable clothes, dressed himself in the fresh garments with enthusiasm. He almost forgot his worry about the lost letter. After he had dressed in the new raiment, they served him courteously and elegantly with a tasty meal of many courses. Being hungry, Vandiya Devan did justice to the meal. Later they led him to the art gallery in that palace.
“Till the Commander returns you can enjoy the beautiful pictures and art-works in this gallery,” said the servant. After saying this, three men — guards — sat down outside that chamber, near the doorway and began a game of dice.
In those days, Tanjore, the new capital of the Chozla’s, was famous for its art and painting. Just as music and dance
were nurtured in Thiru-vai-aru, painting and sculpture were encouraged in Tanjore.
The art gallery attached to the palace of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor was famous. Vandiya Devan entered that art gallery now. He looked again and again at the several large pictures painted on the walls of that chamber and was enthralled. He forgot himself in that happiness; he forgot the task for which he had come.
The portrait gallery on one side, depicting the pictures of ancient rulers of the Chozla clan and important events in their history attracted his attention. A large part of that gallery was given to depict the history over the last hundred years of the Chozla nation. Those were the pictures that aroused the greatest interest in Vandiya Devan.
At this point, the author wishes to briefly remind our readers of the history and genealogy of the Chozlas who ruled for hundred years before the times of this story, from Pazlayarai and Tanjore. It would be very useful to know these details to understand further incidents in this tale.
We have mentioned earlier about Vijayala Chozla who bore ninety-six scars of battle wounds like ornaments on his body. Chozla kings customarily bore the titles Parakesari and Rajakesari one succeeding the other. After Parakesari Vijayala, his son Rajakesari Aditya Chozla came to the throne. He was a deserving son to his father. In the beginning he fought on the side of the Pallava monarchs to defeat their common enemy, the Pandiyas and establish the Chozla entity. Later he engaged in battle against his former ally the Pallava King Aparajita. Pallava Aparajita entered the battlefield seated on a howdah atop an elephant. Aditya jumped onto that war elephant and fought his enemy, killing him and thus captured all of Thondai for the Chozlas. Later the Kongu Kingdom came under Aditya’s rule. Rajakesari Aditya I, was an ardent devotee of Shiva. He constructed several Shiva temples along the banks of the holy Cauvery — from the Sahasya hills where the river rose till it entered the seas in the east.
After Rajakesari Aditya, Parakesari Paranthaka ascended the Chozla throne. He ruled for forty-six years. Next to Karikala of the ancient times who had established his tiger-flag over the Himalayas, this Paranthaka was the greatest of Chozla kings. He had several honors and titles like “Veera-narayana”, “Lover of Poets”, “Best among Wrestlers”, “Jewel among the Braves”, etc. He was also known as the `Chozla who took (conquered) Madurai and Lanka’. Even during the times of this Paranthaka I, the Chozla nation spread from the shores of Cape Comorin to the banks of the Krishna-Tungabadra rivers in the north. For some time the tiger-flag flew over Lanka also. He was the same Paranthaka who became famous for having covered the roof of the temple at Chidambaram with gold. Towards the end of his reign several dangers seized the Chozla Empire. In those days, the Rashtrakutas who were very powerful in the north tried to contain the growing
powers of the Chozlas. They led an army against the Chozlas and were successful to some extent.
Paranthaka had at least three sons. The eldest among these sons was Raja-aditya. Expecting an invasion from the north, this Raja-aditya waited with a very large army for several years in Thiru-munai-padi. He constructed the large Veera Narayana Lake in the name of his father.
A terrible war was fought between the Chozla forces and the Rashtrakuta armies at a place known as Takkolam near present day Arakonam. In that battle, Raja-aditya fought valiantly and showered havoc upon the enemy forces. But, he lost his life in the battlefield and went to the heavens meant for braves. He too fought from the howdah of an elephant like the Pallava Aparajita. Since he died while riding the battle elephant he was referred to as the `Lord who reposed atop an elephant’ in latter day stone-inscriptions.
If Raja-aditya had not died in the battlefield, he would have ruled the Chozla nation after his father Paranthaka I. His descendants would, in the normal course, have ascended the throne after him. But since he died before ascending the throne and without any offspring, his brother Gandara Aditya was crowned as king with the title of Rajakesari according to the wishes of their father.
Like his father and grand-father, Gandara Aditya was a devotee and follower of Shiva. In addition, he was fond of Tamil literature. In fact, he did not have much interest in ruling his nation for he was more involved in worship at temples and in enjoyment of poetry. Following the tradition of the Saiva Nayanmar saints, he composed several devotional poems on God Shiva. In an anthology of these poems known as Thiru-isai-pa he refers to himself towards the end:
Like his noble Sire who covered
The roof of the dancer at Chidambaram with red gold, May Gandara Aditya, monarch of flourishing Kozli,
Lord of the people of Tanjore, expert in exquisite Tamil verse, May he attain everlasting greatness and happiness.
Though the kings after Vijayala Chozla ruled from Pazlayarai and Tanjore, they did not forget their rights to their ancient capital Uraiyoor, which was also called Kozli (rooster). Chozla monarchs styled themselves as `Rooster Kings.’
Though Gandara Aditya sat on the Chozla throne and ruled in name, his younger brother Arinjaya took care of the governing of the nation. Arinjaya had been stationed in the northern provinces helping his eldest brother Raja-aditya. He fought bravely in the battles against the Rashtrakutas. He was the instrument for turning the terrible defeat of the Chozla armies at Takkolam into a victory by stopping the invading forces at the northern banks of River Pennar.
Therefore, Rajakesari Gandara Aditya chose his younger brother Arinjaya as the Crown Prince and designated him
as his successor to the throne. There was another important reason for this decision of Gandara Aditya. His first wife had died several years before he came to inherit the throne. After her death, Gandara Aditya had not married again for several years. However, his younger brother Arinjaya already had a handsome, capable and intelligent son.
That son named after his grandfather Paranthaka, was known as Sundara — the name bestowed on him by the people. Gandara Aditya willed that after him his brother Arinjaya, and after Arinjaya, Sundara should succeed to the Chozla throne. He obtained the approval of all the leaders of the land, the chieftains, the commanders, the chiefs of the cities and guilds, and announced his intentions publicly.
After all such arrangements were made, a surprising incident occurred in his life. He happened to meet the young daughter, of a petty chieftain named Mazlava-raya. The beauty, modesty, virtue and piety of that jewel among maids, Sembiyan Madevi, attracted him. In his advanced age he married that young maid. As a result of this marriage a child was born in due course. They named the child Madurandaka and cherished him. But, both the King as well as the Queen did not wish to change any of the arrangements they had made earlier about the kingdom. The couple were both involved in piety, devotion and renouncement of the world; they wished to raise their son in a similar ascetic fashion. Once again the King proclaimed his wish that after him, his brother Arinjaya
and Arinjaya’s descendants should have the right to ascend the Chozla throne.
Thus, bypassing the two lines of the elder brothers Raja-aditya and Gandara Aditya, the line of Arinjaya Chozla became heirs to the Chozla throne.
Parakesari Arinjaya who ruled after Gandara Aditya, did not live for a long time. Within one year he followed his elder brothers to the heavenly abodes.
After him, the citizens, chieftains, leaders and guildsmen happily crowned Prince Sundara as their king. Rajakesari Paranthaka Sundara Chozla was an able ruler of the kingdom that came to him by good fortune. In the early years of his reign he performed various deeds of valor and once again acquired the lost Pandiya and Thondai Territories. He drove away the Rashtrakuta armies from the banks of the Pennar.
Aditya Karikala and Arulmozli Varma, the two sons of Emperor Sundara Chozla, were able warriors and worthy sons of their father. Both sons cooperated and helped their father with complete devotion. These sons had experienced battlefield and war at very young ages. In every campaign they participated, the Goddess of Victory stood on the side of the Chozlas.