Chapter 4 – Kadamboor Fort
The horse had by now rested well and become quite energetic. Within a few hours it reached the gates of Kadamboor. Lord Sengannan Sambuvaraya was an important Chozla nobleman in those days. His castle gates resembled the entrance of a large city-stronghold. The towering walls on both sides of the gate curved around like a fortress.
A number of elephants, horses, large bullocks as well as grooms to hold, feed and water these animals stood near the gates. Here and there men stood with flaming torches to provide light; oil pourers were ready to add oil to the lighted torches. Sighting all these bustling activities, Vandiya Devan felt a bit dismayed and hesitant. Something special seems to be taking place here; why have I come here now … At the same time he felt an overpowering urge to find out what the special occasion was. The fortress gates were wide open although men holding long lances stood near the gates. They looked like the messengers of Yama, the Lord of Death.
The dauntless youth decided that the best thing to do would be to ride boldly and go in; any hesitation on his part would alert the guards to stop him. He translated his thoughts into action. But what a disappointment?! As soon as the horse neared the gates, lances crossed in front to obstruct the way and stop him. Four men came forward and held onto the horse’s reins. One of them peered at Vandiya Devan. Another held up the flaming torch to light his face.
With anger darkening his face, Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan asked “Is this customary in your town? Stopping guests at your gates …?”
“Who are you? Impudent fellow. Where do you come from?”
“Are you asking me my name and town? Thiruvallam in the Vanakapadi Kingdom is my town. Once upon a time, soldiers in your country were proud to tattoo the names of my ancestors on their breasts. My name is Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan! Do you know?”
“Why did you not bring a liveried herald to announce all this?” said the gate-keeper. Others around him laughed.
“Whoever you are, you cannot enter! All the expected guests have already arrived. The Master’s orders are to not let in anyone after that,” said their leader.
Hearing this altercation, some footmen who were standing nearby came closer. “Hey! Is this not the same mule that we chased into the festival crowd?” said one of them.
“Donkey, not mule,” corrected another. “Look at the starched up fellow sitting on his donkey,” added another.
Vallavarayan heard these words. He had been thinking, why get involved? Perhaps I should go away quietly.
Maybe I should show the token bearing the seal of Prince Aditya Karikala and then go in. When I have the signet of the Prince, the Commander-in Chief of the Northern Armies, none in the regions between River Pennar and Cape Comorin can impede my way. It was in the midst of these ponderings that he heard the mocking words of the Pazluvoor lackeys. Immediately deciding his course of action, he said “Let go of my horse. I am going back.”
The gate-keepers let go of the reins. Vandiya Devan employed both his legs to apply a sudden pressure to the underbelly of his horse. At the same time he drew his sword from its scabbard at his waist. The swirling sword flashing like swift lightning in his hand appeared like God Vishnu’s spinning Chakra (discus). The horse galloped forward into the fortress. The men in the way seemed to suddenly fall down. Lances and spears were thrown apart, clanging noisily. The horse flew amidst the gossiping men of Pazluvoor. The totally unexpected, lightning attack scattered the men in all four directions.
Several other actions took place immediately: The fortress gates banged shut thunderingly. “Catch him! Hold!” shouts arose; spears rubbed against swords making a “clang, clang” noise. Suddenly the drums announcing danger, boomed “dadam, dadadam”. Several men — maybe twenty, thirty, fifty or even more — surrounded Vandiya Devan and his horse. He jumped down to the ground; swirling his sword in all directions he shouted “Kandamara! Kandamara! Your men are killing me!”
Hearing his words, the men were stunned into hesitation and moved away a little.
At the same time a thundering voice was heard from the upper balcony of the palace tower. “What is that noise out there? Stop it!” Several persons were standing there, looking down on the disturbance below.
“Master! Some fellow has broken our guard and entered here. He is shouting the young master’s name,” replied the gate-keeper. “Kandamara, go find out what the commotion is about,” said the thundering voice from the tower. Vandiya Devan surmised the voice to be that of Lord Sambuvaraya.
He and the men surrounding him waited for a while. “What is all this about?” a young voice said. The men parted to make way for a youth coming hurriedly. He noticed Vandiya Devan who stood there twirling his sword, like God Muruga after killing the Demon Soora.
“Vallava! Is it truly you?” he said in an emotional voice and ran forward to heartily embrace his friend. “Kandamara because you repeatedly insisted, I came to your house. I received this warlike welcome here,” Vallavarayan pointed to the men around him.
Kandamaran said to his men, “You idiots! Move aside. Your brains are like budding shoots on a pounding block.”
Kandamaran took hold of his friend’s hand and led him hastily into the castle. His feet did not stay put on earth; and his heart danced with joy. What can captivate the heart of a youth more than a true friendship from his youthful days? Yes, of course there is a thing called kaadal (love). But being in love has as much sadness and pain as joy and pleasure. In the cheerful friendship of youth there is not even a shadow of sadness. All is heart pleasing happiness.
“Kandamara, what is all this hustle and bustle about? What is happening here today?” asked Vandiya Devan.
“Oh! I’ll explain what’s happening here afterwards. Remember the days when you and I were at the army garrison near the Pennar river? Remember your wishes `We must meet Lord Pazluvoor, I must get the acquaintance of the great Lord of Mazluvoor, I must meet that one and this one’? That lord, this lord, every fellow – you can meet them all here tonight,” said Kandamaran.
He then took his friend up to the upper chambers where the guests were seated. He presented him to his father Lord Sambuvaraya and said “Father! I have mentioned several times about my friend Vandiya Devan of the Vaanar Clan. This is he.” Vandiya Devan bowed and greeted him with reverence. However, Lord Sambuvaraya did not seem too happy about it.
“Is that so? Is he the fellow who created all that disturbance at the palace gates below?” asked the father.
“He was not the cause for the disturbance. It’s those idiots we have for gate-keepers” said the son.
“Still, he need not have arrived in this sensational manner; today of all days and that too hours after darkness,” said lord Sambuvaraya.
Kandamaran frowned. He did not wish to continue the debate with his father. He led Vandiya Devan aside. He presented his friend to Lord Pazluvoor, seated on a lofty throne amidst the other guests, and said “Uncle! This is my dear friend Vandiya Devan. He is from the noble Vaanar clan. He and I were on guard duty at the army base north of the Pennar river. In those days he would often express a wish to `See and meet the bravest among warriors, the great Lord of Pazluvoor’ and would often ask `Is it really true that he has sixty-four war-wounds on his body?’ I would tell him `One day you can meet him and count them’.”
“Is that so Thambi? Will you not believe it unless you personally count them? Such distrust? You suspect that none but one of the Vaanar clan can be brave?” said Lord Pazluvoor.
Both friends were startled. They had not expected the nobleman to thus misconstrue their words of praise. Vandiya Devan felt irritated. Without showing his feelings
he said “Sir! The fame of the brave Pazluvoor clan has spread from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas. Who am I to doubt it?”
“Good reply. Intelligent fellow” muttered Lord Pazluvoor.
With a feeling of having escaped with that, the friends went out. Lord Sambuvaraya called out to his son and whispered, “Serve your friend some food as early as possible and tell him to go and sleep in some secluded spot. He seems tired after a long journey!” Kandamaran shook his head angrily and walked on.
Later Kandamaran took his friend to the inner chambers of his mother. Several women were gathered there. Vandiya Devan bowed low and greeted Kandamaran’s mother. He surmised that a girl hiding shyly behind her was Kandamaran’s sister. He had imagined all sorts of things based upon Kandamaran’s descriptions of his younger sister. In a way, he was now disappointed. His eyes searched around among those women, with an eagerness to find the lady who had come in the palanquin with Lord Pazluvoor.