Chapter 43 – Pazlayarai
We welcome our readers to visit Pazlayarai City even before Vandiya Devan arrives there after overcoming several mishaps and dangers.
Let us stop on the southern banks of River Arisil and gaze upon that city. Ah! Is this an ordinary city? It is the gem encrusted head-jewel of Mother Tamil! It is like her jewelled forehead ornament, netri-chutti, studded with rubies, pearls, emeralds and sapphires. Rivers, streams, creeks and fields are filled to the brim with fresh water. Coconut palms and punnai trees spread cool shadows. The greenery is emphasized by the strings of golden yellow flowers on konnai trees. Piercing all the greenery are tall towers and turrets of temples and palaces crowned with golden cupolas rising sky high.
Ah! How many townships are enclosed in this great metropolis called Pazlayarai! Nandipuram, Thiruchatti Mutram, Patteesuram, Mazlavarpadi, Arichandra-puram — all these towns and their respective temples were part of this Chozla capital. The four Shiva temples known as West Tali, East Tali, North Tali and South Tali were situated on the four borders of the city.
The Padai Veedu areas (army encampments) known as Aariya, Puduppu, Manappu and Pambai providing housing for the various battalions of Chozla armies and their families were spread out in one direction. The Chozla Maligai or Chozla Palace was found in all its splendor rising majestically in their midst. The Chozla Palace was not merely one single building. Before the times of Vijayala Chozla it was a single mansion. But since his times, every prince and princess of the Chozla Dynasty had built new mansions and palaces thereby adding to and extending the complex that was now know as the Chozla Maligai. A thousand eyes would not suffice to gaze upon its magnificence and beauty. The imagination of ten thousand poets
After the Emperor had taken to his sickbed and moved to Tanjore, the regional chieftains, provincial kings, councilors and ambassadors from foreign lands stopped coming to Pazlayarai. The retinue and supporters who surrounded such dignitaries also stopped coming here, for they had all moved to Tanjore. The soldiers who used to live in the army cantonments were now engaged in the front in Lanka and were part of the peace keeping forces in Madurai and Kanchi. So, these neighborhoods were now mostly empty except for the womenfolk, the elderly and children.
The families of the Velaikara Battalion of Velirs who had lived in the township of Mazlavarpadi had moved to Tanjore; consequently that neighborhood seemed lifeless with locked houses and unkempt streets. Most of the government officials and ministers had relocated to Tanjore with their families.
In spite of all this, there was no dearth of people on the streets of Pazlayarai. These days its streets were filled with architects, stonemasons and temple builders; poets, religious ascetics, singers of Thevaram and priests thronged the streets. Palace servants mingled with crowds of out-of-towners who had come to worship at the various temples and participate in the several street festivals.
Today seemed to be the day of some carnival. Men, women and children were dressed in beautiful clothes and jewels as they wandered about the streets. People gathered in groups here and there at street crossings. In the midst of such groups one could glimpse players in vivid costumes performing some mime or play.
Let us watch. Yes; these actors seem to be dressed and made up like Krishna and his cowherds. Who is that in the middle of that group? It seems like Lord Krishna standing there with a mountain lifted up in his hand! Look the King of Deva’s, Lord Indra is coming up and bowing to him! Look over there! Brahma with four faces seems to be talking to little Krishna! Oh! It’s clear now: today is Sri Jayanthi, the birthday of Lord Krishna! The people are celebrating that holiday with all these festivities and enthusiasm.
Tall slippery poles had been setup in street corners; pots containing treasures were tied to their tops. Young men participating in the game of uriyadi tried to climb the slippery poles or hit the mud pots with sticks to collect the treasures and the butter.
The merrymaking seemed to be more colorful in the streets surrounding the Vinnagara (Vishnu Temple) of Nandipuri. What is this?
We saw, we saw, we saw
We saw things pleasing to our eyes.
Who was singing? The voice seems familiar? Here he is, our old friend Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Thirumalai Nambi in person. He is singing! A group gathers around him; some listen with religious devotion while others are heckling. We are concerned about whose head will suffer from the wooden staff in his hands.
Some disturbance outside the portals of the Vinnagara Temple. Chariots and palanquins parked in the street come closer. Some noblewomen are coming out of the temple. Yes, these are the noblewomen and royalty living in the Chozla Maligai of Pazlayarai.
First comes Lady Sembiyan Madevi, revered by one and all as the Elder Pirati. She is a daughter of the Mazluvoor chieftains, the Queen Consort of King Gandara Aditya the Devout. Even in the garb of an elderly widow, how attractive and majestic she looks! The daughter of Vaithumba Kings, Queen Kalyani, the widow of King Arinjaya is walking behind her — even at this age how beautiful and enchanting she appears! Her face shines with radiance. How great she must have looked in her youth? There is nothing surprising about her son Sundara Chozla being famous for his good looks. The Chera Princess, who was another wife of Sundara Chozla, was walking by her side. Behind these older women came a group of young maids:
adiyan came up with humility and reverence and bowed before her.
“Thirumalai, I have not seen you for some time. Have you been on some journey or pilgrimage?” asked the Elder
“Yes, My Lady! I had been on a pilgrimage. I went to Thirupathi, Kanchi, Veera-narayana-puram and several other places. I saw several astonishing things wherever I went!”
“Come to my palace tomorrow and tell me about all that you saw and heard.”
“No, Madam! I am leaving again, tonight on another journey.”
“Then come and see me this evening itself.”
“As you wish, My Lady! I shall be there.”
All the palanquins and chariots now moved down the street towards the Chozla Maligai. Kundavai pointed a finger at Thirumalai Nambi Azlvar-adiyan and said something to her friends. They burst into merry laughter. Azlvar-adiyan turned around to find the cause for their laughter. Kundavai’s eyes talked with his eyes in some secret language. He bowed his head slightly, indicating that he had understood.
Lady Sembiyan Madevi’s palace was situated in the middle of the Chozla Maligai complex. She was seated on a jewel-encrusted, golden throne in the audience chamber. She seemed to have followed the tradition of the great ladies, Karaikal Ammai and Tilakavathi, in being a devout follower of the Saiva faith. She was dressed in simple white silk, with sacred ashes adorning her forehead and holy rudraksha beads around her neck. She seemed to be confirming the possibility that one could live like an ascetic in the midst of all riches and splendor. Though she wore neither crown nor any other rich adornment, her very posture and radiant face proclaimed her royalty. There was nothing surprising about the fact that each and every member of the Chozla clan, without exception, revered her and almost worshipped her as a Goddess and did nothing against her wishes.
But, there was a flaw to such devotion and veneration. Her son, Prince Madurandaka Deva had acted against her wishes, disobeyed her orders and married a daughter of the Pazluvoor family. Not only that, she had been hearing vague rumors that he was coveting the Chozla throne. All these had given rise to a wrinkle of worry in her life.
The courtyards of her palace were always teeming with visitors of various kinds. Groups of musicians who were experts in singing the Thevaram, religious savants from distant lands, poets and artists, sculptors and temple architects, priests bringing sacraments from holy temples — all such folk gathered in the courtyards of the Elder Pirati’s palace.
That day there were delegations of temple trustees and architects from the towns of Thirumudu-kunram, Kurangadu-thurai and Mazlapadi: they had come with petitions for grants to renovate in granite, the temples in their respective towns. They carried bundles of drawings and small models to show the proposed changes.
She agreed to provide funds for the temples in the first two towns and then asked, “Mazlapadi? Which Mazlapadi?”
“It is that same Mazlapadi which has a temple that is the abode of the Lord who called out to Saint Sundara Murti and made him compose a song for Him!” said the leader of the delegation from Mazlapadi.
“O! What is that story?”
The man retold the following tale in reply to her question:–
of the Lord, recalling His grace and benevolence in taking care of His devotees.
O Lord of golden hued body with a tiger skin draped around the waist;
Upon matted locks, burnished red, you wear the shining crescent!
My beloved King! My Jewel who dwells in Mazlapadi,
Of whom but you will I think, at all times henceforth?
“My Lady, that temple remains tiny, hidden in the flower grove even to this day. We are asking permission to enlarge and renovate that temple.”
“So be it! I shall arrange for funds,” said the Elder Pirati.
Thirumalai Nambi and another man had now entered the chamber and come forward.