Chapter 44 – All Her Doing!
An expert architect in the tradition of the master builders of Mamallai came forward. He had brought a model for a large granite temple complex he had designed in a new fashion using all his imagination. He was now explaining and showing all its innovative features to Lady Sembiyan Madevi.
Her Majesty examined all its details and was greatly impressed. She turned towards the gentleman standing next to Azlvar-adiyan and said, “Mr. Bhattar, do you see this unique design for a temple tower? My heart brims with an eagerness to renovate all the Shiva Temples in our country in this remarkable fashion!”
“Thaye! There is nothing to stop your wish being fulfilled. All Shiva Temples mentioned in the Thevaram psalms can be renovated in this new fashion. Then people will immediately recognize the place as being sanctified by being mentioned in the psalms.” Mr. Esanya Bhattar of Pazlayarai spoke with enthusiasm.
“Yes, yes! We must collect all those poems written by the saints Appar, Gnana Sambanda and Sundara Murti and make an anthology of Saiva devotional poems. All those pilgrim centers hallowed by their presence and sanctified by their divine poems must be renovated in granite, possibly with this new design of towering entry-gates for the temples. These two wishes are my dreams. I am doubtful if they will ever be fulfilled. If only my dear lord had not journeyed west and reached the abode of Gods in such an untimely fashion, if only he had lived longer … all my dreams would have been fulfilled.”
“Thaye, even now, nothing is lacking. Has not the Emperor ordered that your every wish must be fulfilled and your every order executed? His sons, the two Princes, are ready to undertake and execute your every whim and fancy even before you can think of them. When such is the case …”
“Even so my heart feels no happiness. I hear all kinds of rumors. Some persons are apparently complaining that I am emptying the state treasury by my temple building and renovation activities. They ask `Why so many temples for Shiva?’ I am not concerned by the questions raised by someone or other. Even Prince Karikala in Kanchi …”
While the Elder Pirati was talking, Azlvar-adiyan Nambi had come forward. He now interrupted her by saying,
In those days persons of the Saiva faith and those of the Vaishnava faith were not separated by strict caste demarcations. Persons who espoused both sects often hailed from the same family. The same priest offered services both at the Shiva Temple and the Vishnu Vinnagara. Esanya Bhattar was one such broad-minded person. Thirumalai was his step brother. They loved each other dearly except on this matter of their faith. That’s why he begged pardon on his brother’s behalf.
The Elder Pirati smiled and asked, “What is the injustice? Thirumalai please talk a little calmly.”
“My Lady! Why does Shiva, a ghost ridden ascetic, a beggar who wanders with a broken skull for his begging bowl, need so many temples? Why so many sculpted mansions? Such lofty granite towers? Isn’t there at least one tiny temple for the great Lord, Sri Maha Vishnu who is guardian of all living worlds? At least shouldn’t one of His old abodes be renovated?” wailed Azlvar-adiyan.
“My Lady! The Lord who dances for the welfare of all the worlds (Shiva-Nataraja) needs a stage, an audience chamber, a golden temple and walled mansions. Isn’t a small place sufficient for Thirumal who sleeps constantly? All he needs is a darkened bed-chamber without any light. Why does he need mansions or granite towers?” asked Mr. Esanya Bhattar.
“Anna, the Lord who sleeps constantly is the Perumal who measured all the worlds. He is the Great God who pushed the tyrant King Mahabali to the netherworld.” Azlvar-adiyan retorted in a self-righteous voice.
Mr. Esanya Bhattar replied with disgust, “Such a great Lord who measured the whole universe had to dig up all the earth to go in search of our great Shiva’s lotus feet. Even in the netherworld he could not find them!”
“All I ask is this: why does your Shiva, if he is so great, need so many places to stay? If he is so big, all his temples will come crumbling down as he enters their portals!” said Azlvar-adiyan with impatience.
Lady Sembiyan Madevi asked with laughter brimming in her eyes, “Can you both put an end to your bickering for some time? Thirumalai! What are you saying? Did anyone here say that there should be no temples built for Lord Vishnu? Which Vinnagara do you wish to be renovated? Why don’t you put in a petition in the normal manner?”
“My Lady! Your father-in-law was the world famous Emperor Paranthaka. I had been to Veera-narayana-puram, the town established in his name. Lord Veera-narayana-perumal of the Vinnagara in that town is awake day and night to guard the ocean like Veera Narayana Lake and shower his grace upon all the country-folk. But in His temple even the brick walls are crumbling. The people believe that if the temple falls down, even the lake will break its shores and drown hundreds of surrounding villages. I request that the Vinnagara of Veera-narayana-perumal be renovated in granite.”
“Fine! It shall be done! Tell me all the details of that place after these people are gone.”
Understanding her wish, everyone including Mr. Esanya Bhattar left the chamber.
The Elder Pirati lowered her voice and asked, “Thirumalai, where have you been? What have you seen and heard? Tell me all the details. You have some important information. That’s why you intervened in that hasty fashion. Is it not so?”
“Yes, My Lady. I have brought much important news. Even so I would have waited patiently for your pleasure. But you were about to say something about the Prince in Kanchi; that’s why I interrupted. Who knows if there was a spy among the people who were here some time ago? All sorts of discord is rampant in the nation. No one knows who will turn traitor or when they would betray us.”
The Elder Pirati sighed. “Clansmen of the same family, blood brothers have started suspecting each other! Once upon
“I don’t know. When my own son fails to obey me, how can I persuade others? But that apart, you talked about spies. Who could have sent spies to my court? Do you think Aditya has spies in my palace? Why does he suddenly distrust me?” asked that pious lady.
“I heard it with my own ears, My Lady. If not, I would never have believed that the Prince was suspicious of
“What did you hear Thirumalai? What did you hear with your own ears?”
“I sat behind one of the sculptures on the sea shore in Mamallai and heard them talking.”
“Them means who?”
“First was Prince Aditya Karikala; second was Malayaman of Thirukovalur and last was Pallava Parthiban. Those three were talking. I was hidden in the darkened shore temple and listening. Malayaman and Parthiban were quite enraged. They claimed that your son had conspired with both the Lords of Pazluvoor and imprisoned the Emperor in Tanjore. Malayaman felt that you must be involved in that conspiracy. The others concurred. Parthiban suggested that they should invade and take Tanjore by force, free the Emperor and take him to Kanchi. The other two agreed with this also. But the Prince felt that he must make one more attempt to bring the Emperor to Kanchi without any conflict. Upon that, they decided to write a letter and send a messenger to the Emperor. I also found out who that messenger was. He is not an ordinary fellow. That messenger is a very capable, courageous and intelligent man. Besides being a messenger he can also be a spy. I tried talking to him. If I tried to jump across the stream, he leaped across the river! Without disclosing anything he tried to pry secrets from me. Even the Astrologer of Kudanthai tried his tricks on him. Nothing worked. After that, I heard that he had somehow entered Tanjore and delivered the letter to the Emperor.”
“Then what happened? What was the Emperor’s reply?”
“Apparently he had promised to write a reply the next day. However, by then, the Commander of Tanjore had some suspicion about the messenger. But, he overcame all his guards and somehow escaped from Tanjore.”
“He really must be very capable. Then what did you do? Where did you go from Kanchi?” asked the Elder Pirati with some anxiety.
“I had intended coming back here directly. But I stopped on the way at Veera-narayana-puram to worship at the temple. And when I stopped there, with the grace of the Lord, I was able to uncover a great secret.”
“What was that? Another secret?”
“Yes My Lady! I found that there was a big banquet at Kadamboor Sambuvaraya’s fort that night. The Elder Lord Pazluvoor has come to that feast. His Young-Queen’s palanquin had also come.”
“Thirumalai, all this is her doing! All these dangers surrounding this Chozla nation are caused by her. Were you able to meet her and talk to her?”
“No; I could not do so, My Lady, I could not do so. Upon your orders I raised and nourished that snake as my own sister for several years. How I wandered all around the country, teaching her all the holy scriptures! When I think of all that, my heart is filled with rage. After she became the queen of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor, she has refused to even see me.”
“You must pardon me My Lady. I hesitate to even speak of that secret. The person in that closed palanquin was not Lord Pazluvoor’s Young-Queen. All of us who have been thinking that Lord Pazluvoor takes his Young-Queen wherever he goes, in her closed palanquin, all of us are totally mistaken.”
“Then who was in that palanquin? Is there no end to that old man’s craze for women?” asked the Elder Pirati with impatience and disgust.
“My Lady, there was no woman in that closed palanquin.”
“If it was no woman, which man would go around like that? Hiding in a closed palanquin?”
“Forgive me My Lady! The person who came hidden in that closed palanquin was none other than your divine son, Prince Madurandaka.”
For a while Lady Sembiyan Madevi was shocked into silence. Then she muttered to herself, “Oh God! Such a huge punishment for an offense I committed!”
After that Azlvar-adiyan told her the details of the secret meeting of treachery which took place in Kadamboor. Upon hearing those details, there was no limit to the distress felt by the aged Queen.
“Oh Lord! My Son! I tried to raise you as a pious follower of Shiva. Is this the result? Should you be the cause of such dishonor to the Chozla clan? Should you be the cause for such grave calamity for this empire?” she moaned in this fashion for quite a while.
Finally, wiping her tears, she spoke, “Thirumalai, come back and talk to me again before you go on your journey. By then I will consult Kundavai and think of some solution to overcome this danger!”
Azlvar-adiyan spoke hesitantly, “My Lady, it may be better if you do not disclose this information even to Kundavai.”
“Why? Do you suspect even her?”
“Why not Thaye? She is the dear sister of Aditya Karikala.”
“So what? Thirumalai, I can believe you even if you maintain that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. But I cannot accept it if you blame Kundavai. Do you know this? On the day she was born, the palace midwife picked her up and brought her to my arms. From that day I have raised her with my own hands. She is more precious to me than any daughter that could have been born to me. She considers me more revered than her own father or even mother and loves me dearly.”
“My Lady, let me ask you one thing. Did Kundavai discuss with you about having been to meet the Astrologer of Kudanthai?”
“No; so what?”
“Did she mention that she had seen a youth of the Vaanar clan in the Astrologer’s house and that she met him once again on the banks of the Arisil?”
“No. What is all this? What is the meaning of your questions?”