Chapter 1 - Aadi Festival

Chapter 46 – The People Murmur

Thevaram psalms sung by those three saintly poets are made popular by being sung in those temples. Chariot festivals and other carnivals are being held with much pomp in those temples. In spite of all this there is no lack of respect or faith in Thirumal. The ninth incarnation of Vishnu has captivated the hearts of the common folk, for the deeds performed by the Lord in North Madura, Brindavan and Gokula have enchanted these men and women. Good Lord! Look at the number of music groups and bards! How many troupes of street players! What costumes and masquerades! They seem to be many more of them than what I saw a few hours ago!

The festivities and crowds in the streets around the temple had indeed increased. More and more groups of players from the villages surrounding Pazlayarai kept coming in. In one such group of performers there were several actors who were dressed to play the parts of Vasudeva, Devaki, Kamsa, Balarama and Krishna. The dialogue, music and dance of these players seemed to be much more lively than any other company. Therefore, a large crowd had gathered around them to watch their antics. Thirumalai Nambi also lingered to watch them. They were acting the scene of Krishna challenging the Demon Kamsa to a duel.

Krishna called out to Kamsa, “Come fight with me!” Kamsa replied to the challenge in a loud thundering voice, “Hey you Krishna! All your tricks will not hold water against me! Here I come to kill you right now! I am going to kill your brother Balarama and your father Vasudeva. And I am also going to kill that fellow standing over there — the fellow who has covered his body with namam marks of sandal paste!” When the actor uttered these words, all the crowd turned to look at Azlvar-adiyan and laugh. Some moved closer and began to heckle and clap their hands. Thirumalai became very angry. He considered using the wooden staff and teaching them all a lesson! He particularly wanted to pound the head of the actor playing the part of Kamsa. But, there would be no use in hitting Kamsa’s head, because the actor had hid his own head behind a huge wooden mask carved grotesquely with big mustaches and sharp teeth. Azlvar-adiyan decided that it would not be profitable to use his staff in the midst of such a large crowd and tried to slip away. But the voice of Kamsa called out, “Hey you fat fellow! Are you running away from me in fright?” The crowd burst into cheering laughter. Azlvar-adiyan felt that he had heard that voice — the voice of the actor playing Kamsa — somewhere before. Trying to remember who it was or where he had heard that voice, he walked on slowly.

There seemed to be a sudden change in the joyous mood of the people. As he walked down the street he sensed that the festive mood was becoming more and more subdued. Why the sudden change? Why are the crowds dispersing so quickly? Drumbeats and the sounds of dancing seem to have stopped! …. The people seem to be collecting in small groups at street corners, whispering to each other … What are they murmuring about? Why do they walk away so quickly? Why are the house doors being banged shut? Azlvar-adiyan was intrigued. There was cause for the change — the drummers’s proclamation about the spy — the same announcement which had made Kundavai Pirati shiver, had frightened the people. The drummed proclamation had affected the festive crowd greatly and spoilt their mood. Those who walked alone were peered at suspiciously. Unknown faces were subject to hesitant scrutiny. Some even looked at Azlvar-adiyan with doubt as they walked on quickly.

Azlvar-adiyan soon realized the cause for the disquiet and murmuring among the people. The people talked about the unjust rule of the Lords of Pazluvoor. It was but natural that the citizens of Pazlayarai and the country folk from surrounding villages disliked the Lords of Pazluvoor. Those Lords had taken away their beloved Emperor to Tanjore. And since that day, the greatness of Pazlayarai had started to dwindle.

If only the Emperor had been here in this city, on this festival of Krishna Jayanthi, how much more colorful it would have been! All the groups of street players would have finally met in the square in front of the palace after performing in various neighborhoods. The Emperor would have honored and awarded gifts to the best among the actors, dancers, singers and players. It would seem as if the whole nation had converged into Pazlayarai. Trade and business in the market place would have been hundredfold! And in the night how fantastic would be the display of fireworks as the carnival procession of the Lord emerged from the Vinnagara! How fantastic would be the dancing and singing and the competitions in martial arts! All this was no more because of those fellows of Pazluvoor!

filled the granary in Tanjore to overflow with grain? What is all that for? What is the point of collecting all that wealth for hundreds of years in the treasury at Tanjore? Why is that wealth not used for our brave men now? What are these Pazluvoor fellows going to do with all that wealth and grain? Are they going to carry it with them to the realms of Lord Yama of Death when they die?…

Azlvar-adiyan had known about such disquiet among the people for some time. He felt that it was natural that the people of Pazlayarai were more disgruntled than others. The womenfolk and families of the ten thousand men who had gone to Lanka continued to live in Pazlayarai and it was natural that they should be concerned about the lack of payment and supplies for their men. In such a situation, when the drummers proclaimed under the orders of the Lords of Pazluvoor about a spy amidst them, they did not like it. The proclamation became a focal point for them to express their anger against the men of Pazluvoor.

Spy! They proclaim about a spy! From which country will a spy come into our midst? Doesn’t the tiger-flag fly from Cape Comorin to the North Pennar? Which foreign king is so powerful to send a spy into the Chozla heartland? If these fellows from Pazluvoor dislike someone they will accuse him to be a spy and put an end to his story! Or they may throw him into the dungeons of Tanjore! But … why should we bother? They have the power to act with justice or injustice. But, if they accuse a fellow to be a spy, they need not hold a fair trial by calling a panchayat (court of community elders).

Azlvar-adiyan heard all these murmurings and understood the unrest. He wondered what it would all lead to as he neared the mansion of Kundavai.

The Younger Pirati always had a fondness to chat with Azlvar-adiyan about the affairs of the world. He wandered throughout the country and brought back news from various places. The Princess was always eager for such news. Moreover, she liked to listen to him as he sang the devotional songs composed by Azlvar saints. She welcomed him eagerly whenever Thirumalai Nambi sought her presence and would enquire pleasantly about his welfare. But today, Azlvar -adiyan noticed a change in the countenance and words of the Princess. Her face indicated that her mind was occupied somewhere else with something else; an unnatural agitation in her words. A certain uncertainty in her manner.

“Thirumalai! What is new? Why have you come?” asked Kundavai.

“There is nothing particularly new My Lady! I thought that you wished to talk to me as usual about the happenings in the country and came here. Forgive me if I came at a wrong time. I shall take my leave.”

“No! No! Wait for a while … I, it was I who summoned you …”

“My Lady! I almost forgot … I was with the Elder Pirati just now. She wishes to convey some important news to you and wants you to come and see her.”

“Fine; I too have been meaning to see her. Where had you been on this journey? Tell me all!”

“I had travelled from Cape Comorin in the south to Venkadam in the north.”

“What do the people speak about in all the places you visited?”

“They speak of the greatness of the Chozla monarchs with pride. They feel that in a short time the empire will spread to reach the banks of the Ganga and the foothills of the Himalayas in the north.”

“Then …”

“They wonder why the great Chozla Monarch’s divine daughter is not yet married. In fact some men even asked me…”

“What was your reply?”

“I said that a Prince qualified to marry our beloved Younger Pirati has not yet appeared on this earth.”

“Wonderful! Such a fellow must be born after now! By the time he is born and attains manhood I will become an elderly old woman. Forget my affairs Thirumalai, what other talk did you hear? Is there nothing else?”

“Why not? Everybody is quite surprised about the Young Prince Madurandaka suddenly entering into the course of matrimony after he had been declaring that he would always follow the path of Saiva asceticism.”

“How is your darling sister who used to declare that she would become the best among the devout — like Saint Andal,

… how is she?”

“What does she lack, My Lady? She rules like an empress in the mansions of the Elder Lord Pazluvoor.”

“Only in the mansions of Lord Pazluvoor? I hear that she is the all powerful force even behind the Chozla Empire …!”

“Some even say that, My Lady! But why talk of her on this festive day? I remembered something when you mentioned Saint Andal. I had been to the town of Sri Villiputhoor and learned some of the songs composed by Vishnu-chittar. Listen to this song about the birth of Lord Krishna,

Gokulam full of beautiful houses sparkles on this day of Kannan’s birth;

Shining oil lamps and white lime powders decorate the dark streets.

They run and jump with joy; they search and ask where is our Lord?

Aayarpadi is filled with joyous singers and dancers to gleeful drumbeats.

Today even our Pazlayarai is full of festivity like Aayarpadi of Gokulam.”

“It is quite festive, I agree. But some time ago I heard a different kind of drum. What was that about Thirumalai?” asked Kundavai.

Azlvar-adiyan had been waiting for some such question. “Apparently it is about some spy! A spy who escaped! They have announced a reward for anyone who captures him. What would I know about such things My Lady?”

“Do you know nothing? Have you no suspicions about who it might be?” asked Kundavai.

“I have a doubt in my mind, but it is dangerous to express such doubts. When I walked down the streets of this city, people looked at even me with suspicion. Somebody might even arrest me and throw me into the dungeon.”

“That somebody must be exceptional to be able to capture you. Tell me if you think you can express your doubts freely to me. I hope that you do not think that I will accuse you!”

“Oh Lord! No! Nothing like that! I met a brave young man at Veera-narayana-puram. He said that he was going to Tanjore but did not reveal his purpose. In fact he questioned me about many things…”

Kundavai interrupted with some haste, “Describe him!”

“I remember now, apparently he created a big commotion and entered the house even while you were at the Astrologer’s house! Fortunately he had not recognized you.”

“My guess is confirmed!”

“What did you guess, My Lady?”

“I felt that the rough youth might soon get into some trouble.”

“Yes, you are correct. I suspect that young man to be the spy. The Lords of Pazluvoor have proclaimed a reward for his capture.”

“Thirumalai! Will you do me one favor?” asked Kundavai.

“Order me, My Lady!”

“If you happen to see that youth anywhere …”

“Shall I arrest him and claim the reward?”

“No! No! Bring him here to me. I have something important to discuss with him!”

Azlvar-adiyan looked at her for a minute as if he was surprised. He then bowed his head and said, “There will be no need for that My Lady! I will not have to go in search of him. He will seek you and come to you all by himself.” With those mysterious words Azlvar-adiyan took his leave.

Chapter 47 - Mr. Esanya Bhattar of Pazlayarai
Chapter 45 - The Spy Who Committed A Crime

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