Chapter 52 – An Old Man’s Wedding
There were several small boulders strewn about the sea shore of Mamallai. Sometimes the tide would rise to cover those rocks with furious waves. At other times, the sea would recede and allow those boulders to dry completely. The great sculptors of Mamallai had not forgotten even one tiny rock face along the shore: they had used their imagination fully and carved each stone-face with large and small sculptures.
Aditya Karikala and his two companions walked towards two such boulders which were facing each other on the sandy beach. Treating the two rocks like two thrones, Malayaman and Karikala sat down. Parthiban stood a little apart. Waves came up to wet their feet now and then. Sometimes the spray of water caused by the waves dashing upon the rocks showered droplets of pearls upon them. In the far distance they could see barges loaded with goods cleaving the waves and riding towards the distant horizon. Men were loading the goods from those barges onto ships anchored far away.
“I am filled with anger to think that all the supplies that we had collected for the northern invasion are being diverted to Lanka,” said Parthiban.
“What can we do? The best trained Chozla battalions are in Lanka, winning battle after battle. They have captured Anuradapura, the ancient capital from which Lankan Kings ruled for a thousand years, and raised our victorious tiger-flag. How can we let such brave men starve?” asked Prince Karikala.
“Who said that we must let them starve? Of course we must send food supplies. But, they could be sent from Chozla Territories via Nagapattinam Port. Or they can be sent from the Pandiya Kingdom from the port at Sethu. Where is the need to send food supplies from these dry deserts of Thondai? I am saying this because we must consider the setback to our plans for a northern campaign because of this.”
“I am also enraged by that thought. I wonder what those wretched Lords of Pazluvoor intend to do. How long am I to tolerate this? Grandfather! Why are you still keeping quiet? Why don’t you say something?” asked Karikala.
“My son! These sea waves are roaring incessantly. Your friend Parthiban with his ceaseless chatter is competing with them. What can I say in the midst of all this din? I have grown feeble in my old age.”
“Parthiba, You keep quiet for some time. Let Grandfather express his opinion.”
“Here, I shall shut my mouth. Poor Grandfather has come down here, so far from the fort, with great difficulty in this weak old age. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth in front of him. This sea also has no sense; it is roaring incessantly! There is none to control it. The Ocean King seems to have no fear for our Mountain Lord!” Parthiban spoke with scorn.
“Thambi! Parthiba! Once there was a time for that too. All the kings of this land would tremble; the Chalukyas of the west, Vaanars of Vallam, Vaithumbas, Gangas and Kongu chieftains — all of them would quake upon hearing the name Malayaman (mountain chief), like serpents hiding from the roar of thunder. Even the Ocean King used to be quite timid. Now that I have grown feeble, they have all raised their heads. These westerners who have come recently, these commoners of
Pazluvoor are now questioning me of ancient lineage! They are trying to put an end to me! It can never happen. Karikala you said that you could not understand the intentions of these Pazluvoor upstarts. I shall tell you what their intentions are. Listen to this. They wish to separate you and your brother and weaken both your strengths. They want your brother Arulmozli to loose his battles in Lanka and face disgrace. Here, you must be provoked into anger against your brother. The two of you should quarrel with each other; and this old man must die of shock upon seeing that! This is their secret aspiration, …” as Malayaman was speaking passionately, Karikala intervened.
“This intention of their’s will never succeed Grandfather! None can separate me and my brother from each other. I will give up my very life for Arulmozli. Do you know what I think sometimes? — I should sail away, to Lanka perhaps. I wonder what hardships he faces over there? Here I am comfortably sleeping away my life in these palaces. Each minute is like an endless eon. I hate staying here. Grandfather, tell me, shall I sail away in one of those ships to Lanka?” asked Karikala.
“Fantastic idea, My Prince! I too have been thinking along similar lines for some days now. Come let us go. There is no point in asking Grandfather. If you ask him he will merely advice, `No. Wait!’ Come let us leave tomorrow itself. Let us take half our forces from here in Thondai. We will put an end to the war in Lanka once for all and then land in Nagapattinam. From there we can march to Tanjore and teach a lesson to those Pazluvoor men….” came the tirade from Parthiban.
“Look at this Karikala? Did I not warn you? Did I not say that I can talk only if he keeps his mouth shut?” asked Malayaman.
“I shall shut up, Grandfather, I shall shut up. You say whatever you wish to say.” Parthiban covered his mouth with one palm.
“Karikala, you are brave. There are not many men of valor like you in these Tamil lands. I have seen many wars in my eighty years. But, I have never seen a brave youth like you who single handed entered the enemy field and fought with such courage. You were not even sixteen during the Battle of Chevoor. I have never seen a combat like yours, when you swiftly entered the enemy formation, swirling your sword left- and right-handed, toppling enemy heads all along the way! That scene lingers before my eyes even now. Your friend Parthiban, is like you, quite great in valor.
But, both of you are rash youths. Impetuous in anger. Both of you lack the capacity to think clearly. You tend to do the exact opposite of what must be done.”
“Grandfather you have said such things several times …”
“Yes; I have. But, there was not much use? Are you asking me to go back to my country?”
“No! No! Tell me what must be done now.”
“You must somehow, get your brother Arulmozli to come here immediately. You and your brother should never be physically separate. …”
“Grandfather what counsel is this? If Arulmozli comes here what will happen to the war in Lanka?”
“Oh, the Lankan campaign is now at a standstill. Our men have captured Anuradapura. Now the rainy season begins in Lanka and none can do anything for four months; all we can do is safeguard the captured positions. The other generals can do that quite capably. It is important that Arulmozli is here at this time. Oh! What is the use of hiding the truth from you Karikala? There is grave danger to the Dynasty of Vijayala Chozla and the Empire established by him. You and the ones near and dear to you should all be at one place now; you should all safeguard yourselves with much care. We should also consolidate all our strengths. No one knows what danger is likely to strike, when …”
“Grandfather, why are you frightening me with such talk? What do I fear as long as I have a sword in my hand? What danger can stalk me? I can manage, tackle whatever it is … I am not afraid …”
“Son! Do you have to remind me of your courage? But, consider these lines of Valluvan:
It is folly to not fear the frightful;
The way of wisemen is to fear the fearful.
When you confront an enemy in the battle field there should be no room for fear. One who is frightened at that time is a coward. If such a coward is born in my family, I will personally chop him to pieces which this old hand of mine. But, we must fear secret conspiracy, treachery and unseen danger. Fearing such threats, we must take adequate precautions. Those born in royal households, those with a right to ascend thrones must not be negligent in such matters. Such heedlessness will spell doom for the whole kingdom.”
“Grandfather! What secret conspiracy do you expect? Only if you explain can we be careful.”
“I shall explain; some days ago, a secret meeting took place at midnight in Kadamboor Sambuvaraya’s Fort. The Elder Lord Pazluvoor had come to that meeting. Apparently, Munai Raya, Mazlava-raya, the Chieftain of Kunratoor, Muthuaraya, and Rajali of the Double Canopy had come. These are the names I heard. Others may have been there.”
“Let them have come; so what? All of them would have dined till their stomachs burst, watched the dance and frolic till midnight, drunk kegs and kegs of liquor and gone to sleep. Why should we be concerned with that? What would those old men with greying beards achieve by meeting at midnight?”
“When you have such a good opinion of old men, what is the use of my saying anything to you? I am also an old man! In fact much older than all those fellows.”
“Grandfather, don’t be angry. Will I equate you with those useless old fools? What happened there, tell me?”
“Again you refer to them as useless old fools! Their chief, the oldest man among them was married only recently; don’t forget that! Understand that there is no youth more dangerous in the whole world than an old man married to a very young maid.”
When the conversation turned to a discussion of the old man’s wedding, a peculiar expression covered the face of Aditya Karikala. His eyes suddenly turned bloodshot like those of some horrible pagan deity demanding blood sacrifice. Lips trembled; and teeth crunched in anger.
Malayaman did not notice these changes; but, Parthiban took note.
“Why talk of that wedding now? Sir, tell us what happened at Sambuvaraya’s Fort after that.” The Pallava nobleman intervened again.
“That is what I was going to speak about. I have grown old and am loosing track of what I say. Listen Karikala! Parthiba! You too listen. That midnight meeting was not convened merely by old men. Some young blades were also there. One youth was Sambuvaraya’s son Kandamaran. Another was …” When the old man hesitated, Karikala asked with haste, “Who else Grandfather? Who was the other youth?”
“Your Elder-grandfather Gandara Aditya’s divine son — your uncle –Madurandaka Deva, who else?”
On hearing this, both Karikala and Parthiban began laughing loudly.
“What mirth is this? What is the meaning of this senseless laughter? Are you mocking me again?” asked Milad-udayar of Thiru-kovalur.
“No, Grandfather, no! We are laughing because you called Madurandaka a `young man!’ Is he not the oldest among old men?” laughed Karikala.
“Haven’t you heard of youth returning in old age? Like that, youth has come back to Madurandaka. Till recently he had been saying, `I’ll become an ascetic; I shall follow the path of Saiva devotion.’ — Now he has embarked into matrimony not once or twice but thrice.”
“Let him; if he wants let him get married several more times! So what?” asked Parthiban.
“Thambi, Madurandaka’s marriages are not ordinary marriages. They are political alliances. Organized by the secretive treachery of the Pazluvoor noblemen.”
“Grandfather, you continue talking in riddles. Why don’t you explain clearly? What do the Lords of Pazluvoor really want? What is their intention in convening such meetings in every town? What are they going to achieve with Madurandaka Deva?” asked Aditya with some impatience.
“Nothing. They are trying to declare that you and your brother have no rights to the Empire and place Madurandaka on the Chozla throne. They are trying to obtain your father’s consent for this. That is why they guard him in Tanjore Fort like a prisoner,” said Lord Malayaman.