It was the night after Amavasya. The night was dark. The stars did not even blink. The fireflies flitted around the bushes. At a distance, a wolf howled. Vandhiyadeevan shivered, not because of the cold, but because of the eeriness. It seemed, even the wind feared coming into that thick forest.
The manthravaadi and his motley gang sat around a circle. They had put out all the lamps except one. The pallipadai temple ruin looked even more eery in this situation. One of the gang brought out an old throne from inside, and made the small child, whom they addressed as Chakravarthy, sit on it.
“Where is the Rani? She is not here yet?”
“She will be here very soon. Let us spend the time singing one of our old folks songs”, said the leader.
Idumbankaari lifted his udukkai and started a low rhythmic rumbling beat. Devaraalan started singing in a low haunting voice. Vandhiyadevan was listening to all this from a distance. It seemed like a haunting sad song. The rhythm from the udukkai matched the sadness. Only some words reached Vandhiyadevan’s ears.
It seemed to be a song talking about the fierce battle between Varaguna Paandiyan and Aparajita Pallavan. The 3 day fierce battle. Gangamannan had come to fight with the Pallava king. During this fierce battle, the Gangamannan fell. This temple where they were standing on, was built as a memorial to those who fell in that battle. After the Gangamannan’s fall, the Pallava forces started fleeing in despair. The victory of the Pandiya king was almost eminent.
At this crucial moment, the Chozha army came to the rescue of the Pallava king. Leading the army was none other than the great VIjayalaya Chozhan, the great one, who had 97 war wounds on his body. The great one, who had lost 2 of his legs in battle. The great one was being carried by 4 people. Two hands circling 2 sharp swords, he entered against the Pandiya army head on. The demoralized Pallava army saw this and got enthused and started to fight back.
17000 swords came rushing at the Pandiyaa army, glinting in the sunlight. 15000 spears came with the great clanging sounds. The swords and the spears clashed. 14000 heads rolled. The horses fell down neighing. The elephants came down next trumpeting and screeching. Rivers of blood where animal flesh and human flesh were indistinguishable. 20000 eagles and vultures were circling the area for the war to finish, so that they could start their feast. 30000 wolves came circling around the battle ground, to compete with the eagles to get their share of the feast. 50000 anguished souls cried out “ayyoooo”. “Dont leave them, cut them, slash them, kill them”, cried the attackers. 20000 victory conches blew.
“Hahahaa” laughed 60000 ghosts. That is when Vandhiyadevan awoke. He was still leaning against the outer wall of the Pallipadai temple. He had probably fallen asleep. Was that a dream? Or perhaps he had gone into a trance. Devaraalan’s song with the rhythmic beat of the udukkai had gotten him in to a trance. He was still singing about the Pandiya war. It was the gang’s hysterical laughter, which had woken him up. It was not the ghosts. It was the Manthraavadis gang.
The song abruptly stopped. From a distance, he could see a torch fire. The light came closer and closer. The 4 men and the palanquin they were carrying came close and stopped. The palanquin was lowered. The screens parted. From inside, a lady stepped out. Yes, it was the Pazhuvoor Rani – Nandini Devi.
My attempt at translation from the epic Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki. As I typed this, I find myself no comparison to the original author. Such beautiful writing. Such a super plot. Such descriptions.