Ponniyin selvan Part 1

Ponniyin Selvan Chapter 12 – Nandini – Stories in english

Don’t we have to disclose how Vandiya Devan, whom we
had left in a ferry-boat on the banks of the Kollidam,
arrived at the doorsteps of the Astrologer of Kudanthai?

The Saiva gentleman, who objected to having Azlvaradiyan in the boat, turned towards Vandiya Devan and said, “I let this fellow get in because of you, Thambi.However, as long as we are in this boat he should not utter
that eight-letter word. If he says it, I shall demand that he be thrown into this Kollidam! These boatmen are my men!”

“Sir! Devout Mr. Nambi! Did thy hallowed ears hear it?”
asked Vandiya Devan.”If this fellow does not utter the five-letter word, I too shall not utter the holy-name of eight-letters” said Nambi.(Note: The eight letter word is the name of Vishnu — namo-sri-na-ra-ya-na-ya — worshipped by the Vaishnava sect; the five letter word — na-ma-si-va-ya — denotes Shiva
worshipped by the Saiva sect.)

“Who is this fellow to object to my uttering the fivelettered holy name of the great God Shiva? No! Never!
Though you may be bound by chains
and thrown into the deepest seas,
Your only companion and hope is
the name na-ma-si-va-ya!”

These words were uttered in a roaring voice by the Saiva
gentleman. Upon hearing it, Azlvar-adiyan began singing
in a louder voice:
I searched, and upon searching found
the holy name,
Na-mo-sri-na-ra-ya-na-ya;
Saying the words, “Siva, Siva, Sivaa!” the gentleman stuck
both his index fingers into his ears! When Azlvar-adiyan
stopped singing, he took his fingers out of his ears.
Azlvar-adiyan looked at Vandiya Devan and asked,
“Thambi, you ask that fanatic Saiva fellow. He is in such
agony when he merely hears God’s name! Does not this
river Kollidam wash the lotus feet of God Narayana who
reposes in Srirangam and then come down here? Is it not
because these waters, which have touched the feet of
Narayana, have become hallowed, that Shiva performs
penance while immersed in these waters at Thiru-anaikava?”
Before he could conclude this long story, the Saiva zealot
became very furious and rushed towards the equally
fanatic Vaishnava Nambi. Since both entered into a fist
fight at one end of the boat, it seemed as if the ferry-boat
would soon capsize! One of the men and Vandiya Devan
intervened and separated them.

“Oh, you great and best of devout souls! Both of you seem
to have a wish to drown in the floods of this Kollidam and
go directly to paradise! But I have several other
engagements left on this beautiful earth,” said Vandiya
Devan with some disgust.

One of the boatmen articulated his opinion, “I am not sure
if one would definitely enter paradise if he falls into the
Kollidam! But, I guarantee that you would enter the
innards of a crocodile! Look over there!” His finger
pointed at a big crocodile with its terrorizing, wide open
jaws.

“I am not one bit scared about those crocodiles. Would he
not come to my aid, Lord Narayana the original God, who
saved the elephant Gajendra from such a crocodile? Where
would he go?” said Azlvar-adiyan.
“Where would he go? Perhaps he is hiding in the sari-folds
of the milkmaids of Brindavan!”

“Perhaps Shiva is entangled in another predicament: just
like that time when, having given boons to the demon
Bhasma, he was running around with terror; perhaps
Thirumal has gone to save him from yet another such
predicament,” retorted Nambi.

The fanatic Saiva replied: “Perhaps this fanatic ignoramus
does not remember how Vishnu’s pride was demolished
during the burning of Tripura?”
“Why do you argue like this? I don’t know! Why don’t
each of you worship the God to whom you are devoted?”
said Vandiya Devan.

It would be appropriate to explain to our readers at this
time, why the Saiva devotee and Azlvar-adiyan argued in
this fashion and why there was a similar wordy duel at
Veera-narayana-puram.

In the ancient Tamil land, for almost six hundred years,
(up till about the tenth century AD) the religions of
Buddhism and Jainism held prestigious sway. Because of
these religions, the Tamil land gained several advantages.
Sculpture, painting, poetry, literature and other such arts
were nurtured and developed. Emphasis was on Sanskrit.

Later the Azlvar’s (Vaishnava saints) and Nayanmar’s
(Saiva saints) appeared. They sang melodious poems —
devotional songs in nectar-sweet, divine Tamil. They
fostered and developed the Vaishnava (of Vishnu) and
Saiva (of Shiva) sects of Hinduism. Their preaching was
quite powerful. They utilized the power of art, sculpture
and music for their missionary work. Several others set
their songs to divine music and sang them. Those who
listened to these musical poems were enticed, enamored
and subject to fanatic devotion.

The Shiva and Vishnu temple-towns mentioned in such devotional songs acquired new merit and fresh holiness. Temples, which till then
were built with wood and brick, were renovated and rebuilt
with stone and sculpture. Such holy renovation-works
were undertaken even since Vijayala Chozla’s times by the
Chozla monarchs and members of their family as well as
other nobility.

At about the same time an important event occurred in the
Kerala nation. A great soul was born in the village of
Kaladi. At a very young age he gave up worldly pleasures
and became an ascetic. He studied all the sciences and
literature in the northern language (Sanskrit) and became
an expert. He then established the foundation for the
Advaita philosophy, based on the principles gained from
the Hindu scriptures – Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita
and Brahma Sutras because of his expertise in Sanskrit.

He, Sankara the Teacher, traveled all over the Indian subcontinent and established eight religious-seats for propagating Advaita philosophy. Ascetics who espoused his philosophy spread his word all over the country.
(Advaita meaning non-dual, advocates the non-dual nature
of existence; that God is only one; and that God and man
are one and the same.)

Thus, in the Tamil lands, during the times of our story
(tenth century AD) there was a great religious revival and
awakening. Certain harmful consequences, arising out of
this revival, also spread throughout the countryside.
Fanatic Shiva devotees and fanatic Vishnu devotees rose
here and there. They entered into fights wherever they met
each other. Sometimes, Advaita philosophers also entered
into these disputes. Wordy duels often turned into fistfights
and brawls.

There is an interesting story that reveals the extent of this
rivalry between the religious sects of those times. A man
from Srirangam, of the Vaishnava sect, was once walking
along the outer walls of the Shiva temple at Thiru-anaikava. Suddenly a stone hit his head. He was wounded and bleeding. The Vaishnava man looked up towards the sky.

He saw a crow sitting atop the old temple tower and
surmised that a piece of brick from the dilapidated spire
dislodged by the crow must have fallen on his head.
Immediately he forgot his wound and pain and became
quite delighted. He said, “Oh you devout Vaishnava crow
from Srirangam! Good that you are demolishing this Shiva
temple completely!”

In those days, this fanatic rivalry between the Vaishnavas
and Saivas was widespread. Knowing about this will be
very helpful to readers who may have the intention of
reading further chapters in this story.

When the boat reached the other shore, the Saiva
gentleman looked at Azlvar-adiyan and cursed him with
these words: “May you loose all prosperity and become
utterly destitute,” before he went on his way.

The footman from Kadamboor who had come with
Vandiya Devan went away towards the nearby village of
Thiru-panan-thal, saying that he would come back with a
mount for him. Azlvar-adiyan and Vandiya Devan sat
down under a large banyan tree on the river bank. Several
kinds of birds roosting in the thick, leafy branches of that
wide-spreading, large tree raised a pleasing musical sound.
Both of them, Devan and Nambi, tried to pry the secrets
from each other’s mouths. For a while they talked of this
and that in a round-about fashion.

“Well Thambi, you did go to Kadamboor without taking
me with you?”
“Even my entry into that fortress was fraught with great
difficulty, Mr. Nambi.”
“Is that so? How did you go in? Perhaps you did not go at
all?”
“I did enter. I did go in. If I make up my mind to do
something will I take a backward step? The gate-keepers
stopped me. I goaded my horse to gallop inside and all the
men obstructing my way fell away in confusion. Before
they could rise and surround me, my friend Kandamaran
came to my rescue and took me inside.”

“That’s what I thought. You are a very courageous fellow!
And then, what happened? Who else had come there?”
“All sorts of dignitaries had come. I do not know their
names. Lord Pazluvoor had come. His young bride had
also come. Dear me! How shall I describe the beauty of
that lady!”
“What? Did you see her?!”
“Yes. Why not? My friend Kandamaran took me to the
inner courts of the women. I saw her there. Amidst all
those women, the Young-Queen of Lord Pazluvoor was
the greatest beauty. Among all the dark-colored beauties,
that queen’s face shone like a radiant full-moon. All the
heavenly beauties: Ramba, Urvasi, Tilottama, Indrani,
Chandrani — all of them must be mentioned only after
her.”
“Dear me! You describe her with such rapture! Then, what
happened? Did you see the gypsy dance?”

“Yes. It was very captivating. I thought of you at that
time.”
“I was not fortunate to see it. What happened after that?”
“The velan attam (oracle-dance) took place. The `divineman’ and `divine-woman’ came upon the stage and danced
with frenzy.”

“Did the spirit manifest? Did they declare any oracle?”
“Oh, yes! `All endeavors will be achieved. The rains will
be good; the land will be bountiful,’ said the soothsayer.”
“Is that all?”
“He then said something about political affairs. I did not
listen to that carefully.”
“Dear, dear me! Is that so? You should have noticed
Thambi! You are a young man; you seem to be brave and
courageous. If anybody talks about political affairs at any
place, you should listen carefully.”

“You say the truth. I too felt the same thing this morning.”
“Why feel so in the morning?”
“This morning my friend Kandamaran and I talked all
along the way as we rode to the banks of the Kollidam. I
believe that after I had gone to bed last night, all the
dignitaries who were at Kadamboor convened a midnightmeeting to discuss some important political affairs.”
“What did they discuss about?”
“That, I do not know. Kandamaran said something in a
cryptic fashion but he did not explain clearly. He said that
some event was to take place very soon and that he would
explain at that time. All his statements were rather
mysterious. Why Sir! Do you know anything?”
“About what?”

“Everybody in the countryside and city is talking about it?
A comet can be seen in the skies and the empire may be
subject to some grave danger; there may be a change in the
Chozla monarchy; this and that … Such talk has been heard
even in the Thondai lands. Also, I believe that all sorts of
important officials meet together quite often, to discuss
about the `Rights to the succession’ of the Chozla throne.
What do you think? Who is likely to succeed to the
throne?”

“I don’t know anything about such matters. What
connection do I have with political affairs? I am a devout
Vaishnava; I am a slave to those who serve the Azlvar
saints; I sing the devotional songs that I know and go from
one holy place to the other.”
After uttering these words Azlvar-adiyan began singing the
following words:
I spied upon his golden presence;
I saw his divine grace.
Vandiya Devan interrupted him, “Let good fortune be
yours. Please stop this.”
“Dear me! You ask me to stop singing these divine Tamil
psalms!”
“Mr. Azlvar-adiyan Nambi! I have a suspicion. Shall I
disclose it?”
“Please do.”
“You will not come to beat me up with your woodenstaff?”
“You? Is it possible for me to hit you?”
“I think that all your devotion, your Vaishnava fanaticism,
your psalm singing — everything is one big deception. I
suspect it to be a big masquerade!”
“Oh! Oh! What talk is this? Offense! Abuse!”
“No offense and no forgiveness. You put on such guise to
hide your womanizing! I have seen some others like you:
who wander around with an obsession for womankind.
What you find in such women, that I do not know! I seem
to dislike any woman I see.
“Thambi, I too know of some men who are crazy about
women. But don’t mix me up with such fellows. I am not a
masquerader. Your suspicions are incorrect.”
“Then why did you ask me to deliver your note to the girl
who came in the palanquin? That too, how can you lose
your heart to a woman who is married to another? Did you
not want to come to Kadamboor mainly to see her? Don’t
deny it.”
“I won’t deny it. But your reasoning is not correct. There is
a much more appropriate justification. It is a long story.”
“My horse hasn’t arrived yet. Tell me that story. I can
listen.”
“By `story’ I do not mean an imaginary tale. It happened
truly. An astonishing account. You will be shocked if you
hear it. Do you want me to recount it?”
“If you would like to.”
“Alright. I shall tell you. I am in a great hurry to go
someplace else; nonetheless, I will tell you that story
before I go. I may need your help sometime later. You
won’t refuse it then, will you?”

“If it is justified I will help you. If you do not like it, don’t
tell me anything.”
“No. No. I must surely tell you the story. The young bride
of that demon, Lord Pazluvoor, the girl to whom I asked
you to carry a note, her name is Nandini. You will be
surprised if you hear what I have to say about Nandini.
You will wonder if there can be such atrocities in this
world.” With this preamble, Azlvar-adiyan started
narrating the story of Nandini.
Azlvar-adiyan Nambi was born in a village on the banks of
the River Vaigai, in the Pandiya Kingdom. All his family
were ardent Vaishnava devotees. One day, his father was
walking in the gardens along the river bank when he found
an orphan baby girl who was abandoned in the garden. He
brought the infant home.

Because the child was very attractive and beautiful, all the members of his family loved and nourished her. Since the child was found in a
garden (nandavan), they named her Nandini. Nambi,
considering her a younger sister, loved and cherished her.
As Nandini grew in years, her devotion to God Vishnu also
grew. All the people around them believed that she would
become another Andal (Vaishnava saint) to captivate all
their hearts.

Azlvar-adiyan believed it more than anyone else. After his father’s death, he took up the responsibility of raising that girl. The two of them travelled from one town to another, singing Vaishnava poems and spreading
the belief in devotion to Vishnu. People who heard
Nandini, wearing basil-leaf garlands and singing the
psalms of the Azlvar saints, were enchanted.
At one time Azlvar-adiyan had to go on a journey to Thiruvenkadam (Tirupati). His return was delayed. A mishap
occurred to Nandini.

The final great-battle between the Chozla and Pandiya
kings was fought near Madurai City. The Pandiya armies
were totally destroyed. King Veera-pandiya had fallen in
the battlefield with wounds all over his body. Some of his
personal servants found him: they tried to revive him and
save his life; they brought him away from the battlefield
and into the house of Nandini which was nearby. Nandini,
upon seeing the condition of the Pandiya king, was filled
with pity and she nursed him in the sickbed. However, the
Chozla soldiers soon found this out. They surrounded
Nandini’s house, entered inside and killed Veera-pandiya.
Lord Pazluvoor, captivated by the beauty of Nandini
whom he found there, imprisoned her and took her away
with him.

All this happened three years ago. After that Azlvar-adiyan
could not see Nandini at all. From that day, Azlvar-adiyan
was trying to meet and talk to Nandini. If she wished it, he
would free her and take her away. He had not succeeded in
that endeavor so far.
Upon hearing this tale, Vandiya Devan’s heart was
touched. For a second, he considered telling Nambi that
the person inside the covered palanquin in Kadamboor was
not Nandini; that it was Prince Madurandaka. Something
in his heart prevented him. Perhaps all this tale was the
fertile imagination of Azlvar-adiyan. Therefore, he did not
reveal the secrets he had learned at the Kadamboor
fortress. By now they could see the footman from
Kadamboor coming back, leading a horse.

“Thambi, will you do me one favor?” asked Azlvar-adiyan.
“How can I help you? Lord Pazluvoor is capable of
controlling all this Chozla Empire. I am a single fellow
with no powers. What can I do?” Vandiya Devan answered
him carefully. Later he asked, “Mr. Nambi, are you saying
that you do not know anything about political affairs? Can
you say who is eligible to succeed to the Chozla throne if
something happens to Sundara Chozla?” After saying this
he examined Nambi’s face eagerly to see if there was any
change in his expression. There was not an iota of change.
“What will I know of such matters, Thambi? Perhaps, if
you ask the Astrologer of Kudanthai, he may be able to tell
you something.”

“Oh? Is the Astrologer of Kudanthai that capable?”
“Very capable. He will make predictions based on
astrology; he will know your mind and explain the future.
He knows all the worldly activities and will base his
predictions accordingly.”
Vandiya Devan made up his mind to see the astrologer
before he went any further! From ancient times humanity
is fascinated in finding out about what will happen in its
future. Princes have this fascination; paupers have it too.
The most learned and knowledgeable have it; the foolish
and ignorant ones also do so. There is no surprise about the
fact that our youthful hero, Vandiya Devan, who was
travelling upon secret government affairs across cities and
nations, had such a fascination.

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