Volume 3 Chapter 6: Bikshu’s Message

On hearing the Emperor’s command, several people who were inside the tent exited. When the chief of spies and certain others hesitated to leave, Pulikesi looked at them and roared angrily, “Leave!” They too left the tent. Pulikesi looked at Gundodharan who was standing all by himself and asked him in a calm tone, “Who are you? Who sent you? Do you bear any confidential message?” “Yes Maha Prabhu! The Bikshu sent me. I have a message.” “Is that so? What is the message?” asked Pulikesi agitatedly as he leapt up from the throne. He then posed a volley of questions. “Tell me quickly! Where is the Bikshu? Is he well? Why didn’t he send any message all these days? What did he tell you?”

Gundodharan’s eyes were suddenly filled with tears. He said in a choked voice, “Satyacharya! My guru has been imprisoned at the Pallavan’s prison at Kanchi!” Hearing this, Pulikesi said, “Aha! How can I allow the bikshu to languish in a jail when I’m still alive? What a shame! Has Mahendra Pallavan become so vile that he imprisons ochre robe clad bikshus!” he fumed. He then asked, “Tell me everything in detail! How was the bikshu imprisoned? When did you see him? What message did he send through you?”

Gundodharan said, “I saw him a week ago on Friday. Mahendra Pallavan, who betrayed his religion and his guru, has imprisoned all the bikshus in the kingdom in an underground mandapam. It was there I saw the bikshu. King of Kings! Let me first state the message the bikshu had asked me to tell you. I was worried that some danger would befall me before I could meet you. Aha! Do you know how many dangers I faced during the last seven days? I will not even fear death once I convey my Guru’s message to you. I tried all ruses to meet you in person. When I realized that’s impossible to gain an audience with you, I intentionally got trapped by our soldiers who were coming here from Kanchi. Prabhu! The bikshu asked me to convey four important messages to you. Please listen to them.” With this introduction, Gundodharan sequentially stated the bikshu’s messages.

The first message was, “Don’t trust the Madurai Pandian”. Jayanta Varma Pandian had imprisoned the bikshu at Madurai. At that point of time, there were some confidential exchange of messages between Mahendra Varma Pallavan and Jayanta Varman. As the two of them may be engaged in treachery, the bikshu warned Pulikesi to exercise utmost caution in dealing with Jayanta Varman. He said that Pulikesi should not engage in any task relying solely on Jayanta Varman.

The second message was that it was the Ganga Nadu King Durvineethan who had exposed the bikshu to Mahendra Pallavan and had ensured that the bikshu was imprisoned in Kanchi. He had pretended to engage in a battle against the Pallavan to deceive Pulikesi and went into hiding with his army. If Pulikesi does not return to Vatapi, then Durvineethan’s son-in-law Vishnuvardhanan will be the undisputed Emperor of the Chalukya Empire. This is the Ganga Nadu King’s secret desire. The traitor Durvineethan ought to be punished appropriately at an opportune moment.

The third important message the bikshu wanted to convey was that he had come to know that Mahendra Pallavan had sent a manuscript containing baseless allegations to Harshavardhana Chakravarthy. Pulikesi ought to enquire into this matter and act suitably. Mahendra Pallavan can comfortably hide within the fort for a minimum of one year as he has accumulated so much food supplies. In this situation, one ought to deliberate whether it makes sense to continue with the siege or make another attempt to capture the fort through force.

The fourth message was the most important message sent by the bikshu! The Emperor of North India, Harshavardhanar, is extremely passionate about sculptures and paintings. In the Pallava Kingdom, there are several mandapams dedicated to sculpture and paintings. Mahendra Pallavan has created exquisite sculptures at Mamallapuram for the express purpose of showing these to Harshvardhanar. Should the Chalukya soldiers damage any of these sculptures, Mahendra Pallavan will use it to his advantage. The Chalukya dynasty will be subject to Harshavardhanar’s wrath. So Pulikesi ought to ensure that the Chalukya army does not harm the sculptors and sculptures of the Pallava Kingdom.

After conveying the four above-mentioned messages, Gundodharan said, “I have fulfilled the promise I had made to my Guru. I no longer fear for my life!” and started weeping.

When Pulikesi asked, “Why are you crying?” Gundodharan said, “Aiyya! Apparently Mahendra Pallavar has said that he will mount all the imprisoned Bikshus on impaling stakes the day the Vatapi army crosses the moat and enters the fort! The bikshu asked me not to tell you this. But my conscience did not permit me to hide this from you. I am unable to control my tears when I think that my Guru will be mounted on the impaling stake erected at one of the road junctions at Kanchi and will be pecked by crows and vultures!”

Pulikesi was immersed in deep thought for some time. He then asked Gundodharan, “How did you meet the bikshu? How did you leave the fort?” Gundodharan responded satisfactorily. He said that he had joined the Pallava spy force as advised by the bikshu. He was then deputed to interrogate the imprisoned bikshus and find clues. Fortunately, the task of delivering the message to the Pandian was assigned to him. He said that he had used a secret tunnel to exit the fort and that he had no intentions of delivering the message to the Pandian.

Pulikesi then asked him, “Will you be able to return and deliver a message to the bikshu?”

“Prabhu! I am not concerned even if my life is in danger on returning to Kanchi. I will go if you ask me to” said Gundodharan.

“Yes, you must definitely return. You must meet the bikshu in person and tell him that I myself will meet him at Kanchi in ten days. You must tell him that he ought not to lose heart no matter what happens and no matter what he hears about. You should also tell him that I will inform him of all the details in person. Will you be able to do this?” asked Pulikesi.

Gundodharan was truly taken aback when Pulikesi said that he would meet the bikshu in person in ten days. His face and eyes displayed the surprise that we had not observed before!

A week after this conversation had transpired the sentries at the southern gates of the Kanchi Fort were as astonished as Gundodharan was. The reason was that two unarmed envoys came on horsebacks to the entrance of the fort holding flags that bore the Varaha symbol and blew the horn they were carrying thrice. Their appearance and the manner in which they blew their horns indicated that they were Pulikesi’s envoys who had come seeking truce.

“Aha! What a miracle?! Is it the Vatapi Emperor who has sent envoys seeking truce? Is this real or a dream?” wondered the shocked sentries of the Kanchi Fort. This unbelievable news travelled at lightning speed and reached Mahendra Pallavar who was at ministers’ council.

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