Volume 3 Chapter 52: Bangle Seller

 

When Shatrugnan uttered the name Naganandi, those present were taken aback. Mamallar looked at Gundodharan as he exclaimed, “Ah! The bikshu? In that case, what Gundodharan said was not true!” “No, Prabhu! Gundodharan had stated the truth. The bikshu did visit Vengi enroute to Vatapi. Unfortunately he returned to Vatapi yesterday. It is now ten times more difficult to achieve our task on account of his arrival. If only we had come two days ago?…” said Shatrugnan.

“Did the bikshu return just yesterday? How did you come to know, Shatrugna!” enquired Commander Paranjyothi. “The entire city is talking about this, Commander! I gathered this from the people’s conversation. Wasn’t Pulikesi’s brother, Vishnuvardhanan, crowned as the King of Vengi last year? He probably ascended the throne at an inauspicious time; he died a few days ago. It seems Naganandi returned yesterday escorting Vishnuvardhanan’s wife and six month old infant son” said Shatrugnan. “The Pallavendrar’s prediction of the imminent destruction of the Chalukya Kingdom was not inaccurate. How did Vishnuvardhanan die?” asked Paranjyothi.

“Vishnuvardhanan was unable to complete annihilate the Vengi army. As advised by our Chakravarthy, the Vengi forces had retreated and hidden themselves in the forests on the banks of the Krishna and Godavari rivers. After Vishnuvardhanan was coronated, revolts broke out across the country. The soldiers in hiding used to unexpectedly attack. Vishnuvardhanan set forth proclaiming that he himself will quell the revolts. He was grievously injured in combat. The country revolted even more. Naganandi reached Vengi in this situation. He escorted Vishnuvardhanan’s wife and son to Vatapi. Prabhu, aren’t you aware that Vishnuvardhanan’s wife is Durvineethan’s daughter?” “Why do we have to worry about that, Shatrugna? You’re relating gossip instead of talking about the task in hand. Tell us what happened next!” said Mamallar.

“Sivakami Ammai, who was shocked seeing Naganandi Bikshu, soon regained composure and sat in the palanquin. I followed the palanquin for some distance.  The palanquin came to a halt at the entrance of a beautiful palace located in a quiet street.  Sivakami Ammai got down from the palanquin and entered that palace.  I stood at the street corner thinking what to do next. Then I walked to the entrance of the palace.  Two sentries were posted outside the palace. I asked them, “Does the danseuse from Kanchi reside here?” They responded, “Yes! Why are you asking?” I said, “I’m a bangle seller. I have brought beautiful bangles. I want to show it to Ammai”. They said, “No one is permitted to enter this house at night; you come tomorrow morning!” I gossiped with them for some time and gathered a lot of information. I gathered that Sivakami Ammai along with a lady in waiting and a cook resided in that house and that no one visited that house. Emperor Pulikesi had visited the palace just once and had asked Ammai to perform at the Royal Court. As Ammai had refused to do so, he punished her by forcing her to dance at the street junction daily. Hearing this, even I was furious. I left that place secretly cursing that cruel demon. When I reached the street corner, I observed a retinue of guards holding torches accompanying a palanquin. I hid behind the pillar of a house and observed who was coming. As I had expected, Naganandi Bikshu was seated in the palanquin…”

Hearing this, Mamallar gritted his teeth. Commander Paranjyothi interjected saying, “Shatrugna! Why are you unnecessarily lengthening your narrative? Did you meet Ammai and speak to her? Is there any news? Tell us about that!” Mamallar shot a slightly annoyed glance at Paranjyothi and asked, “Shatrugna! Don’t omit anything. Where did Naganandi go? To Sivakami’s house?” “Yes, Prabhu! He entered Ammai’s palace. He was there for a nazhigai and then left.  I strolled around that street then.  Once I approached one of the sentries and asked him if there was a rest house or market close by. It was then I observed Sivakami Ammai talking to the bikshu angrily. I was able to hear what she said so angrily. It gave me immense satisfaction…”

“Everyone here shares your sentiment!” said Gundodharan. “I slept peacefully in the night at a rest house in that street. Soon after dawn today I visited Ammai’s residence. Sivakami Ammai was shell-shocked seeing me. She sent the lady in waiting inside the palace on an errand and asked, “Shatrugna! What is this? Didn’t you go to Kanchi? Did you follow me here?”  I said, “No, ammani! I went to Kanchi and related your message to Mamallar. He has come; so has the commander!”

Hearing this, Ammai became excited and restless. She asked, “Where has the army camped?”  I informed her that the army had not marched to Vatapi, that the commander and Kannabiran had come along with Mamallar and that they were now at the foothills outside the fort. I told her that all of us would visit her tomorrow night which was a no moon night. I also told her that she should send away her lady in waiting on an errand and be prepared to come with us!” Saying this, Shatrugnan concluded his narrative. Mamallar asked, “Shatrugna! What did Sivakami say? Is there any news?” “There’s no news, Prabhu! Ammai did not speak much. She said that she would be waiting for us tomorrow night and gave me leave!” Hearing this, Mamallar was immersed in deep thought.

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