The Simha[i] Flag
Sivakami shed copious tears and sobbed when she saw the lifeless Kannabiran, on whom a deathly calm had descended. “Amma! No matter how long you mourn and weep, Kannan is not going to rise from the dead. This is the nature of war. Kannabiran was not the only one who lost his life. Like him, thousands of warriors have lost their lives. Please come with me; the fire has reached the vicinity of this house,” said Paranjyothi.
Sivakami looked at him with tear filled eyes and sobbed, “Commander! I wrote to you requesting you not to proceed with this war!” “Yes, amma! I too exercised great effort. Just when my efforts were about to fructify, that fake bikshu came and spoilt everything. How can we prevent it if the city of Vatapi is fated to be destroyed?”
“Aiyya! Why do you blame fate? This sinner[ii] is responsible for everything. Long ago, you and he had stubbornly insisted that I accompany you. I foolishly refused to do so…” “Amma! Several things could have turned out differently. Of what use it to dwell on the past now? Please leave. Mamallar and your father are eagerly awaiting your arrival.” “Commander! How can I face him? I cannot bring myself to do so. I will stay here and give up my life. Please tell him that I had apologized to him a thousand times!” Even as Sivakami was speaking in this manner, a loud sound was heard at the entrance.
Shortly thereafter, Mamallar entered the palace. Aayanar followed him. Paranjyothi exclaimed aloud, “Ah! He himself has come!” He muttered to himself, “With this, my responsibility is over!” When Sivakami heard the words, “He himself has come!” she felt goosebumps. She raised her lowered head and looked towards the entrance. For a split second, Mamallar’s eyes and Sivakami’s eyes met. Unable to control her emotions, Sivakami lowered her head again. Her stomach churned and she felt so choked that she felt breathless and was unable to cry. She then felt so dazed that she did not comprehend what transpired around her. She regained consciousness hearing her father cry, “Ah! Is that Kannabiran? Aiyyo!” “Yes, it is indeed Kannan! It is the Kannan, who was desirous of liberating Kamali’s friend, seating her in the chariot and bringing her back, who is now dead stabbed by a venomous dagger at his chest! Aayanar! Ask your daughter if her oath has been fulfilled! Isn’t she at peace now? Ask her, Aayanar! Ask her!” Mamallar’s words had the impact of drops of molten lead being poured into Sivakami’s ears. Hadn’t she heard him utter such affection-filled nectarine words in the past? Now the very same person was mouthing such cruel words. She wondered, “Ah! Was it to hear these words that I patiently safeguarded my life during the last nine years?”
Mamallar’s harsh words also made Paranjyothi extremely sorrowful. When he started saying, “Chakaravarthy! Sivakami Ammai is extremely dejected…” Mamallar interrupted saying, “Why does Sivakami have to feel dejected? All her desires have been fulfilled. Hasn’t her oath been upheld? If she is doubtful, she can see for herself when she is travelling down the streets. She can derive joy by seeing the houses on fire, corpses accumulated on the streets and people running around shrieking. Respected sculptor Aayanar! Please take your daughter along and leave immediately!” Sivakami’s heart was shattered to a thousand smithereens; she felt dizzy. Then Aayanar went to her and said in a gentle voice, “My child! Don’t you recognize me?” Sivakami called out, “Appa!” as embraced him and sobbed.
Ever since Commander Paranjyothi had entered Vatapi at dawn, Mamallar’s agitation grew by the minute. He felt that his remaining idle outside the fort when some grave danger may befall Sivakami was a big blunder. He was unable to remain outside the fort when he received news from Manavanmar that Emperor Pulikesi was not found in the palace. He took Aayanar along and entered the city of Vatapi. He resolved that he would speak to Sivakami affectionately when he met her. But seeing Kannabiran, for whom he had immense affection and regard, dead, his heart hardened. That was the reason for his uttering such harsh words.
While Aayanar and Sivakami travelled in the chariot, Mamallar and Paranjyothi followed them on horseback. Paranjyothi related in detail all that had transpired ever since he had reached the entrance of Sivakami’s palace, in deference to Mamallar’s command. As the Chakaravarthy heard Paranjyothi’s account, he became more and more furious. Hadn’t Naganandi said that he had tried to kill Sivakami to protect her from further agony? Mamallar’s conscience acknowledged the truth in that statement. His fury increased multi-fold.
Sivakami rested her head on her father’s shoulder as they rode in the chariot and witnessed the gory sight at the streets of Vatapi. Sometimes she closed her eyes unable to witness such sights. Though she was able to close her eyes, she was unable to close her ears. The sounds of houses burning in the inferno, the strong gust of wind blowing, children shrieking, women wailing, the Pallava soldiers chasing their foes and the slogans of victory filled her ears and caused her to open her eyes and look around. In this situation, Mamallar rode up to the chariot once. Sivakami looked at him in the face.
But Mamallar did not look in her direction. He pointedly looked at Aayanar and said, “Respected sculptor! We may take another month to leave this place. If you so desire, I can send you and your daughter to Kanchi with adequate security. Apparently Naganandi Bikshu had said that he would like to take you and your daughter to Ajantha. If you wish to visit Ajantha, you may do so!”
Even amidst the horrific aftermath of war and all the difficulties he had faced, Aayanar was tempted when he heard the word ‘Ajantha’.. Aayanar was still unaware that Paranjyothi had ascertained the secret of the Ajantha dyes from Naganandi. So he turned to Sivakami and asked, “Amma! What is your preference? Do you wish to go to Kanchi or Ajantha?” That moment Sivakami’s heart became harder than a diamond. “Appa! I wish to go neither to Kanchi nor to Vatapi. Please ask the Pallava Kumarar to mercifully wield his sword at my chest and dispatch me to Yama Puri[iii]. Please ask him to render this assistance for old times sake!” After speaking thus, Sivakami again fell unconscious in Aayanar’s lap.
Mamallar turned around and reached Paranjyothi’s side. He felt slightly at peace after having directed such cruel words at Sivakami. “My friend! Do you see Pulikesi’s perfidious Jayasthambam there? We have today fulfilled the vow we had made nine years ago standing by that pillar. Please arrange to demolish that perfidious pillar and erect the Pallava army’s Jayasthambam in its place. May the Pallava army hoist the flag of victory atop the new Jayasthambam! To commemorate this momentous victory, the ‘Simha’ insignia ought to replace the ‘Rishabha’ insignia in our flag and our awards!” commanded Mamallar.