Category Archives: Chapter 2: Elephant Bridge

Volume 3 Chapter 2: Elephant Bridge

That year Kaveri and Kollidam were flooded by the end of Aani itself. When the Vatapi Emperor and his army reached the banks of Kollidam after traveling for two weeks, the river was in full flow with the water flowing over the banks.

Senthan Jayanta Varma Pandian had pitched his army camp on the opposite bank of Kollidam. Kadumbalur Madhava Kallapalan and the vassal king from Chera Nadu, Illancheralathan, had accompanied him.

The Pandian was enraged with the Pallavas as they had refused his proposal to get his sister married to Mamallar. A few days after the siege of the Kanchi Fort had begun; the Pandya army had reached the area between the Kaveri and Kollidam rivers. Those days Kadumbalur Madhava Kallapalan and Cheran Illancheralathan used to pay tribute to the Pandian. They too had accompanied the Pandya King with their small armies, as desired by him. During that period all the Tamil kings who ruled the area to the south of the Kollidam were inimical to the Pallavas. So Jayanta Varman along with the two vassal kings decided to join hands with Vatapi Emperor and settle scores with the Pallava Dynasty. However, Parthiba Cholan who had recently ascended the Uraiyur throne did not join hands with them. Though Parthiba Cholan also resented the Pallava supremacy, he was unwilling to align himself with the invaders from North India or to seek their assistance.

Didn’t we read in the previous chapters that the southern Chola Kingdom was under the reign of the Pallavas since the time of Mahendra Pallavar’s father, Simha Vishnu? Jayanta Varman had decided to annex the southern Chola Kingdom to the Pandya Kingdom.  

But, the citizens of the southern Chola kingdom opposed this. They were followers of Saivism for several generations. Ever since Mahendra Pallavar embraced Saivism under the influence of Thirunavukkarasar, the citizens of Chola Nadu became even more loyal to him. So the citizens of Chola Nadu disappointed Jayanta Varman by not according him an enthusiastic welcome. On account of this and also waiting on the banks of the Kollidam River for several months, Jayanta Varman was irritated. As the siege of the Kanchi Fort continued for a long time, his respect for the Vatapi Emperor had also waned. So despite being aware of Pulikesi’s arrival at the opposite bank of the Kollidam River, Jayanta Varman took no initiative to visit him. He sent a message to Pulikesi citing the flooded Kollidam River and the inadequate availability of boats to transport him and his retinue across the river as reasons for not meeting Pulikesi.

Pulikesi responded stating that he would build a bridge across the Kollidam River and cross the river to meet the Pandian. Hearing this, the Pandian was initially amused. He laughingly said, “How can a bridge be built across the Kollidam? What madness is this?!” 

But the following day, the Pandian saw an amazing sight while standing at his army camp. There was actually a bridge across the Kollidam River. It was no ordinary bridge. Elephants were standing across the river with wooden planks placed on their backs! Seeing this wondrous sight, the Pandya King regained his respect for the Vatapi Emperor.

When Pulikesi and key members of his retinue travelled across that bridge, the Pandian and his vassals welcomed him and accorded him the respect due to an Emperor.

The two kings conversed freely and were on extremely friendly terms for three days. They were in complete agreement that the Pallavas ought to be humbled. So they unanimously decided to  obliterate the Pallava Dynasty, annex the region up to Kanchi to the Pandya Kingdom and the region to the north of Kanchi to the Chalukya Kingdom.

When Jayanta Varman offered to march up to Kanchi along with his army, Pulikesi insisted that the honour of capturing Kanchi ought to solely rest with him. Pulikesi said that the Pandian could come to Kanchi once the Chalukyas capture the Kanchi Fort and it would suffice if Jayanta Varman sent food supplies to the Vatapi army. The Pandian agreed with Pulikesi and offered to send the food supplies he had accumulated for the Pandya army to the Chalukya army.