The renowned city of Kanchi continued to be the joyous abode of Kalaimagal[i] and Thirumagal[ii], as it was during the times of Mahendra Varma Chakravarthy. Mansions flanked both sides of the wide streets of Kanchi and people thronged the streets. Bullock carts, horse-drawn chariots and palanquins borne by bearers moved in close proximity on the roads. Men and women adorned in fine silks and jewellery were strolling around the city.
Bells heralding prayer time and the sound of musical instruments were incessantly heard. Sounds of the Vedas being chanted in the Sanskrit seminaries and Navukkarasar’s divine Thevara[iii] Pasurams[iv] being chanted in the Tamil Saivite monasteries were heard. The sound of chisels being wielded at the sculpture studios and the tinkling of anklets at the Bharata Natyam mandapams was a pleasure to those who were passionate about the arts. Amidst the civilian population on the streets were seen warriors wielding daggers and shields. When these soldiers met, they greeted each other by crossing their swords. Wherever the soldiers met, the people congregated and cheered, “Long live, Mamallar!”, “Doom to Pulikesi!”, “Glory to Kanchi!” and “May Vatapi be ruined!”
Mamalla Chakravarthy’s chariot made its way through the vibrant streets of Kanchi and came to a halt in front of the famed Sanskrit seminary that Rudrachariar headed. Some of the teachers and students came outside and welcomed the Chakravarthy saying, “Jaya Vijayibhava[v]!” Mamallar and Manavanman entered the seminary. The seminary, which was the most renowned art school in Bharata Kandam that imparted training in all arts, was located in a massive building. Classes that taught various art forms were in progress in various mandapams that were supported by beautifully sculpted pillars. Students were learning Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Sama Veda in separate mandapams.
It was a well-known fact that scholars who had attained complete mastery of the Vedas and Agamas[vi] taught in the seminaries of Kanchi. Research of the shastras and epics was being carried out in separate mandapams. Students were undergoing training in Vyakarna Shastra[vii] in a mandapam. Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Bhagavath Gita were taught in two other mandapams. Students were enacting Kalidasa’s play ‘Shakuntala’ in yet another mandapam.
Mamallar and Manavanman continued walking, watching and listening these sights and sounds. The mandapam they finally reached was located at a corner and was pin drop silent. An extremely aged man was reclining in a cot placed at the centre of this mandapam. He sported a white, flowing beard that reached his belly. His hair was completely white. The aged man was the head of that reputed institution, Rudrachariar. Four teachers sat on the floor around his cot, listening to his explanation of the Taittiriya Upanishad[viii].
On seeing Mamallar’s arrival, they stopped the lesson mid-way, stood up and bowed to him and then went away. “Pallavendra! I have lost the strength to stand up and welcome you. Please forgive me. Aren’t you leaving on Vijayadasami?” asked Achariar[ix]. “All preparations have been made for our departure. But the Pandya Prince has not yet reached. He is staying at the banks of the Varaha River. It seems he has fallen ill!” “Prabhu! You ought to leave on Vijayadasami irrespective of whether the Pandian arrives or not. The planetary configuration that is to occur this Vijayadasami will recur only once in a thousand years. Ramabiran invaded Lanka on one such day.”
“In that case, won’t I return victorious, like Ramabiran?” asked Mamallar. “You will definitely return victorious. But, I will not be fortunate to see the sight.” “Gurudeva! Please don’t speak in this manner!” said Mamallar humbly. “So what? Even if I were to leave this world and reach heaven, I will not be able to forget Kanchi and this seminary. Mamallar! I will bring your father, Mahendra Chakravarthy, along and stand above this seminary on the day you return from Vatapi. Both of us will shower you with the parijatham[x] flowers found in Deva Loka[xi] and welcome you.” When Rudrachariar said this, tears filled Mamallar’s eyes.