Mamallar and Manavanman were sitting in the upper storey of the Kanchi palace on a crystal platform under the canopy of a star-studded sky. An uncharacteristic quiet prevailed then in Kanchi, which was inhabited by lakhs of people. Mamallar viewed the city of Kanchi and then heaved a sigh. “This great city is peacefully asleep tonight. Tomorrow by this time, it would be buzzing with activity. The womenfolk would have started decorating the city. The soldiers would be getting ready to leave. Ah! No one will sleep tomorrow night!” said Mamallar.
“Pallavendra! Have you then decided to leave at the appointed hour even if the Pandian were not to reach Kanchi?” asked Manavanman. “Even if the sun were not to rise on Vijayadasami, I will not tarry. Didn’t you listen to what Rudrachariar said, Prince!” As Manavanman was not coronated as the King of Lanka, he was addressed as Prince. “Yes, I heard what Rudrachariar said. Pallavendra! Subsequently, I also met him one to one for an astrological consultation.”
“Oh! Is that so? What did Achariar say?” “His predictions were favourable.” “Is that so?” “He said that I will definitely ascend the throne of Lanka one day. He also said that I will face several obstacles and wage several wars before that.” Mamallar smilingly asked, “Is that all? Did he say anything else?” “He said that you would return victorious from Vatapi and that two princes would assist you in this task.”
Mamallar laughingly asked, “Who are the two princes in question?” “I posed the same question to Rudrachariar. He said that it was not possible to delve into such minute details in astrology,” said Manavanman. “My dear friend! I will tell you. You are one who is going to assist me in the Vatapi War even while remaining at Kanchi…” Even before Mamallar could complete what he was saying, the Lankan prince interrupted saying, “Pallavendra! Please heed my request. Since it is unclear when the Pandya Prince will arrive, is it not possible to take me along in his place? Do you expect me to lead a luxurious life at the Kanchi palace once you’ve left for the battlefield? Is this fair!”
“My dear friend! There is an overriding reason behind my refusal to take you to the battlefield; I have not divulged it thus far. Since you are adamant, I will tell you. If your life comes under threat at the battlefield, what will become of Lanka’s royal dynasty? Wouldn’t the man who unjustly captured your kingdom rule it forever? Manvanmarey[i]! Heirs to ruling dynasties must accord utmost importance to ensuring the continuance of their lineage. I have a son who will ensure the continuance of the Pallava Dynasty; you don’t. This is the key reason behind my prohibiting you from accompanying me to the battlefield,” said Mamallar.
Manavanman shot a meaningful smile and said, “Pallavendra! I am going to convey this to my wife, Suja, and squabble with her. Am I not being denied the opportunity of a lifetime as she has not yet produced an heir to the Lankan throne? It’s because of this; I’m unable to participate in the Vatapi War which will become a watershed event in the annals of world history?” He then stood up. “My friend! Please sit down. There is no rush to squabble with your wife. You may argue with her in leisure everyday after I leave for Vatapi,” said the Chakravarthy.
Manavanman sat once again and asked, “Prabhu! Isn’t it past midnight? No one is going to sleep tomorrow night. Shouldn’t you sleep at least tonight?” “Are you asking me to sleep? How can I sleep? It has been twelve years since I slept!” said Mamallar. “When Lakshmana[ii] went to the forest, it seems that his wife Urmila appropriated his sleep and slept day and night for fourteen years. Has someone appropriated your sleep in a similar manner?” asked Manavanman.
“Prince! It was also a maiden who appropriated my sleep. She did so without my consent. She seized my sleep and left. Ah! Even when that sculptor’s daughter lived closeby in her forest residence, she rendered me sleepless. Now when she is living a hundred kadu away in our enemy’s city, she ensures that I don’t sleep…” Mamallar who was speaking to Manavanman, suddenly looked up to the sky and started talking, “Sivakami! Why do you torment me thus? I strive all day to fulfill my promise to you. Won’t you let me sleep peacefully for sometime at least at night? Are you sitting at the Vatapi palace, with the lantern as your sole companion, and cursing me? Even if I sleep for sometime overcome by extreme fatigue, you torture me in my dreams. Sivakami, I have neither forgotten you nor my promise to you. You have been patient for so long; please be patient for some more time!”
When Mamallar looked up to the skies and spoke like one possessed, the Lankan Prince was petrified. “Pallavendra! What happened to you? Please compose yourself!” said Manavanman. “My friend! You’re asking me to compose myself! I wonder if I will ever be at peace during my lifetime. Manavanmarey! I committed a mistake ten years ago. I lost my mental balance listening to the enraged words of a helpless maiden. When the Commander and I went to Vatapi to fetch Sivakami, she stated that she had undertaken an oath and that she would not return with us. Then the Commander had said that we ought not to heed her words and that we should bring her back by force. I did not listen to him. For the last ten years, I have been recollecting that mistake and regretting.”
After speaking thus, Mamallar lapsed into silence and was immersed in thought. He then said, “Manavanmarey! I have been eagerly expecting the day we would embark on our Vatapi expedition. I have exercised immense effort to ensure that we leave for Vatapi at the earliest. But as the day of departure nears, I am apprehensive…!” “What? Are you apprehensive?” asked Manavanman in a tone that betrayed disbelief and wonder
“Yes! I am apprehensive. But the war and battlefield do not unnerve me. It’s the events that will occur once Pulikesi is killed and Vatapi is captured that scare me. Sivakami has been waiting for me for the last ten years after being imprisoned by our foes. Her love for me that blossomed in her child-like heart is still intact. But what is my situation? I have married and have fathered two children. How can I
face Sivakami? What can I tell her? Whenever I think of this, I am scared. I prefer dying in the battlefield!” “Pallavendra! If you were to die in the battlefield, what will become of me, who has sought refuge in you? Didn’t you promise me that you will ensure that I ascend the throne of Lanka? What will become of your promise?” asked Manavanman in a choked voice.
[i] Manvanmarey – The respectful way of addressing Manavanman
[ii] Lakshmana & Urmila – Characters in Ramayana