“Devi! This ancient Pallava Kingdom is extremely fortunate to have a virtuous woman like you seated on the throne! It is the fruit of my good deeds during my past several births that I have you for my consort!” When Mamallar spoke, his deep and firm voice choked. Vanamadevi felt goosebumps. Though she wanted to articulate her feelings, she was unable to. The Pallavendrar continued speaking.
“The beacon of the Pandyas! Heed me! You’re not just my Queen Consort but also the mother of Mahendra Kumaran, who will succeed me to this throne. You are the Chakravarthini who mesmerized the citizens of the Pallava Kingdom and won their allegiance in a moment. A few days after my father, Mahendrar’s death, the Ministers’ Council coronated me and seated me on the Pallava throne. You were seated on that very throne beside me. Our family guru, Rudrachariar, blessed us saying that the two of us seated on the throne was akin to Devendran and Indrani seated on the throne in heaven. Hearing this, the courtiers cheered enthusiastically. When the courtiers recollected that on your arrival there was a heavy downpour in Kanchi, where it had not rained for some time, they unanimously proclaimed that you were indeed Indrani. Tamil poets conferred the title Vanamadevi on you and sang verses eulogizing you. Since then courtiers and citizens have been proudly addressing you as Vanamadevi and Indrani. No one in this world has the right to make a lofty soul like you to abdicate the Pallava throne…”
Vanamadevi interrupted him asking, “Swami! Do I have a claim just to the Pallava throne and not your heart?” Mamallar was taken aback hearing this unanticipated question. He composed himself and told Vanamadevi affectionately, “Ah! You never broached this subject with me even once despite harbouring such a doubt in your mind for nine years. You exemplify what the unerring Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, said:
The virtuous who worships her spouse over the Creator
Gains such power to cause, at will, torrential rain.
Any other woman who harboured such a suspicion would have brought it up a hundred times with her husband everyday and would have made life hell for him!” “Prabhu! In that case, is what I heard in the palace and that which people spoke about across the country untrue? Is it my folly that I spent nine sleepless years fretting about this?” asked Vanamadevi slightly optimistically.
“Devi! Rumours are not devoid of a grain of truth. All what you heard about is not untrue. But it is an incident that occurred in my previous birth,” said Mamallar and was introspective for some time. He then heaved a deep sigh and said, “Yes! That occurred in my previous birth. It is a dream that has waned and disappeared. In my youth, when my life as Mahendra Pallavar’s only son was filled with joy and I was oblivious of sorrow, I fell in love with a sculptor’s daughter. I was ready to lay my body, soul, possessions and the glory of the Pallava Kingdom at her feet. But the day pride gained dominance over affection in her heart and she obstinately disregarded my tender words when I had travelled over a hundred kadu to rescue her, there was no place for her in my heart. Neither have I forgotten her; nor have I been able to forget her. The sole reason is that I have been unable to fulfill the promise I made to her. The spirit of Sivakami, who is residing is a far away land in our enemies’ fort, is perpetually tormenting me and robbing me of peace at daytime and sleep at night. The day I uphold my word by defeating the Chalukyas and freeing her and hand her over to her father; that day that unfeeling woman’s spirit will cease agonizing me. That very day, I will banish all memories of her from my heart. Then only thoughts of you, our children and the welfare of the Pallava Kingdom will prevail. Devi! Do you trust me? Or do you think that these are misleading words uttered by a worldly-wise man?” asked Mamallar.
That very instant, Vanamadevi stood up from the bed, prostrated before Mamallar and said, “Prabhu! I don’t distrust your words. Even if I were to observe that your behaviour contradicts your words, it is my eyes that I will fail to trust. I will not doubt you!” Mamallar dwelt for sometime on the difference between the Sivakami’s suspicion and pride laden love and the tranquil love expressed by the most virtuous of Pandya Nadu’s women. He returned to reality with a start, held Vanamadevi’s hands, seated her next to him on the bed and said:
“It’s good you brought up this subject now. You have removed a huge burden that was weighing on me. In return, I am handing over the major responsibility of overseeing this expansive empire to you and leaving. Though the Ministers’ Council will attend to the matters of the state during my absence, they will consult you for important matters and act accordingly. But, Devi! I am giving you the sole responsibility of performing an important task. You must promise me that you will fulfill that task.” When Mamallar said this, Vanamadevi was surprised and concerned. “Prabhu! If you believe that this helpless woman is capable of executing the task, please command me to do so. I consider it my fortune to execute your orders!”
“It’s an extremely important task! Your brother’ son Nedumaran, who left Madurai leading a large army, with the express intention of joining me in the Vatapi expedition has not reached Kanchi yet. He has sent me a message stating that he is staying at the banks of the Varaha River because he is unwell, that he would reach Kanchi in a week and that I ought to wait for him. It is impossible for me to delay this expedition. It is imperative for me to leave on the day which our dynasty’s guru has said is auspicious. Devi! I have received news that Nedumaran has fallen for the Samanars’ enticing words. You are aware that the Samanars’ are thirsting to settle scores with me. You must ensure that Nedumaran causes no harm when he reaches Kanchi.”
Mamallar had hardly finished talking when Vanamadevi majestically said, “Prabhu! You may leave without worrying about this matter. I will not allow the family in which I was born to harm you. If I come to know that Nedumaran harbours such evil thoughts, I will stab him with a dagger!” Mamallar smilingly said, “Don’t do that! Wouldn’t your tender hands that resemble the petals of a jasmine ache if you were to wield a dagger? Don’t wield the dagger. If the necessity arises, procure some effective poison from Namasivaya Vaidhyar, mix it with milk and give it to him!…But I don’t think such a necessity will arise. My suspicion may be unfounded. But it is essential for royalty to foresee such situations and take the necessary precautions, especially when one is embarking on an expedition to a faraway country!”
Mamallar had hardly stopped talking when a deafening noise that caused the palace walls to vibrate was heard. It was not possible to fathom whether the din which enveloped the bedroom chamber came from a far away place or from the core of the earth. It was not just the ears but the entire body that experienced the impact of that noise. Mamallar stood up with a start saying “Ah! It’s midnight! The war trumpet is being blown!”
The din from the trumpet that caused Mamallar to stand up with a start also brought before his eyes gory scenes from the battlefield. Gigantic war elephants resembling massive granite hills, combatted with each other letting out shrill cries. Hundreds of chariots moved at a pace that caused the earth to vibrate, clashed against each other and shattered into smithereens. When thousands of horsemen wielding spears rode on horses that travelled faster than wind to the centre of the battlefield and attacked each other, the sparkle of the spears was blinding. Lakhs of soldiers wielding sharp swords killed each other. The bloodshed in the battlefield resembled the flow of a large river. The lifeless corpses of elephants, horses and mutilated humans floated in the river of blood. Mamallar could also visualize the pride-filled face of a woman amidst this gruesome sight! Needless to mention, it was the face of the sculptor’s daughter, Sivakami.