Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part XIII: The Battle Ends

  • The great King Komban is dead. The two farmer-heroes have conquered their prey, using the giant boar spear the family has had for years. The huge weapon has pieced Komban’s heart. Shankar, the younger brother has ordered the boar cut into pieces and laid out in seven sacrificial servings.  

  • But as soon as this butchering complete and the pieces laid out on their ritual leaves, a stranger who claims he is a washerman happens on the scene. This man begs for a piece of boar meat for his pregnant wife. Ponnar, the elder brother, tries to be helpful but he tells the stranger he is just a little too late. All seven portions of boar meat have already been allocated. The washerman shrewdly notes that the boar’s head has not been included in these offerings and he asks if he may have that to take away with him. Ponnar sees no harm in this and tells the washerman he may have this “leftover” part.

  • The washerman proceeds to take the huge head with him, even though it is so big that he has trouble dragging it! What Ponnar didn’t realize was that this washerman is actually Lord Vishnu in disguise. For him to take the “head” of the great sacrifice is highly symbolic.

  • Shankar and Shambuga see what has happened from a distance. They begin to question Ponnar on his generosity towards this stranger.  

  • Shankar comments: “This is a bad omen. It means we shall soon have to give up our own heads!” But it is too late to do anything now. The washerman has disappeared!

  • What Ponnar and Shankar also do not know is that Lord Vishnu has just “switched sides” in this grand confrontation. Before the great Komban was killed he was supporting their struggles and helping them. Now he is leading the forest dwellers, the Vettuvas, into battle against them! The Vettuvas seem to appear out of nowhere, in one large wave.

  • Shankar sees this and orders the First Minister, Shambuga, to grab his brother’s sword. Shambuga is a far better fighter than Ponnar, and much stronger too.  

  • Ponnar watches as Shambuga takes a hold of that sharp weapon, substituting it for his normal fighting stick.

  • The Vettuva fighters are now appearing from everywhere, jumping off cliffs and out of trees too.

  • Shankar rushes forward bravely. He is ready for any challenge.

  • It would seem that the Vettuva’s traditional stick-weapon are no match for Shankar’s fine sword. Meanwhile Shambuga tackles another hunter. Again the weapons carried by the two fighters are unequally matched!

  • But the Vettuvas have a secret weapon of their own, Lord Vishnu!  

  • Shankar suddenly realizes who is leading this great mass of forest dwellers against him!

  • Angry and not thinking clearly, Shankar threatens the great god. He hollds his sword high and is about to strike.

  • But Lord Vishnu is too fast for Shankar. His magical power forces Shankar backwards. He falls awkwardly to the ground. He feels humbled and embarrassed by his actions.

  • Looking up he now has a vision. Lord Vishnu, here called Mayavar or the magician, reveals himself standing on a cliff. From his right hand there are hundreds of Vettuvas emerging, pop-pop.

  • Now Shankar understands where this great wave of warriors has come from and who has created this vision-illusion. Now Lord Vishnu speakers to Shankar: “Just fight a little bit longer. Bring Ponnar into the battle too. You both will not have to fight much longer!”

  • Ponnar now grabs his sword from Shambuga and enters the fray in his place. He kicks and fights, resisting the oncoming warriors with as much power as he can muster.

  • Shankar works hard too, He is already tired but he fights on valiantly, obediently following Lord Vishnu’s instructions.

  • Soon there are a number of Vettuvas lying on the ground around the two valiant brothers. They take this to be a sign that they have finished their task.

  • Shankar now speaks to Ponnar saying: “We are tired. The battle is over. Let us go and wash our swords in the nearby river before the blood has dried on them.”

  • The two brothers now approach the refreshing mountain stream that lies before them. Just as they are about to enter the cooling water they hear a rustling sound. The look around but see nothing. “All is well,” says Shankar. “Let us enter this lovely river together and wash ourselves up properly.”

[<==Back to Part 12]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part XII: The Beast is Conquered

  •  A war against King Komban, the huge wild boar, has now been declared. The decision has been taken and the great hunt for this beast is about to begin. The many strong and loyal men living in the hamlets of Ponnivala are ready with their fighting sticks.

  • The twin rulers’ assistant Shambuga has pitched the brothers’ war tent. It has been set up deep in the forest a long way from Ponnivala’s own lands.

  • The two warrior rulers, Ponnar and Shankar, arrive at their tent on horseback and are greeted by their men, including their key assistant, Shambuga. They are shown the hunting camp and the tent where they will stay.

  • Soon both brothers feel tired and they enter the tent and go to the very back to rest.  

  • But unseen by anyone, a curse now floats in from the forest and settles over the warriors’ humble resting place. It makes both men feel sick.

  • Shankar, the younger twin, is especially effected. He starts to sweat and feel dizzy.

  • He has to lie down. He feels really unwell and knows that he has lost all of his fighting strength.  

  • Shambuga, who acts as the two kings’ First Minister, has to take over. The brothers ask him to go a try to find the boar. Shambuga takes all of the village men with him. Together they creep up on the cave where King Komban is sleeping.

  • But Komban is very smart. He senses that the hunters are watching him. With a roar he wakes up, come out into the open and chases the entire hunting party! The men are afraid. They do not know the forest like Komban does! Soon the great beast has them cornered!

  • The result is horrific! Komban tramples on all of Ponnivala’s loyal field workers. He makes mango juice of them and all these fine men die! Only Shambuga survives. He has to return to his masters’ tent alone. There he explains the sad fate of all their fine supporters. What will the widows back in Ponnivala do now when none of their husbands return from this ill-fated hunt?

  • Ponnar and Shankar are distressed. They feel that Komban is a manifestation of the King of Death himself. What should they do now? They feel dishonored. Is it time to end their own lives? Just then they hear a song coming from the forest. Someone is walking there and singing the same of Lord Vishnu!

  • The two brothers send a messenger to greet this lone traveler. They invite him into their tent. He looks like a holy man and a fortune teller. They do not realize that this is a form of Lord Vishnu himself!

  • The holy man is carrying a palm leaf manuscript. Shankar describes his terrible plight and asks the odd visitor to tell his fortune. He chooses a page using a special tread the man hands him. The soothsayer then reads from this page. Shankar is totally shocked by what he hears! His sister Tangal’s tiny female dog laid this curse on him and his brother because he did not invite her to join them on their great hunting expedition. She is insulted and feels she should have been invited, along with all the male dogs belonging to the village fieldworkers. They got to go on the hunt but she was considered to be too small. To remedy the situation Shankar will have to apologize to this little pet and ask her to lift her curse!

  • Shankar sends his assistant Shambuga to talk to Tangal and explain the situation. He promises her that Shankar will apologize and asks her to find her little pet, named Ponnachi.

  • Tangal finds Ponnachi hiding in a little cave under some rocks, much like Komban, who is known to hide in a much larger cave. Tangal begs Ponnachi to lift her curse and then go to the hunting campsite with Shambuga to receive her apology. She agrees and she goes to the local temple to Celatta. With the help of this goddess the curse is lifted.

  • Then Ponnachi and Shambuga together find their way to the hunting camp. Shankar has now regained his full strength and he meets Ponnachi with some anger. The little dog apologizes for her actions.

  • Shankar then apologizes for his error in not inviting her to join the hunt earlier. Ponnachi is pleased. She now asks how she can help in the effort to find King Komban. Somehow this greatly reduced hunting party must now manage to conquer that beast on their own. Ponnachi has an idea. She asks the three men to climb up on a nearby rock with their great hunting spear. They are to wait there for further instructions.

  • Meanwhile Ponnachi sets out on her own to find Komban’s hiding place.

  • She succeeds in locating Komban but he immediately tries to intimidate her. He asks Ponnachi why she has come to see him and threatens to crush her with just one footstep.

  • When Komban continues to bully her she jumps on his head and chews off both Komban’s ears! Ponnachi herself has been earless from birth. Now she has made Komban look just like her! Komban is furious and starts to run.  

  • Ponnachi runs after him in hot pursuit and jumps onto his tail. She has poison in her teeth and that poison starts to weaken the great beast. She also uses his tail as a kind of steering wheel. She causes Komban to head straight for that high rock where Ponnar, Shankar and Shambuga are waiting. The poison causes Komban to stumble. He is very weak after losing both ears. Now he is suffering a further assault by such a tiny dog, a female at that! Ponnachi knows how to jump off Komban at just the right moment. Landing with a small jolt, she calls out to the two brothers: “Throw your great spear now!”

  • Shankar has the family spear ready. He thinks of Lord Vishnu and then throws it at Komban with all the force he can muster.

  • The throw is true. The spear travels straight for Komban’s heart. He rears up in one final cry: “Viratangal, Viratangal… save me!” Viratangal is the young and beautiful princess who lives in the forest and is the daughter of the powerful hunter king who lives there.

  • Viratangal lives in a lovely forest palace. Komban has been Viratangal’s pet for years. She has fed him and raised him lovingly. His assault on the beautiful fields of Ponnivala was Komban’s way of taking revenge on the two farmer kings. After all, they stole her family’s iron and also her family’s lovely female parrot!

  • Viratangal now hears the horrific cry that Komban makes as the great hunting spear penetrates his heart. “Oh, poor Komban!” Tangal cries. “You have died a terrible death at the hands of those farmers! I must do something to revenge this violent deed!”

  • Viratangal calls together all of her forest brothers. These men are experienced forest huntsmen. Their spears are sharp and they know how to throw their weapons true and straight! The brothers promise Viratangal that they will attack the two farmers. Now the real war, the great confrontation between a group of powerful forest tribesmen and a bunch of intrusive immigrant farmers who claim rights to the lands known as Ponnivala, begins in earnest.

[<==Back to Part 11]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part XI: The Great Hunt

  • Shankar, the younger of Ponnivala’s twin rulers, is angry. He has just been insulted by a huge wild boar. News has come to the palace that this great beast has just ripped up some of his finest fields.

  • Shankar and his brother Ponnar are listening to the news from the family flower gardener. This man has just run to the palace to report the boar’s rampage. He is covered with mud and is still shaking in terror. He is telling the twin kings this story:

  • “I was on my way to the fields for my morning round of flower picking but nothing was normal. Instead of fine sugarcane and lush, ripening paddy I saw devastation everywhere I looked. The tall stalks of cane had been ripped out and the dam holding back the water in the irrigation tank had broken. Clumps of roots lay everywhere and all our previous plants lay overturned in a sea of muddied water. Then I went to the palace flower garden. It was ruined too, but one tree was left standing. I climbed that to survey the damage. Just then a huge wild boar appeared beneath tree and started to bully me. He was far bigger than anything I have ever seen!”

  • “That boar told me to climb down and face him on the ground. I refused. So he struck the tree with his huge tusks. The tree broke into two and I went flying. I landed in the mud some distance away.”

  • That beast followed me. He ordered me to stand up and turn around so that he could see my back.

  • “Then he wrote a message in the mud that had stuck to me, using his right tusk. He addressed his words to you two, the great twin rulers of Ponnivala. I know this because he read it aloud to me. He has declared war and demanded that you both meet him in the forest within three days. He signed his letter ‘King Komban.’”

  • The brothers thank the gardener for the news, and for his bravery. Then they send him to rest and go straight to the palace courtyard to consult with their sister Tangal. Because she has special visionary powers, Tangal is not surprised by what her brothers tell her. She already suspected that something terrible was about to happen.

  • Tangal thinks for a moment and then tells her brothers that she wants to conduct a test. She asked them to follow her to the family’s Ganesh temple. She asks them to bring their swords. She also takes a moment to get ready. As they walk out of the palace together her brothers notice that she has carried with her a white cloth. She is also holding something clenched in the fist of her right hand. They don’t know what she is bringing with her.

  • Once the three siblings reach the temple, Tangal lays her white cloth on the ground. Then she opens up her clenched fist and shows her brothers what she has brought. There in the palm of her hand are a bunch of black peppercorns and equal number of mustard seeds. Tangal explains: “This is my test. I am going to throw these seeds in the air. I want you both to throw your swords. You must fling them upwards in such a way that they split every pepper forn and every mustard seed into two!”

  • Tangal proceeds to throw her handful of omens into the air. The two brothers follow suit and throw their swords upward with mighty thrusts. Soon the swords return to their owners hands. Meanwhile the mustard seeds fall back onto the white cloth.

  • Tangal then looks at the result. She makes a mental note of the fact that most of the seeds have indeed been split. But there are just two that remain uncut, one peppercorn and one mustard grain. She sees this because of her special powers of vision. Her brothers do not notice this detail.

  • Tangal is worried by the results of her test. She understands that the outcome is predicting the worst. Her brothers will never return from the war they plan to wage against the great King Komban. The split seeds indicate that many others will die. But the two un-split ones show that their own “heads” will remain intact but soon serve as seeds, seeds that will get “planted” and then serve to begin an entirely new era. Tangal’s beloved brothers and their lovely region known as Ponnivala, will be no more.

  • But Tangal is afraid to tell her brothers about the truth of her vision. She knows that they will not accept her words and her verdict. So she lies to them saying: “Dear brothers, all the seeds have been split in two. My test has determined that you will win this war and come home safely.”

  • The three siblings return to the palace. Shankar quickly calls his trusted assistant Shambuga and orders him to raise the family’s old war drum from its resting place at the bottom of Ponnivala’s great irrigation tank.

  • Shambuga does this. He cleans the drum and refits it with a fresh leather head. He even performs a short puja ceremony for it. He also readies the family’s huge boar hunting spear.

  • Meanwhile, Ponnar and Shankar proceed to their palace dressing room. There they put on their finest fighting silks.

  • They also perform a short puja worship for Lord Vishnu, asking for his blessings. And most important of all, they now put on their protective warrior chest threads.

  • Now Shambuga begins to beat the family’s great war drum. Its deep “tum, tum” sound can be heard throughout the kingdom.

  • The forest animals are startled and afraid. They jump and start to run wildly in all directions.  

  • The fieldworkers in the area, all of whom are loyal to their twin Ponnivala masters, know the meaning of this sound too. They prepare for a great hunt and assemble with their fighting sticks at a place reserved for just this purpose. It is called “Heron Valley.” They wait there for their leaders to arrive.

  • But Tangal is not quite ready to say goodbye to her brothers. She wants them both to take a palanquin ride around all the hamlets belonging to the kingdom of Ponnivala.

  • The twin brothers agree to this. As they pass by the homes of all their loyal supporters everyone stops to admire and bless them.

  • Then Tangal herself says her last goodbyes. She cries as she bids them farewell. She knows that she will never see her two dear brothers again.

  • Now that all is ready the two brothers prepare to leave. They mount their fine blue-black steeds at the front door of the palace. It is time for their departure!
[<==Back to Part 10]