Friday, August 15, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part V: Rebellion

  • Ponnar and Shankar are now married. This has given them a new social status and they are beginning to take over some of the leadership activities demanded of them by the people of Ponnivala. Shankar, the more assertive of the two usually takes the lead in giving advice and in making judgements when there is a local dispute. The people listen to him and admire this handsome young man. His brother is loyal and is generally supportive of his younger brother’s decisions.

  • The Ponnivala twins know that their parents are now quite elderly. One day they call the two young men into their Council Room for a chat. They intend to convey certain principles to their sons. This is their parents’ way of stating their final wishes, a spoken version of what we know as a “last will and testament.” Tamarai speaks first. She wants the two boys to take care of their sister Tangal. They are to always listen to her wishes, respect her visions of future events, and properly marry her to a fine groom when the time is right.

  • The boys’ father, Kunnutaiya, speaks next. He is concerned that his sons never take revenge for difficulties he and Tamarai have experienced in the past. He speaks about the two being gentle, kind and generous rulers. He is concerned that they put the welfare of their little kingdom of Ponnivala above all else.

  • The two boys take this set of parental instructions with respect. When the couple are done speaking they bow and touch their feet respectfully.  

  • Then they kneel and show their heartfelt respect. The sons’ gestures mean that they intend to follow out these important guidelines and behave like the rulers their parents wish them to be.

  • Very soon after this the lives of Kunnutaiya and Tamarai come to an end. Their spirits leave them gently and are carried upwards by Yeman, the god who deals with death. A proper funeral is conducted. It is now time for the two sons to take over the kingdom and rule it on their own.

  • Unfortunately the peaceful state of affairs the kingdom experienced while the Ponnivala twins’ parents were alive does not last long. Shankar and Ponnar soon begin to argue. Shankar wants to take revenge on the family clansmen who made life miserable for their parents years back. Ponnar feels this would be contrary to their parents’ last instructions but he has trouble arguing against his more forceful and aggressive brother Shankar.

  • One way the two brothers find to contest and vie with one another is through playing dice. This game of chance is ritually significant as the outcome of individual games plays a role in predicting the future.

  • Lord Vishnu sees that Shankar is often overcome by his aggressive feelings. So he puts an invisible shackle on one leg to prevent him from unexpectedly attacking his brother when a particular dice roll is not in his favor. He always wants to win!

  • The maids hear a lot of arguing. Sometimes there are sounds of commotion in the gaming room. They are worried.

  • Finally one day Shankar announces to his sister that he and his brother will be leaving on a short adventure trip. He does not explain to her where they are going and why. But his plan is clear to his brother, who has given up trying to resist. They will be going to seek revenge on their male cousins, the sons of the men who once sent their own parents into exile.

  • The two brothers dress in their battle finery and mount their blue-black horses. They each carry a fine sword. Shambuga, their loyal assistant, follows the two fast-running horses on foot. The two warriors make quite a sight as they run at full speed through several local villages. And just behind them comes Shambuga, the man who can always keep up!

  • The two Ponnivala warriors find their clansmen village easily and enter the local school there unannounced. Seated in the one-room shelter are their own kinsmen’s children.

  • Lord Vishnu follows the two heroes closely, in case they get into trouble. He now descends on his own bird-man vehicle from the skies above.  

  • Once he finds the school Vishnu takes on one of his favorite disguises. He makes himself nearly invisible by becoming a fly!

  • The two warriors, now in the school, at first behave respectfully. They greet the teacher there with folded hands. But their intentions are not nearly so gentle or kind!

  • Soon Shankar starts telling the young students how their own parents mistreated his parents long ago. His aggressive manner frightens these small boys.

  • Shankar tries to embarrass the students, making them do “toppu” knee bends before him while holding their earlobes. They know that this traditional gesture clownish submission is something only a bully would demand.

  • Soon the parents of the students notice the commotion and come running. Their fathers come running to their defense. But these men have been caught unawares and they are no match for the three intruders, especially when these aggressive visitors have Lord Vishnu’s magical protection on their side. The fathers soon submit. The Ponnivala twins order them to leave the village and take all their possessions with them. This is revenge for the time when they entered the Ponnivala palace some sixteen years earlier and sent the heroes’ own parents into exile. These men wanted to take over Poninvala’s land and saw their chance when they learned (mistakenly) that there were no males there to inherit it. They wanted to take over Ponnivala’s fine lands. Well, now they themselves would become refugees!

  • The unfortunate families of Ponnar and Shankar’s own cousins are forced to leave. They abandon their fine village and all its land. Taking only what possessions they can carry with them, these people set out to find the Chola king. They plan to complain to him about the terrible treatment they have received at the hands of their very own cousins.
[<==Back to Part 4]

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