Monday, August 18, 2014

Ponnar and Shankar Part VI: Tribute Paid

  • The twin rulers of Ponnivala have taken revenge on their clan cousins. These people forced their parents, then the rulers of this prosperous area, into exile some sixteen years ago. Now those predecessors are dead and their twin sons rule Ponnivala together. The younger of the two brothers has just spearheaded an act of revenge. As a result, the families of the original aggressors now find themselves in similar circumstances. The have been forced to leave their home village by these two young kings. They have no more with them than one ox cart and what they can carry on their backs (and heads). These desolate families are now making their way into Chola territory. They are walking East, following the lovely Kaveri river whose water flows in the same direction. Their hope is to meet the Chola king of Uriyur and to complain to him about their fate.

  • A few men who represent the larger refugee party, manage to gain an audience with the great Chola himself. After registering their complaint about the ill-treatment they cleverly ask the king if these men, the two Ponnivala rulers, have ever paid their taxes since their parents died.

  • The king calls his accountant over and asks him to check the record books. The king soon lerns that he has received none of the traditional tribute payments he expects. He is angry.

  • So the Chola sends off two envoys. Their job is to demand that the two Ponnivala rulers pay up, and fast! The men approach a shepherd as they enter Ponnivala territory. The bulls grazing there become nervous and start to paw the ground. They sense trouble from these approaching strangers.

  • The two bulls confront the new arrivals and threaten them. The shepherd tried to hold them pack with soothing words as he listens to the visitors’ explanation of the reason for their journey. While speaking they impolitely mention the names of the two kings, without giving them all the added honorific titles the shepherd knows that his masters expect.

  • The bulls grasp that the two rulers have just been insulted and the force the visitors to fall backwards onto the ground. The two envoys are intimidated and do not wich to continue their journey. Instead they leave the message with the shepherd about what their own master, the Chola king, is demanding.

  • The envoys declare that the Chola wants three things: A ploughing yoke (likely symbolizing human labour), a pot of curds likely symbolizing the bounty of Ponnivala’s fine cattle, and a golden measuring vessel (likely symbolizing the bounty of the region’s general harvest). All three are ways to indicate that these local Ponnivala rulers agree to express their subservience to the much grander and more powerful Chola monarch whose palace lies not too far to the East of their own find lands.

  • The Chola’s message makes its way to the Ponnivala palace via his envoys and then via the shepherd and finally with the help of a local maid. It reaches the twin men’s sister, Tangal, as she sits in her lovely palace swing. She asks the maid several questions, trying to understand the situation clearly. She is worried and immediately calls her two brothers.

  • The Ponnivala rulers are seated in the palace gaming room as usual. The maid enters and tells them both that their sister has summoned them. Anxious, Shankar jumps up immediately. His brother takes his time.

  • Shankar reaches his sister’s resting place first. He asks why he and his brother have been called. When he learns that the Chola king is demanding tribute he refuses his sister’s request to take care of this matter immediately. Shankar feels it would be an insult to kneel before the kings a present him with such humbling gifts. He stands firm in his proud refusal.

  • Tangal is upset. When her other brother, the mild tempered one arrives, she explains the situation to him. They must do something to placate this Chola monarch, their father’s main ally. They owe him tribute! Ponnar agrees to deliver the tribute right away, and in person.  

  • Ponnar calls Shambuga and asks him to bring his horse. He mounts this fine steed and then Shambuga hands him the ploughing yoke. He promises he will run behind and carry both the pot of curds and the measuring vessel.

  • The senior twin, Ponnar, and his loyal assistant Shambuga are soon on their way.

  • When the two men reach the front gate of the Chola’s palace they are met by a guard. “What business do you have with the king?” they ask. Ponnar explains that he has brought the required tribute and wants to present it to the king in person. The guard lets him pass while Shambuga waits for him outside.

  • Ponnar pays his respects to the king and addresses him in a suitably humble manner. He then lays the tribute before him. The great Chola accepts the payment but then thinks twice. He knows that the man before him is the gentler, elder Ponnivala twin. He wants the younger brother, Shankar, to lower himself before him. Shankar is the real problem, the subordinate local ruler who is too proud. To achieve his goal the Chola thinks of a scheme. He will put the older brother in jail. That will ensure that the younger one comes to pay him a visit!

  • The king’s guards drag Ponnar off to an empty jail cell and lock him up there.

  • Ponnar is left alone. He prays to Lord Vishnu and thinks of his sister. He worries about her welfare.

  • Meanwhile the lovely Tangal is having one of her prescient dreams. She has a vision that tells her fine elder brother Ponnar is sitting in the Chola’s jail. What will be do? She decides to call upon her proud younger brother Shankar. Surely he will want to rescue his own brother from such a terrible fate!

[<==Back to Part 5]

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