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]

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