Friday, September 05, 2014

Princess Tangal Part IV: The Brothers' Marriage

  • The first family of Ponnivala has just returned after a long exile in the mountains. Now, they return proudly with three children whereas before they has just one. Two young boys, hidden by the goddess of Ponnivala for five years, have just been handed over to them by this divine female, Celatta. She has tried to watch over them well and she has protected them from the ire of the family’s jealous cousins. Now their little sister Tangal has two companions, and at five years of age Celatta believes they are now old enough to look after themselves should the family’s clansmen try any new tricks! Their palace is a shambles but that is a small matter that can rapidly be attended to.

  • Oddly, although born with her two brothers, Tangal is still treated like a baby. She still lies in her lovely cradle and she is still carefully pampered and tended to both by her parents and by the household maids. Perhaps she is a goddess? Like Meenakshi, the famous deity in the great temple of Madurai not too far away, Tangal is persistently described with terms and poetic phrases used for babies. She is sung lullabies, she is fed and she is bathed. We are made to think of the famous “Pillai Tamil” poetry dedicated to Meenakshi herself. Perhaps a baby Meenakshi has been born here in Ponnivala?

  • Soon it is time for the twin boys to be given their own naming ceremony. Lord Vishnu himself descends to earth for this big event. At the family temple the goddess herself seats the two boys on her lap. Then Vishnu gives each one a name, whispering it in his ear three times. The twin born first is to be called Ponnar and the one born just afterward will be called Shankar. Tangal sits nearby, on her mother’s lap. Now, finally, her name makes sense! She is Tangal “the little sister,” and these are her two (elder) brothers. Together, their presence justifies her name. As is now expected, Tangal is the passive observer of this ritual event. She says nothing and does nothing as the ritual naming unfolds. She just sits in her mother’s arms.

  • This kind of gentle treatment is not what Tamarai practices with Tangal’s two brothers. These two, Ponnar and Shankar, are energetic and full of curiosity about their new surroundings. Soon, they ask their mother for a tour of the palace lands. Tamarai tells them there is a boy, just their age, whose job it is to escort them and to help them stay out of trouble at all times. His name is Shambuga. He is strong and mature for his age and he knows the surrounds well. She asks her two sons to go and find him.

  • Ponnar and Shankar set off at a run. What fun! They are to have their own assistant. The twins are eager to meet this boy-helper. Hopefully they will set off on new adventures with him at their side, just as soon as possible!

  • Well, those boy-focused adventures follow fast. Soon Ponnar are Shankar are riding bareback on Ponnivala’s two magical blue-black horses. They wave their small weapons bravely and have a lot of fun sailing across the lush green fields.

  • Years pass like this. There is a transition. The small boys who ride bareback become young men who ride decorated and well saddled horses.   

  • Now they carry adult weapons. They are strong. They are also skillful horsemen, thanks to Shambuga’s constant coaching and his martial arts training.

  • By contrast Tangal is always in the palace. She does eventually graduate from her lovely jeweled cradle, however. That resting spot becomes much too small. As a teenager Tangal spends much of her time sitting on a similar seat, one that also sways gently. This is her lovely palace swing. Tangal dreams a lot. What else does she have to do?

  • By the time the twin boys reach age sixteen their parents have become quite old. Tamarai begins to worry about her sons’ marriages. One day she calls them to her side and says she want to arrange for two brides and a fine joint wedding. But the brothers demur. They are busy with adventures and physical exploits. They are not interested in settling down with wives and starting their own families. But Tamarai insists and, finally, the sons stop resisting. But they have set one condition. They will never touch their wives, nor ever visit them after the wedding day. They want to be ascetic warriors who maintain their absolute purity and store up their sexual energy for use in fighting enemies!   

  • Finally the wedding day arrives. Tangal leaves for the ceremonial location with her parents and just one brother, Ponnar. The family, minus Shankar, travel in two lovely golden palanquins.

  • There she goes through the preliminary rituals with just one brother, Ponnar. These include a ritual that binds brother and sister and is intended to cause these two to look after one another long into the future. Shankar arrives at the last minute. The wedding is quickly finished and Shankar instantly departs. He doesn't want to be there in the presence of his bride a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.   

  • The two new brides are now escorted by Shambuga to their separate and quite small palace. Tangal will never see them again until after her two brothers die. She will never has the fun of having two sisters-in-law to talk. She had hoped for some girls she could play with in her huge empty home!

  • Next comes Tamarai and Kunnutaiya’s gentle death. Tangal mourns her two parents, who expire together. She knows she will be twice as lonely now that they have both departed. Her brothers are not much bothered by this event. Perhaps they are even silently pleased! Now they will become the two rulers of Ponnivala. Now they will have much more freedom to do what they like.

  • Now that Tangal’s two parents are dead she is lonelier than ever. She has only one tiny dog to keep her company.

  • When her brothers visit they do not stay long. They are always off to their private gaming room to play another game of dice!

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