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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Episode 3/Chapter 21: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Chapter 21

The eclipse started at about nine thirty in the morning and lasted nearly two hours and fifteen minutes. The Sun went behind and there was gloom everywhere. People believed that Rahu and Kethu, the two ‘snake constellations’ were swallowing the Sun during eclipse and so the eclipse period was considered inauspicious. I waited for the eclipse to be over. When the Sun appeared again to signal the end of the eclipse, I was ready on the river to take a bath. There were priests waiting near the river bank, offering their services to those who wanted to perform ‘tarpan’ and these priests were usually offered a small ‘dakshina’ for their services. (Dakshina is a small fee paid to a priest). When I was about to finish my bath, Adhi Kesavan too came running to join me and pleaded with me to wait for him for the tarpan. We finished our bath, changed our dress and went into the mandap on the banks of the river. The mandap looked cleaner for that day’s ritual. We joined a small group of people who were about to begin their tarpan. When the tarpan got over and people started dispersing after offering their small dakshina to the priest, we too approached the priest to offer ours. As we neared the priest, I was aghast with what I saw.

There, where the priest was sitting, just from above his head, a beam of sunlight passed through the ceiling and fell exactly on the crown of his head. His head was completely shaved except for a small tuft at the back. He, probably, felt the heat of the sun rays on his head. For a moment he looked up, raising his right hand just below his eyebrows as a cover, squinted, murmured something to himself and moved a foot to his left. Where the sun rays fell on the floor, we saw a two by two foot stone slab fixed to the ground and on this stone slab, was cut a small sculpture of a Brahmin prostrating before the Sun. And the sun rays fell exactly on this stone.

I looked at Adhi Kesavan and he also noticed this. His face brightened like thousand Suns. We knew what it meant. We quickly went out to a secluded place along the river bank, to work out our strategy.


We allowed things to rest for a few days. Then, we chose a full moon day for our operations. When the village had gone to sleep, we slowly crept to the river side. During the intervening period, we had silently uprooted and cleared many bushes, for our easy passage to the mandap on the river side and we had also practiced moving through this passage even in darkness.

We went inside the mandap and located the small, two by two foot stone slab, cut with the sculpture of a Brahmin prostrating before the Sun, fixed to the ground. We had carried with us a chisel and a hammer besides a stick wound with cloth wig on one end to be used as a torch and a few other commonly available sundry items that we felt might be needed for our job. We chiseled along the edges of the stone slowly and steadily, but in the silence of the night, the noise was deafening. It appeared our forefathers were great engineers and they had far superior technology. The binding material was very strong and didn’t come out easily. We didn’t want to break the stone slab and make a shoddy show. We didn’t want people prying into our operations. Our bodies hurt, as we tried harder to separate the stone slab from the adjoining ones. It was past midnight and we hardly had two or three more hours at our disposal, as we knew most villagers would come out of their houses in the early morning hours to ease themselves in dark corners of the river side.

We tried and tried. We froze for some time when we suddenly heard the sound of a bullock cart moving on the roadside. ‘Would the farmer driving the cart have heard the noise of our chiseling?’ Probably not!

If he had, he would have responded with a loud shout. He ought to have been half asleep; the only sound that came from him was calling forth the bullocks ‘hei, hei’ to keep them on their track. From the distance, we heard the feeble sound of the bells tied to the neck of the bullocks. Nothing more!

Once the cart moved away, we continued our operations. Something crawled close to my legs and I jumped frightened. It could have been a snake, I didn’t know. Luckily no damage was done. My heart pumped feverishly and I breathed heavily.

‘Am I committing a mistake?’ I wondered for a moment.

Adhi Kesavan seemed to be stronger than what I originally thought. We were in the middle of peak summer and the air was damp. He was sweating profusely, as he concentrated on the job. I felt sorry that I couldn’t provide much physical help.

Suddenly, Adhi Kesavan raised his both hands jubilantly, signaling he had succeeded partially in disjointing the stone slab. It took some more time before he could completely remove it and we could touch the soil below it. With great urgency, we removed the subsoil. It went deeper and deeper until we hit with something.

‘Was it a lid of a box?’ We moved our hands slowly on the crest and tried to determine what it was. We avoided lighting the torch unless it became essential. After several minutes of inspection, it dawned on us that it could probably be a lid for something below. Could it be a trap door to a tunnel? It was made of metal. We tried to locate any bolt or handle, but there was none. We moved our fingers slowly along the edges and tried to lift it. It didn’t budge. We tried several times, but in the darkness we couldn’t find a way to open the door.

We noticed the wee hours lighting on the horizon and we knew soon people would be out of their homes. Feeling dejected, we hurriedly dumped the soil back into the pit, covered it with the stone slab and left the place.


“I am sure there would be a passage or tunnel below the trap door.” I told Adhi Kesavan. The map pointed towards such a possibility.

“Will it be accessible?”

“I don’t really know. But there are some issues involved.”

“Like what?”

“You know, if at all we locate something beneath the ground, whatever that be, we need proof that it was retrieved from such and such place. People want proof. Anything underground is government property and we can’t claim private ownership. Besides, people might say that whatever we found was a hoax. So, we need witnesses that we indeed recovered something from there. And that witness must be irrefutable.”

“So, what should we do?”

“I have an idea. People tend to believe anything that is Western. We don’t seem to trust our own abilities, heritage, and talents unless an Englishman or an American vouchsafes for it. Many good things about us need to be lauded from abroad, for us to recognize. Our self-esteem had fallen so low these days, thanks to our subservience to Mogul, Europeans and British for centuries. So, I am planning to write to one of my friends over there. He is a very trustworthy person. He is now in England.”

Adhi Kesavan was looking undecided and confused. Then I explained to him about my association with William who gave away all the money he received from the sale of his estates for the construction of dams in Papanasam area. I also told Adhi Kesavan about Jhia, the street gymnast and acrobat, who had since married William and was now in England. They were happily married, before William finally left India and they now had a daughter.

“What can William do?” Asked Adhi Kesavan.

“He has contacts there. He can arrange for a television crew who would film our entire operation as a witness. If we find anything, they will telecast it as a story and discovery. The whole world will know. Then our rulers will tread cautiously in dealing with the issue, whatever might come up. We may have some defense and protection. If something very valuable was found, I am sure we are bound for a long legal battle.” I told him.

He was still unsure, but nodded his head - may be due to his realization that after all he had no choice in this matter.


William’s mail arrived after a few weeks. It said he was trying to pull strings with a few influential people over there, to arrange for a TV team from a popular international television channel. He added that he needed to be extremely discreet about revealing details of our operations and that as soon as he succeeded, we would be intimated. He also wrote with pride that his daughter Dweepa had now picked up several words to speak and she had carefully learnt to pronounce my name too. The letter also said Jhia was very particular that Dweepa spoke Tamil too. Dweepa looked very cute and sweet in the photograph attached to the letter.

After a suspenseful wait for a month, his next mail arrived. Within the next couple of days, I was in Madras to receive the television crew. The crew arrived by a British Airways flight. We met at the airport and introduced each other. Welsch was a national broadcasting corporation’s reporter and he was accompanied by Donald, the cameraman. Welsch was once a cameraman too and so he too could cover the event if needed. We reached Ambasamudram by train, after changing over at Tirunelveli and they were put in a hotel that came nowhere near the standards they were used to. But they were quite accommodating and were excited about the work we were about to begin. I briefed them about what we might expect from our operations. I also briefed them about the legalities of the issue to the extent I knew.

Within the next couple of days, we left for Brahmadesam.

“Shall we hire a car?”I offered to Welsch and Donald.

“No, we shall use that…..” His fingers pointed out at the bicycles parked outside the judicial court complex. So, we hired bicycles from a cycle shop for a few days and we pedaled our way to Brahmadesam. It was hot during the day and we were sweating profusely. But the Englishmen seemed to be enjoying the hot weather and the cycle ride. A few onlookers wondered what we were up to.

I introduced Adhi Kesavan. Once again we briefly narrated the history of the place and the history of our apprehension about the possible evidence that might lie buried underneath somewhere that might entitle Adhi Kesavan to the ownership of properties that were endowed for public good several centuries ago. We reiterated our commitment that if such evidence was ever found during our operations, we intended to recover the properties and put them to good use benefitting people at large. We also explained that in our country many properties that rightfully belonged to several public trusts, temples, mutts or even peromboke lands belonging to the government had been usurped and that we had no personal agenda in the whole exercise.

Our entire conversation was video-graphed and recorded. We had to decide upon the timing for our operation.

“Do things that people least expect you to be doing,” said Welsch after inspecting the mandap. Initially, when the Englishmen arrived, the locals looked on with great curiosity. Many were eager to photograph themselves with the Englishmen. Donald liberally obliged them. Many villagers invited them to their simple houses for morning breakfasts that invariably happened to be some porridge made from cereals and vegetables. The Englishmen enjoyed their breakfasts. Donald was particularly very accommodating about the food, people and village atmosphere, though Welsch was much different.

“We have two choices. Either do it when everyone is asleep. Or do it during broad day light when no one bothers about us. Personally I would prefer the latter. That is during broad day light. The mandap and the riverside are deserted during the mid-afternoon. No one seems to notice anything. That is the ideal time. Besides, we may have better lighting, if we really have to go under the ground.” told Welsch.

We all agreed.

One fine afternoon, when Sun was at its peak, we went to the mandap. By now, many in the village had seen us together going around in bicycles, taking pictures, sitting at odd places, sleeping under the trees, doing nothing in particular and th villagers gradually learnt not to take us seriously.

We removed the stone slab and once again removed the earth beneath. We hit the lid. We examined the lid carefully in the broad day light. We found a small slot which could be used to lift the lid. We all tried, but it didn’t come off. The edges seemed to have been sealed with some kind of chemical and it stuck without budging. Where did they find such binding chemicals centuries ago? Or, had they become rusted and sticky over time?

“We might better bring in a welder to cut it open,” said Welsch.

“But the problem is  - the news would go out,” feared Adhi Kesavan

Undecided, we abandoned our operations for that day and we all returned back to our places.


That night, I had a severe stomach pain and I struggled for long to get sleep. When I finally slept, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw someone resembling Sudalai, the one who was in charge of cremation ground at Papanasam, laying his hand on the lid under the stone in the mandap and the lid coming off. I saw him stepping inside the opening and disappearing for long. I was jolted and woken up. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night, though my stomach pain disappeared mysteriously.

That day, there was a postcard for me from Papanasam and the sender was none other than Sudalai. Someone had written the letter on his instructions.

“Respected Sir,” thus began the letter. “I had served in the cremation ground for more than five decades and have now decided to take retirement. Burning dead bodies, day in and day out, all my emotions and feelings seem to have frozen. Now I want to go on a pilgrimage, to lighten my heart and I wish to see you before I proceed. My son Marimuthu, who started off helping the workshop people when the dams were under constructions near Papanasam, is now a professional welder and he has his own shop now. He has asked me to convey his enquiries and regards to you. I am coming to see you in a week’s time.”

What a coincidence!

‘Thank God! We now have our welder who we can trust to maintain discretion.’ I immediately dispatched Adhi Kesavan to Papanasam to find Sudalai and his son Marimuthu and bring them here.

When they arrived, I explained the job on hand and the need for secrecy.

“Probably, my first pilgrimage would begin under the ground inside the tunnel, if there is one,” Sudalai commented promptly. He continued saying, “If my guess is correct, the tunnel might lead us to the temple. I have heard people saying that in old days, the temples and palaces had secret exits under the ground through tunnels for the safety of kings and queens and also to bury valuables.”

Marimuthu went back to bring a complete welding set. We began our effort once again enthusiastically. Sudalai cut open the heavy lid. The strong hands of Sudalai and Marimuthu lifted the lid. They stepped back quickly to avoid the heavy dust and pungent fumes that came out of the opening.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Short Stories For Young Readers: For Personality Development - Book 1

I proudly announce my fifth book: Short Stories For Young Readers: For Personality Development - Book 1.

The book is available on

Avid readers, please let me know your comments after reading the book.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Episode 3/Chapter 20: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Chapter 20

We were sitting on the river bank and going over the map for the thousandth time. The map clearly indicated where we could look for the treasure, if there was any. The drawing showed a beam of bright sunlight passing through a small hole in the ceiling of a ‘mandap’. There was a tunnel shown beneath the ground where the sunlight fell and the tunnel ended against a stone wall. Was the treasure hidden behind this stone wall? We didn’t know. Which ’mandap’ was being referred to in the map? We couldn’t decide. There were at least two big ‘mandaps’ inside the temple – one was Navrathri Mandap where Poojas were done for the Devi – the Mother deity – as part of Navrathri Celebrations over nine nights sometime during September/October of every year and another ‘mandap’ supported by over hundred pillars. The latter was used to celebrate Arudhra Darshan. Many religious discourses too took place in this mandap. The roof terraces of these two mandaps were exposed to direct sun light. The long corridors called prahar that surrounded the sanctum sanctorum were exposed to the sky as well. Then, there were two smaller narrow stone mandaps outside the temple on both sides, of which one was adjoining the temple’s sacred tank. Probably these halls were meant for pilgrims to rest in earlier years, but now they were in a dilapidated state.

Then, there were two more mandaps closer to the river. We assumed that in those days, the one that sat right on the banks touching the river must have been used as boat jetty, for embarking and disembarking people and for loading and unloading goods. The other one must have been built as a dressing room for people after they took bath in the river, perform rituals for their ancestors or rest for a while. The yesteryears’ kings and rulers were very considerate to build various facilities and amenities for the benefit of common people.

We couldn’t determine which of these mandaps was referred to, in the map. So, we decided to systematically explore. Initially, we wanted to exclude the mandaps that were located inside the temple. We climbed onto the terrace during mid-afternoon, when the temple was usually closed and when no one seemed to notice anything. We searched inch by inch for gaping holes in the ceiling through which sunlight could pass and fall on the ground. We worked in turns and searched for several days, but we found nothing. We were getting tired. Then one day, it rained heavily and we ran to the temple. We explored every nook and corner to find out whether the rainwater poured through any hole from the ceiling. There were definitely openings in the roof, but not a drop of water was found on the ground.

A few months passed by.

We then decided to try our luck with the mini mandaps outside the temple. Here our search was much more embarrassing, as we had to do it in open where anyone could notice what we were doing. Adhi Kesavan’s ability to act like a lunatic came very handy and I was his rescuer going after him. We played ‘Catch the lunatic’ drama in open and used as much of our skill as possible and searched for holes in the ceiling.

Thank Lord Siva! We found two holes – one in each mandap. We climbed down enthusiastically, but alas, no light was passing through the holes and no light fell on the ground. We were terribly disappointed. We went to the mandap at different times on different days, but we never found sunlight passing through the holes and falling on the ground.

Another few months passed by.

We finally gave up and thought that probably, the mandaps closest to the river were the ones mentioned in the map. There were no provisions to climb to the terrace of these mandaps. The pillars of the mandaps were rugged, heavy and approach to these mandaps was full of thorny bushes. They had remained unused for long. We visited these mandaps several times and identified two clear large openings on each of them on their ceiling. We had a hunch feeling that probably we were very close to discovering the secret to the hidden treasure.

Over the next three or four months, we visited these mandaps every day to check whether sunlight passed through any of these openings to fall on the ground. Adhi Kesavan didn’t trust anyone easily and declined to seek additional outside help. But he trusted me completely. Strange it was! On occasions, I found myself looking stupid and foolish, many times embarrassed by piercing looks and sarcastic comments from known and unknown bystanders.

I had now become familiar with many at Brahmadesam. People had come to know me as the one associated with the building of check dams in the upper regions of Papanasam. They all showered their praise on me for my heroic efforts and I accepted them gracefully. Many had a curious look on their faces as to why a person like me should associate myself with a lunatic like Adhi Kesavan. Some dared to ask and others looked on.

Almost a year passed by at Brahmadesam without any real action. Physically, I was doing well except for some occasional abdominal pain I could not explain. One early morning, I was with Sri Kailasanathar at the temple. I was in the inner corridor. It was mostly dark except for the lamp lit near the main deity. I was praying intently. After some time, I opened my eyes and turned my head back towards the main entrance. I was blinded by the sight of the powerful thick beam of sunlight entering through the main tall entrance, dividing when passing through the graceful Nandhi, rejoining to light the inner corridor and then finally light up the Siva Lingam. Lord Sri Kailasanadhar was glowing in the light in the inner sanctorum. For a moment I lost myself merging with the light and reappearing. It was a moment of ecstasy. I was One with the Lord briefly, never wanting to be separate. It was a brief spiritual experience of Oneness and I felt rejuvenated.

When I came out, the priest of the temple met me near the entrance to the temple.

“Do you know that there is going to be a solar eclipse today?” He asked me.

I didn’t know.

“Today’s solar eclipse is going to be very unique as it is happening after nearly hundred years. The Sun will be in a unique location in its orbit today.”

“Oh, really!”

“People perform tarpan (rituals offering for forefathers) to keep the departed souls satisfied and happy and to seek their blessings. Why don’t you join the group at the riverside, to perform tarpan for your parents too?”

“Oh sure, if you say so!”

I didn’t realize that that day was going to be the turning point for us.

................ to be continued

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Episode 3/Chapter 19: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Chapter 19

Brahmadesam, or Chathurveda Mangalam or Brahmadhayam as the place was earlier known in history is a place where the renowned Chozha Emperor Raja Rajan had built a big temple for Lord Siva, during the late 10th century C.E and later expanded and renovated by Pandia, Chozha and Vijayanagara kings.

After several generations, sometime in the late 17th century, when the whole of Southern India was in trouble due to repeated invasions by the neighboring kingdoms, incursions by Muslim rulers, and internal feuds among the local rulers, Deva Vratan, one of the descendants of Arunan, who had carefully preserved all copper plates that proved his ownership, deposited them along with other valuables in his possession, in a box and hid it beneath the ground somewhere. He then put the keys for this vault along with a map that could provide a clue as to where his descendants could find the treasure and documents, in another small box and hid it underneath the sculpture of a deity in the main temple. This Deva Vratan could do clandestinely because he enjoyed the trust of the local priest at the temple whom he had been assisting every now and then. The priest had given him the keys of the temple on several occasions and thus, he didn’t have much difficulty in accomplishing his job, without raising any alarm or suspicion. It required some meticulous planning and he managed it. He then placed the small iron pin that could open this small box, along with a micro sized map, inside a talisman and tied it around the neck of his son. He then told his seven-year-old son young Sangamitran that at no cost, he should remove this talisman from his neck lest he would be incurably cursed. He then sent him away to Travancore, along with many other boys of his age, for their safety. During the incursions by a Muslim chieftain from Madurai, a number of villages were looted, Deva Vratan was killed and all charitable facilities sent to the flames in rage, when the invaders couldn’t lay their hands on any valuables.

Sangamitran grew up in Travancore and returned to Brahmadesam during the late 1800s. He still had the talisman tied to his neck, without any clue as to what it contained and he never dared to remove it for fear of the curse by his dead father. Back in Brahmadesam he met Kalyani Amma, one of the few survivors of the incursion. Kalyani Amma, now in her very old age, had earlier known Deva Vratan intimately and had vaguely guessed what the talisman could contain. She persuaded and convinced Sangamitran to break open the talisman, to see what it was inside. They broke open the talisman and found an iron pin inside, along with a very small canvas piece on which they found a drawing of an unusual map. They researched on the drawing and finally they concluded that the map in the drawing pointed towards the Siva temple in their village. They also believed that it might lead them to a clue about the vast properties that Deva Vratan was managing when he was alive and now non-existent. They somewhat understood the map, but couldn’t get into the temple to explore further.

In the meantime, Kalyani Amma died. Sangamitran married her surviving daughter Swarnalakshmi who was of unsound mind and they had a son Adhi Kesavan. After considerable trepidation, Sangamitran approached the local chieftain and sought his help, to explore further, about the map without revealing finer details. But the local chieftain was also a wicked person. He himself had come to possess a piece of copper plate that mentioned about some endowment of lands by a king Vishnu Deva Varma of Venad to one Arunan. He had come to possess this plate when he stole it from a palace in Venad, but never understood the significance of the inscriptions contained in the copper plate. But when Sangamitran approached him for help to retrieve some documents, he quickly made a connection to the copper plate in his own possession. In his own indiscretion, he showed it to Sangamitran who immediately sensed danger. Sangamitran dodged the chieftain and ran away with the plate the chieftain had. Sangamitran ran from place to place and spent his years in hiding, like a fugitive, to escape from the chieftain.

One day, Sangamitran did to his son Adi Kesavan what his father did to him. He kept the pin and the map inside another talisman and tied it around the neck of Adhi Kesavan, so no one would suspect. He bundled the copper plate in another cloth, gave it to Adhi Kesavan and told him that when he grew older he could open this bundle and see 
 what it contained. Until then, he was to keep the cloth bundle safely, even at the cost of his life, Adhi Kesavan was told. He then told his son to run away to another distant village where he could meet his not-so-close uncle, who could take care of him. Adhi Kesavan was only eight or nine but was very understanding. With a heavy heart, they parted ways.

In the meantime, Sangamitran and his wife were continuously chased. They too moved from place to place but knew that any day they would be caught. One day, when they were cornered by the chieftain the only escape route for them was across the dangerous deep waters of the river Tamirabarani and they boldly entered the waters. While trying to cross the river, he and his wife Meenakshi both were carried away by the current.

It is not known what transpired, but, Adhi Kesavan could never reach his uncle’s place. He grew up, incognito, elsewhere and as he grew up, he proved himself to be extremely intelligent and adroit. When he came of age, he broke open the talisman, found the pin and the map. He also opened the cloth bundle and after repeated readings, understood the message in the copper plate. Soon, he had decoded the map. Though he couldn’t comprehend the full implications, he realized that he was a custodian heir to some large properties. But to lay his hands on what lay underneath, he needed to enter the sanctum Sanctorum of the temple.

Fortunately for him, though the temple was almost a millennium old, it was not visited by many, deserted most of the time, hardly anyone noticed anything inside the temple. Even the poojas to the deity were not performed regularly for want of resources and sponsors. Strangely, even the locals seemed to be neglecting the historic temple. Many old timers had either died or shifted to other places.  The temple car was in a dilapidated condition and it was a few Ages before the temple car festival was ever performed. The temple was overdue for ‘Kumbabhishekam’ - the regular renovation that is carried out once every twelve years - and several twelve-year cycles had passed by, without any renovation.

The temple’s architecture was unique. As the Sun rose in the East every day, a strong beam of light from the Sun would pass through the fifty-or-so feet high main entrance, across the huge ‘Nandhi’ sitting majestically in the outer hall facing the main deity Lord Siva, into the inner hall in a straight line and then finally enter the inner sanctum Sanctorum, to illuminate the Lingam that represented Lord Siva. In the morning, the sunlight would fall on the Crown of the Lingam and as the sun rose in the sky, the illumination would slowly descend on the deity to lower areas of the Lingam only to finally fall at His lotus feet. How did they manage this unique construction almost thousand years back? Only Lord Siva knows!

One night, Adhi Kesavan disguised himself as the priest, managed to stay inside the temple overnight to explore where the map led him. In the virtual darkness, he carefully removed a couple of tiles from the floor as indicated in the map. It was a tough job, but he did it. Underneath, he found a small box that contained a key and a map. He believed that they could lead him to a bigger treasure. Carefully, he laid the floor tiles back and left the temple early next morning, without anyone noticing.

From that moment, without revealing his true identity, he discreetly researched further, made inquiries with many and concluded that his ancestors had been managing vast properties meant for public good. He started acting like someone who was mentally deranged and that helped him to say and do many things that people didn’t take seriously about. He was also able to get more and more information from many, unsuspectingly. However, he also surmised that quite a large part of what he heard from people were concocted stories passed on from generation to generation. From all hearsay and other circumstantial evidence he finally firmly believed that he was the legal heir to a vast property, but he had nothing to prove anything and he was stuck.

Thanks to Lord Siva’s water dam project in Papanasam wherein I got involved by His divine design, I had by now become quite well known to many. When I was drawn to Brahmadesam and when Adhi Kesavan met me, he seemed to know in advance that I was destined to arrive there. In fact, he was awaiting my arrival. When he placed all his trust in me and narrated his story, his confidence seemed to have suddenly spurted. He believed that I was going to help him in retrieving the properties.


I wouldn’t have acted solely on the basis of what Adhi Kesavan told me about the properties his ancestors owned and managed, but for a big display board that I happened to see in front of the Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli during one of my earlier visits. The board listed a number of people who were occupying the temple lands, buildings, and other properties, but had defaulted to pay the annual rent for several years. The arrears of rentals and charges that were due to the temple came to several hundred thousands of rupees. The list included people from all religions and it was obvious that misuse of temple properties was rampant. People occupied the temple properties without paying anything to the temple for several years. How many insiders in the temple were hand-in-glove with these defaulters, Lord Siva knows! When I read the notice board, I really felt perturbed that the Lord was being cheated and yet He remained a stone inside the temple. During those days, my focus was on the issues I had on hand at Papanasam and so I pushed aside all further thoughts about the list of defaulters to Lord Nellaiappar at Tirunelveli.

What if Adhi Kesavan claimed was true? I mulled over the question a lot before I finally decided to plunge further into this mystery.


....... to be continued......

Thursday, November 12, 2015

இன்னுமொரு பயணக் கட்டுரை - பகுதி 2


முதல் நாள் இரவில் நெல்லை ஜங்ஷனில் ஒரு லாட்ஜில் அறை எடுத்துக்கொண்டோம். இரண்டாம் நாள் அதிகாலையில் குளித்து முடித்துவிட்டு நேராக திருச்செந்தூர் செல்வதற்கு புறப்பட்டோம்.  பாளையங்கோட்டையைத் தாண்டுவதற்குள் என்னுடைய மாருதி 800-ன் இடது பின்சக்கர டயர் பங்க்சர் ஆகி விட்டது. எனக்கோ டயர் மாற்றத் தெரியாது. முயற்சியும் செய்ததில்லை. அதிகாலை வேளை. டயர் பங்க்சர் பார்ப்பவர் யாரும் கண்ணில் படவில்லை. ஒரு ஆட்டோ, டாக்சி, வேன் டிரைவர்கூட தென்படவில்லை. அரை மணி நேரம் அங்கும் இங்குமாக அலைந்ததுதான் மிச்சம். அதிர்ஷ்டவசமாக ஒரு வேன் எங்கள் பாதையில் வந்து கொண்டிருந்தது. அதை நிறுத்தி அதன் டிரைவரை டயர் மாற்றித் தருமாறு கேட்டுக்கொண்டேன். நல்லவராகத் தெரிந்தார். முகம் சுளிக்காமல் ஐந்தே நிமிடத்தில் மாற்றிக்கொடுத்தார். நாலு வழிப்பாதை மேம்பாலம் தாண்டியவுடன் ஒரு கிலோமீட்டர் தூரத்தில் டயர் பங்க்சர் பார்க்கும் கடை இருப்பதாகக் கூறினார். அவருடைய சிரமத்துக்காக பணம் கொடுத்தபோது வாங்க மறுத்துவிட்டார். ரொம்பவும் கட்டாயப்படுத்திய பின்பு வாங்கிக்கொண்டார். பணம், பணம் என்று அலையும் இந்த உலகில் இன்னும் இப்படி சிலர் இருக்கிறார்கள் என்பது ஆச்சரியமாகத்தான் இருந்தது. காரை ஓட்டிச்சென்று முதல் வேலையாக டயர் பங்சர் சரி செய்துகொண்டோம்.

இரண்டு நாள் முன்புதான் என் மனைவி மதுரையிலிருந்து திரும்பி வரும்பொழுது உடன் பயணம் செய்த ஒரு பெண்மணி மூலமாக ஒரு முக்கியமான தகவலைத் தெரிந்துகொண்டிருந்தாள். அந்தப் பெண்மணி கடைய நல்லூரில் வசிக்கும் அகில இந்திய அபங் பஜன் புகழ் ஸ்ரீ துக்காராம் கணபதி மஹராஜ் அவர்களின் துணைவியார். பார்ப்பதற்கு மிகவும் எளிமையான தோற்றம் கொண்டவர்கள். ஸ்ரீ துக்காராம்ஜி அபங் பக்தி பாடல்களைப் பாடி உள் நாட்டிலும் வெளி நாட்டிலும் மக்களை மகிழ்வித்தவர். அவர்களுடைய குழுவிலிருந்து எல்லோரும் நடையாகச் சென்று ஐப்பசி மாதம் ஏகாதசி அன்று திருச்செந்தூர் செல்லும் வழியில் அமைந்திருக்கும் விட்டலாபுரம் பண்டரி நாதரின் கோவிலில் பஜனை செய்வார்களாம். விட்டலாபுரம் பண்டரிநாதன் கோவிலைப் பற்றி நாங்கள் தெரிந்திருக்கவில்லை.  எங்கள் கார் டயர் பங்க்சர் பார்த்துக்கொண்டிருந்த நேரம்தான் அந்தக் குழு நடையாக பண்டரிநாதனின் பெயரை பாடிக்கொண்டு நடையாகச் எங்களை கடந்து சென்று கொண்டிருந்தது. எனக்கும் அந்த பண்டரிநாதனின் கோவிலுக்கு போக வேண்டும் என்று தோன்றியது.

பாளையங்கோட்டையைத் தாண்டினால் முதலில் வருவது க்ருஷ்ணாபுரம். அங்கே 18-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டில் திருநெல்வேலி பகுதிகளை ஆண்டு வந்த குமரப்ப க்ருஷ்ணப்ப நாயக்கர்கள் காலத்தில் கட்டப்பட்ட பழமையான ஒரு வெங்கடாசலபதி கோவில் இருக்கிறது. திருவேங்கடநாதர் என்பது மூலவரின் பெயர். இந்தக் கோவில் சிற்பங்களுக்கு பெயர் பெற்றது. பல நுண்ணிய வேலைப்பாடுகளுடன் ஒரே கல்லில் செதுக்கப்பட்ட ஆளுயர சிலைகள் இங்கே பல உள்ளன. கர்ணன், பீமன், தர்மர், கரும்பு வில்லை தாங்கி நிற்கும் மன்மதன், ரதி தேவி, வீரபத்ரர் போன்றவர்களின் முழு உருவ சிலைகள் அர்த்த மண்டபத்தில் பிரம்மாண்டமாக காட்சியளிக்கின்றன. சிலைகளைப் பாதுகாக்கும் பொருட்டு சிலைகளைச் சுற்றி வேலி அமைக்கப்பட்டிருந்தது. இன்னொரு சிறிய சிலையில் யானைக்கும் பசுவுக்கும் ஒரே தலை. ஒரு பக்கத்திலிருந்து பார்த்தால் யானை, மறு பக்கத்திலிருந்து பசு போல் தோற்றமளிக்கிறது. புராதன கோவில் கட்டிட, சிற்பக் கலையில் ஆர்வமுள்ள எல்லோரும் பார்க்க வேண்டிய கோவில். தை மாதம் கும்பாபிஷேகம் செய்யப்போவதாகச் சொன்னார்கள். ஆனால், அதற்குள் வேலைகள் முடிந்துவிடும் போல் தோன்றவில்லை. கும்பாபிஷேகத்துக்காக மூலவரை திரை போட்டு மூடியிருந்தார்கள். அதனால் உற்சவரை மட்டுமே தரிசனம் பண்ண முடிந்தது. புகைப்படங்கள் எடுக்க அனுமதியில்லை என்பதால் என்னால் புகைப்படங்கள் எடுக்க முடியவில்லை. பல முறை திருச்செந்தூர் சென்று வரும் வழியில் இந்தக் கோவிலில் தரிசனம் செய்ய முயற்சித்திருக்கிறேன். ஒவ்வொரு முறையும் நான் போகும் நேரத்தில் இந்தக் கோவில் நடை அடைத்திருந்தது. சுமார் 55 ஆண்டுகள் முன்பு பள்ளியில் படிக்கும்பொழுது இந்தக் கோவிலுக்கு போய் வந்ததில் மிகவும் சமாதானம்.

கிருஷ்ணாபுரத்திலிருந்து கொஞ்ச தூரம் தள்ளி வருவது செய்துங்கநல்லூர். அங்கிருந்து பிரிந்து செல்லும் ஒரு கிராமப்புற சாலை வழியாக சுமார் 3 கிலோ மீட்டர் தூரம் உள்ளே போனால் வருவது விட்டலாபுரம். பண்டரி நாதர் கோவிலுக்கு மிக அருகே எங்கு பார்த்தாலும் ஆடுகள் கூட்டம் கூட்டமாக சாலையை மறித்து உட்கார்ந்து கொண்டிருந்தன. காரின் ஹார்ன் கொடுத்தும் பயனில்லை. காரை விட்டு வெளியே இறங்கி அவைகளை விரட்டிய பிறகுதான் மேலே போக முடிந்தது. பெரிதுமில்லை, சிறிதுமில்லை என்பது மாதிரி ஒரு அருமையான கோவில்.  சுமார் 500 ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பு விஜயநகர சாம்ராஜ்யம் காலத்தில் கட்டப்பட்ட இந்த கோவில் தக்ஷிண பண்டரிபுரம் என்றழைக்கப்படுகிறது. ருக்மணி சத்யபாமா சமேத பாண்டுரங்கர் இங்கே காட்சியளிக்கிறார்.  விஜயநகர சாம்ராஜ்யத்தின் தளபதியான விட்டலராயர் திருவிதாங்கூர் பகுதிகளின் மீது படையெடுப்பதற்கு ஆயத்தம் செய்து கொண்டிருந்த சமயத்தில் பாண்டுரங்கர் அவரது கனவில் தோன்றியிருக்கிறார். பாண்டுரங்கரின் ஆணையின் படி செய்துங்கநல்லூருக்கு வந்து பொருணை நதிக் கரையில் (தாமிரபரணியின் இன்னொரு பெயர்) புதைக்கப்பட்டிருந்த பாண்டுரங்கரின் சிலையை கண்டெடுத்து நாட்டார்புரம் என்றழைக்கப்பட்ட ஊரில் (இன்று அதன் பெயர் விட்டலாபுரம்) அதை பரதிஷ்டை செய்தார் என்று இந்தக் கோவிலின் தலபுராணம் சொல்கிறது. விட்டலராயர் பின்பு தென்புறமாக கன்னியாக்குமரிக்கு அருகேயுள்ள சுசீந்திரம் நகரை வந்தடைந்திருக்கிறார். அங்கே திருவிதாங்கூர் மன்னருடன் போரின்றி ஒரு உடன்படிக்கை செய்துகொண்டு ஒப்பந்ததில் கிடைத்த எல்லா செல்வங்களையும் பாண்டுரங்கர் கோவிலின் பூஜைகளுக்காக ஒதுக்கிவிட்டு திரும்பிச் சென்று விட்டார். விட்டலாபுரம் கோவில் மிக அமைதியாக இருந்தது. சிறிய ஊர். கோவிலைச் சுற்றி வீடுகள். அமைதியான ஊர்.

விட்டலாபுரத்தில் பாண்டுரங்கனை தரிசித்துவிட்டு, நேராக திருச்செந்தூர் சென்றோம். திருச்செந்தூர் வளர்ந்துகொண்டே இருக்கிறது. கோவிலில் அன்று கூட்டமில்லாததால் நிம்மதியாக தரிசனம் செய்ய முடிந்தது. அன்று மாலைக்குள் பாப நாசம் செல்லவேண்டும் என்று திட்டமிட்டிருந்ததால் உடனேயே திரும்பி விட்டோம்.

மதியம் லாட்ஜில் சிறிது நேரம் ஓய்வெடுத்துக்கொண்டு, நெல்லையில் சில தின்பண்டங்களை வாங்கிக்கொண்டு பாபநாசம் கிளம்பும்பொழுது மாலை மணி 04.30. பேட்டையில் ஏதோ ஒரு பாலத்தை சரி செய்து கொண்டிருந்ததால் மாற்று வழியில் எல்லா வாகனங்களையும் திருப்பிக்கொண்டிருந்தார்கள். நாங்கள் அது தெரியாமல் ஏதோ சின்ன  சின்ன முடுக்குகள் வழியாக காரை எடுத்துச் சென்று ரொம்பவே சிரமப்பட்டுப் போனோம். பேட்டை தாண்டியும் பாதைகள் பல இடத்தில் குண்டும் குழியுமாக இருந்தது. எங்கேயும் வேகம் எடுக்க முடியவில்லை. கொஞ்சம் பாத சரியாக இருக்கிறதே என்று நினைத்து வேகம் எடுத்தால் எதிர்பாராமல் ஒரு பெரிய பள்ளமோ அல்லது ஒரு  வேகத்தடையோ எதிர்படும். மிகக் கவனமாக ஓட்டிச்செல்ல வேண்டியிருந்தது.

பாபநாசம் அருகே இன்னொரு பாலம் சரிசெய்துகொண்டிருக்கிறார்களாம். அதனால், அம்பாசமுத்திரத்திலிருந்து ஆம்பூர் பாதை வழியாகப் போகவேண்டும் என்று போர்டு வைத்திருந்தார்கள். சுற்று வழி. பாதையோ மிக மோசம். எப்பொழுது வேண்டுமானாலும் மழை பெய்யலாம்போல் இருந்தது. பாபநாசம் சென்றடைந்தபோது மணி 6.00. மழையும் பிடித்துக்கொண்டது. கோவிலில் எங்கள் பிரார்த்தனையை முடித்துக்கொண்டு கிளம்பும்பொழுது மழை பலமாகவே பெய்யத் தொடங்கியது. பல  இடங்களில் மின்சாரம் இல்லை. எங்கும் இருட்டு. ஆண்டவனைப் வேண்டிக்கொண்டு கிளம்பிவிட்டோம்.  வழியில் ஒரு சில இடங்களில் சிறிய பாலங்கள் உடைந்திருப்பதற்கான அறிகுறிகள் தென்பட்டன. எதைப் பற்றியும் யோசிக்காமல் வேகமாக பாபநாசத்திலிருந்து ஆம்பூர் வரை வண்டியை ஓட்டிக்கொண்டு வந்து விட்டேன். ஆம்பூர் வந்த பிறகுதான் மூச்சு வந்தது.

இரவு நேரத்தில் இப்பொழுதெல்லாம் வண்டி ஓட்டுவது மிகச் சிரமமாக இருக்கிறது. எதிரே வரும் மோட்டர்சைக்கிள், லாரி, கார் யாரும் ‘டிப்பரை’ பயன்படுத்துவதில்லை. கண்ணைக் கூச வைக்கும் வெளிச்சம். இடதுபுறமாக ரொம்ப ரிஸ்க் எடுத்துத்தான் ஓட்டவேண்டியிருக்கிறது.

மீண்டும் சொல்லத் தோன்றுகிறது. தமிழ்நாட்டில் எந்த பாதை போட்டாலும் ஒரு மழைக்கு மட்டும் தாங்கும்படியாகத்தான் பாதை போடுகிறார்கள். வாகனங்களை ஓட்டிசெல்பவர்களுக்கோ அல்லது பயணிகளுக்கோ எந்த வசதியும் அரசாங்கம் செய்துகொடுப்பதில்லை. அல்லது அப்படி செய்துகொடுக்கும் ஒன்றிரண்டு இடங்களையும் மக்கள் சரியாகப் பயன்படுத்துவதில்லை. அதிகாரிகளே வெறுத்துப்போய் பராமரிப்பதில் ஒரு பலனுமில்லை என்று விட்டுவிடுகிறார்கள். இந்தக் கதை பல்லாண்டுகளாக தமிழகத்தில் தொடர்ந்துகொண்டிருக்கிறது. என்ன சொல்ல?                                             ….. நிறைவு

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

இன்னுமொரு பயணக் கட்டுரை - திருநெல்வேலி - பகுதி 1


ஊர் சுற்றுவதற்கான இன்னொரு வாய்ப்பு கடந்த வாரம் என் தம்பியின் மூலமாகக் கிடைத்தது. அவன் குடும்பத்துடன் நானும் என் மனைவியும் கிளம்பி பாளையங்கோட்டையிலிருக்கும் எங்கள் குலதெய்வமான சாஸ்தா கோவிலுக்கு தரிசனத்துக்குச் சென்றோம்.

அங்கே தரிசனத்தை முடித்துக்கொண்டு நெல்லை டவுணில் காந்திமதி – நெல்லையப்பர் கோவிலுக்குச் சென்றோம். ஐப்பசி திருவிழாவை முன்னிட்டு கோவிலும் அதை சுற்றியிருக்கும் ரதவீதிகளும் கலகலப்பாக இருந்தன. கோவிலுக்குச் சொந்தமான இடத்தை ஒரு பெரிய தனியார் துணிக்கடை நிறுவனத்துக்கு வாடகைக்கு கொடுத்துவிட்டு, கோவிலுக்கு வருபவர்கள் தங்கள் வாகனங்களை ரோட்டிலேயே நிறுத்திக்கொள்ள வேண்டிய கட்டாயத்துக்கு தள்ளப்பட்டிருக்கிறார்கள். அது ஏன் என்று புரியவில்லை. (இல்லை, கொஞ்சம் புரிந்திருக்கிறது!) எனது வாகனத்தை  நான் வளர்ந்த அம்மன் சன்னிதித் தெருவில் ஏதோ ஒரு வீட்டு வாசலில் நிறுத்தி விட்டு கோவிலுக்குச் சென்றேன். இந்தக் குறுகியத் தெருவிலா பதினெட்டு ஆண்டுகள்  நான் வாழ்ந்திருக்கிறேன் என்று எனக்கே ஒரு ஆச்சரியம். தெருவில் இரண்டு பக்கமும் அங்கங்கே நிறுத்தப்பட்டிருந்த வாகனங்கள் தெருவை இன்னும் குறுக்கிக் காட்டின. ஒரு காலத்தில் மிக ரம்மியமாக இருந்த இந்த தெரு இன்று எங்கேயும் ‘கோடௌவுன்’களாக காட்சியளிக்கிறது. மனதுக்குள் ஒரு சங்கடம்.  அந்தக் காலத்தில் இந்த தெருவில் வளர்ந்த சிறுவர் சிறுமியர்கள் வாழ்க்கையில் வளர்ந்து எங்கெங்கோ குடியேறிப் போய்விட்டார்கள். தங்கள் பூர்வீக வீட்டையும் பலர் விற்றுவிட்டார்கள். தெருவை பெரும்பாலும் வியாபாரிகள் ஆக்ரமித்துக் கொண்டு விட்டார்கள். அவர்களை குற்றம் சொல்ல முடியாது. எல்லா ஊர்களிலும்  நடந்திருப்பதுதான் - முக்கியமான கோவிலைச் சுற்றியிருக்கும் வீடுகள் இன்று வியாபாரஸ்தலங்களாகத்தான் இருக்கின்றன -  நான் இப்பொழுதிருக்கும் தென்காசியையும் சேர்த்து.

மிகப் பிரம்மாண்டமான, பழமையான காந்திமதி – நெல்லையப்பர் கோவில் என்றும் போல் எனக்குப் பிரமிப்பைக் கொடுக்கிறது. எவ்வளவு பெரிய  கோபுரம், எவ்வளவு பெரிய தேர், எவ்வளவு பெரிய நிலை வாசல், தெப்பக்குளம், பிரகாரம், சிற்பங்கள், மண்டபங்கள், தூண்கள்….சொல்லிக்கொண்டே போகலாம் கோவிலின் அழகைப் பற்றியும் பிரம்மாண்டத்தைப் பற்றியும். சுவாமி சன்னிதிக்கு எதிரே இருக்கும் நந்தி ஒவ்வொரு ஆண்டும் ஒரு நெல் அளவு வளர்ந்துகொண்டிருக்கிறது. அது மட்டும் மேல் கூரையை தொட்டுவிட்டால் உலகமே அழிந்துவிடும் என்று ஒரு காலத்தில் கூறிய கதையை நம்பியவர்களில் நானும் ஒருவன். அதே சன்னிதிக்கு இடது புறத்தில் தாமிரசபை. நடராஜர் நாட்டிய கோலத்தில் இருக்கிற அவரது விக்ரஹம் முன்னே தரையில் வட்டமான திருகு போன்ற ஒரு கல் இருக்கிறது. சிறுவனாக இருக்கும்பொழுது ஏதேனும் காரியம்  நடக்குமா, நடக்காதா என்று தெரிந்துகொள்ளவேண்டுமானால் அங்கே சென்று நடராஜரிடம் ப்ரார்த்தனை செய்து கைகளை அந்தத் திருகுமேல் வைத்துக்கொள்ளவேண்டும். கை தானாக நகர்ந்தால் காரியம் நடக்கும் என்று  நம்பியவர்களில் நானும் ஒருவன்.

கீழரத வீதியில் சரஸ்வதி அம்மன் கோவில் இருக்கும் இடமே தெரியாத அளவு அதையொட்டி பெரிய கடை. ஒரு காலத்தில் இந்தக் கோவில் எங்கள் மூதாதையர்களில் ஒருவருக்குப் பாத்தியப்பட்டது என்று கேள்விப்பட்டிருக்கிறேன்.  அந்த இடத்தில் வெகு ஆண்டுகளாக எங்களுக்குத் தெரிந்த ஒருவர் பலசரக்குக் கடை வைத்திருந்தார். எதிரே மிக பிரபலமான மருத்துவர்களில் ஒருவராகிய டாக்டர் சந்திரசேகரின் மருத்துவ மனையிருந்தது. என் மிக நெருங்கிய பள்ளித் தோழன் ஆர். பாலுவின் வீடு பெரிய தேரையொட்டி இருந்தது. அவன் ஒரு கிரிக்கெட் பைத்தியம். கிரிக்கெட் போட்டிகள் நடக்கும் நாட்களில் ரேடியோவை விட்டு நகர மாட்டான். அவன் வீடு பூட்டிக் கிடந்தது. இன்று எங்கிருக்கிறான் என்று தகவல் இல்லை. அம்மன் சன்னதி தெரு முனையில் ஒரு சுக்குக் காஃபி கடை இருந்தது. அங்கே மிகச் சுவையான பக்கோடா கிடைக்கும். சுவாமி கோவிலுக்கு எதிர்புறம் ஒரு போத்தி ஹோட்டல். எப்பொழுதேனும் அவசரத் தேவையென்றால் போத்தி ஹோட்டல் சாம்பார்தான் எங்களுக்குக் கை கொடுத்திருக்கிறது. அதையொட்டி ஒரு கிராமஃபோன் கடை இருந்தது. இன்று அந்த இடத்தில் ஒரு பெரிய ரெஸ்டாரன்ட். மாறாதது லாலாவின் இருட்டுக் கடை அல்வாதான். என் தகப்பனார் அந்தக் கடைக்கு நிரந்தர வாடிக்கையாளர்.  அந்தக் கடையின் வாரிசுதாரர் இன்றும் எங்களை நன்கு ஞாபகம் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறார். நாங்கள் சென்ற அன்று கடை திறக்கவில்லை.

அம்மன் கோவிலுக்கு வலது புறம் மார்க்கெட். மார்க்கெட்டின் ஒரு முனையில் டீ.ஏ.எஸ் ரத்தினம் பட்டினம் மூக்குப் பொடி கடை இருந்தது. மார்க்கெட் கட்டிடத்தின் மேலே பொது நூலகம். இன்றும் இருக்கிறது என்று சொன்னார்கள். பள்ளி நாட்களில் இந்த நூலகத்தில் என்னை விரட்டியடிக்கும் வரை உட்கார்ந்து நூல்களைப் படித்திருக்கிறேன். என்னுடைய ஆரம்பகால அறிவுக்கோவில் அது. கார் ஓட்டிச் செல்லும்பொழுது சாஃப்டர் பள்ளியைக் கடந்தபோது என்னையறியாமல் என் கன்னத்தில் போட்டுக்கொண்டேன். அது என்னுடை பிரதான அறிவுக்கோவில்.  அந்தப் பள்ளியின் கண்டிப்பான தலைமையாசிரியர் மறைந்த திரு.ஜான் ஆசீர்வாதம், பல முறை உதை கொடுத்த கணக்கு ஆசிரியர் மறைந்த திரு.ஜெசுமணி இருவரும் என் ஞாபகத்துக்கு வந்தனர்.  கணக்குப் பாடத்தில் என்னுடைய முக்கியமான குரு. இரண்டாவது குரு என்னுடன் படித்த மாதவன் என்ற நண்பர்.

கீழரத வீதியில் சப்பாத்தி ஸ்டால், வாகையடி முக்கு எல்லாம் மாறிவிட்டன. எங்கு பார்த்தாலும் வாகனங்களின் கூட்டம்.

திருநெல்வேலிக்கு இந்த முறை போன போது என்னுள் மலர்ந்த நினைவுகளைப் பற்றியும் எண்ணங்களைப் பற்றியும் மட்டுமே இங்கு குறிப்பிட்டிருக்கிறேன். இன்னும் எவ்வளவோ சொல்லலாம். ஆனால், இப்பொழுது இல்லை.
                                                                                                பயணம் தொடரும்………….

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Episode 3/Chapter 18: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Having accomplished a very significant feat at Papanasam - helping the construction of several check dams across the Tamirabarani River to prevent future flash floods on the hill slopes - the narrator of the story leaves Papanasam towards his next destination, yet to be discovered by him. He only waits for the Lord's Guidance..............

Chapter 18

There were about thirty rulers in Venad, in Southern India during the period of 450 years between Ravi Varma Kulasekhara (AD 1249-1314) and Marthanda Varma of Travancore (1729-1758). Almost all of them were interested in building temples, endowing classical education, construction and maintenance of irrigation facilities and fostering internal and external trade and commerce.

Vishnu Deva Varma was one such ruler – not much remembered by many - during that period, as his regime was very brief. He was a pious and peace-loving ruler. Unlike many other rulers of his time, he never believed in polygamy. His wife, the Queen Chitra Devi was very devoted to him. After their marriage, she was struck by a very obscure disease and got crippled. However, she conceived and delivered a very beautiful baby girl. Unfortunately for them, though the baby girl was born healthy, within a couple of months of her birth, she too became crippled below her waist due to the same disease. The couple was shocked. Though Vishnu Deva Varma accepted the baby as a divine gift despite her physical handicap, Chitra Devi suffered psychologically. Some of the best ‘vaidya’s treated the Queen, but her physical condition didn’t improve. Chitra Devi died, even as the baby girl named Mathi (to denote her moon-like beautiful face) was growing up. Vishnu Deva Varma never remarried and assumed the role of both a mother and father for the growing little girl.

When Mathi attained puberty at her age twelve or so, Vishnu Deva Varma started looking for suitable boys to marry Mathi, as per the then local customs. Many were willing to marry his daughter, but only for her wealth and the kingdom. Vishnu knew this and didn’t trust the Ruler families who married several women. He never wanted his lovely daughter to remain as yet another woman in the backyards of the rulers or their wards. He tried in the far-off kingdoms and provinces too. However, the stigma of physical handicap stayed as a stumbling block.

Vishnu Deva Varma was a peaceful person and also very brave. He also owned a large army of very committed soldiers, besides a huge armory, weaponry, and elephant division. No one dared to attack his province. He had a tactical understanding with descendants of even far reaching rulers from Hoyshala, Pallava, Chalukya dynasties, that the neighboring local kings and chieftains never troubled him.

Once when one of the Pallava dynasty chieftains wanted to raise money for one of their incursions into some of their enemy territories Vishnu Deva Varma clandestinely helped him with gold in exchange for a large piece of landed-property in and around the river Tamirabarani. This transaction between them was well documented and Vishnu was more than happy to have acquired a lot of fertile land nearer to his province than to be burdened with having to protect the vast treasure of gold jewels and coins. Besides, there were frequent threats from some of the Muslim rulers of Northern India, who looted many kingdoms and temples for their valuable possessions. He established a number of colonies and provided endowments for a variety of charitable purposes.

One night, Lord Narayana appeared in his dreams and ordered him to donate a part of his kingdom to a noble Brahmin and entrust to him the responsibility of developing and maintaining the land for the common good, to benefit poor at large, in exchange for his willingness to marry Mathi and taking care of her for her lifetime. He was perplexed by the dream. Strangely, the very next day a Brahmin, Arunan living along the banks of the river Tamirabarani met him in his court. He was a vedic scholar. As though he had already read the mind of Vishnu Deva Varma, Arunan asked for his daughter in marriage and the marriage was quickly finalized. Vishnu Deva Varma gave his daughter Mathi to Arunan in marriage and along with his daughter, he also gave away large pieces of lands comprised in several villages along the banks of the river Tamirabarani, with the express condition that the property be used for the common good of the poor at large. He recorded this transaction and created ownership documents by way of several copper plate inscriptions, giving one copy to Arunan and retaining the other copy to himself. He also stipulated an additional condition that Arunan and every successive heir to Arunan should create similar
 documents to be passed on to the next generation so that the land be properly used for common good forever into the future and that no individual would ever have the personal right over the property for own benefits.

Arunan was a sincere person and he took care of Mathi very well. Times passed by and the land passed hands, generation after generation over the next several centuries. Gradually over time, the hold over the properties loosened and many started exploiting the land for personal benefits. Many usurped large chunks of this land during successive invasions by neighboring rulers, chieftains, Muslim, British and finally by our own rulers after Independence.

When I was drawn to Brahmadesam, a village close to the banks of Tamirabarani, Adhi Kesavan was one of the first to meet me. It looked as though our meeting was ordained. His physical appearance, attire, mannerism, and stammered speech all pointed that he might have lost his normal senses. He was holding one copper plate in his hand, keeping it very close to his bosom. He was very restless. He claimed that he was the owner of vast properties that should have been used for public good, but misused and enjoyed by many for personal gains. He alleged that many had looted his property, depriving benefits to a lot of local poor people.

Many in the village concluded that Adhi Kesavan was a lunatic not to be taken seriously. But, I decided to give him a patient hearing. My inner voice told me my next project was already tied with Adhi Kesavan.