The book of vanci canto 24 summary
THE BOOK OF VANCI
I. Canto 24 to Canto 30 : The Subject-matter
Kannaki’s ascension to heaven was witnessed by some hill dwellers, who narrated the events to the king Cenkuttuvan who was camping at the bank of Periyar river. The famous poet Cattan was also present on the occasion and he told the king about the unfortunate series of events happened in the city of Maturai.
Cenkuttuvan asked his queen llanko Venmal, who told her that the woman, with one breast, who came to their country should be honoured as a Goddess. The king consulted his counsellor, who advised him that he should procure a stone either from Himalaya or Potiyil hills so that the image of the goddess could be engraved on it.
Cenkuttuvan wanted to go to Himalaya, for he had an ulterior motive. He heard that some Arya kings, namely Kanaka and Vijaya, had insulted the southern kings, and was determined to take the revenge to prove the power and strength of the southern kings. He crossed the river Ganga with his army and then with the support of his allies in the north helped him to win the battle with Arya kings including Vijaya and Kanaka.
He procured the stone from Himalaya and left it in the river Ganga, where Matalan arrived and informed him of the death of Kovalan’s and Kannaki’s mothers and the renunciation of their fathers. He also shared that Madhavi hurled herself into fire. Aiya, hearing about Kannaki and Kauvanti, starved to death and ultimately, Madhavi had also renounced her life as a courtesan and converted herself to a Buddhist nun.
Cenkuttuvan, putting the stone on the crowned head of his enemies brought it back to the city of Vanci, his capital, for the engraving of the goddess’image and the installation of the shrine of the goddess being named as Goddess Pattini. On the advice of Brahamana Matalan, Cenkuttuvan performed a huge religious sacrifice and ordered for the sacrificial festivity to continue. He even released all the captive Arya kings on the day the sacrifice was over and went to the temple of the goddess to offer prayer, along with the other kings, including the king of Ceylon.
II. Detailed Accounts of Each Canto in The Book of Vanci
[A] Canto 24 – The Round Dance of the Hill Dwellers
The first canto of the Vanci begins with the dwellers of the hill, giving an account of what they witnessed when they went to the mounlains to enjoy and play in waterfalls and springs. They encountered a woman with one breast, who looked like Valli (a goddess and a divine consort of god Murugan).
The woman whom they encountered was none other than Kannaki. She told them about the unhappy fate of hers that made her lose her husband on the day when fate also had the king of Maturai, along with the entire city, destined to burn to ashes. Upon hearing this the hill dwellers adored her with open hands and witnessed a miracle. They saw the gods raining flowers for Kannaki, and then in their very presence, those gods took Kannaki to heaven with her husband.
The hill dwellers decided that since they did not have a goddess, like Kannaki until then, they should worship Kannaki as their goddess. They asked the other people to sound the drums and blow the horns and honour the goddess Kannaki so that they will always have plenty to survive for in the mountains.
Then it was followed by the conversation between two girls: while praising the beautiful nature around, one invited the other to bathe in the waterfall that always seemed to sparkle like Indra’s bow.
“We see no reason to envy the fresh waters The swirl, bearing the flowers of his mountain With whom else, shall we play, friend, if not the fresh waters
The swirl, bearing the flowers of his mountain…..” She continued her speech saying that they would continue playing in the water till their eyes would turn red. Even she invited her to join in a round dance singing the praise of the spear that always would bring in death of demon. That spear looked bright and was held by the God who had six faces and twelve hands and would ride on a peacock, and it was he who had killed the demon in the form of the mango tree in the midst of the ocean.
The other girl replied to her friend that her mother thought she was possessed and therefore had called for a shaman so that she could get rid of her “illness”, which according to her (the first girl) had been caused by the man who came from cool mountain where grows peppercorns and it was not illness but due to some supernatural influence that she would remain ever lovesick for the man from the mountain. The friend continued praising the son of the God of Mount Kailash and his wife Valli, seeking their blessings of the love marriage with the man from the mountain.
“Son of the Lord of Mount Kailash! We adore Your feet red as asoka flowers and your wife, Valli, daughter of the mountainfolk, with a crescent, On her forehead, the colour of peacock,
We ask you to bless our love marriage with this man!”
She also expected that the man they wanted to get married with should talk about the marriage with the people. They could locate the man who was around and she went to him, touched his feet telling him that he came to the village with cadamba garland and spear, but he lacked peacock, Valli and broad shoulders, and therefore the villagers would not recognise him as the God who would hold spear and wears cadamba garland. This revelation made the man heartbroken and he left. The girls felt sad as they thought of the marriage.
The Canto ends with the girls dancing and singing in praise of the chaste woman, who burnt down the City of Maturai with her breast, and whom the God showed her husband and who was worshipped thereafter by people. And finally, they prayed for joy and prosperity to the King of the west county, who inscribed the emblem of his bow in the Himalayas.
“…May the king from the west Who ruled over the kolli Hills And inscribed bow embalmed on the Himalayas Live in endless joy in the days to come.” Note: It is a beautiful narrative description of the location along with exposure to social beliefs and practices. It also gives an opportunity to identify the glorification of purity and womanhood as well as womanly dreams.