King Kopcho And Poet Pisir - A Platonic Friendship From The Tamil Land...

In the ancient times of what is now Tamil Nadu in South India, there were three main kingdoms, Chola, Chera and Pandya. Somewhere in the Early Chola period, that is between 300 BCE and 200 BCE, there lived a Chola king called Kopperuncholan. Okay, forget trying to pronounce it, join the story. Lets call him Kopcho.

He was a patron of poets, as were many kings in the days of yore. The King was also a poet by his own right and is actually credited with some poems in the compiled poetry collections from those centuries, like the Pura-nanuru. Among his poet friends, there were a few who were noteworthy.
  1. Pottiyar, call him Pot.
  2. Pullarur Eyirriyanar, call him Eyir.
  3. Pisirandhaiyar, call him Pisir, the interesting character of this story.
(If you are wondering why the names end with "ar", they mean a suffix of respect in tamil names. Now, dont' call me Thoughtbublaar. )

King Kopcho was in continuous touch with these other poets across decades. They were all poetry lovers. Kopcho's fame grew far and wide and it also reached another empire, the Pandya empire, where Poet Pisir lived. The other two poets were from the same kingdom as the king, the Chola empire.

Pisir never travelled to meet the king in all those years as he lived far away. He collected anecdotes of the king's fame and heard from others of his glory. He wrote letters to the king and shared poetry with him. You know, this Penpal types of the earlier generation and EP-FB-online types of the current generation. Not just putting a thumbs-up for a Like, and BeRightBack in chat, they wrote serious, fantastic, poetry that defined the literature of their times and are worth their weight in gold even today for poetry lovers.

In his old age, King Kopcho, got into problems. His own sons turned against him and wanted to pluck away the kingdom from their father and plotted against him. Kopcho prepared for elaborate battle.

At this point, he meets Poet Eyir (S.No.2 from above). Eyir frequently advised the king on all important matters and king valued them. Now, chivalry, honour were important things in those days. Not the WTF attitude we have these days. Eyir had a different advice. He reasoned :

If the king won and the sons lost, the king will retain the kingdom but it won't have a heir.
If the sons won and the king lost, it will make the sons revel in their evil ways and not do good to the kingdom.

So, he advised the king to follow, what was called "Vadakiruthal", a form of slow public suicide of honour. (Not Vada, that delicious south indian dish). That way, the kingdom will have a heir, but in their victory, the sons would have lost the glory of it, people will know the truth and keep the sons in check at times and the king would die in honour. Vadakiruthal was a form of a suicide of honour practised in ancient Tamil cultures, where someone just sat, facing north and and fasted until death. Yeah, for days, weeks whatever, sit-no-eating, and either the hunger or the boredom will kill you, LoL. (Okay, don't ask why North and all, just say Umm..Umm.. and listen to the story).

Before he sits for his fast with the sword by his side, King Kopcho expresses his wish, How nice it would be, to meet Poet Pisir from the Pandya kingdom. He had not met him even once in all those years. They had only corresponded over Pmails. (Poetry Mail). His men send word to the poet, but they advise him, it's unlikely the poet will reach. These old poet folks can be crazy, they must have thought. The King was confident and strong. In Poem 215 of Purananuru, a famed collection, the King says in reply:

" the southern land of the Pandyan king, where they say Picirōn lives.
I cannot die without him.
He may have stayed away in good times but he will not fail me now.

True to his belief, and somewhat like the climax in the Bollywood movies, Pisir, after a great deal of time and effort, fatigue for his ripe age, arrives just in time on the North-facing site.(Okay, in Bollywood movies, he would have come with his 75-year-old wife after a peppy song by a 25-year-old girl in rural guest house on the way).

But, it's fantastic, he did make it. Everyone in the gathering hailed their platonic friendship as great. To the ecstatic shouts of "Long live the King's glory", he breathed his last. Soon after the king dies, another poet Pot (S.No.1 above in a guest appearance), unable to bear the grief, sits on the king's tombstones (you are right, facing north) and breathes his last too. In song 223 of the same collection he says :

You gave shade to many, the world praised you.
And yet you could not finish your reign but had to reduce yourself to this small space,
where you have become an undecaying stone.
And the other stones surely will be kind and give me space,
for I come to them with an old love
that holds me to them like life to the body.

Poetry can do great things. For all you know, all of them would have just been members of "I love poetry" group on EP. Okay, it's like some of these friends then meet up and join the group "I met an EP friend in real" group. Okay, thats enough, now don't join other groups like "I advised my friend to commit suicide" group, "I sat next to my friend when he did it" group, "I came back to EP as a ghost to write about my suicide" and such other crazy groups, there is a limit, you know. If anything, come up with something like that other rival story on Platonic friendship, the one of Damon and Pythias, that had a nice goodie ending.

Fellow Tamils: Vanakkam!, please don't be offended by the naming, digs and humour. I value Tamil culture greatly and read Tamil poetry. I just wanted to let know the glory of platonic friendship in a language that the global others can catch. I have a funny way to find humour in all the serious and glorious things, at times bordering on insensitivity, causing people to say "Not funny". I like honour and chivalry but only with humour and poetry, LoL.
thoughtbubble thoughtbubble
36-40, M
2 Responses Dec 16, 2012

I enjoyed that story and your fantastic narration :)

This really is a milestone for creative writers :) Wish I could also write in such a fantabulous manner.