Book Excerpt: ‘Varaha’s Vengeance’ by Arun Krishnan

Book Title: Varaha’s Vengeance: The Battle of Vathapi
Author: Arun Krishnan
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Number of Pages: 408
ISBN: 978-9356999855
Date Published: Feb. 16, 2024
Price: INR 378

Varahas Vengeance by Arun Krishnan Book Cover

Book Excerpt

Chapter 3, page 24

Commander Satyaki spoke up.

‘We aren’t here to lay the blame on anyone. It looks like we have all been caught napping by the Pallavas. Perhaps the long years of peace had dulled our senses. Be that as it may, the question that needs to be addressed is about our future course of action. Should we take this lying down?’

There were resounding shouts of ‘NO’ from all in the hall. A satisfied Satyaki smiled and said, ‘I knew that would be your reaction. After all, you folks have had a lot more to lose over the last few months. However, this is not just a matter of concern for you, but for the Chalukya empire as well. Classic war strategy says that the way you go after a larger adversary is to nibble at the edges of their empire. Well, guess what? You men are the edges, and you are being nibbled at and that concerns us.’

It was Srivikrama who spoke up first, probably because he had been the one most impacted as evidenced by the loss of the two forts.

‘We need your help in taking back our forts. I think that should be the first step. That will show them that you mean business, Your Majesty,’ he said, addressing Pulikeshi.

‘Taking those forts is a minor issue for Your Majesty’s forces,’ said Tribhuvana. ‘I think Manavamma’s support to the Raja of Korkai is a bigger issue. It can cut off that southern part from our friend Jayanthavarman here and also prove a major headache for me. Both of us might not be able to offer any assistance in case Your Majesty needs it.’

‘I agree, Your Majesty,’ Jayanthavarman chimed in.

‘Of course you would,’ interjected Srivikrama, his eyes flashing in anger. ‘It suits you both, doesn’t it? The real pressure on the Chalukya empire would come from those nearest to Vathapi and that is my kingdom. I am the one who has lost two forts!’

Jayanthavarman bristled. ‘Well, that is your own fault, isn’t it? You should have paid more attention to your kingdom’s security.’

‘You are one to speak. You didn’t even know that your own brother was plotting against you!’ retorted Srivikrama.

‘Gentlemen, gentlemen,’ chided Pulikeshi softly. ‘This is not the time for recriminations or for fighting amongst ourselves. I know that you are all facing pressures in your respective kingdoms, as am I, in mine.’

‘Anna,’ said a voice softly. Pulikeshi turned to look at his brother, who had not spoken a word till then.

‘Yes, Tamma …?’

‘I think all of them have a point. We cannot tackle these issues one at a time since that would simply allow our enemy to concentrate their forces and attention in one area. We need to figure out a way to hit them across multiple fronts at the same time. We heard Commander Satyaki say that war strategy dictates that the way to defeat a rival is to nibble at the edges of their empire. They have been nibbling at ours. Why don’t we return the favour? After all, the edges of our empire are near the edges of their empire as well!’

Pulikeshi smiled as he looked around the room. ‘Now you know why I asked my younger brother to join us for this meeting. What do you suggest, Tamma?’

‘Let us look at it logically. We have way more allies than Narasimhavarman and the Pallavas have. I mean, who do they really have as allies? The Raja of Korkai is down south and is not capable of defeating our Pandya friends. While Jayanthavarman’s brother Nedumaran has raised the banner of revolt, he is surely not in a position to challenge him for the throne. As for the two forts, they are mere pinpricks for us, and we can take them back anytime we want. So, all said and done, the Pallavas don’t really have any major allies, except …’

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‘… the Banas at Parivipura,’ finished Pulikeshi.

‘The Banas at Parivipura,’ agreed Kubja.

Commander Satyaki stroked his chin as he mused aloud. ‘So, what I am hearing you say, Your Highness, is that we need to hit the Banas so that the Pallava attention is diverted from mischief-making among our allies to try and protect their one friend?’

‘Partly,’ said Kubja. ‘I didn’t say we focus just on the Banas. Along with the Banas, we also focus on all the other pinpricks that we have had over the last few months.’

‘A multi-pronged thrust …’ said Tribhuvana, his face lighting up with joy.

‘Precisely, Your Majesty,’ said the king of Vengi.

‘How would you go about doing it, Kubja?’ asked Pulikeshi.

‘Well, Anna, what if we were to attack the Banas from the east, and you send a detachment of troops from the west? We will grind the Banas to dust between our two forces. In the meantime, you can also send a smaller force to help Srivikrama avaru recapture the forts. I would suggest that we also think of some sort of a feint that pulls the Pallavas out of position and confuses them about our real intentions.’
Pulikeshi stroked his moustache as he pondered the ramifications of such an approach. A small frown furrowed his brow. Presently, his face cleared, and he said, ‘That sounds like a great plan to me. But what about the other “pinpricks”?’

‘I will send a force down south and lay siege to Korkai. If my Lankan friend here can do a naval blockade of the Korkai port from the other side, well, guess what? We can do a bit of grinding of our own, by catching that traitorous Korkai rat in between our forces,’ thundered Jayanthavarman.

‘You have my support for sure, Jayantha,’ said Tribhuvana. ‘Manavamma has been a thorn in my side for too long. My blockading Korkai will force him to leave his lair and come to the rescue of his ally. And that is when I will make mincemeat of him between my army and naval forces,’ he finished enthusiastically.

‘What about the fort at Asanur?’ asked Srivikrama.

‘Are you telling me that you can’t muster up enough of a force to retake that fort, Mavaiah?’ Pulikeshi asked his father-in-law.

‘I am sure we can handle that, Your Majesty,’ Somanna intervened smoothly, coming to the rescue of his king, yet again.

‘Good,’ said Pulikeshi. ‘Let’s put the plan into action.’

Excerpted with permission from Varaha’s Vengeance by Arun Krishnan. HarperCollins India, Rs. 499

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