11th century, Uraiyur, that is present-day Tamil Nadu.
Kulothunga II of the Chola dynasty was the King of Uraiyur.
His daughter, Amravati was an exquisite beauty.
The king spared no effort to give her the best upbringing.
He loved her deeply and raised her to be independent
which was a great deal for women in that era.
Amravati was fond of learning.
When she wished to study literature,
her father appointed Kambar,
an acclaimed poet, to be her tutor.
Kambar was the court poet.
He was a great scholar
accomplished in both
Tamil and Sanskrit, the ancient languages of India.
But he was far from an arrogant man.
He was a spiritual man and also very polite.
There was yet another poet in King Kulothunga II’s royal court,
by the name of Ottakoothar.
Ottakoothar was envious of Kambar
because King Kulothunga II favoured him greatly.
Ottakoothar hankered for Kambar’s fall from grace,
so he could replace him.
Kambar had to travel outside Uraiyur for a few days.
He entrusted his son Ambikapathy with Amravati’s tutoring.
Ambikapathy himself was an accomplished and remarkable poet
and quite a handsome man.
Ambikapathy and Amravati were of the same age
and had a similar interest in poetry,
so eventually they fell in love with each other in no time.
Amravati would eagerly wait for her next literature lesson
so that she can see Ambikapathy again.
Ambikapathy would serenade Amravati with poems and songs.
Over the course of time, they couldn’t live without each other.
Soon, Ottakoothar got wind of the blossoming romance.
It made his blood boil.
Kambar was already the king’s favourite,
and now his son was trying to be the king’s son-in-law.
Ottakoothar wished Amravati would be married
to his friend Kulsekharan who was the King of Vengi.
Without a moment’s delay,
Ottakoothar told the king about Ambikapathy and Amravati.
The king didn’t believe him,
but Ottakoothar continued to try and poison his mind.
When Kambar returned,
he found out about Ambikapathy and Amravati’s romance.
Kambar knew that the king would never agree to the match
and that his son’s life was now potentially in danger.
And when Kambar found out
that Ottakoothar had already apprised the king about their romance,
he grew more afraid.
He asked his son to forget Amravati.
Aware that the king would never approve of their love,
Ambikapathy and Amravati could see only one way to deal with it.
They decided to elope.
They made it out of the palace, but were caught by the king’s guards.
The king decided to sentence Ambikapathy to death.
Amravati opposed the decision, saying that she was equally responsible
and also deserved the death penalty.
The king loved his daughter.
How could he sentence her to death?
Kambar also requested the king to spare Ambikapathy.
This put the king in a dilemma.
Then Ottakoothar came forward.
He recognised an opportunity to exact revenge upon Kambar.
He suggested a cunning plan.
To avoid the death sentence,
Ambikapathy would have to recite 100 devotional poems one after another.
While he’d recite poems, he shouldn’t mention romantic love.
If Ambikapathy succeeds, he’d be spared.
The king loved the suggestion and offered Ambikapathy the challenge.
Ambikapathy accepted the challenge
because he was sure he would succeed.
Ambikapathy was locked in a cell for the night so that he wouldn’t run away.
The next morning, Ambikapathy was presented in front of the king.
Ottakoothar was certain
that Ambikapathy wouldn’t be able to recite 100 devotional poems.
Amravati was anxious too,
but Ambikapathy assured her that he wouldn’t fail.
The session began.
Amravati was keeping a count of the poems.
Ambikapathy started the test with a hymn in Goddess Saraswati’s praise.
And then he began reciting and singing one devotional song after the other.
Amravati was excitedly listening
to Ambikapathy with a rose in her hand.
After every poem, she’d pluck one petal from the rose.
As soon as Ambikapathy finished his 99th poem,
Amravati rushed to him with a garland in her hands.
When Ambikapathy saw her,
he sang her a love song.
Before there could be a celebration,
Ottakoothar stopped them both.
“What is the matter?”, asked Amravati.
Ottakoothar said that he was also keeping a count.
And according to him, Ambikapathy had recited only 99 poems.
Amravati made the mistake of counting the hymn to Saraswati,
which is recited by every scholar before embarking on an auspicious task.
Instead of reciting the hundredth hymn,
Ambikapathy broke the rule and sang a love song for Amravati.
Hence, he failed the test.
The king sentenced Ambikapathy to death.
Amravati was so shocked
that she died instantly on the spot.
Amravati’s small mistake c