Friday, 21 October 2016

Chapter 38: What happened to Vanathi?

Vanathi, the Kodumbalur Princess’ palanquin was travelling towards Thiruvaroor even when the sun had begun to set. As she started on her journey, she found herself totally confused. She wished to go to Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam and nurse Prince Arul Mozhi who was ailing but there were many hurdles to pass through. Firstly, she wondered whether she would be allowed inside the Viharam. Secondly, the thought that she had to go to Nagapattinam alone scared her. She tried to build courage by reasoning with her heart….

To accomplish even small things, people need to cross over hurdles…everybody is struggling to fulfil their aspirations and dreams and hurdles are everywhere. I just need to build courage in my heart and must not get disheartened. Imagine how courageous that boat girl must be to ply her boat through the sea, day and night. One can only imagine the courage that she must have possessed to save the Prince from the stormy seas where the waves rise up as high as the mountains. And I am scared of undertaking a small journey alone!

It doesn’t matter if I was not allowed to meet the Prince. I can find lodgings to stay near the Prince and if I can meet that boat girl there, then through her I will find a way to meet him. I need to convince him somehow that I am not interested in becoming the queen and that my love is pure, devoid of any such ambitions. After that, I can happily give up my life or I can join the Viharam and become a Bikshuni…

 Vanathi wished to know at what time they would be arriving in Nagapattinam from the palanquin bearers. She therefore opened the veils and stuck her head out. She could see several dark figures hiding behind a large tree on the road and on closer look she knew that they were Kalamuga Saivars. She was not worried about them. Kalamugars were frequent guests of her uncle at their palace in Kodumbalur. They would speak to her uncle, conduct pujas and then demand whatever they needed right royally and leave. Once the head of Kalamugars himself had stayed at their palace. Her uncle was a great patron of Kalamugars and had donated much wealth to temples and to village chieftains to provide food and shelter for these wandering mendicants. She knew that they wouldn’t harm her in any way. They might actually help protect her on her journey. She knew that they were all headed towards the Maha Sangam that was congregated at the Kollidam River and had surmised that that’s why so many of them were seen walking on the roads.

Despite knowing all this, Vanathi in her heart of hearts wondered why this particular group of Kalamugars were hiding behind the tree.

Do they intend to harm me? What if they don’t know that I am Kodumbalur Princess?

Even while she was wondering thus, the Kalamugars emerged from the shadows and came running towards the Palanquin and surrounded them. Even then, she was not scared. She assumed that they would leave her alone once they knew, who she was but before she could open her mouth, they had tied her companion to the tree. This elicited a scream from her mouth but the Kalamugars were unfazed. One of them turned towards her and held up his trident and said, “Woman! Don’t shout. If you come with us quietly we will not harm you or else you will fall prey to this trident.”

Vanathi tried to speak to him courageously and said, “Do you know who I am? I am the daughter of Kodumbalur Vellar. If you touch me, you will be destroyed.”

But the Kalamugan was unfazed by her revelation. He said, “We know who you are. We have been waiting for you in this forest for a long time. Do not make a sound or else we will be forced to silence you.”

At the same time, Vanathi could hear the Kalamugars whipping her palanquin bearers and their screams of pain. She tried to get down from the palanquin but before she could move, the Kalamugars took the Palanquin off the ground and were hurtling towards the dense forest path. As they ran they screamed with a peculiar sound that would have drowned any pleas of help from her. It was impossible to jump out of the palanquin as the entire gang of Kalamugars had surrounded it from all sides. Vanathi decided to wait out and see what would happen.

For about half hour, they ran with the palanquin and in the dense forest there was a clearing where an old Durga temple was there. They placed the palanquin near the entrance. By then, darkness had enveloped the forest and nothing could be seen clearly. One of the Kalamugars went inside the temple and came out with a burning lamp. He held it near Vanathi’s face and said, “Woman! We have a few questions for you. If you tell us the truth, we will not harm you. We will escort you to your destination safely.”

“What questions? What do you wish to ask me?”

“Woman! You left Pazhaiarai alone to meet someone in secret. Who were you planning to meet and where were you going?”

“What do you care, who I am planning to meet? What is it to you? I will not tell you anything about it.”

The Kalamugan laughed and said, “You don’t have to say anything. We know that you had plans to meet Prince Arul Mozhi Varman. Tell us where he is hiding and we will not harm you.”

“You are free to harm me in any way you want but I will not tell you anything.” Said Vanathi with determination.

“So we are free to harm you, is it? I doubt if you would say thus if you knew what we are planning to do you!”

“Go ahead! Tell me what you are planning to do.”

“First we will take one of your beautiful soft arms and burn it in the fire. Next, we will roast your other arm and then we will unravel that long hair of yours and burn that as well…”

“Is that so? Here is my arm. Bring the fire log here and go ahead!”

Vanathi was well aware of the conspiracies that the rebel lords were hatching against the royal family. She surmised that these Kalamugars must be their men and they are trying to find out where the Prince was hiding.

If I underwent torture to save the Prince from these murderous rogues then what more could I ask from life?

It was this thought that gave Vanathi the courage and determination to talk fearlessly to the Kalamugars.

“Woman! Don’t be foolish. Answer our questions or else you will regret your silence later when you roam around like a sightless crone.”

“You are free to torture me in any manner you wish. Go ahead and burn my arms… hack me to pieces and kill me but I will not tell you anything.”

“Alright. I think it is time that we make good on our promises. You! Get that firelight close here…”

Just then, Vanathi’s attention was diverted when she saw a procession of palanquin, elephants and horsemen appearing at a distance. It looked as though the procession was coming towards them. Heaving a sigh of relief, she realized that she would soon be rescued from these Kalamugars.

“There! Be careful now! Someone is coming.” She said to their leader.

Instead of being scared the Kalamugan laughed outright and asked, “Do you know who is coming?”

“It looks like Prime Minister Anirudhar. If I scream they will be able to hear me. Save yourself. Run away from here before they catch you or else….”

“Yes! The Prime Minister is on his way here. It was on his orders that we kidnapped and brought you here.”

Now Vanathi was not only shocked but also afraid. A scream almost escaped from her mouth!

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Volume 1 - New Flood