Book 3

Book 3 | Chapter 38 | What happened to Vanathi?

It had been late evening when Vanathi had started on her palanquin from Kudandai. A storm of thoughts passed through her mind. Would the Buddhist monks of the Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam monastery let her in? Would she be able to meet the Prince? Would she be able to nurse him to health? 

The thought of her traveling to Nagapattinam alone also scared her. She tried steadying herself. Nothing great in this world has been done with ease. One had to undergo hardships to achieve great things. She thought about Poonkuzhali. She thought about her bravery in being able to navigate stormy seas on her boat alone. If she could do that, why should she have to worry about this small journey. She thought to herself that if the monks refused her entry, she would even be happy to stay somewhere nearby and get frequent updates about the Prince.  

She thought she should somehow meet Poonkuzhali and use her help to meet the Prince. She wanted to tell the Prince about her love. And then she was prepared to die or perhaps join the monastery as a monk.  

She wanted to know when they would reach Nagapattinam the next day. She opened the screen of the palanquin to inquire from the bearers. She noticed some Kalamugars hiding behind the trees. She did not feel any fear seeing them. When she had grown up in Kodumbalur, she had seen several of these Veera Shaivite saints at her home. In fact, she remembered that even their head saint had visited her home. The General Boodhi Vikrama Kesari used to provide all the help he could, to them.  

She had heard about the mahasangam today. She had seen groups of Kalamugars on the way as well. Yet, she felt suspicious of these few hiding behind the trees. And while she was thinking thus, the Kalamugars swarmed around the palanquin. Two of them took away her aide. Vanathi shrieked. One of the Kalamugars came close and pointed his Trisulam at her and said, “Girl. Stop screaming. If you do not make any noise, we will not harm you. If you do, I will kill you with this very Trisulam.” 

Vanathi said in a trembling voice – “Do you know who I am? I belong to the Kodumbalur Velars. If you harm me, you will be vanquished completely.” 

He hissed back, “Yes, we know about you. That is why we were waiting for you. Keep quiet for a while.” 

She heard the sound of someone whipping the palanquin bearers. And the palanquin started moving. The bearers were running in the direction guided by the group of Kalamugars. There was chaos and mayhem all around.  

She realised that there was no point screaming. She could not jump out of the palanquin either. She decided to wait and watch. After about a half hour of running, they came to a halt outside a Durga temple in the midst of some trees.  

It was pitch dark by now. One of the Kalamugars went into the temple and brought out a torch and shone it at Vanathi’s face.  

“We know you are secretly going to meet someone. Tell us who it is, and we will let you go peacefully. If you want, we will even take you to your destination safely.” 

She stammered with feigned courage, “I do not need to tell you who I am going to meet.” 

The Kalamugar roared in laughter. “We know that you are going to meet Prince Arulmozhi Varman. We want to know where he is hiding. If you do not tell us this, we will torture you.” 

“I don’t care. I will not tell you anything that I know.”  

“We will set fire to your beautiful hands. We will set fire to your hair.” 

“Go ahead. Here is my hand.” 

Vanathi knew some details of the coup that was being formed. She realised that these people were definitely looking to harm the Prince, and she was willing to undergo any hardship to protect him and this kingdom.  

The Kalamugar hissed, “Think of what you are saying. You will regret your decision for life.” 

“You can do whatever you feel like to me. You will not get anything out of me.” 

Just at that time, she saw a procession of horses and an elephant and cavalry. She felt that she could seek help from them.  

“Be careful. See that procession. If I attract their attention, they will be here in no time to help me. It looks like the Chief Minister Aniruddhar’s convoy.” 

The Kalamugar laughed loudly. “Yes. It is the Chief Minister Anbil Aniruddhar. We captured you here, only on his orders.” 

She stood shocked. Her mind froze. She did not know what to do.