Book 3 | Chapter 40 | Aanaimangalam
Chapter 40: Aanaimangalam
When Vanathi slowly regained consciousness, she felt her body rocking back and forth. She felt darkness all around her. She thought that she was journeying through the night sky towards heaven. There was a light drizzle and the rocking continued. She thought of the various Gods that she would meet in heaven. But she realised that she would not be able to see the one person she loved most.
She felt her head resting on something comfortable. She felt someone’s hand brushing her cheek. The touch felt familiar.
“Vanathi, Vanathi, wake up.”
Did she just hear Princess Kundavai’s voice? Was the Princess also dead and traveling with her to heaven?
She opened her eyes. “Akka, is that you? Are you also traveling with me to Heaven?”
The Princess sighed. “You have been sleeping for a long time, ever since we got on to this ambari. We are traveling to Aanaimangalam.”
“Ah. Where did you say we were going?”
“Aanaimangalam. And we are traveling on an elephant.”
“Ah. On an elephant?” she shuddered.
“Why are you shuddering and shaking just at the mention of an elephant? What has happened to you?”
“Akka, it looks like I have had a very bad dream.”
“It does look like it. You were blabbering a lot of things. You were mentioning something about Kalamugars, sacrifice, and something about being thrown by an elephant. Oh, and the things that you were shouting about our Chief Minister, Aniruddhar. If he even heard those things, he would not sleep for a few days.”
“Akka, in the dream, I was very brave. I did not even faint when the elephant took me by the trunk. I spoke against injustice.”
“Good. At least in your dreams, you have become a brave girl.”
“I still cannot believe that it was just a dream, Akka.”
“I have had several dreams like that, Vanathi. There are so many nights when my younger brother comes in my dream.”
“You are lucky, Akka.”
“I am very unlucky, Vanathi. Since the day I heard that Arulmozhi was taken by the sea, I have been very sad. I wish those were bad dreams too.”
“Is it true, Akka, that he has drowned in the sea?”
“Yes, Vanathi, it is true. Someone who saw it happen in front of him, has confirmed it to me.”
“You mean the Vaanarkula warrior, Akka?”
“Did he also not tell you other things about the incident? About the boat woman Poonkuzhali, and the Nagapattinam Choodamani Viharam?”
“You were blabbering in your dream about the boat woman and Nagappatinam. You were also saying something about you becoming a Buddhist monk. What situation has arisen in your life, that you need to be taking such a decision, even in your dreams?”
“Akka, you know how much I love the Prince. Without him alive, I see no reason for me to lead a normal life. I am now wishing that the elephant in my dream had really killed me.”
“Girl, then what would happen to me?”
“Akka, your mental resolve and strength are far greater than mine. Just the thought that the Prince has died…”
The Princess cut her off mid-sentence. “Do not say that word again. How do we know he is dead? That is the news that is being peddled by the Pazhuvettarayar and all his conspirators.”
“If he was alive, would he not come to the mainland by now?”
“You do know about my father’s story, right?” He was on a desolate island for a good number of years, before he was discovered and brought back to the mainland to rule this kingdom. His father also had gone underground after his loss at the Thakkolam war, and he resurfaced after a few years. Just like the Goddess Cauvery saved him when he was young, I am sure Arulmozhi would have been saved by the Ocean God himself. We are going now to make sure that the search efforts are intensified.”
“Akka, where is Aanaimangalam?”
“It is very close to Nagapattinam. Very close to the Choodamani Viharam, where you wanted to become a monk. But you can wait until you see the Prince and then decide for yourself.”
And the Princess laughed.
“Akka, how are you able to laugh in such a situation? Are you so confident?”
“If I did not have confidence, would I be like this, Vanathi? Every astrological sign that I have calculated, will come true.”
“Why are we traveling at night, Akka?”
“I told you why, when we left Pazhayarai, Vanathi. If we travel during the day, the people from the villages and towns on the way will all crowd around us, and ask about the Prince. They may even cast aspersions on the royal family. We do not want to attract any such attention. And hence, we are traveling at night. Your mind is really playing tricks on you. We really need to get your sickness cured. Perhaps, we will visit the Buddhist monks of the Choodamani Viharam and ask for a cure for you. You should sleep now.”
Vanathi decided to keep quiet now. She was almost sure that the elephant episode was all real. She wondered if it was all an act planned by the Princess and the Chief Minister. Perhaps, the elephant raised her high enough and put her into the ambari. She had heard of elephants that were trained to do these things.
She thought to herself that her decision to start off alone was wrong. Lying down on the Princess’s lap gave her some comfort. She was very sure that the Prince was safe somewhere. Else, the Princess would not be behaving the way she was. She wondered if she would be able to meet the Prince at the end of this journey.
The elephant continued its majestic gait. There were soldiers in front and at the back of the elephant. The rain stopped. She saw the clouds disperse and the stars come out. She wondered if the astrologer’s words of her son, who would rule the three worlds, would be true. She drifted off to sleep.
She woke up with a start and realised that day had broken.
The elephant had just stopped in front of the Chozha Maaligai. They got down and their attendants showed them around the small palace, including the canal at the backyard, which connected to the ocean.
“Akka, you had said that you were arranging to intensify the search for the Prince. Can I know more about that?”
“Of course, you can. See that boat coming in the distance. I am fairly sure we will get some information when it reaches here.”
In the distance, they could see a small craft moving towards them. It had two people in it, a man and a woman.
“Akka, who are they?”
“The man is Senthan Amudhan, the person we set free from the dungeons of Thanjavur, and the woman is Poonkuzhali.”
“Akka, I do not wish to talk to her. I am going inside.”
Vanathi kept thinking how she had escaped from death.
What she had figured out was indeed true. The elephant had raised her high and then brought her back and placed her gently on the ambari, where the Princess was waiting for her. The Princess had gently placed her on her lap. The Chief Minister also stepped close by.
“Devi, I will leave. May your journey and its outcome be successful.”
“Ayya, thank you for your help.”
“The Kodumbalur Princess is no coward. Did you see how brave she was?”
“She used to be like that, sir.”
“She now thinks that I am a rakshasan. Anyway, let it be. A lot of people think a lot of things about me. It does not matter to me much.”
And the minister left in his palanquin. The elephant with the ambari left on its way as well.
After a few minutes of travel, it started raining lightly. The palanquin bearing the minister stopped.
“Why have we stopped?”
“Sire, it looks like someone is lying under that tree.”
A flash of lightning lit up the sky, and there indeed was someone lying under the tree up ahead. The person was moaning.
“Who is there, under the tree?” boomed the minister.
“Ayya, you sound like the Chief Minister.”
“Yes. It is me, the Chief Minister. Who is this?”
“Ayya, don’t you recognise me? This is Madhuranthakan.”
“Sire, how come you are here? And in this condition?”
The minister and his men tried to help Prince Madhuranthakan up.