Dust rose from the ground as the two soldiers charged at each other, swords raised. One ducked faster than wind and the blade shone in all elegance. Velunachi smiled from her perch atop the grounds in the upper balcony. She always loved to watch the soldiers- specially her 'Udaiyal' pirivu- womens' wing. She fondly remembered Udaiyal- her warrior daughter whom she held as her own blood. Slowly her thoughts revolved over the Marudhu brothers and Kuyili. Those three friends from Ramnad who had stood by her in every tempest- giving her strength and courage all through.
Thinking of Marudhu brothers, she watched Kuyili. The dusky damsel stood transfixed, watching the soldiers on the horses fighting each other. Velunachi knew of the weird love triangle- the love Kuyili had for Chinna Marudhu and the secret flame Periya Marudhu held for her. Kuyili seemed oblivious to his charms and Velunachi knew why. Kuyili was besotted with the younger Marudhu. Many a times Velunachi had tried and failed to reason out with the younger Marudhu, but he held to his ground that he never felt anything for Kuyili. Periya Marudhu, the introvert, hid his feelings for Kuyili as usual and this hide and seek was getting weirder day by day. When prodded on wedding, Chinna Marudhu held his ground saying he wanted to marry only on touching the freed land- Sivagangai free of British.
Sivagangai was now under total control of the British who in turn gave the Nawab of Arcot, their allaince partner, the right to collect taxes from the people. It had been eight long years since the King Muthuvaduganathar was slain and the Queen was unheard of. She was last seen in the forests of Virupakshi long time back. The people had lost all hopes that the Queen would come back for the country. Little did they know that their valiant Queen was preparing an army and allies to fight the intruders. Yet they refused to pay taxes to Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali had returned to Mysore and Gopala Naicker was busy training his Palayam's soldiers with gun power and artillery. The Dutch were supporting Velunachi by providing know how in handling guns and producing gun powder.
Amassing the army, training the women soldiers, forging alliance with Gopala Naicker and Hyder Ali, Velunachi had played her game well and was waiting for almost eight years for the right time to bear fruit. The Nawab of Arcot was tired of ruling Sivagangai- the people who failed to pay their taxes. He paid no attention to the state anymore and was more intent on saving his Arcot Kingdom than ruling a lawless land. The British East India Company was unhappy with the lack of taxes from Sivagangai and moved their concentration on Kattabomman and his much greener pasture of Tirunelveli. Velunachi sensed now was the right time.
The plan was to capture the outposts in Sivagangai Fort first, taking control of the watch towers, blowing the gun powder store and finally launch the attack. Discussing with the allies made Velunachi feel elated. Marudhu brothers were locked in a deep discussion with Gopala Naicker as Velunachi moved from the table for a breather. Sensing someone behind the curtains, she drew her knife. In a swift movement, Kuyili came before her, curtsying and left abruptly. Velunachi was worried about Kuyili these days- she remained aloof in the discussions and tried to be distant. Something worried her and she intended to find out what irked her friend. But first things first, she had a battle plan to look into.
All set and ready, the force of 6000 men and 6000 women started their march from Dindigul to Sivagangai Fort that night. Marudhu brothers led the men on horsebacks and Vleunachi marched with them, hoisted on her favorite horse, dressed in her usual man- boy attire. Udaiyal lead the women contingent- all dressed like men, the women of valor. Gopala Naicker joined the group from Virupakshi with his men and artillery. As per plan, they had preferred a pre-dawn strike. The unsuspecting guards at the outposts fell without a fight and gaining control of the watch towers was an easy task for the Marudhu brothers who lead from the forefront.
|Remains of gun powder room built by British in Channapatna, enroute Bangalore to Mysore|
Now was the turn of blowing up the gun powder store- locating it was not that hard, one of the captured men himself lead them to the store. The locals willingly joined the forces and fought the Nawab's men and handful of British who were taken by surprise. Velunachi clambered along the Sivagangai tank watching the gunpowder store. The women who had gathered there were cheering, clapping and shouting vehemently as a slender figure doused in oil ran towards the store with a fire torch in her right hand.
Intrigued, Velunachi stilled and tried to comprehend the scene before her. The figure turned back once, waved and saw Velunachi perched atop her horse. Seeing her, Velunachi stood shocked, chilled to her bone. With a gracious wave and nod at her, Kuyili set herself on fire and jumped inside the powder store. The store exploded shooting above sprays of fire balls and complete mayhem ensued. Velunachi stared at it in utter disbelief and shock. Kuyili had exploded into a hundred pieces....her Kuyili.
To be continued...
p.s.: Kuyili was the first human suicide bomb in Indian history. Remember, the Poligar War of Sivagangai took place in 1780!
p.p.s.: Cyclone Neelam is wreaking havoc as i am writing this post. My favorite teak tree has been taken down and rains still lash the windows. Please pray for the safety of our people.
p.p.p.s: I am down with the bug- throat infection and the Mister is having a grand gala time, vetoing all decisions at home:'(