With Mangamma entrenched in a whirlpool of personal issues, Shaji, the King of Thanjavur and his soldiers attacked Tiruchirapuram and occupied the villages on the Cauvery’s embankments. The absence of Queen Mangamma who was on a pilgrimage to Palani emboldened the Thanjai King further. His soldiers pilfered the villages at nights and sent them to Thanjavur by day. Heaps of gold, tonnes of rice, livestock, women- the Thanjavur soldiers were unstoppable. When Mangamma got word of the looting and plundering, she was enraged. Revenge would be sweet if she launched an attack on the Thanjavur Palace, she thought.
This was the right time to attack King Shaji at his homeland. She ordered Dalavoy Narasappaiah to lead the attack on Thanjavur. And what a victory it was! Shaji and his forces were fully concentrated on looting Tiruchirapuram, that they forgot their riches and gold lying unguarded at the Thanjai Palace. Narasappaiah and the forces struck the gold in Thanjavur, looting every penny in the Palace, including the gold idols that Shaji used for his worship. By the time Shaji got the news of the attack, the Palace was left with only doors and windows to adorn it! Shocked and wounded, the Thanjavur forces retreated from Tiruchirapuram.
Chikkadevaraya could not believe Kumaraiyya left the Tiruchirapuram Palace untouched. A woman ruler, that too a widowed Queen with an adolescent to care for, had remained unfazed by their onslaught. He hatched a plan to strike both the Tiruchirapuram and Thanjavur royals. He would now step on their lifeline, the river Cauvery! He ordered the construction of a huge dam across Cauvery near the foothills of Sathyamangalam that would curb the flow of water to both Tiruchirapuram and Thanjavur. That would bring them both under check, thought Chikkadevaraya. Perennial Cauvery dried up, with Tiruchirapuram receiving little water and Thanjavur delta all caked up in the sun. King Shaji was a worried man, with farmers revolting against the King, demanding water. He received news about the new dam across Cauvery built by Chikkadevaraya and now knew he needed the help of Mangamma. He directed his minister Paloji to meet Queen Mangamma with tolas of gold and seek her help for a war against Mysore’s King.
When Paloji sought audience with Queen Mangamma, she guessed the reason for it and was ready for the meeting. Narasappaiah and the Queen met Paloji and taunted him for looting the people of Tiruchirapuram. Paloji had no choice but to remain silent, all through the discussion. Finally it was agreed upon that the forces of Tiruchirapuram and Thanjavur would assemble and proceed on a war against Mysore. As the forces were getting ready, rain god heard their prayers! It rained cats and dogs in the catchment areas of Cauvery days together and the newly built dam grew weak and shifted away, the sluices damaged by incessant rain. Without the need for a war, water flowed copiously into the Cauvery. As Mangamma was busy arranging the war against Mysore, aligning with the Thanjavur forces, Sethupathy and the Marava soldiers had occupied Madurai by stealth. Mangamma had at times borrowed help from Delhi’s Mughals, buying their loyalty with treasures from Madurai Palace. Earlier guerrilla attacks by Sethupathy’s forces were retaliated with help from Zulfikhar Khan’s army which was bought with immense wealth, from Madurai Palace and Meenakshiamman temple. This time around, Zulfikhar Khan was in Delhi and the Mughal forces were feeble to launch an attack. The Ramnad King had planned his attack so well and timed it strategically.
|Queen Mangamma's statue in Madurai Meenakshiamman Temple|
Mangamma wanted her grandson to rule an empire that was vast and huge. Losing Madurai was a mistake that she could never forgive herself for. Summoning Narasappaiah, she discussed the plan with Paloji and Shaji. They had to teach a lesson to the Maravas, safeguarding their own lands. Shaji understood the risk of having Sethupathy a neighbour. Mangamma was more amicable than Sethupathy and his guerrilla army. He agreed to attack Madurai and Sethupathy aligning with Tiruchirapuram. Narasappaiah lead the attack from the forefront. Aged and confused, he was not ready for the guerrilla attacks of the Marava army. Sethupathy knew the route by which the forces would arrive and his army was ready for them at vantage points. When the Tiruchirapuram army reached Dindigul Fort, Narasappaiah planned to pitch tents inside the fort. What he missed to note was that the entire vicinity of the fort was empty. As the gates of the fort were opened and Narasappaiah entered the fort, an array of arrows welcomed him. As he fell on the ground bleeding profusely, his only wish was granted, he had laid down his life for Madurai Kingdom, safeguarding her and fighting for the woman of his dreams- Queen Mangamma.
The news of Narasappaiah’s death reached Mangamma two days later and she was devastated. Her dream of a vast empire for her grandson to rule, bit dust and she lost her best friend, confidante and well-wisher Narasappaiah, now. She could not show her shock and grief at Narasappaiah’s death, that would send the wrong signals and fuel the already dying fire of gossip in the Palace. She did not want another round of gossip doing the rounds. All she needed now was some peace and quiet. She resigned to her fate. With Narasappaiah dead, the armies of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapuram fled, Thanjavur army retreating through Aranthangi and Tiruchirapuram forces ran to Tiruchirapuram. As the army returned with the ashes of Narasappaiah, Mangamma knew she would never set foot in Madurai in her lifetime. Meenakshiamman should help her visit the temple once, before her last breath, she thought to herself. She furtively hoped her grandson would one day trot the streets of Madurai. Vijayarenga was by that time well grown to understand the affairs of the Kingdom, but he was more than happy plucking guavas and mangoes in his summer palace. He knew he was ready to rule, but he hated the high handedness of his grandmother.
Unaware of what was going on in the mind of her grandson, Mangamma now wanted him to take part in the proceedings of the Royal Court and sent for him. He arrived two days later and refused to even glance in her direction. She was filled with grief when she asked meekly- “ Will you not even look at me, Vijayarenga?” His answer was stoic silence. She went on saying how she wanted him to attend the Court when he remained rooted to the spot. He had his eyes on only one thing- The Royal Throne. Though he was crowned King when he was three months old, his grandmother never gave him the chance to decide on simple matters of the state. Even now she wanted him to remain a mute spectator to the events in the Royal Court. His friends were right. They had warned him, she would never relinquish the Royal duties to him. And if he had to take it by force, he sure would. His friends stayed with him day in and day out, fuelling the fire that threatened to scorch the Tiruchirapuram Throne. When Mangamma came to know of the poison his friends were inducing, she tried to keep his friends at bay. She appointed spies to check on who was damaging their relationship and by the time she got news of what was wrong, it was too late for damage control. Vijayarenga got news that guards were spying on him and bought their loyalties by threatening them. They knew he would be the ruler soon and did not want to invite his wrath.
One morning when Queen Mangamma woke up and tried to open her chamber’s door, it was locked from outside. It must be some mistake, she thought. Some guard had locked it unknowingly and they would soon open it, she thought and waited patiently. As the sun’s rays pierced through the curtains, she knew it was too late and banged on the door. There was silence everywhere. It slowly dawned on her that she had been kept a prisoner in her own chamber, with nothing to drink or eat. Wallowing in self-pity, she knew her end was near. Prayer kept her alive and memories of a distant past made her happy. What made her sad was that she was not able to see her favourite deity Meenakshiamman once before the end. She had always known her end would be in the hands of her grandson and she welcomed it. It still hurt her that he failed to understand that all she did was for the benefit of the Kingdom.
At the end of the day, she had no regrets. She had held the reins of the Kingdom well, built more temples and roads than any King could do in the entire Naik dynasty other than Thirumalai Naik and she was happy. If only Vijayarenga could have understood her motives…if only he had trusted her…if only he had loved her so much as she did…Queen Mangamma spent forty days in her chamber, locked up with no food but survived on water. When her end came, she was more than ready for it. The Queen of Hearts died a peaceful death in sleep, famished by her own grandson who was more eager for the Throne than his loving grandmother. If only he had loved her and trusted her…the Naiks would have left behind a wealthy and vast empire. If only the Queen of Hearts was alive…