The (V)anara Bhaktas

The (V)anara Bhaktas

Udayashree Patti sat on her chair rocking back and forth. She looked at them and asked, ‘Well dears, what do you want to know about our quiet village? I guess you know by now that during the times of the British Raj, it was called Aravankolom. Even now old people like me call it by that name. I am 92 years old now. I was born and brought up in this village. I can’t read or write as women were never sent to schools when I was a young girl. I was married off when I was twelve, and my husband died when I was twenty-six. Since then, I have been living the life of a widow. As far as this village is concerned things have improved a lot and it is trying to catch up with the modern world.’

‘Well, we mainly want to know about anything terrible or bad that happened here.’

‘Lots of things have happened here, both good and bad. It is a village and village folk are extremely emotional but honest. They can love with all their heart, and they are also capable of killing ferociously. When I was a young girl, only the Brahmins used to live in the Agraharam. People of other castes were accorded a lower status and they were not allowed to step inside the Agraharam area. Just like in other parts of the country the rules followed in this village were also based strictly on the caste hierarchy. All marriages were conducted after matching horoscopes and inter-caste marriages were not permitted.’

‘Did you ever come across an inter-caste marriage in this village, Patti?’ asked Gayatri.

‘You do ask the questions, don’t you?’ The old woman said with a gentle smile. ‘Of course, by the seventies and eighties, there was a lot of intermingling but during my time, a widow remarriage or an inter-caste or inter-religious marriage was unheard of.’

Varun put a word in, ‘Did anything ever happen here that you would consider terrible?’

‘Now that you ask, I do remember something that happened in the late thirties. It was a love affair between a young sixteen-year-old lower-caste girl by the name of Akhila and the son of a rich upper-caste zamindar. The zamindar’s name was Vignesh Vedan and his son’s name was Rama Vedan.’

Gayatri glanced at Varun who looked slightly shaken. He asked, ‘What exactly happened?’

‘Akhila belonged to a tribe of Shamans by the name of Vanara Bhaktas. They were worshippers of the Vanara God. It was believed that they were always protected by the Vanara God and if anyone harmed them, they would be destroyed by their God. The affair between Akhila and Rama Vedan was known to several people in the village, but no one had the guts to tell the zamindar. The couple thought no one knew about it. Akhila was pregnant with their child and some people had guessed that too. Akhila and Rama Vedan made plans to elope. Rama Vedan bought tickets to catch a train to Madras, but the station master reported the matter to the zamindar. The surprising part of the whole story was that Akhila simply disappeared into thin air after that. Not even her body was found. The very next day the zamindar sent his son abroad for studies.

On the day Akhila disappeared, the bodies of four men were also found by the river a little distance away from the village. The men’s bodies had been severely mutilated, and their throats were slit open. The villagers believed that they were killed by the Vanara God as they had harmed Akhila. Akhila’s mother went to the police, but they could not find Akhila, nor could they find out who killed the men. It is said that the girl’s mother finally performed some ancient tantric rituals to curse the zamindar and his descendants. As per this curse, the zamindar’s descendants would never be able to procreate if they as much as stepped into this village. Their women folk would be tortured and killed, and they would not be able to have children. The next day the zamindar died. He committed suicide by jumping off the terrace of his house. Rama Vedan never returned to this village. To this day no one knows where he is or what he is doing.’

Gayatri asked, ‘Where can we learn more about this?’

‘There are a few members of the Vanara Bhakta tribe still living on the outskirts of the village. You can perhaps talk to them. They may not be able to tell you much after all these years. But you never know. And there is the retired police officer who attended to the case at that time. He was an honest man and tried his best to find out what happened. His name is Xavier D’Cruz. When India got independence, he went back to England. But later in the seventies he came back and settled down in Aravankolom. Now he lives in a big bungalow with a lovely garden, and he has written several books about his time in India. If you want, you can talk to him.’

After talking for some more time, they took leave of the old lady. As soon as they were outside Gayatri said to Varun, ‘What is the matter with you? You look like you have seen a ghost.’

Varun said, ‘Well, you see it so happens that my great grandfather’s name was Rama Vedan…’

                                                                                             To Be Continued...

This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z 2023

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter V

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14 thoughts on “The (V)anara Bhaktas”

  1. Ahan!
    I thought so.. Varun’s initial reaction did make me doubt he’s related to the zamindar’s family..
    This has led to quite an interesting unfolding of events…

  2. Wow ! What an intricate story you weave, bro! Amazing creativity and brilliant suspense and story telling. Am totally intrigued, like your other readers😊

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