(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha )
It was 1858. Queen Victoria declared that she was taking over the Company, aiming to ease the concerns of the Indian people and make peace with them.
The duty of bringing this message to the people and village officials was given to the officers of the Company. And so, they came to the village again.
They gathered all the important people of the village before reading and explaining the proclamation to them. It was promised that they wouldn’t suffer anymore and that the Company would not interfere with religious practices.
“Do not be afraid that white men follow a different religion. The government will not interfere with any customs. You have complete religious freedom. There will be no more theft and murder. You can live without fear.”
The sudden news of being ruled by a Queen instead of the Company brought unwarranted happiness to the people. They remembered the days of Queen Mangamma.
They had heard of that queen’s rule from stories told by the ancestors who had witnessed her good deeds.
For no reason, Govindappa Nayakkar imagined that Queen Victoria resembled Queen Mangamma. Everything he knew about Rani Mangamma came from Mangathayaru Ammal.
There was a story as to how Mangamma’s Path got its name.
One day, the queen was having a discussion with important officials. There was a betel box in front of her filled with a sheaf of leaves and everything else it needed. Usually, a servant was present to prepare the betel leaf for the queen. However, during important meetings, servants weren’t allowed.
Deep in concentration, the queen was moving a betel nut from hand to hand and rolling it between her thumbs and pointer fingers. She was carefully listening to every word being said.
The nut would remain in the right hand for a while. Then the left. Then the right. Over and over. Suddenly, she came to a decision about the proceedings. In that moment, she absentmindedly threw the betel nut into her mouth with her left hand.
Everyone was stunned, including the queen.
How to correct the wrong of not only touching a holy object with the unholy left hand, but also eating it from the left hand, during a council meeting? The queen created the road, Mangamma’s Path, in atonement.
Whenever she heard this story, Mangathayaru Ammal would laugh quietly and shake her hand no. She would then whisper, “Not many people know. I knew her when I was a child because we lived in her palace for a little while. Unlike us, Queen Mangamma was left-handed!”
Whatever the reason was, Queen Mangamma had done something good for the people. Govindappa Nayakkar thought.
Due to Queen Mangamma, Queen Victoria was thought of with respect.