Early in the morning, Sakthi woke up just before the first rays of Sun, to do her morning routine, a little far away from the village, along with Kalai and while on their way back home they washed their hands and legs at the entrance of the village. Sakthi began brushing her teeth with the help of a neem twig from the bundle. As Kalai came out with a special herbal soup for Sakthi, she threw away the neem twig and gargled with water. She then got the soup from Kalai and drank it while Kalai moved to her house to freshen up.
As the sun rose steadily, almost the entire village started to complete their morning routine.
Sakthi and Kalai took their dhotis along with some turmeric and moved towards the nearby stream to take bath. Other girls from the village too joined them on the way to the stream. They used turmeric as their soap and began to bath.
It was an auspicious day in their village as every year on this day, the villagers display their hunting talent and pray to Agni. Every year one person from the Thevas tribe ought to go into the forest alone and hunt down the king of the forest, ‘lion’ and return to the village with its head. Though it is a weird custom and belief of their village, it is a once in lifetime opportunity for them as the same person can’t go more than once. If the person successfully hunts the lion and brings the head of the lion, it is believed to be the blessing of Agni and they would get good rains in the year. If the person loses and do not return, they believe that the complete year will have draught without rain. This had been a strong belief for them as it hadn’t gone wrong even once. Last year it was Vinu who successfully came back with the head of the lion and gave the complete hope of rain to the village and they received a good amount of rain after three years.
Everyone gathered in the center of their village and started to debate on who was going to go for the hunt. Most of the people’s choice was Sakthi. Devaguna slowly walked in and asked them,
‘Whom do you want to nominate for this year?’
Every one of them shouted Sakthi’s name except Devaguna and Vinu. Vinu didn’t like to let a woman go for this hunt. Though he believed in her capability, he still was uncertain and being an experienced hunter, he saw this as a threat for her life. Devaguna was afraid to send his daughter, not because her life would be in danger but because he was afraid that the second line of the oracle might come true, which would be powerful enough to show that she is the chosen one.
He knew she is the one and if this doesn’t happen this year, it would take another year for the oracle’s words to come true since this hunt is a yearly event.
He wished to keep her with him. So, he tried to convince Sakthi and send one of Vinu’s men. But Sakthi and Kalai were so desperate and fought back. Devaguna was too old to have a lengthy brainwashing session with her. So, he stopped trying and agreed to send her and prayed to Agni that she shouldn’t be the one, as he doesn’t want to lose her forever.
Sakthi prepared to move into the forest taking her spear and shield. Kalai motivated her and Vinu gave her the needed advice to accomplish her task. Sakthi was eager to go into the forest. The people of the Thevas gave a loud cry, which was an auspicious sound of encouragement as Sakthi began to move forward. Sakthi walked slowly into the forest and observed the movements of the animals. She knew that she needs to travel for a long distance as she can find the lion only in the middle of the forest. She noticed a python on the tree, lying awake and watching her walk. She didn’t wish to lose her time as she had to return to the village before night. So, she moved a little away from it and walked towards the middle of the forest. She had almost reached the middle but was yet to find the lion. Vinu had already told her that she might even need to travel long at times, as the lion prefers to stay near it’s den. She increased her speed as it was already noon and she should return on time. She finally found the lion sitting far away from her but not far away from her eyes. She neared the lion.
The lion heard her footsteps and rose suddenly. Sakthi was a little afraid as this lion was a little bigger in size than the other lions she had seen. It stood proudly to fight her. She lost half of the fight by just looking at its posture. She regained her strength in mind and started to be the ferocious one. Their eyes met and she slowly walked behind watching the movements of the lion. She noticed that the lion was pulling its body behind to jump on her and as per thoughts it did jump. She immediately flicked her body to the left and left the lion on her right. The lion landed in a distance and turned back to attack her again. This time, she bent low, dropped her spear down and let it jump over her as she caught its tail. She was facing the sky and her hands were behind her head, holding the lion’s tail. She turned her body to face the ground and take advantage over the lion. The lion was trying to pull her out, but using her complete strength, she lifted the lion and threw it on her right side. The lion fell on the ground far away but it wasn’t hurt. Sakthi was feeling little weak as she gave almost half of her strength in that throw. She needed sometime to regain her energy. But the lion did not let her. It again jumped over her.
She moved to the left this time and kicked the lion using her left leg which was powerful enough to make the lion tumble for some distance. She was better and powerful than a strong man as it is not that easy to kick a lion. She took her shield on the left hand and took her spear from the ground. The lion ran towards her and jumped on her again. This time she used her shield to push it out. Immediately using her spear, she smacked hard on its head. The lion took some time to recover as it felt some pain on its head and Sakthi was using this opportunity to gain back her strength. The lion again jumped over her and this time she moved to the right and left the lion on her left but the lion managed to scratch her biceps with its claw. Sakthi screamed in pain. A few drops of her blood fell on the ground from her biceps. Sakthi walked a few steps behind in pain while the lion walked forward slowly. It was a pride walk as it was happy that it managed to tear her skin. It came near her blood, bent down and licked it.
There was a sudden change in the lion’s reaction. It went a few steps back. Sakthi was ready with the assumption that it was trying to jump long. But it raised its head and saw the sky and gave a long heavy roar. For Sakthi it looked like it was calling for help and she had a question on her mind that why should it call for help when they were having an equal fight. Within a few minutes, more than 30 lionesses surrounded them and she was in utter shock. She knew that there was no way to escape and she didn’t want to return without its head. She rather preferred to die. She was petrified and started to sweat more. The lion bent down and sat in a complete defensive manner followed by all the lionesses. She was confused and was out of options. With the same amount of fear Sakthi moved slowly on her right. The lion and the lionesses did not move. Loads of questions crossed her mind. She continued to move to her right.
She thought if she succeeds in killing the lion she may take the head and try to escape at least or die with the head. She moved behind the lion. Still the lion and the lioness did not move. She took her small knife from her pouch which was on her hips; held it in both the hands, raised it above her head and saw the lioness. None of them moved. The lion bent its head down as if sacrificing its head on its own will. She was confused and suddenly a thought flashed across her mind. As none of them reacted to her, she held the knife on right hand and brought her left hand down to touch the lion. It did not react. She was still surprised and she was feeling at the edge of her death. As the lion didn’t react she gently massaged its head. The lion responded to it like a pet as it enjoyed her massage. At that moment, she felt a connection with the lion. She kept the knife in her pouch. Though the lion was sitting still it was little large for Sakthi. The lion took its left hand and kept it in front of Sakthi as a sign of inviting her to climb up on him. She understood and climbed on the lion by holding its mane for grip. She sat on the lion and kept holding the mane. Though she was afraid that it will hurt the lion. She pulled the mane lightly towards her. It understood and rose. All the other lionesses rose. Though she was a little nervous and afraid, she pushed the mane a little forward hoping that the lion would walk. Taking it as a cue the lion started walking. All the lionesses started to roar aloud. The lion continued to walk towards her village as she guided it in the right direction by steering its mane. The lionesses continued to roar.
The lion continued its journey towards the village. It was late evening, everyone was looking at the forest waiting for Sakthi’s return. They were hoping for Sakthi to reach in some time. Slowly a few could see Sakthi from afar. They were little confused as Sakthi was looking taller. The lion wasn’t visible to them because of the tall trees. As Sakthi neared, the lion was visible. Everyone freaked out and ran into their houses closing the door. Devaguna was startled. He was worried that the second line of the oracle had come true and now there was no other way. She should be the one. He was completely lost in his thoughts.
Kalai was pulling him to take him inside as she was afraid seeing the lion alive. Vinu pulled his spear and was ready to attack the lion. But everyone was surprised as they noticed Sakthi smiling at them as if she has achieved something. Also, they were surprised on how she managed to bring it alive and rode on it like a horse. She came into the village and went in front of the fire. Devaguna knew more about this moment as he was waiting for it to happen one day, but he was never aware that it would be his daughter making it possible. Devaguna called the people outside. But they weren’t ready to do so. After Sakthi told them that it wouldn’t harm them they all came out panicked and as a sign of respect to their chief.
Devaguna asked Vinu to begin the customs and pooja. Vinu questioned how could they do it when the lion was still alive. Devaguna turned towards Vinu and said that the custom is to capture the lion and bring it for pooja. Since they never succeeded before the Pooja was done with the dead lion’s head. This is the first time it was going to be a proper pooja after hundreds of years. Most of the people were shocked and some of them enquired their elders and they too nodded agreeing with Devaguna. Vinu took the banana leaf and placed in front of the fire and arranged some food and began the pooja.
Slowly people started to gain confidence that the lion would not attack and started to enjoy their tradition. Kalai was still afraid to go near Sakthi as she continued to be on the top of the lion. Once the pooja got over. Sakthi asked the lion to sit down and she got down. She wasn’t sure how to have the lion here but Devaguna had already asked Vinu to make an empty place like a cage for the lion, so that it could be safe there. Sakthi called out Kalai and she went near her, though frightened. Sakthi asked her to touch the lion. She touched it with fear but it didn’t react. She gained a little confidence. Devaguna asked Vinu to keep a goat inside the cage for the lion to feed on it while hungry. Sakthi asked the lion to go into the cage and it obeyed. The whole village was awestruck seeing her commanding the lion. They all passed the night in dance and enjoyment.