Early revolts of South India
Revolt of the
During the 17th and 18th centuries
the Palayakkarars played a vital role in the politics of Tamil Nadu. They
regarded themselves as independent. Among the Palayakkarars, there were two blocs,
namely the Eastern and the Western blocs. The Eastern Palayams were the Nayaks
ruled under the control of Kattabomman and the Western palayams were the
Maravas ruled under the control of Puli Thevar. These two palayakkarars refused
to pay the kist (tribute) to the English and rebelled.
The early struggle between the
Palayakkaras and the East India Company had a strong political dimension. By
the Carnatic treaty of 1792, consolidated the English power over the
Palayakkars. The English got the right to collect taxes. The result was the
outbreak of the revolt of Palayakkars.
Puli Thevar was the pioneer in Tamil
Nadu, to protest against the English rule in India. He was the Palayakkarar of
the Nerkattumseval, near Tirunelveli. During his tenure he refused to pay the
tribute neither to Mohammed Ali, the Nawab of Arcot nor to the English. Further
he started opposing them. Hence, the forces of the Nawab of Arcot and the
English attacked Puli Thevar. But the combined forces were defeated by Puli
Thevar at Tirunelveli. Puli Thevar was the first Indian king to have fought and
defeated the British in India. After this victory Puli Thevar attempted to form
a league of the Palayakkars to oppose the British and the Nawab.
In 1759, Nerkattumseval was attacked
by the forces of Nawab of Arcot under the leadership of Yusuf Khan. Puli Thevar
was defeated at Anthanallur and the Nawabs forces captured Nerkattumseval in
1761. Puli Thevar who lived in exile recaptured Nerkattumseval in 1764. Later,
he was defeated by Captain Campell in 1767. Puli Thevar escaped and died in
exile without fulfilling his purpose, although his courageous trail of a
struggle for independence in the history of South India.
The Ancestors of Kattabomman
belonged to Andhra. They migrated to Tamil country during the 11th century. As
a feudatory under Pandyas, Jagaveerapandiaya Kattabomman ruled Virapandyapuram
. Panchalankurichi was its capital. He later became a Poligar during the rule of
Nayaks. He was succeeded by his son Veerapandya Kattabomman. His wife was
Jakkammal and his brothers were Oomathurai and Sevathaiah.
Nawab of Arot
After the decline of the Vijayanagar
empire, the mughals established their supremacy in the south. The Nawabs acted
as their representatives in Karnataka. Panchalamkuruchi palayam was acted as an
ally to the Nawab of Arcot. Hence it paid tribute to the Nawabs. But in 1792,
the political condition had completely changed. Based on the Carnatic treaty of
1792, the company gained the right to collect taxes from Panchalamkuruchi. The
collection of tribute was the main cause for the rivalry between the English
Kattabomman met Jackson
In 1798, Colin Jackson, the
collector of Ramanathapuram wrote letters to Kattabomman asking him to pay the
tribute arrears. But Kattabomman replied that he was not in a position to remit
the tribute due to the famine in the country. Colin Jackson got angry and
decided to send an expedition to punish Kattabomman. However, the Madras
government directed the collector to summon the Palayakkarar at Ramanathapuram
and hold a discussion.
In 1798, Kattabomman and his
minister Siva Subramaniam met the Collector at Ramanathapuram. Upon a
verification of accounts, Colin Jackson was convinced that Kattabomman had
cleared most of the arrears leaving only 1080 pagodas as balance. During this
interview Kattabomman and his Minister, Sivasubramaniam, had to stand before
the arrogant collector for three hours. The Collector insulted them and tried
to arrest Kattabomman and his minister. Kattabomman tried to escape with his
minister. Oomathurai suddenly entered the fort with his men and helped the
escape of Kattabomman. But unfortunately Sivasubramaniam was taken as prisoner.
Edward Clive and Kattabomman
After his return to
Panchalamkuruchi, Kattabomman wrote a letter to the Madras Council narrating
the behaviour of the Collector Colin Jackson. Edward Clive, the Governor of
Madras Council ordered Kattabomman to surrender. The Madras Council directed
Kattabomman to appear before a Committee. Meanwhile, Edward Clive dismissed the
Collector for his misbehaviour and released SivaSubramania. Kattabomman
appeared before the Committee, and found Kattabomman was not guilty. S.R.
Lushington was appointed collector in the place of Colin Jackson, who was
eventually dismissed from service.
The confederacy of Palayakkarars
During that time, Marudu Pandyan of
Sivaganga formed the South Indian Confederacy of rebels against the British,
along with the neighbouring Palayakkarars. This confederacy declared a
proclamation which came to be known as Tiruchirappalli Proclamation.
Kattabomman was interested in this confederacy. He tried to establish his
influence over Sivagiri,who refused to join with alliance of the rebels.
Kattabomman advanced towards Sivagiri. But the Palayakkar of Sivagiri was a
tributory to the Company. So the Company considered the expedition of
Kattabomman as a challenge to their authority. So the Company ordered the army
to march to Panchalamkuruchi.
Fall of Panchalamkuruchi
Major Bannerman moved his army to
Panchalamkuruchi on 5th September. They cut of all the communications to the
Fort. In a clash at Kallarpatti, Siva Subramaniyam was taken as a prisoner.
Kattabomman escaped to Pudukottai. Vijaya Ragunatha Tondaiman, Raja of
Pudukottai, captured Kattabomman from the jungles of Kalapore and handed over
to the Company. After the fall of Panchalamkuruchi, Bannerman brought the
prisoners to an assembly of the Palayakkarars and after trial sentenced them to
death. Sivasubramania was executed at Nagalapuram. On the 16th October
ViraPandya Kattabomman was tried before an assembly of Palayakkarar, summoned
at Kayathar. On 17th October 1799, Kattabomman was hanged at Kayathar.
Kattabomman’s heroic deeds were the subject of many folk ballads which kept his
memory alive among the people.
Velu Nachiyar was a queen of
Sivagangai. At the age of 16, she was married to Muthu Vaduganathar, the Raja
of Sivagangai. In 1772, theNawabofArcotandtheBritishtroopsinvaded Sivagangai.
They killed Muthu Vaduganathar in Kalaiyar Koil battle. Velu Nachiyar escaped
with her daughter Vellachi Nachiyar and lived under the protection of Gopala
Nayaker at Virupachi near Dindigul. During this period she organised an army
and employed her intelligent agents to find where the British stored their
ammunition. She arranged a suicide attack by a faithfull follower Kuyili, a
commander of Velu Nachiyar. She recaptured Sivagangai and was again crowned as
queen with the help of Marudu brothers. She was the first queen to fight
against the British colonial power in India. She is known by Tamils as
Veeramangai and also known as ‘Jhansi Rani of South India’.
Marudu brothers were the sons of Mookiah
Palaniappan and Ponnathal. The elder brother was called Periya Marudu (Vella
Marudu) and the younger brother Chinna Marudu. Chinna Marudu was more popular
and was called Marudu Pandiyan. Chinna Marudu served under Muthu Vaduganatha
Peria Udaya Devar (1750-1772) of Sivaganga. In 1772 the Nawab of Arcot laid
seige of Sivaganga and captured it. Muthu Vaduganatha Peria Udaya Devar, died
in battle. However after a few months Sivaganga was re-captured by Marudu
Brothers and Periya Marudu was enthroned as the ruler. Chinna Marudu acted as
his adviser. Due to the terrorist activities against British, he was called as
“Lion of Sivaganga”. In the later half of the eighteenth century the rebellion
against the British was carried by Marudu Brothers in South India.
Causes for the conflict
Kattabomman was hanged to death and his brother Umaithurai and others fled to Sivaganga, where Marudu Pandya gave protection to them. The merchants of Sivaganga did not like the interference of the company in their internal politics. The company waged war against Sivaganga for these two causes.
The South Indian Rebellion
In February 1801 the brothers of
Kattabomman, Oomathurai and Sevathaiah escaped from Palayamkottai prison and
reached Kamudhi. Chinna Marudu took them to Siruvayal, his capital. They
reconstructed their ancestral fort at Panchalamkurichi. The British troops
under Colin Macaulay retook the fort in April and the Palayakkarar brothers
sought shelter in Sivaganga. The English demanded Marudu Pandyas to hand over
the fugitives, the latter refused. Col. Agnew and Colonel Innes marched against
The Palayakkarar War assumed a much
broader character than its predecessor. It was directed by a confederacy
consisting of Marudu Pandiar of Sivaganga, Gopala Nayak of Dindigul, Kerala
Varma of Malabar and Krishnappa Nayak and Dhoondaji of Mysore. The English
declared war against the confederacy.
The Tiruchirappalli Proclamation
The Marudu Pandyas issued a proclamation
of Independence called Tiruchirappalli Proclamation in June 1801. The
Proclamation of 1801 was the first call to the Indians to unite against the
British. A copy of the proclamation was pasted on the walls of the Nawab’s
palace in the fort of Tiruchi and another copy was placed on the walls of the
Vaishnava temple at Srirangam. Thus Marudu brothers spread the spirit of
opposition against the English everywhere. As a result many Palayakkarars of
Tamil Nadu went on a rally to fight against the English. Chinna Marudu
collected nearly 20,000 men to challenge the English army. British
reinforcements were rushed from Bengal, Ceylon and Malaya (Malaysia). The rajas
of Pudukkottai, Ettayapuram and Thanjavur stood by the British. Divide and rule
policy followed by the English spilt the forces of the Palayakkarars.
English annexed Sivagangai
In May 1801, English attacked the
rebels in Thanjavur and Tiruchi areas. The rebels went to Piranmalai and
Kalayarkoil. They were again defeated by the forces of the English. In the end,
the superior military strength and the able commanders of the British army won
the battle. The rebellion failed and English annexed Sivagangai in 1801. The
Marudu brothers were executed in the Fort of Tirupathur in Ramanathapuram
District on 24 October 1801. Oomathurai and Sevathaiah was captured and
beheaded at Panchalamkuruchi on 16 November 1801. Seventy three rebels were
sentenced to Penang in Malaya, then called the Prince of Wales Island. Though
they fell before the English, they were the pioneers in sowing the seeds of
nationalism in the land of Tamil.
Thus the South Indian Rebellion is a
land mark in the history of Tamil Nadu. Although the 18001801 rebellion was to
be categorized in the British records as the Second Palayakkarar War. Under the
terms of the Karnataka Treaty on 31 July 1801, the British assumed direct
control over Tamil Nadu. The Palayakkarar system was abolished.
Dheeran Chinnamalai was born at
Melapalayam in Chennimalai near Erode. His original name was Theerthagiri. He
was a palayakkarar of Kongu country who fought the British East India Company.
The Kongu country comprising Salem, Coimbatore, Karur and Dindigul formed a
part of the Nayak kingdom of Madurai but had been annexed by the Wodayars of Mysore.
After the fall of the Wodayars, these territories along with Mysore were
controlled by the Mysore Sultans. After the third and fourth Mysore wars the
entire Kongu region passed into the hands of the English.
Dheeran Chinnamalai was trained by
French military in modern warfare. He was along the side Tipu Sultan to fight
against the British East India Company and got victories against the British.
After Tipu Sultan’s death Chinnamalai settled down at Odanilai and constructed
a fort there to continue his struggle against the British. He sought the help
of Marathas and Maruthu Pandiyar to attack the British at Coimbatore in 1800.
British forces managed to stop the armies of the allies and hence Chinnamalai
was forced to attack Coimbatore on his own. His army was defeated and he
escaped from the British forces. Chinnamalai engaged in guerrilla warfare and
defeated the British in battles at Cauvery, Odanilai and Arachalur. During the
final battle, Chinnamalai was betrayed by his cook Nallapan and was hanged in Sankagiri
Fort in 1805.