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History : Vira Pandya Kattabomman

Vira Pandya Kattabomman became the Palayakkarar of Panchalamkuruchi at the age of thirty on the death of his father, Jagavira Pandya Kattabomman.

Vira Pandya Kattabomman

 

Vira Pandya Kattabomman became the Palayakkarar of Panchalamkuruchi at the age of thirty on the death of his father, Jagavira Pandya Kattabomman. The Company's administrators, James London and Colin Jackson had considered him as a man without education but of peaceful disposition. Yet, several events led to the conflict between Kattabomman and East India Company. During this period the collection of tribute served as a cause of friction. The Nawab of Arcot who had this right surrendered it to the English under the provisions of the Karnatac Treaty of 1792.

Therefore, the chief of Panchalamkuruchi, Kattabomman had to pay tribute to the English. In September 1798, the tribute from Kattabomman fell into arrears.

Collector Jackson in his characteristic arrogance and rashness wrote letters to Kattabomman in a threatening language. There is a tradition to indicate that Kattabomman declared : ' It rains, the land yields, why should we pay tax to the English?' By the 31 May 1789, the total arrears of tribute from Kattabomman amounted to 3310 pagodas. Though Jackson wanted to send an army against Kattabomman, the Madras Government did not give permission.

Hence, on the 18 August 1798 Jackson sent an order to Kattabomman to meet him at Ramanathapuram within two weeks. In the meantime, Kattabomman went with arrears of tribute to meet Jackson. Kattabomman was humiliated twice by Jackson when theformer wanted to meet him at Tirukuttalam and Srivilliputttur. But he was told that he could meet the collector only at Ramanathapuram. Despite this humiliation, Kattabomman followed Jackson for twenty three days in a journey of 400 miles through the latter's route and reached Ramanathapuram on the 19 September.

 

An interview was granted by Jackson and Kattabomman cleared most of the arrears leaving only 1090 pagodas as balance. During this interview Kattabomman and his Minister, Sivasubramania Pillai, had to stand before the arrogant collector for three hours together. Still he did not permit them to leave the place, but directed them to stay inside the fort. Kattabomman suspected the intensions of Jackson. Hence, he tried to escape with his minister and brother Oomathurai. At the gate of the fort there followed a clash, in which some people including Lieutenant Clarke were killed. Sivasubramania Pillai was taken prisoner. But Kattabomman escaped.

 

After his return to Panchalamkuruchi, Kattabomman appealed to the Madras Council submitting the facts. The Madras Government directed Kattabomman to appear before a Committee. Meanwhile, the government released Sivasubramania Pillai and suspended the Collector, Jackson. In response Kattabomman decided to submit. He appeared before the Committee, with William Brown, William Oram and John Casmayor as members. The Committee found Kattabomman not guilty. S. R. Lushington was now appointed Collector in the place of Jackson, latter was eventually dismissed from service.


League of the Palayakkarars

 

Thus the English removed the source of grievance to Kattabomman. Yet, the humiliation suffered by Kattabomman affected his self-respect. During this time, Marudu Pandyan of Sivaganga organized the South Indian Confederacy of rebels against the British. The Tiruchirappalli Proclamation was made. He sent missions Panchalamkuruchi. Thus a close association between Kattabomman and Marudu Pandyan established. The events now moved to a crisis. In August 1798 the son of the Palayakkarar of Sivagiri and his adviser visited Panchalamkuruchi and held consultations. Kattabomman decided to establish his influence in Sivagiri with the aid of the son of the Palayakkarar. As the Palayakkarar of Sivagiri was a tributary to the Company, the Madras Council considered this move as a challenge to its own authority and ordered war against Kattabomman.

 

Expedition to Panchalamkuruchi

 

In May 1799, Lord Wellesley issued orders from Madras for the advance of forces from Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur and Madurai to Tirunelveli. Major Bannerman, armed with extensive powers, assumed the command of the expedition. On the 1 September, 1799 the Major served an ultimatum directing Kattabomman to surrender and attend on him at Palayamkottai on the 4th. Kattabomman replied that he would submit on a lucky day.

 

Bannerman considered this reply as evasive and decided on military action. On 5 September Kattabomman's fort was attacked. On the 16th reinforcements reached from Palayamkottai. In a clash at Kolarpatti the Palayakkarar troops suffered heavy casualty and Sivasubramania Pillai was taken prisoner. Kattabomman escaped to Pudukkottai. The ruler of Pudukkottai captured Kattabomman from the jungles of Kalapore and handed him over to the British.

 

Fall of Kattabomman

Bannerman brought the prisoners to an assembly of the Palayakkarars  and  after        a  mockery  of  trial  sentenced them to death. Sivasubramania  Pillai  was executed at  Nagalapuram on the 13th of September. On the 16th of October Vira Pandyan was tried before an assembly of Palayakkarars, summoned at Kayattar. In an assertive tone and with contempt for death he admitted the charges levelled against him. Thereupon, Bennerman announced death penalty. On the 17th of October Kattabomman was hanged to death at a conspicuous spot near the old  fort   of Kayattar. Vira Pandyan faced the last moments of his life with the pride of a hero.


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