THE MARUTHU BROTHERS (MARUTHU PANDIARS) 1748-1801
The “ Murdoos” the rulers of Sivagangai at that time, were two brothers, Vellai Marudu, commonly called Periya Marudu, and Chinna Marudu. They belonged neither to the family of the ancient poligars nor to their division of the caste, but were retainers of the family. Parivaras is the Tamil term for such-belonging to a lower division of the caste. The title peculiar to this class is Servaikara, and they are bound to do service to their poligar masters.. Hence in all English letters and narratives pertaining to that time they are called” Sherogars “that is, servaikaras, never devas or poligars.”
There is one version regarding the origin of the Maruthus. The account says that in Ramanathapuram there was a small village by name Alagapuri Mukkulam. The family of Mokkap Pazhaniappan Servai lived there. Mokkap Pazhaniappan Servai served as a commander in the Army. His wife Ponnathal gave birth to a male child in 1748. This child was named Vellai Maruthu. After five years Chinna Maruthu was born.
Real History of Maruthu Brothers
Marudu or Murdoo as it was written by the English, was their family title, not a personal name. Marudu is the name of a tree, the Terminalia alata At the temple of Nainarkovil, in the Ramnad Zamindari, Siva is supposed to have appeared in the shape of a lingam at the foot of a Marudu tree. Hence, as worshipped in that place, he is called Marudappa or Marudesvara. This being the family divinity of the Siruvayal people, each of them, in honour of their divinity, took the title of Marudu. Servaikaran was the caste title, Marudu the family name both the chiefs were called Marudu, with this distinction only, that one was Periya, the elder, and the other Chinna, the younger. Periya Marudu was the nominal ruler of the country. It is he that is meant when the Sherogar or the Marudu is mentioned, but the real ruler was Chinna Marudu. The elder brother devoted himself wholly to field sports and left the administration of affairs in his younger brother’s hands.
Of the two brothers.......... the elder brother was called Wella or Velli Murdoo, but he had nothing to do with the management of the country. He was a great sportsman, and gave up his whole time to hunting and shooting. Being a man of uncommon stature and strength his chief delight was to encounter the monsters of the woods; and it was even said, that he could bend a common Arcot rupee with his fingers. Unencumbered with the cares or trappings of government, he led a sort of wandering life.
The Cheena (Chinna) Murdoo was ostensible sovereign of an extensive and fertile country, and his general residence was at Sherewele (Siruvayal). Though of a dark complexion, he was a portly, handsome, and affable man, of the kindest manners, and most easy access and though ruling over a people to whom his very nod was a law he lived in an open palace, without a single guard, indeed when I visited him in February 1795, every man who chose to come in, had free ingress and agress while, every voice called down the blessing of the Almighty upon the father of his people.
As the father of the Maruthus was an Army Commander, they received military training from him. They started their career as menial servants in the palace of Raja Muthuvaduga Thevar of Sivagangai. By dint of their ability they rose high. They acted as the Minister and Dalavoy of the Raja. After the death of Muthuvaduga Thevar they assisted Velunachi, the widow of Muthuvaduga Thevar.
After the death of the Pradhani, (Thandavaraya Pillai) the Marudhu brothers who were with the Queen (Velu Nachiyar) became prominent. The Marudhu brothers took a lead in the affairs of the occupied territory. They had been looking forward to the opportune moment. The opportunity was thrown in the Second Mysore War in 1780. When Hyder Ali fell upon Arcot in 1780, the Marudhus having obtained a small force from Syed Sahib, the general at Dindigul desolated the Nawab’s territories at Madura. Upon their advance to Sivaganga, the inhabitants joined them and the rebellion spread. The ill disciplined forces of the Nawab stationed in walled towns offered no resistance. The Rani accompanied by the Marudhu brothers entered Sivaganga, and Vellachi, the daughter of Vaduganatha Thevar was proclaimed Queen of Sivaganga and the Marudhus assumed the charge as ministers. The Nawab could not send additional troops to Sivaganga due to preoccupation caused by the invasion of Hyder Ali.
By this time Sivaganga had come completely under the control of the two Agambadias, the Marudhu brothers. Even though the widow of Muthu Vaduganatha Thevar, Velu Nachiar and the Princess Vellachi were there, the de facto rulers were the Marudhu brothers. The usurpation was very much resented by the young ruler of Ramnad, whose off shoot Sivaganga was
Muthu Vaduganatha was a relative to the Sethupathi and they belonged to the same sub- caste of Maravas. And as a Marava, Muthuramalinga Thevar naturally did not like the state of Sivaganga, pass into the hands of the Agambadias. This may look ridiculous but the Marava as a class were like this. They were very much concerned about these petty things. Moreover, while Muthuramalinga was in confinement at Tiruchirappalli, the Marudhu brothers looted the Ramnad villages in 1779.
They continued that even after Muthuramalinga was reinstated.
The Setupathi now promptly took action and drove them away Even though the Sethupathi succeeded in sending the Marudhus’ troops away he knew that he was not strong enough to remove them from power. Therefore he appealed to the Nawab, who was not very much pleased with the Marudhu brothers, for unification of the two administrations, for an annual payment of 3 1/2 lakhs of rupees. As a next step he proposed to marry Vellachi, the dejure princess, but she foiled the Sethupathi’s plans by marrying Vodaya Thevar, (Sakkanthi Vengai Periya Oodaya Thevar) a nephew of her father The Sethupathi continued his attempts but made no progress. On the 4 th August 1784, the army entered Sivaganga. Fullorton directed the Marudhus to clear the arrears of tributes but the latter withdrew to the woods of Kalayarkoil and assembled about 10,000 armed men. However, a settlement was effected and the Marudhus paid 40,000 rupees as part of the arrears. Determined to suppress the Marudus, the Nawab in 1786 sought military assistance from Fort St. George on the alleged ground that the Marudus refused the payment of the tribute of two lakhs of rupees, that they neglected the administration of their territory and that they committed depredations upon Ramanathapuram. But Governor, Sir Archibald Campbell” rightly cautioned the Nawab that it was dangerous measure to collect revenue by the force of arms and asserted that such a policy not only alienated the subject but caused a heavy military expenditure.
The Nawab and Maruthu Brothers
The situation appeared favourable to the Nawab when a serious rivalry between the Queen and the Marudus for the control of administration disturbed the tranquillity of the territory and weakened its power of resistance. He entered into an agreement with the Rani and promised his assistance in her conflict with the Marudus. This precipitated a clash, In consequence of which the Rani was forced to seek shelter in the fort of Sivaganga. Mohammad Ali promptly despatched a body of troops for the rescue of the Queen. But Marudus with 12,000 armed men surrounded Sivaganga and plundered the Nawab’s territories in retaliation. Unable to suppress the Marudus, Mohammad Ali on the 10 th of March 1789 again appealed to the Madras Council for aid. John Holland, the successor of Sir Archibald Campbell in the Presidency, furnished an army for operation in Sivaganga.
On the 29th April, 1789 the British forces led by Colonel James Stuart arrived at Tirupatore in Sivaganga. where 3000 troops sent by the Tondaiman joined them on the 1 st May . The combined forces reached Sivaganga on the 8th. Reinforced by the Nawab’s detachment, Stuart attacked Kollangudi on the 13 th. A considerable village surrounded by a mud walls and a thick jungle, it was defended by a large body of Marudhus’ troops armed with fire locks. Despite the obstinate resistance of the Marudus, the English forces scored a victory on the 14 th. After this reverse, the Marudus retired to their strongholds in the jungles of Kalayarkoil.
On the arrival of reinforecements from Madura, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappalli , Stuart launched an offensive against the Mardhus’ strongholds which had been constructed in the thick woods. The pioneers laid a road to Ramamandalam situtated three miles from Kollangudi. Stuart won the allegiance of Du Pre, a French General whom the Marudhus employed to train their troops and occupied their stronghold. The thorough knowledge of the terrain possessed by Du Pre, considerably helped further military operations against the Marudhus. The forces advanced to Kalayarkoil, and captured it after a short cannonade. The Marudhus took their stand at Piranmalai, but on the approach of the enemy, fled to the territories of Tippu Sultan.
The Nawab sought to consolidate his gains. He repaired and garrisoned Tirupatore, the key to Sivaganga, with his own troops, destroyed the barriers erected by the rebels, cleared the roads which had been blocked and established military posts. The country returned to order apparently; in consequence of which the forces of Stuart evacuated the territory.
The myth of Nawab’s triumph exploded in November 1789, when the Marudus with a large body of their followers returned to Sivaganga and swept off the Wallajah posts. They routed the Nawab’s detachment stationed at Tirupatore and carried the fort. The inhabitants revolting to their chiefs, expelled the troops of the Nawab from their territory. For fear that the Marudus would seek the alliance of Tipu Sultan, the Madras Government now advised Mohammad Ali to settle terms with the rebels. Accordingly, the Nawab granted peace to the Marudus but fixed the peishcush at an enhanced rate of three lakhs of rupees. The Marudus continued as ministers. Vengum Peria Wodaya Tevar, who married Queen Vellachi, assumed the Rajahship; In 1791 the new Rajah represented to the Company, which administered the country by virtue of “assumption” for a reduction of tribute. Considering this demand just, the Madras Council fixed the peishcush at the original sum of 1,75,000 rupees. Neverthless, the Nawab’s endeavour to obtain possession of the territory failed.
The outbreak of the Third Mysore War in 1790 led to the assumption of the revenue administration of the Carnatic. After signing the Treaty of 1787 the Nawab made no attempt to improve the administration. His efforts to put down the defiant poligars invited more financial embarrassment. The Company now doubted whether it could rely upon the Nawab for any material support. In consequence it assumed the administration of revenue of the Carnatic in 1790 in spite of the protests of the Nawab.
The Company wanted to create an impression on the people that it would provide a benevolent administration during its period of assumption of revenue administration. It entertained all the revenue servants of the Nawab in its service. The tributes of smaller powers were reduced. These were done to earn the good will of people and the small powers. For Sivagangai the reduced amount was Rs.1,75,000. However the administration was restored to the Nawab in 1792 when the Third Mysore War ended. As condition for restoring the Nawab, he was made to accept a new treaty.
The Carnatic treaty of 1792 was very advantageous to the Company. It gave the English the military and financial control over the Nawab. The Company could assume the revenue but the sovereign was to get one-fifth. The Nawab lost his control over his foreign policy. In addition he assigned the Company the tribute payable by the poligars. Thus practically the poligars came under the Company. The treaty stipulated that the Company would have the right to collect the customary tribute from the poligars. At the same time it also laid down that the poligars were obliged to pay the customary respects and village watch fee to the Nawab. The poligars were to serve two masters. In consequence the poligars served none. The Marudhus of Sivagangai too withheld the payment of tribute to the East India Company. They were not ready to submit themselves under the Company rule.
In an attempt to remove the anomaly created by the Treaty of 1792 and to introduce for its object an entire control of the military powers, the Madras Council made repeated appeals to Muhammad Ali for his consent for a modification. But the Nawab remained adamant to preserve his sovereign rights and paid no heed to the request-30. After the death of Muhammad Ali and on the accession of Umdut-ul-umara on 13th October 1795, the Madras Council found an opportunity to assert itself but rather unconstitutionally. It directed the poligars to obey no instructions of the Nawab unless they proceeded through the Government of Fort St George.
The refusal of Vellachi, the princess of Sivaganga to marry Muthuramalinga added insult to injury. Therefore he fell out with Sivaganga and the Marudus. The Sethupathi closed the road leading from Tirunelveli to Tondi in consequence of which Sivaganga lost customs collected at Parthibanur. In retaliation the Minister of Sivaganga Chinna Marudhu diverted a stream flowing from his territory into Ramnad. Now both the States were armed against each other and entered into hostilities marked by mutual incursions, free-booting and killing of inhabitants.
The conflict spread when several Palayagars openly or clandestinely aided the one or the other. The Madras Council, restricted by the Nawab’s sovereignty over the Marawas could not take any action to nip the trouble in its bud. In consequence; the war continued culminating in battles at Anundur Vasianoor and Paramagudi. But neither side won any decisive victory. The forces of Ramnad set fire to 150 villages in Sivaganga while the Marudus swept off the inhabitants of Paramagudi.
Concerned at the magnitude of atrocities, the Madras Council and the Nawab intervened ultimately. Landon, the Company’s Collector of Palayagar - Peishcush directed the Sethupati and the Sherogar to stop the war in an attempt to remove the source of conflict, he suggested to the Setupati to re-open the road and to the Sherogar to let the water to the stream. Chinna Marudu complied with the instructions whereas the Sethupati who had by this time developed a desire for self - assertion ignored the instructions, Thereupon, the Nawab warned the Sethupati that his conduct would involve him in lasting ruin in consequence of which the troops of Ramnad too withdrew from the war.
George Powney, the successor to Landon directed the Sethupati to attend on him and offer an explanation of his conduct, but the latter refused this enraged the Company’s authorities. But they did not immediately march on the Sethupati but waited for the opportune moment. More causes for ill-feeling came. In 1794, when a famine visited the southern provinces, the Madras Council directed the Sethupati to permit the free import of grains to his territory, but he continued the collection of duties. In short the Sethupati ignored the sovereignty of both the Nawab and the British. He was tending to assume independent status.
During the Third Mysore War, the Company assumed the revenue administration of the territories of the Nawab Mohammad Ali and Amir Singh of Tanjavur in 1790. Even though the Mysore incursions did not directly affect the southern countries, it offered an opportunity to the English to invoke the emergency clause in the Treaty of 1787. Besides, the revenue of the Company, though supplemented by the regular payment of the four- fifths of the revenues of the Karnatic and Tanjavur, appeared inadequate to support the expenses of the military operations against the formidable enemy. Moreover, of late the Company was becoming desirous of having control over the Nawab’s and the Tanjavur’s territory. They did not let slip opportunity. The Madras Council felt that any dependence on Mohammad Ali would be futile.
During the period of assumption of revenue administration, the Company wanted to create an impression on the subjects that the Company would provide a benevolent administration. This might have been a prelude to a long range scheme of taking over the country gradually. The Company entertained all the revenue servants of the Nawab and the Rajas in its service. The Board of Assumed Revenue in an attempt to win the attachments of the lesser powers reduced the tribute fixed for Ramnad from Rs. 3,00,000 to Rs. 2,20,000 and that of Sivaganga to Rs, 1,75,000. However the administration was restored to the Nawab in 1792 when the Third Mysore War ended. As condition for restoring the Nawab, he was made to accept a new treaty.
Succession dispute in Sivagangai
Sasivarna Peria Oodaya Thevar died in or about the year 1750 and was succeeded by his son Muthuvaduganatha Peria Oodaya Thevar. He, the 2nd Rajah of Sivaganga, was shot dead at Kalaiarkovil in or about the year 1772 in an engagement with the Nawab. He had no male issue, but he left behind him his widow Velu Nachiar and an infant daughter named Vellachi alias Velu Nachiar. The widow Velu Nachiar succeeded her husband in 1780.
She took under her protection Padamathoor Gowry Vallaba Thevar, an intelligent lad, and a collateral relation of Sasivarna Thevar, with a view to adopt him as her son and successor. But the two Shervaigars again usurped the Country and contrived to marry the Rani’s daughter Vellachi Nachiar to their favourite Vengam Peria Udaya Thevar and sought several times to put to death Padamathur Gowry Vallabha Thevar.
Vellachi Nachiar, daughter of the Second Rajah of Sivaganga was married to Vengam Peria Oodaya Thevar by the intrigues of the two Marudhu Shervaigars. They knew that Gowry Vallaba Thevar was not only the Padamathoor Poligar, but also a powerful man who had several influential men to protect his interests, and it was proposed that Velu Nachiar should adopt him. They therefore thought that to prevent such an adoption and to effect the above marriage they must put under restraint Gowry Vallaba Thevar and reduce his power and influence; and consequently they imprisoned him at the Kalaiarkoil temple with sufficient guards, and attempted to put him to death.
While he was in prison, Karuppayee, a dancing girl attached to the said temple, pitying his condition, secretly supplied him with food etc and administered to his convenience and comforts. Naturally enough he fell in love with her and kept her as his concubine. She knew that the Shervaigars intended ultimately to put him to death, and therefore contrived to effect his escape. Gowry Vallabha Thevar at last managed to escape and took refuge with Karisaipatty poligar, Vellai Bommai Naick, the Poligar and his Manager, one Sama Iyer alias Shesa Iyer sheltered him at Thuvarankurichi for some months... when this fact was known to the Shervaigars, they demanded the surrender of Gowri Vallaba Thevar from the poligar who being afraid of the Shervaigars powers and influence, sent him to Pudukottai Rajah who gave him refuge at Arunthangi.
When Muthu Vaduga Thevar died, he left behind his wife an infant daughter. Padamattur Oyya Thevar and his father Namasivaya Thevar put forward claims after the death of Muthu Vaduga Thevar. But they incurred the displeasure of the Maruthus. They were forced to flee with Gowri Vallabha Thevar, the brother of Oyya Thevar. Padamattur Oyya Thevar, Poligar of Padamattur had to leave his palayam to Tondaiman of Pudukkottai. Gowri Vallabha fled to Arantangi in Thanjavur where he lived with a concubine
Though the Maruthus did not like Gowri Vallabha Thevar who was adopted by Velunachi as her successor. He was long regarded as the destined husband of the heiress of Sivagangai. He was believed by the people of Sivagangai as the settled and rightful successor. But the Maruthus contrived to marry Vellachi to their favourite Vengum Peria Udaya Thevar. Having been outshined by the Maruthu brothers, Vengum Peria Udaya Thevar remained as a mere figure – head.
In or about A.D. 1793 Vellachi died with her infant daughter In A.D. 1796 after three years of her daughter’s death, Velu Nachiyar also passed away. With the view to keep the real power in the country in their hands, Vellai Maruthu’s daughter Maruthathal was married to Vengum Periya Udaya Thevar. Thus the line of Sasivarna Thevar, the first Rajah of Sivagangai became extinct. The Collector of Dindigul in his letter dated 3rd Aug 1789 issued strict instructions to the Shervogar of Shivagunga to restore the stolen property. The Board informed the Collector of Madura on 5th Feb 1792 a complaint received from Tondaiman regarding a dispute which resulted in the loss of one of his servants and 4 or 5 others wounded. The Board asked the Collector to interfere and preserve the peace of the country by using force if necessay. The Collector of Madura submitted an interim report on 11th Feb 1792 the question of the dispute between Tondaiman and Chinna Murdo. He stated that to prevent hostilities between the parties, he had posted a company of revenue sepoys, and he added that the matter would be carefully enquired into and settled.
Kattabomman, Thondaiman and Maruthu
The Board asked the Collector to advise the Raja to desist from disturbing the peace of the country. The Collector wrote on 8 th August 1792 to the brother of Sivaganga Poligar to leave his residence at Ramnad immediately and to proceed to his own District with his family and people with all haste. The Assistant Collector of Dindigul on 20 th Nov 1799 requested the Collector of Ramnad to order the Poligar of Shevagunga not to interfere in the affairs of the Nuttam Palaiyam as he had lately done in the sucession
The Assistant Colletor of Ramnad on 28th Nov 1799 to the Assistant Collector of Dindigul stated that he had again ordered the Sherogar of Shevagunga to restore the cattle and desist from Interfering in the succession of the Nuttam Palaiyam. The Collector of Ramnad wrote a letter about Chinna Murdoo’s misconduct. He in his letter dated 15th June 1800 asked the names of the Principal Ministers and writers of Chinna Murdoo in order to bring home to him the charge of having corresponded with Doondiah, the rebel. An Enquiry was instituted against Sherogar’s misconduct. Later the Collector informed that the complainants did not turn up for Enquiry.
In the meantime Kattabomman was seized from the jungles of Kalpore in Pudukkottai and handed over to the English by the Tondaiman. On the 16 th of October, Bannerman brought the rebel - chief to an assembly of the poligars at Kayattar and sentenced him to capital punishment. While the numerous chiefs witnessed the whole scene in silent awe and astonishment, Kattabomman was taken to a conspicuous spot and executed Bannerman, after administering a warning that no rank of the people would escape from deterrent punishment if they acted in contempt of British authority, dismissed the assembly The Madras Council condemned the relatives of Kattabomman to perpetual imprisonment and shut them in the fort of Palayamkottai. They were kept in irons and strictly guarded. Three of them died in ordeal while others escaped, among whom were Shevitiah and Kumaraswamy Nayak, the brothers of Kattabomman.
It was by a clevar stratagem of Vella Murdoo that the rebels made their dramatic escape. Kumarasamy Nayak, well known as Umathurai, entered into a secret correspondence with the rebels of Panchalamkurichi. Pottipakadai, a servant employed for the collection of firewood, took the letters written on palmyra leaves to and from the prisoners.
In 1799 upon the suppression of the Tirunelveli League, the English threw into confinement at Palayamkottai seventeen of the defiant leaders. State prisoners of consequence, they were kept in irons in a small enclosure inside the fort. Two sentinels, who stood inside this enclosure, and a third at its gate kept a constant vigil over their movements, while the garrison maintained a strict check on the ramparts. In the course of their captivity, that lasted for fiteen months, two of the prisoners died; among the survivors were Sevatiah and Oamathurai, the brothers of Kattabomman .
The confederates made repeated efforts to work out the escape of the prisoners. An early attempt was made by Marudu Pandyan, when he despatched his agents to Tirunelveli but they were apprehended and executed. Subsequently the rebels of Panjalamkurichi appealed to Gopala Nayak. The rebel diplomat offered no specific aid immediately, yet agreed to shelter the prisoners if they made their escape and reached Dindugul. In reply to their appeal for assistance, he sent a message; “Let them effect their escape and come to my Hills - they are very welcome here - they can remain here in safety for ten years and shall participate.
with me in what I can afford, but cautioned them to be” very careful in avoiding dangers in the road as all the country between Palayamkottai and Veeraptchy (Virupakshi) was under the Company’s government.” After the formation of the rebel confederacy, the leaders bestowed more positive attention on the issue, as the success of the design seemed a real necessity for the destruction to make a surprise assault on Palayamkottai for releasing the prisoners. A probe was made late in 1800 but it was reported that the prisoners were afflicted with smallpox. Therefore the venture was postponed.
It is not possible to ascertain who formulated the strategem aimed at the liberation of the prisoners. It represented an imaginative scheme which was carried into effect with a resolution that was equalled only by the daring of its conception. The history of India seldom presents so thrilling an episode. Late in 1800 the insurgents, establishing their base of operation somewhere in Panjalamkurichi opened a secret correspondence with the imprisoned at Palayamkotai. The captives, having been directed to subsist on their own resources, employed servants to cook food. Pottipakada, one of these servants frequented to the nearby jungle to gather firewoood. Requested by the rebels, he served as the agent of correspondence, transmitting verbal messages and at times carrying palm-leaf letters,kept hidden in his foot ware. Through his instrumentality the two sides took each other into confidence for the successful implementation of the plan of action.
In January 1801 when the different provinces drifted into rebellion, the insurgents, 200 in number, led by Pandyan Sherogar and Gidivetti Nayak, started from Panjalamkurichi. To excite no suspicion with the enemy or its agents the veterans had disguised themselves as pilgrims, going to the sacred Temple of Tiruchendur clad in yellow robes playing Kavadi * chanting manthrams, blowing the conch shell, distributing the holy ash and receiving offerings from the votaries, they reached Palayamkottai. The procession wended through the streets around the fort. On listening to the chanting of spells, the prisoners to their great relief whispered each other that the relieving party had really arrived. Before long the “pilgrims” dispersed and vanished. A few days later they re-appeared in the town as hawkers, carrying loads of firewood, plantain leaves and fruits. The local inhabitants approached them for purchases but so exorbitant were the prices, they demanded, that all were dissuaded. With all their loads unsold, the hawkers moved to the street of the fort, shouting aloud “firwood “plantain leaves and “fruits” The sepoys of the fort wanted to make purchases but turned away on learning the prohibitive prices.
* Kavadi is the wooden frame carrying the image of Lord Subramaniar and taken on the shoulders of devotees. The devotees normally move in groups taking any route, which they like, before they reach the temple.
Everything proceeded according to the predetermined plan. In anticipation of the arrival of the “hawkers” Sevatiah gained the sympathy of the wife of the Superintendent of the Fort and implored her to obtain permission to them for the performance of the ceremonies for the dead. He represented that being in prison he could not perform them for long and promised to do them with fetters on his feet. As he himself admitted subsequently, this white lady showed consideration and extended her assistance. At her intervention the Superintendent of the Fort granted the request and permitted the prisoners to purchase firewood plantain leaves and fruits for the contemplated celebration on a grand scale
The prisoners having agreed to buy them at the high prices, as were demanded, the Innocent - looking hawkers entered the fort and walked towards the enclosure of captivity, evoking no suspicion. In the meantime the women belonging to the prisoners and permitted to stay at liberty inside the fort were sent away . Large parties of armed men with the consent and connivance of the residents of the town lay in wait with a few horses to assist in the escape and escort their leaders. Hundreds of them approached silently within a short distance of the south gate of the fort .
At the appointed hour, soon after sun set, on the 2nd of February, Sevatiah gave the signal for escape. Immediately, the hawkers, equipped themselves with the weapons, which they kept concealed in the loads, sprang forward. They overpowered the sentinels at the enclosure, seized the fire arms and carried off the prisoners with fetters on their feet with lightning speed. The enactment of the entire exploit, a major feat indeed, appeared so dramatic and the warhoop raised by them spread so great an alarm that the garrison was taken by complete surprise. All the veterans rushed to the Travancore Gate of the fort, disarmed more of the guards, seized their weapons and got safely off to their supporters who were waiting impatiently with horses to escort their heroes At this crucial moment the European community at Palayamkottai, about twenty men and women were dining or dancing at the Garden House of Macaulay, protected by a single guard and the main British detachment had been cantoned at Sankaranainarkoil, about thirty miles to the westward
This remarkable exploit executed with no blood - shed, excited intense popular excitement. It altered drastically overnight, the political situation of the South. It symbolised the triumph of a confederate strategy, unique in the annals of this insurrection. S.R. Lushington, the Collector of Ramnad, rightly reported to the Board of Revenue that the escape was effected “ in consequence of a general confederacy and preconcerted plan” He asserted that the execution of the design was no less daring than rapid and that the sudden attack from the most unexpected quarter together with the warhoop raised by the veterans had deprived the guards of all reflection.
At a secure distance from the fort the rebels halted for a while, put themselves in order and joined by thousands of armed men, pushed immediately to the Valnad Hills, a rugged terrain with thorny bushses in the eastern part of Tirunelveli For a time the liberated leaders appeared undecided where to proceed, whether to Panchalamkurichi or Dindigul, but so spontaneous and extensive was the popular enthusiasm that their escape excited against alien imperialism that it compelled them to stay on in Tirunelveli to spearhead the movement -76 Now advance parties moved in all directions, surprising and reducing the British posts. Instantly the entire country was in open rebellion and the Madras administration expressed its concern that it would be necessary “ to make extra-ordinary exertions for augmenting the force in the Southern Division.
From Valnad Hills the insurrection spread, the rebel’s sweft off the military posts set up by the Company and completely annihilated its authority in Panjalamkurichi. They proclaimed Shevitiah as their chief and summoned the inhabitants to join their ranks . Responding cheerfully, the people revolted to their leaders. They reconstructed the demolished fort with mud sand and husk and put it in a defensible state.
The rebellion gained strength when large sections of the population rallied to the support of their leaders. The servants of the Nawab and the inhabitants of the Circar territories joined it as the promoters of the rising Large groups of Maravas, Nadars and Totiens joined the rebel ranks. The Paravas of the coast assisted the rebels by supplying wall pieces, guns and powder. These developments imparted a substantially popular character to the movement.
The great leader of the rebellion was Umathurai, a deaf and dumb man and brother of Kattabomman. “ I ever know a near relation of Kattabomia Naig, who was both deaf and dumb, was well known by the English under the appellation of Dumby or the Dumb brother by the Musselmans as Mookah and by the Hindoos as Oomee all having the like signification. He was a tall, slender lad of a very sickly appearance, yet possessing that energy of mind which in troubled times, always gains pre- eminence; whilst in his case the very defect which would have impeded another proved a powerful auxiliary in the minds of ignorant and superstitious idolaters. The Oomee was adored; his slightest sign was an oracle and every man flew to execute whatever he commanded No council assembled at which he did not preside; during adventure was undertaken; which he did not lead. His method of representing the English was extremely simple: he collected a few little pieces of straw arranged them on the palm of his left hand to represent the English force; then with other signs, for the time etc, he drew the other hand across and swept them off with a wizzing sound from his mouth which was the signal for attack and he was generally the foremost in executing those plans for our annihilation. Whatever undisciplined valour could effect, was sure to be achieved wherever he appeared; though poor Oomee was atlast doomed to grace a gallows in reward for the most disinterested and purest patiriotism.
He had escaped, as it were,by miracle, in every previous engagement, although every soldier in our camp has most anxious to destroy so notorious and celebrated chieftain. On the 24 th of May when the forst was wrenched from them and the whole were retreating, pursued by our cavalry, poor Oomee fell covered with wounds near a small village about three miles from Punchallacoorchy as soon as our troops had returned from the pursuit. Colonel Agnew instantly ordered the Eteapooreans to follow them till night, offering rewards for only men of consequence dead or alive. Our allies consequently set out with great glee, somewhat late in the evening and in the meantime appearance of quiet induced some women of the village to proceed to the field of carnage, in the hope of finding some of the sufferers capable of receiving succour. Amongst the death of slain they discovered the son of one of the party still breathing and after weeping over him they began to raise him up, when exerting his little remaining strength, he exclaimed” Oh, mother, let me die, but try to save the life of Swamy, who lies wounded near me” the word he used, fully justifies my assertion of their adoration, as its literal meaning is deity.
The women animated by the same feelings, immediately obeyed her dying son, and speedily found Oomee, weltering in his blood, but still alive; and those extraordinary matrons immediately lifted, and carried him to the mother’s house where they were busily employed stanching his wounds, when they were alarmed by a sudden shout from the Eteapooreans in pursuit. There is nothing like the ingenuity of woman at such crisis.
These miserable and apparently half-imbecilo creatures conceived a plan in an instant, which not only proved successful, but most probably saved the lives of several others. They covered the body over with a cloth and set up a shrink of lamentation peculiar to the circumstances.
The Eteapoooreans on their arrival demanded the cause, and being informed, that a poor lad had just expired of the small - pox, fled for their lives out of the village without turning to look behind them. How he was afterwards reserved, I could never learn but certainly he was present and is active as usual on the 7 th and 10 th of June and was taken alive at the conclusion of the campaign, and hanged along with his gallant and ill fated relation on the tower we had erected in the plain before Panjallumcoorcy now the only monument of that once- dreaded fortress, if we expect the burying ground of six or seven hundred of our slaughtered comrades in its vicinity
As he understood the inferiority of poligar- warfare, he employed guerilla tactics. The history of the rebellion is full of such episodes. A believer in mass movement against the English, he sought to win the cooperation of the different sections of people, but did not succeed in winning the support of all. Still, he took no retaliatory measures on individuals; for he permitted the English officers at Tutukudi to go off in safety and generously granted full liberty to Macaulay’s troops after their discomfiture at Panjalamkurichi. His qualities made James Welsh to pay a glowing tribute that: “ He was one of the most extraordinary mortals I ever knew”
The Collector submitted a report to the Board on 22 nd March 1801 that Milapon with his bandits had made a second incursion from Sivaganga into Ramnad but he was reported to have again taken shelter in Sivaganga notwithstanding any letters to the Sherogars of Sivaganga on the subject of his presumption and folly in provoking the Company’s displeasure.
The Collector wrote a letter to the Sherogar of Sivaganga on 23rd March 1801 that Milapon had again found in an asylum in Sivaganga and the seizure and surrender of him and his adherents was demanded of the Sherogar. Either the favour or the resentment of Government would be measured towards Sivaganga according to his conduct.
The Collector wrote a letter to the Sherogar, Sivaganga on 18th April 1801 that the armed peons employed by Sivaganga not satisfied with depredations had also become Murderers.
In May 1801 the rebellion spread from Tirunelveli to the Marawa states. The leaders of the rebellion were Vellai Marudu and his more influential younger brother Chinna Marudu, who had already been allied to the rebels of Tirunelveli. Uniting themselves with every rebellious chief and drawing together all the inhabitants of their districts, they assembled a formidable force with grim determination they withdrew from the villages and trusted themselves entirely on the jungle recesses. The temple at Kalayarkoil in the heart of Sivaganga forest became the rallying centre of the rebels, obviously because they attached a religious significance to their struggle. Before their withdrawal they destroyed the villages and forts to prevent them from being used by the British troops .
The rebellion assumed formidable proportions when the insurgents who had been driven from other quarters with loss and discomfiture rallied to Sivaganga On the 28 th of May Umathurai, with his wounds still unhealed, joined the rebels of the Marawars at Kamudi. When Umathurai reached Kamudi, Chinna Marudu took him to Siruvayal, his capital, and attended solicitously upon his welfare. The women of the Marudus distributed sundry articles in charity seeking the mercy of gods for the safety of the Dumby
Panchalamkurichi was captured on 22nd of May 1801 and on capture of the fort, the rebels fled to Sivagangai, then ruled by the Marudus who had an army of 20,000 men armed with muskets, matchlocks or spears. Palankeens were taken in procession with the sound of music and waving of light (ARATI) to Siruvayal, when they were lodged in the house of the mother of Marudus.
Oomathurai had been afflicted with six desperate wounds. Yet on the third day it seemed certain that he was out of danger. On the 28 th of May with his wounds still unhealed, he reached Kumudi. Marudu Pandyan accompanied by a large crowd of people, reached Kumudi and affectionately welcomed into his camp the hero who returned from the fallen. Taking Ommathurai to his Headquarters at Siruvayal, he attended on him with the greatest care. The villagers even from the remote places visited their gallant leader and gave him presents. The women of the town collected sundry articles, distributed them among the poor, and made offerings to the deities for the quick recovery of the afflicted rebel.
The patriots fleeing from the south and north made the jungle of Kalayarkoil their rallying centre. More of the Inhabitants of Sivaganga and Ramnad joining the insurrection swelled the rebel ranks. The preparations made in the woods and the movements of armed groups portended the possibility of a major offensive against the British positions. Concerned at these, the Company directed its army to take the field against the rebel concentrations in the forests of Sivaganga. However as the odds appeared heavy, Agnew, who commanded the operations, sought the aid of the princes and to sow the seeds of discord in the rebel ranks. At his request the Rajahs of Travancore and Pudukkottai and the Poligar of Ettayapuram sent more of their troops to reinforce the Company’s army, furnished provisions and transmitted intellignece gathered by their hircarrahs.
The Collector wrote a letter on 22nd May 1801 to Col Agnew about the attack on Pallimurrae. The sons of the Sherogar headed a party of 1000 peons and attacked Pallimurrae. Particulars of that rebellion had been sent to Lt. Col Agnew.
The Assistant Collector in his letter dated 25 th May 1801 stated that four of Murdoo’s men were seized by Vannni Thevan with the assistance of Inhabitants and that the whole party of Murdoo’s men would be dispelled soon.
The Collector wrote a letter on 29th May 1801 about the distrubance in collection in Sivaganga. The fugitive of poligar of Panjalamkurichi arrived with 30 attendants on the morning of 25 and joined the Sherogar’s sons who were employed in blockade of the Palace.
The Sherogar had dared to send Amildars into all the Taluks of Ramnad with the exception of the cusba to take charge of the country and consequently the collections of the province had been disturbed. The arrival of Col Agnew’s detachment would restore the confidence of the people and facilitate the collection.
A letter dated 1st June 1801 was sent to the Officer Commanding Southern Detachment. The Genealogy of the Zamindar was traced from 1 st Zamindar down to the present one. The two sons of the last widow were placed in charge of lesser Marawas and no measures were taken either to disarm or mortify the spirit of rebellion in the poligars.
On the 12 th of June 1801, Agnew issued a proclamation, warning the inhabitants of Sivaganga of the dreadful consequences of resistance. Calculated to undermine the popular image of Maruthu Pandyan, to persuade his brother Vella Marudu to betray the rebel cause and to encourage rival claims to the throne of Sivaganga, he announced;
“Whereas Chinna Marudoo ( Marudu), the Sherogar of Sivaganga, unmindful of his duty to the Company’s Sirkar and their repeated and positive orders has not only assisted the rebels of Panjalamcourchy ( Panjalamkurichi) with men and ammunition, and given protection to the rebels of Veerapatchy ( Virupakshi) but levied war against the Company by attacking their forts, murdering their servants and subjects and plundering their territories.
It is known to the inhabitants of Sivaganga and to the whole world the complete protection and comfort they have enjoyed ever since they were placed under the Company’s Government and the security and indulgence that has been extended to Chinna Murdoo as the servant of the Heiress notwithstanding his crimes prior to that period. It is also fully known to them that this rebel Chinna Murdoo was sent a few years past a slave in the family of their former Rajah Muthu Wadaganaud Tevar. Having obtained the confidence of the Rany on the death of the Rajah he has long exercised a severe and improper sway in the country, and now that the Heiress ( in what manner she died has not yet been ascertained) he has filled up the measure of his crimes by taking up arms with a view to usurp the rights of the lawful heir of Sivaganga.
The English Sirkar justly incensed at such flagrant conduct has sent Colonel Agnew with an army to punish the rebel Chinna Murdoo and the supporters of his rebellion but with instructions to protect those who adhere to the Company’s Sircar and the interests of the lawful heir of Sivaganga whosoever that may be. The persons who consider themselves entitled thereto are therefore required to repair without delay to Colonel Agnew’s camp where they will receive the fullest protection and they may rely on their claims being impartially investigated and the person who shall appear justly entitled to it shall be placed on the Puttom (throne) as soon as the rebels shall have suffered the punishment due to their crimes.
Colonel Agnew considers it his duty to warn all those who may consider they have a claim to the Puttom of Sivaganga that such claims will be forfeited for ever if instead of repairing to his camp they join the Rebel Chinna Murdoo or his party.
Colonel Agnew has been given to understand that Vella Murdoo, the brother of the rebel Chinna Murdoo, disapproves his brother’s wicked conduct - Colonel Agnew though determined to punish the guilty, is anxious to save the innocent - humanity - therefore prompts him to offer Vella Murdoo and his family protection if he will repair to his camp from whence he will give his safe conduct to Madura there to remain in quiet.
Having thus explained to the inhabitants of Sivaganga the motives of the English Sircar for sending an army into their country he now warns them of the dreadful consequence that must inevitable result from their attempting to oppose the Company’s arms and the interests of the lawful heir to the Puttom by adhering to and fighting for the rebellious Chinna Murdoo, the usurper of his rights.
The awful example before them of the recent fate of the rebels of Panjalamcourchy (Panjalamkurichi) Veerapatchy (Virupakshi) and Dally (Delli) they cannot be ignorant of such will be the dreadful punishment of the inhabitants of Sivaganga if they too oppose the Company’s troops and of all who fight aganist them
Intimidation and concentration of military might on Sivaganga did not deter the insurgents from their firm resolve to continue the struggle. Elaborate preparations already carried into effect enabled Marudu Pandyan to co-ordinate the offensive operations. Large quantities of grain and fire- arms had already been deposited in the jungles of Ramamangalamkottai within four miles of Kalayarkoil. More stores had been established at Kalayarkoil, Kadalgudi and Kallarkudi. Even before March 1801 the rebels gathered the firearms, repaired them and completed preparations in their woods for the most obstinate war. Confident of meeting their needs of grain from their stores, they laid waste the entire country in their endeavour to harass the advancing forces and to deprive them of supplies.
In May 1801, the insurgents who retreated to the jungles of Sivaganga from the different provinces, reinforced by more bodies of armed inhabitants, launched a desperate offensive. They stormed the British strongholds and made deep inroads in the territories controlled by the enemy. In the course of the initial wave of attacks the pillaging parties vanquished the forces of the Company and its ally, the Nawab of the Carnatic, in the battles fought at Tirupatore and Nattham. They stormed Tirmvelur and Melur, captured the fire- arms and ammunition deposited therein and got themselves better equipped. In Verapur, Bomma Nayak headed the rebellion and expelled the servants of the Company, who were engaged in the collection of revenue. From here the insurgents advanced towards Madurai. Commanded by Oomathurai, a column of armed men liberated Palaynad. In July the Kallar tribes of Anioornadu defied the Company’s authority and liberated the western region of Madurai. Exuberant at these victories the veterans advanced to Madurai to assault the fort, but finding the British garrison well entrenched, they directed their course to Kadarakoil and took possession of it-
After the occupation of Nattam, the pillaging parties made an attempt to make incursions into the district of Tiruchirapalli but were thwarted by Captain Blair. Subsequently they posted a strong guard at the Convoypatti Pass to safeguard their newly- acquired possessions Raghunatha Tondaiman, Rajah of Pudukkottai reported to Governor Clive; At present Chinna Marudu, confederated himself with Sevatiah is exciting disturbances. Having occupied the forts of Tirmvelur, Melur and Nattam he has plundered the military stores, guns and firelocks of the Company and sent parties to Ramnad. “ The flame of rebellion is warm on every side.”
In Ramnad the patriots scored more victories. The armed columns which arrived from Tirunelveli upon their discomfiture at Panjalamkurichi infested Palameri ( Palamaneri) and administered a severe blow to the British force stationed at this post. They followed up this victory by a siege of the fort of Tiruchuzhi, which surrendered on the 16th of July. After consolidating these gains, the rebels formed themselves into two columns for further assaults: one party headed by Melappan moved to the southern region of Ramnad while the other commanded by Puttur, marched to the northern border. Their co-ordinated operations resulted in the liberation of most of Ramnad from the British rule.
The administration of the Company took refuge in the fort of Ramnad. The possession of this territory not only added to the strength of the rebels but gave them control of the entire coast. Afflicted by the famine conditions created by the British embargo on imports, more inhabitants appeared ready to join the struggle. The command of the coastal waters enabled them to obtain uninterrupted supplies of grain and war equipment brought in by the doneys from the port of Tondi.
On the 16th of June 1801 the British administration received report of a rebel proclamation. Issued under the name of Marudu Pandyan, a copy of it was found on the wall of the large open gateway leading to the Nawab’s palace in the fort of Tiruchirappalli. It was addressed to the people of South India, mentioned in it as the Peninsula of Jambu Dweepa. Another was found on the wall of the great Temple of Srirangam. It was addressed to all the inhabitants of India, referred in it as the Island of Jambu.
The selection of Tiruchirapplli and Srirangam as the venues of the proclamation was of significance under the prevalent circumstances. These two places, like Coimbatore, lay within the sphere of rebel influence. Tiruchirapalli was a centre of political activity, for it was the control of this strategic fort that enabled the English to turn the tide of their long struggle against Chanda Sahib and the French in their favour and to consolidate their power in the South, Srirangam as a Hindu spiritual centre, appeared as a suitable place for the issue of an appeal to all the people of the entire sub-continent. Addressed by the principal architect of the Peninsular Confederacy, it reflected the ideals of nationalism which moulded and promoted the awakening of the people against the alien regime. Announced in an hour of trial it represented an attempt not only to instil confidence in the people in their great struggle but to gain the co-operation of the entire population.
Unsurpassed by any similar declaration in the annals of India’s freedom struggle, the Tiruchirapalli proclamation constitutes a remarkable document. It enshrines in itself a unique combination of ideals and data, as presented by a great patriot, hailing from the masses. An all-Indian concept inspired the proclamation, for it not only made a direct appeal to the entire country but expressed an anxiety that if the political malady persisted, the entire India would fall under alien rule. A high sense of nationalism guided the entire conception. It exhorted all religious and communal sections, whether they were peasants, sepoys, or civil servants to rally to the patriotic cause.
However the details are more of South Indian interest as the rebels had no definite knowledge of the political developments in the North-East, and the English had not established their sway in the North. It indicted Mohammad Ali, Nawab of the Carnatic, for his folly in his dealings with the Company, the inhabitants for their indifference and the English for their duplicity and arrogance. The advocacy of the hereditary rights of the princes and national customs made in the proclamation, would appear ill- conceived in the light of modern concepts of liberalism, but it could not be denied that it seemed a necessity for securing popular support during a period when tradition swayed the imagination of the people. The English version of the two proclamations which are almost identical in their contents proceeds thus.
MARUDU PANDYAN’S JAMBU DWEEPA PROCLAMATION
“ Who ever sees this paper, Read it with Attention.
“To the castes, nations, Brahmins, Kshetriyas, Vysyas. Sudras and Musselmen that are in the Island of Jamboo in the Peninsula of Jamboo Dweepa this notice is given.
“ His Highness the Nawab Mohammad Ali having foolishly given the Europeans place amongst you is become like a widow. The Europeans violating their faith have deceitfully made the kingdom their own and considering the inhabitants as dogs, accordingly exercise authority over them. There existing no unity and friendship amongst you the above castes, who, not being aware of the duplicity of these Europeans- have not only inconsiderately calumniated each other, but have absolutely surrendered the Kingdom to them. In these countries now governed by these low wretches, the inhabitants have become poor and the rice has become vellum ( water). And although they manifestly suffer, they are still without understanding to discern it.
It is certain that the Man must die- although he may live a thousand years! And it is as certain that his fame will survive him as long as the Sun and Moon (Shine). Therefore it is devised and determined that in future each shall enjoy his hereditary Rights, namely to His Highness the Nawab Arcot Subah Vijaya Ramanah Tirumala Nayak the Carnatic, Tanjore the first place and to others their respective kingdoms all to be given to their rightful sovereigns without any violation of faith and national customs (The Europeans must) confine themselves to a dependent service on the Nawab from which they may expect to derive a real and uninterrupted happiness. As the authority of the Europeans will be destroyed, we shall enjoy as in the service of the Nawab, constant happiness without tears.
It is therefore recommended that every man in his place and palayam fly to arms and unite together in order to make even the name of the low wretches cease. Then all the poor and the needy will get subsistence. But should there be any who like dogs desirous of an easy life, obey the commands of these low wretches, such should be Karoo or cut off. As all know with what subtility these low wretches, always in unity with each other have subdued the country! Therefore you Brahmins, Kshetriyas Vysyas, Sudras and Musselmen, all who wear whiskers, whether civil or military, serving in the field or elsewhere, and you subedars, jamedars, havildars, nayaks and sepoys in the service of the low wretches and all capable of bearing arms, let them in the first place display their bravery as follows.
“Wherever you find any of the low wretches destroy them and continue to do so until they are extirpated. Whoever serves the low wretches will never enjoy eternal bliss after death, I know this. Consider and deliberate on it. And he who does not subscribe to this may his whiskers be like the hair of my secret parts and his food be tasteless and without nourishment and may his wife and children belong to another and be considered as the offspring of the low wretches to whom he had prostituted her. Therefore all but whose blood is not contaminated by Europeans will begin to unite. Whoever read this or hears of its contents let him make it as public as possible by writing it to his friends, who in like manner must publish it to theirs. Everyone who shall not write it and circulate it as before mentioned, let him be held as guilty of the enormous crime of having killed a black cow on the banks of the Ganga and suffer all the various punishments of hell The Musselmen who do not conform to this, let him be considered as having drunk the blood of a pig.
Whoever takes this off the wall where it is pasted let him be held as guilty of the five greatest sins. Let everyone read and take a copy of this address. Thus MARUDU PANDYAN, the servant of the great Rajahs but the implacable Enemy of the European low wretches.
To all living at Srirangam the priests and great people, MARUDU PANDYAN, prostrates himself at their feet. The Sovereigns made and kept ports, mud bastions, churches and chapels, The above great Rajahs and People by the injustice of the low wretches are now reduced to poverty. So great a people as you are reduced to this State! Grant me your Blessing”
“Jambu Dweepa Proclamation of Mardu Pandiyan was the first document which proclaimed the integration of India and the unity of Religions. The proclamation was the claim call of a subdued race to rise against the tyranny of an external force. The Proclamation of Maruthu Pandiyan of 1801 was a prelude warning to the East India Company that the people of India would unite together immediately and rebel against the Company in future which became a reality by the first great upsurge of the people in 1857 which was termed as the First War of Independence in the History of the Freedom Struggle Movement in India. It is considered the first kind in the Histroy of India. It might appear strange that the rebels at times used unrefined language. But what is to be remembered is that they belonged to the ranks of the common people and that the words they used were in condemnation of the people who remained indifferent to the cause of Rebellion or turned traitors.
The five greatest sins are; the killing of a Brahmin, adultery with the wife of the master, drinking of liquor, theft of gold and finally connivance at doing any of these offences. While expiation can be had during the present life for ordinary sins, it cannot be had for the five greatest sins, for their effect will continue even after rebirth, according to Hindu belief.
By brilliant daring and enterprise, the rebels expelled the enemy from extensive regions of Ramnad, Madurai, Kallarnadu and Thanjavur They organised their administration in the liberated territories, sought to consolidate their gains and to translate into practice their political ideals. Before long, however, they faced overwhelming opposition from the enemy. Determined to regain the initiative, the English rushed in powerful detachments from other provinces and pressed into action more troops of its allies. In the desperate struggle that followed ill-equipped crowds faced well armed forces. The patriots found the odds so unsurmountable that they could no longer sustain the forces of the liberty”
“Agnew, who assumed the command of the operations against the extensive insurrection, formulated a forward strategy aimed at the defence of Madurai against the threat of rebel assault, retention of the control of key posts and an offensive in three directions- one from the south - east from Tirunelveli another from the north - west from Dindigul and the third from the north - east from Thanjavur to the rebel held territories. After the attainment of these objectives he decided on a thrust against the insurgent concentrations in the jungles of Kalayarkoil.
With the attainment of these immediate aims, Agnew embarked upon a difficult campaign through Ramnad. He occupied Palamaneri, from where he directed his course to the north. Experiencing considerable resistance, the detachment reached Tiruppuvanam situated east of Madurai. This successful march through the rebel controlled territory greatly relieved the rebel pressure on the city of Madurai. Agnew sent a body of troops led by Major James Graham, to reinforce the garrison at Madurai, but the patriots in great force fell upon the advancing party. A relief expedition, commanded by Major Sheppard, moved to the rescue of Graham, upon which the attacking parties withdrew to the jungles.
From Tiruppuvanam the British army turned to the south- east, contemplating upon a move to Ramnad. The odds involved in this operation were great, for the nature of the country appeared quite unfavourable and concentration of rebel power seemed considerable. On the 7th of June, Agnew moved to Tiruppachetty, from where he advanced to Manamadurai marching along the bank of river, Palamaneri, the enemy occupied Paramagudi on the 11th. The insurgents hovered around the British army throughout its march from Tiruppuvanam to Paramagudi. The terrain being favourable, they effectively utilised the advantage for harassing the enemy. On the 7th of June at Tiruppachetty, the rebels posted individually and in small parties kept up a distant but galling fire on a body of troops that was detached to cover the flank of the line. The scattered disposition of the rebel parties together with the nature of the ground prevented the Company’s troops from returning the fire successfully.
Tormented greatly, Agnew sent regular infantry against the armed column, but the latter retreated with such rapidity as to defy pursuit. Deriving confidence in their tactics and benefited by the favourable nature of the country, the armed crowds again pressed vigorously on the rear- guard of the detachment. On reaching a convenient spot the cavalry, supported by a party of infantry and a field piece, moved against the insurgents But the rebels by a daring counter attack separated a body of troops from the principal detachment which could not regain the broken ground that it had originally occupied, and cut it to pieces. They followed up this success by disputing the ground that was found requisite for occupation by the piquets and in a series of engagements inflicted more losses upon the enemy.
On the succeeding day the extreme closeness of the jungles gave them more opportunities but they preserved a respectable distance, firing only a few random shots. After reaching Manamadurai, the detachment resumed its tedious march on the 10 th. Now strong parties of rebels. equipped with fire- arms lined themselves behind high banks, water courses and jungles on the opposite bank of river Palamaneri. Major Sheppard led a body of troops against the attacking crowds while the flanking parties reached the opposite bank of the river.
However the rebels appeared so unusually numerous that the detachment was compelled to withdraw. The retreat was effected in good order but the rear- guard, returning too soon and neglecting to occupy a strategic position in a village neraby, was closely engaged. The enemy lost many of its troops, they were shot or piked to death. Emboldened, the rebels made a gallant dash across the river and vigorously attacked the forces with pikes. In a grim contest that ensued both the sides suffered heavy casualty. Constantly harassed, the detachments of Agnew by forced marches reached the village of Gangaikondan on the 12 th of June. Two days later the enemy reached to the protection of the heavy batteries on the ramparts of Ramnad.
On the 22nd June Agnew encamped at Kumudi, a strong and compact stone fort, and strengthened its garrison. Advancing through Palamaneri the expedition reached Madurai on the 9 th of July. The rebels, engaged in conflicts with the detachment of Innes marching from Dindigul in the meantime, found it beyond their means to attempt to check the progress of this expedition from Ramnad. Agnew spent the succeeding weeks at Madurai, dispersing the rebel concentrations and consolidating his position. Subsequently, he led his army to Tirupatore and took it by storm on the 24 th of July. Here he waited for making a junction with the forces of Innes before beginning the more arduous campaign in the jungles of Kalayarkoil” .
The patriots strove hard to check the British expedition from the north west to Madurai Reaching Nattam on the 13 th of June, Innes received reinforcement from Pudukkottai “On the 4 th July the forces moved towards Manapacheri situated eight miles away from Piranmalai. Innes decided to attack Piranmalai, a stone fort of considerable extent and elevation. embracing the declivity of a rocky projection and well manned by the rebels” 114 but Agnew cautioned him against any rash adventure, as the probability of success. In his judgment did not strongly overbalance the risk of defeat. The assailants reconnoitered the rebel stronghold but judging their strength quite inadequate, did not take a chance. On the 6 th the insurgents began a heavy fire on the British positions. Two days later the columns led by Vella Marudu and Chinna Marudu, attacked the British forces, pressed vigorously on their lines and drove them off.
The Board communicated to the Collector the order of Government directing the appointment as Zemindar of one Permattoor Woria Tevar collaterally descended from the progenitor of Shesavarana Tevar, the first Zemindar appointed by the Nawab Sadatulla Khan, declaring Vengam Peria Woria Tevar, also a collateral descendant to have forfeited his claim to the Zamindari for having joined Vella Murdu and Chinna Murdu, the usurpers of Sivaganga in their rebellious campaign against Government. A proclamation announcing the appointment and calling upon the people of Sivaganga to obey the Government order is enclosed.
Proclamation of Edward Lord Clive dated 6 th July 1801.
1) Sheshavarna Tevar, distinguished by his personal merit was raised to the rank of Zemindar as the reward of his services and was the first Zemindar of Shevagungah, he was succeeded in the possession of that Zemindary by his only son, Vullaganatha Taver, who was killed in the battle at Collaye coil. The widow of Vullaganad Taver, having escaped with their only child, a daughter was subsequently restored to the possession of the Zemindary by her sovereign the Nawab of the Carnatic. The daughter of Vullaganada Taver was married to Vengam Perria Worria Taver to whom she bore an only daughter. That daughter died. The daughter of
Vullaganada Taver without bearing issue, and her mother, as well as the widow of Vullanganada
Taver, having also demised, it follows that no line descendant from first Zemindar of Shevagungah, Shesawarna Taver, now exists. The hereditary right of succession to that Zemindary, therefore, extinct, and the Zemindary of Shevagungah, upon the principles on which it was erected into a Zemindary, has positively, escheated, the state from which it derives its protection.
2. The Zemindary of Shevagungah being dependent on the Carnatic payenghant, the princes, nobles and inhabitants of that Zemindary owed allegiance to the Nawab of the Carnatic, but the first Zemindar, having been expressly appointed by the Naboob Saad Ally Khan, and advanced by those means to the rank of a feudal lord, Sheshavarna Taver, and his descendants owed, in a particular manner, legiance and obediance to the Naboob and his successors, Sovereigns of the Carnatic. By virtue of the connection long established between the Naboob’s
sovereign of the Carnatic and the British nation, the protection of the Carnatic and its dependencies has been committed to the armies of the Honourable Company, and by the express stipulations of an exercising treaty dated 12 th July 1792, all power and control over the poligar countries, including the Zemindary of Shevagungah, as well as the right of levying receiving appropriating the peishcush, or tribute from the Zemindars and polygars of those countries, were formally and perpetually transferred by the late Naboob Walajah to the Honourable Company. In confirmity to the rights acquired by that treaty, the Honourable Company has continued, from the date of the conclusion of the instrument, to receive the peishcush, and to exercise the authority of the Government over the poligar countries generally, and, in particular over the Zemindary of Shevagungah. By virtue therefore of the rights acquired by treaty, and by the continual exercise of legitimate Government, the Honourable Company is the lawful sovereign of the poligar countries including the Zemindary of Shevagungah, and consequently, possess the sole right of exercising its power, according to its discretion, in disposing of the escheated Zemindary of Shevagungah.
3) The actual exercise of the power of the Company has, for a time, been interrupted by the machinations of Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo. Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo were the servants of the House of Nalcooty at the time when the widow of Vullaganada Taver, fled with her infant daughter from Shevagungah on the return of that princess, they being her principal ministers in the administration of the affairs of Shevagungah, and availing themselves of disqualifications attendant of a feudal Government, established in their own hands an entire despotism and tyranny, as well over the princess’s lineal descendants of the House of Nalcooty, as over the collateral branches of that family, and over the inhabitants of Shevagungah.
4) Upon the death of the last lineal descendant of the House of Nalcooty, Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo attempted to maintain their usurped power by force of arms, and having prevailed on some deluded inhabitants to participate in their crimes, are now actually in open rebellion, opposing resistance to the arms of the Company, and involving the country of Shevagungah in destruction and misery.
5) Wherefore the Right Honourable Edward Lord Clive, Governor in Council of Fort St George and all its dependencies having judged it expedient at this time of exercise the legitimate powers acquired to the Honourable Company in settling the affairs of the Zemindary of Shevagungah for a permanent foundation, has been pleased to nominate, appoint and constitute Permettoor Worria Taver, collaterally descended from the progenitors of Sheshavarna Taver, the first Zemindar of Shevagungah to be present Zemindar of Shevagungah and the said Governor in Council hereby requires and commands all the inhabitants of Shevagungah to respect the rights and authority of the said Permettoor Worria Taver, as the true and lawful Zemindar of Shevagungah.
6) In proceeding to exercise the right and power of nominating a Zemindar to the country of Shevagungah, the Right Honourable the Governor in Council has not been unmindful of the pretensions of Vengum Perria Worria Taver, also collaterally descended from the progenitor’s of the first Zemindar of Shevagungah Sheshawarna Taver, but the said Vengum Perria Worria Taver having united his interests with those of the rebellious slaves of his house, Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo having violated the dignity of his family, and the established maxims of his religion - by receiving the daughter of Vella Murdoo in marriage, and being now actually in arms, with the said Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo against the power of the Company the Right Honourable the Governor in Council of Fort St George hereby publicly and formally proclaims the disqualification of the said Vengum Perria Worria Taver, now and in all times to come, to the possession of the Zemindary of Shevagungah,
7) And whereas the flagrant rebellion of Vella Murdoo, Chinna Murdoo and Vengum Perria Worria Taver, has now rendered it necessary that a military force should be assembled for the purpose of suppressing the usurpation of the said Murdoos, and of establishing the legitimate authority of Zemindar of Shevagungah, and whereas a large army has been assembled under the command of the Lieutenant, Colonel Agnew for those purposes wherefore the Right Honourable the Governor in Council hereby proclaims to the inhabitants of Shevagungah, that his Lordship has vested in Lt Colonel Agnew, full power to punish with death, all persons who shall be found acting in arms or opposing by any other means, the authority and dignity of the British Government.
8) The inhabitants of Shevagungah cannot be ignorant that the force now assembled, under the command of Lt. Colonel Agnew, is sufficient to suppress the rebellion of Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo and to substantiate the rights of the Zemindar of Shevagungah, the frequent instances of the prevalence of the Company’s power against the rebels who have recently appeared in the Southern Provinces cannot be unknown to the inhabitants of Shevagungah, and they cannot therefore expect that after the suppression of so many rebellions, of which that of the Murdoos formed a part, the said Murdoos will be available to maintain their usurpation against the power of the Company.
9) Wherefore, the said Edward Lord Clive Governor in Council of Fort St George gives this timely warning to the inhabitants of Shevagungah of the fatal consequences in which they are about to involve themselves, their families, and their country,unless they shall abandon the cause of Vella Murdoo and Chinna Murdoo, the usurpers of the rights of the lawful Zemindar of Shevagungah while the time yet allows them, to retract their error, to acknowledge their allegiance to the lawful Zemindar of Shevagungah and to resume their ordinary occupations of life, in the confident expectation of enjoying under the moderation and protection of the British Government their individual rights of property, the free administration of the laws of their religion and the full exercise of the domestic usages of their ancestors.
Fort St George, 6 th July 1801 by order of the Right Honourable Governor in Council.
(Signed) J. WEBBE
Chief Secretary to Government
(signed) G.G. KEBS
Assistant to the Secretary
(Signed) A.J. ARBUTHNOT
Head Assistant to the Registrar.
The Resident reported the arrangements made to give publicity to the proclamation of Government announcing the appointment of Permattor Woria Tevar as Zemindar of Sivaganga -116
The Collector wrote a letter on 7th July 1801 to the Tahsildar of Palimurra about the rebel’s activities of Sivaganga. The rebels of Sivaganga attacked the pagoda and town of Tiruchuli and Col Agnew had been asked immediately to suppress them.
A report about Chinna Murdoo’s conduct was sent to Lt.Col Agnew, Commanding the Southern Detachment on 13th July 1801.
1. The enormities practised by Chinna Murdoo under the protection of Hyder Ally during his usurpation of authority in Sivaganga, the barbarity of his conduct in the cruel warfare, he waged against the Rajah of Ramnad, and the intrigues and bribery by which he accomplished his sinister ends while he was under the authority of Mr. Landon and Mr. Jackson were notorious when the Collector took charge of the country.
2. The orders of the Hon’ble the Court of Directors in 1795 for disarming the refractory poligars and adjusting their disputed claims etc were carried into effect.
3. Again in 1800, Murdoo was found in league with Dhoondia and a watch was kept over his conduct. The death of Dhoondia and the nature of the transactions passing in the districts of Mr. Hurdis and captain Mc Leod, together with the presence of Runga Row and hircarrahs subverted the Shevogar’s activities.
4. The ryots of Abiramam complained at the time of the settlement of their village rents, that the Shevogar completely turned the course of the stream which had supplied their tanks for ages. After a personal inspection of the spot, the Collector warned the Shevogar.
5. The Collector summoned the Shevogar at various times to settle the claim of succession to the Zamindari, but he evaded appearing. As the rebellion of Panchalmcourchy broke out on the 2nd of the month, the Collector left Ramnad for the Pollams. He intercepted in February a letter written by a vakil whom the Shevogar had deputed to Panchalmcourchy, which manifested that a close connection subsisted between him and the rebels.
6. If the Shevogar had been impeached at that moment, his consciousness of his guilt would have driven him into rebellion.
7. It was obvious that whenever he openly threw off his allegiance, his own kist would be withheld; Ramnad and the whole of the sequestered Pollam would be thrown into distraction.
8. As it did not appear that any advantage would be gained by a public accusation of the Shevogar, before the rebels of Panchalmcourchy, the Collector lulled him into a belief that he had no suspicion of his disaffection.
9. Such were the benefits of this forbearance to the revenue; of what advantage it has been to the military operations. Lt. Col Agnew will be able to Judge.
“ The enemy followed up the blockade of the Bay of Tondi with a successful attempt at the creation of dissensions within the rebel ranks. Having failed in persuading Vella Marudu to join the side of the Company against his brother Chinna Marudu, the English pomoted rivalry in the ruling house of Sivaganga. At the instance of the Company, Padamattur Woya Tevar a member of the royal family, contested the claims of Vengum Peria Wodaya Tevar, the ruler under whom the Marudus served as ministers. With this development the rebel camp was sundered into two warring factions and tormented by rivalry
On top of it all, the Company scored a vital diplomatic success, when they won the support of Padamattur Voya Thevar, descendant of Sasivarna Tevar, the former ruler of Sivaganga. The Company made a capital out of the Marawa - Agambadiar conflict. In the absence of a Marawa to lead them at Sivaganga, the Marawas of the territory were giving their unstinted support to the Agambadia Servais, the Marudhus in perference to the alien powers, the Nawab and the British. Now that the Company had declared Padamattur Voya Thevar, as the chief of Sivaganga, the royalist group naturally supported Voya Thevar. Therefore, there was a split among the columns of Sivaganga
As no followers could be obtained immediately the Tondaiman hired out 250 of his peons for service with Woya Tevar. Escorted by them the traitor prince reached the camp of Blackburne at Arandangy on the 12 th of August. Eager to project the image of the rival prince, the troops of the Company accorded a pompous but patched up welcome.-
“From Arandangy, Woya Tevar, accompanied by more people, proceeded to the camp of Agnew at Sivaganga. On the 12 th of September 1801 in a ceremonious function at Cholapuram the ancient capital of Sivaganga attended with much display and ostentation, deliberate though they were, Agnew installed Woya Tevar as the Rajah of the state”.
The Brahmins in our camp and vicinity having fixed 12th September 1801 as an auspicious day, for the inauguration of the new Sheragar of Shevagungah, His Highness Woodia Tevar rose with the lark, adorned himself like a peacock and moved in state to the Pagoda of Sholaveram, escorted by the staff, and the 2nd battalion of the 6 th regiment; where having various religious ceremonies to perform, we left him till noon, when Colonel Agnew and staff in full costumes, proceeded with an escort of cavalry, first to Colonel Inne’s camp where he joined the cavalcade and thence to the Pagoda, at the gate of which Woodia Tevar’s tent was pitched with a temporary pandall for our reception.
The embroyo diginitary having met us here, Colonel Agnew, after the customary salutation; presented with a superb dress; at the same time giving his brother a similar one, but of much less value. They then retired into the tent and shortly afterwards the cavalry having been drawn up with a Howdah elephant and military band, the great men returned, dressed in their robes of honour, when they were greeted by a concatenation of sounds, produced by our band, in conjunction with various native musical instruments; in which the war like collery horn and noisy tom-tom were the most conspicuous for execution. On their arrival at the front of the pandall Colonel Agnew- on his right, and Colonel Innes on his left handed the Rajah in and seated him on a carpet in the centre with his brother on his left hand; when our chair being placed in semicircle, we all sat down opposite to them.
All being at length adjusted, and silence obtained, a matter of considerable difficulty, a scribe read aloud the proclamation of Government announcing the appointemnt of the said’ Woodia Tevar’ to be Zameendar of the Shevagungah district’ Then handing the deed to Colonel Agnew, he folded it up and presented it, with an appropriate and congratulatory speech to the new Zameendar who expressed his gratitude in a very eloquent and feeling reply. A salute of elevan guns was then fired, and the two Colonels having handed the Prince into his Howdah (A carriage or litter of various dimensions, fitted on the back of an elephant for the accommodation of princes, or great natives; in courts, it is the state- carriage of the Sovereign the officers all remounted, and the cavalry formed an advanced and rear - guard with drawn swords, having the elephant and staff in the centre.)
The procession then started, with a flourish of trumpets and a march from the band; the native music struck up, and a peal of shouts and shreiks from all the Poligars and collery attendants rent the air. After passing all round the Pagoda and camp, the cavalcade stopped at the exact spot from whence, It set out, and Woodia Taver was again handed into the pandall by the Colonels. The new Prince was actually overpowered with gratitude. I saw a tear run down his cheek, and all at once unable any longer to suppress his honest feelings, he arose threw himself at Colonel Agnew’s feet and embraced his knees whilst his brother, by a simultaneous movement and feeling embraced the knees of Colonel Innes.
The scene had now become truly interesting, and I must own I felt a sensation almost amounting to regret, when it was concluded, by our taking leave and retiring. The Zameendar remained, to receive the homage of the few of his future subjects who had come over to our side and at five p.m. he came back to camp, with his original escort.
The elevation of Woya Tevar to a show of royal status misguided the simple, minded inhabitants. As a prince of the ruling house joined the Company, it exercised an adverse impact upon their loyalty to the cause of Rebellion. The people of Nalukottai, Okkur, Erakur, Partimangalam and Paghinery, deserting the insurgent camp went over to Woya Tevar. The intimate knowledge of the woods of Kalayarkoil, possessed by these deserters, the guidance given by Woya Tevar and the dissensions created in the rebel camp greatly assisted the Company in its subsequent campaigns.
On the 9 th September, Zameendar professed loyalty to the Company. Vizia Regunad Gowri Vullava Peria Woodaya Tevar, Zemindar of Sivaganga assured the Collector of his unswerving loyalty to the Company and of his zeal to help them in suppressing the rebels.
As the situation of Innes appeared precarious, Agnew advancing from Tirupatore, took such a position as to assist the operations of the hard- pressed detachment. On the 18th Innes launched a second attack on Piranmalai but was again defeated with heavy loss. Humbled in their repeated endeavours, the British forces made another disgraceful retreat to Nattam.-126 On the 22 nd upon the arrival of reinforcements, Innes moved to Satturusankarakottai situated six miles away form Tirupatore. The detachment continued its march through a close wood but on the 26 th, the rebels, who had occupied strong positions in its fronts, perceiving their advantage attacked the enemy, using rockets for the first time losing no time, Agnew rushed to the relief of Innes, prevailing on the besieging crowds to withdraw to the woods.
The combined forces now took their route from Tirupatore for an assault on Piranmalai and to establish communications with Pudukkottai. Subsequently, however, they decided to change their direction, as the road to Piranmalai was of difficult access,being intersected by hills and jungles and occupied by large groups of pikemen, ready to challenge their progress. On the 28 th of July, the forces encamped at Okkur. The armed parties, considering the town indefensible evacuated it. The assailants fortified it into a military post.
“ The Murdo’s palace and that of Shevatatomby were conpicuous for neatness more than grandeour, and though small were extremely solid and well built. The streets, one of which had an avenue in it, were broad and regular, and the whole town claimed a superiority over any.
I had ever seen in India”
“Siruvayal, the headquarters of Marudu Pandyan, was a clean town with broad and regular streets and well - built houses. On the 27 th July the combined forces of Agnew and Innes began their march from Okkur to Siruvayal. The enemy experienced no fierce opposition for the first two days, after which they found their task, formidable, for they had to manoeuvre for every inch of land. The road passed through a cultivated tract, lying between two jungles but it was so
much interrupted by high banks and extensive rows of palmyra trees that it gave excellent cover to the rebels in every direction.
Numerous parties occupying the banks and woods on the way harassed the troops from the commencement to the end of a short but tedious march. When they were pushed from the front, they moved round to the flanks and rear, accompanying the detachment with a teasing fire at all times. Waging a constant battle against the attackers, the weary, troops encamped within two miles of Siruvayal on the 29th.
The next day the detachment moved to attack the defiant town. The rebels had made entrenchments connected with the bunds of the tanks, located advantageously to support each other. A battery was regularly formed in their centre. The armed groups collected together but when Agnew made a disposition to attack the flanks of their line and advanced forward with a heavy fire, they abandoned their positions. They set fire to the beautiful town and nearby villages and under the cover of a distant fire withdrew to the barriers in the jungles of Kalayarkoil. As all the forage was destroyed and the country afforded no grazing field for the numerous pack cattle, the enemy experienced considerable difficulty. The assailants having entered the destroyed town,had a clear look at the tower of the Pagoda of Kalayarkoil, which was visible beyond.
On the 30 th of July we obtained possession of the Murdoo’s Capital Sherewale. Through we had but a short distance to go yet expecting some hard work, we took an early breakfast and set forward at eight o’clock a.m., Our advance consisting of five hundred and forty Europeans the Malay riflemen, and three native regiments A bank running in an eastern direction from the right of our line, for about half a mile, and then turning to the north was crowned with the Sherogar’s troops and they had formed a very neat little battery for four guns, in the centre of the northern arm, bearing directly down upon the high road, which they expected us to take.
On reconnoitring this position, Colonel Agnew directed the leading division to be formed into two columns, one to take the battery in flank the other to advance direct upon it, the former was accompanied by four six pounders and the latter by two twelve pounders and two howitzers, upon which the enemy fired a few shots, threw some ill- directed rockets, and then retreated with their four guns but being rapidly oversued very speedily abandoned them. Their panic was so great, that instead of offering any further resistance, where nature and art had given them such ample means, the enemy set fire to their own houses, and scampered off to the deep jungle, leaving us to take quiet possession of a burning town.
This march, which was atmost two miles, and three quarters, took us exactly six hours, to accomplish; and the first tent of the line was pitched at half past two 0’ clock p.m. The five extensive villages of Sherewele almost destroyed by the flames, which had spread with great but lost 200 men killed or wounded. In spite of this, on the 15 th they opened a heavy cannonade and a constant fire of musketry and forced the working party to withdraw to the camp.
“On the 15 th of August Agnew wrote in disgust to Madras that the pioneers and wood cutters had laboured incessantly but the increasing closeness of the jungle had retarded their progress so much that the road was still unfinished. The supply of labour was reduced by sickness and desertion due to the dread of rebel fire, to which they were frequently exposed. On the night of the 14 th the road had been advanced five miles and the Pagoda of Kalayarkoil was seen over the trees, it appeared less than a mile away on the 15 th of morning. When the pioneers resumed the work, a battery of several guns, concealed by the rebels in the jungles, opened fire and rendered the work impossible.
“ On the 16 th of August the forces moved to the bank from where the insurgents launched the attack the previous days but found it so strongly fortified both by nature and art that they abandoned their designs to occupy it. The next two days the workers cut a narrow road of 1,700 yards. The rebel cannon impeded the British progress. Agnew directed Captain Weston who commanded a select party to take it at all cost yet no success came. On the 19 th when the force reached a bank, the rebels fired several sarabogies, a kind of park guns, normally used for firing salutes. Immediately armed parties, assembling from all directions, opened a tremendous firing. Carried away by a combination of rashness and daring, they besieged very closely the hostile positions, well defended by heavy guns. As the surging parties reached within ten yards, the enemy’s guns discharged a few rounds. Screams and groans followed. Intermittent fire continued from the distant posts of the rebels but a few moments later all were hushed.
The patriots suffered very heavy casualties; the blood of the fleeing was traceable in every direction in the Jungles. Yet well prepared for any sacrifice, they continued their bitter resistance with indomitable courage. The English forces succeeded in beating the besieging crowds every hour but the moment they felt relieved they found themselves surrounded and attacked from all sides. A party under Weston sought to seize the cannon from the rebels, but as the latter threatened a flanking thrust for the control of the road, abandoned the enterprise.
Repeated efforts were made to pursue the work on the road day after day but the insurgents, taking their positions under the cover of banks and entrenchments against which the troops could seldom advance, baffled it. The heavy loss that they suffered in every action appeared to have had little impact upon their patriotic will to resist. On the contrary the reverses suffered by the forces of the Company and their constant exposure to the burning sky left their impress, lasting and indelible, upon their will. The pioneers were convinced that it was no more possible to continue the work on the road.”
Driven to desperate straits, Agnew sought to open communications with the other British posts, to gain reinforcements to elude the vigilance of the gallant patriots and to escape assault by frequent showers of bullets, yet found himself repeatedly baffled, thwarted and surrounded. The humiliation, that appeared inevitable reduced him to the alternative of retreat. On the 26th of August, the British forces took their route back to Tirupatore, thence to Partimangalam and then to Siruvayal. The rebels chased the retreating enemy until the latter reached Siruvayal.
“A strong body of troops led by Innes, moved to Tirumayam to bring provisions. On its return to Siruvayal, Agnew sent his detachment to relieve the much harassed force. The insurgents now lined on every bank and eminence but their attempt to ambush the enemy failed. The armed groups collected in strength in the jungles in preparation for a counter- attack. Considering his position quite untenable Agnew on the 30th decided to abandon the much cherished project of advancing to Kalayarkoil from the side of Siruvayal. He ordered his forces to retreat to Okkur and from there to Nellikkottai.
Subsequently, however, the tide of events turned in favour of the Company. The king’s Scotch Brigade, Blackburne’s detachments and the Tondaiman’s troops that swelled the army of Agnew rendered it formidable, Tempted by the Company’s offer of the throne of Sivaganga, Woya Taver of the royal house of this territory too went to the aid of the English, weakening thereby the rebel unity.
Equally concerned at the humiliation suffered at the hands of the rebels in the jungles of Kalayarkoil as the Company was, Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman, Rajah of Pudukkottai, endeavoured to rehabilitate the shattered prestige of the aliens. He assisted the English with more of his troops and more provisions, and formulated a new strategy aimed at a revival of the sinking confidence in them. Late in August 1801, when Blackburne reached Arandangy, he invited him for a conference. The two chieftains met on the 4 th of September at a village, situated midway between Arandangy and Pudukkottai. In the course of his long discussion, the
Tondaiman furnished the details about the resources of the insurgents, disclosed the nature of the collusion of the native servants of the Company with the people in arms and reflected the most unequivocal solicitude for the speedy and complete annihilation of the insurgent power. Blackburne reported to the Madras Council what the Tondaiman suggested.
The Collector reported to Major Macaulay of the supplies from Tondi to the rebels of Sivaganga. The Collector believed that large supplies of rice had arrived in the Bay of Tondi and that other doneys were on their way to that port. The supplies would enable the rebels of Sivaganga to carry on their operations and to lay waste the two Marawars.
It was proposed to send an armed cutter to cruise off Tondi to clear that port of all vessels and intercept future communication. Captain Schuler should be furnished with some Europeons and recovered men of the 77 th to serve as mariners on board the vessel. A non- commissioned officer and 8 or 10 men in addition to the crew and a Havildar’s guard of sepoys would be sufficient for the purpose.
The Collector recommended to the Board that the vessel be retained in the service of Government until the rebels had been subdued and that as the chank divers of Ramnad receive material aid and protection from the cruise, part of the freight might be written off against the fishery.
Pir mohammed was ordered to cooperate with Captain Schuler in preventing the Marawas helping the rebels of Sivaganga through the Port of Pamban. He was instructed to watch the movements of all vessels approaching Pamban and to prevent any communication.
The Collector submitted a letter to the Board about the rebel activities of Sivaganga. The Collector reported that the rebels of Sivaganga were being helped by two Marawars and that he had employed a vessel to seize all doneys for their help 139
“Even before the Tondaiman suggested to Blackburne the destruction of the vessels employed by the insurgents for the importation of grain and arms, the issue had engaged the attention of the Company. Several doneys, steered by oars, brought large supplies across the seas and four hundred men. Employed in the service of the rebels, regularly transported the imports to the jungles of Sivaganga. In consequence they were enabled to harass the invading
forces through the destruction of their fields. Reports on rebel communications indicated that the doneys brought in large supplies to Tondi in the third and fourth weeks of August 1801. The Company pressed a gun boat into service to patrol the coastal waters for intercepting supplies and destroying the doneys.”
Before day- break on the 4 th of September 1801 Schuler, the gun boat, went into operation in the Bay of Tondi. At 7.00 a.m. it attacked and seized two large vessels laden with paddy bound for Pamban. It learned from the crew that two more doneys, each with twenty armed rebels, were heading towards the port of Tondi. Before long the cutter coming across, chased them till 9.00 a.m. A calm and still sea prevented the gun boat from continuing the pursuit and enabled the rebel vessels to escape by means of their oars. When the wind began to blow and became favourable, the Schuler resumed the hunt and sailed to Tondi, which it reached at 5.00 p.m. but only to see all the doneys lying dry on the shore and the cargo already unloaded. The boat cruised the shore waters for the next two days but could not apprehend more of the rebel vessels.
Subsequently, however, it discovered six doneys steering to the shore, overpowered them in an action and captured all. The British sailors, advancing to the shore, set fire to numerous vessels which were found deserted. On the 8 th the insurgents, about a hundred in number, made a daring attempt to attack the gun boat. Emerging out of their huts on the shore of Pamban, they rushed across the waves upto four feet deep in the sea and shot a few but distant rounds. The cutter moving to a favourable position, opened a well directed fire and repulsed the attack. Many of the rebels were killed; their bodies were found floating on the sea.” The destruction of vessels and the loss of the control of the Bay of Tondi administered a severe blow to the sustaining forces of the struggle.
“ Messages transmitted by the Tondaiman indicated that the insurgents led by Marudu Pandyan and Oomathurai, had encamped in Palaynad and lay in wait to cut off Innes” retreat from Tirumayam. They reconstructed their post at Arriawortawoody, which Innes had destroyed, and garrisoned it with 5,000 armed men, while 3000 took their position in the village of Kundadive, situated eight miles away from Shawkottai”. Anxious to draw the rebels from the route of Innes retreat in his attempt to relieve him, Blackburne marching through Shawkottai, reached Kundanur in Palaynad. He sent a probing expedition to the rebel camp but was driven back. In a bid to intercept Blackburne’s march but without understanding the real intentions of the enemy a large section of the insurgents, posted at Tirupatore advanced to a distance of twenty miles.
The distraction prevented them from acting in co-operation with the column led by Marudu Pandyan and Oomathurai. As this diversion seemed favourable, the detachment of Innes moved out from Tirumayam on the morning of the 28 th of August and transmitted a message to Blackburn that it had reached a secure distance. Having effected his objective in affording relief to Innes, but forbidden by prudence to remain at Palaynad because of the possibility of rebel flanking operations both from Kundadive and Arriawortawoody, the detachment of Blackburne by forced marches retreated to Arandangy”.
From here he sent two expeditions, one to the south and the other to the west. The southern expedition, led by Lieutenant Maclean, moved against the rebels of Ramnad in co-operation with the forces of Macaulay. The western expedition, headed by Jenkondan, advanced to Terboinad in Sivaganga, the inhabitants of which territory offered their steadfast support to the rebellion in disregard to the Company’s offers of pardon and oblivion. In support of this second expedition Blackburne himself marched to within twenty miles of Siruvayal. Motivated by vindictiveness the English forces cut down the population and burned down the villages.
“With the rebel power of resistance in Thanjavur greatly crippled, the British army, reinforced by the troops of Pudukkottai and Ettayapuram, moved in strength against Ramnad: Macaulay from the south and Maclean from the north. When Agnew threatened Siruvayal, Vella Marudu, who was engaged in the siege of Komeri, returned to the west after entrusting the task with Muthu Karuppa Tevar. On the 13 th of August a body of troops led by Miller, advanced to Komeri at the orders of Macaulay, repulsed the siege and dispersed the insurgents” The enemy gained more victories in the bitter engagements that followed. The combined forces of Martinz and Miller attacked and expelled the rebels who had encamped in the vicinity of the fort of Ramnad, waiting for an opportunity to assault this stronghold of th enemy. On the 27 th of August Macaulay routed the armed parties of Melappan in a fiercely contested battle at Abiramam, but the rebel chief made his escape.”
“Maclean in the meantime undertook an extra-ordinary march from Arandangy through the rebel held territories towards Ramnad. On the 29 th of August he defeated the rebels led by Puttoor and stormed Warrior. Though the rebel chief escaped, more than fifty of his men were killed in battle and twenty seven imprisoned. In consequence of this victory he regained possession of the territory extending from the borders of Thanjavur and Sivaganga to the fort of Ramnad. Anxious to relieve the hard- pressed rebels of the east, Marudu Pandyan sent a body of 3000 armed men under the command of Oomathurai, but as the threat to Kalayarkoil assumed serious dimensions, he recalled them. Enabled by these successes, Macaulay left Ramnad by the end of September and advanced to the borders of Sivaganga to assist the operations of Agnew in the jungles of Kalayarkoil”
“ The pagoda of Kalayarkoil, The rallying point of the patriots and the target of the British offensive, was a beautiful structure, surrounded by a stone wall eighteen feet in height. The rebels humbled the enemy in the first thrust, but the subsequent turn of events greatly eroded their power of defence and counter- attack. The control of the coastal waters had been lost, vast territories had been reoccupied and the unity of their ranks had been shaken. Demoralisation coupled with the intrigues by princes allied to the enemy, led to desertion and return of the peasants to their fields. The Company in the meantime employed Khaleel who appeared closely acquainted with the rebel positions, to gather intelligence for the formulation of a new strategy against Kalayarkoil. Disguised as hunters, Khaleel and his select men explored the jungles, discovered the secret routes leading to the pagoda of Kalayarkoil and safely returned to the British camp.
“Guided by the reports furnished by them, Agnew carried out fresh preparations for an expedition from Okkur instead of from Siruvayal to the rebel stronghold. After Woya Taver had been proclaimed the ruler of Sivaganga, the detachments left Cholapuram and marching through Melur reached Singampunari on the 10 th of September. As the occupation of rebel forts in this jungle was of consequence for the success of the expeditions, Agnew detached two forces; one to Piranmalai, which withstood the repeated assaults made by Innes and the other to Nandikottai. The overwhelming military superiority which the enemy brought to bear upon the rebel positions enabled it to reduce them to submission” .
On the 17th of September Major Doveton, at the command of a powerful column advancing through Vellatara encamped at Piranmalai. An attack was made but was repulsed. However, in the course of a second attack a cavalry charge supported by a well - directed fire turned the scale and the fort fell”. After consolidating the gains, the army reached Okkur, where Innes in the meantime employed pioneers to strengthen its defences, and stored arms in preparation of the contemplated offensive”.
The Assistant Collector reported to the Collector on 20th September 1801 that a court of enquiry consisting of himself and Maj. Green had been ordered to be formed for the purpose of trying Kumara Thevan and other Murdoo’s men.
Mr. George Parish, Assistant Collector of Ramnad informed the Collector on 24th September 1801 that a party of 60 men were reconnoitring. The place where the king and his gang were residing and that all the principal rebels in Rasimangalam had been removed. He stated that the mittadar had been permitted to return with a view to enable him to dispel all the parties of the rebels. He asked for the supply of fire arms. The Assistant Collector further stated that the mittadar was an active man and he would be able to settle the country soon. He reported the arrangement made by him for preserving the peace of the country.
The Assistant Collector informed the Collector on 28th September 1801, that the rebel mob had disappeared and moved towards Paramakudi. He stated that he had received order to try Kumara Thevan and also others who were suspected to have connection with the rebels.
“ On the 30 th September 1801 British detachments marched on Kalayarkoil from all directions. In an attempt to mislead the rebels Agnew announced that he had decided to storm the fort in the evening of the 1st October and detached a party to the town of Sivaganga; so that they might expect the offensive from that direction. Thereupon he decided to push through Vaniamkudi, Collumbum and Muthoor. The road leading to Collumbum was found blocked up by thorny fences. The detachment was fired on near the entrance of the road from a barrier to the jungle.Agnew detached a party to turn the flank of the rebels, while a gun that was mounted in front opened a fire to draw away their attention. The troops suffered considerable loss in this battle but succeeded in dislodging the armed columns from their post. On approaching Muthoor a rebel party, which had taken its stand on a bank in front of the village, opened a distant fire but was forced to withdraw to the interior of the wood. Another detachment, led by Innes meanwhile moved towards Cholapuram, after which it turned to the direction of Kalayarkoil. He reported to Agnew that the insurgents strongly posted on the barriers which were raised across an extremely difficult road, received his detachment with a heavy fire but were dispersed by a gallant charge near a tank. In this engagement a hundred of the rebels were killed. The forces reached Keeranoor situated in the vicinity of Kalayarkoil and proceeded with the successful reduction of Kallakudi.”
“ The Scotch Brigade, led by Lieutenant Colonel Spry, advanced through the direct road from Okkur to Kalayarkoil, while a fourth detachment commanded by Major Sheppard through another route, ready to assist the former. The forces led by Macaulay and Blackburne after their prolonged campaigns in Ramnad attacked the jungles from the south and from the east respectively. The expeditions were so coordinated as to outmanoeuvre the patriots and to avert a second humiliation to the British flag
“ The menacing thrust of the hostile forces from all directions threw the rebel columns into panic. Spry in command of the Scotch Brigade, advancing through a close wood, launched a powerful attack on the Pagoda at the dawn of the 1st of October. The resistance of the insurgents, barriers on the Muthoor road and the darkness of the night had so much impeded the march of Agnew that he could not reach the rebel stronghold until 8.00 a.m. The other detachments however overwhelmed all resistance on the roads and encircled the Pagoda in accordance with the preconcerted plan. Marudu Pandyan led his column into an action against the forces of Agnew, but finding the Pagoda threatened from other directions, rushed to take over the command of the defences. However it was too late, for the insurgents were thrown into confusion and all his endeavour to restore order among the ranks ended in futility. He reached Kalayarkoil barely in time to remove his people to safety. Many of the rebels died in the engagements, while survivors fled to different directions, apparently without concern”.154 The fall of Kalayarkoil broke patriotic resistance. The enemy captured a large quantity of ammunition deposited in the woods. In recognition of the meritorious service and the guidance given to Spry in the operations Agnew awarded one hundred pagodas as reward to Mohammad Khalil”.
The Assistant Collector on 1st October 1801 reported the strength of the rebel incursions made by them and the consequent loss to men and property. 155 The Assistant Collector on 5th October 1801 in reporting the disappearance of Raja and his Brother stated that Major Miller had moved to Paramakudi with a view to enforce the Company’s authority in all taluks around it. He reported also that Rasimangalam taluk was free from trouble and danger.
The Assistant Collector reported on 6th October 1801 that he had been collecting proper evidence to convict all the rebels including Kumara Thevan. 157 The Assistant Collector forwarded on 7th October 1801 an extract of the letter sent by Col Agnew to Major Macaulay. It explained in detail the 7th method adopted by the troops to secure the rebel leaders and the success attained thereby. He stated that Ramnad was perfectly quiet and there would be no more trouble. 158 The Assistant collector on 9th October 1801 reported the plight of Murdoo to Mangalam and the capture of Kalaiarkoil Pagoda. The Head Assistant Collector Madura had heard from the Nuttam people that Chinna Murdo with one thousand followers in the company of Coopala Naiger’s son and the rebel poligar of Panchalamcourchi made his way to the Virupakshi Hills. It was probable that the hill people might join him and give troubles once again.
“The principal leaders of the Rebellion took their route to Mangalam. In a bid to apprehend them, Agnew sent his troops in that direction, while he himself continued to occupy a station on the western side of the woods of Kalayarkoil. Captain Munro led a party in search of the fugitives but could not come across any. Expresses were sent to Macaulay and Blackburne, urging them to be on the alert but the rebels had already effected their escape.
“ A body of the insurgents led by Oomathurai, Sevatiah and Muthu Vella Nayak, moved in a northern direction through Tirupatore, while another party headed by Marudu Pandyan took its route to the jungles of Singampunari. The Tondaiman sent numerous parties to comb the rebel resorts in the woods. He captured more than hundred families of the fugitives and handed them over to the custody of the British troops.”
Blackburne and Maclean proceeded with the reoccupation of territories still retained by the armed groups of Ramnad. Their detachments scattered a column of 2000 rebels in a battle fought at Shawkottai. On the 5th of October Blackburne advanced to Karaikudi, separated from Shawkottai by an extension of the jungle of Singampunari seven miles in depth and uncommonly close and strong. A body of troops in the meantime went into operation at his orders in another extension of the same jungle, that separated Karaikudi from Siruvayal, assisted by the
forces of the Tondaiman, Blackburne occupied the rebel posts and consolidated his control.
The patriots who fled northwards, numbered about 600 and appeared extremely dispirited. Enfeebled by sickness and disabled by wounds they carried with them neither arms nor ammunition. Added to this they suffered miserably for want of food and rest “Soon after the news of rebel movement reached the English, they warned the inhabitants against assistting the fugitives in any form with either arms, ammunition, food, shelter or guidance.
“On the 8 th of October Lieutenant Frith, commanding. at Nattam, reported to Agnew that the rebels were passing by slow progress northward within three or four miles of his camp. The next day he informed him that they had inclined towards the hills of Dindigul. The troops of the Tondaiman sought to intercept the insurgents but retreated after they suffered a reverse in an engagement.
“On the 10 th of October Major Burrows detached a force on hearing a report that Oomathurai and Muthu Vella Nayak, who led the rebels northward, had halted on the bank of a tank at 2.p.m. for cooking their rice, but before the enemy reached the spot the leaders made their escape. The Assistant Collector reported on 13th October 1801 to the Collector that with the greatest difficulty Trickanen was seized and confined.
Innes, commanding field detachment wrote a letter to Chief Secretary on 20th October 1801.
Jesiah Webbe Esqr
Chief Secretary to Government.
I had the Honor to address you on the 13 th instant and now do myself the pleasure to transmit copy of my letter of this date to Major General Bridges for the information of the Right Honorable the Governor in Council. I am happy in having it to say, that I found the depredations any certain information of the son of the late Polygar of Veerpatchee and Mooloo Veera, the Predaun, But it is certain they are wholly deserted and I have reason to suspect they are sculking (skulking) in the hills or in the jungles near them. Parties are sent in search of them there and in every quarter. Nothing can now be apprehended from their influence after their late efforts and disappointments.
Veeraptchy 20 th October 1801.
Reinforced by the armed inhabitants, the desperate insurgents formed themselves into two columns and threatened Virupakshi on the 10 th. They expelled the troops from the British post, after which they made a probe into the camp of a detachment commanded by Major Jones at Chitrampatti. When the troops prepared for an action, the rebels withdrew, but again returned,occupying a strong position between two hills, where they were joined as Jones reported “by the whole of the village, people belonging to the village of Chitrampatti and others in this district, all armed, which increased their numbers to 1,000 men, 500 more were expected to join them in the course of the night. We remained there until past sun - set without being able to draw them out of their strong situation or attacking there with any probability of success, their number being so great as to render it probable we should have been totally surrounded”. In consequence the forces of Jones moved for safety to Iyagudy.
The insurgents, 2000 strong and commanded by Oomathurai, took possession of the hills and strengthened their hold on Virupakshi. Large bodies of armed peasants joined the veterans and swelled the rebel strength to 4,000 within two days of the occupation of Virupakshi. The reports that the inhabitants continued to rally the rebel standard caused considerable alarm in the English camp and on the 13 th T.B. Hurdis, Collector of Dindigul reported to Agnew that the numbers of insurgents “ are daily increasing by other Rebels flocking towards them in numbers too great for my peons to encounter”
“ Greatly exercised over this quite unanticipated and orninous turn of events, the Company again rushed through an agonising process of military preparedness. Agnew sent urgent instructions to Innes on the 9 th of October. As the inhabitants of Dindigul” shew a disposition to join them ( the insurgents) it is indispensable that the utmost expedition should be used in attacking them, before they have arranged their preparations for defences............ Act vigorously in punishing the inhabitants of the villages who have aided or joined the Rebels ....... Should you on trial of strength find your force inadequate to attain the object? I will move with all the troops. I can safely draw from this district ( Sivaganga) to Virupakshi but no time must be lost as the enemy ( the rebels) may gain strength and confidence by delay.
“Again on the 12 th Agnew urged Innes: I need not recommend to you to move towards and attack the Rebels with the utmost expedition, as you are well aware of the importance of preventing them from strengthening their position, assembling their connextions, or recovering from their fatigue and panic”. On the 16 th Agnew wrote to Collector Hurdis; If no time is given them to make works, to gain confidence and provide ammunition and grain they must soon fall victim to their infatuation.
As surprise was of importance for the suppression of this insurrection, which was fast assuming threatening proportions, Innes, losing no time, assembled a powerful detachment consisting of the details of the Fifth Regiment of Native Cavalry, parties from the Scotch Brigade, the King’s Twelfth Infantry, a battalion of Native Infantry and groups of pioneers. In anticipation of Intercepting the rebel advance to Dindigul the expedition by forced marches reached Anuringudi on the 10 th but the reports indicated that the rebels had already carried the hills of Virupakshi. On the 12 th the forces encamped at Dindigul after completing a tedious march of seventy six miles in three days. As the detachment at his command found itself unequal to the task, Innes sent an express for reinforcements. Now fresh regiments from Madurai, the Malay Corps and more of flank companies reached Dindigul”
As in the extreme south the early suppression of the desperate struggle in Dindigul, appeared an imperative necessity in the interest of British security. The popular bitterness continued so profound that the possibility that it would spark off more of extensive outbreaks appeared strong. To forestall the spread of the rebellion, Innes planned a vigorous and co-ordinated campaign. As the insurgents dispersed themselves in the valley of Dindigul, he deemed it essential to circumscribe them, to cut off their communications with the other provinces and to block the escape routes. After attaining these objectives, he decided to commence simultaneous operations from different points so as to force the rebels to stand an attack at Virupakshi or to disperse through the jungles of Anamalai.” As the fugitives established themselves in the hills and the inhabitants extended their full support, the enemy concluded that extensive campaigns would be required to suppress their resistance completely. Nevertheless with the flight- of the fugitives there swelled the tide of continued insurrection”
On the 12 th of October at the orders of Innes a body of troops which was posted at Nattam, moved to Virupakshi. Determined to intercept the British march, the rebels made an irruption from the western hills of Virupakshi, but for want of fire arms their venture failed” In the meantime a regiment of cavalry and infantry led by Major Burrows marched from Taddikambu to Shularumbur, where it was reinforced by two flank companies. On the 13 th it occupied a position west of Virupakshi and sent a party to Iyagudi, where Captain Jones had taken shelter.
The Assistant Collector reported on 14th October 1801 to the Collector that he got information through certain spies that Chinna Murdoo was hiding himself with his wife and a few others in the forest and that he had some arms and matchlocks with him. He was disguising himself like a common cooly to escape notice. He reported the seizure of other rebels.
A detachment commanded by Major Leonard moved by the direct route from Dindigul to Virupakshi. Having effected a junction on the 14 th, the combined forces of Innes and Burrows threatened Virupakshi. The insurgents, led by Oomathurai, seeking to check the progress of the enemy, engaged them in two battles at Chitrampatti but were defeated. A party of 200 rebels was observed going to the villages for the collection of arms and money but were immediately charged by the horse of the Company. However the party got to the hills to the westward, effecting its escape by dispersing in the jungles, where it was impossible for the horse to continue the chase.
On the 16 th the troops encamped at Virupakshi, Insurgents, 500 strong, skirting the bank of a river, opened a sharp fire. But a party of the Scotch Brigade, led by Lieutenant Mac Arthur, went into action while the large guns opened fire from another direction. After suffering heavy loss, the patriots abandoned their forward positions. A smart engagement, that followd drove them from their barriers to the woods. Now they made an attempt to regroup the themselves but it was thwarted. In the evening of the16 th the town of Virupakshi passed under the control of the enemy. The losses suffered by the English and the fatigue caused by constant exertion for days together, prevented them from following up their success immediately. As powerful bodies of rebels continued to hold the nearby barriers, Innes ordered his detachments to stay in their forward positions.
“The intelligence gathered by the Company indicated that the main column of the insurgents had drawn towards the hills of Virupakshi while small parties had taken their stand on Cowdelli, a key rock that commanded the Great Cormen Delli Barriers. The scarcity for water was so acute that it was expected that the rebels would descend from the hill to a rivulet at its bottom. As this circumstance seemed likely to yield result, Innes directed a party of rifles to penetrate through a close wood and to take possession of a strategic post of the rebels on a hill. Accordingly in the night the assailants surprised the rebel camp when many of them were away for the collection of provisions and bringing water.
On the morning of the 17 th the English gained possession of the strategic hill. The insurgents now lined up at the entrance to the Great Cormen Delli Barriers, which they had almost rebuilt by employing a big labour force, working day and night. The enemy directed a heavy fire from the occupied hill against the rebel positions and mounted a fierce attack. Unable to repulse the charge, the patriots after suffering heavy toll of life, evacuated their lines of defence. The British forces promptly occupied the Great Cormen Delli Barriers and seized a large quantity of grain, bazaar articles, tents, horses and bullocks.
“undeterred by this disconfiture and exasperated irreconcilably, the valiant patriots belonging to the different vanquished columns reassembled on the hills to continue the bitter struggle. Commanded by the indomitable Oomathurai, they moved swiftly to the valley of Dindigal in search of fresh centres of operation. Innes had posted the Second Regiment of Native Cavalry under Major Burrows at Shankulam near Kanniwadi at the most commanding point for guarding against rebel concentrations.
Immediately after the intelligence of the descent of armed parties on the plains reached the English camp, the cavalry under the command of Major Burrows rushed in close pursuit.’ There followed a running battle of fifty one miles, which culminated in a fierce engagement at Vettilagundu. The patriots, moving constantly with neither rest nor food nor water for three days together, at last gave way. Many of them died in battle, while Oomathurai with sixty five of his followers fell into the hands ‘of the enemy’, in spite of his escape” as it were by miracle, in every previous engagement, although every soldier in our camp was most anxious to destroy so notorious and celebrated a chieftain.
‘ In exultation Innes wrote to Madras. “ I cosider the apprehension of the Omay ( Oamathurai) with so many of his adherents as a complete finish to the Southern Troubles at least so far as relate to this province (Dindigul)” On the 4 th of November 1801 Lushington reported to Madras. The discomfiture of insurgents in Dindigul and Nangunerii had completely disconcerted the design that had been formed of renewed outbreaks.
The vindictive enemy proceeded to take a terrible revenge upon the defeated patriots. Soon after the fall of Kalayarkoil the English advertised liberal rewards for the apprehension of the leaders and instituted a vigorous search of all their suspected resorts. Agnew set the following prices to be paid in full if the insurgents were handed over to the Company alive and half if dead. 1,500 cully chakrams each for Marudu Pandyan and Vella Marudu.
Proclamation by Lieutenant Colonel Agnew Commanding the forces in the Tinnelvely Ramnad and Shevegunga Districts to the Inhabitants of Shevengunga and the neighbouring Countries 2nd October 1801.
Whereas the Rebel Chinnah Murdoo and the other Rebels connected with him have escaped from Caliarcoil and are now concealing themselves in the jungles it was hereby notified that the undermentioned Rewards will be given to such persons as shall seize and bring in alive the individuals hereafter named and that the half of those Rewards shall be paid to such persons as shall produce them dead. Viz
Fifteen Hundred Cully Chuckrams each for
Vella Murdoo and
Panjalamcourchy Shevathah Naiker
one thousand cully chuckrams each for
Shevaghanum Sons of Chinnah Murdoo
Mootoochamy, son of Shevathah Tomby
Woodianen Sons of Vella Murdoo
Muley Cooty Tomby
Shekundee Vengum Peria Woodiah Taver
Mooloo Curapah Taver, the usurper of the Ramnad Rajium
The Panjalamcourchy Woomey Comara Sawmy Naicker and
All Public Officers Shervigars and Peons hitherto in connexion with the Rebels are hereby informed that if within fifteen days from the present date they submit and deliver themselves up to the Company’s authority their lives shall be spared but that in failure thereof a price shall be put on their heads.
All Inhabitants and every other descreption of persons are hereby apprised that submitting to the authority of the Rebels or affording them in any shape protection and assistance will subject them to the severest punishment.
(signed P.A. Agnew
Lieutt Col Commanding
A coily or cully chakram was exchanged for two ordinary chakrams. A silver chakram was exchanged for two rupees and four annas usually.179 “Eager to gain the favour of the foreign power and carried away by the temptation incited by the rewards, numerous parties assisted by the British troops, moved into operation in search of the fugitives. On the 19 th of October Marudu Pandyan was engaged in an action at Cholapuram, wounded and captured.
“The troops which were ordered by Agnew to explore the jungle of Kalayarkoil, surprised a body of rebels that kept itself hiding in a recess. A hot pursuit resulted in the capture of many of them, who included Karutha Tambi and Moolikutty Tambi, the sons of Vella Marudu. “Parties detached by Blackburne, combed the thick woods of Singampunari, Shawkottai and Sherugudi -180.
A party I had detached in consequence of intelligence which I had obtained of Vella Murdoo’s place of concealment has succeded in making him a prisoner. 181
Camp : 19 th October 1801 (Signed) P.A. Agnew
Lt Col Commanding
The following draft of a letter to Lieutenant Colonel Agnew, is read and ordered to be despatched to Lieutenant Commanding the Forces in the Southern Provinces.
I have had the honor to receive your letters of the 17th 19th Instant and am directed to express to you the great satisfaction which the Right Honorable the Governor in Council has derived from your continued success in the suppression of the Rebellion in the Southern Provinces.
2. The Right Honorable the Governor in Council entirely approves the proclamation published by you on the 2nd instant and authorizes the payment of the rewards stated in that proclamation to the persons who may secure the Rebels altho his Lordship in Council has no doubt of the zeal of the troops in the execution of your orders for the apprehension of the Insurgents. He does not deem it expedient to except the troops from the receipt of the rewards proclaimed on the event of their success in securing the persons of the Rebels.
3. The Governor in Council directs that Chinna Murdoo, Vella Murdoo, Omay and all the principal Rebels who have been taken and who may yet be taken shall be brought to immediate trial and punishment after the identity of their persons and their participation of the rebellion shall have been ascertained.
The Right Honorable the Governor in Council having received separate reports from Lieutenant Colonel Innes dated the 16th and 20 th Instant containing the most satisfactory intelligence of the success of the troops under his Command. I am directed to desire that you will convey to that officer the pleasure and approbation with which the Right Honorable the Governor in Council has observed the zeal spirit and activity of the officers and troops under his Command.
Innes embarked upon a hunt for the rebels in the hills of Dindigul, in consequence of which his troops apprehended and seized 773 rebels. Most of the fugitives from Dindigul, however escaped to the inhospitable woods of Anamalai where many of them perished of hill fever. Among the leaders who were secured from these jungles, were Muthu Vella Nayak, the son of Gopala Nayak, Muthu Vira, the associate of Gopala Nayak, and Tomachi Mudali, the rebel emissary who served in the camp of Dhoondaji Waug. Sevatiah, who fled to the south from Dindigul, was taken prisoner at Srivilliputtur in Triunelveli. Soon after these leaders were apprehended, Governor Clive directed Agnew. Chinna Murdoo Vella Murdoo, Omay, and all the principal Rebels who have been taken, and who may yet be taken shall be brought to immediate trial and punishment after the identify of their persons and their participation of the rebellion shall have been ascertained.
The English carried into effect by a summary process the execution of the patriots normally at the cetres of their activity. Th leaders who were hanged to death at different places in Dindigul in November 1801 included Gopala Nayak, the Poligar of Jallipatti and Muthu Vella Nayak. On the 3rd of December Innes condemned fifteen more of the rebels of Dindigul to death and six for banishment. Gnanamuthu and Virappan, two rebels of note of Thanjavur, were sentenced to be tortured. Their properties were confiscated and severe punishment was inflicted upon their persons; 500 lashes on each in front of the cutcherry at Shawkottai and another 500 in front of the cutcherry at Arandangy. Sivagnanam was executed at Komeri and Woodianan at Tiruchuzhi... Several insurgents. notably Setupati, the headman of Kallarnadu and Kanaka Sabhapathi Tevar, a chief of Ramnad, were hanged to death at Abiramam. Kusalavira Kunjara Nayak of Kadalgudi was executed on the 12th of October 1801. Melappan was declared A freebooter and sent to the gallows. Shanmukhapathi, the leader of the Kallar tribe, was put to death in Kallarnadu.
On the 24 th of October 1801 Vella Marudu Chinna Marudu, Shevata Tambi, his son Muthuswami and Muthu Karuppa Tevar together with a large number of other patriots were executed on the ruins of the old fort of Tirupatore.184 James Welsh, an officer in the Company’s army, who intimately knew Marudu Pandyan, has added a note on the last scene of the eventful career of this hero. He has stated: after Chinna Marudu was defeated in the battle of Kalayarkoil, he was chased like a wild beast, was badly wounded and captured. He was seen lingering with a fracturede thigh in prison and was lastly to behold him, with his gallant brother, Vella Marudu and no less gallant son, Shevata Tambi, surrounded by other insurgents in chains upon a common gibbet” Indeed the glory of this great patriot was enhanced by the tragedy of his end. Sevatiah was carried from Dindigul to the south, where he was executed on the tower erected before the once much dreaded fort of Panjalamkurichi on the 16 th of November” Together with his gallant brother, poor Oomee too graced the gallows in reward for the most disinterested and purest patriotism.
The Assistant Collector reported on 27th October 1801 that Col Miller had marched to Rasimangalam to execute the offenders. He stated that Jaganatha Ayyan was to receive 1000 lashes, his property to be confiscated and he had to be kept under confinement until he was transported beyond the sea. He recommended corporal punishment for all the rest.
The Zemindar of Sivaganga reported that Karutha Tomby, the son of Vella Mardu, Mulikudi Tomby, his grandson, the sons of Karutha Tomby and Chinna Murdu and the Kadalgudi Naigue had all been hung in his presence without deviating from the instructions given him by Lt.Col Agnew and the Collector from time to time. The women of the families of the late Murdus were in his custody. He promised to obey the orders of Government implicitly and requested the protection of the Company.
“ The spirit of revenge exhibited by the enemy knew no bounds. Haunted with calculated audacity, the overbearing invaders executed the popular leaders indiscriminately. No distinction was made between chieftain and servant instigator and instigated, father and son nay between grandfather and grand son, for they were all most iniquitously hanged together to death upon a common gibbet . The summary process adopted for the destruction of these patriots was both anomalous and irregular.
The military tribunal, that condemned the rebels of Madurai country to death, normally consisted of only three officers. It does not appear that the evidence of any witness was taken and if it were taken, it was not definitely upon oath. The seventy three year old rebel diplomat, Gopala Nayak, and several other leaders of Dindigul were executed even without waiting for the confirmation by the Madras Government. These grossly arbitrary proceedings led the Court of Directors to regret ............. although in very extreme cases it may be necessary to punish with instant Death the Ring leaders or persons most actively concerned, in Rebellion, or resistance in arms to the Company’s authority, the mere fact of the existence of a Rebellion, or the exercise of such resistance will by no means justify the resorting to so dreadful an extremity of rigour”
Despite this barbarity, so crudely exhibited, the Indian allies of the Company conveyed their happiness and satisfaction at the victory of a hostile arms in this war of liberation. On the 25 th of October 1801 Vijaya Raghunatha Tondaiman of Pudukkottai wrote to the Madras Council By the good fortune of the Company and your Lordship that Jungle Dog Chinna Marudu, his brother and family have lately been made prisoners by means of the bravery and policy of the Honourable Company’s officers and as a reward for their treachery have suffered death. My Lord, in a long series of time I have observed that the French, Chanda Sahib, Tipu etc, notwithstanding the prosperity and power of the Company, having ventured to oppose their victorious forces, have been extirpated and annihilated, whilst the friends and dependents of the Company, have been distinguished and honoured. What then could such a wretch as Marudu have expected?
In no unmistakable terms Balarama Varma, the Rajah of Travancore, wrote to the Madras Governor on the 16 th of January 1802: The flames of rebellion in the South had been extinguised and the rebels punished. Orders have been issued for the return of my troops from Malabar and the Carnatic and hence I am thankful. It is fit that the rebels should have received the punishment for their wickedness. The just giver of victory renders these successes of the British arms possible. The attachment of my ancestors from of old to the interests of the Company is manifest. I shall myself in like manner continue firm, and steadfast in the path of our ancient connection.
The Assistant Collector reported on 16th November 1801 to the Collector about the losses caused by the Rebellion. He informed the Collector that he would Institute a careful enquiry to ascertain the extent of the loss sustained by the inhabitants during the revolt. The country was completely plundered and the inhabitants rendered helpless. After the rebellion Government advanced money for cultivation and improved the condition of the inhabitants. With the result that there was a good yield. The Assistant Collector further stated that the inhabitants did not deserve any remission in view of the fact that they openly joined the rebels against the Company’s interests.
EDWARD LORD CLIVE’S PROCLAMATION OF 1 St DECEMBER 1801
On the 1st of December 1801 on the suppression of the rebels and execution of the leaders, the enemy issued a proclamation. Formulated to impress the people with the determination of the British government to consolidate its newly asserted power, it annouced a policy of reconciliation of the vanquished, and administered a warning to the inhabitatns against any further attempt at defiance to its authority and guaranteed security to the allies. Beginning with an apparent note of sympathy for the fallen, the proclamation of Governor Edward Clive proceeds in a manner typical as of an imperial ruler:
“The Right Honourable Governor in Council regrets that the desperate resistance opposed to the British troops should have been attended with so great a loss of lives to the deluded inhabitants. At the same time his Lordship deems it to be his duty to impress on the minds of the inhabitants, sherogars and poligars of the southern provinces, the dangers of provoking the just indignation of the British Government and the fruitless attempt of opposing the untried strength of the rebels to the steadiness, valour and discipline of the British forces. The people of the Southern Provinces have now witnessed that the difficulty of resisting the force of the Company’s Government in open arms is not greater than that of evading the perseverance vigilance and activity of the English troops even in the native woods.
From the centre of the Jungles the authors of the late rebellion have been brought before the tribunals erected by the Governor in Council for the trial for that hateful and desperate offence. The infatuated obstinacy of those leaders in neglecting the warning voice with which the Governor in Council had announced to them the danger of Rebellion has rendered indispensably necessary the signal punishment of their crimes. His Lordship encourages a well - founded expectation that the ingenious manner to which those misguided chieftains have terminated their ambitious and criminal career will indelibly fix on the minds of their surviving families and inhabitants the danger of defying the British Government in arms.
At the same time that the Right Honourable Governor in Council directs the attention of the people of the southern provinces to the just punishment of unprovoked rebellion. His Lordship contemplates with just pride and satisfaction the example of steady attachment and honourable fidelity which the British Government has experienced from many of its dependents in the course of this unnatural and avoidable warfare, as in the former case the Governor in Council has been reluctantly compelled to exhibit a memorable example of the crime of sedition, so in the latter instance his Lordship in Council has had the pleasure of augmenting the security, wealth and happiness of those, whose zeal and loyalty have entitled them to the distinguished favour and protection of the British Government. Though the necessity of preserving tranquillity and regular governemnt has compelled the Governor in Council to punish the authors of Rebellion. His Lordship has abstained from appropriating to the Company the lands forfeited by that dangerous crime, they ( the rebels) will have had the satisfaction of noticing the confidence reposed by the British Government in its subjects by supplying those forfeited lands to the means of augmenting the estates of the faithful chiefs and from these examples they may derive the certain means of appreciating the principles of the British Government.
The Right Honourable Governor in Council encourages a reasonable hope that the causes of Future commotion in the southern provinces have been suppressed and the chieftains and other inhabitants will rely on the protection of the British Government in the assurance of their ancestors. His Lordship directs the people of the southern provinces to deliver their fire arms for which compensation will be paid at the rate of ten rupees for each musket five rupees for each matchlock and two rupees for each pike. However according to traditional practices and hereditary customs and the personal feelings of the chieftains the Governor in Council authorizes each of them to retain a certain number of peons carrying pikes for the purpose of maintaining the pomp and state heretofore attached to their persons.
The Right Honourable Edward Lord Clive, Governor in Council of Fort St. George and its Dependencies, having now laid the foundation of future permanent tranquillity in the southern provinces by the entire suppression of “the late united extensive and flagrant Rebellion,” being farther enabled to corroborate those foundations by the establishment of the undivided authority of the Company’s Government in those provinces and desirous of relieving the minds of the people from further solicitude of the punishment provoked by the late Rebellion, proclaims to the said inhabitants that with the exception of Vira Pandya Nayak and Muthiah Nayak of Panjalam Kurichi, Melappan of Ramnad and the persons now under restraint, whom it is his Lordship’s intention to punish by banishment beyond the seas, the British Government now extends to all other persons who may have been seduced to follow the desperate fortunes of the principal rebels, a free and full pardon of the offences which they have committed against the Company.
The Governnor in Council therefore assures such persons as may have been implicated in the crime of the late Rebellion that His Lordhip has relinguished every intention of prosecuting the punishment of that Rebellion deeming the examples already exhibited to their observation to convey a sufficient impression of the power of the British Government.
In the confident expectation of reclaiming the people of the southern provinces from the habits of predatory warfare and in the hope of reducing them to resume the acts of peace and agriculture the Governor in Council announces to them that it is the intention of the Government to establish a permanent assessment of revenue upon the principles of zamindari tenures, which
assessment being once fixed shall be liable to no change in any time to come, that the poligars becoming by these means zamindars of their hereditary estates will be exempted from all military service and the possessions of their ancestors will be secured to them under the operation of limited and definite laws, to be published as well for the purpose of restraining the British officers to the regulations and ordinances of the Government, as of securing to the people their property, their lives and religious usages of their respective castes.
The Board communicated a letter on 13th December 1802 to the Collector.Government approve the action of the Collector in having temporarily employed the Nabob’s troops in putting down the disturbances in Sivaganga and Tinnevelly and authorize the payment of arrears to the troops. They also sanction the entertainment of a sibbandy establishment at a cost of St Pag 660-17-5 to resist the depredation of the rebels at Sivaganga, but ask the Collector to disband the establishment, when it is found unnecessary.
BANISHMENT BEYOND THE SEAS
In accordance with its policy of revenge, as announced in the proclamation, the enemy proceeded to expel the leaders who escaped the gallows, beyond the seas. It condemned seventy three patriots from the far south alone for perpetual banishment to Prince of Wales Island, Penang. The British official records furnish the list of these victims.
1. Vengum Peria Wodaya Tevar of Sivaganga,
2. Doraiswamy, son of Marudu Pandyan
3. Bomma Nayak of Verapur
4. Jaganatha Ayyar, rebel amildar of Ramnad
5. Andiappa Tevan
7. Koniami Tevan
8. Dalawai Kumara Swami Nayak of Panjalamkurichi
9. Kumara Tevar of Melur
10. Pandian of Pandiamputtur
11. Muthu Vira of Arankulam
12. Sawmy of Manacaud
14. Eralappa Tevar of Nanguneri
15. Pandyan Nayak of Combadi
16. Mauda Tevan
17. Malayil Madan
18. Chinna Pitcha Tevan
19. Vira Pandya Tevan
20. Vira Perumal Tevan
21. Karuppa Tevan
23. Nanda Swamy
25. Woodia Tevan, son of Chinna Pitcha Tevan
26. Devi Nayak, son of Chinna Pitcha Tevan
27. Muthu Rama Tevan
28. Manda Tevan
30. Alaga Nambi
31. Vaikunda Tevan
32. Siriana Tevan
34. Mullu Vedavoo
45. Muthu Rauk
46. Muthu Rauk of Anakulam
47. Choku Talavan of Trickerngudi
48. Iralappa Tevan
49. Mallaya Nayakkan of Elampatti
50. Suluvamonia Nayak of Katta Nayakkanpatti
51. Tomachi Nayak
52. Suluamonia Nayak of Audinore
53. Ramaswamy, grandson of the Poligar of Kulathur
54. Pitchandi Nayak of Eruvupoparam
55. Dalawai of Kallumaddam
56. Chinna Madan of Pasuvanthanai
57. Vaidim Murthi of Kandiswaram
58. Dalawai Pillai, a deshakaval manigar
59. Suluamaniam, his son
60. Peddana Nayak, who commanded the rebels of Tutukudi
commiserate him............. I still seem to see the combination of affection and despair, which marked the fine countenance of my young friend, Doraiswamy, as I handed him into the boat, and the manly and silent misery, which his companions in affliction displayed on quitting their dear native land for ever.
The voyage lasted for seventy - six days. So rigorous was the restraint and so callous was the severity, that the enemy kept its victims hand - cuffed with iron in pairs and huddled them together throughout this long period of agony. However hand - cuffs were struck off from six of them, who were directed to cook food for the rest.
Water that was stored for the supply to the prisoners, was so meagre, that it soon exhausted. The patriots suffered such intolerable misery that many of them fell sick. One died of fever while another slipped into the depths of the sea. The rest reached the strange land of Penang but no sooner had they landed than one - third of them, who were healthy enough to move, wandered at large as in bewilderment, vanishing into the ranks of the local population. With the banishment, James Welsh concluded, “ended the most harassing warfare in which the expenditure of life had been profuse.
“Never shall I forget the day, when on the wharf at Tutucorine, I consigned my charge over to Lieutenant Rockhead. I still seem to see the combination of affection and despair which marked the fine countenance of my young friend Doraswamy; as I handed him into the boat and the manly and silent misery, which his companions in affliction displayed on quitting their dear native land for ever. Here, to all appearance our acquaintance was to end; but fotune had still another pang in store for me, for being forced to sea for my health in the year 1818, and landing at Penang I received a sudden visit from a miserable decrepit old man, who, when, without the most distant recollection of his person or acquaintance, I demanded his name and business looked for some time in my face, the tears ran down his furrowed cheek, and at length he uttered the word “Dora Swamy”. It came like a dagger to my heart. the conviction was instantaneous. My poor young prisoner stood before me, changed, dreadfully changed in outward appearance, but still with the same mind, and cherishing the remembrance of former days and former friendships. The casual hearing of my name had revived his affection, and I much fear, the mistaken hope, that an advancement in rank might afford me the means of lessening his misery. He even entreated me to be the bearer of letters to his surviving family, but this, I understood was contrary to the existing orders; since, though I found the Governor the late Colonel Bannerman, my former commanding officer, kind considerate, it did not appear to rest with him, and I was compelled to decline. Let me however, in conclusion, express a hope that this narrative may fall.
into the hands of some kind- hearted Director of that Honourable Company, which I have served so long, and be the means of alleviating, if not entirely removing the sufferings of an innocent man; the country being now completely settled; and no chance of any ill effects, as regards state policy, likely to accrue from such a compassionate measure”.
The tragic story of the struggle for freedom ended in an equally moving note when Doraiswamy, the youngest and favourite son of Marudu Pandyan made a futile attempt to return
from exile from Penang to the motherland. Much of what happened to the banished patriots is unknown. The saga of their ordeal passed into oblivion. What glimpses have come down to us testify that within six months of banishment one third of them died in the strange land. The untold suffering that they experienced in the course of the voyage and the mental agony that constantly afflicted them quickened their sad end. Many more would have perished subsequently prematurely.
The original name of Doraiswamy was Muthuvaduganathan. Chinna Marudu named his son as “ Muthu Vaduganathan” in loving memory of his king Muthu Vaduganatha Rajah who elevated him as Pradhani of Sivaganga Kingdom. It is said that Muthu Vaduganathan was very handsome during his childhood days. He was “the darling child “among the wives ( Duraisanees) of the English people. The word “darling” of the Duraisanees corrupted into Doraiswamy. An unauthorised source reveals that on the orders of the Company, the Penang Government released Doraisamy, son of Chinna Marudu from Penang jail. Doraisamy had returned to his motherland India in 1821 and lived at Madurai. Later he passed away at Sivagnga and was cremated at Kalaiyarkoil.
The Zamindar’s (Peria Murdoo Shervagar) Family submitted a pension application on 11th May 1821 to the Secretary to Government Judicial Department. Thangam and Audhiveera Lakshmi daughters of the late Peria Murdoo Shervagar formerly Zamindar of Sivaganga represented that after the death of their father their mother Meenakshi Ammal was granted a pension of pag 40 and that after her death the pension was discontinued. They requested that as they were women having a large family, to support, the pension might be cotinued. The Collector simply forwarded the petition stating that the family consisted of the 1st and 2nd wife, 5 grandsons, I grand - daughter and 25 servants and dependants and that the petitioners were without any means of support.
Pension application of Murdoo son of late Muthu Vaduganathan dated 19th May - 1891 presented to the Collector “ Mootoo Vadagu Shervagan - pension application by his son Murdoo Sherrvagaur.
1. The Collector forwarded to the Board an address presented to him by Murdoo Shervagar stating that his father (Doraiswamy) was transferred to Pulo Penang. When he was brought up to Madras, the superintendent of police desired him to state whatever he might require,. He presented a petition to Government praying for continued protection and for orders to live in Madura. He was taken sick and returned to Sivaganga where he died. The Company promised him a maintenance allowance but unfortunately he died. Murdoo Shervagaur requested that the allowance for maintenance might be fixed at Sooly ch 200 equal to Rs. 253-9-11 monthly.
2. The Collector stated that an enquiry it appeared that the family was maintained by the Zamindar of Shivagunga who made an allowance of Sooly ch 200 which ceased in 1805, for what reason he could not ascertain. The family was afterwards maintained by Ranni Mangaleswari Natchyar, the late Zamindarini of Ramnad and was at present in extreme poverty and distress. He therefore recommended a pagoda a day if Government thought that the family was entitled to any allowance at all.
The Rebellion of 1800-1801 was organised with a predetermined motive of destroying British imperialism. It spread over an extensive region and assumed proportions of a mass movement. The popular leaders of whom MARUDU PANDYAN was the most conspicuos, spearheaded the struggle while the peasants furnished the fighting material. Relying upon guerilla tactics, the Gallant patriots won brilliant victories, liberated a vast territory and held the British power at bay. Yet ultimately they were defeated. This was more because of the support extended by the local princes to the alien ruler and the collapse of the simultaneous insurrections in Malabar and Mysore than due to any superior military strategy or striking power of the enemy.
The struggle was attended with bitter ferocity and immense slaughter. The rebels paid more dearly than the English did, as they were neither disciplined nor adequately armed. Though the rebels had a well concerted plan of action, it did not work upto expectation. In the beginning the rebellion broke out in Coimbatore and Dindigul but the other parts of Tamil Nadu remained quiet. It was only when these rebellions were suppressed that fresh rising broke out in Tirunelveli, Madurai and Thanjavur. Hence the Company found it no impossible a task to crush the rebellion. still certain trends in the rebellion tend to establish that it assumed the proportions of a popular rebellion
“Marudupandiyan” the servant of the Rajah’s but the implacable enemy of the European low wretches in his Jambu Dweepa Proclamation appealed to the major castes - the Brahmins, the Kshetriyas the Vysyas the Sudras and the Muslims to unite together and free the country from the stooges of European rule. Jumbu Deeepa Proclamation of Marudu Pandiyan was the first document which proclaimed the integration of India and the unity of Religions. The Proclamation was the claim call of a subdued race to rise against the tyranny of an external force. It is considered to be the harbinger of a great movement which would be the death knell of the British Rule.
Theodar Baskar, a Research Scholar conducted a study about different dogs. Later, in his research thesis about the dogs, he came to the conclusion that the South Indian Poligars trained “Rajapalayam dogs” to attack their enemies in the battle field. Further they trained such dogs to bite accurately the knees of the horses of the Cavalry of their enemies. Marudhu Brothers employed trained “ Kombai dogs” to protect Pandian fort at Kalayarkoil from enemy’s occupation.
Further the people of different castes Maravars, Nadars, Totiens, Kallars, Parawas Gounders and Muslims joined the rebellion irrespective of their linguistic or racial considerations. The English records of this period refer to the inhabitants of different territoris flocking to the Rebel ranks quite voluntarily. In addition to these the Kuravai which was the war cry of the rebels and the Killah, a leaf piereced with the nail, when sent to the villages, served the purpose of summons to bring the Inhabitants to the battlefields. Still defeat came because of the military strength of the Company, the support of the allied powers and inferior equipments.
The English administered their savagery with the crudest ferocity. They slaughtered the fleeing population, executed the messengers hanged father and sons upon common gibbet, paraded the mutilated bodies of the patriots through the streets and piked the severed heads on the highways. So dreadful was the horror that these vindictive outbursts of fury spread in the land that the ballads and legends, composed. during this period depicted them with pathos so moving and frightful that they haunted the memory of the Inhabitants generation after generation.
Muthuswamy Pulavar composed Kummi Songs” called “ Sivagangai Charithrak Kummi and Ammanai” in Tamil. These kummi songs were dramatised depicting the heroic deeds of Muthuvaduganatha Rajah, Rani Velu Nachiyar, Pradhani Thanadavaraya Pillai and Marudhu Brothers, among the rural masses in those days. The legal heirs of Marudhu Brothers submitted mercy petitions for pensionary benefits and other help. But the British Government ignored their legitimate demands and needs and rejected their appeals.
Nana Sahib, the Architect of the Revolution of 1857 and his Advisor Ajimullah Khan worked, whole heartedly in support of the revollution of 1857. They had arranged dinner parties and invited the English people to attend such dinner parties. Azimullah Khan served cook under the British men. He was thorough in the English and the French languages well. Though he was deputed to represent the Peshwa’s cause to the Court of Directors in London, later he visited Crimea, Turkey, Afghanisthan to plead for the cause of the Revolutionaries to drive away the English from Indian soil. The other leaders of the Revolution of 1857 were Ahmed Shah, Kumar Singh Dandia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi who were inexperienced in the art of war. They opposed well experienced British Generals in the war in 1857. The Indian leaders were defeated in the direct war against the British army, but they were successful in their guerilla attack against the Engush army. They ransacked the English army for two years from May 1857 to November 1859
Once a christian teacher serving in a missionary convent in India, ordered his students to write an essay about” The Sepoy Mutiny” The master distributed white papers to the students to write about it. When the stipulated time was over, all the students submitted folded white plain papers to their master saying “We can’t write about it”. Thus the students showed their protest unanimously in a peaceful manner.
The English generals, the news editors and merchants narrated their experiences in the Sepoy Mutiny. But Indians could not write about it. They lamented in deep silence and agony. The English men wrote about 1857 Events. But in their writings there was the exposition of true enmity and no History. V.D. Savarkkar collected old history books on 1857 Events and verified records in England. With greatest efforts, research and with greatest patriotic feelings, he wrote a book “ The First War of Independence.”
But the great upsurge of the Marudhu brothers and other patriots of the South of 1801 was not at all recorded in the History of the Indian War of Independence. The two wars were waged against the alien rule i.e, the British power in India, the sacrifices of Marudhu brothers and other patriots of the South had not come to lime light in an all India level.
The patriots of the South like Muthuvaduganatha Thevar, Rani Velu Nachiyar, Marudhu brothers, Vengai Periya Udayana Rajah, Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, Oomathurai, Gopala Nayak, Doraiswamy, Muthu Karuppa Thevar, Jeganatha Iyer, Dhoondaji Waug, Sevathiah, Gnanamuthu, Virappan, Milappan, Pooli Devan, Kerala Varma, Khan-I- Jah Khan, Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan were not at all treated on a par with the leaders of the First War of Independence, In 1857 like Bahadur Shah, Nana Sahib, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Mangal Pandey or any other North Indian Revolutionaries. The sacrifices of the patriots of the South in the year 1801 had gone down in the History of the Freedom Struggle Movement in India “ unwept, unhonoured and unsung.”
However the Government of Tamil Nadu had recognised the great sacrifices of the patriots Marudhu Pandiars and sanctioned family pension to the kith and kin of Marudhu Pandiars in independent India. Marudhu Pandiars were executed on 24th October 1801, at Thirupathur in the present Sivagangai District. The Government of Tamil Nadu is honouring these great patriots by celebrating it as the Government function on 24th October every year. The Department of Posts honoured the memory of Marudhu Pandiars by issuing commemorative postage stamp and making First Day Cancellation Special cover in Madurai on 24th October 2004.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training ( NCERT) published a book “A Struggle for freedom in English”. A map appended in this book shows Madurai, Sivagangai Ramanathapuram and Vellore the four places alone as the centres of early revolt in Tamil Nadu in all India level against the Company rule in India. Sivagangai occupies a prominent place as an early centre of revolt against the English rule in India.211
Maruthu Pandiyar Valari
The English Colonel James Welsh said, “ It was he ( Cheena Murdoo) also, who first taught me to throw the spear and hurl the collery stick (valari), a weapon scarcely known elsewhere; but in a skilful hand capable of being thrown to certainty to any distance within one hundred yards.”
Periya Marudu was also skilful at the art of hurling Valari (collery stick) to a fixed target. An anecdote is connected with his ability and proficiency in hurling valari stick to a fixed target.
One day Periya Marudhu went to Madurai. He reached Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam (tank) to exhibit his feat of ability in hurling valari in the presence of the spectators. He was getting ready for throwing valari from one end of the tank. He had stamped his legs on the ground exerting full force, hurled valari to the opposite side of the tank.
The valari thrown by Periya Marudhu without touching the central mandapam ( Nadu mandapam) fell on the opposit side of the tank. While he was hurling valari, gaining inspiration, the gold thread around his waist (thanga araingan) had broken and fell on the ground. In memory of this great feat a statue of Periya Marudhu at Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakkulam at Madurai was unveiled by DR. Kalaingar Karunanidhi, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 31st October 2007.
The English Colonel James Welsh said “ Unencumbered with the cares of trappings of government, he ( Velli Murdoo) led a sort of wandering life and occasionally visited his European neighbours at Tanjore, Trichinoploy and Madura by whom he was much esteemed. If anyone wanted game, a message sent to Velli Murdoo was sure to procure it. or if he wished to partake in the sports of the field, Velli Murdoo was a man to conduct him to the spot, and to insure his success as well as to watch over his safety. Did a royal tiger appear, while his guest was surrounded by hardly and powerful pikemen, Velli Murdoo was the first to meet the monster and despatch him. A life such as this, although it may appear idle and insignificant to those accustomed to the safety of a well regulated country, was very far from being without its usefulness, in a district overrun with jungle, and infested by beasts of prey. The minor game. was, however politely decoyed or driven in front of his European friend, who might thus, with less danger kill hogs, elks, deer, pea-fowl etc in abundance. From this “Oriental Nimrod” I had received many marks of attention and kindness when stationed at Madura, in the year 1795 and then one of the youngest subalterns in the place; a pretty certain proof of his disinterestedness.
The leaders of Sivaganga, Ramnad and Madurai, who had entertained a long tradition of independence and struggle against the forces of imperialism, spearheaded the formation of the anti - British alliance system. Marudu Pandyan, often called the Sherogar (Chinna Maruthu) the most conspicuous among them and the political strategist of this movement, initiated and assumed the leadership of this league of the patriots. Dark in complexion, he had a handsome personality and was of affable manners. Born in obscurity, he by sheer dynamism and devotion to his ideals rose to eminence not only as the undisputed leader of Sivaganga but the central figure of the entire alliance system. A man of the masses, he combined in himself organisational ability and political vision.
Sasivarna Peria Oodaya Thevar died in or about the year 1750 and was succeeded by his son Muthuvaduganatha Peria Oodaya Thevar. He, the 2nd Rajah of Sivaganga was shot dead at Kalaiyarkovil in or about the year 1772 in an engagement with the Nabob. He had no male issue, but he left behind him his widow Velu Nachiar and an infant daughter named. Vellachi alias Velu Nachiar both of whom fled to Verupatchi, where they were joined by the two Shervaigars, named Chinna Maruthu and Vellai Maruthu, menial servants of the late Rajah Muthu Vadugoo, who with the aid of Hyder’s forces, drove the Nabob’s troops out of the territory of Sivaganga and usurped the country. The Nabob in consequence of the calamitous war with Hyder Ali, was powerless to oppose or to punish the usurper; A compromise was, however, effected, whereby the widow permitted to govern the Marava country and Chinna Maruthu the younger, was appointed her Minister jointly with Vellai Maruthu the elder brother. Thus the widow Velu Nachiar suceeded her husband in 1780. Velu Nachiar died a few years later: But the exact date of her death is not known: it was about 1790. Her daughter Vellachi alias Velu Nachiar was nominally made her successor by the two Shervaigars who still continued in power and virtually ruled Sivaganga.
Despite the exalted postion he held in the state, he lived in an open house unattended by any guard, and whosoever desired to visit him had a free ingress and egress. The British administration made no public demand on Sivaganga except the normal rent of one-third of its revenue and took no measure, calculated to cause any embarrassment to his position or to give any mortification to his person.-216 Yet deeply stirred by patriotic fervour, he decided to champion the cause of liberty: He promoted a rebellious spirit, aided the insurgents in other quarters and as the English themselves had asserted, endeavoured to the utmost of his power to subvert the foundations of the British Empire.
He patiently analysed the political trends of the times and clearly foresaw whither India was drifting. A great nationalist, he declared rightly that because of European treachery, princely betrayal and popular indifference, the English had reduced a large part of the country to political slavery and if this ominous trend was allowed to be sustained, the freedom of the entire Jambu Dweepa would be completely annihilated. He appealed to all sections of the population to unite
immediately and fight till the destruction of alien sway was attained.
The proud and independent people of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, annoyed at the violation of their rights and customs by an administration that was foreign, arrogant and oppressive and denial of supplies by an arbitrary embargo, appeared determined to jump into any fray aimed at the overthrow of the British power. What the indomitable Marudu proceeded to do was to send numerous emissaries on missions to the headmen of the villages and the poligars of the districts with a message of rebellion.
This daring venture undertaken in the face of serious odds and hostile military presence, received a welcome response. Melappan, Singam Chetty and Muthu Karuppa Tevar, the popular leaders of Ramnad, and Gnanamuthu, an influential chief of Thanjavur accepted the leadership of the Sherogar. The inhabitants of Madurai particularly the warlike Kallans transformed themselves into active rebels. In the western region of Tirunelveli Mappila Vannian, described as a popular and daring leader and the son of the poligar of Sivagiri allied themselves with Marudu.
Thus a league of the rebels with Marudu Pandyan as the central figure came into existence. In the eastern region of Tirunelveli, Vira Pandya Kattabomman of Panjalamkurichi took an active interest in the rebel cause more than any other leader and proceeded to organise a league of the poligars.