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Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Last updated
10/07/07

Indian Naval Station Kattabomman

Veerapandiya
Kattabomman in Video


Sivaji Ganesan: Veera Pandiya Kattabomman Speech : Response to British Collector Jackson's remark: " We believe in the Rule of law"

Kattabomman's conversation with Jackson Thurai
Video:  Part 1 - Part 2  - Part 3
Veerapandiya Kattabomman - the Film with Sivaji Ganesan
Songs and Dialogues from the Film
To commemorate the bicentenary on 16th October 1999 of Kattabomman’s hanging, the Central Government of India brought out a postal stamp in his honour...

N. Rajendran on Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the early challenges to British Rule in National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914 - Agitational Politics and State Coercion


Kattabomman Memorial Fort

Panchalankurichi, is a small but historic village around 70km from Tirunelveli and18 km from Tuticorin. From here the great warrior Katta Bomman popularly known as 'Veerapandiya Kattabomman' raised his voice against the British regime in the 17th Century A.D.

The existing memorial fort was constructed in 1974, by the Government of Tamil Nadu. The memorial Hall, has beautiful paintings on the walls depicting the heroic deeds of the saga which gives a good idea about the history of the period. A cemetery of British soldiers are also seen near the fort. The remnants of the old fort is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. At Kayatar, near Tirunelveli the place where he was hanged, there is another memorial for Kattabomman.

Kattabomman Festival
Veerapandiya Kattabomman at  wikipedia

 

Veerapandiya Kattabomman
1760 - 1799


Kattabomman Statute inside Kattabomman Memorial Fort

"..Collector Jackson singled out Kattabomman Nayak of Panchalamkurichi as the main leader of the rebellion. That came to be known as the First Poligari War was declared on 5 September 1799. Although Kattabomman managed to escape from the field of battle, he was captured a month later in Pudukottai. After a summary trial, he was sentenced to death by Major Bannerman, Commander of the East India Company troops. He was publicly hanged near Kayattar Fort, close to the town of Tirunelveli, in front of fellow poligars who had been summoned to witness the execution..." N. Rajendran on Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the early challenges to British Rule in National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914 - Agitational Politics and State Coercion

 "...Kattabomman faced the last moments of his life in a way becoming of a rebel leader. Major John Bannerman writes to the Madras Government, 17 October, 1799, thus: 'it may not be amiss here to observe  that the manner and behaviour of the Poligar during the whole time of his being before those who were assembled yesterday at the examination, which took place were undaunted and supercilious. He frequently eyed the Etiapore Poligar (Poligar of Ettayapuram), who had been so active in attempting to secure his person, and the poligar of Shevighergy with an appearance of indignant contempt and when he went out to be executed, he walked with a firm and daring air and cast looks of sullen contempt on the poligars to his right and left as he passed. It was reported to me that in his way to the place of execution he expressed some anxiety for his  brother (Kumaraswamy Nayak) alone: and said, when he reached the foot of the Tree on which he was hanged, that he then regretted having left his fort, in the defence of which it would have been better for him to have died'. Major John Bannerman, 17 October 1799, letter to Madras Government, R. C , Vol 98, pp: 2877-2884"  quoted by K.Rajayyan in History of Madurai (1736 - 1801) at p.355


Legends from the South:Veerapandiya Kattabomman Courtesy The Sanmar Group 

"The struggle for freedom from the British, saw the emergence of many patriots who fought, made sacrifices and even lost their lives defending the country. Exhibiting great courage, Tamils were among those who sowed the seeds for the freedom movement. One such pioneer was Veerapandiya Kattabomman.

Eighteen kilometres north west of Tirunelveli lies the hamlet of Panchalankurichi, a place of historical significance. The chieftains ruling Panchalankurichi put up stiff resistance against the British East India Company, between 1798 and 1801.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was a fearless chieftain who refused to bow down to the demands of the British for agricultural tax on native land, a brave warrior who laid down his life for his motherland. The fight he launched in Panchalankurichi has been hailed as the inspiration behind the first battle of independence of 1857, which the British called the Sepoy Mutiny.

Azhagiya Veerapandiapuram (Ottapidaram of today) was ruled by Jagaveera Pandiyan. He had a minister Bommu who had migrated from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu who was a brave warrior. He was known as Gettibommu in Telugu to describe his strength and fighting qualities. This, over a period of time, became Kattabomman in Tamil. Kattabomman ascended the throne after Jagaveera Pandiyan, who had no issue, and later came to be known as Adi Kattabomman, the first of the clan of Kattabomman.

Legend has it that during a hunting trip into the forests of Salikulam (close to Azhagiya Pandiyapuram) Kattabomman watched the spectacle of a hare chasing seven hounds. Kattabomman was amazed at this miracle. Believing that the land possessed great powers that could instil courage in people, he built his fort there and named it Panchalankurichi.

Born in this clan of Adi Kattabomman was Veerapandiyan on January 3, 1760 – the 47th king of Panchalankurichi – to Jagaveera Kattabomman and Arumugathammal. He had two younger brothers Dalavai Kumarasami and Duraisingam. Veerapandiyan was fondly called ‘Karuthaiah’ (the black prince), and Dalavai Kumarasami, ‘Sivathaiah’ (the white prince). Duraisingam, a good orator, earned the sobriquet ‘Oomaidurai’, which actually meant the very opposite – the dumb prince.

On February 2, 1790, Veerapandiyan, thirty, became the king of Panchalankurichi. The Nawab of Arcot who had borrowed huge sums of money from the East India Company gave them the right to collect taxes and levies from the southern region in lieu of the money he had borrowed. The East India Company took advantage of the situation and plundered all the wealth of the people in the name of tax collection. All the ‘poligars’ paid taxes except Veerapandiyan.

Kattabomman refused to pay his dues and for a long time refused to meet Jackson the Collector of the East India Company. Finally, he met Jackson at ‘Ramalinga Vilasam’, the palace of Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram. The meeting ended in a skirmish in which the Deputy Commandant of the Company’s forces, Clarke was slain. Kattabomman and his men fought their way to freedom and safety, but Thanapathi Pillai, Kattabomman’s secretary was taken prisoner.

The Commission of Enquiry that went into the incident fixed the blame on Jackson and relieved him of his post, thinking the Company’s plan to take over the entire country gradually could be marred by Jackson’s fight with Veerapandiya Kattabomman. The new Collector of Tirunelveli wrote to Kattabomman calling him for a meeting on 16th March, 1799. Kattabomman wrote back citing the extreme drought conditions for the delay in the payment of dues and also demanded that all that was robbed off him at Ramanathapuram be restored to him. The Collector wanted the ruling house of Sethupathis to prevent Kattabomman from aligning himself with the enemies of the Company and decided to attack Kattabomman.

Kattabomman refused to meet the Collector and a fight broke out. Under Major Bannerman, the army stood at all the four entrances of Panchalankurichi’s fort. At the southern end, Lieutenant Collins was on the attack. When the fort’s southern doors opened, he was killed by Kattabomman’s warriors.

After suffering heavy losses, the English decided to wait for reinforcements from Palayamkottai. Sensing that his fort could not survive a barrage from heavy cannons, Kattabomman left the fort that night.

A price was set on Kattabomman’s head. Thanapathi Pillai and 16 others were taken prisoners. Thanapathi Pillai was executed and his head perched on a bamboo pole was displayed at Panchalankurichi. Veerapandiya Kattabomman stayed at Kolarpatti at Rajagopala Naicker’s house where the forces surrounded the house.

Kattabomman and his aides fled from there and took refuge in the Thirukalambur forests close to Pudukkottai. Bannerman ordered the ruler of Pudukkottai to arrest Kattabomman. Accordingly, Kattabomman was captured and on October 16, 1799 the case was taken up (nearly three weeks after his arrest near Pudukkottai). After a summary trial, Kattabomman was hanged unceremoniously on a tamarind tree. The fort of Panchalankurichi was razed to the ground and all of Kattabomman’s wealth was looted by the English soldiers.

A fort constructed by the Tamil Nadu Government at Panchalankurichi in 1972 stands as a monument to this great hero from the south who played a pivotal role in the freedom movement of our country. "

  Veerapandiya Kattabomman & the Poligar rebellion
 -
N.Rajendran in National Movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-1914, Agitational Politics and State Coercion

In Tamil Nadu, as in other parts of India, the earliest expressions of opposition to British rule took the form of localised rebellions and uprisings. Chief among these was the revolt of the palayakkarargal (poligars) against the East India Company in 1799.

The poligari system had evolved with the extension of Vijayanagar rule into Tamil Nadu. Each poligar was the holder of a territory or palayam (usually consisting of a few villages), granted to him in return for military service and tribute.

Where circumstances allowed, the poligars naturally tended to place less emphasis on performing their duties and more on enhancing their own powers. Given their numerical strength, extensive resources, local influence and independent attitude, the poligars came to constitute a powerful force in the political system of south India. They regarded themselves as independent, sovereign authorities within their respective palayams, arguing that their lands had been handed down to them across a span of sixty generations Such claims of course were to be brushed aside by the East India Company...

The East India Company, eager for revenue, opposed the manner and scale in which the poligars collected taxes from the people. The issue of taxation—more specifically, who was to collect it, the traditional rulers or the rapacious new collectors from overseas —lay at the root of the subsequent uprising. As one British Collector noted:

I again repeated that. . . unless the poligar were deprived of his power, and my recommendations went to the fullest extent of the measure, the Company's investment would be materially checked, the weavers residing in the Panchalamkurichi palayam would be stripped off their property, and the largest part of the advances made to them by the commercial resident exposed to considerable danger.

...The early struggle between the poligars of south and East India Company, although essentially a battle over tax collection, had a strong political dimension. The English treated the poligars, perceived as a rival power, as their inveterate enemies, allowing their hostility full expression in their accounts...

When in 1799 the poligars of Tirunelveli District rose in open rebellion, the East India Company took all possible measures to check the spread of the uprising. A detachment of Company troops was speedily deployed against the Tirunelveli poligars, while dire warnings were issued to poligars in other parts of the south not to join the rebellion. The Company, which regarded the poligars as the 'scourge of the country', determined to deprive the ringleaders of their palayats and punish them in an exemplary fashion.

Collector Jackson singled out Kattabomma Nayak of Panchalamkurichi as the main leader of the rebellion. That came to be known as the First Poligari War was declared on 5 September 1799. Although Kattabomman managed to escape from the field of battle, he was captured a month later in Pudukottai. After a summary trial, he was sentenced to death by Major Bannerman, Commander of the East India Company troops. He was publicly hanged near Kayattar Fort, close to the town of Tirunelveli, in front of fellow poligars who had been summoned to witness the execution.

Subramania Pillai, a close associate of Kattabomma Nayak, was also publicly hanged and his head was fixed on a pike at Panchalamkurichi. Soundra Pandian Nayak, another rebel leader, was brutally done to death by having his brains dashed against a village wall.

Despite the exemplary repression of 1799, however, rebellion broke out again in 1800, this time in a more cohesive and united manner. Although the 1800-1801 rebellion was to be categorised in British records as the Second Poligari War, it assumed a much broader character than its predecessor. It was directed by a confederacy consisting of Marudu Pandian of Sivaganga, Gopala Nayak of Dindugal, Kerala Verma of Malabar and Krishnappa Nayak and Dhoondaji of Mysore. The insurrection, which broke out in Coimbatore in June 1800, soon spread to Ramanathapuram and Madurai. By May 1801, it had reached the northern provinces, where Marudu Pandian, Melappan and Puttur provided the leadership. Oomathurai, the brother of Kattabomma Nayak, emerged as a key leader. In February 1801, Oomathurai and two hundred men by a clever stratagem took control of Panchalamkuriclli Fort, in which Oomathurai's relatives were imprisoned.

Its fort now re-occupied and reconstructed by rebel forces Panchalamkurichi became the nerve centre of the uprising. British dismay was boundless. As one eyewitness put it,

' . . . to our utter astonishment, we discovered that the walls, which had been entirely levelled, were now rebuilt, and fully manned by about fifteen hundred poligars.'

Three thousand armed men of Madurai and Ramanathapuram, despatched by Marudu Pandian, joined up with the Panchalamkurichi forces. However, British military superiority having just destroyed the far more formidable challenge posed by Tipu Sultan in Mysore, quickly asserted itself. The poligar forces based at Panchalamkurichi were crushed and, by the orders of the colonial government, the site of the captured fort was ploughed up and sowed with castor oil and salt so that it should never again be inhabited.

The colonial forces quickly overpowered the remaining insurgents. The Marudu brothers and their sons were put to death, while Oomathurai and Sevatiah were beheaded at Panchalamkurichi on 16 November, 1801. Seventy-three of the principal rebels were sentenced to perpetual banishment. So savage and extensive was the death and destruction wrought by the English that the entire region was left in a state of terror.

The suppression of the poligar rebellions of 1799 and 1800-1801 resulted in the liquidation of the influence of the chieftains. Under the terms of the Carnatic Treaty (31 July, 1801), the British assumed direct control over Tamil Nadu. The poligari system, which had flourished for two and a half centuries, came to a violent end and the Company introduced a zamindari settlement in its place.

While it is obviously premature and misleading to attach the term 'nationalist' to the struggle of the poligars, or to portray it as some kind of mass movement, the uprising does appear to have attracted some popular support. In subsequent years, a good deal of legend and folklore would develop around Kattabomman and the Marudu brothers. Long after Kattabomman's execution, Kayattar, his place of death, remained a place of political pilgrimage. In his Tinnevelly Gazetteer of 1917, H. R. Pate notes the presence in Kayattar of 'a great pile of stones of all sizes, which represents the accumulated offerings by wayfarers of the past hundred years'. Folk songs recalling the heroism of the poligar leaders remain alive in Tamil Nadu to this day..."

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