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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Remembering Puli Thevar's exploits ... battle of Kallakkadu !!!


Kalakkad is a Panchayat town in Tirunelveli district.  The town is centerd on the Sathya Vageeswarar Temple. Kalakkad was a scene of frequent struggles during  1750s ~ but have we ever read anything on this place in our History books ? – in schools ??  -   there were battles of : Nelkattumseval, Kalakkadu, siege of Srivilliputhur, Tirunelveli, Settur, Vasudevanallur and more !

Indian history was written by the British and distorted by Red orientation.  We have read a lot in schools about the  Battle of Plassey  in which  British East India Company scored a decisive victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies on 23 June 1757. The battle consolidated the Company's presence in Bengal, which later expanded to cover much of India over the next hundred years.  The battle took place at Palashi on the banks of the Hooghly River, about 150 kilometres (93 mi) north of Calcutta and south of Murshidabad, then capital of Bengal (now in Nadia district in West Bengal).  Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, the commander in chief of the Nawab's army, and also promised him to make him Nawab of Bengal. He defeated the Nawab at Plassey in 1757 and captured Calcutta.

We read in our books ‘the uprising of 1857’ not as a National movement, not as a freedom struggle but as sepoy mutiny, an uprising by a group of soldiers.  Perhaps sons of cow belt soil would remember the movie  - Mangal Pandey - The Rising (The Rising - Ballad Of Mangal Pandey)  and the hero of the movie.  Mangal Pandey, the great hero was a Bengali soldier of the 34th  Native Infantry.  He was arrested, sentenced to jail and a military court sentenced him to death.  They set the execution date to April 18th  but they killed Mangal Pandey on April 8 because the Britishers didn’t want to wait too long.  Mangal Pandey was certainly the man who ignited  freedom fighter and became the martyr of the 1st  War of Independence. The Doctrine of Lapse, issue of cartridges greased with animal fat to Indian soldiers – most of whom were vegetarians (cartridge wicks had to be plucked out with the teeth before hurling them), introduction of British system of education and a number of social reforms had infuriated a wide section of the Indian population who rose in revolt all over the country.

.. .. .. he was not the first man though, and Uprising – the National struggle of 1857 was not the first fight against British East India Company.  Down under, we have read about the exploit of Poligars (Nayakars) – the name and exploits became legendary more because of the 1959 tamil film “Veerapandiya Kattabomman”  written by Sakthi T. K. Krishnasamy and directed by B. R. Panthulu. Everybody aspiring to become an actor would try to repeat those immortal dialogues uttered by Sivaji Ganesan.  There have been many rulers in this part of land, around the 15th  century it was Pandyan dynasty, then Nayakas,  as the Vijayanagara Telugus were called. Madura was fortified Nayakas; the constitution of the Polygars, ancestors of  present Zemindars of Tinnevelly and Madura, is assigned by tradition to Visvanatha Nayaka, and was by far the most important political event of the time.  There were Maravars and Thevars who fought for freedom.

On this day 303 years ago (1st Sept 1715) was born “Puli thevar”.  Nelkatum Seval was the headquarters of Puli thevar, the first Chieftain in India to resist the British. Nelkatum seval is chiefly memorable as having been in the eighteenth century strong hold of the redoubtable Puli Thevar, who figured for many years as a leader against the troops of the Nawab and the company. “Nelkattum Serval” literally translates to “Rice tribute paying place”, but after its ruler Puli Thevan’s successful attempts, the name changed to nel kattan serval (“place which would not pay rice as tax)

Pulithevan is regarded as the first ruler in Indian history, who sowed the seed, by his gallant resistance, to expel from his nature land even before the 1806 revolt of Vellore and Sepoy mutiny in 1857.  Puli thevar was an illustrious ruler in the chequered history of Palayakarars.    As Puli Thevar refused the British demand for the payment of fief as an acceptance of their lordship over him, they launched an attack on Thevar. Puli Thevar’s informant in the British camp, the interpreter of Heron, sent him news that the British were short on supplies and did not have much heavy artillery. Hearing this Thevar decided to hold the British attack further. There were so many battles involving Pulithevan and the ones read at the start of the post were the battles fought by him. 

Understanding fully well that the British would not back down and would come back to attack his people again, Puli Thevar sent one of his generals to Travancore to win over the support of Maharaja Marathanda Varma who was the regent of Travancore. The general managed to convince His Majesty to support the Poligar confederacy lead by Puli Thevar and returned back with 4000 troops.  The name Puli in Tamil means a Tiger, and this brave devotee of Mahadeva was one who lived to his name. Unmatched in skill of warfare, understanding of politics and full of fire this man was born to be a rebel. Not a rebel without cause, rather a rebel against Adharma.

                        Today we remember this fighter and salute those innumerable warriors but for whom, we would not be enjoying the fruits of freedom

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st Sept 2018.

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