Saturday, 16 May 2015

Kattabomman - early freedom fighter from Tamil Nadu

Veerapandiya Kattabomman
Veerapandiya  Kattabomma  Karuthayya  Nayakkar (also  known  as  Kattabomman;  born:  January 03, 1760)  was  the  most  valiant  early  freedom fighter of  18th-century  and he boldly  rebelled  against  the British and their oppressive rule.  He was  a prominent Palayakarrar ('Polygar') or chieftain  from  Panchalankurichi  of  Tamil Nadu, India. His  parents were Jagaveera Kattabomman and Aarumugathammal.  Veera Pandyan  was  his original  name  and  Kattabomman  was  the name  of  his  paternal   ancestral  name. He was  one among  the five  children - with  two  brothers and two  sisters. His  brothers  Oomathurai (Kumaraswamy) and  Duraisingam  were also  great warriors. His  wife's  name  was  Veera Jakkammal. He was a devout Hindu  and  his  presiding  deity  was  Thiruchendur Murugan (Karthikaya). 

During   the  Vijayanagara  period  Kattabomman  ancestors   migrated   to  Tamil Nadu  from  Kandukuru  area  of  Prakasam  district  in  present  day  Andhra  Pradesh. In  his  early childhood,  he  spoke  his mother tongue - Telugu  and  later  learnt  Tamil, the  language  spoken  in  Panchalamkuruchi  and  other areas.  Roughly  60 years   before  the  Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 that  first  started  in  Meerut (Meerut  cantonment  is  the  place  where  the rebellion  started  when  Hindu  and  Muslim  soldiers  were  given  new model rifles  with grease-coated  cartridges which, it was believed, contained  animal fat of pig  and  cow), in  present day U.P.   Kattabomman  vehemently  opposed  the  British and their  subjugation  of  Indian natives.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman postage stamp released on 16.10.1999 by India
None  of  the  Palayakarrars  were  as  much suffered, humiliated and  haunted  as  Kattabomman was  by  the British  just  because  he boldly  refused  to  accept  the  sovereignty  of  British  East  India  Company, pay  land  taxes  and  be  submissive  to  the  British rulers. For  the  sake  of  freedom  and  his  legitimate  rights  over  his mother land  taken   away in a dubious manner   by  the despicable  British, he  lost  every  thing  dear  to  him. His loving  family  was  in  disarray  and  his relatives including his brothers   were  killed  or  maimed  by  the foreign rulers, his kingdom  was reduced  to   heaps  of  trash  and debris. 

Kattabomman  became 47th  Palayakarrar  or  Chief  on  February 02, 1790 and  ruled  the  palayam  with  skill  and diplomacy. As the Nawob of  Arcot  was unable  to  fulfill  his financial  commitments  to  the British, Thirunelveli and  many  other  areas  that  were  ruled by the  Palayakarrars (chieftains)  came  under  the British control. The  British  created  mischief  among  the local chiefs  to  keep  them  apart and collected land taxes from them and gave  concessions  to  those  who  were  cooperative.

Kattabomman  not  only  refused  to  pay the  land  taxes  but also  had  row  with  the  then  Tirunelveli  Collector  Jackson  and  later  other  East  India company  officials, thus  becoming  a menace to  the foreign rulers.  After the death  of  Tipu Sultan (May, 1799; the  British  killed  Tipu  Sultan  with  the  help from a  traitor  close to  him ) in  the last  Mysore war  at Srirangapatna, the British  decided  to  take  on  the  valiant  Chief  of  Pachalamkuruchi. The British forces  attacked  Kattabomman  at a time  when  most  of  his  warriors  and people were  at  Thiruchendur  and  other  places to  attend  some Hindu  temple  festivals. Taken aback and unprepared with  lack  of  adequate  forces  to  back him  up,  Veerapandyan  fought  tooth  and  nail with the British, but  it  was  of  no  use. He, at last, fled the  battle  ground  and for some time roamed  different places, using  various   guises. Because of the  handiwork  of  British  masters  a  pious, courageous  local  chief  became  a  sort of  vagabond.  In the mean  time  before the end  of  war, his  brother Oomathurai  set  the  ammunition  storage  on fire  and  killed  several British  soldiers. He  too  left  the  war  field  and  hid  in  several  places to avoid arrest. As for  Kattabomman, at last  he  was  in the state of  Pudukotta, whose ruler had a close  relationship with  the  British. He was  caught by the British  and taken  to  Panchalamkuruchi  where  there  was  a  formal inquiry - trial under the official Captain  Bannerman. He  refused  to  budge and spoke against the atrocities  of  the  British  with patriotic  zeal. Nor was  he  scarred  of  facing the gallows. At  last  he  was  sentenced  to  death  by  hanging  by  the military  panel.  On orders from  Bannerman  Verrapandya  Kattabomman  was  hanged  to  death on  October 19, 1799  in public at a small village  called  Kayatharu  in Tirunelveli  district. His associates were also hanged by theBritish.
To pay  their  homage  and  respect every  year  thousands of  people  visit  this  place,  where  this  great  patriotic  Indian  was put  to  death  by  the merciless, diabolical  British  East  India  company officials. His  crime was  he  defended  his  mother land  and his people  against foreign invaders - the British. In the long history  of  India's  freedom  struggle  against  the  unjust  British  rulers, numerous  Indian  patriots  became  immortal figures. Surely  the  great  Palayakarrar ('Polygar') or chieftain, Veerapandya  Kattabomman  of Telugu  decent from Tirunelveli  district of  Tamil Nadu   is  the  most prominent  one  and  his  saga of  heroic  exploits, sacrifice  and  courage  will  remain  etched in the pages  of  history of  early Indian freedom  fighters  till  the  end  of  this  world.