Monday, 18 May 2015

Robert Clive's brief stay in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu:

Lord Robert Clive of British India..portrait by Charles Clive,1764.

old image. Clive Hostel before today's urban madness took over
 Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, Major General, KB MP., FRS 
(September 1725 – November 1774), who  started  out  as   an  assistant  shopkeeper  in  June, 1744 in a small settlement at Fort St. George near the village of  Madraspatnam (now Chennai city) gradually  grew  in  stature  through  intelligence and hard  work  and played a key role in  the  establishment  of  military  and  political  supremacy  of   the  East  India  Company  in  Bengal, He along  with  Warren Hastings, an equally competent and shrewd officer,  firmly laid  the  basic  foundation  of  the  British empire. His  first  major  achievement  was  securing  of  the Bengal  province and  complete  control  over  its  vast resources. This  was  a  major turning point  for  England  whose  economy then  was  in  doldrums. The huge  revenue  from  Bengal  boosted  the  economy  of  England to  an unexpected level. For the British Crown and  its manipulative officials, in  the  following  centuries, India  was  more  than  a  hen  laying  golden egg - simply El Dorado. 

When Clive  had  begun  his  career  in  Madras  the political  scenario  was  different. After  the death  of  the  Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, the  Mogul  power  had  gradually slipped  into  the hands of  his  provincial  viceroys or  subedars  who  acted as  defacto  rulers. As for  southern India, the  main  rulers  on  the  Coromandel  Coast (East coast) were the Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah I, and  the  Nawob of  the  Carnatic,  Anwaruddin  Muhammed Khan who  owed  his  allegiance  to  the Nizam. Both  the  British  and  French  establishment  at  Pondicherry were  in  the  Nawob's territory.

The  competition  among  the European countries  to secure  India's  vast  resources  became  so  acute that there  were several  military  confrontations  among them.  French  East  India  Company under  Governor-General  Dupleix  became a major source to reckon with. Major hostilities  in  India  began  with a  British  naval  attack  on  a  French  fleet  in 1745, which  led  the French  Governor-General Dupleix to request additional forces. The  recurring  clashes  between  the  French  and English  East India  company  to  consolidate  their control and   dominance  in  the subcontinent  brought  him  back  to  active  military service.

First Carnatic War: The  French  forces,  led  by La Bourdonnais.  retaliated  by  attacking  Madras  on 4 September, 1746  and  after  several days  of bombardment,  the  British  surrendered and  the French  entered  the city. British  military officers  along  with  Clive  were taken  to  Pondicherry as prisoners.  French Governor-General Dupleix  was  very  keen  to  annex  Madras  and there  was  no room for a truce. In the mean time  Clive  and  other  British  prisoners  at  Pondicherry   escaped  from  the  prison  when  the  prison  guards  were not  alert  and went straight  to near-by  Ft. David (British post at Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu) where  he joined  the  British  army  for  the  first  time  and made  a name for himself  when  he  successfully  defended  the British Fort  and  later  under  Major Stringer Lawrence  during the siege of  Pondicherry in 1748. Subsequently his successful  military  expedition to  Tanjore, Tamil  Nadu   gave him further opportunity to  prove  his  military leadership and skill.

Nasir Jung, upon the death of  his father the  Nizam of  Hyderabad  Asaf Jah, who made  his grand son Muzaffar Jung, the ruler of  Bijapur  his  legal heir,  seized  the throne  of  Hyderabad. Muzaffar  fled  and joined  Chanda  Sahib,  who was  an  alley  of the French.  In  the  Battle  of  Ambur  in  August, 1749  these  forces   fought  against  the  Arcot  Nawob Anwaruddin's  son, Muhammed  Ali  Khan  Wallajah who fled to  Trichinopoly sought  the  help  of the British forces.

In 1751 the senior  British  military  officers  offered Clive  to  lead  an  expedition  to  relieve  Trichinopoly (Tiruchirapalli), where Mohamed Ali, the  British  candidate  for  Nawob,  or  ruler,  was  tactically besieged  by  Chanda Sahib, the French  candidate. With  only  200  European  and  300 Indian  troops, plus  three  field  pieces, Clive, using  various  superior  strategic moves,  seized  Arcot, Chanda Sahib's capital, there by  diverting 10,000  of  Chanda Sahib's men  from  Trichinopoly.

Clive, with  skill  and  forbearance,  successfully  withstood  a  50-day long tough  siege and, when   reinforcements  arrived, he began  guerrilla  warfare  against  the  French  and  French-supported troops. The siege  of  Trichinopoly  was  finally  lifted, and  a  truce  in 1754  recognized  Mohamed Ali as the  Nawob  of  the Carnatic. The  Treaty  of  Paris  in 1763  confirmed   this, and  in  1765  the  Emperor  at  Delhi  admitted  British  hegemony  in  southern India. Clive's  brilliant  military leadership, timely strategy and tactical moves  at Arcot  gave  him  an immense  reputation  back in England. During the testing  time  Clive spent his  time in  Trichinopoly.

After running  unsuccessfully  for  Parliament, Clive returned  to India  in 1755  as  the   Governor  of  Fort St. David, Cuddalore  and as  lieutenant  colonel  in  the  Royal  Army. 

Clive's legacy in Tiruchirapalli:

old image.View of St. Joseph's College, High School, Lawley Hall and Digby Hall.
St. Joseph College, established  in 1844  by the Fathers  of  Society of  Jesus (The Jesuits), is one of the  oldest  institutes  in  the World and is one of the well-known colleges in India. When  this institution was  was moved  over  to  Trichinopoly  from  Nagapatnam (now Tamil Nadu)  in  the 1880s, "Clive  House " became  the  hostel  for the students from other places. Clive Hostel, at  the  foot  of  the Rock Fort, facing  the Nayak- built temple tank  (Teppakulam in local parlance)  is a  famous landmark  in Triruchirapalli city.
 St. Lourd's Church Adjacent to St. Joseph College, Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu,
Robert  Clive  lived  here  for about a year in 1752. It  is  believed  that Clive, when he  temporarily  moved  over  to  this  city  as  a  military  commander,  must  have  taken  over  a  Muslim  nobleman’s  residence for his  stay  here.  The  ground  floor  in  the  building  has  a  series  of  arches  in  Islamic  style, whereas  the  upper  story, which  was  built  later,  has  features  of  Gothic  structure. This  famous  hostel  is  the  sole property  of  St. Joseph’s  College, whose  church  dominates  the skyline  on  the  other  side  of  the  tank. A marble plaque, similar to  the  one  at  Mangammal’s  palace, says  that Clive, lived  here in 1752. 

Clive, the  British bandit  in  the making, had  a  brief sojourn  in  the  heartland  of  Tamil  Nadu  and  had  begun  his  career, that established  him  as one  of  the  greatest  looters  of  India's  vast resources  on one hand  and  a top class military strategist with Machiavellian skill on the other hand.  His contribution was immense in the establishment of the British Empire. One of the greatest British politicians, ever cigar smoking Winston Churchill (former PM of the U.K.) is just dwarf before Clive in terms of military warfare skills  and political acumen.


Faught, C. Brad (2013). Clive: Founder of British India. (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc.).