Thursday, 30 June 2016

Robert Clive and Tiruchirapalli fort of Tamil Nadu

Main Guard Gate, part of Tiruchirapalli Fort,Tiruchirapalli,
Rock fort and Clive Hostel

 Above image: Rock fort Vinayaga temple and Clive Hostel in the background. Famous teppakulam 
(water tank) on the left side.Clive Hostel is being managed by St. Joseph College.

The political map of Southern India saw a drastic change with the arrival of British East India company and there were many skirmishes and battles among the Indian rulers and they were all to the advantage of the English company. It was here in Southern India, one  of the greatest personalities of the British India history, Robert Clive slowly and steadily rose to prominence from the position of an ordinary civilian clerk in Ft. St. George, Chennai. 
The siege of Tiruchirapalli fort and that of Arcot by one Chanda Sahib, son-in-law of Arcot Nawob provided an excellent chance for Clive to prove his manipulative  ability in military warfare.

Tiruichirapalli  fort  that is located in the city of Tiruchirapalli on the banks of the river Cauvery  was once an  important fort after Fort St. George, Chennai and  Ft. David, Cuddallore  in the then Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu State) under the English. The fortified area far away from the Bay of Bengal, now in a dilapidated state, once covered areas  that are now called Singarathope, Bishop Heber School, Teppakulam and adjacent places. Part of the fort is on a  small hill, one of a few outcrops in this plain land. The rocks are of Precambrian age, being one of the oldest rocks in the world.  Only the Main Guard Gate on the West Boulevard opposite to  famous 
St. Joseph college is the most conspicuous remnant of the ramparts of the fort. The extend of this once historical fort can be traced  all along  the  West Boulevard road,  East Boulevard Road in the east, Butter-worth Road in the north adjacent to the river  and the present Gandhi Market in  the South. The entire fort area now is the busiest  and highly crowded part of this big city where many business establishments, well known schools and colleges are located.
Main Guard Gate, part of Tiruchirapalli
Much of the present city was developed during the reign of Viswanátha Naik, well-known ruler  of Madurai  from 1559, and it was in the 18th century it was made the capital by the ruler Chockkanatha Naik. Because of its strategic location, there was a serious struggle between the French and the British forces to establish their authority in this part of S.India.This fort and the city was once the site of many fierce battles among the Indian rulers Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur, Marthas and Tipu Sultan of Mysore.
Rock fort. Ucchipilliyar temple, Tiruchiralli City, TN.

Though the French and the English ended the war else where, hostilities between them continued, in particular, in South India.  The French openly supported and  collaborated with Chanda Sahib, the son-in-law of the Nawab of Carnatic Dost Ali Khan. After Anwaruddin, Nawob of Arcot was slain, his son Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah  moved over to Thiruchirapalli to save his life in the summer of 1751. He was an alley of the English company and the British Army was in disaray due to lack of proper military leader.   Chanda Sahib left Arcot to besiege Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah at Trichinopoly to bring the Arcot kingdom under his control and  he was well supported by the French forces under French Governor-General Dupleix.

It was in the ensuing battles,  Robert Clive who joined East India company as a  clerk in Madras, now Chennai, proved his military genius and led the war against the French forces and Chanda sahib.   After a prolonged siege by the forces of Chanda Sahib and  the French forces at Tiruchirapalli, Clive, in order to weaken the siege, mounted an attack in support of the Nawob of Arcot at Arcot which was seized by  Chanda Sahib. The British wanted to restore the rule to  back to Anwaruddin, Nawob of Arcot. As expected, Chanda Sahib diverted his large troop from Tiruchirapally to Arcot town. Towards the end of war,  Clive's strategy worked  well and he won the battle against Chanda Sahib and  and his alley the French Forces with limited contingent of soldiers under his command. He captured Arcot from besiegers and at the same time  put an end to the siege at Tiruchirapalli,  thus setting the stage for the British company to have a firm grip on the Southern parts of India. As for Robert Clive, he never had to turn his back, it was a successful career all the way, becoming a  powerful  British personality and creating a vast personal wealth.

The famous  historian Thomas Babington,  a century  late, commented on the siege as follows:

"... the commander who had to conduct the defense...was a young man of five and twenty, who had been bred as a book-keeper... Clive...had made his arrangements, and, exhausted by fatigue, had thrown himself on his bed. He was awakened by the alarm, and was instantly at his post.... After three desperate onsets, the besiegers retired behind the ditch. The struggle lasted about an hour...the garrison lost only five or six men".

Clive's smart strategic, but risky moves  during the siege of Arcot and also of Tiruchirapalli won appreciation back home  and made him popular in   Europe. The Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder described Clive as "heaven-born general" who had received no formal military training.

Robert Clive lived in Tiruchirapally in the fort area in the early part of 1750s for a short period. Clive Hostel aross the Teppaku;am (water tank) under the control of St. Joseph College and the famous Ucchi Pilliyar Hindu temple atop the small hill are the famous land marks in this city.