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Just Shoot Me

Bala, 28, Gordon Gekko in the making, pseudo-intellectual, cynic, bibliophile, obsessive compulsive ranter...

The Poligar Wars - Round 1

March 25, 2007

In today's Sunday suppplement of The Hindu eminent historian S. Muthiah talks about pre-1857 rebellions against the britis rule in india. Since Poligar (paalayakarar) wars are a hobby of mine, i was interested to see the following references to it. I have added some extra information i know about the points raised.

...the scale of the revolts by local powers in the South, the first being as early as 1757. When Mohammed Ali, the Nawab of the Carnatic, supported by the Company, attempted to extend his control over the "Madura" and "Tinnevelly" districts, the poligars (palayakarar = local chieftains) rebelled. The eastern poligars of Telugu origin, led by Kattabomman Nayak of Panchalamkurichi, and the western poligars, led by Puli Thevar of Nelkattamsevval, forged local alliances and then a grand alliance as they revolted against Mohammed Ali. Of necessity he had to seek John Company assistance, and, though battles were won and lost, the revolt was finally put down in 1761 by Yusuf Khan, who had been nominated the Governor of "Madura" and "Tinnevelly" in 1758 by the British, despite Nawab Mohammed Ali's objections...

The kattabomman mentioned in the above paragraph is not the one made famous by the movie Veera pandia kattabomman. This is his grandfather "Polla pandia kattabomman". As Muthiah indicates, there were two confederacies of palayakarar's which resented the intrusion of mohammed ali into their dominions (they were more or less independent players since the end of nayak dynasty in 1736). The eastern confederacy (i use the word confederacy in a very liberal sense), was led by panchalankurichi and the western confederacy by nel kattum sevval. "nel kattum sevval" literally translates to "Rice tribute paying place", but after its' ruler puli Thevan's successful (initially) attempts at defying Mohammed ali, the name changed into nel kattan sevval ("place which doesnt pay rice tribute"). In effect by 1757, these paLayams had declared their independence.

Into this situation came yusuf khan aka marudhanayagam (the same marudhanayagam who was the subject of kamal hassan's aborted movie) sent by the British to bring the poligars under control and make them pay kisthi. Earlier campaigns in 1755 by Mahfuz khan (mohammaed ali's brother;yusuf khan was a subordinate) were unsuccessful in subduing the poligars' partly because of their sticking to each other and partly because british troops had to be withdrawn to raise the french siege of Madras (by Lally). Yusuf Khan quickly intimidated the eastern poligars (no major details of the capitulation of panchalamkurichi is known) and moved against Pooli thevan. A series of sieges of Pooli Thevan's forts followed and eventually Nerkattansevval fort was reduced by British artillery. Pooli thevan was captured and escaped/encountered on the way to incarceration.

The failureu first poligar attempt at rebellion (the second attempt would come forty years later when the british had their hands full with tipu sultan) failed was a direct result of non-cooperation and caste rivalry between the poligars. The Eastern Telugu speaking "nayakkars" and the western tamil speaking maravars/thevars had enough mutual mistrust to prevent a united campaign from being launched. (Azhagu muthu kone, another palayakarar hanged by yusuf khan was a konar/yadav). This incident effectively illustrates how jathi has been the spoil sport in southern tamil nadu even 200 years ago. Though during the second poligar attempt, forty years later, the same two caste divisions (oomaithurai and marudhu brothers) came together to create major disruption of british control of southern tamil nadu. That i would write about in another post.


posted by Bala, 9:51 AM


poligars are great .they are real freedom fighters
commented by Blogger jeevan, 1:29 PM  
dai bugger dont copy contents from wikipedia and paste it here...
commented by Blogger G.Sathish Kumar, 6:12 AM  

You might want to check the revision history of the Wikipedia article and this post's date - the text there was lifted from here. I didn't copy from wikipedia, but someone posted this blog post's contents there.
commented by Blogger Bala, 9:15 AM  

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