Introduction We Indians live in a free India since 15 August 1947. Prior to this day, we Indians were slaves in the hands of the British who effectively ruled us for many centuries. Our ancestors fought against the British and got us released from the clutches of British who controlled most of the countries in this world by their might and will. According to history, the struggle to freedom was "ON" many centuries before, and it was a matter of great concern. Here in this article, a history of a freedom fighter from the southern part of India, who existed in the year 1760 AD, has been clearly brought out by the author.
The early history of ancestors of Veerapandiya Kattamomman in Tirunelveli The Kattabommu's ancestors had migrated from Andhra Pradesh to settle in a village called "Salikulam" to avoid marital alliances with the Muslim King and to safeguard the heritage of Hindu culture. They belonged to the "Thogalavar" community and were skilled fighters who fight until their last breath. The first of the Kattabommu family who settled at Salikulam was appointed as a Chief Guard to the then King Sri Jaga Veera Pandian of Veerapandiyapuram (presently known as "Ottapidaram") in recognition of his bravery and fighting capability. Kattabommu, by his loyalty and devotion, gained the confidence of the King and became the trustworthy guard of the king.
King Jagaveera Pandiyan, having no heir as a successor to his throne, crowned Kattabommu as his successor to his kingdom. In memory of the King, Kattabommu christened himself as Jaga Veera Pandiya Kattabommu and effectively ruled the state, with vigour and spirit. One day whilst Veerapandiya Kattabommu was on a hunting mission, he happened to witness a hare chasing a dog. He considered that land as a land of valor and constructed a fort on that soil. He named the fort as "Panchalamkurichi" in memory of the King Pancha Pandiyan who was the grandfather of King Jagaveerapandiyan.
The Panchalamkurichi fort was 500 feet in length and 300 feet in breadth with the wall of 12 feet height. The construction material was of black clay mixed with a straw of paddy, maize and corn, etc; The fort was surrounded by thorny bale bushes. The fort could withstand any attack other than the attack by cannons and tanks.
Veera Pandiya Kattabomman the freedom fighter Veerapandiya Kattabomman was the 47th generation of the Kattabommu dynasty. He was the eldest son of Jagaveera Pandya Kattabommu and his wife Arumugathammal. He had brothers named Oomathurai and Thuraisingam, two sisters named Easuvaravadivy and Thuraikannu. Veerapandiya Kattabomman was crowned in his thirtieth year on 2nd February 1790 and effectively ruled the area which encompassed 96 villages divided into 6 Divisions. He ruled the state with great ability of good administration, justice and welfare. He maintained good relations with his neighbor rulers. Kattabomman had able Generals called "Vellaiathevan" and "Sundaralingam".
He was a great devotee of Lord Muruga of Tiruchendur and Goddess Jakkamma. He had constructed 45 bell towers between Panchalamkurichi and Tiruchendur which were used to convey the ritual pooja time of Tiruchendur in a relay system. Kattabomman was a great lover of music and art. He quite often organized dances and music for entertainment.
British Domination and opposition by Veerapandiya Kattabomman The British as East India Company came to India for conducting business and constructed a fort at Chennai beach. They conducted their business with the aim of occupying the entire territory by adopting the policy of divide and rule. They were successful in their attempt and brought many Indian rulers under their command and control by their pleasing approaches and fascinating talks and with their might. They lured them to great business and made them debtors.
One among them was the Nawab of Arcot who dominated the rulers of the Southern States. In the year 1781, having no way to settle his debts, the British demanded the right to collect taxes from areas of his domain. The Nawab yielded to the British request and agreed to their demand for the right to collect taxes. Though the agreement ended in 1785, the British demanded to retain the right to collect taxes from the southern states. The Nawab of Arcot did not agree to the demand, but the British announced themselves that they had the right to collect taxes from southern states. The Nawab of Arcot also became helpless as he could not manage to pay the salary for his forces at Tirunelveli. The British were successful in meeting the forces need and attached them with their British army. Having found no means, the Nawab of Arcot once again offered the British the right to collect taxes from all.
Having obtained the right, the British started their activities of bringing the rulers of the southern states under their umbrella in 1795. The British of East India Company pronounced that the Nawab of Arcot had no authority over the rulers of southern states and ordered them to be under their direct command and control. They imposed restrictions on the construction of Forts, the formation of Armed forces and announced that the rulers were just ordinary contractors and were liable for disciplinary action like any other citizen if they failed to follow their commands. When Kattbomman came to know this, his blood boiled and he refused to accept the notice and said that this was a conspiracy of the British to deny the rights of the state and to take the Indians into slavery.
Kattabomman took the pledge to oppose the British move. He gathered all his neighbouring rulers viz. Nagalapuram, Elayiram Pannai, Kolarpatti, Kadalgudi, Kulathor, Sivagiri Zamindars, Sivakanga Maruthu Brothers, a section of people from Ramnad King's family and formed a union to fight against the British move to rule over the southern territories. However, the British were very successful in influencing most of the petty rulers and gained their confidence who in turn supported the British and started advising Kattabomman to give up his ideas of opposing the British. The British carefully conspired and created enmity between the territorial rulers by interfering in their personal affairs such as marking of territories etc; Mainly they created enmity between Kattabomman and the Zamin of Ettayapuram Sri Ettappa Naicker. Ettappa Naicker became the thickest friend and adviser to the British.
Despite repeated pressure from the British, Kattabomman was stubborn and refused to yield and pay the taxes. Instead, Kattabomman boldly involved in activities against the British and refused to favour and support the British in all their endeavors. The Maharaja of Ramanathapuram stood by Kattabomman and supported his action. In 1797, when the King of Ramanathapuram was arrested by the British, Kattabomman gathered his forces under the command of his brother Oomathurai and took a position at Sivagiri to plan and carry out an attack against the British. Knowing Kattabomman's move, the British planned to get Kattabomman and his men in their trap by conspiracy.
Veerapandiya Kattabomman's encounter with the British At this time, Mr Jackson took over the charge as Collector of Tirunelveli. All the local Zamindars called on him and became friendly with him except Kattabomman. Kattabomman expected a formal invitation from the Collector Jackson to call on him. The attitude of Kattabomman of not calling on him and not paying taxes irritated the new Collector Jackson. He wrote two letters to Kattabomman in February 1798 and in April 1798 and warned that Kattabomman's territory would be seized if he did not call on him and pay the taxes. Kattabomman ignored his letter. Jackson got annoyed and requested the British higher administration to send the troops to arrest Kattabomman. However, the British higher authority suggested to Jackson to call Kattabomman for a formal talk.
Jackson asked Kattabomman to meet him at Ramanathapuram indicating that it was at the directive of the British higher administration. Kattabomman accepted the invitation and proceeded to Ramanathapuram with his forces in a mood of celebration. Jackson did not like it. He expected Kattabomman to come alone. He conspired to arrest Kattabomman if the talks failed. He selected Ramanathapuram palace for talks and indicated that he would meet Kattabomman alone in person.
Even after knowing the tactful conspiracy of the Jackson, Kattabomman left his guards and aides outside Ramanathapuram fort and proceeded to meet Jackson. Jackson did not treat Kattabomman with due respect and courtesy. The talk was not fruitful. Heated words were exchanged and led to clashes between Kattabomman and the forces of Jackson who were kept hidden during the talk. The situation led to a fight between the forces of Kattabomman and the British. During the encounter,a British officer named Clarke was killed and Kattabommans minister Thanapathi Pillai was captured by the British.
On their return to Panchalamkurichi Kattabomman wrote a letter to the British administration about the incident at Ramanathapuram and asked them to release his minister Thanapathi Pillai. The British administration ordered a board of Inquiry and found that Mr. Jackson's ill attitude, incorrect approach, and behavior had lead to the clashes between the two and ordered the release of Kattabomman's minister Thanapathi Pillai. Jackson was dismissed from service and sent back to his country.
In January 1799, Mr. Lousington took charge as Collector of Tirunelveli. He too invited Kattabomman to call on him. Whereas, Kattabomman laid down conditions as to the return of his belongings seized during the clashes with Jackson and indicated his intention to call on him with his guards. Lousington, in turn, permitted 30 guards to accompany Kattabomman while he called on Lousington. Kattabomman did not agree to his proposal but proceeded to Ramanathapuram with his full force. He stayed at Ramanathapuram but did not call on the Collector. The Collector ordered him to meet him at a stipulated time. Kattabomman did not yield to his order. He insisted that he should be received with his forces and should send a formal invitation to meet him with his full forces and should be received with a guard of honour. Lousington indicated that even if Kattabomman did not call on him, he should pay his taxes through his revenue officer. Kattabomman flatly refused and stood stubborn stating that he would not be right if he paid taxes to the British. He returned to Panchalamkurichi without meeting the collector and without paying any tax. Lousington wrote to the British higher administration about Kattabomman's attitude and activities and recommended war against Kattabomman.
The British invasion with Veerapandiya Kattabomman On 5th September 1799, the British invaded Panchalamkurichi surprisingly when the whole of Panchalamkurichi subjects was at Tiruchendur at a festival celebration. The British Army was led by Major Bannerman. Kattabomman got to know the plans about the surprise attack well in advance by his well-managed informers. He kept his forces ready to meet the British invasion. Prior to the commencement of the attack, Major Bannerman through his messenger asked Kattabomman to surrender unconditionally. The brave Kattabomman said, " We are the sons of this soil. We live with prestige, honour, and dignity and we let our soul die for the prestige, honour, and dignity of our land. We don't bow down to the foreigners. We will fight until death."
Veerapandiya Kattabomman fights a war with the British The war started. Both the armies fought heavily. The British army faced strong resistance from the Kattabomman army and had to withdraw its forces. Major Bannerman judged the use of cannons to break the clay fort and awaited the arrival of cannons from Palayamkottai. When the cannons arrived and bombarded the fort, the clay fort could not withstand the attack. During the war, Kattabomman lost his able General "Vellaiyathevan". Kattabomman killed many officers of the British army. On the last day of the war, Kattabomman was injured and he was taken away by his aides from Panchalamkurichi. Anticipating defeat to Kattabomman's force they took shelter in the palace of Kolarpatti Zamindar. The forces of his friendly enemy Ettappa Naicker surrounded the palace and once again Kattabomman and his aides made an escape. But his minister Thanapathi Pillai was arrested and killed at Nagalapuram and his head was placed at Panchalamkurichi.
After the escape, Kattabomman and his men took shelter in the Thirukalampur forest which was under the domain of King of Pudukottai. When the British got the information about their hideout, they ordered the king of Pudukottai to trace them and hand them over to the British, else face similar consequences as Kattabomman. Fearing death, the King of Pudukottai ordered his men to search for Kattabomman and hand him over to the British. On 24 September 1799, Kattabomman was arrested by the army of King of Pudukottai and was handed over to the British.
Kattabomman was sent to the Kayathar jail for custody. The Court of a trial against Kattabomman was ordered and was held on 16 October 1799. The British invited all the local Zamindars to witness the trial proceedings. The trial proceedings were fully fabricated in favour of the British. Kattabomman did not give up his honor, self-respect, dignity, and prestige. He boldly argued for the right of his country and accused the British of their immoral and illegal occupation of our land. The British asked Kattabomman to request for a Pardon to set him free. Kattabomman did not yield but said "Do what you want to do, you cowards".
The Last day of Veerapandiya Kattabomman Kattabomman was awarded punishment "Hang until death". Kattabomman's end came on 16th October 1799, when he was hung on a tamarind tree at Kaythar.
"Our salute to Veerapandiya Kattabomman for his Patriotism, Courage, and Sacrifice".
This article is dedicated to Sri. R.Govindaraja Perumal and Smt G. Mangaiyarkarasi Govindraja perumal of Chennai,
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I have one doubt what happen to her wife. Is there any generation to veera pandiya kattabomman?
Mrs. Aarthy Ravichandran,
Thanks for raising a good query. It is alleged that Veerapandiya Kattabomman had no heir to his throne, but being from a vast kattabommu family, he had lot many cousins. Through them the generation lasted. Yet there is a guy present in Panchalam Kurichi who claims to belong to the Kattabommu family, I have personally visited Panchalam Kurichi and taken a photograph with him. Thanks.
Mention the name who hanged Kattabomman.
It was mentioned in the story that Veerapandiaya Kattabomman belongs to "thogalavar" community. Is this community, anyway, connected to "mutharaiyar" community? And it was also mentioned that his ancestors belongs to Andhra Pradesh. But it was not mentioned, from which part of Andhra Pradesh, atleast from which district? please crafity.
The name of the person hanged Kattabomman is Collector Jackson.
@Pittala Ravinder Mud
As far as history is concerned, the Kattabommans have ascended throne after Jagaveera Pandiyan as TN have three kinds of Kings Sera, Chola and Pandiya but Pandiyas belongs to this place died after a fight from Nayakers.
Actually the first Kattabomman was the minister in Jagaveera Pandiyan and fame for his fighting capabilities and whose name is Gettibommu who was a migrant of AP. Then later assuming name as Kattabomman in Tamil and being first one called Adhi Kattabomman(in fact it is also called as Kattabommu with their original origin of Telugu). This Veerapandiya Kattabomman was born in this clan.
In 1999 being of 200 years of his hang, the government has brought with a commemorative stamp is one of the recognition to his brave. But still there are lots to be done on the places of hang that is Kayathar by tourism department of state/central as these are being the first one to fight against British from the end part of India.
I got to know that one of his sons had lived in Malaysia and he has passed away. His son's name is Arumugam.
Yarai ketkirai kisthi - There is a similar dialogue in Karnataka by Sangoli Rayanna and I would like to know from where did this dialogue originate.
Mr. Manjunatha Chikkanna,
The film Veerapandiya Kattabomman was released in the years between 19 60 and 62. If your Karnataka Sangoli Rayanna was released after this period, then the original dialogue is from Tamil.
Jackson was sent back to England and he did not hang Kattabomman. Perhaps Major Bannerman hanged him.
This is a nice article on freedom fighter Veera Pandiya Kattabomman.
Jayaprakash, you are right. Major Bannerman was the officer who hanged Kattabomman.
Saroja: You have gone wrong with collector Jackson
Please tell me correct answer: he has a son or a daughter? If yes, I wish to know the names of the children.
An excellent article and should be read by the younger generation to understand the struggles led by our forefathers against the colonial government. British were plunders just like the Spaniards and the Dutch. The only thing that separated them was the language.