Opinion

Chinnamalai: An epitome of courage

CHINNAMALAI WAS EXECUTED ALONG WITH HIS BROTHERS AND ASSOCIATES IN SANGAGIRI FORT ON JULY 31, 1805, FOR REFUSING TO PAY TAXES AND ACCEPTING THE BRITISH HEGEMONY

Theeran Chinnamalai was a member of the Palaiya Kottai Pattakarar aristocratic family. From their palace in Palayam Kottai, this family held the title of Mandradiar and owned huge fields. Chinnamalai’s predecessors, according to mythology, served the Pandya rulers, one of which being Uthama Kamindar or Karian Sarkarai of Anoor, who worked under Sathrusathana Pandya. Uthama, the Chola monarch at the time, performed a Bhuta Yaga and commanded the demon that emerged from the Yaga Kunda to destroy the Pandya kingdom. In combat, Kariyan Sarkarai defeated the Chola King and his monster, and the Pandya King rewarded him with 24 villages in the Kongu area and appointed him as his chieftain.

Chinnamalai had an older brother named Kulandhaisamy, three younger brothers named Thambi, Kilothar, and Kuttisamy, and a younger sister named Parvatham. His grandfather, Kottravel Sarkkarai Mandraadiaar, was a large landowner in Melyapalam, and his father looked after their property. While Kulandhaisamy and Kuttisamy were farming, Theerthagiri, Thambi, and Kilothar were in charge of the administration and safety of the villages under their control. He was well-versed in martial arts, archery, and horseback riding, as were his brothers. They also learned how to resolve family and land problems by participating in village panchayats.

In his childhood, Chinnamalai was known as Tamba Gounder. He was known as Therthagiri Sarkarai in school. Chinnamalai enrolled at the fort school when he was of school age; Chinnamalai was more engaged in studies. Teachers educated Chinnamalai about bravery, war, and the rule of the Tamil Kings after noticing his interest in Tamil poems and literature. They also educated him about soldiers’ personalities, how to deal with soldiers in a battle, and Chola, Pandiya, and Chera king myths. Chinnamalai made the decision to civilise and develop Tamil language. So, after assuming governmental responsibility for the Kongu region after finishing school, he encouraged Tamil artists to produce songs in Tamil and granted them monetary rewards.

Martial Arts Acted As Deterrent

From Malapalayam Silambu Koodam, he learnt martial arts such as Silambam and other types of skills. Chinnamalai’s brothers also learned from him. They founded the Kongu Youth Organisation and taught martial arts to the youth. They served as a deterrent to robbers and participated in the village Panchayat to resolve family and land problems. They were well-known in their territory as a result of their public service. When they returned home, they brought their troops, which resembled a tiny army.

The Kongu region was ruled by Mysore King Thotadevaraiyar in 1672. From that time onwards, the Kongu region was ruled by the Mysore Kingdom. Chinnamalai who wanted to gather all the Palayallkars after Tipu Sultan’s demise in 1799. The ‘First Mission to Kannada Rebels’ was a rebel mission led by Chinnamalai to gain allegiance to Dhoondaji Waugh. At Sonnda, four nationalists led by Chinnamalai paid a visit to Dhoondaji Waugh. The Patriots, led by Chinnmalai, detailed the British’s coercive and suppressive acts and demanded that Dhoondaji Waugh send his operatives to Erode to incite the people to revolt. As a result, Dhoondaji Waugh dispatched three of his confidential spies to the south with Chinnamalai, instructing them to follow Chinnamalai’s lead in the organised insurrection in the Coimbatore, Erode, and Madurai areas. As a result, Chinnamalai was the first to seek to establish unity among the Erode region’s native rebels in order to succeed and oust the foes. Chinnamalai made the decision to take over Kovai Fort.

The Polygars, known for their combat prowess, were Vijayanagara Rayas’ sword arm, and most had their own private Armies that served during significant conflicts. The Polygars were also well-versed in the latest artillery and had been trained by the French; nonetheless, most of them fell victim to fellow chieftains’ betrayal. Chinnamalai is claimed to have served as a commander in the Polygar Wars, particularly during the Second Polygar War (1801–1802)

It was agreed that the fort would be attacked on the day of Muharram. Things didn’t go as planned. A group of insurgents, numbering 500 to 600 people, appeared in Coimbatore. The insurgents, concealed in strategic locations across the town, were led by Narasing Bhao. The British sensed the rebel operations after receiving secret intelligence from a Tahsildar and acted quickly. Six others, including Narasing Bhao, were detained. Forty-two insurgents were apprehended, tried, and publicly executed. After suppressing the insurrection, the British opted to detain Theeran Chinnamalai. They fought Theeran Chinnamalai in wars in 1801, 1802, and 1804 in which Theeran Chinnamalai triumphed over the British. He chopped the head of Colonel Maxwell, the Fort’s head, and painted it black and yellow, then displayed it across the Kongu Region. The English were irritated.

Betrayed By A Cook

Chinnamalai and his brothers were now living in exile near Palani, in a region called Karumalai. They used disguises to go into the towns. Nallappan, a cook, was one of the people they frequently encountered, and he provided them with shelter as well as food. Nallappan was the one who betrayed them to the British, telling them of their whereabouts. Nallapan alerted the British, who invaded the house from all sides one night when Chinnamalai and his brothers were enjoying dinner.

Before the British caught him, his brothers, and their commander Karuppan, an infuriated Chinnamalai strangled Nallapan to death. He was transported to the fort at Sangagiri, where a tribunal of four officers insisted that he pay taxes and accept British rule. Chinnamalai was sentenced to death for refusing to comply. Dheeran Chinnamalai, his brothers, and Karuppan were all executed in Sangagiri fort on July 31, 1805. Another valiant Indian son gave his life in the fight against  the British.

Dr Ankita Kumar

Courtesy : Organiser

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