Oomathurai, a valiant early freedom fighter of South Tamil Nadu - British India

veerapandiya kattabomman

Thirunelveli Seemai (composite Thirunelveli District) of South Tamil Nadu  has produced a galaxy of freedom fighters  like Veerapandya Kattabomman,  Bharathiyar,  Vanchinathan, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai et al. Among them, Oomathurai was one of the early freedom fighters of India,  whose exploits were much earlier than the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which started off at Meerut Cantonment in North India. Though the the natives of Palayamkottai  made a vein attempt  to drive the British out of their land, they laid the early foundation for freedom from the oppressive British rulers who dishonestly  gobbled up  just like the South American Anaconda, almost the whole of the vast Indian sub continent, exploiting the natural resources and   subjugating Indian natives. 

Panchalamkururi & Kayathar, TN railmapindia.blogspot.com/

Oomathurai, alias Duraisingam was the younger brother of  Palayakkarar Chieftain and well-known freedom fighter Veerapandiya Kattabomman and his parents were  Jagaveera Kattabomman and Arumugattammal from Rajakambalam Nayakar (Nayak) Community who had roots in present day Andhra state - Telugu country.  Their mother tongue was Telugu

According to records by Europeans, Duraisingam had speech  impairment since early stage  and his oratorical ability was very much limited. Hence the name: Oomathurai (in Tamil Oomai means dumb). His other elder brother was Dalavai Kumarasami (Sivathiah), also a great warrior and freedom fighter. 

Though he had speech problems, when it came to valor and courage none could equal him and he was an able and competent warrior, nothing could stop him once he made up his mind to attack the enemy line. Because of his active participation in wars between the British and Palayakkarars (Poligars) in the early 1800s, in his capacity as the younger brother of Veerapandya Kattabommen, the British  company officials  kept an eye on him. In the first war against the British, he was captured and sent to  Palayamkottai prison. However,  in February, 1801 he tactfully escaped from the jail and  quickly rebuilt the Panchalankurichi fort, the seat of his brother Kattabomman. The Palayakkarars, who had been tilling the lands for centuries were forced to pay ''kisti'' land tax to the British East India company. The Nawob of Arcot, who had the regal authority over these lands, was unable to collect taxes from the local Palayakkarars. hence the rent arrears due to the British company started  going upward. having no choice the Nawob gave the collection rights (revenue rights) to the British. Under the British yoke, the local land owners suffered a lot and, in many cases, they used force to collect tax from them. besides, they could increase the taxes according to their whim.  The Palayakkarar Chieftain Kattabomman, his brothers and others not only  refused to pay taxes but also relentlessly waged wars against the British East India company and their treacherous way of squeezing the land owners.
Oomathurai ,Veerapandya Kattabomman. movie-trailer.apps15.com

Above image: Oomathurai played by  veteran actor O.A. K.Thevar - Movie: Veerapandya Kattabomman,  is a 1959 Indian Tamil-language  biographical war film   reputed film maker and movie director directed B. R. Panthulu. The film's screenplay was written by Ma. Po. Sivagnanam while its story and the fiery dialogue were written by Sakthi T. K. Krishnasamy. The film features Sivaji Ganesan, one of the best actors in India, Gemini Ganesan,  Padmini, S. Varalakshmi, and Ragini in the lead roles, with V. K. Ramasamy and Javar Seetharaman in pivotal supporting parts. The latter (who happened to an advocate) played the role of British officer Bannerman  who had  Kattabommen  hanged to death under a tree in a place called ''Kayathar'', near Thrunelvely city. The film's soundtrack and score were composed by G. Ramanathan  ...........

Kattabomman memorial at Kayathar, en.wikipediaorg.

In the second Palayakkarar war against the British, the chieftain  had an alliance with Marudu brothers of Sivaganga, Dheeran Chennamalai and Kerala Verma (a great freedom fighter from Kerala; his exploits against officer Wellesley  - Duke Wellington  are quite known) and successfully fought the enemies. The fort at Panchalamkuruchi  was captured finally by the English forces led by  Lt. Colonel Agnew in May,  1801 because of prolonged siege and artillery bombardment. Oomathrai before managing  to escape from the battle, had  set ablaze the ammunition depot of  the British army. Several British soldiers were killed in the explosion

Quite frustrated, the British rulers wanted to catch Oomathurai and try him for war crimes. In the mean time, valiant Oomathurai  joined the Marudu brothers in the Kalayar Kovil jungle. The British forces pursued them and  at last captured  Oomathurai along with the Marudu brothers.   

Oomathurai was hanged on 16 November 1801 with no proper trial. Reason for the death sentence: Along with his brothers  Kattabomman and Kumaraswami,  Oomathrai was against the British interest and rebelled against them. This was the end of a great patriot who continuously fought against the British rule till his last breath.


Thrumayam Fort, near Puddukkota, TN.commons.wikimedia.org

Near Thirumayam town  on the high way between Puddukottai and Thruppathur-Madurai, if you travel either by bus or car, you can not miss the majestic sight of a high walled big fort at higher elevation and this fort Called Thrumayam Fort is now being maintained and administered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as a monument. It was once a stronghold of rebel chieftains in the Polayakkaraar (Polygar) Wars.

Thirumayam fort, Tamil Nadu. upload.wikimedia.org

Above image: Thirumayam fort near Puddukottai town; bastion with a cannon of British origin. The small Pudukkotta kingdom was a Princely state and the British had a control on the kingdom and its administration............................

It was at this fort, Oomathurai was captured  by the British forces . This fort was at that time under the administration of the princely state of Puddukotta.  The fort  that occupies roughly  40-acres of land was built in 1687 by Vijaya Ragunatha Sethupathy, then ruler of Ramanad. Later his relative Ruler Thondaman took control over the fort. Locally, this for is called Oomayankotta (Fort of the dump).



Major James Welsh (1830). Military reminiscences : extracted from a journal of nearly forty years' active service in the East Indies. London : Smith, Elder, and Co.

Robert Caldwell (1881). A Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly, in the Presidency of Madras. E. Keys, at the Government Press. pp. 195–222.


                                                                 (Re-modified 13 July 2021)