''Queen Velu Nachiyar'' of Sivaganga,Tamil Nadu, 18th century queen who took revenge on the British

Rani Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga, TN, you tube.

Queen Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga, TN istampgallery.com

  A few days ago we celebrated International women's day and, as part of it, I covered great Indian women like M.S. Subbulakshmi, famous Carnatic Music Singer,  Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, India's first woman legislator and founder of Adyar Cancer institute, Chennai, TN and Rukmani Arundale, a great Bharat Natyam exponent and founder of Kalashetra Foundation in Chennai, who brought to light the spiritual and devotional  aspects of Bharat natyam that was once performed  by females within the confines of Hindu temples.  In this post I again have covered a great, courageous  Indian woman freedom fighter  from South Tamil Nadu - Queen Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga  who took her tirade against the East India company's unjust rule far before the great rebellion of 1857-58. 

Sivagangai palace with Velu nachiar statue, TN..wikiwand.com

The 18th century  woman ruler of  a small kingdom called Sivaganga in South Tamil Nadu  was one among a few Indian women  who, with firm determination,  fought against the foreign aggressor - the English company and their  hegemony.  She daringly exposed their atrocities against the Indian natives and other Indian rulers. Her war exploits as a woman made her a subject of many folklores in this part. She left behind a permanent mark in Indian History and her legacy will continue for many centuries down the line.  
Sivaganga district, TN, en.wikipedia.org

Because of the English company's unethical  and dishonest approach she lost her husband and the ruler's first wife, besides her own kingdom. Not withstanding all the pains and sufferings and life in exile  never had she lost her trust and belief in getting back her kingdom. Just like  the  Phoenix bird that emerged alive from the ashes, she came back with more vigor and better motivated and, at last,  seized her kingdom after driving the   British and their alley Arcot Nawab and his army from her soil. A horrible blow to them by a courageous woman from Sivagangai Seemai.

Queen Velu nachiyar of Sivaganga, TN  sschennai.blogspot.com

  Rani Velu Nachiyar (1730-1789?)  ruled her small kingdom with amble support from great warrior brothers  Maruthu Pandiyar, patriots and  sworn enemies  of the British.  She became the first queen to have revolted against the mighty British and their oppressive rule and  poor treatment of native people right on their own soil. Her fight for freedom from the British  preceded the revolts by Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh who boldly stood the ground  and fought against the British and their way of land grabbing under the garb of the ''doctrine of Lapse,'' introduced by Lord Dalhousie, a cunning and shrewd British administrator.  Indian states without a legal heir to the throne will be taken over by the English company and this doctrine does not recognize legal adoption of heir to the throne as per the Hindu tradition.

Veeramangai Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga. thehindubusinessline.com/

Velu Nachiyar Memorial Block buildingsivagangaiseemai.com

In the wake of her husband and his first wife's death caused by the wily British, Velunachiyar was forced to go in to exile with her young daughter.  She  was in Dindugal close to Madurai, TN for several years  and secretly  organized a well trained military including a woman's wing with help from one Gopala Naicker  and in this regard  Hyder Ali of Mysore  was of some help to her  during her exile.  It had been eight long tough years since Rani Velu escaped from Sivaganga. 

Every thing  happened  to her in a flash - her happy days with her husband, King Muthu Vaduganatha Thevar, and her infant daughter, Vellachi, in the kingdom of Sivaganga  and other family members. Her peaceful life ended brutally one evening in the temple of Kalaiyar Koil.

Veera mangai Rani Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga, T N, earliest freedom fighter 

It was the close alley of the British Nawab of Arcot, Wallajah, raided  Sivaganga with  military support from the English. Thevar's small army was no match and in the ensuing battle in Kalaiyar Koil,  barve Thevar was martyred defending his kingdom.  Also died were his army men. Not satisfied, Nawab Wallajah was particular about eliminating  Thevar' s legal heir(s) and  was after Rani Velu Nachiyar  and her daughter who were then in the Kollangudi temple at the time of the attack.  The Nawab  wanted them dead  and the loyal servants/ warriors  of Thevar  Marthadu brothers  with a view to saving the queen and her daughter rushed to Kollangudi and  took the Queen and her entourage away towards Dindigul. The unfortunate fact was  Rani Velu didn’t even get to see the last remains of her husband, Nor did she know  weather her husband  was given due honor at the time of death.

Veera Mangai Rani Velu Nachiyar of Sivaganga.tamil.abplive.com

 Anticipating Queen's safety, her loyal body guards Udaiyal and other female warriors had stayed behind in Kollangudi to retard the the advance of treacherous  army of Wallajah. They captured Udaiyal to find out about the whereabouts  queen and her daughter. When she refused to budge Nawab Wallajah, in rage, had her head cut off without any mercy. When queen Velunachiyar heard about the gory details of her guard's death,  she vowed to take revenge on Nawab Wallajah and the British and take back her kingdom - her soil

Determined to get her kingdom back with well-planned  secrete  war preparations,  in  1780 Rani Velu Nachiyar raided  the British  settlements in a lightning speed with her well trained troops and overwhelmed the British army which faced defeat.  With help from Hyder Ali, the arch enemy of Nawab Wallajah and her specially trained women army headed by Kuyili (a human bomb) after years of toil and planned preparations, she got her  kingdom back. An interesting fact about Velu Nachiyar's  war preparation was  she   was the first woman in history to have  employed  a human bomb that gave hell to the English troops. 
 At Sivaganga fort the Udaiyal  army women  suddenly overwhelmed  the English soldiers on guard and  and entered the gate.  Kuyili, upon noticing the ammunition depot right behind the temple, doused herself with the ghee  stored in the temple near-by and then rushed towards the depot. After killing the guard,   she picked  up the torch  she lit herself in the ammunition depot. In the  huge explosion  in the fort, that followed, the English lost all the ammunition so was their firing power. Kuyili, was a great woman who sacrificed her life to help Rani Velu Nachiyar get her lost kingdom back. Upon hearing the painful news of Kuili's death in the interest of her kingdom, Rani Nachiyar  remained on her horseback just tongue-tied.

Rani Nachiyar defeated the English  in 1780  and took back her home, avenging the unjust death of her husband and her loyal soldiers Udaiyal and Kuyili.  Her reign as the ruler of Sivaganga lasted for roughly 10 years before handing over the  responsibility  to her daughter Vellachi.

Her  earlier fight against the oppressive EIC is an inspiring one, a saga of bravery, skill and military strategy.  The European powers operating in this part,  had an added advantage as there was lack of unity among the small princely states. Consequently, the diabolical British created an atmosphere   charged with intrigues, treachery, bribery  and treason. The Nawab of Arcot became a partner. This was the reason why she had to leave her kingdom secretly to find the right time to attack the enemy.  Daughter of king Sellamuthu Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram, Queen Velu Nachiyar was born in 1750 and Sakkandhi was one of the palayams of Sivagangai  where she grew up  as a courageous and talented women. 

Rani velu Nachiyar,  symbol of  wisdom and courage,  and nightmare  to foreign rulers  is a legend in Tamil Nadu, in particular, south Tamil Nadu. A commemorative postage stamp on  31 December 2008 was released by the Indian government in her honor.