The Carnatic kingdom - How the British Co got the Nawab in a debt trap and took over the land

Nawab of Arcot Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah.

Above image:  Residence of Prince of ArcotIn the late 1920s,  Kline & Peyerl's picture (Courtesy: Vintage Vignettes) of Chepauk Palace in the first decade of the 20th Century.  ......................
Chepauk Palace, Chennai,  a part of it became the first structure to have been  built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture introduced by British architect Robert Chisholm, It is one a few oldest buildings in India constructed in 1760s. Once the  official residence of the Nawab of Arcot from 1768 to 1855, this heritage building - Khalsa Mahal  was recently restored back to old glory. Thus its history of this building and its association with the English company  is now preserved.   

That the past historical events associated with great monuments or historical sites are relevant to the posterity who should not grope for the historical facts of immense value is the dictum of historians.  A few years ago, the Khalsa Mahal, was gutted and  a part of the ceiling in Humayun Mahal  caved in,  since then the building and the surrounding areas  have been  in a state of neglect.  Part of the building is being used by the state government and only recently steps were taken to preserve the heritage values.  This old palace in Chennai is a vestige of colonial grandeur and legacy of the Arcot Nawab rulers.

On a visit to this place one will hardly realize that this was once a royal  enclave. - residence of the royal family of  Nawab of Arcot,  who presumably in 1777 gifted   Arcot diamonds (a 38.6-carat oval-shaped highly valuable diamonds)  to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III (1760-1820)   as a token of his loyalty and allegiance. Now this palace is hidden behind  government office buildings - PWD building  and Ezhilagam. Until 1860s, it was a sea-front building, and one could see this building in full glory at a distance from the sea. This  palace, on a site of roughly 117 acre, was built for the Nawob of Arcot Muhammad Ali Walajah, whose capital was Arcot near Vellore, TN.  The ruler  wanted to reside closer to the East India company's settlement - Ft. St. George  on the beach road  under their protection as he was facing threats from HydeAli, marathas and the Nizam .  

Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah. became great friend with the British in the 1750s, after they helped him acquire larger territories by defeating his rivals during the Siege of Arcot in 1751. After  the Carnatic Wars, the kingdom of the Carnatic had virtually become a protectorate of the British East India Company. Like many rich rulers of India,  the Nawab got himself caught in the debt trap - a sort of   ''a half Nelson''  devised  by the British called ''subsidiary alliance'' initiated by none other than Lord Dalhousie. It was a subtle way to hoodwink the Indian rulers and the annual  fees to be given to the British could be hiked at random. The defaulters will lose their land and the crown and be content with a fancy title granted by Queen Victoria. Now, the Nawab for  his security relied entirely on the troops supplied by the British East India company.

Nawab Wallajah wanted to have a big palace  worthy of him close to Ftt. St. George, Madras. To meet additional expenses he decided to take loans from the British financiers.  Many British financiers associated with the EIC were ready to offer him loans. What is called the Carnatic Debts, or the Arcot Debts, were created by private servants of the East India Company. By charging high interest they enriched themselves by lending money to the ruler of the Carnatic, Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah (1717–1795).

When the palace construction was on  Paul Benfield (1742–1810), financier and trader  who had close contact with the Nawab, was in charge of construction of the palace. He was  the former engineer  of East India company.

a 38.6-carat oval-shaped

The building had two parts:  Humayun Mahal, the ruler's quarter two-story Durbar hall, the Diwan-e-Khas.  The other being private quarters called Khalas Mahal.  In order to maintain his royal status, the  Nawab  had spent more money on the place than he could afford and consequently  his debt snowballed into whooping  10 million pounds, pretty huge amount in those days. The  Arcot ruler's debts that  soared above the Himalayan height  were far  beyond  redemption and this debt trap pushed the ruler below the abysmal depth.  

Nawab Umdat
Soon after the death of Nawab Wallajah , the onus of clearing the debt fell on Nawab's  son Umdat-ul-Umrah. The clever company officials and the crown had been waiting for the right opportunity to gobble up the Arcot kingdom.  Further,  the company suspected that Umdat had contact with Tipu Sultan, the company's arch enemy. Using default of loan as an excuse, East India company  wanted to annex  the palace  and the administration. Umdat ul-Umara  openly resisted the demands of the East India Company. But soon he  died and it is believed that he was, perhaps poisoned by the Company. Betrying or cheating trusted friends is the forte of the English company officials.
Nawab of Arcot Azim-ud-Daula

Umara's nephew Azim-ud-Daula ascended the throne, but  on 31 July 1801, the EIC under duress had him  sign a Carnatic Treaty handing over the civil and municipal administration of the Carnatic to the British East India Company. This document provided that Azim-ud-Daula ceded all his lands to British rule, including the territory of the Polygars. Soon the EIC  ceremoniously  evicted the once a rich royal family and  an alley of the British.

Carnatic treaty 1801.

Above image: Nawab Azim-ud-Daula and Major-General Arthur Wellesley sign the Carnatic Treaty at Chepauk Palace. 28 July. 1801..............
The kingdom, having been taken over by the company in 1801, now the Nabob became a  titular ruler, with a hereditary title 'Prince of Arcot' granted  by Queen Victoria.  The Nawab  was granted a paltry sum as pension plus  some protocol benefits so that his line of generation could carry on the royal family' s legacy.  Amir Mahal with a plot of its 14-acre grounds, on the Pycrofts road,Triplicane     had become the residence of ex -Arcot ruler's descendants since 1870
 Soon after take over by the British company,  the royal family moved into a new residence, Shadi Mahal, on Triplicane Road. About the vast plot and the Nawab's palace attached by the British, there was no taker when  put up for auction in 1855 and finally it came under the control of the  government. Presently being under the TN government. 

The beautiful  tower between Humayun and  Khalsa Mahal was built in 1768  by  Robert Fellowes Chisholm, popular  architect well-known for Indo- Saracenic style of buildings in India.

The MA Chidambaram Stadium (also known as Chepauk ground) itself was built on part of the palace grounds. An interesting fact is, it is believed, that Cricket has been played here since 1842, when the Madras Cricket Club was founded.
18th CE The Chepauk Palace.Chennai, TN

The Chepauk Palace.Chennai, TN

Above image: The Chepauk Palace. on Wallajah roar, Chennai with the Humayun Mahal and portions of the Khalas Mahal in sight. ‘the name is derived from Che baag’ meaning six gardens in Hindi. The palace once had 6 gardens.........

Renovated Kalas mahal, Chepauk palace, Chennai.

Above image ; The Kalas Mahal is almost 274 years old and the Nawab built the palace with loans from the EIC officials...................

In the palace descendants of Nawab of Arcot are living  including the present Prince of Arcot.