It is a known fact that 75 years before, India attained independence at the stroke of midnight. Officially, our freedom struggle began in 1857. We are pretty aware of the folks who raised the flag against the British during that period. However, little do we know about the freedom struggle before that.
East India Company was established in 1600 and began showing its supremacy over the next century. In turn, they built their own army and started conquering territories that failed to pay them tributes/taxes.
One such territory was Nerkattaansevval (now known as Nelkattumsevval). Kathappa Rayar aka Puli Thevar was the ruler of this territory who fought for freedom against the East India Company. He conceptualized and executed the Polygar revolt against the British during his reign. Moreover, he ensured that the East India Company army led by Maruthanayagam (Yusuf Khan) lost the Vasudevanallur battle in 1760. Also, he was a fine statesman who understood geopolitics thoroughly and was keen on uniting nationalists across the country together.
I know very little about him. And I feel it is very important that I share that little knowledge. His story is not the case of a chieftain raising a red flag against colonial forces and getting killed. But his story is about thwarting the colonial forces from entering our country in a rightful manner. On our 75th Independence Day, we all must know about this resolute warrior who was a nightmare to the East India Company.
Here are some interesting facts about Puli Thevar
The most essential aspect of leadership is understanding what is happening around you. Most importantly, if you’re fighting a war you must be able to predict what your enemy is planning. And Puli Thevar mastered this art like no one else.
First of all, his best friend was working as a key aide of Yusuf Khan. This friend passed on information to Puli Thevar about Yusuf Khan’s next course of action. This way, Puli Thevar could strategize well and ensure the opponent is always given a surprise.
And his active network of runners were passing some of the critical information. This network of information gathering was Puli Thevar’s strength. According to the book Puli Thevar by Eric Algan, Yusuf Khan felt helpless against Puli Thevar. The former could not predict the secret plans that Puli Thevar had devised.
Refused Support from Other Colonial Forces
In order to thwart the East India Company, several local rulers did seek the support of other colonial forces. Reportedly, the French and Dutch offered to support Puli Thevar to fight the British. However, Puli Thevar abruptly refused their support and urged all Polygars to not choose another colonial power.
Macro Vision and a Micro Mission
While other Palayakarars were keen on not paying tribute to the East India Company, Puli Thevar was keen on freedom of the entire nation. In the book, Puli Thevar by Eric Algan, it is mentioned that Puli Thevar thought of consolidating local rulers in the entire nation. And he dreamt of making those local chieftains the rightful rulers of their homeland.
In order to achieve this mission, he first began consolidating all like-minded rulers under one roof. However, the lack of cooperation between them made it impossible in due course. He also made a truce with the Travancore Kingdom, but it fell right after a misunderstanding between them. But throughout his reign, he tirelessly worked for this larger vision.
The Resolute Warrior
Puli Thevar’s valour is little known even to Tamilians. His kingdom Nerkattaansevval (Nerkattumsevval) in Tenkasi District has a museum dedicated to him. Nevertheless, Puli Thevar is someone who deserves more. Since I read about him in detail, I began worshipping him as such warriors are real larger-than-life characters.
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