( ) also known as
was an 18th century Indian Palaiyakkarar
chieftain from Panchalankurichi
and who was one of the
earliest to oppose British
He waged a
war against the British six decades
before the Indian War of Independence
which occurred in 1857 in Northern parts of India.
After a bloody war, he was captured by the British and hanged in
1799 CE. His fort was destroyed and his wealth looted by the
British army. Today Panchalankurichi is a historically
important place in the present day Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu state, India.His mother
tongue is telugu and described himself as a Telugu king of
Veerapandiya Kattabomman was born to Jagaveera Kattabomman
on January 4, 1760. He had two younger
brothers Dalavai Kumarasami
Veerapandiyan was fondly called ‘Karuthaiah’ (the black prince),
and Dalavai Kumarasami, ‘Sevathaiah’ (the white prince).
Duraisingam, a good orator, was nicknamed ‘Oomaidurai’ meaning the
Mute Prince. The royal family spoke Telugu.
Kattabomman ancestors are from Telugu.Azhagiya Veerapandiapuram
of today) was ruled by
. His minister Bommu
, a brave
warrior, was named after the god Sasta Ayyappan Swamy to describe
his strength and fighting qualities. Over a period of time, the
name became Kattabomman in Tamil
Katta-bomman ascended the throne after Jagaveera Pandiyan, who had
no issue, as Adi Kattabomman
, the first of the
Legend has it that during a hunting trip into the forests of
Salikulam (close to Azhagiya Pandiyapuram) one of the Kattabommans
was amazed to see a hare
chasing seven hounds
. Believing that the land possessed the power to
instil courage in his people, he built his fort
there and named it Panchalankurichi.
On February 2, 1790, Veerapandiyan, 30, became the king of
Panchalankurichi as Veera Pandia Kattabomman
supposedly the 47th ruler of the region and the 5th ruler from the
Kattabomman clan and a Palya-karrar
Polygar) of the Madurai Nayak
Role of Palayakkarars
Following its collapse in the mid-16th century, the Tamil governors
of the Vijayanagara Empire
away from the empire and established independent kingdoms.
Pandiya country came to be governed by
Naicker rulers in Madurai, who in turn
divided their territories into 72 Palayams.
Palayams were franchised to Palayakarrars (Tamil word) or Polygars
or Poligars (a British Term), who had to
administer their territories, collect taxes, run the local
judiciary, and maintain a battalion
troops on behalf of the Naicker rulers of Madurai. Their function
was a mixture of military governance and civil
The regional/local chieftains and rulers who were earlier
subordinates to the Madurai Kings became Polygars (or
Origins of Dispute
rule in Madurai which controlled the entire West Tamil Nadu after
two centuries came to an abrupt end in 1736 when Chanda Sahib of Arcot seized the
Madurai throne from the last queen of Madurai in an act of
Chanda Sahib was later killed after the Carnatic Wars
and the territory came under the
Nawab of Arcot
. The Palaya-karrars of
the old Madurai country refused to recognize the new Muslim rulers
driving the Nawab of Arcot to bankruptcy, who also indulged in
lavishes like building palaces before sustaining his authority in
the Nawab resorted to borrowing huge sums from the British East India Company,
erupting as a scandal in the British Parliament.
The Nawab of Arcot finally gave the British
the right to collect taxes and levies from the southern region in
lieu of the money he had borrowed. The East India Company took
advantage of the situation and plundered all the wealth of the
people in the name of tax
collection. They even
leased the country in 1750’s to a savage warrior Muhammed Yusuf Khan
Nayagam), who killed many of the Polygars including and later got
himself killed by the Arcot British forces.
Many of the Polygars submitted, only with the exception of
Kattabomman refused to pay his dues and for a long time refused to
meet Jackson the Collector
East India Company. Finally, he met Jackson at Ramalinga
Vilasam, the palace of Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram.
The meeting turned violent and ended in a
skirmish in which the Deputy Commandant of the Company’s forces,
Clarke was slain. Kattabomman and his men fought their way to
freedom and safety, but Thanapathi Pillai
secretary was taken prisoner.
The Commission of Enquiry that went into the incident fixed the
blame on Jackson and relieved him of his post, thinking the
Company’s plan to take over the entire country gradually could be
marred by Jackson’s fight with Veerapandiya Kattabomman.
Collector of Tirunelveli wrote to Kattabomman calling him for a meeting on
16 March, 1799.
Kattabomman wrote back citing the extreme
drought conditions for the delay in the payment of dues and also
demanded that all that was robbed off him at Ramanathapuram be
restored to him. The Collector wanted the ruling house of
Sethupathis to prevent Kattabomman from aligning himself with the
enemies of the Company and decided to attack Kattabomman.
The British also instigated his long time feuding neighbor
Ettayapuram Poligar to make provocative wars over Kattabomman on
their long pending territorial disputes.
Kattabomman refused to meet the Collector and a fight broke out.
Under Major Bannerman, the army stood at all the four entrances of
Panchalankurichi’s fort. At the southern end, Lieutenant
Collins was on the attack. When the
fort’s southern doors opened, Kattabomman and his forces
audaciously attacked the corps stationed at the back of his fort,
and slew their commander Lt. Collins.
British after suffering heavy losses, decided to wait for
reinforcements and heavy artillery from
Sensing that his fort could not survive a
barrage from heavy cannons
, Kattabomman left
the fort that night.
A price was set on Kattabomman’s head. Thanapathi Pillai and 16
others were taken prisoners. Thanapathi Pillai was executed and his
head perched on a bamboo pole was displayed at Panchalankurichi to
demoralise the fighters. Soundra Pandian Nayak
rebel leader, was brutally done to death by having his head dashed
against a village wall.
Capture and Sentence
Veerapandiya Kattabomman hid in so many
places including thirumayam, virachilai and finally
stayed at Kolarpatti at Rajagopala Naicker’s house where the forces
surrounded the house. Kattabomman and his aides fled from there
and took refuge in the Thirukalambur forests close to Pudu-k-kottai.
Bannerman ordered the Raja of Pudukkottai
to arrest Kattabomman. Accordingly, Kattabomman was captured and on
October 16, 1799 the case was taken up (nearly three weeks after
his arrest near Pudukkottai).
After a summary trial, Kattabomman was hanged unceremoniously on a
Tamarind tree in Kayathar (near Thirunelveli).
Some of the other noteworthy persons who were hanged along with
Kattabomman were Veeraghechayan Naicker, Dali Ethalappa Naicker and
Palayakarrars of Kaadalkudi, Nagalapuram Puthur, Vripachy,
Sivagangai, to death by hanging on charges of treason.
The Fort of Panchalankurichi was razed to the ground and all of
Kattabomman’s wealth was looted by the English soldiers. Few years
later, after the second Polygar war, the site of the captured fort
was ploughed up and sowed with castor oil
so that it should never again be
inhabited by the orders of the colonial government.
Legend and folklore
In subsequent years, a good deal of legend and folklore developed
around Kattabomman and the Marudu Brothers. Kayatharu
, where Kattabomman was executed has
remained a place of political pilgrimage.
Tinnevelly Gazetteer of 1917,
R. Pate notes the presence, in Kayatharu, of "a great
pile of stones of all sizes, which represents the accumulated
offerings by wayfarers of the past hundred years
songs recalling the heroism of the Poligar
leaders remain alive in Tamil Nadu to this day..."
The popular Tamil slang for a traitor
, courtesy the Ettayapuram Polygar whom the British
later conferred the title of Raja.But it is disputed that Ettapan
committed treason Kattabomman was arrested by King of
Pudukottai.The Campa Cola ground in Chennai belongs/belonged to
Ettappan family. Lately there is cry that unfair portrayal of
Ettappan in the film Kattabomman
in which actor Sivaji
Ganesan gave a great performance, is the main cause for this. It
seems that Ma.Po.Si(Ma.Po.Sivanyanam) who wrote the dialogues for
the film had some misunderstanding with the Ettappan family.
Honor and Monuments
Kattabomman became thus the pivot of the emerging feeling of Tamil
nationhood. His story is celebrated in many legends and epic poetry
in Tamil. Kattabomman is today recognised by the government as one
of the earliest independence fighters opposing the British and has
been hailed as the inspiration behind the first battle of independence
of 1857, which the British called
the Sepoy Mutiny
- In 1974, the Government of
Tamil Nadu constructed a new Memorial fort. The Memorial Hall
has beautiful paintings on the walls depicting the heroic deeds of
the saga which gives a good idea about the history of the period. A
cemetery of British soldiers are also seen near the fort.
- The remnants of the old fort are protected by the Archaeological Survey of
- At Kayathar, near Tirunelveli on the present day NH7, the place
where he was hanged, there is another memorial for
- To commemorate the bicentenary on 16
October 1999 of Kattabomman’s hanging, the Government of India brought out a
postal stamp in his honour.
- India's premier communication nerve centre of the Indian Navy, at Vijayanarayanam, about 40 km
from here, is named as INS Kattabomman.
- Till recently (1999) the state transport buses of Kanniyakumari
and Thirunelveli Districts were named Kattabomman Transport
- Veerapandia Kattabomman Panpattu Kazhagam (Veerapandia
Kattabomman Cultural association) is an organisation named in his
- The district administration celebrates `Veerapandia Kattabomman
festival' at Panchalankurichi on his anniversaries.
From Hindu Newspaper
administration celebrates `Veerapandia Kattabomman festival' at
Later, he unveiled a huge portrait of Kattabomman at the function,
which was held near the Kattabomman memorial fort constructed by
the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1974.
Special pujas were conducted at Sri Devi Jakkammal temple,
hereditary goddess of Kattabomman, located near the fort.
Members of Veerapandia Kattabomman Panpattu Kazhagam brought
torches in as relay to the Kattabomman fort from places like
Tiruchendur, Pudur, Soorangudi and Kulathur, to mark the
Hundreds of people thronged the Kattabomman fort, which was thrown
open to the public on Friday, to get a glimpse of the beautiful
paintings on the walls of memorial hall inside it, which depicted
the heroic deeds of the saga.
The visitors were also told by the officials how the Britons
sentenced Kattabomman along with Kaadalkudi Zamin, Nagalapuram
Puthur Zamin, Vripachy Zamin, Sivagangai Zamin, Veeraghechayan
naicker Zamin and Dali Ethalappa Naicker Zamin, to death by hanging
on charges of treason.
Heirs of Kattabomman attended the function.
Much of the modern currency of the legend comes from the 1959
motion picture starring Chevalier Sivaji
in lead role portraying the life of Veerapandiya
Kattabomman. The Movie was directed by B.R. Panthulu and
Sivaji Ganesan got a wide international
recognition and earned many international awards for his
electrifying performance and is one movie the Thespian is most
remembered for his 45 years in filmdom, hitting his peak in the
film Veerapandya Kattabomman.