The first cry for independence to British
The Sepoy mutiny as we all know is generally considered as the first war of Independence against the British Raj that broke out in many parts of north India in 1857. What all of us might not know is that 56 years before the mutiny, Periya Maruthu and Chinna Maruthu, also known as the Maruthu Pandiyar brothers, were the first to rise for a proclamation of Independence from the British rule in Tamil Nadu in the year 1801. They were born to Udayar Servai, who was a General in the Ramnad state military.
From their childhood, the brothers were trained in martial arts at a training centre for Ramnad army. They also expertized in throwing a peculiar Indian Boomerang. Their talents won them several martial arts competitions. The Raja of Ramnad Muthu Vijaya Raghunatha Sethupathyissued the title of ‘Pandiyas’ to honour the brothers. Soon their heroics became very popular and their bravery earned them ranks of Generals in the Sivaganga military. The Nawab of Arcot, the alliance partner of East India Company was not able to collect any taxes from the people of Sivaganga state for eight years,entered into an agreement whereby the rule of Sivaganga was restored to Rani Velu Nachiar after he collected his dues from her. The Marudu brothers with 12,000 armed men surrounded Sivaganga and plundered the Nawab’s territories. The Nawab on the 10th of March 1789 appealed to the Madras Council for aid. On 29 April 1789, the British forces attacked Kollangudi. It was defeated by a large body of Marudhu’s troops.
When the Britishers feared for their future in India
The brothers were closely associated with Veera Pandiya Kattabomman of Panchalankurichi. Kattabomman was executed on October 17, 1799 and his younger brother Oomadurai was given asylum by Chinna Marudhu. This gave the British a reason to invade Sivaganga in 1801. The Maruthu Pandiyars and their allies were quite successful and captured three districts from the British. British considered it as a serious threat to their future in India that they rushed additional troops from Britain to put down Maruthu Pandiyars’ rebellion. These forces surrounded Maruthu Pandiyars’ army at Kalayar Koli, and the latter scattered. The Maruthu Brothers and their top commanders escaped. They regrouped and fought the British and their allies at Viruppatchi, Dindigul and Cholapuram. While they won the battle at Viruppatchi, they lost the other two battles.
Marudhu brothers were highly revered for their bravery and for their administration skills. They worked for the welfare of the people and the Sivaganga. They constructed many notable temples like Kalayar Kovil, Sivaganga, many Ooranis and Tanks . The Marudhu Pandiyars and many of their family members were captured at Cholapuram and they were hanged in October, 1801.