Veerapandiya Kattabomma Karuthayya Nayakkar (also known as Kattabomman; born: January 03, 1760) was the most valiant early freedom fighter of 18th-century and he boldly rebelled against the British and their oppressive rule.
He was a prominent Palayakarrar (‘Polygar’) or chieftain from Panchalankurichi of Tamil Nadu, India. His parents were Jagaveera Kattabomman and Aarumugathammal. Veera Pandyan was his original name and Kattabomman was the name of his paternal ancestral name.
He was one among the five children – with two brothers and two sisters. His brothers Oomathurai (Kumaraswamy) and Duraisingam were also great warriors. His wife’s name was Veera Jakkammal. He was a devout Hindu and his presiding deity was Thiruchendur Murugan (Karthikaya).
During the Vijayanagara period Kattabomman ancestors migrated to Tamil Nadu from Kandukuru area of Prakasam district in present day Andhra Pradesh. In his early childhood, he spoke his mother tongue – Telugu and later learnt Tamil, the language spoken in Panchalamkuruchi and other areas.
Roughly 60 years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 that first started in Meerut (Meerut cantonment is the place where the rebellion started when Hindu and Muslim soldiers were given new model rifles with grease-coated cartridgeswhich, it was believed, contained animal fat of pig and cow), in present day U.P. Kattabomman vehemently opposed the British and their subjugation of Indian natives.
One of the Palayakarrars were as much suffered, humiliated and haunted as Kattabomman was by the British just because he boldly refused to accept the sovereignty of British East India Company, pay land taxes and be submissive to the British rulers.
For the sake of freedom and his legitimate rights over his mother land taken away in a dubious manner by the despicable British, he lost every thing dear to him. His loving family was in disarray and his relatives including his brothers were killed or maimed by the foreign rulers, his kingdom was reduced to heaps of trash and debris.
Kattabomman became 47th Palayakarrar or Chief on February 02, 1790 and ruled the palayam with skill and diplomacy. As the Nawob of Arcot was unable to fulfill his financial commitments to the British, Thirunelveli and many other areas that were ruled by the Palayakarrars (chieftains) came under the British control. The British created mischief among the local chiefs to keep them apart and collected land taxes from them and gave concessions to those who were cooperative.
Kattabomman not only refused to pay the land taxes but also had row with the then Tirunelveli Collector Jackson and later other East India company officials, thus becoming a menace to the foreign rulers. After the death of Tipu Sultan (May, 1799; the British killed Tipu Sultan with the help from a traitor close to him ) in the last Mysore war at Srirangapatna, the British decided to take on the valiant Chief of Pachalamkuruchi.
The British forces attacked Kattabomman at a time when most of his warriors and people were at Thiruchendur and other places to attend some Hindu temple festivals. Taken aback and unprepared with lack of adequate forces to back him up, Veerapandyan fought tooth and nail with the British, but it was of no use. He, at last, fled the battle ground and for some time roamed different places, using various guises. Because of the handiwork of British masters a pious, courageous local chief became a sort of vagabond.
In the mean time before the end of war, his brotherOomathurai set the ammunition storage on fire and killed severalBritish soldiers. He too left the war field and hid in several places to avoid arrest. As for Kattabomman, at last he was in the state of Pudukotta, whose ruler had a close relationship with the British. He was caught by the British and taken to Panchalamkuruchi where there was a formal inquiry – trial under the official Captain Bannerman.
He refused to budge and spoke against the atrocities of the British with patriotic zeal. Nor was he scarred of facing the gallows. At last he was sentenced to death by hanging by the military panel. On orders from Bannerman Verrapandya Kattabomman was hanged to death on October 19, 1799 in public at a small village called Kayatharu in Tirunelveli district. His associates were also hanged by theBritish.
To pay their homage and respect every year thousands of people visit this place, where this great patriotic Indian was put to death by the merciless, diabolical British East India company officials. His crime was he defended his mother land and his people against foreign invaders – the British.
In the long history of India’s freedom struggle against the unjust British rulers, numerous Indian patriots became immortal figures. Surely the great Palayakarrar (‘Polygar’) or chieftain, Veerapandya Kattabomman of Telugu decent from Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu is the most prominent one and his saga of heroic exploits, sacrifice and courage will remain etched in the pages of history of early Indian freedom fighters till the end of this world.