Theeran Chinnamalai Ė Kongu Tamil - Freedom Fighter

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Alliance with Tippu Sultan

Hyder Ali died on 12th July, 1782 and his son Tippu Sultan became Mysore King. After Tippu became Mysore King, hostilities broke out between British and Tippu Sultan as Tippu claimed sovereignty to his kingdom and refused to pay taxes to the British. Tippu Sultan wanted to raise a big army of soldiers to fight the British and invited the Kongu Tamils to join him in his fight against the British. Chinnamalai, his brothers Kilother, and Thambi decided to join Tippu Sultan. They also took with them their loyal soldiers Karuppan and Velappan. In Tippusís army, Chinnamalai was made chief of Kongu Regiment. About 1000 young Kongu Tamils joined the Kongu Regiment. They were given proper military training by French who were collaborating with Tippu in his fight against the British. It is worthwhile remembering that these were the days of aftermath of famous French Revolution. The wars between the Mysore King and the British are known as Mysore Wars. The fourth and crucial battle between Tippu and the British took place in the year 1799. Chinnamalaiís soldiers battled against the British at Mala Valli front and caused severe damage to the British forces. Srirangapatnam war front was led by Tippu himself. In the severe battle that took place, Tippu himself was killed on April 5, 1799. After the defeat of Tippu, Kongu area came under the control of British technically.

After the death of Tippu Sultan, Chinnamalai led all his soldiers through Kaveri River into Kongunadu. However, their loyal friend Velappan was captured by the British and remained in their custody. Velappan promised the British that he would act as their agent. Believing his words, they gave him a position in their army. However, Velappan remained loyal to Chinnamalai and sent secret notes concerning British activities and helped Chinnamalai in many ways.

Battling the British

After his return from the Mysore War to Kongu, Chinnamalai built a palace in a village called Oda Nalli. He advocated to all Kongu Tamils and the neighboring Palayakarars that they should all unite together and fight the British. At that time, Salem and Malabar areas were under the control of British. But, British could not control the Kongunadu due to opposition by Chinnamalai and his alliance. If the British wanted to travel to Malabar from Salem, they had to take a circuitous route through Mysore. Kongu Tamil soldiers were guarding Kongunadu and were preventing the entry of British through Kaveri River. The British wanted to take over the control of Kongunadu without a fight. They sent a messenger and promised Chinnamalai favors in exchange for accepting the British Control of Kongunadu and paying taxes. Chinnamalai refused the offer and challenged the British for the hegemony over Kongunadu.

Although Velappan was serving the British, he informed Chinnamalai and warned him in advance of the British activities through some secret messengers. Chinnamalai knew that British would enter Kongunadu in course of time. He made preparations for the eventual fight with the British. During this time he built an ordnance factory at Oda Nalli to make war preparations to face the British.

Even during those tough times, it is said that Chinnamalai was generous to poets and learned men. He made Arunachala Kavi the official poet for his area. He also generously donated large sums of gold coins to the poet Poonthurai Ambikapathi and honored him in his kingdom. He punished the infiltrators sent out by the British into land under his control and made his area safer. In all, people lived a peaceful and happy life under the rule of Chinnamalai.

The British were very much annoyed that Chinnamalai was running his own independent kingdom without a real title and did not listen to their demands to accept their hegemony. The British decided to strike him and take the control of the land by force. Initially, they sent out a troop of soldiers under the captainship of Colonel Makiskan to arrest Chinnamalai. Velappan who was serving the British informed Chinnamalai of the British plan though his informers. As Chinnamalai was forewarned, he met Makiskan and his soldiers on the banks of Noyyal River and defeated them in the battle thoroughly. Makiskan was beheaded in the battle and it is said that this head was paraded in the villages of Kongu.

Learning what had happened to Makiskan, the British became very furious and sent out a cavalry unit under Captain Harris to capture Chinnamalai. When Harris was approaching Arasalur in the Kongu area, he heard the Puja sounds from the Arasalur Amman Temple. Thinking that Chinnmali might be in the temple, Captain Harris entered the temple in search of Chinnamalai. As he could not find him, he was frustrated and proceeded to Oda Nalli where Chinnmanalaiís palace was located.

A sentry at the top of the palace noticed the movement of the troops led by Harris and immediately informed Chinnamalai. Chinnamalai planned to attack them alone with a hand grenade first. He advised his soldiers to attack them after he had a chance to throw the grenade at them. Chinnamalai mounted a horse and sped towards Harris and his troop. As Harris was wondering why a single person was approaching him, Chinnamalai swiftly threw his grenade at his horseís side. The horse got bewildered and started running away from the bomb and the smoke. Harris lost control of his horse and a pandemonium ensued as Harris could not control his horse. Meanwhile, Chinnamalaiís troop joined him. Harris and his troop had to withdraw. Chinnamalai and his troop drove them all the way to Kaveri River up north. This battle took place in the year 1802.

Hearing what had happened to Harris, the British became much more furious and they decided to send in a troop carrying Cannons. As soon as Velappan knew of the British plan, he sent a word through the informers about the impending British attack on Oda Nalli. Chinnamalai used to wear a new pair of shoes every day. The informer left a note inside his shoes about the British plan of attack. When Chinnamalai was about to the wear the shoes, he found the note from Velappan. After reading the note, he left it there by mistake.

Chinnmalai consulted his brothers for a plan of action. They decided to leave their loyal soldier Karuppan in Melapalayam in hiding. Chinnamalai and two of his brothers and a cook named Nallappan decided to hide in the Karumalai area, which is adjacent to the well-known Palani Malai. Karumali area was full of thick forests and provided cover for the brothers to hide from the British attack.

The British came to Oda Nalli with their cannons and found that all had vacated the palace. When they were searching the palace area, they found the note sent out by Velappan. The moment British came to know that Velappan was an informer to Chinnamalai, they shot him dead. They also demolished the entire palace with cannon shots. They decided to search and find Chinnamalai.
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