Theeran Chinnamalai – Kongu Tamil - Freedom Fighter

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Capture and Execution

Meanwhile, Chinnamalai and his brothers stayed during the daytime in the Karumalai area and returned in the night to a house at the foot of the hills for dinner and sleep. They ate the food prepared by the cook Nallappan. They always carried guns for safety.

Cook Nallapan was a traitor. He was tempted to accept bribery and to inform Chinnamalai’s whereabouts. He secretly informed a British agent about Chinnamalai and his brothers and their daily routine of eating dinner in the house at the foot of the hills. The British dug an underground trench leading to the house and waited for Chinnamalai and his brothers.

As usual, in the evening the brothers returned to the house for dinner from their hiding in the forest area. That day, cook Nallappan cunningly asked the brothers to leave their guns on the floor. He assured them that there was no danger when they were eating food. The brothers believed his words and left their guns on the floor, as they also did not sense any danger.

When they were about to eat the dinner, Nallaplan opened the secret door leading to the underground trench and allowed the British soldiers inside dining area. The British soldiers quickly surrounded Chinnamalai and his brothers. With all the fury, Chinnmalai hit the traitor Nallappan and killed him on the spot.

The British arrested Chinnamalai and his brothers and kept them in Sankagiri prison. A four person tribunal consisting of Genaman, Marvul, Horse and Backy Hart was formed. Their loyal servant Karuppan who was in hiding at Melapalayam also surrendered to the British. The tribunal asked Chinnamalai to accept the British rule over the Kongu area and pay taxes to the British. They also offered him amnesty if he tendered an apology. Chinnamalai refused the British offer and informed his decision to face the consequences.

Preparations were made to hang them by rope tied to a Puliya tree (aka tamarind) located at the top of the Sankagiri fort. Chinnamalai, his two brothers and their loyal friend Karpuppan were brought to the tree on the day of the hanging. They asked the escorting soldiers to move away from them. Then each one tied the rope around his neck and jumped down to embrace death. The whole of Kongunadu wept for their heroic deeds on that day. The British saw to that that Chinnamalai’s name did not become household legend by banning all books and literature on Chinnamalai for a long period of time. Theeran Chinnamalai was hanged on July 31, 1805.

The story of Chinnamalai and his heroic battles with the British and the eventual sacrifice of his life for the cause of freedom would have been completely consigned to oblivion but for the heritage of oral story telling that existed in our culture. The singular credit goes to Pulavar Kulanthi who heard this story from his grand father during early 1900s. However, during the British rule it was not possible to write about the freedom fighters as the British banned all literature dealing with freedom fighters. Pulavar Kulandi could write about Chinnamalai only after independence. By the time he was about to write, he could not recollect everything his grand father told him. But, he was able to create the first account of the Story of Theeran Chinnamalai and in course of time Kongu Tamils understood the heroic role of Chinnamalai and his struggle for independence from British domination.

The three brothers – Chinnamalai, Kilothar and Thambi – did not marry. Hence, we do not have any direct lineage of Chinnamalai. However, two of his brothers Kulandiswamy and Kuttiswamy were married and they have descendants. As we have seen before, the Palayamkotti Pattakarar and Chinnamalai have common lineage.

Milestones in the life of Chinnamalai

  • Birth: Born as the second son of Rathnaswamy Gounder (Payiran Kootam) and Periyatha (Othalan Kootam) on April 1756. He was named Theerthagiri.
  • Growing-up: He grew up learning martial arts along with two of his other brothers – Kilother and Thambi. He formed Kongu Tamil Youth Groups and gave them martial arts training.
  • Encounter with Hyder Ali’s Diwan: He recovered the taxes collected by Mysore Diwan and earned the nick name Chinnamalai. He also defeated Diwan’s soldiers and successfully defended the Kongu Region from Mysore Kings.
  • Allianace with Tippu Sultan He led 1000 Kongu Tamil Youths and joined with Tippu Sultan to fight the British. In 1799 he fought the British in Melapalayam Front and caused severe damage to the British forces. However, Tippu died at the Sriranga Patnam front. Fourth Myosore war ended.
  • Defending Kongu ( 1799-1805) Returned to Kongu after Tippu’s death and organized an alliance of Kongu Palayakarars against the British. Fought four battles with British and successfully defended himself.
  • Refuge and Capture(1805) British destroyed his Oda Nalli Fort with cannons. Chinnamalai took refuge in the Karumalai forests. A traitor cook cunningly helped the British to capture Chinnamalai and his brothers.
  • The End(1805) The British hanged Chinnmalai, his two brothers and their loyal soldier Karuppan on 31 July 1805. They banned any literature on Chinnmalai. However, due to the existence of the oral tradition of Story Telling, Chinnmalai Story survived and reached us in the form of books and Kummi Songs.

  • Sources:

  • “Theeran Chinnamalai Gounder” by Pulavar S. Rasu, Publ. 1996, Samba Publications, 152 Peters Road, Chennai, TN 600086, India.
  • Kongu Naattu Singham - Theeran Chinnamalai by Kavignar Magudam Manickam, Publ. 2001, Sakunthla Publications, Rangoli Graphics, 329 E.V.N.Road, Erode, TN 638009, India.
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