This is the second in a series of articles on Indian freedom fighters. They will provide an account of their lives and their contributions, for coming generations to remember the sacrifices they made for the Indian freedom struggle
by Mr. Gopalan Krishnan
Rani Velu Nachiyar was one of the earliest freedom fighters of this great land of Bharat.
She was born as the princess of Ramanathapuram to Chellamuthu Sethupathy. Later, she married the king of Sivagangai, Muthuvaduganatha Periya Udaiyathevar.
Fighting with the British
During those times, the British were having constant skirmishes with the various ruling kingdoms over the country, including present-day Tamil Nadu. In one of these skirmishes, the king of Sivagangai was killed along with his second wife. Rani Velu Nachiyar, however, escaped along with her daughter, Vellachi Nachiar. She sought protection from Hyder Ali and lived under his protection at Virupachi, near Dindigul for eight years. During this period, she marshalled forces loyal to her and formed an army with the aim of attacking the British. In 1780, she fought the British, in alliance with Gopala Nayaker and Hyder Ali. This battle resulted in a decisive victory for Rani Velu Nachiyar.
Rani Velu Nachiyar was well ahead of her time in terms of battle strategies. She developed a well-trained women’s army and was the first to employ suicide bombing. Arguably the first instances of human bombing in recorded history was employed by Rani Velu Nachiyar. When the Rani came to know the whereabouts of a British ammunition depot, she instructed a faithful female warrior, Kuyili to act as a suicide bomber. Kuyili doused herself in oil and walked into the storehouse before lighting herself. Rani Velu Nachiyar formed a woman’s army named “Udaiyaal” in honour of her adopted daughter, Udaiyaal, who died detonating a British arsenal.
Rani Velu Nachiyar was one of the few rulers who regained her kingdom from the British and ruled it for 10 years. She granted powers to the Marudu brothers to administer her territory in 1790, and died a few years later.
Legacy and commemorations
Rani Velu Nachiyar was the first queen who fought for the freedom against British in India. She preceded both Rani Laxmibai (of Jhansi) and Mangal Pandey (of Sepoy mutiny fame). On 31st December, 2008, the postal department released a commemorative postage stamp in her memory.
Compiled by Gopalan Krishnan from various sources including “Good Citizen”. The author is a retired scientist of ISRO. He has a keen interest in lesser known Indian, especially Tamil patriots and scientists