Velu Nachiyar, also known as “Veeramangai” (Brave Woman) by Tamils, was the queen of Sivaganga (modern day Tamil Nadu, India), who contributed to free our country from British rule. She worked with many freedom fighters and with their help she was able to take over Sivagangai again. Her courage and determination made Rani Velu Nachiyar the first queen to fight against the British for independence. Velu Nachiyar died on 25 December 1796 at the age of 66.
Velu Nachiyar was born on Tuesday, 3 January 1730 in Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga State, India; Which is now known as the state of Tamil Nadu. Although Velu was the princess of Ramanathapuram, she was not like any other princess at all. Since childhood, she was not only interested in martial arts such as Valari and Silambam, but also loved horse riding, fencing, archery and the use of weapons, and was adept at fighting without any arms and ammunition. Including her mother tongue, she was fluent in languages such as English, French and Urdu.
Velu was born and brought up in a Tamil royal family of Ramanathapuram in the Sivaganga Kingdom.
parents and siblings
Velu was born to King Chellamuthu Vijayaragunatha Sethupathi and Queen Sakandhimutthal of the Ramnad kingdom. She was the only child of the couple.
husband and children
She was married at the age of 16 to Muthu Vaduganatha Periyavudaya Thevar, the king of Sivaganga, and gave birth to an only child, Vellachi Nachiyar, and raised him as Sivaganga’s heir.
Life as a Happy Wife and Mother
A few years ago, before his birth, a part of the land was carved out of the Ramnad kingdom and named as Sivaganga kingdom and Shashivarna Thevar became the king of Sivaganga kingdom. By the time she turned 16, her family started looking for a perfect pair for her. In 1746, the rulers of Ramnad and Sivaganga kingdoms decided to make a marriage pact that Princess Velu would be married to Muthu Vaduganath Thevar, a prince of the Sivaganga kingdom. After some time, she was married to Muthu Vaduganatha Periyavudaya Thevar, the king of Sivaganga. For about 20 years, the couple ruled the state and lived happily with their family and the people of the state until the British came and attacked Sivaganga.
a runaway queen who lost everything
When the British came to India, a few years later, they became allies of the Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan Waljah, and captured the Madurai Nayak kingdom before attacking Sivaganga, but the Sivaganga king refused to give up his kingdom. And then the war started. In 1772, one day, the king of Sivaganga was going for his regular worship at Kalyar Kovil near Shiva temple, Sivaganga. With the help of the Nawab of Arcot, the East India Company (EIC) attacked the temple and the Sivaganga Kingdom. The British army under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Bonjour attacked the temple complex without being captured. Without a weapon, the king had no idea about the attack and was brutally killed. They looted all the ornaments including 50,000 gold coins from the temple. Another group of British soldiers, commanded by Commander Joseph Smith, attacked the Sivaganga Fort in the Raja’s absence. Many people lost their lives in that war, including the king himself. He had to escape with the help of his minister Dalvoy Thandavaray Pillai along with his younger daughter.
holy oath of vengeance
Even after killing the king of Sivaganga and snatching the throne from him, the Nawab, Muhammad Ali Khan Walajah did not rest in peace. He wanted to annihilate the entire clan of Muthu Vaduganath Periyavudaya Thevar so that no one would ever try to inherit the throne from him in future. Therefore, he decided to end the life of the king’s widow, Velu, and his younger daughter, Vellachi. The cunning and cunning Nawab ordered to hunt down the queen and the princess at the earliest. Fortunately, both of them were not around the attack at that time. However, the Maruthu brothers, two trusted chieftains and the queen came to know about the hunt. They went to Kollangudi and managed to help them escape to Dindigul, which was far from the reach of the Nawab’s troops. During her stay at Virupachi near Dindigul, she strengthened herself mentally and physically. Udayyal, Velu’s trusted bodyguard, is tormented and forced to reveal the whereabouts of his queen, but the brave and devoted Udayyal tells nothing and is brutally murdered. When the queen received this news, she was broken and furious, she decided to take an oath that she would retaliate, regain her throne and pay for what the British did.
widow who turned into a warrior
For 8 years, she lived under the tutelage of Palayakarar Kopala Nayakar at Virupachi in Dindigul. Everything was taken away from both Rani Veru, her husband and Sivaganga. All she wanted to do was avenge her husband’s murder and win back her kingdom. While she was planning against the British and how they could lose their control over Sivaganga, she had to constantly move around to change her hideouts after a certain time period to stay safe from the EIC and prepare for war. Meanwhile, the Nawab of Arcot changed the name of the state from Sivaganga to Hussain Nagar. There were three main cantonments into which the troops were divided, Periya Maruthu also known as Vellai Maruthu, headed by Velari Padai, Val Padai led under the guidance of Chinna Maruthu and formed the “Udayyal Sena” or ” Formed an army named “Udayyal Padai”. The memory of his faithful bodyguard who was an all-female army. He started recruiting various women and trained them for the ensuing battle. Kuyli, a Dalit woman, was entitled as the commander of the army. Meanwhile, she met Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore and the father of Tipu Sultan. He said no even when Velu asked for his help in fluent Urdu, but later, impressed by him, he promised to give gunpowder weapons, training, 400 sovereigns of gold per month, and 5000 soldiers including his infantry and cavalry. decided. Besides Hyder Ali, several feudal lords, Tipu Sultan, the Maruthu brothers and Thandavarayana Pillai supported him in the fight against the British East India Company.
Attack: Time to own the throne!
For the next few years, Queen Velu continued to conquer territories she had previously lost. The first place to be retrieved by him was the Kalaiya Temple. By the time of 1980, only Sivaganga was left to conquer as they had better weapons than Velu and his army. Therefore, she came up with a concrete plan to win the battle against the British as she knew that it would not be easy to trick them and the strategy was called ‘Chakra View’. Her generals Kuyali and the queen decided that they would enter the fort on the occasion of Vijayadashami, inside and outside the fort to worship at the temple of Rajarajeshwari Amman with less checking customs and barricading than on any normal day. There will be more people leaving, which will make it easier to attack the fort. Commander Kuyli and his detachment entered the fort disguised as local women from the neighboring village. By the time the British could figure something out, the queen’s trusted spies informed Kuyli about the location of their ammunition. She had the only chance to win this battle, so without any further delay, she poured a bucket full of ghee all over her body, set herself on fire and went straight to the ammunition stockpile. The entire storehouse was blown up and then Velu with his army entered Nachiyar and attacked the British in anger and killed everyone who came in their way. With that unforgettable explosion, the rule of the British Empire over Sivaganga came to an end in 1780.
Come, Fight and Live!
Queen Velu regained her husband’s kingdom and looked after him for ten years. He took the help of Marudhu brothers in looking after the administration of the state. The elder brother Periya Marudhu was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief and the post of minister was given to the younger brother Chinna. In 1790, Velu’s only daughter Vellachi Nachiyar inherited the throne and became the second queen of Sivaganga. In 1796, the queen died and wrote her name in gold among those who died for contributing to the movement for our country’s independence from the East India Company (EIC). She will always be remembered as the brave queen who was determined to free her kingdom and its people from British rule at all costs. The people of that country still respect her and she will always be a source of inspiration for them.
Some sources say that in the last few years of the Queen’s life she suffered from heart disease and even went to France for treatment. Velu Nachiyar died on 25 December 1796 after living a restless life of 66 years.
Facts / Trivia
- Shriram Sharma, a theater director, spent nearly 10 years researching the history of the queen. He directed a play on 21 August 2017 depicting the life story of Queen Velu Nachiyar through a grand dance ballet held at the Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai on 9 September 2017 in Mumbai and on 21 September 2017 in Delhi.
- As a tribute to his contribution to the fight against the East India Company, a postage stamp was issued in his memory on 31 December 2008.
- Velu Nachiyar was the first queen to fight and win against the British. He fought them in 1780, 77 years before the First War of Independence.
- Rani and her Dalit general Kuyli were the first in Indian history to carry out suicide bombings.
- Professor ALI, a Tamil-American hip-hop artist, created a song dedicated to her in 2016 titled “Our Queen” as one of the tracks from her album “Tamilmatic”.
- On 18 July 2014, Veeramangai Velu Nachiyar Memorial in Sivagangai was inaugurated by Late Jayaram Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. He also unveiled a bronze statue of the queen and announced that January 3 would be remembered as the birth anniversary of the brave queen Velu Nachiyar.
- As a thank you to Hyder Ali for supporting Velu Nachiyar amid the war, he built a mosque to show his gratitude to him. Even after Hyder Ali he maintained the same strong relationship with his son Tipu Sultan.