Vikram Sarabhai

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Ahmedabad, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi Science Institute.

Two students in a room, very pensive, and nervous at their head coming inside. An electric meter had just gone out of order, as they had passed too much current while doing an experiment. And they were wondering how to break the news to him, who was also the founder of the rather modest lab, that had begun a year back.  It was a time,when such electric meters were difficult to get, and important experiments could be suspended for a month or even more.  As the students nervously broke the news, the man displayed neither the slightest trace of irritation or anger. Instead in a rather comforting tone he told them.

“Is that all? Don’t mind it too much. Such things do happen when students are learning. If students don’t make mistakes, how can they learn? It is enough if you learn to be more careful in future.”

The man here was none other than Vikram Sarabhai,  the father of India’s space program, regarded as one of the greatest scientists of modern India. And who also made a signficant contribution to the nuclear program.

Vikram Sarabhai was born on August 12, 1919, to Ambalal Sarabhai, a well known textile industrialist in Ahmedabad, and Sarala Devi. It was an auspicious day of Garuda Panchami. When the Sarabhais wanted to educate their children, they were not satisfied with the existing schooling system.  And so they set up a school at home, hired some of the best teachers for both science and arts. Vikram as well as his 8 siblings were a big beneficiary of the home schooling, and up to matriculation they studied at home only. With his father being an influential man, many famous people would visit the Sarabhai’s house in Ahmedabad, among them were Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore , J. Krishna Murthi, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Azad, C. F. Andrews, C. V. Raman. And Mahatma Gandhi stayed in their home for some time while recovering from an illness. This interaction with such great minds, influenced Vikram’s thought process and character too.  Like most other boys of his age, he loved to play, do tricks on the bicylce, was mischievous and used to go for boating.

He was absolutely brilliant at mathematics and science, and with his hard working nature, managed to be at the top of the class always. He went to Cambridge after completing his college education in India and in 1939, he passed the Tripos in Physics, considered to be one of the toughest exams then. On his return to India, he joined the Physics Department in IISc that was then headed by the renowned C.V.Raman. His counterpart was another renowned physicist Dr.Homi Bhaba who was doing research on Mesons and Cosmic Rays.

Cosmic Rays

Typically every substance on earth has 3 fundamental particles- the electrons( -ve charge), protons(+ve charge) and neutrons( neutral). However it has been discovered that there are other particles in space, beside these,  called as mesons.  And these mesons are formed by cosmic rays as per most scientific theories. Over 600 such cosmic rays pass through the human body every year, and they can penetrate the hardest rocks too.

Vikram’s first scientific paper was on periodical variation of cosmic rays intensity, in which he did extensive research. This research helped him to study further on interplanetary space, relation between sun and earth and the magnetic phenomena on earth. It was during this time he got the idea of establishing a cosmic ray research institution. When he went to the Himalayas in Kashmir, 1943 for study of cosmic rays at high altitudes, he got the idea of establishing a research center at such a height.

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After the end of the 2nd World War, Vikram once again went to Cambridge in 1945 to continue his study on cosmic rays, where he also got his PhD.  Vikram’s work on cosmic rays in Kashmir was at Apharwat, on the banks of  Alpathari lake, a regular family outing spot very summer. Located at 13,000 feet above sea level, this is where he decided to set up a future research institute.

Vikram set up the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad in 1948, with Dr. K.R.Ramanathan as it’s first director. Starting off with just few students and some lab assistants, it soon grew into one of India’s premier institutions. Even when he got busy in  his later years, Vikram still maintained close contact with the institution he founded.  Starting off as Professor, he later became the Director in 1965.  It sponsored a cosmic ray research institute at Gulmarg in 1955. And when DAE( Dept of Atomic Energy) established a full fledged high altitude research center in Gulmarg, Vikram’s long standing dream became a reality. Later on similiar such centers were opened in Kodaikanal and Thiruvananthapuram.

When Homi Jehangir Bhabha, died in an aircrash in 1966, many wondered who would take over AEC. It was a large void to be filled, however Vikram Sarabhai more than proved to be equal to the task, he did his work quitely to the best of ability and guided India’s fledgling nuclear program in the right direction.  One of his greatest achievements would be in the foundation of ISRO, when he convinced the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru of the need for India’s own space program.  Aware that India did not have the resources to undertake something like a manned mission to the moon or to planets, he felt that space technology could be used for multiple applications like earth mapping, satellite TV, which were more relevant to Indian needs. INCOSPAR( Indian National Committe for Space Research) was set up in 1962 by Nehru on his reccomendation,  and this eventually become ISRO in 1969.  This is what he had to say about India’s space program.

There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the Moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.

Vikram got good support from Homi Bhabha to set up India’s first ever space station at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram. Being very close to the Earth’s magnetic equator, it made it the ideal location for scientists to conduct atmospheric research.

Nov 21, 1963- The first rocket launch took place from Thumba, the efforts of Vikram Sarabhai had borne fruit.  One of the members present at the launch was a certain APJ Abdul Kalam, who would go on to become an equally distinguished scientist himself. SITE or Satellite Instructional TV was once again the result of his interactions with NASA in 1966, to have such a program in India.  The project for the first Indian satellite was started during Sarabhai’s time, and Aryabhatta in 1975 was due to his efforts again.

His legacy was vast, IIM Ahmedabad was the result of his dream to have a world class management institute in India.  The first market research organization in India, ORG was again founded by him.  He also set up the AITRA, to provide support and guidance to Ahmedabad’s booming textile industry. Sarabhai Community Science Center in Ahmedabad was set up by him to popularize science education.  It was not just the sciences, along with his wife Mrinalini he founded Darpana Academy of Performing Arts to promote culture.  Some other institutions established by him include

  • Faster Breeder Test Reactor  in Kalpakam
  • Variable Energy Cyclotron Project in Kolkata
  • ECIL in Hyderabad
  • Uranium Corporation of India Ltd in Jharsuguda, Jharkhand.

He was pretty much a hands on person, could often be seen at late hours in the lab working on solutions. As a teacher, he believed in being a guide to the students, engaging in continous discussion with them on their research, encouraging them. As a human being he was a gem of a person, down to earth, humble. He believed in using science as a tool for India’s development and progress after independence, and his thoughts were always in that direction.  Inspite of his busy schedule, he devoted equal time to his family, and also his family’s industrial group.  He would often take time out to listen to every one, and people would often pour out their woes to him.  When some one asked why he is wasting time listening to all that, this was his reply

In our vast land people come from many backgrounds. Not every one is lucky enough to have the education we have. So, we have to listen to everything they say to understand what is in their mind.

 He treated every one as his equal without any class distinction, helped others in need. His belief was simple, every person in the world is worthy of respect irrespective of their class or status.  He was truly a man of simple living and high thinking.  On Dec 30, 1971 Vikram Sarabhai passed away at Kovalam,of a sudden heart attack, on one of his visits to Thumba. One of the greatest scientists of modern India was no more, and yet the legacy he left behind- ISRO, IIM, and the chain of institutions all over India, would ensure he would never be forgotten.
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Khudiram Bose

May 2, 1908

The railway station at Muzaffarpur was crowded to see the boy. He was just 18, but looked so determined. The boy walked to the waiting police van, took his seat and loudly cried out “Vande Mataram”. There was no fear in his eyes, just a calm sense of fortitude, as if he was fully prepared for his fate. He knew he would be hanging from the noose soon and yet he had accepted it stoically.

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The young lad was none other than Khudiram Bose, one of the youngest martyrs in the struggle for freedom, born on December 3, 1889 in a small village, Habibpur near Midnapore. His father Trailokyanath Basu was the revenue agent for Nadazol province, and Khudiram was the 4th son in a family of 3 daughters.  As he was the only son, two others dying in infancy, his mother Lakshmipriya Devi, as per the prevailing custom, symbolically sold him to her eldest daughter Apurupa for 3 handfuls of “Khud” or foodgrain.  This in a way gave him his name, and he was later bought up by his eldest sister, after his parents passed away when he was just 6 years old.  He was admitted to the Hamilton High School in Tamluk by his brother in law Amritalal Roy.

Even before reaching adolescence, Khudiram had the reputation of being a dare devil rebel.  The speeches of Aurobindo and Bhagini Nivedita, in 1902 and 1903, when they  visited Midnapore, fired him up with a burning desire to join the revolutionary activities, when he was just 12. When his brother in law was transferred to Midnapore, he enrolled at the Medinipur Collegiate School, and that proved to be a turning point in his life.  He became part of the akhara that was active in socio political sphere, and earned every one’s appreciation for his enthusiasm, adventorus spirit. He was also inspired by his teacher Satyendranath Bose, as well as the teachings of the Gita. At just 15 years he became a volunteer distributing pamphlets against British rule, and at 16 he took part in setting up bombs, targetting Government officials. Angered by  Lord Curzon’s decision to partition Bengal in 1905, he was one of the many who got caught up in the revolutionary fervor and joined the Jugantar.

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Douglas Kingsford, the chief Magistrate of  Alipore’s Presidency court, was the one who ruthlessly targeted Jugantar Patrika, had overseen the trial of it’s editor and sent him to prison. The editor of Jugantar Patrika, Bhupendranath Datta was none other than the youngest brother of Swami Vivekananda, and a close associate of  Aurobindo and Barindra Ghosh. The arrests made Jugantar Patrika much more defiant and it struck back with more stinging editorials against the British Raj.  Jugantar became widely popular and also helped to spread the Anushilan Samiti’s ideology of revolutionary nationalism, especially among the youth in Bengal. Kingsford earned more ire, when he ordered a young revolutionary Sushil Sen to be flogged in public.  He now became the target of the revolutionaries.  In the meantime one of Barindra Ghosh’s associates Hem Chandra Kanungo, had learnt about bomb making from the Russian revolutionary Nicholas Safranski in Paris, and he returned back to assist the other rebels.

The first attempt was made on Kingsford was through a book bomb that Hemchandra had made, packed into a section of Herbert Broom’s book Commentaries on Law ironically.  However he narrowly managed to escape the attempt, and was transferred to Muzaffarpur by March 1908, to keep him out of danger. However the Anushilan Samiti, tracked him to Muzaffarpur, sending a two man reconnaisance team, that included another revolutionary Prafulla Chaki.  Hemchandra once again provided a larger bomb, with 6 oz of dynamite, and this time Khudiram Bose accompanied Prafulla to Muzaffarpur.

Attempt on Kingsford

By now the police suspicious of the Anushilan Samiti  activities, began to track their movements, and the Kolkata police alerted the SP of Muzaffarpur. Four men were assigned to guard Kingsford’s home, while Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki, taking up the aliases of Haren Sarkar and Dinesh Chandra Roy, took residence in a dharamshala in Muzaffarpur run by Kishorimohan Bandopadhyaya.  After closely tracking the movements of Kingsford, over the next couple of days, they were ready to execute their plans, and choose the evening of April 29. They began to survey the park opposite the British club in Muzaffarpur where Kingsford was a regular visitor, and were promptly noticed by a constable. However they managed to evade the police and intelligence officials for over 2 weeks.

April 30, 1908, 8:30 PM

Kingsford finished his bridge game at the club, and left in a horse drawn carriage. However in another identical carriage, the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, a leading lawyer of Muzaffarpur had left earlier. And both Prafulla, Khudiram mistook this one to be that of Kingsford’s.  As the carriage neared the home of Kingsford, they ran towards it and threw the bombs.  It was a terrible explosion destroying the carriage, and leaving both mother and daughter with severe injuries to which they succumbed later in in the hospital.

By now the entire town was agog with the news of the attack, and the police were on full alert.  Khudiram made his escape through the countryside on foot, and after walking non stop for 40 km, he reached a station called Waini on May 1, 1908 morning, exhausted and tired.  His appearance immediately alerted two constables Fateh Singh and Sheo Pershad Singh,  and when he asked for some water, he was caught. The frail Khudiram had no chance against the two burly constables, and his struggle to escape was in vain. 37 rounds of ammunition, a railway map, Rs 30 in cash was found, his fate was sealed.

Meanwhile Prafulla Chaki after trudging around the countryside,  was totally exhausted that too in the peak of summer.  A Government official Trigunacharan Ghosh, noticing him totally exhausted, suspected he was the same one involved in the Muzaffarpur incident.  He however took pity on him, took him home, gave him some food and clothes, a bath and arranged for his safe return to Kolkata. However destiny played a cruel trick here, in the same compartment in which he was travelling, a SI, Nandalal Banerjee was also travelling, in normal clothes. Suspecting him of involvement in the Muzaffarpur incident, he struck up a conversation with him, and got out the details from Prafulla, who was unaware of his identity.  He immediately sent a telegram to Muzaffarpur police station to arrest him. When Prafulla was about to disembark at Mokamghat station to change to Howrah, he saw Nandalal along with a group of police ought to arrest him.  Realizing he had been led into a trap, and had no chance to fight them, he attempted to escape from the platform, and when cornered, shot himself than surrender to the British.

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May 1, 1908- The handcuffed Khudiram Bose was bought to Muzaffarpur, where the entire town turned up to see him.  He was taken to the house of the DM, Mr.Woodman, and not knowing that Prafulla was dead, took the entire responsbility of the operation upon himself, to protect his fellow conspirators.

The trial began on May 21, 1908 where Khudiram was tried along with two others, Mrityunjay Chakraborty and Kishorimohan Bandhopadhyaya, who had accomodated them in Muzzafarpur. Two fellow Indians, Nathuni Prasad and Janak Prasad, were appointed as members of the jury, while Corndoff was the Judge.  While Mannuk and Binodbihari Majumdar were the prosecutors, eminent lawyers like Kalidas Basu, Upendranath Sen and Kshetranath Bandopadhyay  took up Khudiram’s defense. They were joined later by other lawyers like Kulkamal Sen, Nagendra Lal Lahiri and Satischandra Chakraborty,  not one of them took up any fees. All these lawyers stood up for Khudiram Bose, and the nation.

Khudiram  was forced to sign a statement to the magistrate E.W. Bredhowd, denying any involvement or responsibility in the attack, on the advice of his lawyers. However just on June 13, an anonymous letter that one more bomb attack was due and this time it would be the Biharis who will carry out the plan.  And this influenced the Judge to pronounce the death sentence on Khudiram. All the efforts of his lawyers to save him, were in vain. Khudiram just smiled in response, leaving the Judge astounded, who asked him if he knew what it meant.  When the judge asked him if he had anything else to say, Khudiram just smiled back, saying he wished he could have taught him the art of bomb making.

Though Khudiram, was prepared for his death sentence, his defense lawyers persuaded him to file an appeal to commute it to life imprisonment. The High Court hearing once again took place on July 8, and this time it was Narendra Kumar Basu who came to Khudiram’s defense. By now he had become a hero for the entire country, and the trial fired up the nation. Narendra challenged the verdict on the following grounds, as per Article 164 of IPC, the accused had to submit his statement in front of a first class magistrate which Woodman was not.  He also pointed out that the accused was not questioned in his native language, Bengali, which was a violation of Art 364. Finally he contended that since Prafulla Chaki was the actual bomb thrower, and the one who committed suicide,  Khudiram was only an accomplice, and hence his sentence could be commuted.

Sadly on 13th July, 1908, inspite of Narendra Kumar’s best efforts, the Judges conferred the death penalty on Khudiram Bose.  Even a request to the Governor General was turned down, and his hanging was confirmed for August 11, 1908. Kolkata erupted in protest, especially the students and youth taking to the streets, against the hanging. Predictably Mahatma Gandhi did not approve of Khudiram Bose’s act, stating such violent methods are of no use.

August 11, 1908, 6 AM. Crowds swelled around the prison to have a last glimpse of Khudiram Bose, his close associate Upendranath Sen, a lawyer and journalist,  was at the front, to make all the funeral arrangements.  Khudiram walked to the gallows with a smile on his face, and as the noose fell around his neck, one more brave hero, had given up his life for the sake of India’s independence.

Neither the Jubilee murder of 1897, nor the reported tampering of the Sikh regiments had produced so much commotion, and the English public opinion seems inclined to regard birth of the bomb in India at the most extraordinary event since the mutiny at 1857.- Kesari.

 

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Operation Gibraltar

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( This article was originally published by me here Operation Gibraltar  at Offprint)
August 5, 1965- Darra Kassi, near Gulmarg

A young Gujjar lad  Mohammed Din, tending to his flock of cattle is approached by two strange looking men , and offered money for information on the deployment of Indian troops. The boy immediately reported the matter to the local police station at Tanmarg, following which an Army patrol was despatched and seven infiltrators were killed. There was a similar encounter at Galuthi in the Mendhar sector, and 3 days later on August 8, two POK officers were captured at Narian. As the Indian Army officers began to interrogate the captured POK officers, astounding facts started to come out, about massive infiltration going on in the Valley. 

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 OPERATION GIBRALTAR

The code name for the operation, that involved settling large number of infiltrators in the Kashmir valley and fomenting a large scale insurgency against the Indian state.  The operation was so named, as the 8th century Ummayad conquest of Hispania began from that British Overseas Territory located at the Southern most end of Spain.

 Background

India had suffered a humiliating rout in the 1962 War against China, and was still coming to terms with it. Jawaharlal Nehru had passed away, the new incumbent Lal Bahadur Shastri was still yet to be tested. In the meanwhile Pakistan, signed a border agreement with China in 1963, where it handed the Shaksgam Valley to make the alliance stronger. Pakistan felt that with India in a demoralized state following the 1962 rout, it was the best time to launch an attack. The Indian Army was still rebuilding post 1962, it was not militarily as well equipped as the Pakistani Army was, then supported by the US. The Indian and Pakistani forces had earlier clashed in the Rann of Kutch during February.

Pakistan felt emboldened following it’s clash in Rann of Kutch, with India, that gave it a strategic advantage of sorts. The Indian Army struck back during May 1965 capturing three important posts in Kargil sector, and forcing a ceasefire of sorts on July 1, 1965. The Pakistani forces under estimated the capablity of the Indian Army, and began to work on a master plan to liberate Kashmir from what it considered Indian occupation.
 

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Field Marshal Ayub Khan was the mastermind behind this plan to liberate Kashmir and he put Gen Akhtar Mallik in charge of this operation. Inspite of Chief of Army Staff Musa and a few senior Army officers disapproving of the plan, Ayub Khan went ahead with it. The key here was the backing given by Z.A.Bhutto, then foreign minister in the Pakistan Govt.  Bhutto and most senior officers felt that India was not really in a position to sustain a long conflict, and this indeed was the right time to strike.
 

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The plan was to create large scale disturbances in Kashmir by sending around 80,000 Pakisntani soldiers and irregulars or the “mujahideen”  as they were called.  In the words of Akhtar Mallik, the aim was to defreeze the Kashmir problem, weaken Indian resolve, and bring India to the conference table without provoking general war. The entire operation was planned in  phases. In Phase 1, it was planned to launch raids on selected targets, creating shock and panic, cause chaos, and foment an uprising. Once the civil uprising was ignited, the second phase was to merge this with the actual military infiltration.  It would be a war for India on two fronts, one with the Pakistan Army and another with the local populace, absolutely hard to win for even the most professional army in the world.

The plan was to make the Indian Army get bogged down in Kashmir, creating a Vietnam like scenario, which would force the world to notice, the UN to rush in and bring India to the negotiating table. The preparation for this started around May 17, 1965 itself, with Akhtar Mallik adopting an all-out aggressive approach. The fact though is the Pakistani Army vastly overestimated itself and  underestimated the Indian military capability.

Preparation

The infiltration was to be done through 10 task forces, each assigned for a particular sector in the Valley.  These units were named after well known Muslim rulers, Salahaddin, Babur, Ghazni, Khilji,  and they were as follows.

  • Salahaddin-Sringar Valley
  • Ghaznavi-Mendhar-Rajauri
  • Tarig- Kargil-Drass
  • Babur- Nowshehra
  • Qasim- Bandipura
  • Khalid- Naugam
  • Nusrat- Tangdhar
  • Sikandar- Gurais
  • Khilji- Minimarg
These units were primarily made up of officers and men from POK, for better command and control. Almost 70% of the force was made up of Razakars living in POK,mostly civilians living close to the border. Each task force had 5-6 units under it, and commanded by a Pakistani Army major. Each company was commanded by a Pakistani Army Captain and comprised of JCOs, Razakars, personell from POK battalions, and it’s strength was around 120.

The units were armed on a large scale, with a huge amount of rifles, Sten carbines, LMGs, while some of the companies had 2-3″ mortars too. The personell were all asked to dress in the traditional green mazari shirt, salwar along with jungle boots to avoid suspicion. They were also given fake ID cards, Indian currency to make purchases, rations to last enough for the operation.

During the 2nd week of July, all the Force commanders assembled at Murree, where Ayub Khan addressed them. Akhtar Mallik addressed the forces on August 1, 1965, where he exhorted them to do their best, stating this was the best chance to liberate Kashmir. The plan was to ensure the infiltrators mingled with the locals, incite them to revolt. In the meanwhile Pakistan Army would launch a series of guerilla attacks to destroy bridges, tunnels that would cut off communications, target airfields as well as logistic installations. All the areas targeted were in the Valley, and that too along the LOC.

However with the Indian Army getting prior intelligence, the much touted operation ended up in a major fiasco. The major factor was that the infiltrators received no support from the locals, except in Mandi, Narian and Budhil. Also they were thinly spread across to actually achieve any meaningful outcome. On August 13, the infiltrators managed to attack a Kumaon military base at Naugam, killing the Commanding officer, however the situation was quickly retrieved. The Indian Army set up a separate HQ for dealing with the infiltration, Maj Gen Umrao Singh was put in charge of the operations, while 19 Infantry Division moved back to Baramulla to plan for offensive operations. In the meanwhile 17 Punjab, captured critical posts at Kargil on Aug 14, however the military post at Dewa was destroyed by shelling, killing most of the men in charge there including the Brigade Commander.

On August 17, the Chief of Army Staff Gen J.N.Chaudhuri, Western Comand in Charge Lt. Gen Harbaksh Singh met in Jammu, to chalk out a plan of further action. By August 21, Lt.Gen Kashmir Singh Katoch, GOC 15 Corps, assesed that six columns were operating in Jammu and Kashmir, and soon it was decided to go on an all out offensive against them. Lt.Gen Harbaksh Singh, decided that apart from eliminating the infiltrators it was necessary to capture the Haji Pir pass to counter it. He directed the 15 Corps to take Hajipir into control. The capture of Haji Pir, Kishanganga Bulge and Kargil, meant that India had a firm control now, and the infiltrators could not really break in. The Pakistani plans had been foiled, Akhtar had to postpone his much vaunted Operation Grand Slam to September 1, but by then Indian Army had fully secured the Kashmir Valley, and most of the infiltrators were killed, and all the routes choked off.

Operation Gibraltar was the biggest challenge India faced after 1962, and considering it was in a rebuilding mode, the way it countered it, should rank as one of the great miitary victories. The credit due to Lt.Gen Harbaksh Singh, who read the situation correctly, and ensured Haji Pir Pass was captured that made all the difference.

Source – http://www.indiastrategic.in/topstories4041_Operation_Gibraltar_was_Fundamentally_Flawed.htm

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Sadashiv Rao Bhau

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Quite often history judges some people rather harshly for their one big failure.  These people have had great stellar achievements to their credit, but the one big failure, in their life, ensures that either they are forgotten in ignominy or judged harshly. When one looks at the history of the Maratha Empire, two people who have been judged harshly, one is Sambhaji and the other one has been Sadashiv Rao Bhau.  Sambhaji had to live up to his father’s glorious legacy, and that can often be a trying task. It did not help, that his own wayward ways, rash behavior led historians to judge him as a wayward son. But then this was the same man, who stood steadfast in the protection of Dharma, even when he was brutally tortured to death.  Bhau is more remembered for the disastrous rout at Panipat, where he was the commander in chief. And for good reasons, his arrogant attitude, poor strategies, played a major role in the rout. But it was under Bhau, that the Maratha Empire expanded further, as he consolidated on the gains of Baji Rao 1’s conquests, and the same with the Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao, who actually built up Pune, took the empire to it’s zenith, and yet Panipat left him not just broken hearted, but ensured, he would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Sadashiv Rao Bhau was born near Pune on August 4, 1730, into an illustrious legacy,  his father Chimaji Appa, had secured the entire Western coast from Portuguese,  and spread the Maratha empire all over the Konkan. His uncle, was none other than the legendary Baji Rao 1, one of the greatest heroes of the Maratha empire, who expanded it all the way up to the Khyber.   Having lost his parents at an early age, Bhau grew up in the care of his aunt Kashibai, who treated him like her own son. He was tutored by Ramchandra Shenvi, one of the shrewdest political brains among the Marathas then. So as can be seen, he had a solid grounding right from the start.

When Babuji Naik and Fateh Singh Bhonsle, failed in the task to capture Karnataka, it was Bhau who took it up.  Leaving Pune on December 5 with Mahadoba Purandare and Sakharam Bapu, at just 16 years of age, he embarked on his mission. Ajra, south of Kolhapur was where Bhau had his first major victory, defeating the Nawab of Savnur, capturing fort of Bahadur Bhenda. Chauth was levied and around 36 Parganas became a part of the empire.  That started the victory march for Bhau,  as city after city in Northern Karnataka fell, Kittur, Gokak, Bagalkot, Badami, Basavapatna, Navalgund, all overran by him. Yamaji Shivdev’s revolt was crushed, and soon he became the Diwan of the Peshwa, Balaji Baji Rao his own cousin. The Nizam of Hyderabad was decisively routed in the Battle of Udgir in 1760 by Bhau, and had to surrender Ahmadnagar, Daulatabad, Bijapur to him. By now Bhau was the master of the Deccan, having overran both Karnataka as well as routing the Nizam.

Just when he was lording over the Deccan, the news of Ahmed Shah Abdali’s arrival reached the Marathas. Dattaji Scindia was killed at the Battle of Burari Ghat, and with Abdali on the way to Delhi, in alliance with the Nawabs of Avadh, Rohillkhand as well as the Rajput rulers of Jodhpur and Amber, a major crisis was on hand.  Recalled from Udgir to Partur, Bhau was choosen by the Peshwa to  lead the Maratha campaign in the North against the Afghans, a decision that turned out to be rather hasty.  While Bhau was pretty much at home in the Deccan, the North was not really a familiar territory to him, especially the politics there. And this proved to be a major disadvantage, as he failed to get the powerful Rajput, Jat, Sikh chieftains on his side. While Bhau was a brilliant warrior, he was not the best of strategists,  and negotiation, was not exactly his forte. Matter of fact he was disastrous as a strategist, nothing better to explain his act of carrying 100,000 civilians, including family members and pilgrims wanting to visit the temples in North on a military campaign.  It was a totally disastrous tactic, as they became a burden on the army, who had to take care of the logistics as well as supplies for them.

Also Bhau adopted new tactics of infantry and artillery, as against the traditional Maratha reliance on hit and run tactics, which he felt would not work in an open plains warfare like in the North. However some like Holkar were not ready to accept Bhau’s tactics of using artillery and infantry, as they felt the army was not adequately trained. He neverthless went ahead, in spite of objections, and formed an artillery of 10,000. Though Holkar and Scindia tried to get the Rajput rulers, the Jat chieftain Suraj Mal and the Sikhs on the Maratha side, it did not work out.  The Maratha tendency to interfere in the succession battles of the Rajput rulers did not go down well with the latter, as also their collection of tribute.  In the meantime Holkar and Scindia persuaded Bhau to strike an alliance with Suraj Mal, who did join, inspite of the fact that he had no love lost for the Marathas. However Bhau’s rather overbearing nature, meant that the Jats did not give full fledged support, while some of the Rajput rulers, openly sided with Abdali.  The Jat rulers controlled the food supplies around Delhi, and Bhau’s attitude towards them would cost them really bad at Panipat. He also rejected the offer of Sikhs to aid him against the Afghans and that meant he lost one of the most vital support ever. Again another disastrous tactic,  as the Sikhs were battle hardened when it came to the Afghans, they knew their strategies well, Bhau missed out on a great opportunity here.

Bhau took Delhi with a strong artillery attack in 1760, driving out Durrani from there, however they got no support from the local chieftains in and around there. He advanced further north, and the fort of Kunjipura near Karnal was taken in a blitzkrieg attack, using artillery and infantry.  Durrani was forced to flee from Kunjipura, as his entire garrison was massacred by the Marathas.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Marathas over the Afghans at Kunjipura, some of Abdali’s best generals were killed. Once again presence of a large number of civilians in the Maratha contingent meant the supplies at Kunjipura were exhausted fast.

Exasperated by the loss, Ahmed Shah Abdali himself entered the fray, making a daring cross across the Yamuna at Baghpat.  The Marathas however managed to block Abdali’s return route back to Afghanistan, and soon there was a fierce skirmish at Sonepat. Though the Afghans lost 1000 men, they managed to drive the Marathas back, and completely cut off their supply lines. By Nov 1760, Durrani cut off the Maratha’s access to Delhi, and they were now trapped from all ends. Besieged in Panipat, the Afghans, managed to cut off all food supplies to the Marathas, who were now trapped at all ends. Finally with his soldiers morale running out, and starvation rampant, Sadashiv Rao Bhau had no option but to call for war.

Jan 14, 1761 on Makar Sankranti, the 3rd Battle of Panipat, as the Marathas and Afghans clashed in one of the most decisive battles ever. Till 2 PM, the Marathas actually managed to break the Afghan forces, Bhau himself leading a spirited attack.  So fierce was the assault of the Marathas led by Bhau, that the Afghans ran from the battle field.Just when the Marathas seemed to be gaining the upper hand, Vishwas Rao, the Peshwa’s son was hit by a stray bullet, and that was the turning point.Taking advantage of Vishwasrao’s death, Durrani attacked the Marathas, with 10,000 troops, totally encircling them. Bhau along with Ibrahim Khan Gardi and Jankoji Scindia was surrounded by the Afghans, while Holkar fled from the battlefield.

Bhau along with Ibrahim Khan Gardi put up a spirited fight against the Afghans, however Vishwas Rao’s death demoralized the Marathas.  When he saw his nephew Vishwas Rao dead Bhau dismounted from elephant and plunged straight into the battle.However the Marathas seeing the empty howdah thought Bhau too had fallen and were demoralized further now. He fought to the last, even though he knew it was a losing cause, before he finally fell like a hero on the battle field.  One of the greatest Maratha heroes, Sadashivrao Bhau, perished on the field of Panipat, fighting till the last. He in many ways revolutionized the Maratha army, bought in artillery and infantry, moved away from their traditional hit and run tactics.  It was Bhau who bought in Ibrahim Khan Gardi, who played a vital role in the artillery segment, and fell fighting on Panipat along with him. He also bought in European mercenaries, employed the latest artillery, in a way modernized the Maratha Army. He might be judged harshly by historians, but he lived, fought and died like a true hero on Panipat.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Marathas, Peshwas | 1 Comment

P.C.Ray

This article was originally published by me at Offprint here.

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It says in the Upanishads that the Supreme One wanted to be many. The urge for self-dispersal is at the root of this creation. It was through this kind of creative urge that Prafulla Chandra became many in the minds of his pupils by diffusing and thereby reactivating himself in many younger minds. But this would hardly have been possible unless he had the capacity to give himself away fully to others – Rabindranath Tagore

When the annals of modern Indian science are written, the name of Prafulla Chandra Ray will be one of those in golden letters. The father of modern Indian Chemistry, the first Indian to set up a pharma company, and a pioneer of modern chemical industries in India. But Ray was more than just a mere chemist, he worked actively in the fields of education reforms, employment generation, political advancement too. He was a social reformer, fought against casteism, advocated the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction.  He was elected as President of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, for his contribution to Bengali language. A man of simplicity who had no worldly possesions, lived in a single room all his life at the University College of Science in Kolkata. His only possessions were books, of which he was a voracious reader. He read anything he could get his hands on from science to philosophy to history to classics, and was a polyglot to boot.

 While a student at Edinburgh I found to my regret that every civilized country including Japan was adding to the world’s stock of knowledge but that unhappy India was lagging behind. I dreamt a dream that, God willing, a time would come when she too would contribute her quota. Half-a-century has since then rolled by. My dream I have now the gratification of finding fairly materialized. A new era has evidently dawned upon India. Her sons have taken kindly to the zealous pursuit of different branches of science. May the torch thus kindled burn with greater brilliance from generation to generation.

The multifacted genius was born on August 2, 1861 in a small village in the district of Jessore, now located in Bangladesh. He belonged to a rather well off zamindari family, his father Harish Chandra Ray, was a man of fine tastes, a good violin player too, as was his mother Bhubanmohini Devi. For his rather liberal views, however his father was branded as a Mlechha by the more orthodox villagers. P.C. Ray grew up in what has often been called the best of times, the decade between 1860-69, an era that gave us Swami Vivekananda, Tagore, Madan Mohan Malviya, Lala Lajpat Rai among others.  In 1870, his father shifted to Kolkata, a new world for Prafulla, a new phase in his life.Along with his elder brother Nalinikanta, he was admitted to the Hare School, one of the more prominent English medium schools in Kolkata then. Prafulla and his brother were ridiculed by classmates, for coming from Jessore, in those days, East Bangal was considered to be a rather backward place. Add to it a sudden attack of dysentery meant he had to leave school, and face an interruption in his studies too. However Prafulla made good use of the rest period by reading English classics and famous works in Bengali literature. And also learnt Greek and Latin too. After he recovered Ray resumed his studies, in 1874 at Albert School of Keshab Chandra Sen, and later took admission in the FA class of Metropolitan College, founded by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasgar. With his father’s financial condition in not a very good shape, Prafulla aong with his brother lived in lodges to save money.

It was at Metropolitan, that Ray would come into contact with Sir Surendranath Banerjee, regarded as the father of Indian nationalism, who was working as an English lecturer there. Later in his autobiography, Ray would state, that apart from the low fees, another reason for him joining Metropolitan(now Vidyasagar College) was Surendranath Banerjee, who at that time was an idol of sorts to most students in Kolkata. Having a keen interest in Chemistry, Prafulla performed experiments outside college with his friends too, setting up a mini lab in his lodging. Soon Ray would realize his father’s dream of studying abroad, when got the  Gilchrist scholarship from Edinburgh University, one of the only two persons who got this from India. For some one ridiculed by his classmates for not knowing English, he had mastered four languages that was needed for this.

In mid 1882, Ray left for England, where he was received by Jagdish Chandra Bose, who was then a student at Cambridge. Bose and Ray would later become pretty good friends for life. At the University of Edinburgh, Ray was taught by Alexander Crum Brown.  In an essay competition announced by the University on India Before and After the Mutiny, Ray criticized the British rule, for which he was not given the prize.

 The English people has yet to be roused to an adequate sense of importance of events which are now taking place in India. Thoughts and ideas which pervade the upper strata of society, are now percolating through the lower; even the masses are now beginning to be moved and influenced. The latter element, it would no longer do to treat as une quantite negligeable. England unfortunately now refuses to recognize the hard and irrestible logic of facts and does her best to strangle and smother the nascent aspiration of a rising nationality .

Ray distributed copies of his essay to fellow students, the general public and also to John Bright, their finest parliamentarian. Bright acknowledged and also agreed with the points raised by Ray in his essay. In 1885, he got his BSc and later in 1887 his DSc from University of Edinburgh for his work on ” Conjugated (gepaarte) Sulphates of the Copper-magnesium Group: A Study of Isomorphous Mixtures and Molecular Combinations “.  He also got the Hope Prize Scholarship that would enable him to stay for one more year and was also elected as Vice President of the Chemical Society.Ray returned back to India in 1888, as he wanted to pursue his research and share the knowledge with others too. Science in India was at it’s infancy, and there really were not much career prospects in Chemistry either. Only the Presidency College in Kolkata was offering a proper course in Chemistry, with practical studies. The existing private colleges were too few in number and did not have the sufficient resources either for practical studies. It was clearly not adequate to cope up with the major advances made in chemistry in the last half of the 19th century. Also all the opportunities were available only for Britishers, even those Indians in the Civil Service received far less pay. Some one like Jagadish Chandra Bose, was allowed entry into the Higher Services, on the condition that he would not be paid as per the grades. There was a rising uproar against this exclusion of Indians from higher services and the discriminatory attitude adopted. The British under Lord Dufferin came up with a patch work solution of creating two services Imperial for the British and Provincial for the Indians, and even then the pay in latter was far less.

Even though Ray had a letter of reccomendation from his teacher Crum Brown, and assurance from Sir Charles Bernard, Member of Indian Council, all he could manage to get was a temporary appointment as Asst Professor of Chemistry at Presidency. Even though the salary much lower, Ray accepted it, and worked in Presidency till 1916, where he retired as Head of Department for Chemistry.

After Presidency, Ray joined at the University College of Science in Kolkata, which is where he would go on to do his best work. He had already got an earlier invite in 1912 from Prof Ashutosh Mukherjee, the VC of Kolkata University to join. Ray joined as the first University Professor of Chemistry, and by this time it was equipped with some excellent laboratory equipment too. In many ways Ray was a staunch nationalist too, primarily on account of the discrimination he had faced at every stage. Though he could not directly take part in the freedom movement, he gave all his support to the Indian National Congress during the Non Cooperation Movement. Most of the top Congress leaders including Lalaji, Mahatma Gandhi were regularly in touch with him. He had a particularly close association with Gandhiji and Gokhale, and invited the former to Kolkata.  He would often say “Science can wait, Swaraj cannot”.

In his career, Ray published about 120 research papers in journals of international repute.  He conducted a systematic chemical analysis of rare Indian minerals, hoping to discover some of them as the missing elements in Mendeleev’s Periodic Table. He isolated mercurous nitrite in 1896, that bought him international recognition too. Another notable contribution made by him was synthesis of ammonium nitrite in it’s purest form. Till then it was believed that  (NH4NO2 ) usually underwent rapid decomposition into Nitrogen and Water. William Ramsay was greatly impressed by Ray’s findings while W.E.Armstrong called him the “founder of Indian school of Chemistry”.

 Ray’s real contribution to the development of chemical research in India rests not so much on his own personal research publication as on his inspiring and initiating a generation of young workers, who, dedicating themselves to a scientific career succeeded in building up what is now known as the Indian School of Chemistry-Priaydranjan Ray

In 1902, Ray published the first volume of his celebrated work The History of Hindu Chemistry, and the second volume in 1908.  The motivation for writing this book, was the great French chemist, Marcellin Pierre Eugene Berthelot , who wanted to know the contribution of Hindus to the field of chemistry.  Ray wrote his work based on the Rasendra Samagraha, an ancient work on Chemistry. Ray’s two volume series details the history of Chemistry in India, from the ancient times to the medieval period, somewhere around mid 16th century. Renowned international journals like Nature, Knowledge praised the book highly.

In 1892, Ray had started his Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works, more popularly called as Bengal Chemical, to create jobs for the youth. Working at a stretch, during odd hours, Ray threw himself completely into the project. His aim was to create the tonics in India, at a much lesser price than what would have to be paid for importing them. Using the latest laboratory equipment, and professional management, Ray soon built up Bengal Chemical into a limited company with it’s own capital.

Hailing from a rural area himself, Ray was always concerned about the life of the people there. He would visit the huts of poor farmers, distribute stocks of food to them in times of distress. When the Bengal famine broke out in 1922, and the British were indifferent, Ray stepped forward and appealed for help from fellow Indians. In one just one month, he managed to raise three lakh rupees for aid, women gladly gave him their jewelry, hundreds of young men volunteered to go and work in the villages on his call. Such was the appeal of P.C.Ray among masses that a European remarked “Had Gandhiji two more such Rays with him, Swaraj would have come faster”.

Ray wrote extensively on a wide variety of subjects in both English and Bengali. His Simple Zoology in 1893, is considered one of the best books on the subject. He frequently contributed in many periodicals like Basumati, Anandabazar Patrika, Manashi etc. Being a single person, Ray gave away most of his earnings in charity. He founded an annual prize in Chemistry, named after the great Buddhist alchemist Nagarjuna for a sum of Rs 10,000.  He also instituted another prize for research in zoology which he named after Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee. And donated around 1.8 lakh to the University of Kolkata, for extension of Chemistry Department. And while he founded Bengal Chemicals he did not accept any salary from it, he donated all the profts for the benefit of the workers.

On June 16, 1942, Ray passed away in his single room, in University of Kolkata, surrounded by friends, admirers and students. While a pure science enthusiast, Ray always sought the application of science for practical benefits. Living a spartan life, all alone, he was a true Karma Yogi, who gave his all to the cause of Indian science.

 “I have no sense of success on any large scale in things achieved…but have the sense of having worked and having found happiness in doing so. “

Posted in Great Indians, Science in India | Leave a comment

Punya Tithi of Swami Vivekananda

svd14th of July, 1902

The day America was celebrating it’s Independence Day. It was the day a great soul would pass away into Mahasamadhi. Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power who crammed immense labor and achievement into his short life. He obtained Mahasamadhi at 9:10pm at the age of 39 years and 5 months. fulfilling his own prophecy “I shall not live to be 40 years old”.

Just 3 days before his Mahasamadhi, Swami pointed out to his disciple Swami Premananda, a particular spot on Belur Math grounds where he wished his body to be cremated and  said “A great tapasya and meditation has come upon me, and I am making ready for death.”

Next day, Wednesday, he observed Ekadashi. After fasting, Swamiji had some fruits and vegetables, he poured water over hands & dried them with a towel. When his disciples protested he said ‘Jesus washed the feet of his disciples’, someone checked the answer & muttered ‘But that was the last time’… his words were left unuttered.

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On the supreme day, Friday, Swamiji spent 3 hrs in formal meditation. Later he whispered, ‘If there were another Vivekananda, then he would have understood what this Vivekananda has done! And yet how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!’ Swamiji asked his disciple Suddhananda to read a passage from the Yajurveda with the commentary of a well-known expositor. The Swami said that he did not agree with the commentator and exhorted the disciple to give a new interpretation of the Vedic texts.

He had his lunch with members of Math though he usually ate alone due to his illness. Then he taught Sanskrit grammer to the bramhacharis for 3 hrs. Later he walked for 2 miles with Swami Premamnanda within the Math grounds, discussing about a Vedic College setup in the Matha.On being asked ‘Why a Vedic college’, Swamiji replied “to kill superstition”.

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On his return Swamiji enquired about each member of the Math, discussed with them on the Rise & Fall of Nations.

‘India is immortal, if she persists in her search for God, but if she goes in for politics & social conflict, she will die’, he said.

At 7 pm he went to his room & asked his attendant he was not to be disturbed. After an hour of Dhyana & Japa, he called his disciples to open all windows & fan his head. He laid down quietly. an hour later his hands trembled a little and he breathed heavily twice in a couple of minutes. His eyes became fixed in the centre of his eyebrows and with a divine expression the eternal silence fell.

‘There was,’ said a brother disciple of the Swamiji, ‘a little blood in his nostrils, about his mouth, and in his eyes.’ According to the Yoga scriptures, the life-breath of an illumined yogi passes out through the opening on the top of the head, causing the blood to flow in the nostrils and the mouth. The brother disciples thought that he might have fallen into samadhi, and chanted the Master’s name to bring back his consciousness. But he remained on his back motionless.The doctors were sent for & after a thorough examination the doctor opined ‘life was only suspended’ and artificial respiration was tried. At midnight he was pronounced dead by apoplexy or sudden failure of the heart.

The moment was there that had been foretold by his Master from the beginning. at 9:10pm on the wings of that meditation, his spirit soared whence there could be no return, and the body was left, like a folded vestiture, on the earth. This is the Nirvikalpa Samadhi that his guru Ramakrishna Paramahansa told him about… “This is your mango, Look! I lock it in my box. You shall taste it once more, when your work in finished.” and he waited for he knew that his time was near for he said this.

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For centuries to come people everywhere will be inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s message,’O man! first realize that you are one with Brahman- aham Brahmasmi & then realize that the whole universe is verily the same Brahman — Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.’

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bengal, Bengal Renaissance, Swami Vivekananda, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dheeran Chinnamalai

 

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The Polygar Wars

While 1857 is often regarded as the first large scale revolt against British rule, there were many localized revolts that broke out. And one of them was the Polygar Wars down South between March 1799 to July 1805.  This was one of the bloodiest revolts ever faced by the British, fought primarily in Tamil Nadu, the Malabar region. And contrary to what most historians claim, the British did not have an easy run, the Polygar Wars were the most serious and bloodiest  challenge to their hegemony. The 6 long years, saw a large number of losses on the British side and they had to taste defeat in many a battle. And the major players in the Polygar Wars actually challenged and outwitted the British, head to head. In most cases, it took some cunning and treachery to capture and execute these warriors.

The Polygars or Palegars or Palayakarrars as they were called, were primarily small time chieftains, who rose to prominence during the Vijayanagara Empire. Renowned for their fighting capabilities, the Polygars were the sword arm of the Vijayanagara Rayas, and most had their own private armies, that did duty during major battles. Also the Polygars were well acquainted with the latest artillery, and were trained by the French, in the end most were done in by betrayal of fellow chieftains.  Some of the legends of the Polygar Wars included Veera Pandya Kattaboman and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.

One such great warrior was Dheeran Chinnamalai,  born as Theerthagiri on April 17, 1756, at Melyapalam in Erode district, to Rathina Swamy and Periyaatha. He had an elder brother Kulandhaisamy and three younger brothers-Thambi, Kilothar and Kuttisamy and Parvatham, his younger sister.

His grandfather Kottravel Sarkkarai Mandraadiaar was one of the larger land owners, and his father looked after their lands in Melyapalam. While Kulandhaisamy and Kuttisamy, were involved in farming, Theerthagiri along with Thambi and Kilothar took care of administration and safety of the villages under their jurisdiction. Along with his brothers he  was well trained in the martial arts, archery, horse riding.  They also took part in village panchayats, and learnt how to settle family and land disputes.

The Kongu region, then was part of the Mysore kingdom under Hyder Ali, during the later half of the 18th century.  The diwan Muhammad Ali who was in charge of tax collection, followed rather unfair practices, sometimes even grabbing lands. Theerthagiri and his brother confronted Muhammad Ali between Sennimalai and Shivanmalai, and recovered the taxes he had forcibly collected. A furious Muhammad Ali, threatened them that Kongu being under Hyder Ali, the consequences would be severe. Theerthagiri shot back, saying Kongu would not accept Hyder’s rule, and it was capable of governing itself.  And this was when he got the name of  Chinnamalai, when it’s believed he stated to the Diwan- “I am Chinnamalai who reigns between Sennimalia and Shivanmalai”.

Hyder Ali, as expected struck back, sending an army to Kongu to attack Chinnamalai.  However Chinnamali, routed Hyder’s army on the banks of the Noyyal river. This only enraged Muhammad Ali even more, and vowed to wreak vengenance. Knowing Ali’s intentions, Chinnamalai himself began to build up his army. However Hyder was more preoccupied with the Nizam, British and Marathas, with whom he was in constant conflict, and so that attack never took place.

When Tipu Sultan took over in 1782, he adopted an even  more aggressive policy towards the British.  And in order to fight against the British, he requested the Tamils of Kongu, to help him out. Dheeran and his brothers responded to that, as also their trusted commanders, Velappan and Karuppan. Chinnamalai himself was the commander of the Kongu regiment in the Mysore Army, and took active part in the 3rd and 4th Mysore Wars.  However with the death of Tipu in 1799, Chinnamalai returned to Kongu along with Karuppan. Velappan however was captured by the British and he later became their agent.  Chinnamalai, had the benefit of receiving French training during his stint with Tipu Sultan.

On his return to Kongu, Chinnamalai built a fortress at Odaanillai and settled there along with his army, waiting for the right time to strike.  He also reached out to the rulers of Malabar and Salem, hoping for a larger alliance against the British.  Recognizing that Chinnamalai was a grave danger, the British tried to get him to sign a pact, where he was promised favors in return for accepting their sovereignity. He however refused to sign the pact, fully knowing it would result in war.

Chinnamalai’s defiance annoyed the British, a man with no title, technically not a ruler, yet refusing to accept their sovereignity, this when most of the Rajahs had surrendered to them.  In 1801, they sent a troop of soldiers under Colonel Maxwell, however Chinnamalai having got advance news of the attack,  defeated the British on the banks of the Noyyal. Maxwell returned again in 1802, and a long siege of Odaanillai fort, ended in total defeat for the British, and Maxwell himself was beheaded.

The British though furious, waited for the right opportunity and they got it in 1804, when during a particular day, Chinnamalai and his entire army would be attending the Arasalur Amman temple festivities. They felt this was the best chance and sent an army to capture Odaanilai under General Harris, who had led the campaigns in Mysore.  Chinnamalai however got the news, and stayed back at the fort, with his contingent, while some went to the temple. Harris was taken by surprise when he attacked the fort, and Chinnamalai stormed out, throwing hand grenades, forcing Harris to retreat.

The British were now more determined than ever, and built up a huge army to take down Chinnamalai, with men from Kallikudi and cannons from Madras. With 140 cannons and 30,000 men,  Harris attacked Odaanilai, and surrounded the fort, demanding Chinnamalai to surrender. However, they found that the fort was abandoned, and also found a note from Velappan, whom they had captured. The fact is Velappan was acting as a double agent, for Chinnamalai, while on the British side.  Harris executed Velappan, and also razed the fort to the ground using cannons.

Chinnamalai and his brothers now lived in exile, at a place called Karumalai near Palani, often using disguises to venture into the towns. One of the persons they would often meet was Nallappan a cook, who gave them refuge and food too. It was this very Nallappan who would betray them to the British, informing them of the whereabouts. And on one night when Chinnamalai and his brothers were having dinner, Nallapan signalled the British, who stormed the house from all sides.

An enraged Chinnamalai strangled Nallapan, to death before the British captured him, his brothers and their commander Karuppan. He was taken to the Sangagiri fort, and a 4 person tribunal demanded that he pay taxes, accept the British sovereignity. With Chinnamalai refusing to do so, he was sentenced to death.  And on July 31, 1805, Dheeran Chinnamalai, his brothers and Karuppan were all hanged to death at Sangagiri fort. Another brave son of India, gave up his life fighting the British.

Posted in Polygar Wars, Tamil Nadu | Leave a comment