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Chinnamalai, a lesser-known freedom fighter of Kongu soil

Karthik Madhavan



The forgotten hero: It was on Aadi 18, that freedom fighter Dheeran Chinnamalai was hanged to death by British East India Company in 1805.

ERODE: Tamil calendar Aadi 18, which is August 2, 2008, marks the 203rd anniversary of the hanging of a lesser-known freedom fighter Dheeran Chinnamalai. According to historian Pulavar S. Raju, Dheeran Chinnamalai was the first freedom fighter in history to make freedom struggle a people’s movement. In the run up to his attack on British East India Company’s fort in Coimbatore in 1800, Chinnamalai tried taking the help of Maruthu brothers from Sivaganga and a Maratha chieftain in Mysore. He also forged alliances with Gopal Naicker of Virupatchi; Appachi Gounder of Paramathi,Velur; Joni Jon Khan of Attur, Salem; Kumara Vellai of Perundurai and Varanavasi of Erode in fighting the Company. The plan was to attack the fort on June 3, 1800. Pulavar Raju says Chinnamalai drew the plan to keep up the momentum in the fight against the Company after Kattabomman’s and Tippu’s death in 1798 and 1799 respectively.

Chinnamalai’s plans did not succeed as the Company has stopped reinforcements from Maruthu brothers and the Maratha chieftain. Also, Chinnamalai changed his plans and attacked the fort a day earlier. This led to the Company army executing 49 people. Chinnamalai, however escaped.From 1800 to until he was hanged on July 31, 1805, Chinnamalai continued to fight against the Company. The historian says he mostly adopted guerrilla warfare against the Company.Three of his fights are important: the 1801 battle on Cauvery banks, the 1802 fight in Odanilai and the 1804 battle in Arachalur. The last and the final one was in 1805. During the fight, Chinnamalai’s cook Nallappan betrayed him by disclosing his location to Company sepoys, who hanged him to death in Sivagiri fort. Pulavar Raju says his was the first fight against the British involving people.

He wants Chinnamalai’s contributions made part of national history.

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