Vignettes from Tamizh History

(Contributions to the TCP history page is open to young readers as well as seasoned historians)


Author: Aditya (School student)

Raja Raja Chola II succeeded his father Kulothunga Chola II to the Chola throne in 1150. He was made his heir apparent and coregent in 1146 and so the inscriptions of  Rajaraja II count his reign from 1146. Rajaraja’s reign began to show signs of the coming end of the great dynasty. The extent of the Chola territories remained as it were during Rajaraja’s predecessors and the Vengi country was still firmly under the Chola rule.

The Chola central administration did show weaknesses with regard to their control and effective administration over the outlying parts of the empire, which became pronounced towards the end of Raja Raja-II’s reign. However, Raja Raja-II regained adequate control of provinces like Vengi, Kalinga, Pandya and Chera territories. He probably even invaded Sri Lanka as is explained in one of the Tamil poems written during his time.


Author: Aditya
The Nayak dynasties emerged in South India after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire. The Nayaks, former military governors of the Vijayanagar emperors, had declared their independence in 1565 and established their own kingdoms, ruling from the 16th to 18th century. Nayak rule was noted for its administrative reforms, its artistic and cultural achievements, and the creation of a unique style of temple architecture. They also renovated temples that had been sacked by the Delhi Sultans. Tanjore painting, a famous South Indian school of classical painting, also emerged under the Nayaks.


The main characteristics of Nayak temple architecture as pioneered by the Nayaks of Madurai and Tanjore are the long corridors; the carved hundred-pillared and thousand-pillared mandapas (outdoor temple halls or porches); and the high, multi-storied gopurams (towers adorning the entrance of a temple), richly decorated with brightly-painted stone and stucco statues of animals, gods, and demons .


Tanjore painting, a major form of classical South Indian painting, originated under the Nayaks of Tanjore around 1600 AD. Renowned for their surface richness, vivid colors, and compact composition, these paintings serve primarily as devotional icons. Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints are the most frequent subjects.

Tanjore paintings are usually done on solid wooden planks. The artist began by making a preliminary sketch of the image on a base of cloth pasted onto the wood and applied a mixture of zinc oxide and adhesive to the base. After the drawing was completed, the jewelry and apparel on the image were decorated with semi-precious stones, lace, or thread. They applied a mixture of chalk powder and African gum for an embossed look, and the painting was covered with gold foil and finished with dyes to color the figures.

In Tanjore paintings, the figures are static and located in the center of the composition inside decorated arches or curtains. Eyes are broad and the outer lines are either brown or red, except for the god Krishna who’s eyes are depicted in blue.

Artists under Nayak rule also painted frescoes on the walls of buildings, usually temples, mostly featuring religious subjects or images of royal power .


Author: Aditya
Veerapandiya Kattabomman was born to Jagaveera Kattabomman and Arumugattammal on January 3, 1760. He had two younger brothers Dalavai Kumarasami and Duraisingam. Veerapandiyan was fondly called ‘Karuthaiah’ (the black prince) and Dalavai Kumarasami was nicknamed ‘Sevathaiah’ (the white prince) and since Duraisingam was a good orator he was nicknamed ‘Oomaithurai’ meaning the dumb (speech impaired) Prince. The name could be attributed as VEERAM in Tamil means Bravery and Veerajakkadevi a Hindu God worshiped by his family.


The Nayak rule in Madurai which controlled the entire West Tamil Nadu after two centuries came to an abrupt end in 1736 when Chanda Sahib of Arcot seized the Madurai throne from the last queen of Madurai in an act of treason. Chanda Sahib was later killed after the Carnatic Wars and the territory came under the Nawab of Arcot. The Palaya-karrars of the old Madurai country refused to recognize the new Muslim rulers driving the Nawab of Arcot to bankruptcy, who also indulged in lavishes like building palaces before sustaining his authority in the region.
Finally the Nawab resorted to borrowing huge sums from the British East India Company, erupting as a scandal in the British Parliament. The Nawab of Arcot finally gave the British the right to collect taxes and levies from the southern region in lieu of the money he had borrowed. The East India Company took advantage of the situation and plundered all the wealth of the people in the name of tax collection. They even leased the country in 1750’s to a savage warrior Muhammed Yusuf Khan (alias Marutha Nayagam), who defeated and killed many of the Polygars and later got himself killed by the Arcot – British forces.
Many of the Polygars submitted, with the exception of Katta-bomman and a few others who formed an alliance with the Maruthu Brothers of Sivagangai.


Kattabomman refused to meet the Collector and a fight broke out. Under Major Bannerman, the army stood at all the four entrances of Panchalankurichi’s fort. At the southern end, Lieutenant Collins was on the attack. When the fort’s southern doors opened, Kattabomman and his forces audaciously attacked the corps stationed at the back of his fort, and slew their commander Lt. Collins.
The British after suffering heavy losses, decided to wait for reinforcements and heavy artillery from Palayamkottai. Sensing that his fort could not survive a barrage from heavy cannons, Kattabomman left the fort that night.
A price was set on Kattabomman’s head. Thanapathi Pillai and 16 others were taken prisoners. Thanapathi Pillai was executed and his head perched on a bamboo pole was displayed at Panchalankurichi to demoralise the fighters. Soundra Pandian Nayak, another rebel leader, was brutally done to death by having his head dashed against a village wall.