The Khanderi fort tells tale of two individuals predominantly, one, of the valour of Kanhoji Angre the undefeated Maratha and Rama Komathi’s sacrifice.
“Rama Kamothi, a Brahmin, resident Bombay, is found guilty of betraying the East India Company and aiding the enemy Kanhoji Angre”
The trial which took place in 1720 before a Tribunal presided over by Governor Charles Boone, with among others, Laurence Parker, the Chief Justice, as a member of the Tribunal, convicted and sentenced Rama Komathi to imprisonment for life with confiscation of all his property.
It was not uncommon in British rule to confisticate someone’s property when convicted but Rama Komathi was no ordinary man, he was the rich, man of great wealth and influence even in the British government.
It was 1720, the Bombay islands were gufted off as the Wedding gift on the occasion of the marriage of Portuguese Princess to the Prince of England. East India Company had sent it’s forces to capture the islands to establish their rule.
In the same time lived a wealthy Brahmin merchant Rama Komathi, who had a well settled business and a vast coconut plantation in Bombay. The seize of islands by British, affected him the most and he was waiting for a chance to revolt aganist the unethical capture if Islands.
Around 300 years back, this man who was wealthiest in the region gave up all his wealth and even his conforatble,happy life for the sake of freeing the land from British! But our history never paid attention to his sacrifice.
Even today, a Google search on his name would reveal a story of misunderstanding which led to a false accusation and trial, which ended up in imprisonment if Rama Komathi but nothing of his service to the nation and his fight aganist the British. How many of such stories have got lost in the History pages!!
A writer from Karnataka in his book ‘From Delhi to Tambdi Surla’ records true history of Rama Komathi, which is spoken by the locals in high regard even today.
Who was Rama Komathi?what was his background?
The court compelx on the Mumbai fort area once owned by Rama Komathi! But none of the today’s generation even in Mumbai know of his sacrifice.
Rama Komathi was had a blooming merchantile relationship with the Portuguese. At the same time he had a cordial relation with Cheif of the Maratha Navy, Kanhoji Angre.
When East India Company took over Bombay and began controlling the local business, Rama Komathi came in their radar because of his relation with Kanhoji Angre.
He was subjected to different types of dishonour and punishments from the British for the same reason.
In December 1717, East India company employee Gowardhan Das was in the ship name ‘Success’ which was captured by the Kanhoji Angre in the middle of the sea. The Company put up a negotiation with Kanhoji. When Rama Komathi heard of this, he wrote to Kanhoji Angre stating that, there is no need to negotiate with the British on a property that doesn’t belong to them.
In December 1918, a war broke out between Kanhoji and the British. Rama Komathi writes to Kanhoji to beware of the possible attack on the Khanderi islands. In the same month, Portuguese also extended their support to the British with the weapons and man power to conquer Kanhoji Angre. The letter which carried this message was intercepted by Rama Komathi and he delivered this message to Kanhoji in secrecy.
He also detailed a plan to Kanhoji on how and when to attack the British forces stationed at Bombay.
British had least idea of this and they appointed Rama Komathi as the Chief of Indian soldiers appointed at British army. British wanted to exploit the wealth Rama ji had.
Hence they placed a restriction on Rama ji as to not indulge in business with anyone else than the company. But Rama Komathi continued his trade relations with Kanhoji in secrecy.
In December 1719, Rama ji liquidated all his property and moved the same to Thane. He was aware that company would one day get hold of his wealth, and trial him for his contact with Kanhoji but they had no proof of it whatsoever.
The people who were jealous of Rama ji and his influence hatched a plan, and forged a letter in his name and handed it over to the British.
British accused him of tracheary and confisticate all his wealth and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The warehouse which British confisticated was worth 6000 rupees, the plantation of his was worth 37,989 rupees, the warehouse near the Custom house was worth 2,750 rupees. 300 years back it was a huge amount of wealth.
It gives clear idea that Rama ji was one of the richest of his time. And he sacrificed all this to establish realtionship with Kanhoji and to drive British out of Bombay.
His history gets limited to the trial he faced and the outcome.
The letter seized by the British turned out to be fake. But it was too late Rama ji was in imprisonment and he had passed away. The government then tried to cover up the matter by offering the compensation to his son. But there too British played their wicked game and paid a petty amount as compensation.
As for his real history, it goes unrecorded and despite the attempts of the British and Portuguese to subdue Angre, he remained undefeated until his death.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth