Saga of Fight for Independence!
Chapter 5: Velu Nachiyar loved Kuyili like a daughter for a reason! Her love for her queen and her country!
Queen Velu Nachiyar from Tamil Nadu was a valiant warrior who fought the oppressors much before Lakshmi Bai. However, her achievements are not documented much and still many do not know about this brave queen. Well, given that, it is not surprising that the story of Kuyili, commander in Velu Nachiyar’ Army also remains unknown. Kuyili was known as the first suicide bomber in the history of India’s battle for freedom.
Velu Nachiyar and Kuyili
Kuyili and Velu Nachiyar shared a special bond. Kuyili has saved Queen’s life on various occasions. Kuyili once discovered that her own Silambam( a weapon-based martial arts) teacher was a spy working against the Queen. She immediately ended his life. In another instance, Queen was once attacked during her sleep but Kuyili rescued her and ended up injuring herself. Velu Nachiyar immediately tore a piece of her saree and tied it around the wound as a bandage. After this, Kuyili was appointed as Queens’s personal bodyguard.
When the British tried to coerce Kuyili into revealing Velu Nachiyar’s plans, she refused. As a result of which they attacked her community by committing various atrocities on Dalits. To aid Kuyili’s resistance, Velu Nachiyaar made her the Commander-in-Chief of the women’s army.
With the support of neighbouring kings like Gopala Nayaker and Hyder Ali, Velu Nachiyar built a women regiment which was part of her army. The women were well-trained and known for their bravery and discipline. Though her armies had won a few battles, they faced a lot of difficulties due to the advanced weapons used by the British army.
This is when Kuyili formulated her strategy. She wanted to destroy the ammunitions the enemies had. She gathered information about only women being allowed into the The Sivagangai kottai (fort). As it was the 10th day of Navaratri, only women across the kingdom were allowed inside in order to celebrate the Vijayadasimi festival which was celebrated in the temple of Rajarajeswari Amman. The ammunitions were stored in the temple and Kuyili took use of this golden opportunity and planned a surprise attack on the British. Having hidden the weapons inside the flower and the fruit-baskets, the women entered the fort and on the Queen’s cue, attacked the British.
The British army,taken by surprise, were forced into a battle they were unprepared for. Kuyili, who had already made note of the location of the storage area where the weapons were kept, formulated another plan. She made use of the chaotic surroundings and made her comrades pour ghee and oil all over her that were kept for the burning of the lamps. She then went inside the storage area and set herself on fire. She destroyed all the weapons and left the British army completely vulnerable. Her bravery and brilliance allowed Velu Nachiyar to not only win the battle, but also reclaim her fort and her kingdom.
Early History of Kuyili
Kuyili belonged to the scheduled caste of Arunthathiyar and she was born to Periyamuthan and Raku, who worked in the fields. Her mother Raku, who was well-known for her bravery, died in an attempt to save the fields from being destroyed by a wild bull. Devastated, Periyamuthan then moved near Sivagangai with Kuyili, where he worked as a cobbler.
According to sources he raised Kuyili by telling her the many courageous acts of her mother, which inspired her. He was soon employed as a spy for Velu Nachiyar, who was then in hiding. He also fought alongside his daughter and the Queen during the war.
The nature of Periyamuthan’s profession brought Kuyili and Velu Nachiyar close together. Kuyili and her father were unrestrictedly allowed access to Velu Nachiyar at all times, which is when Kuyili found a special place in the heart of the exiled Queen.
Kuyili is fondly addressed by some as Veerthalapathy which means brave commander or Veeramangai which means brave woman.
Government of Tamil Nadu, after almost a decade of promising to do so, finally commemorated a memorial to glorify the bravery of Kuyili. This is located in the Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu.
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