Political History of The Region
Political activities influence every aspect of human development. Social, economic, cultural, linguistic, educational and other major areas of life are very much the result of the vision of those who rule the country and a particular region. North Arcot district has witnessed under various dynasties many historical events. To mention a few that in some way or the other, have contributed gradually to the life of the people and the history of the district.
Early Dynasties : The Pallavas, Cholas and sambuvarayas
The Pallavas of 9th century did have some political influence in this area. We have no record of early Pallavas, but the later ones. Vishnugopalan to Abbaranjidan, dated from 885-903 AD. Udayendiram, a village near Vaniyambadi, thickly populated by Catholic Christians takes its name after udayachandran, another pallava ruler. Pallava region ended in 899 AD.
The history of the Chola (8th – 13th centuries) begins from the last years of Pallava’s rule in the North Arcot district. Stone inscriptions of Visalyan (850-871) and Paranthangan confirm the rule of Cholas in the district. Pallikonda, Sozhavaram, Virinjipuram, Poigai and Madanur Vellore are the places where we find stone inscriptions that throw light on the development achieved by these kings. Sambuvaraya kings (1236-67) were petty rulers under Chola kings. Sengenimindan, Klothungan and Edirili Cholan, Sambuvarayan were important kings on this dynasty. Tiruvalam, Poigai, Virinjipuram, Puthur, Athiyur and Kanjipuram (now capital of Chingelpet district) of the present Vellore district were under these kings.
Later Dynasties : A Political Sketch
The Oisalar dynasty in 14th Century ruled Thiruvannamalai and its surroundings. Vallalan was an important king who won the battle of Thiruvannamalai in 1341 against Udaji. Vijayanagara dynasty ruled Raya Vellore and South Arcot between 1520-1652. Tamil culture and Hinduism were revived under Vijayanagara kings. Sivaji of Marathiar dynasty in 17th century had extended his kingdom when he ruled Ginji, Vellore and Thanjavoor. Towards the end of the 18th century, under Aurengazeeb the last king of the Mughal dynasty, this region saw little development. Battles that lasted for years and cunningness of Mughal kings combined, multiplied killings, robberies, and unrest become daily routine.
Robert Clive captured Arcot Fort in 1751, thus ushering in the British rule in the North Arcot District. The Nawabs lost their importance and the British established their rule successfully from this period. In 1760 the French were defeated at Wandiwash (Vandavasi) by the British and this was the major turning point not only to the British but also to the whole future political history of India.
Political Landmarks of North Arcot
Many historical events took place in this district. Battles due to linguistic and religious conflicts from early Sultans to Tippu Sultan took place in this district between 1646-1799. Hyderali, the one who fought against foreign rule died in this district. The battle of Wandiwash between the British and French established decisively the British rule in India. The year 1806 is politically very noteworthy in the history of India.
The British attacked Sivagangai in 1772. The Marudu Pandia brothers fought against the British and took refuge under Hyderali at Dindugal. In 1780 the British returned Sivagangai to Velunatchiyar. The Arcot Nawab and the king of Pudukkottai supported the British and planned to destroy Tamil people and the progress of Mardupandiars. On 10th, June 1801, the Marudupandiars organized the Tamil kings and began to protest against the British rule in India. This move appeared as Tiruci Chutantira Arikkai (Tirchy Independence Charter). This episode was a strong background for the Vellore Soldiers Mutiny.
In 1806 at Vellore fort, the Indian soldiers were forced to wear new turban, caps and boots made of leather. The soldiers were forbidden to wear earings and use Tirunir (holy ash) on their forehead. This infuriated the Indian soldiers who revolted against the British regime. The British handled the situation through brutal military methods. There were more casualties on the side of the Indians than that of the British. This Vellore soldier’s mutiny of 1806 was a pioneering one, and this first revolt foreshadowed the great military mutiny 1857, which took place at Meerut. An important element in the revolt of 1857 was the Hindu-Muslim unity against the British.
Irrespective of religious barrier there was a complete co-ordination among the people and their leaders. All the rebels recognized Bahadur Shah, a Muslim as their emperor. The Hindu and Muslim soldiers respected each of other’s sentiments. Leadership was mutually represented. A senior British official, later complained: “In this instance we could not play off the Mohammedans against Hindus”.
Right from the beginning of the 19th century a positive climate for freedom against foreign rule was felt all over India. The episode of Marudupandiars of Sivagangai in 1801, the soldiers' revolt at the Vellore fort in 1806 and the military mutiny of 1857 was preceded by a number of local rebellions. These were caused by the dissatisfaction of farmers over excessive taxes; disappointment of artisans and the handicrafts men who lost their identity due to the development of modern industries introduced by the British; the suppression of traditional landed aristocracy; and the rumours about the Government’s secret designs to promote conversions to Christianity. This was why the revolt of 1857 was called the ‘Coalition Revolt’ of the Cipay (Soldiers) and that of the civil population. The religious sentiments of the soldiers were wounded enormously as there was report of the mixing of bone dust in Atta and the introduction of Enfield rifle cartridges that had to be bitten off before loading and the grease was reportedly made of beef and pig fat.
In continuance of the military mutiny of 1857, two great political foundations came into existence, namely, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. The former represented the freedom struggle of the masses, and the latter constantly discouraged Muslims from taking active part in the affairs of the Congress.
Indian National Congress was founded in December 1885 by seventy-two political workers. It was the first organized expression of Indian Nationalism on an all-India scale. A.O. Hume, a retired English ICS Officer played an important role in its foundation. A concrete shape and setting to the communal theory was set up under the leadership of Aga Khan, Nawab Salimullah of Dacca and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk. From the beginning its interest was different from the rest of the nation.
As North Arcot district and its old capital Vellore played a vital role in the nationalistic movement for freedom, many leaders from various other parts of Tamilnadu came out openly to express their feelings of freedom and Swaraj. "Veerapandia Kattabomman" refused to pay tax to the white. V.O. Chidambaram of Tuticorin burnt foreign clothes in 1922 and joined Tilak in Singing ‘Swarajyam is my birth right’. Satyamurthy protested against senior delegation in 1927. Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari took part in the Salt Satyagragam at Vedaranyam in 1930. Namakal Kavignar Ramlingam sang Kattiyinri Rattaminri in 1932 when a dhoby was beaten to death at a clash near a liquor shop in Madurai. Maha Kavi Bharathiar (1882-1992) composed songs on freedom, ran a daily called Svatesa Mitran. The earlier Tamil dramas and the Tamil films, which came into the fore from 1931, aroused in the people of Tamilnadu a desire for self-government, Vocalists and musicians like K.P. Sundarambal, Madurai Rajam, Lakshme, T.M. Soundararajan and M.S. Viswanathan through their songs enkindled the desire for independence among the masses. K. Kamaraj (former chief minister of Tamilnadu after Rajaji) took active part in freedom movement with Mahatma Gandhi.
After the foundation of the Indian National Congress, there was united effort everywhere to protest against the British regime. L. Thyagarajan in his research work had found out that in twelve years (1920-32) there was more number of participants in the freedom movement from North Arcot district than from other districts.
In 1800, the British with the help of the Arcot Nawab established political, stability in the Carnatic region. It was just six years after, in 1806, that the Vellore mutiny took place. As a result of this event, the British brought about administrative, military and revenue readjustments. As a consequence, all revolts in the south against British rule were silenced. Due to this the major mutiny took place in 1857 at Meerut, soldiers from Norht Arcot were supportive to the British as a sign of gratitude for the care they received after Vellore mutiny. The effect of 1857 mutiny on Vellore militia was thus negligible.
Between 1904-1905 under Ganapathy Sastriar, The North Arcot Congress unit was started. In 15 years its branches were established at Thiruvannamalai, Chengam, Polur, Arni, Cheyyar, Wandiwash, Arcot, Vellore, Ranipet, Tirupattur, Gudiyatham and Vaniyambadi. Leaders from here co-operated with Annie Besant in her Home Rule (1916-18) Movement. This gesture brought unity between Hindus and Muslims who made public speeches together. Rajaji was kept in Vellore jail for six years when he protested against the arrival of Prince of Wales. Those who were brought to Vellore jail in connection with protests made against foreign rule, resorted to hunger strikes. In short, people from all walks of life took a zealous part in the freedom struggle to show their spirit of solidarity. Khilafat movement, which was supported by Gandhi and Hindus was started by Muslims in protest against the verdict after Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.