Veeramangai stands for Brave Woman in Tamil and Rani denotes the Queen. Every year 3rd of January is held in honor to commemorate the birth of Rani Velu Nachiyar, the first female ruler to take up arms against the British troops; even before the great Jhansi Rani.
She also holds another fabulous distinction, of being one of the few princely states to have successfully defeated the British to regain her kingdom and go on to rule it for over a decade.
Velu Nachiyar was the only child to the King of Ramnad kingdom – Mannar (King) Chellamuthu Sethupathy and his wife Rani Sakandhimuthal; born on 3rd of January 1730. As she was the only child with no other male heir to the throne, even at a very early age she took training in use of weapons, horse riding, martial arts (silambam – use of sticks and valari – fighting with bare hands) and archery.
Apart from this she was also scholar in many languages such as Tamil, English, Urdu and French.
She married the Mannar of Sivagangai, Muthuvaduganathar at the age of sixteen and gave birth to a girl child, Vellacci, who would eventually become the heir upon the death of Rani Velu Nachiyar.
Post marriage Rani was leading a rather calm life by being at the backdrop of the kingdom’s affairs. In the year 1772, the English troop under the command of Lt. Col. Bojour took help from the traitorous Nawab of Arcot and invaded the Sivagangai Kingdom. Her husband was killed in the battle, which pulled Rani into her undeniable fate that will make her an immortal legend.
Rani’s close associates, Thandavarayan Pillai and Marudu Brothers, sustained injuries in the battle and took vows to defeat the British and recapture Sivagangai.
Thandavarayan Pillai, who served as Military chief and Prime Minister in three rules of the Sivagangai kingdom, advised Rani Velu Nachiyar to shift base to confuse the British and build an army to attack them.
Through his mediation, Rani Velu Nachiyar met up with Hyder Ali, Sultan of Mysore, to garner infantry and cavalry support to fight the British. With her fluent Urdu, she instantly struck a chord with Sultan Hyder Ali, who was impressed seeing her resolve to fight and agreed to provide her the military support sought.
Sultan Hyder Ali deputed Syed Karki to join forces with Rani Velu Nachiyar and immediately released 5000 infantry and cavalry forces respectively. Her now able troop marched towards Sivagangai under the leardership of Maruthu Brothers to take the British head on.
It was in 1780 that first of its kind suicide attack was conducted by kuyili, one of the loyal associates of Rani Velu Nachiyar. Through sophisticated intelligence gathering of those days, Rani Velu Nachiyar figured out the British ammunition warehouse and Kuyili was sent doused in oil & set afire to destroy the storage.
Rani Velu Nachiyar also employed another suicide agent, her adopted daughter Udayaal, to detonate British arsenal by blowing herself up. Later when Rani formed an All-women army, it was honored by naming after Udayaal.
The Rani and her forces crushed all attempts of Nawab of Arcot and entered Sivagangai. The Nawab was finally defeated in a dramatic and humiliating fashion – only to be traded later in exchange for Rani’s kingdom. With the loyal support of Maruthu Pandiyar brothers and Syed Karki, Rani regained her kingdom from British (1st successful recapture in Indian Independence struggle history) and was crowned again as the Queen!
When Kings or Rulers invoked loyalty and fear among their citizens, Rani Velu Nachiyar commanded the same with nothing but adulation of the love she exhibited for her pupils and admiration of her bravery.
Rani Velu Nachiyar ruled Sivagangai for 10 years, until her death when the throne was passed on to her daughter Vellacci.