Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

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Paying tribute to India’s freedom fighters

Velu Nachiyar

Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu

November 11, 2021 to December 31, 2021

Born in Ramnathpuram in 1730, Velu Nachiyar was the first queen to have ever actively opposed the British rule. She fought against the colonial rulers many years before the Sepoy Mutiny. In collaboration with Hyder Ali and Gopala Nayaker, she waged a war against the British and emerged victorious. Eventually, she went on to produce the first human bomb as well as establish the first army of trained women soldiers in the late 1700s.

Nachiyar was trained in many methods of combat, including war match weapons usage, martial arts like Valari, Silambam, horse riding, and archery. She was a scholar in many languages and was proficient in languages like French, English, and Urdu. At the time of the death of her husband, King of Sivagangai, she was drawn into the conflict. She escaped the battlefield with her daughter.

During this period, she formed an army and sought an alliance with Hyder Ali with the aim of launching a campaign against the East India Company in 1780. When Velu Nachiyar found the place where the Company stored some of their ammunition, she arranged a suicide attack on the location, blowing it up. Nachiyar reinherited the kingdom of her husband and ruled it for ten more years. In 1790, the throne was inherited by her daughter Vellacci. She granted powers to her daughter to the Marudu brothers to help with the administration of the kingdom in 1780. Velu Nachiyar died a few years later, on 25 December 1796.