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Panchalankurichi is a small but historic village, 3 km from Ottapidaram and 18 km from Thoothukudi in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, India. Panchalankurichi was once a Palayam and is best known as the birthplace of Veerapandiya Kattabomman, an 18th-century Palayakarrar ('Polygar'), who opposed the British colonial rule in India and their Tax collecting methods.
Panchalamkurichi (often spelled Panjalamkurichi), in the Kovilpatti taluk of Tuticorin, is traditionally recognized as one of the 72 palayams of Madura. The name is a reference to the stand taken against the Nayaks of Madura by the Pancha (or Panchala, meaning the doab) Pandyas, local chieftains tributary to the Pandyas, at a nearby kurichi or valley in the central area of Tirunelveli.
According to tradition, Ketti [“Clever”] Pommu, who founded the Katabomman line of chiefs at Panchalamkurichi, served under the Pandyas and gained from them the possession of that territory.” “Each of the later Polygar was … called Kattaboma Nayaka, this name being the family title.” Under Polygar Jagavira Pandiya Kattabomman (ob. 1791), the father of the celebrated Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Panchalamkurichi was the leader of the Eastern Bloc of Nayak polegars.
Continuing maladministration by Amir ul-Umara, Muhammad Ali’s son and commander in the southern Carnatic led many polegars to stop paying tribute once again (1775). The Nayak polygar of Panchalamkurichi and the Marava polegar of Sivagiri led the opposition to the Nawab, and the stalemate continued until the outbreak of the Second Mysore War in 1780. Hyder Ali invaded the Carnatic, took Madura and restored the kingdom of Madura under a Nayak prince. Polegar Kattabomman proclaimed his allegiance to the new Madurai king and supported Polygar Varaguna of Sivagiri. On the capture of Panjalam Kurichi in 1783, the original of a treaty between the Dutch Government of Colombo and Kattabomman Nayaka was found in his fort and also various other military stores which were clearly beyond the capacity of any Indian power to collect.” Sivagiri and Panchalamkurichi submitted to the British, paid tribute, and posted bonds for the restoration of their forts (1783). The 1792 treaty between the Nawab and the Company empowered the Company to collect tribute (peshkash) from the polegars and thus to exercise power over them in the name of the Nawab. The tribute it required the polegars to pay bore little relationship to their actual resources and soon the treaty proved to be unenforceable. In 1795, the governor of Madras submitted a proposal to the Nawab, asking that the Company be authorized to reorganize the palayam system.
Coalition and Revolution
Alarmed, the Eastern Polegars, led by Kattabomman, formed a coalition that included the polegars of Nagalapuram, Kadalgudi, Melmandai, Kulathur, and Elayirampannai, and in 1797 joined the insurrection that had just broken out in Ramnad. Other polegars --including those of Mannarkottai and Kollarpatti-- joined in the revolt. But all the Maravas in the western parts of the district, held aloof. The polegar of Sivgiri, whose lands had been taken over by a looting rebel army, repeatedly appealed to the Collector for help. As the Western Polegars closed ranks against their Eastern counterparts, ven the Puli Thevar of Nerkattumseval seceded from the rank of the rebels.
Death of Kattabomman
Finally, after the fall of Sringapatam and the death of Tippu Sultan in 1799, Company forces led by Major J. Bannerman and assisted by the Tondaiman of Pudukkottai and the polegars of Ettayapuram and Sivagiri were free to move against the rebellious chiefs. In the First Polegar War of 1799, Panchalamkurichi was taken, Kattabomman hanged, and the estates of his allies confiscated and their forts destroyed.
Influence of Nationalist Struggle
Nationalist historians have put forward the ideal image of Kattabomman as “the first patriot”, the organizer of the first struggle of the Indian freedom movement, sixty years before the Mutiny. In 1801, another rebellion broke out led by Kattabomman’s brothers Sevatiah and Umai. The rebels made themselves strong in Tirulneveli, where they reoccupied Panjamlamkurichi and rebuilt the forts that had been destroyed two years earlier. The polegars joined hand with the Marudu brothers in Sivaganga (q.v.) and soon virtually the whole of the Carnatic was up in arms again. The military campaign that put down the revolt is known as the Second Polegar War. Panchalamkurichi fell again, this time after a most stubborn resistance, and the leaders of the revolt were hanged (the Marudu brothers, Kattabomman’s brothers) or deported. “The fort of Panjalam Kurichi was razed to the ground, the site was ‘ploughed over and sown with castor seed’ and even the name of the place was expunged from all registers of the district.” The Panchalamkuricihi palayam, which in 1799 had contained 104 villages, was split between the polegars of Ettaiyapuram and Maniyachi “in recognition of the good services rendered by these two chieftains during the rebellion.” “The present  representative of the family … receives a small pension from Government and is entertained in most places by the members of his caste with the honours generally shown to a zamindar. … His adherents speak of him as a ‘zamindar’ and his residence as aranmanai, pay for his visitations and take their disputes to him for decision.”