On February 2, 1790, Veerapandiyan, thirty, became the king of Panchalankurichi. The Nawab of Arcot who had borrowed huge sums of money from the East India Company gave them the right to collect taxes and levies from the southern region in lieu of the money he had borrowed. The East India Company took advantage of the situation and plundered all the wealth of the people in the name of tax collection. All the ‘poligars’ paid taxes except Veerapandiyan.
Kattabomman refused to pay his dues and for a long time refused to meet Jackson the Collector of the East India Company. Finally, he met Jackson at ‘Ramalinga Vilasam’, the palace of Sethupathi of Ramanathapuram. The meeting ended in a skirmish in which the Deputy Commandant of the Company’s forces, Clarke was slain. Kattabomman and his men fought their way to freedom and safety, but Thanapathi Pillai, Kattabomman’s secretary was taken prisoner.
The Commission of Enquiry that went into the incident fixed the blame on Jackson and relieved him of his post, thinking the Company’s plan to take over the entire country gradually could be marred by Jackson’s fight with Veerapandiya Kattabomman. The new Collector of Tirunelveli wrote to Kattabomman calling him for a meeting on 16th March, 1799. Kattabomman wrote back citing the extreme drought conditions for the delay in the payment of dues and also demanded that all that was robbed off him at Ramanathapuram be restored to him. The Collector wanted the ruling house of Sethupathis to prevent Kattabomman from aligning himself with the enemies of the Company and decided to attack Kattabomman.
Kattabomman refused to meet the Collector and a fight broke out. Under Major Bannerman, the army stood at all the four entrances of Panchalankurichi’s fort. At the southern end, Lieutenant Collins was on the attack. When the fort’s southern doors opened, he was killed by Kattabomman’s warriors.
After suffering heavy losses, the English decided to wait for reinforcements from Palayamkottai. Sensing that his fort could not survive a barrage from heavy cannons, Kattabomman left the fort that night.
A price was set on Kattabomman’s head. Thanapathi Pillai and 16 others were taken prisoners. Thanapathi Pillai was executed and his head perched on a bamboo pole was displayed at Panchalankurichi. Veerapandiya Kattabomman stayed at Kolarpatti at Rajagopala Naicker’s house where the forces surrounded the house.
Kattabomman and his aides fled from there and took refuge in the Thirukalambur forests close to Pudukkottai. Bannerman ordered the ruler of Pudukkottai to arrest Kattabomman. Accordingly, Kattabomman was captured and on October 16, 1799 the case was taken up (nearly three weeks after his arrest near Pudukkottai). After a summary trial, Kattabomman was hanged unceremoniously on a tamarind tree. The fort of Panchalankurichi was razed to the ground and all of Kattabomman’s wealth was looted by the English soldiers.
A fort constructed by the Tamil Nadu Government at Panchalankurichi in 1972 stands as a monument to this great hero from the south who played a pivotal role in the freedom movement of our country