Queen Velu Nachiyar from Tamil Nadu was a valiant warrior who fought the oppressors much before Lakshmi Bai. But, many do not know about her achievements. She was the first ruler in the Indian history to wage a war against the British colonisers in 1780, much before the First War of Independence took place.
But, the strategy that helped her win was devised and played out by Kuyili, her Commander-in-Chief. Kuyili was known as the first suicide bomber in the history of India’s battle for freedom.
Here’s her story
Kuyili, fondly was addressed by some as Veerthalapathy (The Brave Commander) or Veeramangai (The Brave Woman). She belonged to the scheduled caste of Arunthathiyar. Kuyili was born to Periyamuthan and Raku, who worked in the fields. Her mother Raku, who was well-known for her bravery, died in an attempt to save the fields from being destroyed by a wild bull.
Kuyili and Velu Nachiyar shared a special bond. Kuyili has saved Queen’s life on various occasions. Kuyili once discovered that her own Silambam( a weapon-based martial arts) teacher was a spy working against the Queen and saved her from him.
Also, Queen was once attacked during her sleep but Kuyili rescued her and ended up injuring herself. Velu Nachiyar immediately tore a piece of her saree and tied it around the wound as a bandage. After this, Kuyili was appointed as Queens’s personal bodyguard.
Later, Velu Nachiyaar made her the Commander-in-Chief of the women’s army. After the successful formation of alliances with Maruthu Pandiyars, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Velu Nachiyar entered into war with the British in order to reclaim her kingdom.
Even though their army was well trained, they faced difficulties in the war as British had advanced weapons.
Kuyili formulated her strategy. She wanted destroy the ammunitions of the enemies. She knew that only women will be allowed into the The Sivagangai kottai (fort) as it was the 10th day of Navaratri, and women were allowed in order to celebrate the Vijayadasimi festival. The festival was celebrated in the temple of Rajarajeswari Amman. The ammunitions were stored in the temple and Kuyili planned a surprise attack on the British. They hid the weapons inside the flower and the fruit-baskets, entered the fort and attacked the British.
The British army,taken by surprise, were forced into a battle. Kuyili, who had already made note of the location of the storage area where the weapons were kept, formulated another plan. She made use of the chaotic surroundings and made her comrades pour ghee and oil all over her that were kept for the burning of the lamps. She then went inside the storage area and set herself on fire. She destroyed all the weapons and left the British army completely vulnerable.