Exactly 240 years ago, a pall of gloom fell upon Srirangapatna on the Day of Light celebrated as Deepavali when innocent members of 700 families of Mandayam Iyengars were put to death under the order of Tipu Sultan. The offence they committed was to have been born in the families related to those who wanted to restore the kingdom of Mysore to its legitimate royal family from the clutches of Tipu. What remained since then was a faded memory of a dreadful Deepavali marked by the non-celebration of Deepavali by certain families. This triggered a vigorous search by the members of these families who managed to collect letters and documents of the period of massacre and presented them in a short essay titled, “The Mysore Pradhans”.
Compiled and written by M.A. Sreenivasachar, this essay traces the lineage of the affected families from Thirumalai Ananthalwan, a disciple of Ramanujacharya who was a native of Kirangur near Srirangapatna. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana gifted him with eight villages (ashtagram). Later, after the Hoysala dynasty weakened, these villages fell into the hands of the Palayakars. However, Ananthalwan clans were serving the country as gurus to the king and in ministerial posts. They also became the Pradhans (prime ministers) in the Mysore royal court. Problems started after Hyder Ali rose into power and conquered his master's kingdom in 1762.
The exiled Mysore king, Krishnaraja Wadayar II passed away a few years later. The Pradhan Govindarajiah (of Ananthalwan’s lineage) was killed by Hyder. The two sons of the Pradhan, Tirumal Row and Narayana Row became the confidante of the queen in exile, Maharani Lakshmammanny. Dedicated to restoring the kingdom to the royal family, the two brothers started reaching out to the British authorities to dislodge Tipu from the throne.
It was a long story of struggle for 24 years in that endeavour that ultimately caused them lose their dear ones and their properties. The loss of the 700 families to Tipu’s fury was one of the bloody chapters in their long struggle. It happened in 1783 when the English army succeeded in capturing Karur and proceeded further towards Srirangapatna. At the same time, the Pradhans were hatching a conspiracy with their friends to overthrow Tipu's government. Subraj Urs and Narasinga Row guided the project in Srirangapatna. Aided by three thousand Jettis, Mahrathas and others loyal to the king, a plan was made to enter the fort, seize the treasury, and arrest every Mahamadan. The attack was planned on the night of 28th July 1783. But Killedar Syed Mahamad, the head of the fort, discovered the plot at the last minute and killed the conspirators including Subraj.
Tipu was immediately informed of the conspiracy hatched by Tirumal Row. On coming to know of the activities of the Pradhans in dislodging him with the help of the English army, Tipu swung into action.
He “ordered the arrest and imprisonment of all the relations of the Pradhans and Subraj Urs &co.,including men, women and children to the extent of 700 families. They were chained with heavy irons and thrust into the dungeons of Seringapatam. Pradhan Narayan Row was also captured and imprisoned, but he soon managed to escape and join his brother. Tippu on his return to the capital ordered a wholesale massacre of these 700 families, and had them mercilessly put to death by one means or another. He also confiscated the Jaghirs and other property enjoyed by the Pradhans and their relations,” writes the author of the essay.
The massacre had taken place on the day of Deepavali in Shobhakrit year corresponding to 25th October, 1783. Among the documents produced in the essay, the letter written by the queen Lakshmammanny.... CONTINUE TO READ HERE