Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Is it true that the Mandayam Iyengars were killed by Tipu?

 This is the English translation of Annexure-II of my book in Tamil "Ramanuja Itihasam". The book can be got by sending an email to

A shortened version of this was earlier published in Commune Magazine


Around 700 families of Mandayam Iyengars, a sect of Brahmins, were massacred by Tipu on the day of Deepavali  in 1783. The details based on the data given  in the essay "The Mysore Pradhans" are summarized here.

Mandayam Iyengars were the descendants of Ananthalwan, a disciple of Ramanujacharya of the 11th century. He belonged to Kirangur near Srirangapatna. He was given eight villages by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. Later, after the Hoysala dynasty weakened, these villages fell into the hands of the Palaiyakars. However, the Ananthalwan clans were serving the country as Guru-s to the king and in ministerial posts. In course of them the descendants became the Prime ministers known as Pradhans and continued to serve the Mysore Samsthan.

In the year 1759, Puttammanny, the wife of Immadi Krishnaraja Wadayar died. Govindarajiah of Ananthalwan lineage was the Pradhan at that time. He  arranged the king's marriage with Lakshmammanny and Devajammanny, which was duly celebrated.

During the period of this king, Hyder Ali rose rapidly in power and influence due to his ability and completely conquered his master's kingdom in 1762. The exiled Mysore king started to live in hiding.

Pradhan Govindarajiah’s  wealth caught Hyder's eye. In 1765, Hyder wanted to usurp it with his men. The Pradhan was strangled to death because he refused to tell where he had buried his wealth. He left behind two sons Tirumal Row and Narayana Row.

Shortly after this, the King of Mysore, Immadi Krishnaraja Wadayar also passed away. Maharani Lakshmammanny, a woman of great talent and intelligence, could not accept the low status of the kings and the usurpation of Hyder Ali. With the help of her friends and the Pradhans, she made plans to get rid of the Muhammadan usurper and regain her kingdom. In 1771 a secret envoy was sent to Peshwa Madhava Row. Hyder suspected that Pradhan Tirumal Row was privy to this and imprisoned him. In 1775, he freed Tirumal Row from prison and took him with him when he invaded Bellary and Gooty. He feared that if Tirumal Row was left in Srirangapatna in his absence, he might conspire against him. On the way he left him under the vigil of Abdul Karim, the Nawab of Kadapa.

In 1776 Maharani Lakshmammanny again attempted to overthrow Hyder. This time she sought the help of the British to accomplish her mission. Before this, she had sent Rayadurg Srinivasa Row as a messenger to Lord Pigot, the Governor of Madras in 1760, seeking help. The Governor had also promised to help but the British did not offer any help due to the interference of Muhammad Ali, the Nawab of Karnataka.

On learning that Lord Pigot restored Tanjore to its native ruler, the Queen sent her Pradhans Tirumal Row and Narayana Row to seek the help of the British. Both the Pradhans went to Madras and communicated the information to Lord Pigot but found that Pigot was not given the Governorship of Madras on charges of insanity. A few months later  Lord Pigot died. The Pradhans went to Tanjore seeking help from others like the Maharaja of Thanjavur.

Hyder invaded Karnataka in 1780-81. The First Mysore War with the British began. On June 22, 1781, Lord Macartney took office at Fort St. George and sent John Sullivan as his representative to Tanjore. The Pradhans contacted Lord McCartney through Sullivan. A treaty was consequently signed on 18th  October 1782. Lord McCartney also wrote a letter to Maharani Lakshmammanny, assuring restoration of her kingdom. The Pradhans marched towards Karur with 300 horses to aid the British invasion of Srirangapatna. In 1783, Karur, Vijayamangalam, Dindigul, Palakkad, Dharapuram and Coimbatore were all captured.

At the same time as the British forces were arranging to move towards Srirangapatna, the Pradhans were hatching a conspiracy through their friends to overthrow Tipu's government. Subraj Urs and Narasing Row guided the project in Srirangapatna. Aided by three thousand Jetties, Mahrathas and others loyal to the king, a plan was made to enter the fort, seize the treasury, and arrest every Muhammadan. The day was marked on 28th  July 1783. But Killedar Syed Mahamad, the head of the fort, discovered the plot at the last minute and killed some people including Subraj.

And he immediately informed Tipu all these details. Tipu already knew that the Pradhans were joining forces with the British to fight against him. He therefore immediately ordered the arrest and imprisonment of all the relatives of the Pradhans and Subraj Urs. All the men, women and children of 700 families were chained with heavy irons and thrust into the dungeons of Srirangapatna. Pradhan Narayana Row was also arrested but he soon escaped and joined his brother. When Tipu returned from the war, he killed those 700 families without any mercy. He confiscated all their properties.

The information on this massacre can be found in a letter written by Maharani Lakshmammanny to Tirumal Row in 1796.

From the translation of the copy of a Kanarese letter written to Tirumal Row by Maharanee Lakshmammanny in the year 1796:

“We have been writing to you of our affairs from time to time. It is twenty-two years since you left the Province. We are daily being persecuted by Tippu. We cannot say at what moment he may send assassins and get us murdered. And for the restoration of our kingdom, you have been exerting your best, winning the sympathies of English Sirdars in our favour, entering into treaties with them. and at what an amount of sacrifice and suffering! For our sake 700 families of your kith and kin have been allowed to be ruthlessly murdered, all your immense wealth has been spent and you are a ruined person.”

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  to Lords Mornington and Clive on 3rd February, 1799 recalls the sacrifices made by 700 families.

“In the year Subhakritu,  Lord Macartney gave us ample assurance of our restoration, and hence we got together many of our adherents. Just on the eve of our capturing Tippu and recovering our kingdom, our object was disclosed to Tippu, and consequently he put to death 700 families from amongst our relations as well as those of Tirumal Row, including men, women and children.”

This shows that apart from the families of Tirumal Row, those from the royal family were also put death. The misfortune that had befallen on the family of Tirumal Row is also recorded in the minutes of Lord Mornington, the Governor-General of India as follows:

“In the course of my correspondence with the commissioners for the affairs of Mysore, the Board will have observed the name of Mysore Tirumal Row. This person is well known to the Company's Government in this part of India, and is distinguished as well by his zealous and faithful attachment to the Family now elevated to the Musnud, as by the misfortunes which his negotiations on their behalf have brought on himself and his family.”

Devastated by the loss of his family, Tirumal Row did not rest. Tipu, who had made a peace treaty with the British, tried to secretly arrest Tirumal Row in Tanjore. Tirumal Row was forced to flee to Travancore. He came back to Tanjore after two years. Tipu invaded Travancore in 1789. Travancore had a treaty country with the British so the British were ready to go to war with Tipu.

The Pradhans took the opportunity to demand the return the kingdom to the erstwhile rulers of Mysore after Tipu's defeat for which  they offered to help the British. They also wrote letters to Lord Sullivan and Lord McCartney in England asking for support. Upon their recommendation, Gen. Meadows, the English commander, promised to do everything in his power. However, he  regretted that he could not enter into any direct treaty with them, as he had to consult the Nizam and the Mahrattas who were his allies in the war. He also wrote a letter to Maharani Lakshmammanny promising help in whatever ways he could and  presented it to the Pradhans. Convinced by this, the Pradhans agreed to serve his army in the fight.

Thereupon they accompanied the General, with 100 horses and 2000 infantry. Karur was captured on 15th April. Vijayamangalam and then Dharapuram were captured on July 10th. On learning that General Meadows was coming, Tipu retreated to Srirangapatna. Before that he destroyed the Coimbatore fort and chased the people living there and their cattle to the surrounding mountains and forests.

Meadows, who arrived in Coimbatore on 21st July, knew that he would only get revenue if the people came back and the lands produced crops, and he persuaded Tirumal Row to make arrangements for that. Tirumal Row refused, aiming to march towards Srirangapatna with the forces but General Meadows disagreed. In the end Tirumal Row gave his own money to the villagers and made them stay there again.  

He advanced large sums out of his private funds to the ryots in order to induce them to settle and cultivate their lands, as they had been thoroughly impoverished by the plunders of Tipu. Coimbatore was again fortified and garrisoned, a hospital opened for the accommodation of the army, and large supplies collected. Tirumal Row rendered himself useful to the English in other ways as well by supplying spies.

Meanwhile  the Pradhans found out from their spies Tipu’s movement through Gajjalhatty pass and reported it to the General. In the fight with Tipu on the 13th  and 14th  September, Tipu was defeated with  4000 of his men killed and several wounded. The wounded among the English were sent to the hospital opened in Coimbatore, and the Pradhans did everything in their power to relieve their sufferings.

Tipu then proceeded to Trichy via Karur. As General Meadows followed, he changed his route and went to Dharapuram. On learning that Tirumal Row was in Coimbatore, Tipu set out with his large army with the intention of going there and arresting him. By then he gathered information from his spy named Singree that the defences of the fort were not strong enough and it was easy to catch Tirumal Row. But by God's grace heavy rainfall lashed the city continuously for 3 days. Tipu decided to stay there till the rain stopped. By this time the British forces had arrived there, so he left for Kaveripuram with no other option.

While General Meadows followed him, Tirumal Row and his men accompanied the General. Then Tirumal Row handed over the responsibility of managing Coimbatore to Puttiah. Corbett came from Chennai and took up the post of Collector of Coimbatore. Corbett brought Tirumal Row to Coimbatore thinking that the administration would be smooth only with his help. Coming back to Coimbatore, Tirumal Row found Puttiah to have tampered with ten thousand pagodas and therefore he imprisoned him. But since Puttaiah was close to Corbett, Corbett let him go and arrested Tirumal Row on the same charge. Enraged by Tirumal Row’s  revelation about himself, Puttiah decided to destroy Tirumal Row somehow.

With Tipu fast approaching Coimbatore, everyone ran to the hills for hiding. Corbett, ready to leave the fort, intended to leave Tirumal Row alone in prison. Puttaiah also tried to somehow get Tipu's horse to Coimbatore and hand over Tirumal Row to him. By then Narayana Row petitioned to the Board to save Tirumal Row by highlighting  the immense help he rendered to the British in the war activities against Tipu. The Board ordered immediate release of Tirumal Row and asked him to reach Madras. Puttiah got Tipu’s men to wait on the road to be taken by Tirumal Row to capture him but Tirumal Row escaped by taking another circuitous route. Tipu attacked Coimbatore and captured the fort.

Lord Cornwallis invaded Srirangapatna in 1792 with his friends, the Nizam and the Mahrathas. Beaten on all sides, Tipu demanded a peace treaty. Cornwallis agreed. General Meadows argued with Cornwallis that he should seize the fort and put the old king in power. Cornwallis did not accept it and made a peace treaty on 19th March 1792.

General Meadows retired to his tent dejected and disappointed. He as one who espoused the cause of the Mysore kingdom hated the treaty with Tipu. He was ordered to receive Tipu's sons who would come as hostages to the camp. He did not obey. An altercation occurred between him and the Governor General as a result of which General Meadows shot himself with his pistol and fell fainting. Colonels Harris and Floyd wrested the pistol from his hand and procured medical assistance immediately. Gen Meadows recovered as the wound was not very serious.

Moved by the action of General Meadows who pledged support to the Pradhans to restore the Mysore kingdom from Tipu, Tirumal Row went to meet him at Poonnamallee in Madras where he was staying. The General once again assured his continued support for his struggle to get back Mysore. With tears Tirumal Row replied,

“If the blessing of God had been upon us, why should the Kingdom of our sovereign have gone to the hands of the Mahamadans? Leaving the land of my birth and the possessions of my forefathers, to support the cause of our legitimate sovereign, I have been reduced to the condition of a wandering beggar on the face of the earth. All my relations have been murdered and I am plunged in an ocean of sorrow. But when I think of how you went to the extent of well-nigh killing yourself in support of our cause, and your recovery from so much danger to your life, I esteem myself most fortunate in this world. If you continue to cherish the same feelings of goodwill towards us, we shall rest assured that in times to come at least you will restore our kingdom to our sovereign.”

Meadows assured help but had to return to England where he was elevated as Lord Meadows for his services in India. Lord Hobart assumed office as the Governor of Madras on 7th September 1794. He had already known about the Mysore kings and their Pradhans from Meadows and some other friends. So, on reaching Madras  he called Tirumal Row and assured him of his support and asked him to give him the details about Tipu who was in Srirangapatna. He also assured monetary help.  Tirumal Row refused to accept money but only begged to get back the kingdom to his king. Tirumal Row, who was in touch with Maharani Lakshmammanny, got to know all the details about Tipu through her and conveyed them to Lord Hobart's assistant, Webbe. In 1796, Maharani Lakshmammanny, who learned that Tipu was negotiating with the French, informed Tirumal Row of this information to Lord Hobart.

In early 1797, Tipu planned to drive the British out of India with the help of French forces. Lord Hobart came to know about this through Tirumal Row and wrote to England about it. Lord Mornington was appointed as Governor General. He came to Madras to confer with Tirumal Row. On the same day of his arrival, Tipu's envoys who had gone to the French Island arrived in Mangalore, bringing with them 99 Frenchmen. On learning this, the Governor General immediately prepared for war against Tipu. On February 11, 1799, the force left Vellore for Srirangapatna under the command of General Harris. On 4th May the fort was captured and Tipu was killed.

Through the Pradhans of Mysore, friendly relations had been established between the British Government and the Mysore royal family. The Governor General summoned Tirumal Row and  said that he would hand over the Kingdom of Mysore to the rightful royal heirs and appoint Tirumal Row as the Prime Minister. Tirumal Row was overjoyed to know that his efforts to remove the dictatorial rule of 30 years and restore the royal family had succeeded. This victory was celebrated in Madras with the beating of drums and offering of sweets.

Tirumal Row was asked to proceed to Krishnagiri and from there to Srirangapatna with the Governor General and take charge. Tirumal Row immediately left for Krishnagiri. He wrote to Maharani Lakshmammanny that the kingdom would be returned to her heirs and that he would be the Prime Minister. The highly elated Maharani recalled the 24 years of struggle of Tirumal Row and wrote to him to go over to Srirangapatna immediately. But the Governor General abandoned the plan to go to Srirangapatna.

Webbe wrote to Tirumal Row asking him to go to Srirangapatna to present himself before the commission for settlement of Mysore. He also sent a letter to General Harris to appoint Tirumal Row as the Prime Minister of Mysore. Tirumal Row left Krishnagiri and reached Srirangapatna fort after 20 days. There he presented the letter written by Webbe to the General. The General asked him to stay in his camp for a few days. Details about Tirumal Row were placed before the commission  and examined.

Then came a twist. Rivalry, jealousy, greediness of some officials who wanted to maintain their erstwhile position and wealth came in the way of scuttling the decision of the commission.  They served under the King of Mysore and were subordinate officers to Hyder and Tipu too. Now, when the regime changed, they didn’t want to give up their positions. He did not want to work under Tirumal Row.

Acknowledging Tirumal Row’s service to the Maharani, they said it would not be appropriate for him to become the Prime Minister at that time. The reason they gave was that, having been out of the kingdom of Mysore for many years, he did not know the present state of affairs in the country. He could not have known as much sophisticated information as Purniah, who was then a minister. The group told the British that in the chaotic and disorderly state of the country at that time, it would be better if the people who had been ruling it continued to rule. Concerned about their income from the settlement the British did not mind to drop Tirumal Row.

Tirumal Row was asked to go back to Madras. Agreeing, he asked for permission to meet the Maharani at Srirangapatna Fort before leaving. But permission was not granted. The Maharani too was upset over the developments and refused to come out of the fort for three days because she could not meet her Pradhan Tirumal Row who fought for her. Fearing that this might cause some trouble again, Tirumal Row immediately wrote to the Maharani, asking her to go to Mysore. She relented and her grandson was crowned as Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadayar III on 30th June, 1799.

Tirumal Row returned to Madras. He died in 1815 without any recognition for his efforts,  without getting his rightful place in history and losing everything he had in the arduous task of defeating Tipu Sultan, a powerful enemy, at the critical juncture of Mysore Rajdhani. His brother Narayana Row died before him in 1811.

The sacrifices of this man and his family also disappeared without anyone knowing them. Those who escaped the massacre at Srirangapatna migrated to Nagamangala, Baburayana Koppalu, Mandya Koppal and Mandya. Finally, they reached Melukote and settled there, but continued to remember the genocide that occurred on a Deepavali day. Deepavali, which is celebrated all over the country, was not celebrated in the homes of these descendants for three centuries now. That set off a spark, prompting the descendants to search for the reason for the darkness. They searched and the search led them to know the mass-scale murder of nearly 1000 members of 700 families of their ancestors by Tipu Sultan. The eventual betrayal suffered by Tirumal Row also came to light.

Today, many of those descendants are serving the society as teachers and scholars known for their knowledge, spirituality and patriotism. Is it a matter of surprise considering their descent from  Ramanuja's disciple Ananthalwan? The most prominent among them, Prof. Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan is the seventh-generation descendant of Tirumal Row. He was kind enough to share the details of the essay written by M.A. Sreenivasachar after a great deal of research.

Many people are praising Tipu as if he fought against the British to get freedom for the country. He opposed the British for his selfish ends and caused immense distress to the common people of this country. For opposing him, he mercilessly killed the families of Tirumal Row and others, including children. This forgotten saga of sacrifice deserves a place in the history of fight for freedom of our country.


1 comment:

Raghu said...

Our entire history, as taught in schools, is corrupt with versions written by or favouring invaders. It needs to be re-written, complete with supporting documents such as this.