Tuesday, October 5, 2010


X alias Y was born circa 1725 in the village of Panaiyur, in Rammnad 'country' in a Hindu farming family of the Pillai Vellala caste. Being too restless in his youth, he left his native village, and converted to Islam. During his days at Tanjore, an English Captain named Brunton educated Y, making him a learned man well-versed in several languages.

From Tanjore he moved to Nellore (in present day Andhra Pradesh), to try his hand as a native physician under Mohammed Kamal, in addition to his career in the army. He moved up the ranks as Thandalgar (tax collector), Havildar and finally as a Subedar and that is how he is referred to in the English records ('Nellore Subedar' or just 'Nellore'). While staying in Arcot he fell in love with a 'Portuguese' Christian (a loose term for a person of mixed Indo-European descent) girl named Maasa, and married her.

He aided Chanda sahib in his siege at Rockfort-Tiruchirapalli against Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah and the British forces, for the throne of Arcot.Robert Clive( a British commander) , impressed by the charges Y led against the battlements of Arcot, recruited him — and Y put his Nellore sepoys and cavalry at the disposal of the English. Under Major Stringer Lawrence, Y was trained in the European method of warfare and his natural talent in military tactics and strategy blossomed to its full potential.

Over the next decade, as the Company fought the French in the Wars of the Carnatic, it was Y guerrilla tactics, repeatedly cutting the French lines of supply, that did the French in, particularly during Lally's siege of Madras in 1758. Lally was to later describe the role of the Nellore Subedar's sepoys in these words: "They were like flies, no sooner beat off from one part, they came from another."

By 1760 Y had reached the zenith of his career as the 'all-conquering' military commandant. (A few years earlier he had been given the rank of 'Commandant of Company's sepoys'). His greatest supporter during this period was George Pigot, the English governor in Madras. Y was held in very high esteem even after his death by the English and in their opinion he was one of the two great military geniuses India had ever produced; the other being Hyder Ali of Mysore. Y was regarded for his strategy and Hyder Ali for his speed. Major General Sir. John Malcolm said of him almost a fifty years later,"Y was by far the bravest and ablest of all the native soldiers ever to serve the English in India".

Who is X/Y ?