Second Struggle With Yusuf Khan
The pro-British Kattabomman died and the new Kattabomman loathed them. He, as the leader of Eastern Polygars, pledged support to Puli Thevar, the undisputed leader of Western Polygars. This union was aimed to meet the threat of Yusuf Khan.
Yusuf Khan could have been driven back easily if he had to face so mighty a confederacy alone. Some Polygars were eager to collaborate with enemy. Yusuf came into Polygar country with only 1000 men but soon his army grew to 4000 with support from these renegades. Even so he was not ready. He waited for reinforcements to come. His strategy, till he received reinforcements, was to prevent the armies of Puli Thevar and Kattabomman from joining. He sent a heavily armed force into Ettaiyapuram with this task-they were to fight and block Eastern Polygars’ troops so that he could deal with Puli Thevar and men separately.
Once fully prepared, Yusuf Khan marched on. His force captured the strategic fort of Kollarpetti and reached Tirunelveli. Mahfuz Khan requested a pardon from Yusuf Khan and a jagir for himself if he left Thevar’s camp. Yusuf Khan assured him that his demands would be met.
Puli Thevar surprised an enemy army at Sorandai and massacred and looted it. Yusuf immediately sent another force to retaliate, but Thevar had left by that time. Travancore troops began incursions into lands between Cape Comorin and Kalakadu. The Maravas of Puli Thevar and his allies ravaged all of Tamil country south of Tirunelveli and Yusuf who had to deal with three enemies, appeared in dire straits.
An idiotic action by the Polygar of Wadagiri turned the tables. He had let his Maravas repeatedly plunder the territories of the Travancore Raja who was his neighbour too. The Raja of Travancore, angry at this policy, began to have second thoughts. Yusuf Khan exploited this by opening talks with the Raja of Travancore. This talk was to have fatal consequences. The Raja of Travancore agreed to side with Yusuf, if he left the Polygar confederacy. The Raja sent a large force of musketeers to join with Yusuf’s troops-altogether 20,000 men marched towards the fort of Wadagiri, and Polygar had to escape as he could not withstand them for more than a day.
The Polygar of Wadagiri took refuge with Puli Thevar at Nelkattumseval. Puli Thevar himself was unnerved-the most powerful Western Polygar-Wadagiri Polygar-is finished. He learnt that the French had sent a letter to Mahfuz Khan which stated that soon the English would be finished and that Mahfuz would be crowned as Nawab after the present Nawab, an English puppet, was ousted.
Thevar exploited this situation. He sent a message to Travancore Raja about this letter and argued that since the French will win in the end, what would Travancore gain if they allied with the English, whose man was Yusuf? Thevar offered that if Travancore Raja side with them, he would let Raja have those parts of Tirunelveil of his own choice.
The Travancore Raja told Yusuf Khan of this communication of Puli Thevar. The Raja of Travancore argued that since Thevar had offered him so much, he will side with Yusuf only if Yusuf ceded the land between Cape Comorin and Kalakadu that Nawab had denied to Travancore. He also threatened Yusuf that if he supported Thevar that would mean the end of Nawab’s ambitions in country south of Tirunelveli-which indeed was a real threat.
The Dutch seizure of artillery sent by English meant for Yusuf Khan, opened the prospect of war with Dutch in Tuticorin . Yusuf relented and ceded the territories demanded by the Raja and so Puli Thevar’s attempt to win this Raja ended in failure. If the Raja had allied with Thevar, the British conquest of South India might have been delayed by years and even decades.
Thus Yusuf Khan was saved because by that time, Maravas across southern Tamil Nadu had flocked to Thevar’s fort to fight for their hero. It was beyond the capacity of Yusuf Khan to overpower so great a host alone, but with help from Travancore assured, he was confident. Soon, Travancore troops and Yusuf Khan’s units jointly captured the fort of Isvara Thevar, a vassal of Puli Thevar. Isvara Thevar and his men retreated to Nelkettumseval, but this victory had exhausted his ammunition and he was delayed in his next move. As they waited, a force of 6000 Maravas launched a surprise raid on the Travacore camp and killed several troops. But by time Yusuf Khan marched with his men, Marava force had retreated.
Read more about this topic: Puli Devar, Puli Thevar's Struggle-quoted From Caldwell's History of Tirunelveli
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... This union was aimed to meet the threat of Yusuf Khan ... Yusuf Khan could have been driven back easily if he had to face so mighty a confederacy alone ... Yusuf came into Polygar country with only 1000 men but soon his army grew to 4000 with support from these renegades ...
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