Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Marudu brothers had soft corner for Catholic Church

A rare manuscript reveals their generosity

It was a unique and last wish of a man sent to the gallows. Just before his execution, Chinna Marudu, younger of the Marudu Pandiyar brothers, erstwhile rulers of Sivaganga, requested the East India Company officers to honour the ‘grants’ he had bequeathed to the Catholic Church.
“His request to his executioners, before he ascended the scaffold on the highest bastion of Tirupattur, was that the officers of the East India Company would honour the benefactions he had granted,” recalls Reverend Baauche, a French Catholic Priest in his book Marutha Pandiyan, The fateful 18th Century.
“Strange as it may look at first sight, the Marava Catholics have kept a particular remembrance of Marutha Pandiyan because he was a great benefactor of the Church,” Fr. Baauche says.
The English manuscript remains unpublished. Now its Tamil translation titled, Maravar Seemai- Oru Paathiriyarin Paarvaiyil , has been brought out by Akani publishers.
According to the Fr. Baauche, who had served in the East Ramnad, Chinna Marudu had not only come forward to bear the expenses of the car festival of the Sarugani Church, but also donated a village named “Maraneri so as to ensure divine service in perpetuity.”
It was a truly moving gesture.
The translation of the manuscript has been done by M. Balakrishnan, author of A Struggle for Freedom in the Red Soil of South and S.R. Vivekanandam. The manuscript was secured by a former electricity board employee, Maari Servai, from Tamil professor Abdul Salam. Fr. Baauche had referred Marudu brothers as Periya Murthu and Chinna Murthu and always addressed the younger brother as Marutha Pandiyan and their country as Marava. The elder brother left politics to his junior and devoted the best of his time hunting.
Fr. Baauche has given details of the humble beginnings of the brothers—while Periya Marudu was the dog-keeper of second ruler of Sivaganga Vaduganatha Thevar, Chinna Marudu was beetel-keeper (adappakaran)—and their gradual ascendance as rulers.
While there are adequate accounts about the bravery, honesty and hospitality of the brothers, including Col. Welsh’s memoirs, as he had learnt “silambam” and “valari” (a boomerang like instrument) from Periya Marudu, Fr. Baauche’s book gives finer details of the friendly attitude of the Marudhu Pandiya toward Christianity.
Fr. Baauche attributes the church to the sanctuary given to Maruthu Pandiya by the priest of Sarugani Church, when he was pursued by the troops of the ‘Raj’, most likely by Colonel Martinz at the head of his sepoys.

Another reason why the Catholic Church thankfully remembered Marutha Pandiyan, Fr. Baauche argues was that he had generously welcomed an important community of Catholics from the Tanjore country, the Nattambadiyars or Udaiyars. “It is under his rule in the Marava, about 1781-1783 that their first batch arrived,” says the clergyman.

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