The Ruins of Wandewash Fort

29 Mar

The history of India was irretrievably altered by the Seven Years War in Europe between 1756 and 1763.

One of the warring sides in the Seven Years War was led by the Kingdom of Great Britain, supported by Prussia, Portugal, Hanover and other small German States); while the other was led by the Kingdom of France, supported by Austria led Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Spain and Sweden).

In India meanwhile, the Mughal Empire had begun its decline following Emperor Aurangazeb’s death in 1707.

In 1739, Delhi had been brought to its knees by Persian King Nadir Shah who emptied the treasury of the Mughals and carried it away to Persia. Thirty thousand innocent men, women and children of Delhi were slaughtered in a qatl-e-aam or public killing following the attack on some Persian soldiers by Indian troops and the streets of Delhi flowed with blood for days.

A completely different kind of threat to the Mughals was posed by the English East India Company which had begun to assert itself and resort to force to protect their trading interests. This was because they discovered that despite firmans (Royal Charters) from the Sultan of Bengal and from Emperor Aurangzeb himself, they were regularly harassed by local officials who expected to be paid off.

The Carnatic Wars in India were fought between French Supported and English Supported Indian Rulers between 1746 and 1763

1746-1748: First Carnatic War
1749-1754: Second Carnatic War
1756-1763: Third Carnatic War

From the time the Seven Years War broke out in Europe in 1756 to its conclusion in 1763, here are the main political events that took place in India:

1756 – Accession of Siraj-ud-Daulah as Nawab of Bengal
1757 – Sack of Delhi by Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan
– Battle of Plassey
– Mir Jafar becomes Nawab of Bengal with Robert Clive’s help
1758 – Comte de Lally in India
1759 – Murder of Alamgir II by Ghazi-ud-din
1760 – Battle of Wandiwash (Vandavasi): French forces decisively defeated by the East India Company Army
1761 – Fall of Pondicherry
– Shah Alam II becomes Emperor
– Madhava Rao becomes Peshwa
– Rise of Hyder Ali
1762 –
1763 – Expulsion of Mir Kasim

The Battle of Wandiwash (22 Jan 1760) marked the end of the Carnatic Wars.

It was a decisive battle in India during the Seven Years’ War in Europe.

The French Army, under Comte de Lally, handicapped by a lack of funds and naval support, attempted to regain the fort at Wandiwash (Vandavasi), which is 95 kms South East of Vellore via Arni.

Vandavasi is about 75 kms North East of District Headquarters, Tiruvannamalai.

Comte de Lally’s army was attacked by Sir Eyre Coote’s forces and decisively defeated. The French general Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau and the French were then restricted to Pondichéry, where they surrendered on 16 January 1761.

The battle of Vandavasi (1760) brought to an end the Third and last Carnatic War.

My mission in Vandavasi on 13 March 2017 was to visit the fort and photograph it. Although we found a road junction called, Kottai Junction or Fort Junction, it was just a busy suburban town road junction.

Just as my taxi driver had begun to give up hope of finding any structure which was part of the Vandavasi fort, we got a tip from an elderly shopkeeper.

We drove through narrow streets till we came to a congested habitation where we could park the car.

An elderly housewife was drying chillies in a bamboo murram (winnowing tray). She looked curiously at us and called a young man who appeared to be handicapped. He couldn’t speak but he nodded his head confidently when the elderly woman told him to take us to the Kottai (Fort).

He took us through a small but fairly neat and clean slum to a spot where there were masonry ruins. Yes, we had found the Vandavasi Fort… or what was left of it. This was a brick and mortar structure which appeared to have collapsed on its foundations.

I stood for a minute looking at what remained of the Vandavasi fort. This was an important fort in the territory of Nayak Damerla Venkatapathy of Vandavasi, a vassal of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Vandavasi Nayak sold a village called Madraspatanam or Chennaipatanam to East India Company Factors Andrew Cogan and Francis Day on 22 August 1639.

The founding of Madras or Chennai is commemorated as “Madras Day” on 22nd August every year.

I took a few more photos of the ruins and thought, “How the mighty have fallen”… and wondered what Sir Eyre Coote, the victorious English Commander at the battle of Wandiwash would have thought if he had seen his prize which was being gormandised by a fast growing slum.

My disabled guide took me back to my car. I thanked him and we left for Tiruvannamalai.

My only regret was that I couldnt meet my classmate from IIMB, Poongavanam whose home I remembered was in Vandavasi. Neither I nor any of our classmates on WhatsApp Group had his address or phone numbers.


One Response to “The Ruins of Wandewash Fort”

  1. Mano Chandra Dhas April 2, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

    Very interesting read, Ajit. Amazing fact: What is so important to us today, is either forgotten as time passes by, or virtually unimportant in the schemes of the future. So much for Vandivasi! 🙂

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