Monday 4 February 2013

The battle of the noses

Narasaraja Kantirava Wodeyar, the first, had ascended the Mysore Kingdom in 1638. He reigned till 1659 and he spent almost all his years in warfare.
He had managed to not only withstand the mighty Adil Shahis who had invaded Srirangapatna, the capital of the Wodeyars, under General Ranadullah Khan but also beat them back. The Marathas too had been held at bay.
When the Golconda King invaded Mysore, the then ruler of Madurai, Tirumalai Nayaka, had helped him in his campaign against Mysore. This had angered Narasaraja Kantirava and he decided to take revenge.
After strengthening the fortress of Srirangapatna, he turned his attention to the principality of Madurai. In 1656, he dispatched an army towards Madurai. To encourage the soldiers to fight hard, he announced that a soldier would get money for each nose he cut off from his enemy’s face.
Tirumalai Nayak, by then, had transformed Madurai into a magnificent city. He was  patron of art and architecture and under him, Madurai came to be known as the  Temple City. He had grown old and when Narasaraja Kantirava sent the Wodeyar army, he was sick and ailing.
The Mysore Army fist invaded Salem and overcame the Nayaka forces. It then ran through Sathyamangalam and Coimbatore. The Mysore soldiers had gone about their task of cutting off noses of soldiers. They sent back to Mysore several gunny bags filled with noses of soldiers.
The terror struck soldiers of Madurai ran helter skelter as the Mysore Army went about its task of efficiently cutting off noses. In fact, the Mysore soldiers also devised a mechanism by which they could easily clip the nose and upper lip of soldiers along with their mustaches.
The rapidity with which sackful of gunny bags came to Mysore filled with cut noses testified to the victorious march of the Wodeyars into the hearland of the Madurai Kingdom.  
The Mysore King’s command then was modified. The Mysore soldiers were asked to cut off noses of all men they encountered in Madurai Kingdom. To ensure that only men’s nose were cut off, the soldiers were asked to clip away the upper lip along with the mustache.
Each cut-off nose was handsomely rewarded. A few women too suffered these nose cuts. When news of the nose cutting rituals spread, people and even soldiers panicked. After all, who would want their face to be permanently disfigured in such a manner.
The Mysore Army by then had entered deep into Madurai territory. When the Mysore Army camped before the city of Madurai and as just 20 kilometres away, Titumalai Nayaka lost heart and turned to Raghunatha Nayaka or Raghunatha Sethupathi of Ramnad for help.
Raghunatha Sethupathi was the Kong of the Maravars, a martial race. His army was trained by Italians. Raghunatha Sethupathy mobilized an army of 25,000 warriors within six hours and camped between the Mysore army and Madurai City.
Taken by surprise, the Mysore Army sough reinforcements. Several skirmishes took place and  the Mysore forced first advanced to within a few miles of Madurai before falling back to Dindigal.
Another battle was fought between the two kingdoms in Dindigal. The Mysore forces were beaten back. Some time later, Kumara Muthu Nayaka, the younger brother of Tirumalai Nayaka, drove back the Mysore Army and it was the turn of the Madurai army to cut off noses of Mysore soldiers. A story goes around that the Madurai forces cut of the nose of even the mother of the Mysore King.
Whatever be the outcome, the campaign came to be known as the battle of Noses.

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