Puli Devar or Pooli Devar was a poligar (palayakaran) who ruled an area called Nelkatumseval or Avudayapuram situated now in the Sankarankoil taluk of Tamil Nadu. He is recognised as one of the earliest opponent of the British rule in South India. He was involved in a vendetta with the Nawab of Arcot who in turn was supported by the British. His prominent exploits were his confrontations with Marudhanayagam, who later on rebelled against the British himself. All this happened in late 1750s and early 1760s, way before Kattabomman appeared on the scene. However little importance is given to these details. Puli Devar was known for his astute diplomacy, cunningness and war strategy though he was much maligned by the British historians as a deceitful person who never kept his word. He remained invincible. He defeated a battalion of British and Nawab Soldiers on the banks of Thamirabarani. But he fell prey to the cunningness of the Nawab of Arcot. He was arrested by the British and led in a procession when he wanted to worship at the Sankaran kovil temple. So he was left alone in the Sanctum sanctorum. He sang lyrics praising the female deity. Then there was this sound of the handcuffs getting broken. When the troops rushed in, all they were able to find was the broken handcuffs and chains. The invincible hero turned invisible into the history. Nelkatumseval was the headquarters of Puli Thevar, the first chieftain in Tamil Nadu to resist the British. The author of the Thirunelveli District Gazetteer, H.R.Pate, observes as follows: "Nelkatumseval is chiefly memorable as having been in the eighteenth Century stronghold of the redoubtable Puli Thevar, who figured for many years as the leader of the Marava Confederacy against the troops of the Nawab and the Company. He had a shrewd insight into the political situation of the time and was a veritable thorn against the side of the Nawab's agents". Pulithevar remains one of the illustrious figures in the chequered history of palayakkars. The vivacity of his character gave him an ascendancy over the western palayakkars, while his determined resistance to the Nawab's overlordship made him a potential enemy of the Wallajahs. He was in fact the principal architect of the coalition of the palayakkars organised against the Nawab. The Nawab acknowledged his victory by presenting him with a gold plate and sword. Pulithevar is regarded as the first south Indian ruler, who sowed the seed, by his gallant resistance, to expel the foreigners from the soil. His services to the nation is honoured in many respects and the government of Tamilnadu has erected a memorial for him in Nelkattumsevval where there are the remnants of his palace.
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