First Woman Suicide Bomber of India against British during Freedom Struggle

Suicide Bomber Kuyili

The very utterance of the term ‘suicide bomber’ will transport you to a terrain of horror, of some violent attack wherein the attacker dies during action. You will only visualize about the harm, damage and destruction that it may cause to life and property. But this is no story about any hostile individual. We are delving about a brave lady warrior who became a suicide bomber for the sake of the motherland. She was a suicide bomber against the British during India’s initial freedom struggle. She is long forgotten and wiped away from the pages of History. Many of us aren’t aware of or familiar with her. She was Kuyili of Tamil Nadu.


Kuyili was the commander of the army of Velu Nachiyar, the queen of Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu. A warrior to the core, she was known for her valor and unconditional love for her motherland, always ready to sacrifice her life. She was a faithful follower of the queen.  Velu Nachiyar trusted two lady warriors the most – one was Kuyili and the other was Udaiyaal, her adopted daughter.


Not much information about Kuyili’s birth and childhood are available in records. She belonged to the Sambavar community from Tamil Nadu. ‘Sambavar’ draws its origin as followers of Lord Shiva. They are believed to be ancient priests of Lord Shiva. Sambavars find mention in History and other records as warriors, priests, agriculturalists, poets, writers, dancers, and musicians.


Velu Nacchiyar was the daughter, the only child of King Chellamuthu Sethupathy and Queen Sakandhimuthal of Ramnad kingdom, Tamil Nadu. A scholar of numerous languages, she was proficient in French, English and Urdu. Velu Nachiyar was trained in martial arts, use of war weapons, archery, and horse riding. She was an expert in Silambam (fighting using stick). The princess was married to Muthuvaduganathaperiya Udaiyathevar, the king of Sivagangai, at the age of 16. The couple was blessed with a daughter. Muthuvaduganathaperiya Udaiyathevar was killed in a battle against the combined forces of the British and Nawab of Arcot at Kalaiyar Koil on 25 June 1772. The invading British army plundered Kalaiyar Koil and collected jewels worth 50,000 pagodas.


Queen Velu Nachiyar fled with her daughter Vellacchi to a neighboring kingdom ruled by Palayakaarar Kopaala Naayakkar. She remained in hiding under the neighboring king for eight years where she arranged a huge army. Her army also included a big contingent of women warriors commandeered by Kuyili. Velu Nachiyar herself trained trained them to perfection. Kuyili was a beauty with brains and was one of the ablest of the queen’s commanders.


In 1780, Velu Nachiyar formed an alliance with Gopala Nayaker and Hyder Ali and was all geared up for a war against the British. The enemy British forces were superior in terms of guns and ammunition using which they could kill their opponents from a long distance. Rani Velu Nachiyar wished that the enemy’s ammunition and guns were destroyed so that she could successfully wage a war against them. The British stored the guns and ammunition in a temple. Only women were allowed to enter the temple.


Kuyili devised a plan for the queen. She undertook complete responsibility by volunteering for the task. She chose Vijayadashami as the day for executing her plan. Kuyili, along with a few women warriors, all disguised as worshippers carrying ghee-filled lamps, entered the temple. Inside the temple, Kuyili asked her fellow warriors to pour the ghee on her, all over her body. She then lit herself and entered the ammunition store room, turning into a suicide bomber. The storehouse exploded. She perished and turned into ashes in no time. But her sacrifice led to the destruction of guns and ammunition of the British forces.


Meanwhile, Queen Velu Nachiyar marched with her allies and army against the British. The British were left with no guns and ammunition. A face-to-face fierce battle ensued. The British stood no chance before her mighty warriors.


Queen Velu Nacchiyar regained her kingdom. She ruled for 10 years and later vested the administrative powers of her kingdom to Periya Marudhu and Chinna Marudhu, two Marudhu Pandiyar brothers, who were experts in their respective roles. She died on 25 December 1796. She was the first woman in the History of India to wage a successful war against the British. All because of the sacrifice by Kuyili!


India salutes the sacrifice of Kuyili and the bravery of Queen Velu Nacchiyar.


Featured image courtesy: Quora and

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manoshi sinha
Manoshi Sinha is a writer, poet, certified astrologer, avid traveler, and author of 7 books including 'The Eighth Avatar', and 'Blue Vanquisher' - Krishn Trilogy 1 and 2 that delve on Krishn beyond myths.



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