ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Invisible Invincibility

As Madras enters the 375th year of its founding, we still do not know why the sepoys of the Madras Native Regiment gave so much to the founding of the Empire and were yet quick to rebel. 

Waking up from a long slumber, Madrasis have been rediscovering the history of their city. The city’s corporation, 325 years old, is the second-oldest in the world, like the Egmore Eye Hospital, or the city Archives. St Mary’s Church in Fort St George, where Clive was married, is the oldest church east of Suez, and Queen Mary’s College is 100 years old this year. Citizens have turned themselves into enthusiastic researchers, and each day of the last several months has brought to light a new interesting fact about a street or building in the 375-year period that turned Madras from a fishing village into the cultured city of today. There have even been active debates whether the Founding Day was 22 August or 22 July 1639. The city’s people are celebrating their heritage from the British period.

And yet, what researchers have missed are crucial events that brought Madras into being, the string of victories won by the sepoys of the Regiment of Madras Native Infantry against all odds. Indian historians have not deigned to research how and why they won so many battles which turned a trading company, battling European and Indian forces, into an empire. They seem to have swallowed hook, line and sinker the canard spread assiduously by the British that the sepoys were mere mercenaries who served them with dog-like devotion, who followed blindly the instructions given to them, and, at best, only complemented the small British troops, who “won India by the sword”.

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