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Maruthanayagam

(1725 – 1764) – (Tamilnadu)

Maruthanayagam Pillai (Aged 39) was born in 1725 in Panaiyur, a village in British India (now Nainarkoil Taluk, Ramanathapuram District of Tamil Nadu, India). He was born into a Tamil Saiva Velalar family. He later converted to Islam and was named Muhammad Yusuf Khan. When he became the ruler of Madurai, he was known as Khan Sahib. He initially served as a warrior in the Arcot troops and later became a commandant for the British East India Company troops.

The British and the Arcot Nawab hired him to suppress the Polygar (also known as Palayakkarar) uprising in South India. After the end of the Madurai Nayak rule, he was entrusted to administer the Madurai country. However, a dispute arose between Khan and the British and Arcot Nawab, and three of Khan’s associates were bribed to capture him. He was captured during his morning prayer (Thozhugai) and hanged on 15 October 1764 at Sammatipuram, near Madurai.

According to local legends, Khan survived two earlier attempts at hanging. The Nawab feared that he would come back to life and had his body dismembered and buried in different locations around Tamil Nadu.