Madurai Under The Rule Of Khan Sahib

( Period : 1759 - 1764 )

Khan Sahib was born to the parents of a Hindu family at PANAIYUR near Madurai and was later converted to Islam. YUSUFKHAN was his name. He was a great warrier. He joined the army services of East India Company in 1748. Due to his ability he became the leader of Indian Division under East India Company. Recongnising his military capabilities East India Company's Madras Council appointed him as governor of Madurai in 1759.

The Arcot Nawab was under the domination of Mohammed Ali in Trichy Fort the English helped him to get the release. From that time the influence of the British increased in the politics of the Tamil. Moreover the rule of Mabus Khan at Madurai was not good. Hence when the English appointed Khan Sahib as governor of Madurai Mohammed Ali had to accept it.

From the time of the Fall of the Naicker rule in 1736 A.D. till Khan Sahib was appointed as governor in 1759, Madurai had no good administration. The reasons for this are several. The power wrangle between Santa Sahib and Mohammad Ali, the invasions as its consequence, invasion of Hyderabad Nizam, Mysore army's invasion, Marathy invasion, the interferences of the English and the French in the Karnataka politics, are to name a few.

The arrival of Khan Sahib in Madurai was a good period in the History of Madurai. He was having the responsibility of ruling both Madurai and Thirunelveli regions. From the income of both these regions he was paying certain amounts to the Britsh as lease amounts. Otherwise he was having all other powers to rule these regions independently. Madurai became the headquarters of his rule.

Apart from being a good warrier he was also a good administrator and efficient. He took several steps to improve the economy during hid rule. He undertook several good measures like deforesting, improving the irrigation facilities, giving loans for agriculture etc. He improved the productivity and income. He denoted leisurely to Meenakshi Amman Temple and arranged facilities for peaceful worshipping. He conducted himself with tolerance in religious matters. He helped the Sourashtra Community and encouraged hand loom weaving.

He strenghthened the Madurai Fort so as to withstand enemies' invasions and made use of. He was able to get the help of Kallar class and posted them in the north frontier for safe guarding. He also cultivated the friendship of the kings of Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram which are nearby. He defeated the Palayak karar Pooli Thevar in 1761.

In 1762, under the leadership of the king of Thiruvancore, the Palayakkarar of Sivagiri and Panchalankurichi jointly attacked the Thirunelveli regions which was under the Sahib. Hence Khan Sahib attacked Thiruvancore and got a great victory in 1762-63.


Khan Sahib was paying the lease amounts to the governor of East India Company at Madras. Khan Sahib was told that half the amounts being given to the English governor shall be paid to Arcot Nawab himself (1762). Considering himself as a sevant of the English Khan Sahib did not like to pay the amount to the Nawab. Moreover Khan Sahib did not get the permission of the English for invading Travancore in 1762. Also at the beginning of 1763 Khan Sahib cultivated friendship with the French and hoisted the then flag in Madurai Fort.

For these reasons the English governor of Madras Lord Bigot asked Khan Sahib to come to Madras leaving the post at Madurai. Seeing that the English are calling him back disrespecting his good rule at Madurai he decided to disobey and continued ruling at Madurai as per his own wish. He strenghthened the Fort at Madurai. He augmented his army. The infuriated British wanted to contain him and sent the army general Mansen to Madurai with an army (1762) but the seize of Madurai Fort by Mansen did not succeed. The efforts of the next general Preston also did not succeed. This clearly shows the skill of Khan Sahib in warfare.

In 1764 general campbell again started the seize of Madurai Fort. At this time the kings of Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram requested the help of Nawab and the British to save them from the army of Khan Sahib. To punish Khan Shahib, the Arcot Nawab Mohammad Ali came down to Madurai with an army. But he could not defeat Khan Sahib in the battle. Hence he designed a plot with the help of a servant of Khan Sahib and arrested Khan Sahib all of a sudden. (13-10-64). Arcot Nawab entered Madurai on 14-10-64. Khan Sahib was hanged to death on 16-10-64.

The death of Khan Sahib is a black spot in Madurai history. It is said that the British demolished the house of Khan Sahib into a big heap which was later used to be called Khan Sahib Mettu Street of Khansa Mettu Street in due course. This is mentioned in Islamic Encyclopaedia.The body of Khan Sahib was buried and a Dharga was built over it at Sammattipuram near Arasaradi.

After the death of Khan Sahib, the collection of taxes in Madurai and its adminstation were left to the responsibility of Abiran Khan, but the military administration was retained with the East India Company itself.