THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tucked away amid the neat, tightly-packed houses on the narrow street is a small landscaped plot where the tall, tar-black Victory Pillar capped by a conch - the insignia of Travancore - stands. The sea is so close that you can hear the waves break on the beach. This pillar at Colachel in Kanyakumari district was in focus on Thursday as Indian Army units from Pangode commemorated the historic Battle of Colachel of 1741 on its 273rd anniversary.
Near the pillar, on one wall, battle scenes and the final surrender of Eustachius De Lannoy, the Flemish captain of the Dutch naval force, before Marthanda Varma is depicted. Next to the paintings, the story of the battle is told in Tamil. Today, the plot in which the memorial stands is well-groomed and protected. The seaward side of it has been fenced off.
The Victory Memorial at Colachel started getting due recognition only after the Indian Army began showing an active interest in it a few years ago. Two of the battalions of the Madras Regiment - the 9th and the 16th - were formed by incorporating the erstwhile State Forces of Travancore, the very Nair Pattalam units which fought the Dutch in 1741.
At Thursday’s function, Brigadier Samir Salunke, Station Commander of the Pangode Military Station, was the chief guest. Other dignitaries included Major General (Retd) V D I Devavaram, ex-Colonel of the Madras Regiment, Colonel Dushyant Jolly, Commanding Officer, 7 Madras, Colonel Sanjay G, Commanding Officer, 9 Madras, Kanyakumari district collector S Nagarajan and Nagercoil SP N Mani Vannan. Wreaths were laid at the memorial accompanied by a band display by the Madras Regiment’s pipe band.
The Battle of Colachel was fought on July 31, 1741 (August 10 according to the Gregorian calendar) between the forces of Marthanda Varma and the naval force of the Dutch East India Company. In defeating the Dutch, the Travancore army also became the first Asian force to defeat a European force in a land and sea battle.