May 30, 2017

Robert Kelly's Memorial - Arani

Arani is a historic town located in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu state in India. It is located at a distance of around 140 kms from Chennai. The town, which is famous for silk materials, has a lot of monuments and temples. In this article, let me talk about Robert Kelly's Memorial.

Robert Kelly's Memorial is located in the fort area at the heart of the Arani Town. This monument is in the form of obelisk and stands to a height of about 45 feet. It is located on a vast old parade ground and  attracts many visitors.  This is one of the major landmarks of Arani town. Before divulging more details about this monument, let me give some background about Robert Kelly.

Robert Kelly arrived in Chennai (Madras) in 1760 CE. He was a junior rank officer then. By 1778 CE, he became Major. He proposed a military survey of South India. He was apparently made as Geographer of the Company. He was surveying Arani when he was killed on 29th September 1790 CE. By then, he was promoted as Colonel. He was in command of the troop of the 21st Battalion, which opposed Tipu Sultan later.

Colonel Kelly was killed by his junior Lt. Col. Vigors in a duel. Vigors apparently called Kelly's wife as an old woman. Kelly's wife felt insulted and she reportedly insisted Kelly to get into a deul with Vigors. When this duel took place, Vigors was just a Captain and not even Lt. Col.

Lt. Col. Urban Vigors, the son of Vigors, later erected this monument for Kelly, who had been killed by his own father.

Interestingly, Kelly's connection with Madras does not stop with his service in the city. It is believed that a property was granted to him by the East India Company in the Kellys Gardens locality of Purasawakkam in Chennai. It is said that this small locality is named as Kellys after him. However, it should be noted that it is widely believed that the original name "Killiyur" diluted into Kellys later.

It is said that Kelly's wife's was Miriam Kelly. She died in 1837 CE and her graveyard is located in St. Thomas Mount Cantonment Cemetery in Madras. (I have not yet verified this. When time permits, I will visit the cemetery).

The height of the monument is merely 45 feet today, whereas the original height was about 64 feet. Not sure when, why and how the height of the monument got reduced.

Happy travelling.

P.S. The details about Kelly's connection with Madras are given based on some articles by the Historian Shri. Muthiah and few articles/letters published in "Madras Musings".







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