The Mystery of a 1833 Memorial Plaque in Kotagiri

(Kalhada is a small Badaga village off Jakanarai on the Kotagiri-Mettupalayam road. A Plaque “ To the Memory of Kadhir Khan My Faithfull Peon by Hastings Fraser”  has been found there since many years. Several stories are made of this. Sometime back, a house was built on the site but the thoughtful owner affixed the plaque on the compound wall. The mystery appears to unravel as follows )

Hastings Fraser belongs to family with a long connection with towns in the Madras presidency. Being the first born among 10 children in 1771in Vellore,  he was named Hastings in gratitude to Warren Hastings, then member of the Council at Madras and later the first Governor General of India.

Hastings Fraser distinguished himself within the army after joining in 1788. He was only 28 when he led his regiment against Tipu Sultan in 1799.  He was nominated as one of the Prize Agents who were tasked with distributing the treasury of Tipu Sultan. He took for himself the famous ‘Attar Casket’,  a silver coffer ‘from Tipu’s own room and other valuables which were later donated by his descendants to the British Museum.

Hastings Fraser saw action in many fronts in India and abroad before retiring to London, where he died in 1852 at the age of 83, unmarried.  

How did the plaque in this name land up near Kotagiri?

Hastings Fraser’s father Major General James Stuart Fraser was the Resident at the Court of the Nizam of Hyderabad for many years and developed loyalty to the Nizams. Naturally, he would have known the Muslims well. One of his daughters also married the brother of the wife of the famous novelist Sir Walter Scott who admired Tipu Sultan. Hasting, himself, having fought in the Siege of Serringapattnam, had a closeness to Muslims and would have kept a Muslim peon as his assistant.

In 1829, Hastings father was compelled to take rest in the Neilgherries where he remained till the middle of 1830. Evidently, they stayed somewhere in Kotagiri as the new road from Mettupalayam to Kotagiri had been completed just then. Quite possibly Hastings would have accompanied his father with all his servants. He would have possibly  also stayed back after his father left in the middle of the year. Kadir Khan must have died after that due to illness as the plaque is dated 7th December. The Fraser connection did not end with that. In 1837  Major General James Stuart Fraser ‘bought several hundred square feet of land from neighboring Kotas’, in Kotagiri vicinity as the records show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *