‘Brennen beginnen die Waffen'(Commence firing the guns) – Captain Karl von Müller’s voice was clear; the darkness of the night was suddenly illuminated with flames as the oil tanks exploded. The labourers in Madras Harbour were in deep sleep and it was absolute chaos. An alarm began ringing somewhere; the British officers lulled in a false sense of security never realised what hit the Madras Harbour.
As Captain Karl continued to oversee the attack – a strange apparition appeared before him. He was in absolute shock – it was an Indian lady with dark skin, long hair, deep red eyes and a red silk saree draped around her. From where had she come? Karl rubbed his eyes thinking it was a hallucination – but the lady stood before him – visible only to him.
She said nothing – all she indicated with a swift move of her arm was – ‘Leave at once’. Karl was a Christian and not necessarily a God-fearing man; but this vision was a bit too much for him as the lady vanished as suddenly as she had arrived.
‘Rückzug’ (retreat) – shouted Karl and the ship ‘Emden’ left as swiftly as it had entered the harbour.
The guarding spirit of the city of Madras had saved her! Was it Goddess Kali? We do not know!
All we know is that if Karl had wanted he could have inflicted maximum damage to the city of Madras but he chose not to and the city now known as Chennai marches proudly into its 375th year of existence.
Learn more about the Madras Day Competition organised by the British Council.