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The Ravi Varma’s of the Padinjare Kovialkom

Posted by Maddy Labels: , ,

In hindsight, I feel it was not the valor of Tippu or Haider or their soldiers or their French training and discipline or for that matter, European armaments that really defeated the Nair’s of Malabar. Some times I think it was purely the fear of losing caste and fear of hunger and lowly death that drove families out of the Malabar area to Travancore. Such was the grip of the Brahminical caste system on the masses of Kerala at that stage. Samanthan Nair Kings wanted to avoid the stigma of being branded Sudra and instead wanted be known as a Khatriya kings from the Suryavansha and lower down, the other Nair’s wanted to hold on to their dignity and class status as long as possible.

I will get to the details and reasoning of the above aspect some time later, but this article is mostly on the semblance of resistance offered by two resolute individuals in the face of possible ignominy and utter despair after the elderly rulers and their families fled Calicut. Working with enemies who became friends and friends who became enemies as the tide of these wars crept higher and higher, they played a desperate game to hold on to the powers and possessions of the Zamorin of Calicut, as the old man and the ladies of the family boarded boats and went into exile in Travancore. We will now look at a crucial period of Malabar history – 1732-1805, not really at the Padayottam or the Sultan’s reign, but specifically the role that these two gallant gentlemen played in the affairs of the land and the battles of the time.

The individuals that are in focus are the Padinjare Kovilakom Zamorin princes. Perhaps the first of the freedom fighters of this era, these two Varma’s proved to be an enigma. Variously allied with and against the British at different times, and even with one or against the Mysore Sultans at times, they finally ended up fighting against both. The Ravi Varma and his uncle lived to be termed as the rebels or brigands of Calicut during these dark days of Hyder & Tipu in Malabar followed by the British take over of the Zamorin’s lands & power. While the old Zamorin and his family were exiled in Travancore, the uncle and nephew were the leaders of a lightly armed ragtag guerilla army of Nairs, fighting a useless battle on foot against the heavily armed, French trained army of the Sultan’s riding on horseback. Ravi Varma (normally synonymous with the nephew) is mentioned as a difficult customer by the British, and a close ally of the more illustrious Pazhassi Raja, but why do we not have much written material about him? I tried to delve as deep as I could, but information is still scarce. Here is a scant reconstruction of the time, of the two men, who did much more by way of sustained resistance, compared to the last and more talked about Pazhassi Raja. Yes, you may recall from the movie the boast by Pazhassi that only he remained while the nobles fled to Travancore, but he forgot to mention the uncle and nephew who held on till their respective deaths. The anger of the populace at the absconding Zamorin and the absence of the family nobles meant that the Varma’s fame virtually died with their deaths.

They were probably the first of the leaders who fought against not just the Mysore sultans and other oppressors, but also the English. They alone saw through the plans of the foreigners. Their method was guerrilla warfare on foot and for this purpose, were accompanied by a small & loyal band of Nairs right through their life spans.

The Ravi Varma’s of Padinjare Kovilakom, one of the seats of the Zamorins of Calicut can be first traced to the days of Hyder Ali when Kishen (Krishnan) raja was an Eralpad, 2nd in command or deputy of the Zamorin. It was the period when Malabar’s famed prosperity declined rapidly as the power rapidly leaked away from the Zamroin’s hands first to the Mysore Sultans and later to the British.

As the power of the Zamorin’s grew rapidly through the medieval centuries, the Palghat Achans curried for favor with Cochin. South of the Nila River, the Nambitis adopted the same strategy whenever they felt oppressed by Cochin and held on the alliance with the Zamorin. This cat-and-mouse game continued until the invasions from Mysore in the mid-eighteenth century pushed Palghat and Malabar into one of the infamous stories of the British conquest of south India and the war against the Muslim rulers of Mysore—Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan.
 
Hyder first walked into Palakkad and Malabar in 1766 and then again marched into Malabar via Thamarassery in 1767. He quickly understood the Nair psyche and pride and tackled it cleverly. First he deprived Nair’s of caste privileges, equating them to Paravas and outlawed them, also prohibiting them from carrying arms, but offered privileges back to anybody who converted to Islam. The Zamorin’s retaliation starts around 1768 as Hyder’s rule is headquartered in Manjeri. The British offer some support and command positions to the rebels from 1767, against the Sultans. The French recognize the American declaration of Independence in 1769 and the Anglo French wars start. The Zamorin families are soon in exile at Travancore after the reigning Zamorin, unable to meet Hyder’s demand, immolates himself in the Kottpuram palace, setting the ammunition room on fire, thus bringing a curtain down on the Zamorin’s rule of Malabar.

Haider is later aligned with the French. In 1780 Haider signs a treaty with the Kottyam Rajas. Kottayam gains importance while tax evaders (tax to the Mysore Sultans) find safe haven there. The British have to support the Kottayam rebels (the very same ones they went against later) as the Tellichery fort lies within the Kottayam kingdom.

New troops arrive from Bombay, and the British aided by the rebels defeat Hyder & later Sirdar Khan commits suicide. Further rebellions start in Malabar. It is 1782 now, Hyder dies and Tipu continues his forays into Malabar to quell the riots. In 1784 the British establish a peace treaty with the Sultans and the Malabar kings lose out in the agreement. They are mortified, especially the Calicut Zamorin’s families and the warring princes.

By 1788 Tipu is reestablishing his capital at Feroke, based at the Mammally area in today’s Cheruvannor. He now orders forced conversions. The Nair’s rise up in arms again to support the many Brahmins who were caught in a noose. Tipu crushes the rebellion and the exodus to Travancore starts. Then in 1789 the Pazhassi raja rises in prominence in Kottayam.

Meanwhile, Tipu cements his position by creating a family alliance between his son and the Arakkal Beevi’s daughter. The Beevi however quietly supports the EIC. Tipu increases taxes and alienates all of the public including the Moplah’s. He then sets his sights on Travancore. 1792-99 is the period covering the Anglo – Mysore wars. Tipu loses and British get Malabar. That in essence is the time line that we will look at.

The Nair rebellions were very interesting in the sense that they were a combination of passive and active resistance. The passive rebellion was by flight, by refusal of tax payment (very important to note as they had control over tax collections and the Sultans did not yet have a dependable set up of their own) and by providing false valuation. It was a big come down from the honest levels they once maintained, in the name of rebellion. The active rebellions were skirmishes, fought by minimally organized militia, some of whom were led by one or both of the Ravi Varma’s.

So now we take up the story of the Varma’s. Hyder marches to Malabar via Chirakkal. The Zamorin has just ended his life 1766 by self immolation and the 600 year reign of the Zamorins of Calicut had formally come to an end. However the uncle and nephew from the Padinjare kovilakom branch have sworn to take revenge on Hyder.

The Eralpad Kishen Varma who takes over moves to Ponnani and then Tanur – and orders the retaliation. The Moplah’s join Hyder’s troops. Hyder soon returns to Mysore. The period of 1768-74 is characterized by a period of some peace – The new Zamorin returns to Calicut & is back to his old ways of picking up a quarrel with the Cochin king and quibbling over unnecessary things instead of fortifying the area for the future or building an army. By 1774 the Zamorin signs a treaty with the French, but Hyder’s troops are on the march again into Malabar, this time led by Srinivasa Rao. The French walk away offering no support to the Zamorin. This Zamorin also flees by boat to Travancore. The Eralpad and his rag tag army of Nairs led by his nephew Ravi Varma on foot is no match for the Mysore troops and quickly disperse in different directions planning to meet up again in Calicut. In 1779 discussions take place between Hyder & Malabar chiefs with the Chirakkal Raja mediating. Ravi Varma is allowed personal collection of taxes for his support as a personal tribute and the Zamorin family is offered reinstatement if they agree to certain terms. The discussions break down as Ravi Varma is suspicious of some movements and returns to Nedunganad (KV Krishna Iyer).

He soon returns to Calicut, his traditional area of influence and authority, for better co-ordination. Tipu sent a large Mysore army under the command of M. Lally and Mir Asrali Khan to chase and drive out the Zamorin prince from Calicut. However, during the above operations, Ravi Varma princes assisted not less than 30,000 Brahmins to flee the country and take refuge in Travancore" (p. 508). Later in 1782 Ravi Varma helps the British occupy Calicut after a war with Hyder, now fighting under British command.

It is soon 1783 and the British have made definite and alternate plans, playing towards their main game step by step. Fullterton goes to Palghat to capture the fort with the Zamorin’s troops supporting. The Eralpad agrees to support the British in exchange of reinstatement of the Zamorin at Calicut , soon the fort is taken and handed over to the Zamorin. The British however hand it back to Tipu. The Zamorin has to abandon Palakkad and the fort as a consequence. As part of the Anglo Mysore discussions, the British give up their claim on Malabar in 1784.

Ravi Varam is back & fighting. 1785 is the period of the Manjeri Gurukkal revolt which I had written about some time ago, Ravi Varma is now seen joining Tipu’s troops in crushing it. Ravi Varma is thus allied with Tipu Sultan in 1784 where he gets a Jaghire of land (Land Control in Indian History: A Case Study of Malabar, 1766-1835 - By Loren Howard Michael). It was a clever ploy. Though Tipu conferred on him a jaghire (vast area of tax-free land) mainly to appease him, the prince Ravi varma, after promptly taking charge of the jaghire, continued his revolt against the Mysore power, more vigorously and with wider support.

Kishen Raja the Eralpad returns to Malabar, some books confuse him with Ravi Varma and mention that he proclaimed himself Zamorin. In 1788 the Varma princes again discuss a reinstatement of the Zamorin at Calicut. Tipu refuses to accede. The Earlapad Kishen Raja is invited by Tipu in 1788 for discussions. Kishen sends Swaminatha Pattar, who is told that Kishen will be provided a compensation for cooperation. Tipu tells Swaminatha Pattar that the Nediyirippu swaroopam will be reinstated if they support Tipu in his war to take over Travancore, by spearheading the attack. Tipu himself would not attack Travancore since it was under a British treaty of protection. Kishen apparently agrees but does not cooperate (some books mention he refused outright to cooperate). Tipu believed that Kishen raja has broken his word and lashes out in fury against the Malabar populace again with religious persecution, forced conversions, and general mayhem.

Calicut was again attacked by Tipu in November 1788. Tipu's officers also lay hands on the Karanavappad of Manjeri. The Nairs of Calicut and South Malabar headed by Ravi Varma and other princes of the Padinjare Kovilakam turns in despair against their oppressors. Tipu sends 6,000 troops under M. Lally to raise the siege, but Ravi Varma could not be driven out of the field though he has to leave Calicut and took to the forests. The fires of rebellion have again been fanned by the Varmas. The Chirakkal Raja also come to the support of the Varmas, but Tipu retaliates by threatening to circumcise and convert him, when the Chriakkal ruler apparently commits suicide.

1790 Tipu takes the last misstep and invades Travancore by himself. The British, whose successes have so far been mainly owing to the ground support received in the wars from the Varmas, now play the end game to perfection when Lord Cornwallis invites the Varma princes for discussions, agreeing to restore the Zamorin all his lands and commercial powers should the rebels render long term cooperation to them. Accordingly Ravi Varma meets Gen Meadows at Trichy and conducts negotiations. A Cowlnama is drawn up between Kishen Varma and the British which says

Cowl Nama from his Excellency, Major General Meadows, Governor and Commander-in-Chief , on the part of the Honourable Company to Kishen, Zamorin Raja of Calicut.

"Whereas the English forces have by the blessing of Providence possessed themselves of the fort and district of Palghaut and certain adjacent countries of the Malayalam, and design further to extend their possessions in that quarter, and whereas Kishen, Zamorin Raja of Calicut has on the present and former occasions evinced firm attachment to the British interests and proved himself useful in supplying their armies, it has therefore been resolved that the said Zamorin shall be invested, and he is hereby invested with the sole management of all the countries heretofore included in the province of Calicut which are or may be conquered by the British troops.
The said Zamorin is therefore directed to exert his authority and influence in embodying the Nairmars of that country and in directing their operations against the common enemy either separately or in conjunction with the British forces as he may be instructed by the Officer commanding in that quarter.
He is to exert himself in establishing magazines in such places as he may be required to collect them, aid in supplying, as far as may be practicable, every thing necessary for the prosecution of the war, for which regular receipts will be given, and the amount duly accounted for, at its conclusion.
This instrument to which strict obedience is enjoined by all, whom it may concern, is to be considered as a Cowl Nama and authority for administering the revenues during the present war, and at its successful conclusion by the favour of the Almighty, the Murassie or right of inheritance of the said Zamorin, and of every Raja, Zemindar and Polygar shall be strictly examined and justly determined to the rightful inheritor agreeably to established custom,and then also the Peiscush to be paid to the Honourable Company shall be equitably adjusted. Given under my hand and seal at Coimbatore, the twenty seventh day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety.
(Signed) W. MEADOWS, Governor and Commander in Chief. 27th Sept 1790

With the help of the Varama’s and their Nairs, the Mysore armies are routed by the British in Malabar. In 1791, the Cochin king after having been at first under the Portuguese and later the Dutch, agree to the suzerainty of the British and to pay an annual tribute. With Mysore under simultaneous attack by the British, Tipu sues for peace in 1792 and cedes Malabar to the British in compensation. The Varma princes were in the meantime busy restoring order in Malabar and fighting and taming the Muslim leaders who were persecuting them under Tipu’s reign. It was to prove a mistake.

What followed was a mixture of misused opportunity and undue faith in the legality of the 1790 cowl nama. A meeting called by Cornwallis was not attended by the Malabar princes. The old Zamorin, more interested in celebrating his ‘ariyittuvazcha’ or coronation in Chavakkad possibly missed the significance of the British call for a meeting in Cannanore to discuss the rights. The British were miffed that the Zamorin crowned himself without discussing the matter with them and were disappointed with the Zamorin still not sending a delegation. Assuming that the Zamorin was playing a delay tactic, they leased a number of his lands to the Kurumbranad raja. If one were to look at the palace intrigues of the time, they would perhaps see the hand of a very clever man who played the cards – He was Swaminatha Pattar. As things turned out, the Zamorin finally deputed his Munalpad (not the Eralpad Kishen raja!!) and Swaminatha Pattar for the meeting with the British.

The hard negotiations lasted two months. The British decided against reinstating the Zamorin and other Malabar princes with all their powers using the argument that they would continue wars with the Moplahs who had been against them in the Hyder - Tipu reign and that the British will have to spend time, money and maintain an army to keep peace. Swaminatha Pattar swayed the Zamorin and other princes by explaining their cause as lost (and by also mentioning that Dewan Keshava Pillai was planning to add Malabar to Travancore). Finally an unsatisfactory agreement was arrived at, the details of which I will get into some other day, but in essence providing a title to the Zamorin and other chiefs but no authority though burdening them with all the liabilities and responsibilities. Swaminatha Pattar was thence named a British agent to collect taxes (the responsibility that the Zamorin originally had) and later titled a Dewan. The Padinjare Kovilakom princes, especially the Ravi Varma’s were aghast when all this happened. They insisted on restoring the kingdom to the Zamorin, though the Zamorin himself had given up the right based on the Pattar’s persuasion.

The Padinjare kovilakom branch of the Zamorins was provided with the Nedunganad area, to be lorded by the Eralpad Kishan Varma. The Varmas moved to Kalladikode which had by then also become a haven for Pazhassi raja’s fleeing rebels. Here they were aided by the Ravi Varmas who were dealing with the area but they soon had a lengthy quarrel with the Zamorin’s family (according to Logan) from the Kizhakke kovilakom of that time. The Varmas fortify their home in the Kalladikode Attapadi area, aided by the tribal’s and the Chetty’s who had supported them in the previous wars. It soon became a meeting point where many dissatisfied Malabar nobles and leaders met often, discussing strategies. The Kottayam Raja Pazhassi was by then also in league with them. The British were wary and wanted to nip any further rebellion in the bud.

Ravi Varma first got a warning letter from Stevens accusing him of conspiracy against the EIC, for taking over the Zamorin’s position, forceful collection of revenues and taxes due instead to the EIC and weakening the position of the reigning Zamorin. However he also said that more than everything the main EIC grouse was the threat of body injury to Swaminatha Pattar. Accordingly they were ordered to pay 100,000 due to the Zamorin immediately.

It is 1793 now. Seeing more treachery played by Swaminatha Pattar, the two Varma’s get enraged. They decided on executing revenge and a move away to the fortified palace in Kalladikode and away from Calicut. But first they summoned the Pattar to the Mankavu Kovilakom where he was stabbed (For more details of the event read my blog on the scorned Dewan).

The Varma’s decide to cork the hole in the leaky boat by planning an assassination of Shamnath for his treachery after luring him to the ancestral Zamorin house or the Mankavu Padinjare kovilakom. One can imagine the extreme state of agitation in their minds, for a Nair to harm a Brahmin in those days was unthinkable. The Kovilakom itself is a huge courtyard with the Bhagavathy temple in the middle and the men’s quarters on the left and the Women’s lodge on the right. Between the temple and the women’s quarters is the Thampuran’s dwelling. Behind the temple is located the Ayappan Kavu and the Kalari where martial arts are practiced.


Swaminatha Pattar was lured to the temple and stabbed by the young Ravivarma Unni Nambi and his uncle Ravivarma. Shamnath does not die though and the Ravi Varma’s flee to the Wayanad hills. The Rani or Amma Thamburatti is deeply troubled by the terrible act committed on a Brahmin and orders that a special puja be conducted. Accordingly a Brahmarakshassu is installed between the Ayyappan temple and the Kalari at the Kovialkom. I have since then seen a mention that it was not one of the Ravi Varma’s but an 5-amkur (5th in the succession line prince) Manavikraman who actually stabbed the Pattar.

The upstarts take to the hills. They are joined there by Unni Moota Mooppan, some Coimbatore poligars, Kunhi Achan from Palakkd etc. The East India Company offers a reward of Rs 5000/- for their capture. Capt Burchall pursues them through the Anamalai’s in Waynad, but they escape to Travancore.

The elder Ravi Varma is soon arrested by Capt Burchall but dies a day or two later in custody. His nephew Ravi Varma is also taken into custody by the British but released on receipt of a surety by the Kizhakke Kovilakom Thampuran - Nalam thampuran (and after payment of some Rs100,000 arrears due to the EIC).

At this point the history books go a little hazy and time lines are blurred as we are not sure who dies in captivity and who retired. Somewhere in 1793, the elder Ravi Varma dies from complications arising from an old bullet injury according to one book. It has been 27 years of unsuccessful fighting; he died without seeing his ambition of restoring power to the Zamorin clan. He was cremated at Kalladikode. Accolades came from far and near, including Pazhassi raja and many other Malabar chiefs. The younger Verma was also captured soon after by the British and interned in the Cherplassery jail where he was found dead of poisoning the next day. However this part of the story is not corroborated anywhere, Logan mentions as follows

The Kalladikode kovilakom is razed to the ground. The 5am kur manavikraman who stabbed Swaminatha Pattar is interned in Coimbatore, also dies in jail. The year is 1797, and the Ravi Varams are finally erased from the scene. The prominence of the next freedom fighter, the Pazhassi raja commences.

In 1797 the rest of the Zamorin princes agree to give no trouble to the British and settle down in Calicut. In 1806 four senior member of the Zamorin family are offered a malikhana or pension, and the Puthiya kovilakom is constructed.

With that the last of the rebels or freedom fighters, whichever way one may term it, had passed on, leaving the reins of Malabar fully in the hands of a company which came to trade honorably. The terms of the 1790 cowl nama were soon forgotten and the hey days of Malabar were sadly consigned to history, only to be mentioned in passing as a place where Vasco De Gama landed or sometimes with respect to pepper, the black gold that grew there.

Notes: I have come to the conclusion that some history books have made wrong connections due to the existence of the ‘padinjare kovolakom’ in two families, the Calicut Zamorin family and the Kottayam family (where Pazhassi raja gained importance). Many of the earlier rebellions attributes to the Padinjare kovoilakom princes actually refer to the Western faction of the Zamorin family and were spearhead by the two Ravi Varmas. Sadly no picture or detailed life story of either prince remains even after checking with present day representatives of the Padinjare kovilakom. The above is an attempt to trace it into some kind of a cohesive narrative, but no personal portfolios of the two princes can be obtained, their personal life, family life, descendants (if any) or details of their normal life and times.

Another confusion lies in the identity of the Ravi Varma, the nephew Ravi Varma Nampi and the Eralpad Kishen raja (Varma). Some books mention that the Kishen raja and the uncle Ravi varam were one and the same.

An astute reader would note the absence of flesh and blood to the two characters. They are not described anywhere as small or big, tall, short, stocky or muscular, but simply as two souls working in unison against enemies. They are not painted or embellished, no songs are made about them, no letters recorded, no paintings made. One could assume that the absence of scribes and poets in the war torn area may have been the reason.

Many blame the Zamorin’s for flight, but remember the power structure in the late medieval. The suzerain has little direct control and the fighting hundreds or thousand Nairs reported to individual clan leaders who had by then bolted to Travancore with possibly their fighters leaving only a rag tag army and the symbolic Zamorin’s nephews to try & spearhead a rebellion and reclaim an empire from the shambles.

So these two will always remain as enigmas, fighters with faces unknown, and fighters with no personal life, who spent their entire youth and middle age fighting the Mysore Sultans & the British, mainly the former. The populace in the eagerness to name only the British as the oppressors and conquerors forgot the two lone fighters who fought for Malabar against both. Nevertheless, the Pazhassi raja that joined later got into the limelight mainly because his fight was against the declared invader the British and much better chronicled.

The reader today is not possibly interested in the atrocities committed in the name of religion, hatred and contempt by the Mysore Raja’s who have by now been declared in the annals of history as the ones who bravely fought the British. But that is how history is, unkind to some, grateful to others, forgiving to some and glorifying the remaining. The Ravi Varma’s alas rest in the group of forgotten people.

One possible source I have not been able to get access to is the Joint commissioners report 1792-3. In addition to the above, if anybody has more information to provide, please let me know.

References
Zamorins of Calicut – KV Krishna Iyer
Malabar Manual – W Logan
Manjeri revolt
Scorned Dewan
Palakkad fort

25 comments:

  1. Vijay

    Fantastic timeline Maddy- makes history come alive. The number of prisoners that "died in captivity" is striking. I find an unusual preponderance of this right up to independence, especially with Indian National Army prisoners in WW II. A polite euphemism for death by torture!

    As to the failure of Nair forces, the story is echoed throughout Indian history. The valor of individual warriors squandered by inept command and control. That phenomenon was alive and well right up to the 1962 debacle on the Tibet border!

  1. P.N. Subramanian

    I getting acquainted with Malabar history through your writings. Thanks for an interesting account.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks a lot Vijay & PNS..

    The number of deaths in the Indian freedom are not recounted anywhere, but something tells me that the situation was slightly more humane compared to some of the other regimes, including the modern & developed ones. But of this I am not sure. Many more thousands I think died in the Bengal famine..

  1. Keralavarma Vijay Thampuran

    I am not sure if we can call Ravi Varmas freedom fighters. Even Tippu is not a freedom Fighter. One fought the British and others to save his country and in some cases to expand his country. The other fought others and British to expand his country. Tippu under estimated British strength who were ably helped by Travancore.

  1. Calicut Heritage Forum

    The cowlnama of 1790 had lost its importance after the defeat of the Mysoreans in 1792. The whole of Malabar was not surrendered in 1792, but only one half. Which half was left for the British to decide. This explains the 'ariyittuvazhcha of the Zamorin in 1793, for he could claim to be still the ruler of the 'other half'.
    Very interesting post!

  1. Maddy

    Thanks CHF that is curious - which part of malabar was not ceded? do you mean Ali raja's terrian? because the southern parts were also administed by a british supervisor in cherplassery if i read right.

  1. Murali RamaVarma

    Very interesting and fascinating! As you observed, history is, at times blind. It is essentially the story from the side of the victor

  1. Rajendran

    Writing about these heroes who are lost to history was great. But there is a misconception about the military aspect of Padayottam and resistance to Muslims.

    Nair militia did not wage a losing war with Hyder and Tippu.Why?

    Because modern Mysore army was not trained to fight a jungle warfare.

    Vast expanses of Malabar was jungles till 1945. Also transport was poor.

    Army of Mysore relied on cavalry and artillery - none of which was of any use in a jungle country like Malabar.

    Nairs would lay wait in the jungles along the narrow road and engaged in constant hit and run attacks on enemies.

    Even Tippu himself called Nairs "a refractory people who have caused a number of his warriors taste of martyrdom".

    One reason why Mysore Sultans unleashed such a reign of terror because of their inability to crush Nair militia even after years of struggle.

    What Nair militia did was right-by engaging in guerrilla warfare based in jungles, they made sure that Mysoreans could not use their artillery and cavalry in operations.

    Also escape of nobles would not have affected Nair militia which worked on an informal principle of "strongest man lead". In this system, men flocked to strongest men [cited Logan] and so in times of danger when their natural leaders fled, I think vacuum created by Muslim invasion would have enabled audacious Nair young men to emerge as war leaders.

  1. sunand

    Dear Maddy,
    Congrats for your effort to expose the valiant Ravi Varmas of Padinjhare Covilakam to the public world.Both Ravi Varmas were equally valiant.
    Few lines from me,
    Kishen Raja & Senior Ravi Varma (Uncle) are not the same person as you doubts. Kishen Raja was the 2nd Raja died at Karimpuzha and Ravi Varma, the 7th Raja died at Cherpulasseri(Ref- The genealogical Table kept at Padinjhare Covilakam).Junior Ravi Varma died in the temporary jail erected at Karumanamkurissi,near Cherpulasseri(genealogical Table). Junior Ravi Varma had 3 brothers,all of whom died in mysterious circumstances. Senior Manvikrama Raja was his younger brother who was imprisoned in the Dindigal fort jail,were he ended his life on 3-3-1806. He was a close friend of 'Pazhassi Raja'.

    Points recorded by P.C.M Raja (late),historian in this regard.

    Junior Ravi Varma was prisoned in the jail at the instigation of Swaminatha Pattar , who was later stabbed by his younger brother Manavikraman at Mankave.
    Junior Ravi Varma was cremated on the banks of the river 'Thootha',near Cherpulasseri.
    Senor Ravi Varma was cremated at the
    kalladikode Kovilakam situated in the thick forest of the Kalladikode hills.
    Ravi Varmas were the only persons who fought against the Hyder,Tippu and also the British in the whole of Kerala, that too for 27 long years. Sad indeed , is that an ungrateful state do not bother at least to remember them.

    P.C.V RAJA

  1. Varun

    Life span of the Ravi Varma(Nephew)
    was for 45 years from 1748-1793(He was born in Malayalam Era 923,Karkkidakam- star Visakham). Details of Ravi Varma(uncle) is not readily available, however he breathed his last during 1792 or 1793. The stabbing incident of the Swaminatha Pattar also took place in the year 1793

    P C Vikarman Raja

  1. Varun

    Dear Maddy,
    Congrats for your effort to expose the valiant Ravi Varmas of Padinjhare Covilakam to the public world.Both Ravi Varmas were equally valiant.
    Few lines from me,
    Kishen Raja & Senior Ravi Varma (Uncle) are not the same person as you doubts. Kishen Raja was the 2nd Raja died at Karimpuzha and Ravi Varma, the 7th Raja died at Cherpulasseri(Ref- The genealogical Table kept at Padinjhare Covilakam).Junior Ravi Varma died in the temporary jail erected at Karumanamkurissi,near Cherpulasseri(genealogical Table). Junior Ravi Varma had 3 brothers,all of whom died in mysterious circumstances. Senior Manvikrama Raja was his younger brother who was imprisoned in the Dindigal fort jail,were he ended his life on 3-3-1806. He was a close friend of 'Pazhassi Raja'.

    Points recorded by P.C.M Raja (late),historian in this regard.

    Junior Ravi Varma was prisoned in the jail at the instigation of Swaminatha Pattar , who was later stabbed by his younger brother Manavikraman at Mankave.
    Junior Ravi Varma was cremated on the banks of the river 'Thootha',near Cherpulasseri.
    Senor Ravi Varma was cremated at the
    kalladikode Kovilakam situated in the thick forest of the Kalladikode hills.
    Ravi Varmas were the only persons who fought against the Hyder,Tippu and also the British in the whole of Kerala, that too for 27 long years. Sad indeed , is that an ungrateful state do not bother at least to remember them.

    P.C.V RAJA

  1. pkhari

    good work done go ahead with more detailed study

    Haridasan

  1. Maddy

    CHF - It is stated that the cowlnama lost its importance after the Mysore war, but remember that the written word was always held in great esteem by English law and an agreement was exactly that - an agreement. there was no statement of expiry of validity, in time or purport. It was an alliance agreement from that point of view and that was why the Zamorin felt so injured and declared deceit.

  1. Maddy

    thanks Murali - immediate proclamations are as you rightly said from the side of the victor. They then try to document it from their angle for posterity as history which the English did, including to a certain extent people like Logan. But there were many neutral observers too.

  1. Maddy

    Rajendran, Thanks and I agree, most of the retaliation were local skirmishes to say the least, not organized resistance which was not really great against a well armed and disciplined Mysore army, all it did was inconvenience them often. But it was symbolic.

    By that time Palghat and Cochin and Travancore had made agreements with Mysore. Therein lay the problem. The fact is that the Mysore rulers plundered Malabar and established for a while their brand of rule over the subjects. I will cover this separately in more detail.

  1. Maddy

    Mr PCV Raja..thanks - What i attempted was a somewhat brief introduction, but I think we need to unearth enough facts to bring these names to the fore. What is available is still somewhat cloudy. The commissioners report covers them quite a bit but I have not been able to lay my hands on it.

  1. Rajendran

    Malabari resistance to Mysore rule from 1766 to 1791 is a least understood and least studied aspect of last 300 years of Kerala's history.

    Leftists always speak of progressive Mysore rule [forgetting the fact that the rule was so progressive that twenty five years of Mysore occupation was a time of ceaseless partisan warfare.

    People of Malabar would have cooperated with Mysore rule had it not been for the exorbitant tax imposed by Mysore governors. You are true - Mysoreans came here to plunder and in Malabar where traditional tax was nominal, people found it unbearable to pay the nearly 1/2 of their income as tax and in some cases, over-estimation of revenue meant that farmers had to pay nearly 75 percent of income as tax.

    Tippu himself expressed his concern that not only could he collect tax form Malabar, his effort to hold on to that region have become a drain on his military force and Mysore treasury.

    It is true that Mysore army was helped by tens of thousands of Malabari Muslim auxiliaries, but Hyder and Tippu had to post a large regular army to check rebellions.

    If they had used the army they had used to cling on [I use the term "cling on" because there was hardly any government in Malabar - anarchy reigned for quarter of a century and Mysore authority prevailed only in those regions where they could station their regular troops - ie countryside and jungles remained in control of partisans.

    2 points we can say with sure -

    1. That resistance to Mysore rule was people's struggle against a hated bandit rule.

    2. Rather than profit, Malabar was a burden for Hyder and Tippu who clung on in the hope that matter might improve in Muslim favour in future.

  1. Rajendran

    Also,

    1. Could a resistance on the scale of what Mysore army faced in Malabar be possible if there was no co-ordination and planning among various partisan bands?

    Also, I must add that rebels often scored decisive successes.

    In 1767, a 4000 strong Mysore army was destroyed by 2000 strong Kottayam [Pazhassi?] army.

    Kottayam army of 2000 men led by Edachena Kunkan aided the tiny British garrison in Thalasseri from 1779 to 1782 to withstand assault from a Mysorean army [helped by rajas of Chirakkal and Kadathanad] of 8000 men.

    In 1782, enemy force was destroyed when British-"Nayar" troops in Thalasseri struck Mysore army in front while another army led by Pazhassi Raja himself attacked enemy in the rear and defeated the larger Mysore army.

    Also note that this plan was suggested to British by none other than Kerala Varma [Pazhassi Raja]!

    Tippu had arrested and jailed a Kadathanad noble named Kamburath Nambiar who gave Mysore too much trouble but took care to release him when British seized Malabar so that the can "plague the British".

    At least in light of these facts, I think rebel movement in Malabar was formidable indeed.

    2. Wellesley in his despatches have mentioned that people of Malabar are fond of carrying arms.

    Note- Wellesley was well aware of difference between a Nair and rest of Hindu Malabaris. Also reference to lower caste soldiers is also plentiful in folklores.

    Also if only Nairs had fought, how could have the native rebellion remained in 1790 as strong as it had been in 1766? My view is that role of Nairs would have been similar to that of Marathas - Marathas were a military caste but they trained lower caste soldiers in huge numbers. But outsiders who could not understand this difference termed what should be called as "Maharashtrian" army as "Maratha" army.

    I think same is case with Malabar also - Nayars were the leadership and a good part of partisans, but bulk of them must have been drawn from ranks of numerous peasant lower castes like Tiyars.Note that Asiatic Journal of 1828 had also mentioned Tiyars and Kurichas along with Nayars as "military tribes" of Malabar.

  1. Rajendran

    Also,

    1. Could a resistance on the scale of what Mysore army faced in Malabar be possible if there was no co-ordination and planning among various partisan bands?

    Also, I must add that rebels often scored decisive successes.

    In 1767, a 4000 strong Mysore army was destroyed by 2000 strong Kottayam [Pazhassi?] army.

    Kottayam army of 2000 men led by Edachena Kunkan aided the tiny British garrison in Thalasseri from 1779 to 1782 to withstand assault from a Mysorean army [helped by rajas of Chirakkal and Kadathanad] of 8000 men.

    In 1782, enemy force was destroyed when British-"Nayar" troops in Thalasseri struck Mysore army in front while another army led by Pazhassi Raja himself attacked enemy in the rear and defeated the larger Mysore army.

    Also note that this plan was suggested to British by none other than Kerala Varma [Pazhassi Raja]!

    Tippu had arrested and jailed a Kadathanad noble named Kamburath Nambiar who gave Mysore too much trouble but took care to release him when British seized Malabar so that the can "plague the British".

    At least in light of these facts, I think rebel movement in Malabar was formidable indeed.

    2. Wellesley in his despatches have mentioned that people of Malabar are fond of carrying arms.

    Note- Wellesley was well aware of difference between a Nair and rest of Hindu Malabaris. Also reference to lower caste soldiers is also plentiful in folklores.

    Also if only Nairs had fought, how could have the native rebellion remained in 1790 as strong as it had been in 1766? My view is that role of Nairs would have been similar to that of Marathas - Marathas were a military caste but they trained lower caste soldiers in huge numbers. But outsiders who could not understand this difference termed what should be called as "Maharashtrian" army as "Maratha" army.

    I think same is case with Malabar also - Nayars were the leadership and a good part of partisans, but bulk of them must have been drawn from ranks of numerous peasant lower castes like Tiyars.Note that Asiatic Journal of 1828 had also mentioned Tiyars and Kurichas along with Nayars as "military tribes" of Malabar.

  1. Rajendran

    Main draw-back of Mysore army in Malabar versus local partisans was that-

    Mysore army was a mercenary force trained to fight short open battles - Neither their training nor equipment were designed to tackle guerrilla warfare.

    This is pointed by Lt.Col. Mark Wilks in "Historical Sketches of South India" [1817]

    “Troops of Hyder had not encountered so brave and formidable an enemy before...their concealed fire from the forests that abound the country [Malabar] could not be returned with effect nor could Hyder’s troops be persuaded to enter thickets and engage in hand to hand combat with them..”

    Best comparison of Mysorean occupation of Malabar is with American occupation of Vietnam and Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

    Just as Vietcong and Mujahideen fought with Soviet and American help, Malabari partisans fought with flint-locks and ammunition they purchased from British in exchange for pepper. When they did not have gun-powder, they used ordinary bows and arrows to do target practise on Mysore troops in hit and run attacks.[Wilks]

    If British had not defeated Tippu there are 2 possibilities - Either he would abandon Malabar altogether or he would have negotiated with rebel leaders.

    Irony is that the redoubtable Pazhassi Raja was ready to acknowledge Mysorean over-lord ship in early 1780's - but exorbitant demand of tribute by Sardar Khan persuaded him to go back on war-path. In 1784 also, he would have accepted Mysore suzerainty and 65,000 rupees as tribute, but Amildars of Tippu hiked the rate to 81,000 and once more chance of peace was lost.[Logan & Warrier]

  1. Maddy

    thank you Rajendran for your exhaustive comments.
    I will cover the Mysore occupation or padayottakalam in 3-4 blogs soon and will provide a good overview for most readers soon..

  1. VR

    Kerala Varma "Pazhassi Raja" and Ravi Varma of Calicut is similar in some respects like both were resolute patriots.But they differed in some fundamental respects.

    Pazhassi Raja was a superior organizer and a general than Ravi Varma. Biggest Mysore defeats during Padayottam happened during war between armies of Mysore and Cotiote principality(of Pazhassi Raja) - like Siege of Tellicherry.

    But most important was that Pazhassi Raja was a PEOPLE"S PRINCE. He loved people and worked for their welfare and they were ready to kill and die for him - almost all adored Pazhassi Raja - Nairs, Tiyyars, Kurummars, Kurichiars and all. In fact so great was love for Pazhassi Raja that in 1806 when kin and kith of Pazhassi was rendered homeless by British who demolished palace and confiscated all property, Tiyyars of Mattannur, at their own expense built a new palace for homeless royals! This was the extend of love between raja and praja in this case. Only very rarely in history could you see such examples.

    Also there are numerous folk songs about Pazhassi Raja sung by Hindu lower castes - because Pazhassi Raja was not only the warrior patriot but was also seen as a champion of poor and downtrodden.

    It would be mistaken to say that prominence of Pazhassi Raja began only after fall of Ravi Varma - reality was that Pazhassi Raja was a dangerous enemy of Mysore right from 1774 - when he was only 21 yrs old. Since then till his death, he was a major player in North Malabar politics.

    Thus to conclude, if Pazhassi Raja was remembered by his subjects - people of Kottayam and Wynad and in adjacent North Malabar territories, it was because he was not only a great fighter, but also a prince who loved and lived for his people. It was this rapport that made name of Pazhassi Raja immortal while Ravi Varma who lacked a similar support was forgotten.

  1. Amooty Valluvanad

    Very interesting and somehow keen like you to understand the situations in Malabar at that time

  1. jayan

    mr vijay


    really interesting for people like me whose ancestors came from kallodikode (the ancecestor puthalthu nair one of the padathalavan of pazhassi raja who came with two ladies from kalloadikode kovilakam)and was granted land by edapalliy raja who was close ally of samoothiris

    as you have stated kallodikode were the safe the place ,for the pazhassi fighters who is on the run

    might be my great ancestor forced to reach kochi where he was provided acres of and by edapiily raja, and our family puthaalthu nair family now consist of around 100 families in the heart of kalamassery

    thx vijay pls be in touch

  1. jayan

    sorry mr maddy for calling you vijay, error regrtted