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The Vencaticota Ola - Part 2

Posted by Maddy Labels:

For part 1 – click this link

The History of the Feringees coming into Malabar

In the year of the Taliha 904, or the sixth of Karkadom 672, three of the Feringee's ships came to Pandarany kollam. It being in the monsoon, they anchored there and came on shore. They went to Korikote, where they learnt all the news of Malabar. At this time they did not trade, but returned again to their own country, Portugal-it is supposed the motive of their coming was for pepper. Two years afterwards they returned from Portugal with six ships, and came to Korikote. They landed; and while they were trading in a merchant-like manner, the Feringees said to the Tamuri's Karyakars, ' If you will put a stop to the trade of the Arabs and Moplahs, we will give more money to the Sircar than they do. During this time the Moplahs and Feringees quarreled, and came to blows. The Raja ordered some of his people to go and put a stop to it and the Feringees quarreled with them too, and seventy of their people were killed in the affray. All the rest went on board their ships, and fired their large guns at those assembled on the shore; they in return fired at them.

It continued for a short time, and the whole of the ship then sailed for Cochin, where they landed, saw the Raja of the country, built a fort there: this was the first Feringee fort that was built in Malabar. There was at the time a Pally there, which the Feringees pulled down and destroyed. These people remained at Cochin, and carried on the business of merchants in a proper manner. They then went to Cannanore, lived among the people there in a peaceable manner, and built a fort; they carried on diverse kinds of merchandize, bought pepper; some of them went to Portugal. The cause of their coming from and returning to such a distance, was supposed to be for pepper.

A year after this, four ships came from Portugal; they landed at Cochin and Cannanore, where they bought pepper and ginger; again they went home. At the expiration of two years, twenty-eight ships came from Portugal; they again returned with pepper, ginger, and diverse other goods. At this period the Tamuri Raja went against the Cochin Raja, and captured the others Kowlgum (Kovialkom).

During the war, three of the Cochin Rajas were killed; and the Tamuri having conquered the Cochin country, went to Korikote. A year after this period, ten ships came, seven of them fresh ships, and three of them belonging to the former twenty-eight, which, after setting off, put back again. The seven fresh ships took in their lading of goods at Cochin, and went away; the other three remained there. On hearing this, the Tamuri Raja set off to Cochin with 100,000 Nairs, and several Moplahs, for the purpose of seizing these ships; but a very great firing was kept up, and at that time they could not get into Cochin.

After this the Ponaniwaikel Moplahs fitted out three vessels, embarked on them, and sailed to where the three ships were; a battle took place between them, and many of the Moplahs having been killed, they retreated. The next day the Ponaniwaikel people and the Baligat people together fitted out four vessels; the people of Kapata and those of Kollam fitted out three, together seven vessels, on which the Moplahs embarked, and had a severe engagement with the Feringees, in which they suffered no defeat; but as the rains were near, the Tamuri withdrew his people to Calicut.

On Thursday the 22nd of the month Metha, in the year of the Taliha 915, or 683 Malabar style, the Feringees came to Korikote, entered the town, burnt the Miskala Pally, got into the Tamuri's Kowlgum, and there took up their abode. At this time the Tamuri Raja was absent on a war against a distant country; the whole of the Nairs about Korikote assembled together, attacked the Feringees, and drove them from the Kowlgum, in which action the latter lost 500 men killed, the rest of them embarked on their vessels and went away.

Once before the above date, the Feringees disembarked from their ships at Ponani; and of the vessels laid up there they burnt about fifty, and killed seventy Moplahs. After this the Feringees sailed for Teke Kollam, had an interview with the Raja, addressed him respectfully, and built a fort there; nor did they procure anywhere so much pepper as at Cochin and Teke Kollam, which was the reason of their erecting the fort. After this the Feringees went to Goa, and captured it, at which period Goa belonged to Adil Shah Sultan.

The Feringees then made it the principal place of their residence for the transaction of all affairs in Malabar. Adil Shah Sultan attacked the Feringees, and retook Goa; but they returned in great force, and a second time carried it. They then built several forts in that country, collected their forces, and the power of the Feringees from that time increased daily, at which period they and the Tamuri Raja had some friendly conferences together, and made peace.

The cause of this was, that from the time of the former quarrel, the trade of the Moplahs decreased ; and the person who was then Tamuri had been some time dead, and the Elia Raja ( 2nd in command) had succeeded, who considered that it might be good policy to be at peace with the Feringees, that it would cause both his city and the trade of the Moplahs to flourish in the same way that the traffic of Cochin and Cannanore did; that on these conditions, if their differences were made up, it would be beneficial to Korikote.

In this treaty an article was inserted by the' Tamuri, that the Moplahs in his dominion should every year load four vessels with ginger and pepper, and sail for Mecca, without any hindrance given by the feringees, to which the latter assented. And when the Feringees began the building of the fort, the Moplahs commenced their voyage for Arabia with the four ships; they rallied under the flag and passport of the Feringees-this was in the year of the Taliha 921, or 689 Malabar style.

The above vessels disposed of their cargoes, and returned again to Korikote, at which time the Feringees had finished the fort; after which they would not only prevent the ginger and pepper being carried to Mecca, but prevented every other power from trading in these or any other articles, except themselves. And they declared, that if they saw a root of ginger or a grain of pepper embarked on any other person's vessel, they would seize and detain such vessel with all its cargo. They then began to consider how to seize and carry off the Tamuri Raja, but their deceit did not succeed. This was the manner of planning it - after they had finished the fort, and rendered it strong; they built a house near it for the residence of the Raja. Some of the Feringees waited on the Tamuri, and told him, that the king of Portugal had sent him a present, and that he must come there to receive it. He accordingly went, and while residing there, one of the Feringees came, and informed him of the deception intended. Immediately on hearing this, the Raja said; ' I am going to the Tank, and will return again immediately by which means he affected his escape.

The Feringee who had given this information to the Raja, was sent by his comrades to Cannanore. The Feringees now began to kill the Nairs, and to force the Moplahs from their abodes; on which all the latter withdrew from the coast, and assembled together to the eastward, among the Moplahs living in Cochin. Of the Moopanmar, Muhamatha Marcar, Kuahaly Marcar, and Aly Marcar, these three men set off from Cochin, together with their followers.

They came to Korikote, had an interview with the Raja; on which the Feringees considered them as intending to act inimically against them. They (feringees) collected warlike stores, set off from Cochin, came to Ponaniwaikel; they landed there, destroyed the houses, burnt some of the Pally; they cut down the cocoa-nut trees growing by the sea side, and killed some of the people. They stayed there one day after this, and the next night they sailed for Pandrany kollam, where they seized all who had come to trade, and forty of their vessels; some of the people there were also killed. In this manner did they devastate the country, and rendered it impossible for the inhabitants to reside in their abodes; on which the Tamuri prepared to go to war with them; but as he was himself absent at the time from Korikote, he sent his royal writing to his Karyakar Eliatha to get ready.

On seeing the royal writing, he immediately began to collect warlike stores; and the Moplahs from several countries assembled, and came to Korikote, by which time the Tamuri Raja also arrived. Immediately the war began. Many days having expired, and the provisions in the fort being expended, and not having it in their power to get a supply, they embarked all their property on their ships, destroyed the fort, and, unknown to those on the outside, they got to their ships and went away. This was on the 16th day of the month Mahasanam in the year of the Taliha 933, or 701 Malabar style.

In this war two thousand Nairs and Moplahs died. In consequence of this, the Tamuri and the Feringees were much exasperated against each other; and in a short time, the Moplahs having repaired their vessels, they began to embark ginger, pepper, and other articles of trade, for Guzerat and other countries. They now sailed without either flag or passport. Some of their vessels the Feringees seized, some they drove ashore by means of firing at them, and others arrived at their destined ports, and traded without molestation. After the monsoon of the above year, the Moplahs of Dhurmapatam and their friends made peace with the Feringees, sailed under their flag and passport. The Tamuri, his subjects, and the Feringees, had now been long at variance, when in the year of the Taliha 935, or 703 Malabar style, the Feringees went in a ship to Tanore, and having landed there, had an interview with the Raja.

The Tamuri, on hearing this, sent his royal commands to the Tanore Raja, to send him all the men and property belonging to the ship, with which, however, he did not comply, but cultivated great friendship with the Feringees. They consulted together to overpower the Tamuri, plunder the Moplahs, destroy Ponaniwaikel, and build a fort on the left side of the river at that place; for which purpose stones, chunam, and other requisite articles, were embarked in vessels, and when arrived close to Ponaniwaikel, a violent storm arose, and all of them, except a small dhow, were wrecked on the shore. Some of the crews were drowned, and those who got on shore were made prisoners. The cannon that were in these ships the Tamuri got. Their scheme of building a fort at Ponan was now rendered abortive.

After this, it is said, that the Feringees built a fort at Chaliut. A captain came to Ponaniwaikel, in order to make peace with the Tamuri; he was a person who was acquainted with all that had passed at Korikote and Ponaniwaikel. The Tanore Raja exerted himself greatly to bring about a peace between the Tamuri and the Feringees: the present Tamuri was the same who reigned when the fort at Korikote was taken from the Feringees. The Tanore Raja came to Korikote, settled all disputes between the Tamuri and the Feringees; the latter were then permitted to build a fort at Chaliut. The spot assigned for building the fort was on the public highway, which being known, it was considered as giving trouble to the lading of goods on vessels for Arabia; still leave was given to build it at Chaliut.

The Feringees began to collect materials for constructing their fort, and brought them into the river; this was in the year of the Taliha 938, or the 5th of Wrischigom 707 Malabar style. The Feringees then finished the fort at Chaliut; it was a very large one, and remarkably handsome. During the building of the fort, a Feringee having taken a stone from the Pally built by Mallikadeen (Malik Dinar), the whole of the Moplahs of the place went to the captain of the fort, and having made their complaint, the captain himself and his people took stone and chunam, went to the Pally, and had it repaired; this pleased the Moplahs very much. The next day several of the Feringees went to the Pally, pulled down all the stones off it, and carried them away.

The whole of the Moplahs went a second time, and laid their complaint before the captain. He told them, that their Raja had given both the Pally and the ground to him, therefore he had pulled it down. On this the Moplahs retired overwhelmed with grief; and at a little distance from thence they built another. After this the Feringees carried away the stones from the Moplah burying-ground for their fort. The Elia Raja having been installed Tamuri, a war began with the Chaliut Raja to destroy his country; but the latter having laid his grief submissively before the former, he withdrew his army, and then turned his forces against the Raja of Tanore. While he was meditating an attack, the Tanore Raja surrendered Karakatirutty and New Ponani to him, on which they made peace, and the Tamuri retired.

In the year of the Taliha 963, or 726 Malabar style, the Feringees burnt and destroyed Tricodi, Pandrany kollam, and Ponaniwaikel. In the year of the Taliha 963, or 732 Malabar style, the Feringees and the Raja made peace; they again quarrelled in 970 T. or 736 M. S. The Feringees built forts at Mangalore and Pekanur (baknur). In 970 T. or 739 M. S. a Moplah, called Kuty Poker Marcar, captured a ship belonging to the Feringees. In 974 T. or 743 M. S. the Tamuri set off to wage war with Cochin, and having tarried two months on the road, he lost 2,000 men by the water being poisoned, which obliged him to retire to Paloly; and having placed the Tanore Raja in the place he resided, the Tamuri went secretly away.

The Feringees came to seize him, and did carry off the Tanore Raja, so that had the latter not been placed there, they would have seized the Tamuri. In 979 T. or 747 M. S. the Tamuri took the fort at Chaliut from the Feriugees. In 992 T. or 760 M. S. the Tamuri agreeing to their building a fort at Ponaniwaikel, the Feringees and he made peace. In 998 T. or 766 M. S. the Feringees seized a vessel of the Raja's at sea, in consequence of which they again quarreled.

This is the History of the Feringees and the Raja.

Maddy’s comments

Work in progress - to be updated often

- The usage of the hejira calendar dates in a Grantham is strange, If this were an incorporation by the English translator, then again the explanation is not complete for he would have used the Gregorian calendar. Or did it originate from the Tuhfat?

- The use of the term feringhee I believe was by the translator. It must have been Parangi in the malayalam text.

- The last portions look meager and speeded up. As an ola or court record, the account may not have been elaborate like a book. So did the court scribe himself abridge the text from a larger document? If so does it mean somebody wrote a lengthy version of events? As we do know, such a writing style did not exist in Malayalam in the medieval times, whereas it perhaps did in Arabic. In Malayalam, it was mostly poetic rendition.

- I believe that the original work was yet another which was used by Zainuddin 2 as well as this scribe from the Zamorin’s court. Considering the extensive reference to the Nairs and the absence of the Islamic religion components in the text itself, I feel that the writer of the original longer text probably had it and the scribe from the court of the Zamorin edited it.

- The translation was made in the year 1800 for it says as much in the footnote - "A descendant of this Mappila by name Kunhaly Marcar is now (1800) living in the Cotah. The fact of taking the vessel is still preserved in the family and they pride themselves much on it". – However, it does not sound quite right for the words mention descendants of the Kunhali, and we do know that he had none save the relative in Goa whom I wrote about earlier.

- I do not recall reading about the Muslim Palli stones and Chunam being stolen before. That is new.

- I recall reading from other sources about the Zamorin’s forces poisoning the wells around Cochin and Chetwa. This one says the reverse.

- There is plenty more to analyze, which will be done in due course. But a tail note – was this perhaps written up in the courts of the Tanore Rajah?

- The English writer who introduces (see link at the end) and attempts a side by side comparison of the Rowlandson version of Zainuddins work and the Vencaticota Ola concludes thus


The Asiatic journal and monthly register – Vol 13, Page 266 - Original document link
Asiatic Journal 1817 – Page 27 - Original document link

Introducing - The Vencaticota Ola

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

A manuscript describing Malabar history and the Portuguese arrival

For some years, I have been lamenting on the absence of history material archives especially Granthavari copies and translations in the public medium related to Malabar. Then there are the Brahmin and Chetty archives (who were among the few who had the skill and permission to indulge in writing) lying somewhere. In the Zamorin’s court, Menons (or more correctly Menokki in the Zamorin’s Malabar) were the court scribes creating the records. It is my belief that a large number of these records were (thankfully in hind sight)  carted away in the early 19th century to Madras or other places by the EIC and other administrators. Some are listed in document collections. But they are sealed away and out of sight. If they are now made available, it would be useful and could be correctly translated and archived. An example can be seen in this article..

Somewhere around 1816-1817, a Pana Ola or palm leaf manuscript surfaced which had on it the history of the Portuguese arrival and departure from Malabar briefly recorded. The Pana ola (or Brab tree) or Palmyrus leaf text was translated by some officer in the EIC and posted in the Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany. I doubt if anybody else has seen it in recent times, for I have never ever seen any reference to it thus far. It was subsequently republished in 1834 together with a comparison to the Rowlandson’s translation of the Tuhfat al Mujahideen (by contemporary religious scholar Sheikh Zainuddin – See my blog on the subject).

For those who do not quite understand this type of manuscript and writing technique, suffices to say that these are handwritten Malayalam records on dried palm leaves as pictured, using an iron nail stylus, held between the writing fingers and is the hereditary task of scribes or court clerks – otherwise from the Nair caste, subclass Menon. After the writing, the dried leaves are in most cases etched with oil & carbon black to provide contrast. For details of the technique, refer this article.

The original Ola bundle in this case was supposedly obtained by the British from a Vencaticota Raja belonging to the Tamuri (Zamorin) family. I spent some time trying to figure out what Vencaticota meant and concluded correctly that it had to be the Venkatta kota (Venkotta) at today’s Kottakkal where the Kizhakke Kovilakom is located. That certifies the lineage to the Zamorin family and the source. So we can trust the statement from 1817 that it was acquired from the Zamorin family. In the course of the next two or three blogs, I will detail the brief text, possibly add some further comments of interest and provide my own inferences with respect to the similarity with Zainuddin’s text.

Considering that this document has not seen light in recent times, it would surely be of some interest to history enthusiasts, buffs and Malabar specialists. I can only begin by offering a small token of thanks to today’s modern search engines like Google and the good sense of the long lost Englishman who consigned this to paper and archived it for posterity. Regrettably, our own precious original history & manuscript collections are slowly rotting away and disintegrating in Kerala, if not gone already, for lack of care & finance.

And above all I must thank Nabeel Moidu who by asking questions made me recheck some aspects of the authorship of the Tuhfat and this led to the discovery of the said text referred below. As is evident, this was possibly written around the 1585-1590 time frame, and is a second record of the times by an Indian source.

It will of course be surprising if the original Ola was ever traced in England, for then the translation from Malayalam could be crosschecked. It will then doubtless prove to be an older history text compared to what we know today as Vellayude charithram dealing with a later period, covering the nefarious visit by Haider Ali to Malabar, to exact tribute from the Zamorin.

It would also be very interesting if one day we found out who translated it from that old Malayalam ola to English, perhaps souls who aided and abetted the EIC, like our nemesis Swaminatha Pattar. Note here in perspective that the Tuhfat was translated from Arabic to English & much later from Arabic to Malayalam.

Without further ado, I will recount the translated text of the Ola.


Part 1 -The Background

When the Emperor Perumal was about to depart for Mecca, he gave the whole country of Malabar in shares to the different Rajas; at which period the Tamuri Zamorin was at some distance, which was the reason of his not having a country given to him. The Tamuri Raja after this came back; Perumal gave his seal and sword to him, telling the Tamuri he must conquer countries, and retain them by that sword. Accordingly in a short time the Tamuri Raja employed himself diligently to do as Perumal ordered him and he got the country of Korikote.

At this time the people of the tribe of Islam came to see the Raja, took up their residence at Korikote, and from diverse countries, merchants and trades-people came; and by exercising their respective callings, Korikote began to grow a large place. Throughout the whole of Malabar, the city of Korikote was the first in rank, After this the tribe of Islam came from several places, and assembled together by which the Tamuri became the most powerful, and the principal among the Rajas of Malabar, of whom some were possessed of strength and some were not.

In this period none of the Rajas passed each other's boundaries, which was agreeable to the orders of Perumal at his departure. Their kingdoms extended some one kathum (a katham is a measure of distance of four to five miles) and some more. Some of them had 100 men, some 200, some 300, some 1,000, some 5,000, some 10,000, some 100,000, and some had still more. In some countries there were two Rajas, in some three, and in others even more. In the countries that had two Rajas, if one was more powerful than the other, he would not quarrel with and trespass in the other's boundaries.

If any did quarrel, he would get no one to assist him. Amongst these Rajas, the one who had most men governed the country from Tekke (South) Kollam to Kaniakumary (Cape Comorin) at this time and his name was Tripathi (Tiruvitankur Raja). The next Raja reigned over Madi Walaputnam, around Cannanore, Edekaat, and Dhurmapuram; he was called the Kolatirri Raja.

But amongst these Rajas, in point of dignity, power, and consideration in foreign countries, the Tamuri was pre-eminent and amidst all the remaining Rajas in Malabar in honours and dignities, the Tamuri stood first. The reason of this was the gift of the seal and sword by the Emperor Perumal, who himself reposed confidence in the tribe of Islam; after whose departure they came and settled in the country, put trust in the Tamuri, and on account of this friendship, strangers came from other countries with shipping people, whom the Raja received honourably and sent them away in a friendly manner.

When the Raja went to any place, either for war or any other affair of consequence, the sword was carried before him, as formerly before (by the) Perumal. If any circumstance occasioned a war between the Tamuri and any other of the Malabar Rajas, and they gave him either money or country, and sued for peace, then he retired quietly and left them; but if any of the Rajas neither gave money nor country, he then would not cause his army to commit devastation, but remained for a length of time upon the borders of that country, till he was satisfied, such was the ancient custom, nor could he act in any other manner. But if quarrels and wars arose among the other Rajas of Malabar, they slaughtered each other, and ruined each other's country.

Maddy’s comments

The general wording gives one a feel that the original text has been written by an outsider, not an inside court scribe or Menokki, who would have normally mentioned other aspects such as the greatness of the Zamorin house etc, and less about the arrival of Islam and its significance. So was it a Malayalam translation of another work or did much of the text originate from another? Was it perhaps a record for posterity & filing?

The word Tamuri has been used in the text. It was not Samoothirpad or Karanavapad or Thamburan, but Tamuri. A court scribe would have used the appropriate term, viz Tamburan or at best Samoothrirpad. The word Tamuri was mainly used by Arabs. So does this signify the Tuhfat as a possible source? What does the Tuhfat say? Was Tamuri the translation of Thamburan by the Englishman? If that was the case, did the word Tamuri originate from Samuri or Thamburan?

The use of the word Korikote is another interesting aspect. This is strange for the Portuguese and the Dutch used terms like Calicut, Calecut etc. in later documents. I think Korikote was used in the earliest records, so was the original text much older than 1580? Obviously Kozhikode or Koilkot as a word existed then. Koil Kotta is my guess.

The Travancore Raja title Tripathi is not quite clear to me, however, the explanation given by the English translator seemed gibberish, so has been discarded by me (For those interested this was what was stated - The official name of the Travancore Raja's Sircar is Tirinpasaaron, taken, probably, from Tirinpathy). The title could be Tiruvitamkoor raja but I think Tripathi has been used in some situations too.

The most interesting paragraphs in this part are the mentions about the code of conduct of wars and resolution of major disputes.

The action taken in a dispute, especially his stay at the border (refer the Chetwa & Trichur interludes) is very strange indeed and one wonders if it was just a battle of wits. You posed with power, just as they do with war exercises & parades these days, showing your might till the other party acquiesced. However we do know that very expensive wars were fought to settle disputes. So the purpose of this statement is unclear.

The lack of emphasis propagation of Islam, building of mosques and the words of the prophet clearly indicate editing to a certain extent even if this was indeed borrowed from the Tuhfat, but was it?

The other possibility is if the entire work was done together. A Menokki and Zainuddin 2 working in concert, creating two different pieces of work for the same purpose. But here again we fail to conclude the purpose. The Nairs acted in unison when called upon by the Zamorin or their regional head. The need to unite was more needed within the minority group covering the diverse Moplah & expatriate Arab population. Thus Zainuddin wrote in Arabic, also to get the sponsorship of the Bednore prince Ali Adil Shah.

Considering the sovereignty of the Zamorin, my belief is that a Menokki started the draft and Zainuddin altered it or vice versa, for the Tuhfat had a purpose and before it was issued, it had to be whetted by the person in power. But then again, the sponsor of the Tuhfat was Ali Adil Shah king of Bednore, not the Zamorin. Why was that so, Why not the Zamorin? Was the relationship already strained due to the Kunjali episode? We will get back to the discussion in the Part 2 which is very interesting indeed and, until then, this will be food for thought & comment.

Vencata cotay or Venkatta kota is the seat of the Kizhake kovilagom in Kotakkal – Malappuram. It was once the Srinada taluq. Hamilton Buchanan for example was a visitor there in the early 19th century and he writes about meeting the prince there and at length about his visit to the area and the palace.

                                    (To Be Continued...........................)

Pics - from the net, thankls to the uploaders, They are not not the manuscript described above