RSS Feed

Hydaru Charitra – Yet another source

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Additional insights - 1766 attacks, Malabar

There are many books, passages, and secondary sources covering the life and times of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, and there are many books compiled by their detractors as well as supporters. While the supporters paint them as freedom fighters of enviable moral character and secular outlook, their detractors emphasize on the violent methods wrought by these individuals, driven by their Arab background and upbringing, their fighting spirit, treachery and cruel proselytization of subjugated masses. Added to all that, there was a large amount of misinformation and tainted writing by English writers who wanted to slant the Mysore rulers as the vilest of all, in order to obtain support for wars fought against them. As you can all imagine, the truth lies somewhere in between and I had been struggling for years to reconstruct the Hyder-Tipu Padayaottam in Malabar, a venture which I guess will continue for more time.

Among the papers found in the Mackenzie collection was a Marathi account of the Mysore Sultans – thought to have been penned by one Ramachandra Rao Punganuri (who had been in the employment of the Mysore Sultans for a long time). This was translated into English by CP Brown around 1848, cross-referenced and annotated with inputs from the Wilkes account. Tracing its history, Brown states that it was handed over in the year 1801 by one Lieut. Col. Barry Close, to Major Mackenzie. Even though the translation was published as Memoirs of Hyder and Tippoo in 1849, it was mentioned that a revised version was in the works. But that did not happen.

Interestingly, there is a second version of the same resource, the Telugu version of the Rao memoirs, originally published by the Madras Government oriental manuscripts library in 1956. Whether this Telegu translation by one Mahratta Krishnayya was also done in 1848 or thereabouts is not clear, but since Brown mentions that Canarese and Hindustani versions were in preparation, it must have been done and It must have been the Canarese/Telugu version which came up for review.

Thus, the Telugu document D2657 with 165 pages was translated by Dr N Venkatramanayya (VR), a reader at the Madras University and published in 1956. Strangely the new team and the translators did not link this source to the CP Brown version, but a quick check will show you that they are from an identical source, from the content and the paragraph numbering.

Both Brown and Venkatramanayya make it clear that the content has literary pretensions. They clarify that it was written in simple and crudely spoken Telugu (or in the original Mahrati) in a diary format. As the critical translation explains, the account has events that are already known to most students of South Indian history, but occasionally one comes as across facts not seen in other sources and provides a better picture of their true characters.

The book starts with the birth of Hyder, his early life at the Sira Subha province of the Mughal empire,

located in the region south of the Tungabhadra river, Kolar to be specific. In the initial sections, we get to read about Hyder’s association with the Mysore Rajas (for a precis of the events, read my article on Hari Singh, linked under references) from 1749 and through to 1757 when Hyder is stationed in Dindigul. You may recall that Hyder had been dispatched to Dindigul, to fight and subjugate the Polygars - Amminayaka, Appinayaka and other Polygars of Palani, Virupaksha & Mille-Mirangi.

Around 1758 the Zamorin’s forces stormed into Palghat after continued friction with the Kombi Atchan of Palghat. It is at this point that the Pangi and Kelu Achan of Palghat go to Coimbatore to meet the Shankara Raja, and thence to Srirangapatanam to request help in resisting the Zamorin.

From the Hari Singh study, we gathered that Haider, his brother-in-law Syed Mukhadam and Dewan Venkata Rao were then deputed out from Dindigul to fight the Calicut forces. The Zamorin quickly sued for peace and came to an understanding that he should pay a tribute of Rs. 12 lakhs to Mysore. The Zamorin also negotiated with Devarajaiah and promised to pay him the stipulated tribute of Rs. 12 lakhs (in installments) instead of to Haider, if Haider were persuaded to withdraw from Calicut. When Devaraja asked Haider to come back, the latter refused to do so unless he was compensated Rs. 3 lakhs towards the expenses incurred by his army. Devaraja did so and after withdrawing Haider’s army, sent Hari Singh to collect the 12 lakhs of the promised tribute.

It is at this point that we pick up the story from Ramachandra Rao’s diary. Note also that the Brown translation uses the terms Hyder Nayak or Bahadur whereas Krishnayya calls him Bahadar.

A quarrel having broken out at this time between Devaraja and his younger brother Najaraja, the former left Seringapatanam for Satyamangalam where he took up his residence. This information reached Hyder Nayak who was stationed in Dindigul, while he was passing through Palghatchery during his return journey from Calicut. He placed 2000 horse, 5000 foot and some cannons under his brother-in-law Magdum Saheb and his dewan Venkata Rao, and directed them to plunder without delay the country of the Nayars of Achangar (?), a report of whose vast wealth had reached his ears. They entered the village of Palghatchery and having taken possession of it, fixed an amount of revenue in khandini-rukas to be collected from it, plundered the countries of Kochi and Kallikotta and established garrisons in important places, so that the king of the Nayars, who was frightened, agreed to pay a sum of 12 lakh rupees. This happened in the year Isvara equivalent to EY 1757.

The Achangar mention is a bit strange and not explained in the VR translation, but Wilkes had reiterated that this was Travancore who incidentally had been at war with Cochin and Calicut! It could mean the Achans of Palghat. Also note that the word plunder is a loose translation of sawari shikari, or predatory excursion.

While Hyder was at Dindigul, an order came to him from Dalavay Devaraja summoning him to Satyamangalam. The reason or this is as follows – The rajah of Nairs sent a message to Dalavay offering him 12 lakhs, if he agreed to set at liberty an officer captured by him, and withdraw his army. Accordingly, the Dalavay sent an order to Hyder through Nanjunda Sastri, commanding him to withdraw his forces. Hari Singh, who accompanies Nanjunda Sastri withs ome troops said, if you order the withdrawal of your troops, we shall make arrangements for payment of your money. Hyder replied – I spent a good deal of money on my army, you will have to pay all the money expended by me for recruiting the forces, conducting the war and providing the supplies.

We see that a hostage is mentioned, and considering that the payment required his return, it could very well have been the Eralpad, and that is the reason the Zamorin quickly sued for peace. Brown however terms it as ‘release the commanders taken captive’. This needs further investigation.

Meanwhile Hyder had a deed of settlement (tamassuk) drawn up by the (carbari) agent Veddeda Girganna to the effect that the money mentioned above should be paid to him. Then he withdrew the army. By this time the Dalavay who came to Sriranagpatanam from Satyamangalam died there, on the third day of his return, on Su 12 Jyestha of the year Bahudhanya, corresponding to 15 June 1758.

Nanjaraja became in the interval, independent, and as Nanjunda Sastri who went to on an embassy to the country of Kallikotta, died, the troops hat accompanied him returned. Hyder came to know that they returned without collecting a single cowrie of the Rs 12,00,000, which the ruler of Kallikotta country had agreed to pay, he went to the Raja and insisted that the money due to him, according to the agreement drawn up by that Girganna should be paid to him. The Raja promised that he would himself pay the money, and wrote and despatched an order that the monies due from Koyamuttur country should be paid to Hyder.

At this point we can conclude that Hyder’s dues on account of the march to Calicut had been taken care of. In succeeding paragraphs, we see the way in which Hyder and Mukhdam Saheb got rid of Hari Singh, capture his men, horses and cannon and proceed on to Srirangapatanam and eventually proceeds to fight Mahratta wars. We now come to the important part, his overtures towards Malabar in 1766. Continuing on in Krishnayya’s words.

He (Hyder) himself arrived in the Kodiyala country below the ghats with 12000 bar, 10,000 Karnatak foot and 3000 horse: thence he proceeded to Malabar country and reached Meleswaram by way of Manamur, where he saw Aly Raja. Accompanied by a large number of Mappilas of his (Aly Raja’s) kingdom, and marching along the coast, he entered the territories of Tyakalukota, Agadi, Kadathanad etc and fought with 20/25 thousand troops of the Nayar king of that place. As these people had never set their eyes on the Moghal (Mohammedan) soldiers, they were frightened by their fierce appearance, and unable to confront them, fled to the jungles and hills, and took shelter behind trees and rocks. Some of them died in the fight. These (Hyder’s soldiers) captured the villages mentioned above, erected forts here and there, posted garrisons in them and arrived in the neighborhood of Kallikotta on su1, Chaitra of the year Vyaya corresponding to 11th March 1766.

The rajah of Kallikotta, Manavikrama by name, opened negotiations with Bahadar (Hyder) himself and made peace with him. He informed the Bahadar that he would meet him personally, if his objects were fulfilled and having obtained from him (Bahada- Shapatha) a safe conduct, he went to meet him, accompanied by a retinue of two thousand nayars. He (Bahadar) presented a pearl necklace and bracelets to the Rajah and earrings to his courtiers. He gave them much assurance, and said that as soon as he entered Kallikota, he would retain him (the rajah) in his place. He the rajah should however bear the expenses of the sarkar’s army. As he agreed to pay the Sarkar a tribute – a sum of four lakhs Chanari Kasus and said that he would pay one lakh chanari kasus immediately to the Sarkar and that he would wait on him (Bahadar) as one of the servants in his service.

He entered Kallikota taking along the rajah with him. He lodged him in a big temple, and himself camped within a small char-divar, that is a place with for walls. Four or six days afterwards, he asked (the rajah) what he would say about the money. The Rajah replied that he would gather together all his mutasaddis and arrange for the payment, but the money was not paid. Therefore, he kept the rajah in custody, and pressed the mutassadis vigorously for payment.

The Brown version states - When this treaty was made Hyder proceeded with the king to Calicut: he placed the king apart, in a large temple. Hyder took up his quarters in a small quadrangular building. After a few days (Hyder) asked (the raja) for (the promised) money. The raja replied saying, I will call my servants together and provide the money. The money however was not raised: (Hyder) therefore placed a guard and sentries over (the king) and used violent measures to extort the money from the servants.

The rajah on hearing this, thought that it was not possible for him to preserve his honour, closed the doors of the house in which he was lodging, set fire to it and being burnt in it as a consequence, died. On hearing this news, Bahadar sent several men with instructions that they should somehow contrive to prevent his death. Though they spared no pains to carry out his instructions, their efforts proved fruitless.  Then some of the Rajas followers were kept under custody with the object of coercing payment, as they were subjected to forces, they paid the money demanded to them. On the site enclosed by the four walls where they were camping, he erected a fort with turrets and mounted cannon on them. He sojourned there for a month, fixed garrisons in all places, appointed a captain for fauzdary at Kallikotta and made arrangements for administrative work with Murapate Gaudappa as the superintendent in charge of the territory.

Rao mentions first that the Zamorin was lodged at a (perhaps Tali) large temple, but later that he set fire to the house he was in, so was he sent back to his Kovilakom- palace or not? Also, we note that a new fort was built, was this at the Nadakkavu -Vandiplayalam area? Finally, it was Gaudappa who was placed in charge of Calicut, not Madanna as we had studied. Brown observes the anomaly that Wilkes had stated Madanna.

By this time, the rainy season set in: therefore, he departed from the place accompanied by the army by way of Pumani (Ponnani). A large part of the army perished by account of excessive rains, from that place, he arrived at Palghat by stages. The Amil of the place named Yatakatchi Nayar offered Bahadar presents and furnished him with articles of which there was a shortage. He (Bahadar) was pleased and fixing one lakh varahas as tribute, he allowed him to rule the state. Talks went on about the Kochi Palem and having fixed forty thousand varahas as its annual tribute, he took an assignment on the bankers and then entered Koyamuttur.

We can note from this that Palghat which was originally brought under Hyder’s control has now been ceded to this Ittikombi Achan and that Cochin had agreed to pay a tribute.  The final part of the account we will now study pertains to Hyder’s return to Malabar in order to quell the rebellion by the Padinjare Kovilakom Ravi Varma duo.

He sent the whole army in detachments to all the taluks, he himself remained at Koyamuttur in huts they had constructed there. Two or three months afterwards, the nayars of the whole kingdom, about twenty to thirty thousand sin number and their rajah joining together destroyed Hyder’s garrisons and having posted their own, began to plunder the country, owing to excessive rains, streams and rivers formed everywhere and it was not possible for one to send help to another.

As soon as intelligence of this reached the ears of the Bahadar, he set out immediately with the cavalry, without even harnessing the horses with bridle and other accouterments and the bar, carrying articles of food which would be sufficient for just one week. He marched by stages, and entering the region where the nayars were engaged in, plundering defeated thousands of nayars and hanged some who fell into his hands and capturing10/15 thousands as prisoners sent them on to Srirangapatanam, where he ordered them to be imprisoned. Some fled the country owing to the fear of war, and others reduced to a miserable condition, stood before him.

Brown mentions here that Hyder’s cannons were carried on Camels. I can imagine that the Malabar people saw a Came infantry for the first time.

Having thus restored law and order throughout the region, he kept large garrisons in all the places to prevent outbreak of disorders, erected a fort at Palghatchery and returned with the cavalry to Koyamuttur and bestowed on those who toiled in the war and others with anklets, bracelets and gifts and increments in salaries.

However Brown mentions that Hyder was the one awarded all the titles and gifts by the Nizam of Hyderabad, for his valor and foregoing actions. Interesting to note the entry of the Nizam into the Zamorin – Hyder equation.

What stands out is the fact that Hyder did get payments from the Zamorin’s revenue administration, by pressing the Mutassadis. One document we should search for is the bond/deed of settlement drawn up by the agent Veddeda Girganna between Devaraja and Hyder and what it states.

Later, I will cover the portions pertaining to Tipu in Malabar, but it is not quite rich in detail and there are some variances between the Brown version and the Krishnayya version. Brown’s follows the British line, especially the Nedumkotta battle.

Venkatramanayyah provides a forthright conclusion, and you should remember that this is made in the 1950’s a period when there was not much talk about trying to tilt Tipu and Hyder as freedom fighters fighting the British. Quoting him.

The Hydaru Charitra is of immense importance to the historian, as it gives him an insight into the motives and the characters of the two great Muslim rulers who played a predominant part in shaping the destinies of the South in the latter half of the 18th century. They are often represented as patriotic princes, who opposed the aggression of the foreigners on account of the love which they bore for their native country. This is far from the truth. What actually prompted Hyder and Tipu to take up an uncompromising attitude of opposition towards the English was not patriotism but an unquenchable desire for self-aggrandizement and power. They were both bereft of feelings of patriotism; they neither loved the country nor the people over whom they bore away. Their sole aim was to make themselves masters of South India. In pursuance of their object, they came into conflict with the English who entertained similar ambitions. Consequently, they had to wage war on the latter relentlessly to eliminate them from the field. In this, however, they were not successful, as their rivals proved stronger than themselves.

He adds - As Hyder was a realist, he kept the love for his faith generally under check and gratified it only occasionally by indulging in forced conversions when he felt certain that his power would not suffer therefrom. Though Tipu was a cruel fanatic who subjected the Hindu and Christian people of the South especially Malabar to indescribable suffering, he was superstitious; and in order avert the wrath of the Hindu gods whom he despised, he made gifts to the temples and other Hindu religious foundations.


Hydaru Charitra – Krishnayya, Dr N Venkatramanayya (Madras Government oriental series - issue # 138)
Memoirs of Hyder and Tippoo: Rulers of Seringapatam, Written in the Mahratta Language - By Ram Chandra Rao Punganuri, translated by Charles Philip Brown
Hari Singh, Hyder Ali and the Zamorin
The Zamorin’s Demise


Kallikotta – The account is clear in stating Kallikotta, not Kozhikode or Calicut. Was that how Calicut was really called? Did Rao mean a place with a rock or brick fort? Meleswaram, Manamur, are place names which are not quite right - Meleswaram must be Neeleswaram, Manamur is perhaps Cannanore.

Foujdar - In the executive branch of provincial administration, the post of the faujdar ranked next to that of the nazim (governor). He was normally, though not invariably the head of the Sarkar, which was both an administrative and a revenue division. Under the Mughals it was an office that combined the functions of a military commander along with judicial and land revenue functions. Note that Sarkar stands for division and not government, during those periods.The other officers in the Sarkar or division were the Crori (revenue collector) or the Mutahid – the revenue officer, the Amil being the Divisional Registrars of land (Adhikari), and the Mutassadi being the Divisional Accountants. Kotwals were the police commissioners and Qazis; the judges

The Silent Valley Movement

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

Eons ago, the slopes and plains adjoining the Sahyadri mountains separating Malayalam from Tamilakam, were home to many dense forests. Most of it is gone now, but some remain in Wynad and Nilambur as well as a region between Nilambur and Mannarghat in Palghat, near the northern rim of the Palghat Gap, the so-called Attapadi, and Silent Valley areas. That is where we are headed.

The Eminent Gundert Sayip

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

Hermann Gundert (1814-1893) - His life in Malabar

I am getting back to this topic after 13 years, and without doubt, the persona of Hermann Gundert deserves that and more. My previous article covering Gundert & Logan only served to provide a brief introduction to these two great men and though there are a couple of books that provide Gundert’s life history in some detail, they are not easy to get a hold of, so I thought that I could cover Gundert’s profile here. Gundert for those who do not know, was a German national, a tutor and a missionary who came to Madras in 1836, moved to North Malabar, and left back home in 1859. In those 23 years, he achieved a lot, most notably in the field of Malayalam literature. His pioneering works helped develop and formalize the language and his transcriptions of the Keralolpathi and Keralapazhama have withstood the passage of time providing a fascinating look into the history of the land.

Quilon and its trade links with China

Posted by Maddy Labels:

That Quilon was well known to seafarers is not surprising, for it is well situated in the South West of the Indian coast. It was well known not only to Greek and Roman seafarers going back in time before Christ but also to later entrants such as the Arabs, Persians and Chinese into the Indian Ocean. If we dig deep into historic accounts left behind by some of the sailors or visitors, we can come up with a decent silhouette of the entrepot Quilon once was, as well as the preeminent position it held among the trading ports of Malayala, as Kerala was then known. Its name got attached to the Malayalam Calendar Kolla Varsham and for a time was reason enough to associate with a popular proverb in the Malayalam language which meant 'one who has seen Kollam, forgets his house’.

The Mamluk – Calicut - Jeddah Equations

Posted by Maddy Labels:

And an event which happened ‘out there’ – at Calicut

For the Arab merchants, traders and rulers, Calicut was the place in Al Hind where they had established a lucrative trade, where they had families and representations, and a relationship with the benevolent king, the Ox-worshipper Al-Samiri. For most others who benefited from the trade in Europe, it was just a place out there. For the crusaders, it was perhaps the general region where a potential supporter, the Prestor John came from. Later authors, who never even set a foot there, equated it to Utopia. From the inimical Arabian nights story of Abu Hasan’s fart, you know that Calicut was a place where you went to in order to start afresh and make a new life. In a way it was akin to the Dubai of Malayali’s today, it was the Dubai for the Arabs those days.

We will now get into the story of two interesting individuals, one who daringly transferred trade from Aden to Jeddah and the other, a senior official of the Mamluk establishment who severely tested the diplomatic abilities of the Zamorin. And along the way, we will talk about the interesting relations between the Mamluk administration in Arabia and Calicut, while dwelling upon the interesting event which occurred some decades prior to the arrival of the Portuguese at Calicut.

The Samiri and Taj-al Din at Dhofar

Posted by Maddy Labels: , ,

Continuing with the Cheraman Perumal myths…

The Keralolpathi, the Zainuddin Makkhdum’s call for a jihad against the accursed Franks, the Fath ul mubiyn, they all mention of a King from the Hind who traveled to Mecca and died on the way back, at Dhofar. We talked earlier about the Cheraman Perumal legends, the Perumal and the pickle and so on, but with additional information at hand, I would like to revisit the topic and also cover the interconnected story of the al-Samiri and Taj-al din tomb’s at Dhofar in Oman.

In an area called Dhofar is buried a person, a king actually who has been venerated over centuries by the locals there. His name is purported to be Abdul Rahiman Samiri. An inscription explained that this person reached Dhofar in 212 and died there in 216 (821-831 AD). Now comes the question, who could this gent be? He has been connected to the Cheraman Perumal who converted and went to Mecca and also one of the earlier Zamorins of Calicut. We do know that the Samuthiripad or Samoothiri, a term which morphed to Samorin or Zamorin dates to the 13th century. During the 821 period or even later to 814 as Logan implies, we had a Eranadu Utyavar, not a Zamorin. But legends mention that this was a king from Malabar. Let’s try to investigate a bit to try and find out if we can get to the bottom of this myth.

Zamorin – An etymological discussion

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Malabar’s history recounted in the Keralolpathi, a Malayalam work (presumably penned by Tunchath Ezhutatchan) from the 17th century or later starts with the Parasurama epoch where he reclaims the land from the seas. The Keralolpathi, a work which elevates the importance of the Nambuthiris of Kerala, goes on to retell a version of the history of Kerala until the 19th century. Beset with inaccuracies, it was disregarded by most historians but it is now felt that the document does have many sections which are quite factual. The advent of the Zamorin is detailed in this work, and we come across the tale of the abdication of the Cheraman Perumal and the installation of various chieftains to rule over various areas. This is more on the topic of the Zamorin himself, his titles, and the advent of the well-accepted usage Zamorin.

The Mutts of Trichur and Tirunavaya – Seats of Vedic learning in Kerala

Posted by Maddy Labels:

 Bhrahmaswom Madhoms

Sometimes you despair at how the Englishman corrupted the transliteration of a Malayalam or Sanskrit word, in this case, Mutt which actually stands for Madhom or Matha, a monastic institution for spiritual studies, certainly has nothing to do with stupid persons or mongrels. I had come across mentions of these Vedic universities while reading accounts of missionaries such as the Arnos Pathiri as well as some others and more recently when Vinod who led the conservation and renovation efforts, was in conversation with Arun at Intach Palakkad. As the discussion related to the work at the Bhramaswom madhom at Trichur, it piqued my interest, what with the connections to the Nediyirippu and the Preumpadappu, and I decided to delve deeper into it. The result of that short study follows, but I must admit that while the history of these schools interested me, I have virtually no knowledge of the Vedas themselves or their teaching methodology!