Ettuveetil Pillamar

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The eight barons or the Ettuveetar

In the previous article, we talked about Abhirami and her children. We read very briefly about the succession struggles between her sons and Marthanda Varma. This one will hover above the succession struggle and cover the role of the Madampies and the baronial Pillas and the usage Ettuveetil Pillamar. Reading through various sources and accounts, one could assume that there were two opinions about the matter regarding the Pillamar - that they became a legend starting with the fictional story about Marthanda Varma by CV Raman Pillai and the second being that they were real and existed even before CV Raman Pillai alluded to them in his novel.

It was particularly interesting for me because I lived in Kazhakootam, an area supposedly controlled by one of these 8 barons, for over a decade but at that time I had little interest in such matters. And since I get involved with Travancore history only rarely, I had quite a bit of reading to do before I could make some conclusions. Thus, armed with the two versions of Travancore history, by Aiyya and Shungoony Menon (I could not access Velu Pillai’s version), KVK Iyer’s history of Kerala, Shreedhara Menon’s Survey, KM Panikkar’s and Alexander’s accounts of the Dutch and so on, I got down to the task. I then read Marthanda Varma, the novel by Pillai, Leena More’s studies around Attingal & Travancore and Ibrahim Kunju’s detailed study on Varma. All this could be dizzying for the uninitiated, but it was incredible fun for me.

At the outset I have a suggestion to make, if you have not read Raman Pillai’s book, read it, and if you cannot get the Malayalam version or do not read Malayalam, then check for the translation by BK Menon. BKM’s translation is fantastic and I could only marvel at his choice of words (his daughter Prema is a well know translator these days and the great grandniece of K Karaunakara Menon, whom we talked about during our Pazhassi Raja accounts). So with that bit of acknowledgment and with the background explained, let us now head down south to Travancore, not the Trivandrum we know today, but Kalkulam (Padmanabhapuram) and the Nagercoil areas, to begin the story.

As we saw in the previous article, King Rama Varma died and according to the matrilineal succession in vogue, Marthanda Varma, his nephew rose to the throne. We also saw that the Ilaya Thampi’s Pappu and Raman Thampi were not amused by the turn of events since their father had promised Abhirami, their mother that one of them would get the title. Marthanda Varma would not budge and the dispute started to ratchet up to higher levels. 

However, an anarchical situation in the region had started even before Rama Varma allied with the Madura ruler but was not able to find resources to pay the annual tribute. But as Nagam Aiyya put it,

At the time of his accession the state of the country was far from happy. There were no organized departments for the transaction of State business. The finances were in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. The country was honeycombed with petty chieftains, who collecting around themselves bands of brigands, subsisted on pillage and plunder and harassed the Rajah and his people by frustrating all attempts to establish order or any settled form of government. The Rajah's following was small and his authority so nominal that the Ettuvittil Pillamars and the Madampimars were more or less independent rulers of their own estates. Anarchy prevailed in South Travancore to a sad extent which was further intensified by the regicidal proclivities of these petty chieftains and the Yogakkars — a body of managers of the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy owning enormous landed wealth and commanding the influence and power which go with it.

We also see from the Travancore manuals that Varma even while serving as a deputy to his uncle had a number of issues with the barons on varying occasions resulting in his being on the run and even sleeping on tree tops (I see a bit of CV Raman Pillai’s novel here). Nagam Aiyya continues

Even as First Prince and Elaya Rajah of tender years, he set himself to put down with a strong hand the lawlessness of these disloyal chiefs. In consequence, he had earned their undying hatred and his life was more than once attempted. He sought the aid of the English and the Dutch and would have completely quelled the rebels but for the timidity and weakness of his uncle the King who compelled him to desist. He had fled from place to place and on several occasions slept on the tops of trees in far off jungles.

Now that we have established some background, let us try to get to the specifics. Shungoonny Menon mentions them as being a problem as early as 1594 when Eravi Varma himself had issues collecting dues from the Pillamar. He describes them thus

A society was formed consisting of eight and a "half members" of whom eight were Potty Brahmans, each of whom pretended to have the privilege of a casting vote, and the sovereign who was considered half member, had no vote in the transactions of the Devaswam affairs. By such an arrangement, the affairs of the Devaswam , became virtually vested in the hands of the eight Potty Brahmans, and they began to work the institution through their attaché’s the Ettu Veetil Pillamar, who were the representatives of eight noble families. The sovereign had little or no influence over the Devaswam, and was simply required to be present at the usual periodical ceremonies. The power of this Yogakkar and the association become so great, that records show that they even imposed heavy fines upon the sovereign for wrongs done to the Devaswam institution.

This Devaswam possessed extensive landed property, which was then called Sree Pundara Vaka (belonging to the holy treasury). Its sole managers were the Yogakkar, who had all the powers of despotic rulers over the Devaswam property, and over every one of the tenants and holders of the Devaswam lands. The Ettu Veetil Pillamar were entrusted with the collection of the Devaswam revenue, and the villages, where the Devaswam lands lay, were divided into eight Adhikarems. Each of the Ettu Veetil Pillamar was appointed a collector over the Adhikarem, with the powers of a petty chief.

The king having little or no authority over these men, they rose in power and importance, and gradually became supreme lords in their villages, and in time the Madampimar (nobles and petty chiefs,) who were not loyally attached to the crown, were also influenced by the Ettu Veetil Pillamar and the combination became a powerful one.

Shungoony Menon continues to explain the atrocities carried out by the confederates against the king, especially the burning of the royal palace and the poisoning of the mild mannered Aditya Varma, the killing (kalippaan kulam drowning) of the brothers of Ummayamma Rani, and how during her reign, the eight Pillamar dissented and how each of them became a sole master of his possessions, thus signaling a situation of anarchy. Around this time, a Moghul soldier attacks and subdues Travancore following which the Rani brings in the Kerala Varma raja from Malabar (Kottayam)to help, which he does and soon the Rani is in absolute power. But the Pillamar and the Yogakkar conspire and kill the rescuer from Malabar. Eventually the previously mentioned Rama Varma becomes king and Marthanda Varma (son of a Kolathunad princess & Rama Varma’s nephew) enters the scene to continue the royal tussle against the confederates.

According to Alexander the Pillamar belonged to the eight Nair houses of Marthandam, Ramanamatam, Kulathoor, Kazhakootam, Venganoor, Chempazhanthil, Kodamana and Pallichal (CVRPillai introduces one other named Thirumadhom). He concludes that their ambition was to extirpate the royal family and establish a republic of their own. According to him, maintaining the Pandyan forces which his father had brought in in order to control the confederates was too expensive and so he sent them back. But this encouraged the Pillamar who rose in rebellion against the new king Marthanda Varma. This is the situation that prompted the Ilaya thampi’s, who were also upset with the king over succession aspects, to join the confederates, and then to go to the Trichy Nayak for support.

KM Panikkar opines that it was a settlement in 1050 that accorded the land around Padmanabha temple to the Yogakkar. He goes along with the accounts of Shungoony Menon and Alexander. He narrates the story of the fugitive Yuvaraja and how he realizes that the common man always supported his feudal lord and not a monarch. So if a monarchy had to prevail, he had to get the barons out of power. With that in mind, he seeks the Trichy Nayaks’ support in return for an annual tribute of Rs 3000/-. In return he gets an army of 2000 under the Tripathay Naiker and a cavalry of 1000 under Vankatapathy Naiker. But when he tried to use them against the nobles, these forces refused to take his orders and thus he starts to create his own imported army comprising Maravas, Pathans and so on. That is when Pappu Thampi goes to the Nawab of Arcot with his complaints.

Marthanda Varma according to Panikkar is found to be lacking scruples and virtues such as clemency, once he had entered the fray. He was the first to strike down the age old systems in Malabar politics where a Nair noble could never be punished, even in case of treason. With MV’s annihilation of the 42 nobles and their families, he destroyed the feudal system of Travancore. His use of Marava mercenaries, his wish to create an autocratic state in the lines of those at Trichy and Tanjore, was alien to the people of the region. PKS Raja also concurs in concluding that Varma was as ruthless and unscrupulous as the recalcitrant Ettuvetill Pillamar.

Let us now get back to the Ilaya thampimaar. They went to the Nayak and requested support complaining that they were following natural succession methods and that he should help them reach their just position. The Nayak deputed the powerful Alagappa Mudaliar to check. Mudaliar went to Travancore and was met by the able Dalawa Ramayya, who explained to him the principles of matrilineal practices in Malabar and Travancore and as is mentioned in a number of other accounts, Mudaliar was well taken care of (well bribed). The Mudaliar then calls the Ilaya Thampis and reprimands them, following which he returns home. Thus the Thampimaar ended up having no external support. The rebellion now became an open one and the skirmishes more regular. In the meantime, the Padmanabha temple renovation work was completed.
This unstable situation continued on till 1733, when on a fateful day the two Thampis were killed by or on the orders of Marthanda Varma, having decided that there was no other course open to him. Books mention that the younger Raman Thampi was first killed by the guards at the Nagercoil palace following an altercation and later the elder Pappu Thampi got hacked down by Varma himself. Manickavasagom Pillai concludes in his paper after due analysis, that all this was pre planned, so also the fate of the eight Pillais. Kochukumaran Pillai was also taken care of in the same manner, according to Velu Pillai’s TSM.

After this was done, the 42 chiefs (Pillais and Madampies) were rounded up, and hung at a place called Mukhamandapam near Kalkulam. They properties were seized and the women and children sold off to fishermen. The Brahmin potties (as they could not be killed according to the Manusmriti) were apparently excommunicated with a dog picture branded on their foreheads.

Now we come to the central question. Did these Pillais, Madapmies and Yogakkar exist? Yes, most definitely, and this is borne in other works such as Sreedhara Menon’s Survey of KH. But we can perhaps get corroboration from the accounts of neighboring kingdom of Attingal and English records, so let us check there.

In the case of Attingal, it is recorded that there were four great Pillas, namely Vanjamutta, Cuddamon, Barreba and Mandacca. This is well documented in Leena More’s book and even established as the Nattunadappu, so it is likely that such a system did exist in the case of neighboring Travancore. Continuing on, we also note that there were twelve madampis and two pottis. The Pillas were a level higher than the madampi and the Attingal queen would take one of her two husbands from among the Pillas.

We note that the first tussle between Ravi Varma (the king before Rama Varma) and the 8 Veetil pillar took
place close to 1695 when some of those lords were executed and others had to ransom their own lives. This was what started to bring matters to a head. In 1681, the British abandoned a project to settle in Attingal due to the problems they faced with the local pillas. As time went by they had lots of problems with the Vanjmoota pillai and the Kochu madan pillai who would not allow them to build a fort, but eventually they built it at Anjengo. The two pillas then had a tussle after which the Cuddamon sided with the rani against the Vanjamutta who got Travancore support. It is here that we find that Vanjamutta was also backed by the Madampis of Travancore. We also note in the Attingal deliberations that the pillaas were the ones who decided on the election of a queen. As we go along with Leena’s account we observe the rising power of the Pillas and the declining power of the Attingal Rani, a testament of the times.

Marthanda Varma seeing what was happening with his relatives in Attingal, ensured that whatever counsel he gave to his uncle Rama Varma (and previously to Ravi Varma) were against the pillamar of Travancore, the said ettuveettar. Perhaps he was goaded to do this by his new friends the English headed by Alexander Orme and that was how a treaty was concluded between the English and MV, then the prince of Neyyatinkara. The Travancoreans in return, promised support to punish those behind the Attingal revolt. By 1724, the English had even obtained permission to mint coins and a monopoly to establish settlements in Travancore. With that concluded, their intention to profit was made clear, and that they would support a certain amount of despotism by providing superior military equipment & technology, just what MV wanted. The sakuni Orme had arrived, and the English thus went about laying the foundation towards the rise of Travancore & VMV. Varma forced Cudammon Pillai to tender a written apology.

Vanjamutta according to English records was apparently the brain behind the pillas getting together and throwing off their allegiance to the king of Travancore. In fact he was the one who wanted to take the Yuvaraja’s life resulting in his being on the run for quite some time (CVR Pillai mentions the kazhakootam Pillai being the ring leader in his novel, but it was actually the Vanjamuttil). It was Orme who brought MV to Attingal to fight the pillas, by personally lending him large sums of money without authorization from his superiors. The queen of Attingal joined MV in his efforts resulting in a retaliatory attack on herself, which she survived. After this a formal war was declared on the pillas by the queen of Attingal and the king of Travancore. The Cudamonpilla chose to side with the queen. MV apparently burnt Vanjamutta’s palace and burned his fort at Pallichal, together with 500 houses. MV who was still on the run now sought refuge in Attaingal, close to his English friends. Vanjamutta retaliated by burning the queens palace in Capi. The English stayed away from the fracas as they were afraid that the powerful Vanjamutta might attack and destroy Anjengo next.

Meanwhile Vanjamutta had defeated MV in a skirmish and his enemy Cuddamon now chose to take the side of the pillamar. MV retreated to Travancore, fleeing from Attingal. This was the period when Ravi Varma died and Rama Varma took over with MV now guiding him to seek support from the nayak of Madurai. With the help of the two naickers, their infantry and cavalry, MV attacked the Pilla bastions and made them flee Travancore. He wrote to Orme that he himself had killed 15 of the pillas. But Vanjamutta did not die. Many of the remaining madampis paid money to MV and sued for peace. Soon after this, MV visited the Anjengo fort and was welcomed by the English with a 7 gun salute. The French and the Dutch rushed to meet Rama Varma and establish forts in Travancore, whose fortunes were now on the rise. MV refused all these overtures and ensured that the British alone prevailed.

The English now pushed MV for a reparation for the Attingal revolt. MV’s dalawa Ramayya and the queen refused stating that the war with the pillas was fought only on this count i.e. to help the English after the Attingal revolt and that they themselves had incurred huge expenses. Perhaps that is when Orme learned that his personal investment had gone sour. Soon he was replaced by John Wallis. However, the queen and MV conferred and eventually decided to gift the Cotadalli and Palatady gardens to the English as compensation for the Attingal revolt.

Soon Rama Varma died and MV took over. He set up a new system of administration and bypassed the old feudal system consisting of the madampies and the pillas. Now he had to take care of the remaining pillas who had in the meantime found support from the ilaya thampies, who in turn felt they had been shortchanged after the death of their father. They then went to Trichy to seek assistance and Alagappa Mudaliar was dispatched. Ramayya and Narayanayya convinced Alagappa (or bribed him) to go back. After this MV reorganized his forces to include Maravars, Pathans and Channars and created a network of spies around the country to report on the pillas. This paid off and a report is received that the pillas are ganging together (secret meeting at Vennanur temple) to kill MV.

In one swoop they are rounded up during the arattu procession of 1736 by MV and MV going against all tradition that a Nair noble is never held accountable for such matters, tries and hangs them all, over 42 pillas and madampies, after which their families are sold to fisher folk and the others excommunicated. Golleness the Dutch commander also records these actions stating emphatically that MV did all this with English support, who had provided arms and ammunition and other kinds of indirect support.

The ring leader Vanjumutta pilla seems to have escaped and was waiting for his revenge from Quilon, after allying himself with the Dutch who brought in forces from Ceylon. But this attempt failed. After this, MV went on to annex Quilon and remaining areas to create an enlarged Travancore. As time went by, the cruelty that he had practiced took its toll. The priests told him that he must repent and that is how he celebrated the Trippadam, Murajapam and Hiranyagarbhadanam ceremonies (to go from samanthan to Kshatriya status) and finally dedicated his kingdom to Lord Padmanabha. Interestingly, MV who acceded to the throne claiming nattunadappu was the one who went against all of it eventually by destroying the feudal system for his own benefit…

According to English records this Vanjamutta (Vanchimuttam) pillai was the ring leader in the insurrection against MV. Who was he? We read that his Pallichal fort was destroyed by MV, so it was obviously the Pallichal pilla. Pallichal Pillai and Kodumon Pillai were the most powerful domains among the eight in Travancore. In the 17th century the Karanavar of the family of Pallichal Pillai moved from Pallichal to Vanchimuttam near Attingal, though his family members remained in Pallichal. A part of his holdings fell under Travancore and so this relocation to Vanchimuttam was actually to avoid allegations of sedition on him, by the Travancore royal family.

Krishna Iyer states that prominent among the Travancore nobles were the Pillamars of Marthandathu Madom, Ramana Madom, Kulathur, Kazhakuttam, Kudamon, Venganur, Chempazanthy and Pallichal, collectively known as the Ettuveettil Pillamars.

But was CV Raman Pilla who wrote the book MV in 1891, the first to coin the usage ettu veettar? Not really. You can find mentions in English dispatches and more formally, Samuel Mateer writing his land of charity in 1870 writes - Veera Rama Martanda Vurmah was the first of this line, and commenced his reign in 1335. He founded the Trevandrum fort and palace, which he made his principal residence. He was succeeded by twenty-two princes, of whom little besides the names and dates is recorded. Their rule occupied a period of 350 years. They were continually engaged in contending with the "Eight Chiefs," and had therefore little time to enter upon schemes of foreign conquest. In the early part of this reign a contention arose between the Rajah and his sons on the subject of the succession to the kingdom. According to the Malabar law, nephews were the heirs and successors to all property and honors; but the sons of the Rajah sought to alter the law of succession in their own favor. They were aided in their ambitious schemes by several of the "eight chieftains," and by other adherents. Becoming aware of the conspiracy, the Rajah watched his opportunity, and ordered the execution of his two sons, one of whom he put to death with his own hand. Several of the minor chiefs were slain at the same time, their families sold into slavery, and their estates confiscated.

Robert Caldwell writing his ‘A Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly’ in 1890 and Shungoony Menon in 1878 provides all the details which others then used. So it is clear that the usage was commonplace even before Pillai wrote his novel.

There are other mentions as well, some say that the Kulathoor and Chempazhanthi families were not nairs but ezhavas. In some cases they are termed as ettu madampimaar, but suffices to note that it was a gang of eight. Some other mentions can be found that a few of these pillas fled to neighboring states, that some converted to Christianity and there are even rumors that a few landed up at Pantalayani Kollam near Calicut.

The Padmanabha vaults are now home to immense treasures, brought in during these MV ventures and perhaps later by the fleeing (from Hyder & Tipu) Malabar princes. Kulathoor is home to the engineering college and Kazhakootam home to both the Sainik School as well as the Technopark. The VSSC space center can be found in the vicinity. People carry on as they do in Anantapuram, with talk about the state government and the scheming politicians. As usual, the topsy turvy turn of local politics remain the main focus to people of the region. Thampi and Pillai are still common surnames in Travancore, however they are no longer major landlords.

In the concluding article, we will talk about Ramayya, the man who guided MV through all these years and was perhaps the one who formulated his actions and ideology.

The Dutch in Malabar – PC Alexander
Travancore state manual – Nagam Aiyya
A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times - P. Shungoonny Menon
Malabar and the Dutch – KM Panikkar
Medieval Kerala – PKS Raja
English east India Company and the rulers of Travancore – Leena More

Abhirami’s tale

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The Ilaya Thampi’s and Marthanda Varma– Part 1

I was led to this topic some months ago when Calicut heritage forum posted an interesting article on the Black hole of Attingal . In the discussions that ensued, there was some talk about the Ettuvettil Pillamar after which I read more about it at Sharat Sundar’s interesting blog and perused the comments therein. Were the eight baronial Pillamar just part of a legend created by CV Raman Pillai or did they really exist before being exterminated by the Yuvaraja during his powerful rule? The story was interesting and somewhat difficult to factualize, but still like with the Keralolpatti, one could after digging deep into some sources get a glimmer of a fact or two.

This will form the first part of a three part article covering the role of the Pillamar and Marthanda Varma (who actually connects up to the Malabar Kolattiri lineage through his mother from and his father from the Kilimanoor Kovialkom) and how perhaps a North Indian or Tanjavur lady came into play, for she was the cause of it all. The final part will cover the tale of VMV’s friend Ramayyan who became a Dalawa.

But first some background on Venad (Vel-nad) and the South eastern area of Nancinad in those days, to lend a proper perspective and here I take the help of narrative by KV Krishna Iyer, referring to his History of Kerala covering the so called Venatiri’s (whom he couples with Kolatiri’s as birds of the same feather). The days of the last part of the 17th century and the early parts of the 18th were beset by all kinds of feuds related to succession, Vanad – Madurai rivalry, temple related demands, settlement of dues, embezzlement and so on. For a period the famous Umayamma Rani brought order to the region, but with her passing in the early part of the 18th century, the problem from the past began to reassert themselves and the feudal barons started to get belligerent. Marthanada Varma as it turned out, was the rani’s grandson, even though by adoption and in the end proved to be efficient, ruthless and was able to tighten the reins of the Trippappur swaroopam at Trivuvitamkode (Trivandrum).

In 1697, Mangammal Rani of Madurai sent an expedition to Travancore to punish its ruler, Ravi Varma, who had attacked and destroyed an army sent from Madurai to Travancore to collect an overdue annual tribute. Defeated in this Nayak raid the king was compelled to submit and remit taxes and in order to do that he subjected Najinad to heavy taxes with more than an iron hand. The subjects were not too happy, nor were their village and Desam heads and a sort of anarchy prevailed. To subdue them this king used mercenaries and armies as well as support from Madurai and much of this activity was spearheaded and / or supported by his nephew, the young lad in his late teens (born 1705-1706), Marthanda Varma. Around this period the1721 Attingal revolt took place against the English, a story which CHF had written about, and this resulted in the English factory getting a monopoly on pepper and giving a secret promise to support Marthanda Varma in his future endeavors.

In 1726, Rama Varma who succeeded Ravi Varma, offered his allegiance to the Nayak of Madurai and requested his help in subduing the anarchy that prevailed. Various mercenaries and English support were drummed up, including English weapons and a battle was fought with the rebelling Pillamar. The situation went on in an unsatisfactory manner until the king Rama Varma passed away in 1729. As matriarchal tradition decreed, the young Marthanda Varma who had all the qualities required to rule the region with an iron hand was to take over from his uncle. But a problem cropped up, when two of his cousins claimed the throne under the earlier patriarchal succession system (which had been followed in Venad through the end of the 13th century - the matriarchal system came into being later). They were the two sons (Ilaya thampis) of Rama Varma, named Raman (Valiya Thampi a.k.a Padmanabhan or Pappu Thami) and Adityan (Kunju) Tampi.

Those who have read the CV Raman Pilla’s novel would recognize the brothers mainly from the drug infused villainous character of Padmanabhan Thampi, but who were they and how did they come to the fore? For that you gave to look at the family of Rama Varma, especially Abhirami and her brother Kochukumaran Pilla. As we know from many other cases, the identities of these people have been shrouded in derogatory legends especially when they have been on the losing side. Writers supporting the winner usually cast them off quickly in their accounts or make negative remarks about them while hovering long around the incumbent’s glory. Such is the case of these two people. To bring them and their characters out to light proved to be quite difficult, but let me present to you what I obtained.

Christopher Buyers supported by a few of his Travancore contributor’s record the following in his website on Indian rulers. 
He introduces Abhirami as the consort of King Rama Varma and lists her three children in the following words

Ammachi Panapillai Amma Srimathi Abiramapilla Kochamma, née Abhirami, a former devadasi or temple dancer ennobled just prior to her marriage, daughter (I think sister) of Krishnan Kochu Kumara Pillai, a Bengali or Tamil gentleman from outside Travancore. He (I think the smallpox death relates to Rama Varma) died from smallpox, at Kalkulam, 30th August 1729, having had issue, two sons and a daughter:
1) Sri Padmanabhan Tampi [Pappu Tampi] [Valiya Tampi] [Raman Raman]. Conspired with his brother and the eight Nair chiefs to oust the Heir Apparent and later Maharaja Martanda Varma. He was killed by his uncle, Maharaja Martanda Varma at the Kalkulam Palace, 28th October 1730.
2) Sri Raman Tampi [Kunju Tampi] [Raman Adichen]. Conspired with his elder brother and the eight Nair chiefs to oust the Heir Apparent and later Maharaja Martanda Varma. He was killed by his uncle, Maharaja Martanda Varma at the Kalkulam Palace, 28th October 1730.
3) Kittinathal Ammaveetil Srimathi Ummini Thankachi [Kochumadathamma]. Courted by Martanda Varma, but her refusal of him, providing the stem cause of enmity between Martanda and her brothers. She died (by suicide) after the death of her brothers, at Padmanabhapuram Palace, 28th October 1730.

The story concerning the two sons of Rama Varma, is covered in the ballad called Tampi Katha (another ballad called Tampunarkata covers the same story with slight differences) and I will get to the details shortly. Manu writing at inorite adds that Tampimar Katai mentions that Abhirami and her brother were given titles and estates and she was called “Kittanathil Ammachi”

Another version comes to light from S Sundars blog, where Abhiramai turns out to have a royal link - Rama Varma was married to a Rajput Princess Abhirami of the Kosala Royal House (present day Ayodhya). He had two sons (Sri Padmanabhan Thampi and Sri Raman Thampi) and one daughter. The princess held the Royal title of Vempadi Valiammachi. Princess Abhirami had problems in her horoscope and therefore the Royal astrologers of Ayodhya sent her on a pilgrimage for 14 years to various holy places. A number of her relatives and bodyguards accompanied her during her journey. King Rama Varma met her in Suchindram and married her. He promised the Royal family of Kosala that Abhirami's children would succeed the throne, although as per the Travancore custom, it was Prince Marthanda Varma (Rama Varma's nephew), who held the right to succeed him.

Sharat in his blog on Travancore  ( One and Two ) states that the late Krishna Singh (of Rajput extract himself) told him the tale of Princess Sandhya (a.k.a Abhirami) and pointed out her Rajput lineage. As the story goes, Sandhya left Ayodya and travelled southwards to end up at Suchindram. Raja Rama Varma hears her singing there, and proposes to her. In my mind the Rajput connection seemed a little tenuous, but before we decide let us look at a few semi historical resources, as well as the conclusions made by Prof Ibrahim Kunju in his study of Marthanda Varma.

In the Sri Marthanda Mahatmyam by an anonymous author, a contemporary, it is said that an astrologer had predicted the rise of Marthanda Varma and that even in his childhood, Pappu Thampi had attempted to murder him. This cause for the feud which ensued for the rest of their lives can perhaps be quickly dismissed as both children were of the same age.

We start by referring to Manickavasagom Pillai’s paper based on the Thampimaar Kathai by R Natarajan and P Sarveswaran- Accordingly, Rama Varma sees a dancing girl during the car festival at Suchindram. While Pillai agrees that the poem mentions her native place as Ayodhya, he goes by other accounts which mention her hometown as Tanjore. Abhirami bore three children, Pappu, Raman and Mani and the king had promised her that one of her sons would be the future king. Right from childhood, the two tampis were not on friendly terms with Marthanda Varma. As they grew up, Martanda fell in love with their sister. The feud continues on, more ferociously after Varma takes over the throne and eventually the two brothers are killed by him or upon his instructions. The girl commits suicide and becomes a yakshi.

The Travancore Matilakom records which I have not seen, apparently remain silent and pass off the entire account in just one cryptic sentence according to Ibrahim Kunju. It is concluded by him that the poem is perhaps right because the records were in this instance, suppressing a truth unpleasant to the incumbent royalty. While I will get to the details in the forthcoming article on the feud that followed and the pillamar, let us stick to Avirami for now.

Abhirami would certainly have demanded patrilineal inheritance, in line with the custom in her native N Indian lands. But then again was she a Rajput? Or was she a Tamil noble, a Tamil devadasi or a Bengali lady, perhaps a singer or dancer at Suchindram?

To continue with the analysis, one has to check out the work published later named ‘Vasulakshmi Kalyanam’ detailing the marriage of King Rama Varma with a Rajput princess called Sandhya. When you analyze the dateline, you will find that this Rama Varma was not the predecessor, but the successor of Marthanda Varma.

There are two versions, the first by a poet Sadasiva and the second by a later author named Venkata.
Sadasiva’s version goes thus - The king of distant Sindhu had a daughter named Vasulakshmi and had set his heart on marrying her to the king of Travancore, Ramavarma-Kulasekhara, whose accomplishments were much noised abroad. But the queen who had another bridegroom in view in the person of her nephew, the prince of Simhala, started her daughter on a voyage ostensibly with the intention of visiting a famous temple while the proposed destination was in reality Ceylon. Providence however upset the queen’s calculations and the royal barge was stranded on that part of the Travancore shore which was in the jurisdiction of the frontier-captain (antardurya pala) Vasumadraja, the brother of the Travancore kings consort Vasumati. The shipwrecked princess was then sent by this captain to his sister at the capital where her beauty at once captivated the pliable heart of king Ramavarman, the hero of the drama.  The usual love intrigue culminates in a ‘clandestine’ meeting of the lover’s in the palace garden and the jealous senior rani then attempts to dispose her rival by marriage to her cousin, the Pandya king.  But this scheme is frustrated by the king and his accomplice, the inevitable Vidushaka, who in the disguise of the Pandya king and his friend receive the bride. In the meantime, the Sindhu raja learns of the whereabouts of his missing daughter through Nitisagara, the Travancore minister, and coming to Travancore with a large escort confirms the betrothal of king Ramavarman with Vasulakshmi, which happily coincides with his own inclinations.

Vasulakshmi Kalyanam is also the subject of a play by Venkata Subramanya, a descendant of Appayya Dikshit. This work also deals with the same marriage of his patron king Rama Varma of Travancore (1758-1798) with Vasulakshmi, the Sindhu princess, but for securing a political alliance. Let us take a look at that, quoting from Travancore Archeological series I. Venkata’s version is pretty much the same as Sadasiva’s. However it clarifies that the alliance was for diplomatic reasons, calculated to raise his status to Sarvabhauma (emperor), in order to obtain a better relationship with the Hunaraja (East India Company or perhaps the Dutch?)

The minister Buddhisagara who has seen the portrait of Vasulakshmi, the princess, is anxious that the king of Travancore should marry her, so that the latter's political influence may extend northwards and his friendship with the Hunaraja may also be strengthened. When news is received that the Sindhu princes is voyaging to Ceylon, the minister manages to waylay this ship in the Travancore waters with the active cooperation of the Huna fleet, and Vasuman, the officer in command of the sea-coast- who was also the brother of the Travancore king’s consort, sends the captive-princess to the royal Palace. There the king falls in love with her and manages to meet her in the royal pleasure gardens to the intense chagrin of Vasumati who tries to marry her rival to the Chera prince Vasuvarman and thus remove the unwelcome competitor out of the way. This plot fails, as in the other drama, by the counter machinations of the king and his Vidushaka who successfully personate the Chera prince and his boon-companion. By the artful scheming of the minister coupled with the influence of her brother, Vasumati is however, finally won over to consent to the marriage of Vasulakshmi with her own husband and the Sindhu prince Vasurasi, instructed by Buddhisagara comes posthaste from his country to celebrate his sister's marriage with the Travancore king. By this alliance, it is stated, the friendship of both the parties with the Hunaraja was strengthened and the influence of the Travancore was visibly enhanced.

Let us study this second King Rama Varma and his consorts in order to check if he indeed married a Sindhu princess. Buyer’s page states - m. (first) a lady from the Arumana House. m. (second) Vadasseri Ammachi Panapilla Srimathi Kali Amma Nagamani Amma. m. (third) a lady from the Nagercoil House. m. (fourth) a lady from the Thiruvattar House. You see no mention of a Vasulakshmi from Sindh.

So, I might not be wrong in concluding that the Sindhu (place or name) angle came about from the successor of Marthanda Varma and not the predecessor. Nevertheless, we should take note that the former supposedly married a princess from Ayodhya according to the Thampimar kathai. The only links are Krishna Singh’s testimony and the presence of the Meenachil village near Palai in Kottayam.

The Meenachil Karthas were supposedly Rajputs belonging to royal lineage who migrated to Madurai in the 14th century. As is said, they later migrated to Kerala and settled in "Meenachil" near Palai. Their capital was named Mevada (after Mewar). Perhaps Abhirami was from this village, but it is just a guess. (See inorite blogs one and two)

According to Krishna Singh, the Rajput relatives and attendants of Princess Abhirami initially settled down near Nagarcoil. After the revolt by the Kunju Thampis, the surviving Rajputs were brought to Trivandrum. Many of them were recruited into the Travancore Armed Forces, mainly in the cavalry division. Although their population was quite significant during the 18th century, this declined and many were assimilated into the Royal Nair clans of Travancore.

After ascending to the throne, King Rama Varma apportioned the southern portion of Venad (Northern portion was governed by the Attingal Rani) into three parts. The areas surrounding Kalkulam and Nagercoil palaces were given to his two sons - Pappu and Raman Tampi (Ilaya Thampi’s) and the Neyyattinkara area was given to his nephew Marthanda Varma.
Now that we have looked at it from a few angles, there is only one left, that pertaining to the legend of the girl Marthanda Varma was besotted with, i.e. the sister of the two thampi’s and the daughter of Abirami. As one account goes, when the Thampis rose against their cousin for the throne with the support of the eight lords, Marthanda Varma imprisoned their mother and sister, Ummini Thanka, in the Nagercoil palace. As the Thampis were rallying troops around themselves, Abhirami died and Ummini Thanka zealously guarded her body for five days. The story of this wronged and vengeful Ummini Thanka or Kochu Manithanka has a continued presence in popular memory.

As we continue to search for clues, we come across yet another story, this one being the story of the Kochu Manithankai recounted by Ramesan Nair. The few additional additions to the legend can be seen below.
He describes the Kalkulam (Padmanabhapuram) palace, the Charottu palace, the tunnel between them, and of the previously narrated meeting between the king and Abhirami at Suchindram. Howver he goes on to explain that he started living with her at the Nagercoil palace. The locals not happy with the  confinement, request the king to legalize the union, which he does and promises the new queen as well as the locals that one of her sons would be king. He then moves her to his Iraniyal palace and renames her as Krishnathalamma. When Pappu was 20 years old, Rama Varma died of Small pox following which Marthanda Varma took the throne after promising the dying king that he would take care of them. Abhirami and her children then move to the Charottu palace. The king then gets besotted with the sister Thanka and his feeling is soon reciprocated. But then the quarrels with her brothers intensified and resulted in their deaths, and soon Thanka in painful retaliation commits suicide in front of M Varma by stabbing herself with a dagger (in other stories she pulled her tongue out and died). She then wanders around for a few years as a Yakshi till she is finally consecrated in a small shrine at Chembakavalli near Melankode (hence the name Melankode Yakshi).

So Abhirami was erased from the annals of history by the Marthanda Varma factions though she remains in the minds of the people of Venad, as a mysterious wronged mother, who lost all her children to the violent retaliation of the new Yuvaraja. Perhaps she was indeed a princess from an area between Kutch and Sindh or Ayodhya, and was later degraded to a Devadasi in the legends to legitimize the actions of Marthanda Varma. Perhaps she was a person from the village of Meenachil who went to pray at Suchindram when the king met her, or even a Tamil dancer from Madurai, but in almost all tales, she was the wronged one.

As the analyst in the TAR 1 states, the stories in Vasulakshmi kalyanam do not connect up with any real people expect for the king Rama Varma. As was a practice in those days, this kind of poetry pleasing the king and connecting him up to imaginary stories was common. Maybe there was no fact behind Thambi katha as well, though Ibrahim Kunju does not believe so. In fact there are even opinions that Varma was originally married to Ummithanka, and that she killed herself after her husband killed her own brothers. But the legend still lives on, and Marthanda Varma remained celibate for the rest of her life, finding solace and friendship with his man Friday and friend Ramayyah, about whom we will talk about in the concluding article.
In the next article we cover the scheming between Marthanda Varma, the madampis and the pillamar, the death of the thampis and the settlement of VMV on the throne. We will not cover the rule of Marthanda Varma, for that is well documented and it suffices to conclude that his rule took Travancore to new heights, the size of his empire multiplied and finally the king in a surprising and magnanimous act laid all his gains at the feet of Lord Padmanabha.

Rise of Travancore: a study of the life and times of Marthanda Varma / A. P. Ibrahim Kunju.
Travancore at the accession of Marthanda Varma – ME Manickavasagom Pillai
Eighteenth century India: papers in honor of Prof. A.P. Ibrahim Kunju
History of Kerala – KV Krishna Iyer
Travancore Archeological series Part 1
Venad Yakshigal – K Ramesan Nair
Travancore state manual- Nagam Aiya
History of Travancore. P. Shungoony Menon
Marthanda Varma – CV Raman Pillay

Photos – Painting covering all the named people thanks to Debpratim De

The Kunhali Marakkar’s

Posted by Maddy Labels: , ,

A number of publications cover available information on the Kunjali’s of Malabar and many other books allude to them, some with more detail than the other. However, the versions vary greatly, some picturing the Kunjali’s as brave soldiers who led the uprising against the Portuguese. Some others picture them as pirates and corsairs, going about unjustly attacking the Portuguese who had valid agreements to do what they did with respect to Malabar trade. Then again there are many myths and ballads about their times and some depict them, especially Kunjali IV as an arrogant or even cruel person, who wrongly believed in his own supremacy without any merit, and this led to his downfall.

However, I will try here to combine a bit of both and present here a summary of events and the eventual basis for the deterioration of the relationship between the Marakkars and Moplahs with the Zamorin and the Nairs of Malabar. This sadly culminated in the capture and execution of the Kunjali IV and many an author wrote that the relationship between the Moplahs and the rest of the populace of Malabar was at best strained till it deteriorated during the Mysore Sultans reign and finally erupted with the rebellions of the 19th and early 20th century. In order to keep the article reasonably compact, I have no choice to gloss over some of the events. It is a summary of a period that declined from the motto of ‘let us profit jointly from all this trade’ to ‘to each unto his own’ situation where there were no winners. The dog as the proverb goes, ran away with the bone.

Before you start going off into different directions, take a minute to figure out where the marakkars came from. I had previously written about the marakkars (somebody who calls himself Tippu Sulthan has copied all of it, word to word, into a Wikipedia article on Marakkars, without any attribution to my efforts) To summarize, the Marakkars are originally Moplas of Malabar, though probably differing in exact origin and sub sect. They were always conductors of trade and migrated also to Tuticorin, Ceylon, Indonesia, Philippines & Malaysia. Perhaps they originated from the Konkan region who drifted southwards, and went about conducting business, mainly rice and other grains as well as silk and some of those families moved back to Malabar, and we see this in the case of the Kunjali’s.

The Portuguese as you will recall had been trying hard to find a foothold in Zamorin’s Malabar. They did establish a base in Cochin, but knowing that their needs would be better served from some port near Calicut (it would also help them exert much military pressure on the Zamorin and the Muslim traders who still controlled the Red Sea trade) or around the Nila river mouth, went about trying to find a foothold there. No entreaty with the Zamorin would yield any result, and their relations were always on a downhill route due to their demands for monopoly and expulsion of the Muslim traders from Malabar.

With this short background, let us start with the first major Marakkars. They were the two trading families of repute, namely Cherian Marakkar and Mamally marakkar. Cherian was an agent of Malik Ayaz of Gujarat, whereas Mamally (a.k.a Mamally Mappila) excelled in trade originating from Cannanore.

Move out of Cochin
As the Portuguese tightened trade controls, some of these Muslim traders moved to take residence near Calicut. Historians opines that this is when Ahmed Marakkar, his uncle Mohammad and brother Ibrahim moved up towards Ponnani. Pius Malekandathil explains that all this started when a trade deal between Kutti Ali (Mohammed) and Diogo Lopes failed. It seems that Kutti Ali loaded the ship of Lopez and others as per an agreement in 1522 and after his part was completed, the very same Lopes confiscated the whole ship as contraband and appropriated the same. This was what enraged the Marakkar trader and turned him against the Portuguese. By 1524, they had moved to Malabar.

Pius M in his superb paper Criminality and Legitimization in Seawaters adds – The developments of 1513, when paradesi and al-Karimi merchants fled en masse from Calicut to the ports of Gujarat, Vijayanagara, Hormuz and the Red Sea, following the establishment of a Portuguese base in that city after having poisoned the reigning Zamorin and installed in Calicut a pro-Lusitanian ruler in his stead, favored the commercial activities of the Marakkars who eventually started appropriating the trade of the al-Karimis and began to transship spices from Kerala to the ports of the Red Sea. The Ottomans, who occupied Egypt in 1516/7 displacing Mamluks and their commercial allies, the al-Karimis, began to increasingly bank upon Marakkar traders for obtaining Indian spices.

Soon they approached the Zamorin for trading rights and permissions, thus obtaining the title Kunjali, cementing the Marakkar family’s seven decade long relationship with the Zamorin’s until the reign of the 4th Kunjali. That was when a wedge was driven into this relationship by spite, jealousy and clever manipulation of the Zamorin by the Portuguese. So we see that during the period between the first decade of the 16th century (Sreedhara Menon states that Mohammed was titled Kunjali in 1507) and 1600 the Zamorin’s naval operations against the Portuguese were overseen by the Kunjalis. The Zamorin also gave permission to the Kunhali’s to defend themselves on the seas and fight any aggressors such as the Portuguese. Starting with the first Kunjali, there was no dearth of defensive and sometimes offensive tactics against larger Portuguese war ships and merchant ships, from their manned fleet of paros.

Kunjali 1
The Kunjali I was the first to use subversive tactics against the Portuguese, supervising a fleet of some hundred swift paros or pattermars, each manned by 30-40 rowers. These small boats which could operate in shallow or deep water could be swiftly deployed upon sight of a larger Portuguese ship and then the attack was on once near the target with small guns sling shots, javelins and bows & arrows, and sometimes fire. This hit and run tactic proved very successful and the Portuguese losses were heavy, not only to trade but also the Portuguese prestige as self-proclaimed lords of the western seas. Now the Zamorin not very happy with the Portuguese relations, decided to sever his ties with the Portuguese in 1525 and began to depend upon the newly arrived Marakkar merchants for reviving the trade of Calicut.

Chaliyam fort
It was around this time that the Raja of Vettathunad/Tanur (Parappanad had already become a vassal of the Zamorin but also supported the Portuguese) due to friction with the reigning Zamorin decided to break away and ally with the Portuguese. History books go on to say the Parappanad raja eventually sold an area near Chaliyam – Beypore ( where the Beypore railway station is located) to the Portuguese for around 400 pounds. With great haste (26 days) and secrecy the Portuguese started construction of a fort there, much to the Zamorin’s consternation for it was a strategic location at the mouth of the Nila River. KM Mathew (History of Portuguese navigation) writes that it took a year to complete the fort. This resulted in a peace treaty between the Portuguese and the Zamorin. It was 1531. But that was not to last and arguments about the income from the fort and trade and duties owed to the Zamorin’s became a bone of contention.

With the scene in some semblance of tranquility at Calicut, the Marakkars led by Kunjali shifted their focus to Ceylon and the eastern shores, working with other Cochin Moplah commodity traders in the Gulf of Mannar and the Coromandel as well as the pearl traders in Tuticorn. So much so that many a Cochin Casado sided with the now wealthy Marakkars and even made arms and ammunition for them. But there was a purpose behind it which was to bypass the Portuguese controls as Pius explains – The marakkars used to transship cargo first to Maldives, from where it was further sent along with the wares coming from South East Asia through the straits of Karaidu and Haddumati to the ports of Red Sea, controlled by the Ottomans.

They soon got embroiled in the succession issues between the contesting lords Bhuvaneka Vijaya bahu and Mayadunne at Ceylon, with Kunjali supporting the latter’s cause, for close to 7 years. In the wars between the Marakkars and the Portuguese in the waters around Ceylon, the Portuguese lost close to 50 ships. Attacks at Nagapatnam later resulted in even higher problems for the strong Portuguese, aided by the Paravas. Mohammed Kunjali I and his ally Pattu Marakakr were killed/beheaded in 1534 at Kanyimedu by Antonio da Silva during a Portuguese attack

Kunjali II
His successor, also inheriting the title of Kunjali Marakkar took over, and later known as Kunjali II. The Zamorin tried to dislodge the Portuguese from Chaliyam in 1537, but failed. In the meantime the Tanur king had been converted and was renamed Dom Joao. The Vettathu raja was also to convert soon, together with his wife (and revert back soon after). In wars around Cochin also, losses followed the Zamorin even though they were supported by the Marakkars who had come back from Ceylon. At the same time, expected support from Egypt did not materialize. Eventually a disappointed and defeated Zamorin sued for peace with the Portuguese and a peace treaty was signed with the Portuguese, at Ponnani. This was to last all but 10 years and many a war followed.

However, in 1550 the Portuguese attacked and plundered Ponnani, and with an aim to irritate the Zamorin even further the Portuguese decided to construct a fort on the left bank of the Vaikkal river mouth in Ponnani. The Zamorin’s alliance with Portuguese as we saw, was an alliance borne out of desperation. Hostilities were resumed. The Kunjali II with his famed supporters such as Patu marakker continued the hit and run naval strategy inflicting much damage on the Portuguese trade in spite of the Cartaz system in force. But he was to pass away in 1569 and the Patu marakkar then took over as Kunhali III who according to Grey and Bell hailed from Kurichi, close to Thikkodi.

Kunjali III
The struggles against the Portuguese continued, now led by Pattu Marakkar and Kutti pokker. The war-paroe force would as usual come out and attack the Portuguese ships at will, inflicting heavy damage and causalities before returning to the safety of shallow waters. But Patu marakkar brought more order to the counterattacks. It was during his period that light signaling by lookouts from higher vantage points, to signal Portuguese ships, came into vogue. He foreseeing a long struggle, convinced the Zamorin’s that dependence on foreign powers was not and answer, but to build his own naval forces. Calicut also became the location where ships and cannons were made under the marakkar supervision.

This went on for many years until in 1571 when Kunjali III attained a famous victory as he crushed the Portuguese at Chaliyam and demolished the Portuguese fort there after encircling it and starving the inmates. With this the Portuguese efforts to maintain a base in Malabar failed again and they decided to move to Goa. A number of gifts were given to this Kunjali and one of them apparently was land near the Angalapuzha renamed Puthpattanam (the area was thence known as Kottakkal – across the famous Velliyam kallu). He was also allowed to build his own fort in that location in 1573, and that came to be known and the Kunjali fort (Marakkar Kota) from then on. The naval strength of the Zamorin was greatly increased following this and but naturally the Portuguese were under even higher pressure. They had no choice but to again approach the Zamorin for a peace treaty. Just around this time, the Kunjali III died and was succeeded by his nephew, the 40 year old Mohammed Marakkar or Kunjali IV (Some confusion abounds – some say this death happened only in 1595 after a protracted bout of disability following a fall)

Kunjali IV
Kunjali IV continued in the same vein and many a skirmish between his forces and the Portuguese have been reported, some won by the Portuguese, some by the Kunjali’s forces now called Malabar pirates or Malabar Corsairs. The Portuguese Calicut treaty then came into force in 1582-1587 and a new factory was allowed to be constructed in Ponnani (this was in 1585). It was here that the estrangement between the Zamorin and the Kunjali IV started. Kunjali was in the meantime, in the process of fortifying his location even further with more cannons and trees.

The fortress, as described by De Couto, was square, each side being of 500 paces, ending with the usual bastions at the corners. The walls were four paces thick. In the middle was the citadel, with its dungeon, where Portuguese captives were immured, and which, as De Couto sadly adds, "for our sins was seldom vacant." The fort walls had their parapets, port-holes, and loop-holes, with much good artillery; but the strongest bastion was that which guarded the bar of the river on the north-west of the town.

What followed is not substantiated and are mentions of many a cause for estrangement between him and a young Zamorin. The first of which was the case of the Iringal Nair girl who lost her caste after Kunjali’s soldiers seized her. Apparently Kunjali then converted her, adopted her as his sister and got her married off, but other accounts (eagerly promoted by the Portuguese and other local detractors) mention that she became his own partner of sorts (her progeny are the present Marakkar family name holders). The second was Kunjali’s cutting off the tail of an elephant belonging to the Zamorin in contempt. The third was his cutting off the hair (some say the Nair was castrated) of a Nair nobleman who went to enquire these issues, the fourth was his cutting off the hair and breasts of another Nair woman and finally the fifth his announcement as the defender of Islam and the Lord of the seas.

The last line is well substantiated by Pius M- These titles were woven not out of void but out of substance of power, which Kunjali accumulated by way of maritime trade and corsair activities. With increasing statelyp owers being added to the person of Kunjali, ‘ambassadors from the Mecca and from the powerful Muslim royal houses of India including that of the Mughals’ were sent to his court and these wider diplomatic and political tie-ups were used by Kunjali for securing for himself the legitimacy and sanction needed for his political claims and for erasing the stigma of piracy being inscribed into his identity. He continues - The Zamorin suspected that the Kunjali’s incipient state-building ventures with a pan-Islamic connections would in course of time dwarf the actual ruler, as it happened in Cannanore, where a full-fledged state was eventually created by the trader-cum-ruler Ali Raja at the expense of the Kolathiris.

Decouto continues – On the death of the elder Kunhali he was succeeded by his nephew, Mahomet Kunhali Marakkar, who proved himself the most active and enterprising enemy the Portuguese had yet met with in India. "All these great defences", says De Couto, "served not only to make him secure, but also to make him so proud as to forget that he was but a vassal, and to hold himself out for a king. He created offices agreeable to that dignity, with pageantry of arms, and rode upon a white elephant, which is part of the insignia of the chief sovereigns of Asia. He also bore himself toward the Portuguese as his uncle had, only with far greater success, for besides taking many of our fustas and other small craft, he also seized a ship on her way from China, and afterwards a galeot. He also assisted with captains and soldiers the Queen of Olala (Ullal), when she rebelled against us, and also the Melique at Chanl. And not only against us, but against the Malabars he acted in like manner, in such wise that, by reason of the great wealth which he thus accumulated, he deemed himself invincible."

Luiz da Gama (Vasco’s grandson) did not leave Goa till the 13th November 1597, and then with a fleet diminished to the extent of the above-mentioned squadrons. He proceeded to Calicut, and there held a conference with the Samorin. The raja had to decide between supporting the Portuguese arms against his own vassels and race, a course which would probably lead to his own subjection to Portugal, or to witness the further growth of Kunhali's power, which along the whole coast was already overshadowing his own. He accordingly tried to better the terms previously made; in consideration of his assistance he demanded of Luiz da Gama a sum of 30,000 patagoes, some companies of Portuguese soldiers, and half the spoil.

As this was going on, the Zamorin signed a treaty with the Portuguese in 1597 and allowed them to build churches in Calicut and Ponnani, infuriating the Kunjali even further.

But there was yet another reason not mentioned by earlier historians and this was perhaps the real reason, so far mentioned only in a foot note by Pius, in his book on Portuguese Cochin. Citing Dutch sources he records that the merchants of Cochin who had been allied to Kunjali IV now asked the Cochin king Keshava Rama Varma to support the Kunjali IV against the Zamorin. Correspondence followed between the Cochin king and the Kunjali and perhaps the Portuguese used this information also to make the new Zamporin nervous. The events at Puthupattanam coupled with a potential for the Cochin king on one side and the Kunjali on the other side sandwiching him in a war, unsettled the Zamorin and made it clear that he had to uproot one of the problems once and for all.

As it appears, this Zamorin was befriended by a Portuguese padre Antonio (or was it Francis costa) in the meantime and Antonio was apparently behind many of the rumor mongering. After discussions with the Portuguese a plan was made by the Zamorin to capture the Kunhali fort and an attack was formulated in 1598, which failed miserably resulting in a lot of losses for the Portuguese. Kunhali tried to escape for the Nayak of Madurai had promised him asylum and a fort near Rameswaram, but he could not manage an escape. The next was carried out in 1599 under the leadership of Furtado and per the agreement, half of the loot was to be handed over to the Zamorin.

The Kunjali IV was finally cornered by the Zamorin and his troops attacking from land and the Portuguese led by Furtado from the seaside.

Decouto explains - In his extremity of want Kunhali sent envoys to the Samorin, heartily beseechiug him to have mercy upon him, and inquiring whether, if he should deliver himself up, the Samorin would promise to spare the lives of him and his followers : this the Samorin conceded, and the agreement was ratified by the olas of the parties. This negotiation the Samorin communicated to the chief captain (Furtado), begging him to confirm it, in which case he (the Samorin) would promise to give over to him Kunhali and some of his captains. Furtado made answer that His Highness should act as he proposed, and that he was quite satisfied." Some days now elapsed during which the Samorin seems to have been seeking means of avoiding the emeute of his own troops which he expected would accompany the surrender of the brave man to whom he had made a worthless promise of life. At length, Furtado having threatened an assault, the Samorin and Kunhali arranged for the surrender to take place on the 16th of March.

The events are explained in great detail in many a book and as it appears the Kunjali who surrendered to the Zamorin was seized, clapped in irons and taken away by the Portuguese.

"First came 400 Moors, many of them wounded, with their children and wives, in such an impoverished condition that they seemed as dead. These the Samorin bade go where they pleased. Last of all came Kunhali with a black kerchief on his head, and a sword in his hand with the point lowered. He was at that time a man of fifty, of middle height, muscular and broad-shouldered. He walked between three of his chief Moors. One of these was Chinale, a Chinese, who had been a servant at Malacca, and said to have been the captive of a Portuguese, taken as a boy from a fusta, and afterwards brought to Kunhali, who conceived such an affection for him that he trusted him with everything”.

Furtado's last act was to utterly destroy the fort, not leaving one stone upon another, and to burn the town, bazaars, and mosques to ashes. mob tearing down all the decorations and erections that had been set up.

Kunhali was taken to Goa, sentenced without trial and not in line with his surrender conditions. A last ditch attempt to convert him was also attempted, but it failed and he was executed in a French style guillotine, his limbs quartered and his salted head paraded around Cannanore.

The captives remained some time in Goa prison. The delay in the proceedings against them was caused by a sudden illness of the viceroy. His first act on his convalescence was to send word to the judges to sentence Kunhali off-hand, but though a fair trial was never contemplated, the judges preferred to mask the perfidy of the State with the semblance of a legal process. A formal indictment was prepared, upon which Kunhali was sentenced to be beheaded, his body to be quartered and exhibited on the beach at Bardes and Pangim, and his head to be salted and conveyed to Cannanor, there to be stuck on a standard for a terror to the Moors. Before his end, he "was many times invited and entreated to seek entrance within the fold of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by many of the Religious of all the Orders, who laboured heartily to gain that soul, and add it to the flock of the Lord. Kunhali, however, refused to yield." At the execution, which was carried out on a scaffold raised in the large square in front of the viceregal palace, and in view of an immense crowd of citizens, Kunhali bore himself with a dignity and courage which won the respect of his pitiless foes.

After some days Chinale was brought forth to share the fate of his leader. As the pious historian puts it, "a better lot awaited him," inasmuch as, before his execution, he yielded to the persuasion of the Fathers and became a Christian, and was baptised by the name of Bartholomew. After this ceremony, at which he "shewed pleasure and good will, he was conveyed to the scaffold, accompanied by the Holy Misericordia, and by the orphan children who were praying to God for him; and his body was buried in consecrated ground." Kunhali's nephew, and all the rest of the forty prisoners given over by the Samorin, some others of whom became Christians, were likewise put to death, "and not one that was taken escaped."

Kunjali IV’s place was taken by his nephew as we recounted earlier, that was the story of the erstwhile Dom
Pedro. There are also instances of many others in following years taking the title of Kunjali after making the usual submissions to the Zamorins, perhaps they were the progenies of the Irringal Nair woman we talked about earlier. Furtado got a lot of gifts for his efforts, captainship of either the fort of Safola or Ormuz for three years, then the fort of Malacca and an expedition to China.

With that ended the organized and well reported Kunjali Marakkar counter attacks, but if you assume like many other historians, that the anti-Portuguese attacks started and ended with the Kunjali’s, you are wrong. The so called Zamorin sponsored corsair activities continued without any interruption with other smaller leaders and this resulted in reported Portuguese trade losses of a million xerafins or more every year. Even armada assisted or convoy based fleet travel did not help and the attacks on Portuguese ships continued till 1650. This shows that the enmity between the Kunjali and the Zamorin was personal and not communal as previously felt.

Grey and Bell conclude - Kotta river long continued to be the principal nest of the corsairs, who, friendly to the Dutch and English, continued to work havoc upon the waning commerce of Goa. The Malabar pirates were not finally extirpated until far on in the British period, when they had become pests indeed; but in their long struggle with the Portuguese it is impossible not to regard them as, to some extent, fighting the battle of free trade against monopoly, the battle of the whole coast against the Portuguese marts, and from this point of view to deny a certain measure of consideration, and even of sympathy. This sympathy may more freely be extended to Kunhali himself, notwithstanding his cruelties, which are probably much exaggerated by the Portuguese, as to one who, after a prolonged siege, the first stage of which closed with his conspicuous victory, was, at length, treacherously murdered in defiance of a well-understood capitulation.

Pyrard laval visiting the location seven years later, has something interesting to add and again this concerns the Nair woman. P Laval stayed with this Marakkar family for over 12 days and states that the Marakkar Kotta still existed, but in ruins. Their cordial relationship was due to the fact that the Marakkar wanted to visit the Maladives and since Pyrard had information about the Maladives, wanted to get educated about the place. He says “This Kunjali has left a son, also called a marakkar. I have often seen him, and have eaten and drunk in his house. He resides mostly at coste (Kotta) and Chombaye with one or two of his wives and although since the death of his father, the king has not appointed no one in his stead, and has not recognized the son as his successor, yet he is treated with great respect than anyone else and the title is preserved to him for his father’s sake only”.

The Kunjali IV is mentioned as a contemporary of the famous Tatcholi othenan and a ballad apparently (I have not heard it – it is mentioned so in the natotipattu section of the encyclopedia of Puranas) explains how Othenan made Kunjali (a philanderer) wear female clothes to teach him a good lesson in life.

Sanjay Subramaniyam and G Bouchon analyze the relations between the Zamorins and the popular Kunjalis during these hundred years and mention that the Zamorin alignment with the Portuguese was perhaps to counter balance the situation.

So did the dog really run away with the bone? I am not so sure. It was of course an account of the times and how fortunes oscillated between the various stake holders. Some rose to fame and profited, some perished, but trade went on under different managers. We see the same even today, and instead of kings and corsairs, it is a story of the corporations and the wars they launch, against each other with an intent to profit.

The history of Kunhali – Grey & Ball (Pyrad Laval voyages)
Pyrad Laval – Voyages
India’s naval traditions – Ed KKN Kurup
The Kunjalis, Admirals of Calicut – OK Nambiar
Charithratile Marakkar Sannidhyam – SV Mohammed
Essays in Goan History – Teotonio R de Souza
Portuguese Cochin and the Maritime trade of India – Pius Malekandathil
Kerala Charitra shilpikal – A Sreedhara Menon
Kerala Muslim history – PK Syed Muhammed
Kozhikode – Charithrathil ninnu chila edu – MGS Narayanan
Zamorins of Calicut – KV Krishna Iyer
Criminality and Legitimization in Seawaters: A Study on the Pirates of Malabar during the Age of European Commercial Expansion (1500-1800) - Pius Malekandathil

Note- When the Kunhali II was slain at Ceylon a ‘Christian Nair’ Francisco de Sequiera was involved, whose story I will recount another day.

Photos – Google images, with due acknowledgments to any owners/uploaders

A horse, a carriage and the French Loge at Calicut

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

The complete account of the little ‘French Loge’ at Calicut and its impact on the mighty British establishment is a lengthy topic which I will not cover in detail here. Nevertheless, one can conclude that the Calicut loge was a thorn in the British flesh. This small area of Calicut created many an administrative issue for the British bureaucracy (I guess it was the French idea of fun, during their mundane stay at Malabar, sans wine, women and gaiety) some quite silly and it was only later and closer to Indian independence that affirmative action was finally taken, to close the loge once and for all. This 6-7 acre plot thus lasted as French property for all of 246 years after its establishment in 1701.

TB Seluraj in his fine book recollects - Look Westwards from the French bakery to the beach and Northwards until today’s RC road. That was the boundary of the Loge. Today’s AIR radio station, the Baby marines and so on were part of this and once upon a time, there existed a fine bungalow later called the beach bungalow in those Baby marine grounds.
Before all that, in that fishing area where the French loge was situated, the perimeter contained a small factory and some private houses as you can see from the French maps posted here.  The name of Loge was given to ‘factories or isolated establishments comprehending one house with the adjacent grounds where some commercial activity was undertaken’, especially storage and processing of pepper for shipping to Westerly locations. Not many are too sure about when it was established and some of the earliest comments about it, oft repeated by others, were provided by our esteemed collector Logan, in his manual. He states, with that English tilt stamped purposefully, thus….

The French have a Loge -Occupée par un gardien (Loge or Comptoir is an isolated factory or establishment where France had the right to fly its flag and to form factories)in Calicut. The loge consists of 6 acres on the sea shore about a half mile north of the light house and adjoins the old district Jail site. The exact facts connected with the foundation of the French factory are involved in doubt. It was apparently obtained by the French from the Zamorin, but there is nothing to lead to the supposition that the Zamorin had ever conceded to them anything more than mere commercial privileges within the limits of the Loge. The Zamorin appeared to have exercised fiscal and judicial authority within its limits – an authority which neither Hyder Ali nor Tipu Sultan ever bestowed on the French after the Zamorin’s power ceased.

Beyond the fact that the landed property and the house are untaxed, there is nothing to distinguish the Loge from the rest of Calicut. It is doubtful what rights the French government has in it. As it has been altogether omitted from the treaty of Versailles, dated the 3rd Sept 1783, it has been held that the French has no sovereign rights in it. The Loge was restored to the French on 1st Feb 1819. In the first capitulation of Mahe made by Monsieur Louet, Commander in Chief of the Garrison at Mahe, and signed on 10th Feb 1761, it was agreed in Article 9 that ‘the French factory at Calicut shall be suffered quietly to enjoy the privileges of neutrality observed there’.

MO Koshy (Dutch power in Kerala p144) points out that the Loge was first built in 1701. By 1722, the French had moved major operations to Mahe. Anyway it went on to do its business, albeit quietly in a small scale until their newfound friends the Mysore Sultans decided to venture south. That was when the French equations with the English in Malabar started to change.

The Calcutta Review (1903) article on Imperial Calicut provides the next tidbit as follows - Meanwhile, we find that in 169S the French also had managed to establish a factory in the place (Calicut), though at this time they were apparently not doing much, for Hamilton tells us they neither had money nor credit and were "not in a condition to carry on trade. The French quarter or loge, as it is called, still exists as one of the foreign dependencies of the Republic, but it yields absolutely no material return to France, and the wonder is that France should cling to it so tenaciously when she might any day obtain a fairly good price for the land from the British Government.” W Francis in his South India gazetteer also opines that it was started in 1698. He states that it went to British hands thrice during the wars and was reinstated to the French in 1819 and was located south of the pier. So we can perhaps infer that a pier (perhaps the Calicut landing) existed well before the British built one in the mid1800’s. Murkot Ramunny in his book Ezhimala states that the French Calicut factory of 1698 was started after their unsuccessful experiments at Tellicherry. However Shantini in her doctoral thesis re- confirms that 1701 was the year when it was established.

I recounted some events related to the French in Malabar during the Mysorean interludes in an earlier article, but therein, you would have noted that decisions came from Pondicherry and Mahe, in spite of a factor residing at Calicut. This was around 1773-1774 and the person involved was Duprat (In summary, the power of the Zamorin was snuffed when Hyder walked over the territories in 1764/66 and the events recounted, happened when a new Zamorin came back to take his place at Calicut in 1768. He then requested French assistance against the Mysore Sultans and it did not quite work out). But as we see it, the Loge at Calicut had little to do during all these events and is hardly mentioned. So we have little information about the loge during the period between 1701 and 1774.

During the Hyder - Tipu Interlude, an interesting event involving the Zamorin and the French Loge took place, and is recounted by Maistre de La Tour.  It appears that the English had destroyed the French estate and buildings at Pondicherry and the French were looking for good wood to rebuild their property. As it happened, a Moplah trader of Calicut who owed a lot of money to the French got a consignment of wood released by Hyder Ali. The French requested the trader to provide the wood in order to pay off the monetary debt. As the wood was on its way, the English hearing of the deal pressured the Rajah of Coimbatore (Satyamangalam palayakar??) to seize it. The French complained to Hyder who opined that the Dutch, Portuguese and Danish factors should meet, discuss and decide on the next course of action. They did so and decided in favor of the French. The English not in agreement, and taking matters into their own hands (with the connivance of the Coimbatore raja), sawed up the wood into small pieces and made it useless for any rebuilding work. Now it was fit for use only as firewood. The French again complained to Hyder and the Coimbatore Raja seeing immense trouble looming, offered monetary compensation to the wood trader who then paid back the French, whatever money he owed them. Hyder observing this smelt a rat and saw that the raja had paid the French money that was actually due to him as some kind of tax and that the compensation to the French did not actually originate from the English. The enraged Hyder imposed a penalty of 4 lakhs on the raja for the deceit and applied further pressure by ensuring that water was not delivered to his palace. The raja who was a Brahmin (perhaps Kshatriya), could not take his mandatory baths and so finally dug into his secret treasure trove (apparently under the very seat of Hyder – i.e. in the house where Hyder was then residing) and paid Hyder the penalty. That was the first salvo fired by the French from the Calicut Loge against the British.
Following the transfer back to French hands, the Loge was a source of continuous irritation to the British and many an argument rested on Abkari or spirit sale rights as well as commerce undertaken from the French premises. The British had a spirit monopoly in Calicut and when the French opened shop, it was an affront to both the meager profits from Calicut but also to their sovereignty. They took offence and a number of missives were launched at each other. Let us take a look at some of those amusing episodes, but note here that the Calicut Loge was administered from Mahe and the Adhikari or man responsible for the outfit at Calicut was referred in French terms as the concierge. By mutual agreement no taxes were collected by the French or the English.

The most alarming was when the French planned to open a French port in front of the loge in 1865. Even though it was not a real possibility, the British were overly worried of competition, with the threat of the French sponsored opening of the Suez Canal as a backdrop (already the biggest global challenge to British supremacy over the ocean trade). This was when the British decided that from then on, sovereign rights would not be accorded to the Loge’s. The British argument was that the British inherited the rights from the Mysore sultans and the Zamorin and that the French only had commercial rights.

But by and far, the incident that provides most amusement is the one recounted by Akhila in her absorbing paper titled L’Inde retrouvee, Loss and sovereignty in French Calicut 1867-1868. I will provide an overview with all acknowledgements to her and many thanks for telling us the story.

As you can see, this takes us to French Loge in Calicut during 1867 with people of all types involved. There is D’Souza and D’Mello of Portuguese heritage, a Saldanha also of Portuguese extract, a Mr Bass of unknown (perhaps Portuguese) heritage, the Volkart brothers a Swiss company, the English bureaucracy and the residents of Calicut. As the story goes, Mr Bass lent some money to Mr R D’Souza, his brother in law. In lieu of the money, D’Souza gave Bass a horse, a carriage and some furniture as a payoff. These were sizeable objects and Bass did not have a place to put them in, nor as it appears, did he want to sell it. Let us not try to get to their motives (to me they were ulterior as you will soon agree), but Bass parked the carriage in the compound of a house belonging to one D’Mello and the furniture and horse in the house of one Saldanha (both these people being residents in the premises of the French Loge at Calicut). The horse ate its grass in a new location, munching away happily I suppose, the carriage rusted in the sea air in D’Mello’s shed and the furniture gathered dust. But events otherwise kicked into the next gear quickly.

Now comes along the Volkart brothers (agents and exporters), who if you will recall had a warehouse along the beach, perhaps adjoining the French. They were owed money by this D’Souza (It looks like he made a habit of borrowing money and not returning it) and as Volkart did not get it back, filed suit. D’Souza rushed to Cochin and Madras to argue and settle the case during this messy period.

Volkart’s attorney, Mr Ansell also sued M/s Bass, D’Mello and D’Mello’s father (hmm…wonder why!!) for having evaded the course of justice by acquiring the horse and carriage. The horse and carriage were seized and brought to the magistrate in Calicut. The furniture seizure did not take place because by then the Ameen pointed out that the property was in French territory. Ansell taking matters into his own hands moved the furniture from Saldanha’s (and with his connivance) house to Andre& Co’s house a mile away, in British territory. Now you know why Ansell did not sue Saldanha amongst the parties.
The court decided that what Ansell did was wrong and stated that the property attachment was illegal as they were located in French boundaries where British law was not exercisable. However even though Bass was able to provide evidence that he acquired this property from D’Souza legally, he was sentenced to 6 months simple imprisonment. Soon D’Souza returned and he was also caught and dumped in the nearby jail on similar charges. D’Mello and his father however, had to be released soon, as they were residents within French boundaries.

The D’Mello case came up again in appeal in Jan 1868. This time the court did not support the

French territory ruling on the grounds that it did not matter since the property was actually conveyed to a part of Calicut where Bass, a British Indian territory resident,  did not ordinarily live, and so the property seizure as such was still pursuant under British law.
D’Mello was indignant as he was being tried by the British and repeatedly asked the authorities in Mahe & Pondicherry to intervene and provide proof that the Loge residents indeed had French rights. It does not appear he got any real support. But he also quietly tried to use the declining situation to his own advantage. He told the people in Mahe that the problems were due to a weak and powerless Adhikari the French had appointed to oversee French rights and that he D’Mello, would be a better candidate instead, for the future, perhaps in an elevated role as a resident.

Bontemps in Pondicherry then took up the case in Madras as another instance of British disregard for international treaties. He also specifically complained about the British disregard for proprietorship in the case of Calicut.

Anyway as the authorities argued on, we come to the end of this interesting event, so what would have happened to D’Mello case? After the sentence was passed, the horse and the carriage were returned to him. D’Mello knew what odds were stacked against him. He refused to take them back and insisted that since the British had unlawfully seized them, they themselves had to return it to him.  Think about it, the property was still up for seizure in British territory, but not from French territory.  The court was in British territory, and so if D’Mello sat on the carriage himself, he would set himself up for re-arrest. The magistrate refused to deliver them back to him and D’Mello had no choice but to take possession of the horse and the carriage. As soon as he did it, the police seized the carriage and this time promptly sold it off. What happened to the horse is not known; perhaps it languished in eth Zamorin’s stable sin Kuthiravattom. Nothing more is known about the people involved. Maybe they or their descendants eventually moved on to Goa ort Bombay….

What is interesting is that D’Souza and Bass got sentenced rightfully, for knowingly relocating their property after facing imminent seizure, to the French loge. Perhaps D’Mello’s got financially compensated for renting their space out, but Saldanha quietly colluded with the British when faced with trouble. The D’Mello’s saw opportunity in the face of justice at courts and tried to further their personal advancement.

The problems continued…….

A report in the Pondicherry Progress of 1893 implored that the French flag had to be flown at the Loge as the practice had been discontinued and the British were not allowing the Loge’s existence to be a profitable one. In fact the British also did not provide proper police security t Calicut and also refused repair of the French premises. In the past (in 1859-1860)it seems that the French Governor  Mr Boutemps had to put pressure on the British by putting up the Abkarai rights at French Calicut (together with the Mahe bidding)for auction and got bids for it. The British who had a good and profitable sales (they had 5 canteens and a shop selling liquor in Calicut in 1860) inebriating the people of Malabar (yes, it was indeed the case even then!!)  were alarmed and apologized for the delay. But of course, they delayed it again and nothing came out of the nullified threat and so the writer was reminding the public again of the issue. The other idea was to sell the Loge to the British but the French had a nostalgic attachment to the plot of land.
Next to be reported was the continuation of the above dispute in 1906, this time reported in the Straits Times of 18th July. The French finally got fed up and granted a native of Mahe permission to open a Beer shop on the French Loge premises. The other beer sellers of Calicut protested to the British Collector and the AC of Salt & Abkari. The British maintained that the French did not have Sovereign rights, but only Landlord rights (but if that were so, commercial rights were then admissible and wanting to sell beer is a commercial right). The Madras mail first reporting this story opined that it would be best if the French sold off the land to the British and stopped this never ending cause of friction between the two countries.

And we have the interesting story recounted by TB Seluraj in his fascinating book ‘Kozhikodinte Paithrukam’. This takes us to 1924 or so, when a Mahe resident, a poor fisherwoman named Kappiriparambil Kotha decided to sell fish near the municipality office. She was promptly arrested by E Achythan the inspector, on grounds that a French national could not sell fish in English territory. She was sentenced by the court, fined Rs 5/- and big sum for a fisherwoman. The indignant Kotha returned to Mahe pledging never to come back to Calicut. But her place was soon taken up by another Mahe resident, one Kanaran, who actually built a shed to conduct his business. The police demolished the shed, and the legal wars soon began, now between the French Mahe administrator and the British Malabar collector. The Mahe man pointed out that both the fisher folk had been within French boundaries, and not in British land, so the entire episode was without merit. He also threatened escalation if this continued and demanded Rs 24/- compensation. The matter went to Madras and maps were compared. The British established that according to the 1895 map, Kanaran’s shed was within British territory. The decision thus rested in favor of the British.
In 1933, we had the Matticolly issue, nicely written about by P Anima in the Hindu issue of Dec 28, 2012. The French Government ordered in November 1932 from Pondicherry “forbidding the use in French waters on the Malabar coast of a fishing instrument called ‘matticolly’.” The English had no idea what the French were talking about and frantically went about trying to find out what a matticolly was. They alerted the Malabar district magistrate and informed him that the French also were insisting  that the Loge was their western boundary in India, so a careful eye had to be kept of the French goings on in Calicut. After a while the French governor himself is asked by the British to provide a description of the said matticolly with an illustration, which he does. “A matticolly consists of small mesh nets from 25 to 30 meters long, made of cotton or hemp threads…with nets of cord.” The practice of sardine fishing involves using the matticolly net (maybe mathi vala) and making a lot of noise to get the scared fish rush into the said nets. This noise scared away other fish and so the other affected fishermen were complaining as their revenues declined. Whether the practice was stopped or the fishermen went elsewhere, I do not know… but the matter appears to have reached an amicable solution and was closed.

Later, there were attempts by the Madras authorities to demarcate the seaward boundary of the French loge as the high water mark together with  a number of other complaints about improper taxation and nonpayment of taxes. Records where the Madras authorities had levied distress warrants against residents of the Calicut loge for nonpayment of municipal taxes can also be encountered. Petty cases of fines against tea sellers in the French compound were also recorded in 1939.

Finally things came to a close. The independence of India in August 1947 gave impetus to the union of France's Indian possessions with former British India. The lodges in Machilipatnam, Kozhikode and Surat were ceded to India in October 1947.
The declaration read - The French Government sincerely wishing to tighten the bonds of friendship already existing between India and France, have decided, as a token of their will to settle all questions pending between the two countries in the most friendly and comprehensive manner, to hand over to India the existing French "loges"

Volkart who became Carrier AC agents, went on to create Voltas together with the Tatas. The British left in 1947 and the Calicut AIR radio station started its broadcast from where the French once traded, broadcasting in MW in May 1950. The French Loge together with all the intrigues was soon gone, and the only remnant is the French bakery at its periphery, which now serves nothing French to my knowledge. I do not know how long it will last, and I still remember how they would deliver mutton cutlets and coffee to your car window – the only place of its kind in the Calicut of the 70’s and 80’s.

Pondicherry Progress Dec 24th 1893 – retold in Jan 27, 1894 Colonies and India news
Straits times 18th July 1906, Page 9, French India
HinduArticle P Anima
French maps – From and this
Anglo-French sovereignty disputes in India, 1918-1947: Attempts at peaceful settlement - Geoffrey Marston
France's Lost Empires: Fragmentation, Nostalgia, and la Fracture Coloniale -  edited by Kate Marsh, Nicola Frith, (L’Inde retrouvee -  Article by Akhila Yechuri)
Kozhikodinte Paithrukam – TB Seluraj (Meenkari Kothayum Antharashtra Athirthiyum)
The history of Ayder Ali Khan, Nabob-Bahader:  By Maistre de La Tour (M.)

Accession to India
The administrative declaration by the Government of India

Under Section 290, Government of India Act, as amended, to clear all doubts the Government of India issued a notification which is styled the Madras (Enlargement of Area and Alteration of Boundaries) Order, 1948. It reads: Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred on him by the said section and of all other powers enabling him in that behalf, the Governor-General is pleased to make that following order: 1. This order may be cited as the Madras (Enlargement of Area and Alteration of Boundaries) Order, 1948. 2. The areas specified in the schedule to this order, which were known as the French Loges at Masulipatam and Calicut, are hereby declared to be included in the territories of the Dominion of India and shall be deemed always to have been included in the said territories. 3. The said areas shall form part of the Province of Madras and shall be deemed always to have formed part of the said Province and the boundaries of the said Province shall be deemed always to have been so altered as to comprise within them the said areas. 4. (i) The area comprised in the loge at Masulipatam shall form part of Bandar town in Kistna district and the area comprised in the loge at Calicut shall form part of Calicut town in Malabar district and the said areas shall be administered accordingly.