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Unni Moosa of Elambulassery

Posted by Maddy Labels:

And the Jungle Moplahs of Malabar

Many of you would remember this name from the stories of Pazhassi raja and the blockbuster Mamooty movie where Moosa’s role was taken up by Captain Raju (Sankaradi in an earlier version). He was certainly a colorful character and never really brought to light. As one of the first people who went up in arms against the British taking over Malabar, working with the Padinjare Kovilakom Ravi Varma, I thought he deserved a deeper study. So let us take a look at what he was upto in those turbulent years when the British were making hay in Malabar, consolidating their spoils of war with Tipu and subjugating the people of Malabar under their rule. One must also bear in mind that the situation in those days was certainly turbulent and law and order was particularly lacking in many places after the decimation of feudal order by the marauding Mysore Sultans. Many of the so called anti-British Moplah guerillas of that time, though united against the British carried on (or allowed) activities not condonable at any time, such as kidnapping children for slavery, which the British used to good effect in their propaganda.

Let us start by going to Elambulassery, a place not many of you would have heard of. As you head to Ottappalam in Palghat and go towards Karimpuzha, you will reach a typical Palakkad village with all related objects like a temple, a river, and has its own characteristics and intricacies. Not far from Mannarghat or the silent valley, it is adjacent to the Tipu Sultan road. Was this remote village of any strategic importance in the past considering its proximity to the Nila through which the forest produce from the nearby hills were dispatched to the port of Ponnani? Was it also a check point on the important road which Tipu Sultan laid for the transport of his troops? What connection did it have to the Zamorin and the Padinjare kovilakom? Let us go there to find out, and it is said that if you do you will even see some of the old fortified houses that were so important in the wars with the British, silent testimony to the efforts of that warrior we will get to know.

Unnimoosa starts to figure in the historic records after he was employed by Arshad Beg Khan (who could not really subdue him) as the local chieftain of Elumpulassery amsam in 1788 with an armed retinue of some 100 moplahs. As part of his employment he had to collect tax revenues from the various people of the region and remit it to Tipu’s coffers. After Tipu ceded Malabar to the EIC in 1792, like many others, Unnimoosa forwarded his claims over a vast tract of land to the EIC. The joint commissioners would not agree and this started his rebellion against the British.

Captain Bowls reporting from Angadipuram describes the nefarious activities of the Jungle Moplahs in 1792 – These freebooters from their haunts and general residence are called Jungle Mopillas, are led by Unni Moosa -  an open avowed robber, and as having several places of residence in different parts of the country, with his principal stronghold in the Jungles, “ fortified, as most of the houses in this country are, with loop holes, surrounded with a dike,” adding, that “this man kept with him four head moopas (or heads of gangs) and 200 armed men, besides many other “ inferiors who infest the jungles, and pay him tribute, and, acknowledging him for their chief, join him when required ;” and to this description, Captain Bowls subjoins the information; that the major part of the Mopillas of Velatre (which is an inland southern district adjoining to the Sukhein or Ghaut mountains) are, in respect to their habits and practices, of the above description, from the situation being favorable, as affording at any time a secure retreat from the more open countries nearer to the coast; and that all the principals or headmen of this banditti, having already enriched themselves by this way of life, had, from about the middle of the year 1792, appeared, from fear of our Government, to disband, though they had at the same time secretly retained their followers, who until the arrival of the battalion at Angarypar, used frequently at night to assemble and commit depredations as usual, after which it was their custom immediately to divide the spoil and to disperse.

It afterwards appeared that the above mentioned Uni Moota Moopa was also concerned (as all these jungle Mopillas more or less are) in the nefarious traffic trade, with the first of kidnapping the children, male and female, of the Nayars, whom they afterwards conducted to the sea coast, to be sold to the Commanders or Supercargoes of European vessels for exportation, but more particularly to the French at Mahé, and to the Dutch at Cochin, without altogether excepting (though we believe in a less degree) those who frequented the English port of Tellicherry; and although the French Chief at Mahé might personally disapprove, and appear to discourage the practice, yet it was not, we apprehend, in his power entirely to restrain it; so that, including the avowed traffic carried on in these unfortunate natives of Malabar from the Dutch port of Cochin, the country was thus annually drained of its population, and a number of its most helpless and innocent inhabitants unjustly entrapped into, and consigned over to, all the horrors of a life of perpetual slavery in a foreign land; to check and restrain which, as far as possible, the members of the Commission from Bombay, did, on the 9th of October 1792, frame and publish certain regulations (as per copy in the Voucher No. 25) denouncing punishment by penalties, fines, and scourging, against child-stealers, or dealers in the purchase or sale of children for exportation; but we fear that the avidity of gain in individuals, and the unprincipled habits of the' jungle and other Mopillas, who have long been in the practice of deriving emolument from thus preying on their fellow creatures, have, on the experiment, proved too powerful for these inhibitions, which were, however, all the Commissioners had then in their power to promulgate against such inveterate mischief, in the carrying on of which, the lawless part of the Mopillas found themselves so much interested.

Santosh Abraham writing about criminal categorization states - Throughout the colonial rule, the attitude of the British towards Mappilas was a mixture of positive and negative remarks and policies. The Mappilas in return also showed their dissatisfaction and resistances to the alien rule. Extracts from the colonial records clearly identifies Unni Musa as ‘chief of public robbers’ and the category of Jungle Mappilas as ‘public robbers’. John Wye’s report identified the Mappilas as ‘very turbulent, prone to robbery and the revenue always more difficult to uncover where the Mappilas prevail’. It was this kind of characterization that alienated the Moplah population in certain districts and created a base for further animosity.

The EIC having exhausted the usual measures decided to apply force to quell the unrest and deputed Gen Dow in May 1792. The military attack was quick and within a day the English overran Moosa’s fortifications and defense though he and his followers fled into the jungles (Note that at that point of time, this was all part of the Velattiri Raja’s kingdom or Valluvanad and is termed in EIC records as Velatre).

In 1793, the Province of Malabar was formed. Major Dow suggested that the troublesome Jungle Moplah districts be given back to the chief’s if only to reduce the headache to the British. A general amnesty was announced but the ‘troublemakers’ would not come to Calicut due to the fear that they may be attacked by Nayars lying in wait to retaliate against previous outrages committed by them. Even though the English worked to bring about a reconciliation, yet another rebellion popped up when Hydrose of Vettathunad decided to go against them.

Let’s study the description of Hydrose - But we soon had occasion to regret that even this general pardon had not the desired effect of inducing those jungle Mopillas to abandon their evil courses for, during the month of February, we continued to receive repeated intimations of their robberies in the Velatre and Vettutnaad districts, the principal in the latter district being a man called Hydroos, whose people are represented to have “ committed several inhuman murders, and daring robberies, besides “ alarming that part of the country in general, sending threatening letters “to extort money and provisions from the peaceable inhabitants, on pain “ of having their houses burnt and themselves put to death”, both which species of outrage are said to have actually happened at this period; and in consequence of these advices, Major Dow was deputed to proceed into Vettutnaad and to endeavor to bring in Hydroos, whom he did accordingly induce to appear before him and to promise to follow the Major to Calicut, though from some ill-conceived terror he afterwards made his escape on the road, and still continues more or less his marauding course of life.

The British mediator Maj Dow tried to calm them down by offering employment with the company, employ them as Moopans with 100 and 50 armed Moplahs respectively (at Valluvanad, Eranad, Ramanaad, Ponnanai, Chavakkad and Vettathunaad) but this would not satisfy them either. The alarmed British tried to appease Unnimoosa by formally appointing him as Elumbulasseri amsam head and offered a generous allowance and a pension. But Unnimoosa continued to rebel about the tax revenues (that it was his) and eventually the British withdrew their appointment and declared him an outlaw.

It was during this period that the Shamnath affair reached a culmination. Swaminatha Pattar from Palghat was by that time the chief minister of the reigning Zamorin, having risen up the ranks from the lowly position as cook (just like Ramayyan Dalava). Between the years 1790-92, he collected taxes from Malabar and remitted them to Keshava Pillai in Travancore, while at the same time working for Tipu Sultan. Later as he saw the EIC moving into power, he sided with them.
The British were deep in conversation what to do with the Jungle moplahs, and noted that they had also been a big problem for Tipu and Arshad Beg Khan, who both had to finally buy them off by giving them direct employment in the Mysore forces.

Captain Burchall led the fight against Unni Moosa and surrounded his abode. Incidentally among the soldiers of Unni Moosa, there were also two Mysorean advisers, Massod Khan and Mohammed Yacoub. Unnimoosa escaped as the night fell and the moon went behind the clouds, but the Mysoreans were captured, and the British found correspondence between the Moosa and Tipu Sultan (but all dating to the 1791 timeframe). They also saw that Tipu would only offer asylum if Moosa escaped and went to Mysore, since Tipu had already concluded a deal with the EIC. The British took over Moosa’s house and convert it to a British advance post.

We note the entries in the supervisor’s diary - From the Malabar Supravisor's Diary, dated 11th May 1794. Unni Mutta or more properly Unui Mussa Muppan was also offered a pension of 1,000 rupees per annum, but he refused it and renewed his pretensions to a share of the revenue when the Supra, visor revoked the above agreement and offered a reward of 3,000 rupees for his capture. Captain MacDonald seized his house on Pandalur hill, one of the robber haunts, and demolished it as well as six other fortified houses—Diary of Malabar Supravisor, dated 16th, 23rd and 30th June 1794. Unni Mutta however continued in open rebellion till 1797 when on the visit of the Governor and Commander-in- Chief of Bombay to Malabar, he was pardoned and restored to his estate of Elampulasheri on condition of "his finding good and sufficient security for his future peaceable demeanor."

Subsequently the British tried again to get him to come for a trial, but Unnimoosa who was in hiding near Cherplassery avoided the summons with many excuses. Anyway peace was restored and Choota Moopa was appointed in charge, together with Unnimoosa’s uncle and brother.

Around this period, Shamnath was involved in a negotiation with the king of Neringranaad which failed.  The meeting did not go well and Shamnath who was returning to Calicut was waylaid by the Ravi Varma’s of the Padinjare Kovilakom and was stabbed in the back and left for dead. He was subsequently treated by Chief Surgeon Wye, the Englishman who incidentally became the next collector of South Malabar.

He was joined by his brother in law and powerful Athan Gurukkal of Manjeri who was furious with the British murder of Unni Moosa’s brother Adam Khan. We had discussed his involvement in the Manjeri temple affair some years ago. Chemban Pokker was another colorful character who joined up with these two. Chembum Poker was originally employed by the East India Company as revenue officer in Shernaad, but after accusations of bribery he was imprisoned at Palghat from where he escaped. Walker records that after he had established himself, several moopans from Shernad and Ernad joined him with six to 40 men each. Chemban Pokker built a fortified house with small field guns, mounted on his house and on top of a shrine. He had a retinue of 45 men with muskets and four with swords. The merchants on the banks of the Calicut and Mahe rivers supplied Chemban Pokker with arms and ammunition.

The Padinjare kovilakom Rajas were soon fighting the EIC and in this they found Unni Moosa a valuable ally. And as fate would make one of its many twists, Itti kombi Achan of Palghat (a member of the family that bought about the whole sorry state of Malabar and Palghat) joined these guerilla forces as he was also unhappy with the treatment meted out by the company. A few words explaining that situation adds valuable perspective. After the British came into power, Itti Panki Achan was retained as titular raja and was required to remit Rs 80,000 as taxes to the EIC per annum. Soon after his death, Itti Kombi Achan, his nephew became the heir to the position, but he was not that keen to be a servant of the British. Numerous agreements were signed ne after the other but the Achan continued his defiance against the EIC. Finally the EIC brought on a charge of killing two Brahmins, against him in 1798. As he refused to comply, the EIC put a booty on his head and he soon fled his Kalpathi house. This coincided with the Ravi Varma and Unni moosa episode and they were also part of the reward scheme upon their capture by anybody.

Unni moosa decided to continue his fight and was joined by Hydrose, Chempan Pokker, Attan (Hassan) Gurukkal, Puttola sheik. Pokker and Gurukkal were actually EIC police constables, but they were soon declared outlaws by the EIC after the overtures with Unnimoosa. Hydrose was soon captured at Ponnani and sentenced to death, but got his death at the gallows commuted to life imprisonment and was transported to Botany Bay in Australia. That left just Moosa, Pokker and Gurukkal against the EIC. Menon explains - While Athan Gurikkal's speeches may have spoken of the sufferings of the mappila community, he never appealed to the mappilas as Muslims to rise in defense of their religion. There was no natural affinity with the invading Mysorean ruler on grounds of a shared religion: both Unni Moota and Athan Gurikkal opposed the creation of a new capital at Feroke, further inland, which shifted the focus away from Calicut. However I am not too sure about that since a joint communique had indeed been issued by Pokker and Moosa. It read – Since the last year, the company’s government had begun to persecute several of the sects of Islam, which since the oppression was increasing, would not be protected but destroyed.

In 1798, Unni Moosa wrote thus to Mellingchamp – For what reason, you, your nairs, head chetties, other chetties, and custom people have put an end to my makama (tax revenues)? (Unless you restore it) I will take good care of you and your chetties. Do not think I have any fear of you or your battalions. I want you to make sure that nothing happens during Makaram to you or your chetties. Have you not heard of the murders and robberies committed even at the katcheri and Perintalmanna? Even in your dreams, do not think of putting a stop to what I do. Have you not heard of my bravery?

Up in the North, Pazhassi Raja was tightening his rebellion against the British, we talked about it in some detail earlier and we have the articles penned by Nick Balmer in deeper explanation. The Pazhassi rebellion was but naturally supported by Moosa, Gurukkal and Pokker. But adding to the Moplah’s nervousness was the fact that armed bodies of nairs were formed by the EIC to take on the Moplahs, in these regions. The noose tightened and their days were numbered.

The end to Moosa’s life is recorded thus - In 1800, however, he joined the Falassi (Pychy) Raja's Rebellion and in 1802 he was shot along with many other rebels in an attack on his fortified house at Kalipar hill by Captain Watson's Kolkars. The Bombay Courier 22nd may 1802 explains - We have great pleasure in announcing that accounts have been received of the destruction of Uny Mootah and six of his gang, a well-known robber who has for many years pervaded the Province of Malabar in defiance of all authority, and to the terror of its peaceable inhabitants. It has fallen to the lot of Captain Watson of this establishment, who has the command of the armed Police in Malabar, finally to extirpate this notorious freebooter; and the address and gallantry with which he accomplished the object, stand highly conspicuous.

Captain Watson, receiving information on or about the 29th ultimo, of banditti having arrived from Mongery at Uny Mootha's fortified post in the hills, near to Mannar Ghaut, proceeded with a party of his armed peons at five in the morning to the place of rendezvous; the fortified post was surrounded by an impenetrable jungle, and accessible only by a narrow foot-path, which admitted of not more than one man to proceed at a time; the party fought every inch of their progress to the end of this foot-path, under every disadvantage and difficulty, arising principally from the uncommon steepness of its ascent; after having gained this point, they had to carry three very strongly fortified defenses; these obstacles they however finally overcame, but not without the loss of three killed and twelve badly wounded. The rebels on finding themselves so closely pushed, took refuge in the Syramby (or upper roomed fortified house) which this jungle surrounded, and which they defended for some time with uncommon bravery and constancy; the doors and windows of this lodgment resisting every effort which was made to force them, Captain Watson conceived the project of undermining the house, and obtaining the necessary implements for the purpose, immediately commenced the work; the rebels within annoying the working parties all the while with large stones which had been suspended by ropes from a projection of the roof—these were cut down to interrupt the progress below, and their rapid fall did much execution among them; in spite, however, of every annoyance they accomplished their undertaking by noon, when a part of the wall of the upper and lower rooms fell, and brought the Banditti down with it, who, in the act of falling, actually levelled their muskets and fired at Captain Watson, fortunately without effect. Several were found to have taken refuge in this Syramby; unhurt from the fall, they immediately made for the foot path; but Captain Watson having most judiciously guarded every avenue at the bottom of the hill, by which an escape might have been made, they were intercepted in their retreat and the number completely annihilated; on proceeding to the demolished building two women were discovered; they eagerly enquired as to the fate of the party, and being informed, one of them exclaimed "then Uny Moota is killed." Captain Watson on hearing this acceptable exclamation collected the bodies, and Uny Moota's being pointed out by the female in question, it was exposed and recognized by numbers who assembled for the purpose of viewing this late animated corpse, which only a few hours before the fears of the inhabitants of Malabar considered unconquerable; some of whom even mocked the party on their march to this fortified post as in the pursuit of an object which would lead to their certain destruction. Another noted robber named Goorcal, one of the Banditti, and distantly related to Uny Moota, escaped the fate of his comrades; but the vigilance of Captain Watson, it is to be expected, will render his career but short. Besides the casualties above enumerated, one Native Officer was killed and four wounded.

The Ravi Varma’s fled to Travancore and the Itti Kombi Achan surrendered to Capt Roamnie of Palghat. The Achan was transferred to the Tellicherry jail where he was found dead of apparent suicide (swallowing a diamond!) or murder. Chempan Pokker remained faithful to the Pazhassi Raja, fighting mostly around Tamarasseri. In the skirmishes with the English troops he was also shot dead. The Pazhassi raja as we know, died later, in 1805. The Zamorins of Calicut, reduced to collecting small pensions from the British continued on, the 600 years of glory forgotten in their new struggle for survival. The British went on to rule India and enrich themselves…

If you remove some of the bombast in some of those colonial writings and look at it dispassionately, you can see that it was all related to property and taxes. There was a certain period when the lowly placed Moplah suddenly found himself in a situation of power following the Mysore invasions, after the flight of many landlords to Travancore. When the British came, that short sojourn was rudely interrupted and they found themselves facing again the old days of servitude or potential gains and equality if they won a fight against the new British lords. They chose the latter, if only for their own benefit, but not for any kind of larger regional issue or need to dislodge an invader. Moosa, Pokker and Gurukkal belonged to those fighting for their old days of glory and the riches they had garnered all of a sudden, from forceful collection of taxes, for their own upkeep. But in the historic annals, they were people who fought the British who were of course doing just the same, enriching themselves at the Malabar natives expense, and therefore these fighters also qualify as a ‘different class’ of freedom fighters…

Kerala District gazetteers – Palghat – Dr CK Kareem
The Moplah rebellion and its genesis – Conrad Wood
Houses by the Sea – Dilip Menon
Colonialism and the making of criminal categories in British India - Santhosh Abraham
Reports of a Joint Commission – Malabar 1792-1793
A Collection of Treaties, Engagements -Malabar manual II
Selections from Calcutta gazettes of the years 1784-1823
Swaminatha Pattar 

The Calicut Song

Posted by Maddy Labels:

Interestingly, in the late medieval times, there used to be a song sung by the lascars of Goa and Malabar. The song was apparently known as the Calicut song. The first time it was documented in English was when Anna, an ayah from Calicut mentioned it to her memsahib in 1860. I will cover Anna’s interesting story in a separate article, but this one is about the song itself.

There is one other recorded instance when seeing the people of Calicut, the traveler Abdul Razzak burst into song.  I had written about his visit to Calicut during 1445, some time ago 

He sang (not very nice though!)

Extraordinary beings, neither men nor devils;
At sight of whom the mind takes alarm!
If I were to see such in my dreams
My heart would be in a tremble for many years!
I have had love passages with a beauty whose face was like the moon;
But I could never fall in love with a Negress.

But this is not like that. It is more a song of hope. The song was originally in Portuguese and perhaps originated in a Portuguese ship, written by a seasick and lonely bard. When it was first mentioned in the referenced book, it was considered to be of Portuguese or Malabar Syrian Christian origin and narrated in Malayalam. Its translation went thus

Part I


Very far went the ship, in the dark, up and down, up and down. There was very little sky; the sailors couldn't see anything; rain was coming.
Now darkness, lightning, and very little rain; but big flashes, two yards long, that looked as if they fell into the sea.
On the third day the Captain looks out for land, shading his eyes with his hand. There may be land. The sailors say to him, "What do you see?" He answers, "Far off is the jungle, and, swinging in a tree, is an old monkey, with two little monkeys in her arms. We must be nearing land."
Again the Captain looks out; the sailors say to him, "What do you see?" He answers, "On the shore there walks a pretty little maiden, with a chattee * on her head; she skips, and runs, and dances as she goes. We must be nearing land."
The storm begins to rage again, and hides the land: at last it clears a little. The sailors say to the Captain, "What do you see?" He answers, "I see a man ploughing; two bullocks draw the plough. We must be nearing land." It is all true, they have gained the shore.

Part II


The ship's on the sea - Which way is it coming?   Right home to land.  What cargo has it? The ship brings the sacrament and praying beads.
The ship's on the sea - Which way is it coming?   Right home to land.  What cargo has it ? The ship brings white paper and the Twelve Apostles.
The ship comes home to land - What cargo does it bring? Silver money, prophets, and holy people.
The ship comes home to land - What does it bring? All the saints, and holy people, and Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The ship comes to our doors - Who brings it home? Our Saviour. Our Saviour bless the ship, and bring it safely home.

Trying to trace its origin led me to discussions about its similarity to a Brazilian Portuguese ship song named ‘A Nau Caterineta’ or ‘The ship Caterineta’.It is somewhat different, is relatively long and various versions can be listened to on YouTube. While certain academics maintain that the Calicut song is similar to the A Nau Caternieta, I find it completely different. Some opine that the origin of the Brazilian song is linked to Calicut, apparently they feel the song was first sung by the distraught sailors on Cabral’s ship as they floundered at sea on the west coast of Africa and reached Brazil, instead of Calicut, in the year 1500.

But more specific studies according to Almeida Garrett, show that the Nau Catarineta (Nau Catarineta in Brazil) is a romanticized anonymous poem, was probably inspired by the tumultuous voyage of the ship San Antonio, which transported Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho (son of Duarte Coelho Pereira, the donee the hereditary captaincy of Pernambuco), from the port of Olinda, Brazil, to the port of Lisbon, in 1565. As the song goes - The ship has been long at sea, and food has given out.  Lots are drawn to see who shall be eaten, and the captain is left with the shortest straw.  The cabin boy offers to be sacrificed in his stead, but begs first to be allowed to keep lookout till the next day.  In the nick of time he sees land and the men are saved.

But whatever said, the reference to Calicut is certainly curious, except for the link that the earliest lascars were from Malabar and Goa. So who are the lascars? A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century. The word itself originates from the Persian word Lashkar loosely supposed to mean soldier. In many ways they were ships slaves, transferred from one to another and held under tight agreements.

Baptism records from the end of the 17th century in East Greenwich show that a number of young Indians from the Malabar Coast were brought to England as servants. Though it is difficult to find out exactly where these people came from, many of them were Muslim, indicating a Malabar origin. The earliest lascars were thus from the Calicut and Cochin ports. My studies indicate that many of them were originally Moplahs while there were q few of Portuguese parentage from Cochin, the Topasses. In fact the EIC captured a few of these hapless souls from Arab or Malabar ships and put them to work in theirs.

The prospect of a Moplah singing the Calicut song is unlikely as the song above is quite Christian in nature, at least the second part. It is likely that the song was popularized by the Cochin Topasses, which makes the naming of it as the Calicut song mysterious.

However many of the later day lascars were Goan Christians and people from Sylhet in Bengal. This regional slant came about by the supplier’s choice (The supplier was termed a ghat serang). Bombay recruited deck workers from the Malabar Coast, Ahmedabad and Surat; the stewards and catering staff came from Goa and the Cochin area, and the engine room was manned by Pathans and Oaunjabius. We come across noting’s of Moplah riveters .The P & O Kalasis, or Seamen, come mainly from the Portuguese colony of Daman and adjacent areas in Gujarat, from parts of Kathiawar, the Ratnagiri district and other places in the Konkan, from Cochin and the Malabar coast generally. Indians from the above areas sign Articles in Bombay and were thus always known as "Bombay crews".

Assad Bughlah explains - The birth of the port of Calicut on the West Indian coast was to a large extent the contributions of Arab traders and sailors as well as the nascent local community of lascars who played a critical role in the management and policing of port activities and in building, repairing and manning of sea-vessels. By the 15th century, the lascars had attained good reputation of their expertise in seamanship, shipbuilding and port activities and successive European powers, battling to hold their grip in the Indian Ocean region, relied heavily on the services of the lascars. In 1498, Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea, sought advice from the Arab navigator ibn Majid and hired a lascar at Malindi (a coastal settlement in East Africa) to steer the Portuguese ship across the Indian Ocean to Calicut on the Malabar coast of India. Portuguese ships continued to employ lascars in large numbers throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The need for employing the lascars arose because of high rates of sickness and death of European sailors on India-bound ships and their frequent desertions in India, thus leaving the ships short of crew for the return voyages. The Europeans preferred the lascars because of their daring spirit, hard work, resilience, skills and geographical knowledge of the Indian Ocean.

According to Gundert’s dictionary they were also called Kolal’s and Khalassi’s in early Malayalam. His boss or petty lascar was a tandal/tindell. The entire native team was headed by the Seranag. We will in forthcoming articles cover the narrator of the Hindoo fairy tales, the Malabar lascars and their miserable lives under the British, and finally a story of the death of many of them in a WWII attack.

Old Deccan Days: Or, Hindoo Fairy Legends Current in Southern India - Mary Frere
The Lascars: The forgotten Diaspora in the Indian Ocean PAR ASSAD BHUGLAH