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The Renegade Portuguese Moplah Corsair - Dom Pedro Rodrigues

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A story of Revenge, Ali Marakkar

March 1600 – The Kunjali IV had just surrendered to the Zamorin. Andre Furtado reneging on his agreement, dragged Kunjali away, while the Zamorin’s Nair cohorts tried to fight off the Portuguese, but failed. Kunjali and 40 of his people were spirited away to Goa and put into a tronquo, a trial was speedily conducted and Kunjali was sentenced to death in spite of the terms of his surrender which were that his life would be spared. The padre’s at Goa tried hard to have him converted before his killing, but they failed. Finally he was executed in a French style guillotine and his body was later quartered and exhibited in the beaches of Panjim and Badrez. His salted head was sent off to Cannanore for exhibition.
Corsair boats
The matter should have ended there, but as it often happens, it did not. On one hand the Zamorin found that the Dutch VOC would perhaps help him unseat the Portuguese. They were already pouncing on Portuguese shipping on the high seas and the losses were becoming serious. And on the other hand there was the case of one Dom Pedro who single-handedly went against the Franks. I had mentioned him briefly in a previous article, but he deserved a more detailed study.  In fact I think he was a more effective counter on the Portuguese in their dying years, perhaps even sounding their death knell, compared to some of his predecessors who received and continue to get much of the acclaim, as oppressors of the franks.

Dom Pedro was first noticed by Pyrard Laval. You may recall that Pyrard had been imprisoned by the Portuguese in Cochin and later moved to Goa, in irons, first to a hospital and thence to a tronquo (civil prison). He saw the lad Dom Pedro whom he presumed to have Castilian (Spanish) origins and a certain amount of honesty, since he offered to compensate the prisoners their allowance which had been stolen by his fellow officers. Pyrard had in his detailed description of the prisons, explained how corrupt the Portuguese in Goa were. As Pyrard recounts, Dom Pedro later got into a fight with a local and killed him, and was forced to go back to Spain. The next parts of Dom Pedro’s story are a mystery, for Pyrard does not mention him anymore, implying that he has returned to Spain, in a voyage which Pyrard himself had taken in 1609. But well, as it turned out he was not a Spaniard, but a Marakkar, the dead Kunjali IV’s cousin.

Let’s now flash back to a 1581 conflict where a boy of 13, stated to be a cousin of Kunjali IV was captured by Don Furtado off Cardiva. This boy, as is recorded, by virtue of his noble birth, received some measure of consideration. He was subsequently baptized, and in recognition of his high standing given the name of Dom Pedro Rodrigues. He was then married off to a Portuguese orphan and given a job, he did not work like the rest of the convicts, but was placed in command over a squad of prisoners. All the same, he was in chains, and this was the person whom Pyrard Laval met in Goa in 1608 or so. As fate would have it, as the story goes, the very same Dom Pedro had to witness the beheading of his own cousin, Kunjali Marakkar in 1600.

One fine day, when the demons in his brain would not leave him in peace any longer, Dom Pedro scooted away from Goa in a small boat with his family and headed for Ponnani where his kinsmen lived. They quickly rallied around him and gave him a new name, Ali Marakkar. By 1618, he had built up a fighting force of 5 war paroes manned by Moplahs from Malabar and the Konkan. Supported indirectly by the Dutch and the Zamorin, this new foe harassed the Portuguese ships, even blockaded Goan ports and troubled them no end. It is also mentioned that he sailed to Ceylon, to the Tanadiva Island to be precise and murdered the two Franciscan priests who had converted him as a child and to add salt to the wounds, also spirited away the cattle from the quay of elephants off the Forcados Island.

Before that let’s double back and take a look at some descriptions of the Malabar Corsair and his abode in North Malabar. It is written fancifully that that the Malabar Sea coast with its many small harbors and lagoons which favored trade in ancient times, also sheltered the little vessels of the Malabar corsairs, who harried commerce in the Indian Ocean from the days of Pliny and Marco Polo until the British period.  

Ever wondered how a marakkar or moplah seaman looked like in those days? Corsair attacks on Portuguese vessels have been written about often and a description of the Marakkar Moplah corsair by Pyrard Laval would be interesting- The Malabar merchants are recognized by their dress, and not otherwise; for while both merchants and corsairs usually carry arms, the merchants do not wear their hair long; they have a bonnet of red scarlet, in the form of a skull-cap, and most frequently a kerchief wound round it in the fashion of a turban, and called Mondow"; these kerchiefs are of gold embroidery and colored silk. They wear the beard half shaved, but without moustaches. Also they have a little skirt of silk or cotton reaching three finger lengths below the waist, and below that a cloth down to the knees. Then they have other pretty kerchiefs wherein they tie up and conceal their money. It is the habit of these merchants, as well as those of the Maldives and other places, to carry everything with them when they go to sea, both their petty baggage and their beds for sleeping on, for they will never sleep on other folk's beds if they can help it. The corsairs wear their hair long like women, and never cut it; they tie it in a bunch, like all the other Indians, and cover it with one of these pretty kerchiefs; they go quite naked, except that they are covered with a silk cloth as far as the knees, and have another handkerchief round the waist. All the Malabars, as well corsairs as merchants, carry knives with hafts and sheaths of silver—that is, such as can afford it; these are all beautifully fitted with little pendants, such as toothpicks, earpicks, and other instruments. The corsairs wear the beard shaved, but never shave over the mouth nor the moustaches: these they wear like the Turks, in such wise that some have moustaches so long that they tie them behind the head. All the Malabars are covered with thick hair over the stomach and elsewhere; they wear no slippers.
Malabar Moplah - Old Portuguese depiction
Their women are dressed like the other natives, and wear nothing upon their hair; they carry a quantity of gold earrings and rings and trinkets on their fingers and toes. They have a little light jacket of cotton down to the waist, and another silk or cotton cloth which reaches from the waist down to the feet. They go barefooted, and are very fair in complexion, and most of them are short of stature: the men are of middle height. The women are pretty, and addicted to licentious practices like the other Indian women, but not to the same extent as in other places. When they find a stranger at one of these Malabar corsairs' ports, who is willing to go to the wars with them, they feed and maintain him all the winter, him and his wife, for they marry as soon as they settle awhile in any place. They engage in good time some soldiers and Moucois at high wages, which they advance to them to bind the bargain. When they are ready for the fray they take some betel, and some Amfian or poppy juice, which most of the Indians use. They take this betel and amfian, or afeon, and swear fidelity thereupon. After making a prize, and before coming ashore, they search every man on board and the whole ship. The captain and chief men lay hands on everything, and account conscientiously to the owner of the galiot or pados. It is incredible the fatigues these fellows will undergo at sea, and how they endure hunger and thirst. They have plenty of cannon and other arms; but of money and other valuables they carry with them not so much as five sols' worth: all that they leave on shore. As soon as they have taken a prize they come in to discharge, and return to sea at once, if there seems a likelihood of other booty; if not, they remain at home for that year and consume the produce of their theft and rapine for the next six months.

Marco Polo mentions that there issued annually "a body of upwards of one hundred vessels, who captured other ships and plundered the merchants." He alludes to the Moplahs forming what they called a ladder on the sea, by stationing themselves in squadrons of twenty, about five miles from each other, so as to command as great an extent of water as possible. But in the old Venetian's day, the corsairs appear to have been by no means so sanguinary as they afterwards became. He expressly states, that when the pirates took a ship, they did no injury to the crew, but merely said to them, "Go and collect another cargo, that we may have a chance of getting it too."

A little background to Portuguese Ceylon would also be in order. The Portuguese had been present there since 1505 and thriving with elephant and Cinnamon trade. They entrenched themselves in Sitawake Kingdom of Kotte upon Dharmapala's death in 1597, as usual playing one against the other. Direct Portuguese rule inside the island did not begin until after the death of Dharmapala of Kotte, who died without an heir. He had bequeathed the Kingdom of Kotte to the Portuguese monarch in 1580. By 1600 the Portuguese had consolidated after quelling many local rebellions. An invasion in 1591, undertaken at the instigation of Christian missionaries, succeeded in installing a Portuguese protégé at Jaffna. Soon they had virtual control of the island except for the Central and eastern parts which were under the reign of Vimala Dharma Surya, who went against them when the Portuguese tried to capture Kandy. Soon he routed them and married Dona Catherina whom the Portuguese were trying to implant as their queen in Kandy. To defeat and control the Portuguese he needed to control the seas and for that, he needed the support of the Dutch. This was the scene when Dom Pedro came by. The Kandyans were trying to woo the Dutch and later the Danes. The Jaffna king was trying to get the Portuguese out by requesting the Zamorin for support, who if you recall was also aligned with Mayudane much earlier.

As history would have it, the appearance of a Malabar fleet was to attract the Portuguese military presence to the northern kingdom with devastating results as you will soon read. Mendonca had been sent to Malabar owing to the presence of a Kunjali admiral of the Zamorin of Calicut in 1591 and now in March 1619 the presence of his cousin, a baptized Christian named Dom Pedro Rodriguez, raised the alarm in Portuguese Ceylon.

Dom Pedro Rodriguez, this cousin of the last Kunjali, appeared off Jaffna with five armed vessels, presumably at the request of Cankili 2, the last ruler of Jaffna, to inflict great damage on Portuguese shipping. I had provided some details when I wrote about Kunjali’s revenge many years ago and more recently about Chinali. Let us now rake out some of the details of Ali Marakkar’s exploits which should have been a subject of legend in Malabar. Regrettably it is not so, for most people wrongly assumed that the fight went out with the demise of Kunjali IV.

Delft Island fort
Danvers who outlined his fearless exploits explains that Dom Pedro, took possession of the islands of De las Vacas and Tristao Golayo. The Las vacas islands or island of cows is incidentally a small island twenty miles south-west of Jaffna in the Palk Strait (called Meekaman or Nedunthivu by the natives). The Portuguese subsequently named it das Vacas, and the Dutch who followed them renamed it Delft and the fort there is particularly striking. It is a very strongly fortified two-storied dwelling, covering an area about fifty square yards, with a double centre wall of immense thickness. This wall completely cuts the Fort in half at ground-level, the only means of communication being on the first floor-a common precautionary measure in defensive structures of that period. As a result, it is a very complicated edifice, full of long narrow and little square rooms.

Dom Constantino had arrived at Colombo in 1619, to beef up the undisciplined Portuguese troops and head the attacks on Mayadunna. The attack results in the involvement of the prince of Uva and a setback for the Portuguese but they managed to beat Maydanne in the mountains. He then decides to take the attack to Chankili II and his Tanjore mercenaries and face them off at wannar ponnani. It was in the midst of all this turmoil that Dom Pedro made his appearance.

Dom Constantino de Sa sent out a force consisting of forty galliots, which joined eighteen other smaller vessels at Manar from Colombo, to put a stop to this Dom Pedro’s aggressions, These proceeded, under the command of Vitorio de Abreu, to the island of Golayo, where Abreu was informed by two blacks he found there that the five paraos had gone to some place nearby for ammunition, and that before they returned he might possess himself of goods to the value of 60,000 ducats that had been left there in a house by Dom Pedro. He, however, doubting the truth of this information, took no action in the matter, but waited for the return of the paraos, which he engaged, but was defeated, losing twelve of the eighteen small vessels and 300 men killed, besides several who were taken prisoners, of whom he himself was one. During this fracas Dom Pedro’s men occupied the ilhas da vacas and seized its fort.

Ali Marakkar’s exploits continued through 1619 with Felippe de Oliveira reporting in July that these 5 paros had entered the coast of Mannar at the insistence of Chankali. When the locals frantically called on the Portuguese high command for help, Constantino de Sa sent two galliots and 40 vessels commanded by Vitorio de Abreu. They were decimated by Ali Marakkar and his men, but Felippe reported home that they lost the battle due to the many sins they had committed and that this was god’s punishment coupled by disorderly movement and contrary winds.

We can see confirmation from another report that Dom Pedro had seized the vantage fort at Ilhas das vacas (Cow Island) and was laying a siege on Portuguese shipping. Fearing that Dom Pedro might cast his sights next on Portuguese Ceylon, Felippe de Oliveira was deputed next to attack Dom Pedro at Jaffna. As matters would have it, Dom Pedro seized 12 out of the 18 tonis (Malayalam for boat), killed 300 men and enslaved the rest including the captain Victorio de Abreu.

The Portuguese decided that for safety sake, their ships would now be sent out only as convoys or cafilas comprising 300-400 small vessels. The Malabar fleet powerful now, sometimes blockaded the Goa ports, and even captured many ships off these convoys, as many as 30-40 in one swoop. Dom Pedro attacked these Portuguese merchant fleets with abandon, even though traveling in convoy and took one of the vessels with little opposition. The merchants of Nagapatnam desired the goods recovered, but the scared Portuguese refused to make the attempt. Interestingly, a Spanish fly boat happening to pass by retook the cargo vessel without difficulty, demonstrating how laid back the Portuguese were by this time.

The Portuguese were a hard pressed lot those days (the fury of the oncoming monsoons were another reason) and mainly beset by a lack of funds, suffered these attacks silently. By 1619 Ali Marakkar had surpassed all his Kunhali predecessors in not only destroying ships but also hundreds of Portuguese soldiers, with just his 5 paros, a lot of bravery and some merry men.

By June 1619, there were two Portuguese expeditions: a naval expedition that was repulsed by the Malabari corsairs and another expedition by Filipe de Oliveira and his 5,000 strong land army which was able to inflict defeat on Cankili II. Cankili, along with every surviving member of the royal family were captured and taken to Goa, where he was hanged to death. The remaining captives were encouraged to become monks or nuns in the holy orders, and as most obliged, it avoided further claimants to the Jaffna throne. Chankili 2’s reign which had been secured with military forces from the Thanjavur Nayaks and Malabari Corsairs came crashing down. He was defeated by the Portuguese in 1619 and was taken to Goa and hanged. With his death the Aryacakravarti line of Kings who had ruled the kingdom for over 300 years came to an end.

The Portuguese reported thus - Changili refused to pay tribute, and rejected all friendship with the Portuguese, and making the king his master unite with the enemies of Europe, he called to his aid the Badaguas, idolaters, a barbarous race who inhabit the country within the kingdom of Bisnaga from the Malabar Coast on one side and the Paravar on the other. They were the enemies of all, and especially of the Christians, cruel by nature, robbers by profession, and living on what they could steal. These, joined with the Naigue of Tanjaor, who was also their neighbour, were twice defeated and driven from the Island (on this occasion by Constantino de Sa on his way to the relief of Jafanapatan); but not before the Captain Philip de Oliveira had utterly routed and taken Changili with the blind king and some of his family.

Dom Pedro disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared after this 1619 surge and it is believed that Ali Marakkar settled down in the Maldives islands with his slaves and booty. You may recall that the Maldives was always a transshipment point for the marakkar businessmen of Tamilakam, Cochin and Cannanore (see my Mammali Marakkar article under references) a stronghold of the Mammali marakkar and a locale always frequented by Marakkar traders. By this time the Dutch were already on the ascent, the Portuguese sort of let go of control over the Maladives and the reign of Shuja Imaduddin, to the rulers of Cannanore. Let’s now ponder on a possibility, did Dom Pedro spend time originally in Maldives? Was he the brother of Dom Joao the converted king of Maldives? People who have studied Maldive history would note that this Dom Joao and Dom Pedro were imprisoned in Goa in 1597 but treated well. Maybe, maybe not….

The ghost of Kunjali as he was more popularly known, vanished thus into the mists off the seas near Male….

Essays in Goan history – Teotonio R. de Souza
The voyage of Fracois Pyrard de Laval – Albert Gray
The Portuguese in India - Frederick Charles Danvers
The Kunjalis – admirals of Calicut – OK Nambiar

Robert Adams - Governor of EIC Malabar

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The ‘Notorious’ country trader Robert Adams

April 8th 1738 , an obscure epitaph for a British gentleman came to the notice of observant readers - At his House in Cavendish-Square, aged 64, Robert Adams, Esq; one of the Directors of the East-India Company, and formerly Governor of Tellicherry in India for the said Company. The above Gentleman, when in India, being once a Hunting, and separated from his Company in the Woods, was attack'd by a Tyger, who seized him by the Shoulder, but he at the fame pierced the Tyger with a lance through the Body, and they both fell together; but happily disengaging himself, he kill'd the Creature on the Spot, and hath ever since born a Tyger rampant in his Coat of Arms. He is said to have dy'd worth £100,000/- which he has left to his two only Daughters, both unmarry'd.

Now those reading it will think that the biggest act in Adam’s life was the killing of a tiger. Well, he was certainly more than that, he was considered adroit, resourceful, cunning and what not, depending who you asked. This bloke spent most of his adult life of some 42 years in Malabar, was fluent in Malayalam and hobnobbed with the Kolathiri raja, the Ali Raja, Zamorin, the Cochin Raja and the Travancore Raja, and many a time played one against the other. He enriched himself, plied his own ships in the seas while passing off as a British country trader and the Chief of the Tellicherry factory. The Dutch considered him their nemesis, the French hated him with a vengeance and as time went by and the British even titled him their governor in Malabar. His house at 8-Cavendish square in Marylebone, London, built after retirement demonstrated his status and wealth. Time we got to know him right?

I believe he arrived at Tellicherry in the 1687, just 13 years old and it is mentioned that sometime in 1703 he shifted to Calicut where he lived on until 1720. Later, he moved to Tellicherry as the head of the EIC factory until 1728, till he was forced to scoot and sail back to London. His times in Malabar are quite interesting and he was much involved in the politics of the land as well as the activities of the EIC at the Tellicherry factory treading a narrow grey zone when it came to ethics.

The Calicut factory was first established in 1616. In 1664, the Dutch were instrumental in expelling them from Calicut and but was reestablished in 1668. The Calicut factory according to some records did not do much, and an old report in the Calcutta review states - In 1615, Captain Keeling, with three English ships which were the same that had brought Sir Thomas Roe on his embassy to the Great Mogul, arrived off Calicut and concluded with the Zamorin a treaty, which included permission for the founding of a factory at Calicut. The Zamorin's object was merely to obtain the help of the English in driving the Portuguese from Cranganore and Cochin, which they had conquered, and when the English showed no signs at helping in this business, the ten persons who were left by Captain Keeling to found a factory received very ungracious treatment. However, by the middle of the seventeenth century, the English Company had contrived to supplant both the Portuguese and the Dutch to some extent in many parts of India, and in September 1664, an agreement was concluded with the Zamorin for the establishment of a Settlement at Calicut, the Company agreeing to pay duty to the Zamorin on the trade carried on at the port. The jealousy of the Zamorin, whose experience of the Portuguese had not been favourable, continued nevertheless, and it was not until after the English Company had been settled nearly a century at Calicut, that they were permitted, in 1759, even to tile their factory there, so as to protect it against fire.

It does not seem quite right though and we know from many records that if not the Calicut factory, Robert Adams as the local resident in the 1690’s period did well personally as the resident and country trader. The appointment of Alexander Orme at Anjengo was another important event and the subsequent friendship between Robert and Orme was to structure Malabar British relations for quite some time and create famous progeny through marriage between the two families. It was an enduring bond — Adams married Margaret Hill, Orme her sister. Orme became chief of the station at Anjengo, where a massacre occurred in 1721 of a predecessor, William Gyfford, and many under his charge. Orme’s second son, Robert, was born there in 1728, and was named after his uncle Robert Adams. Robert Orme is nowadays considered the historian of India.

With the arrival of Robert Adams in Calicut, the relations between the new Zamorin and the British took a new cordial tone. When he extended his hands in friendship and provided financial support for the Zamorin’s ventures, the Zamorin countered by reducing duties on pepper by 25%. The Zamorin then sided with the British and ensured that they were not cheated by local traders, with threats of a boiling oil ordeal in case of any charges against them. He ordered thus - “In consideration of the aid rendered at Calicut and money given to my servants, we promise that, the matter of the contract entered into by you and you to pay if any dispute be raised by any one in regard to the value of the articles they agreed to supply for money received, I will compel him to deliver the articles on return of the money, as may appear just, and subject him besides to an oath (ordeal). If his hand comes out clean, he will be held innocent and you will have to pay him, as usual, the expenses he may incur (in taking the oath).

Vissicher had the following to state about Adams in Calicut covering three periods of Adam’s life in Malabar.

Calicut, though still a commercial town, is falling into decay. Many ships, both English, French and Moorish, however, keep up their trade with it, because there are no restrictions on commerce, with the exception of a duty of 5 per cent, paid to the Zamorin on all imports, to enforce which he keeps officers stationed here. As the English have the largest business they are the most favoured by the Zamorin, whom also they often supply with money when he is in want of it.

Mr. Adams, the head of the English in this place, was brought up there from a child, and having, from his youth, traded with the people of Malabar, he acquired a familiarity with their language which gained for him much influence among them. In consequence of this advantage, he was chosen by the English as their Governor. Being an enemy to our Company he incited the Zamorin to the late war, himself lending, in order to promote it, 100,000 rix dollars, with which that Prince defrayed the expenses of the war:—we have no reason to doubt this story, since he even sent English officers to assist the Zamorin, to defend Fort Paponette against our arms. Nay more, when Chetwa was conquered by the Zamorin, and our people expelled, the English immediately erected a factory there, in order to secure the pepper-trade; this factory was destroyed when the fort was re-taken.

I will relate an instance of this sort of conduct which took place at Calicut in the year 1720. The English officer, second in command there, went out one day to drive in his carriage. It happened to be a day when the great national assembly of the Malabars was collected in the open air to deliberate on the affairs of the State. The Englishman, in order to shew his contempt for them, instead of making a circuit, drove right through the multitude, in spite of their entreaties that he should desist from such unbecoming conduct, which threw the whole assembly into the utmost confusion. On the following day, when the assembly met again at the same place, the Englishman chose to shew his courage by driving through it again with some ladies who were in his carnage. This time the people were so incensed at the repetition of the outrage, that they struck their hands to their weapons and cut the carriage to pieces, and the hero and his amazons had to escape wounded to their homes. Though this was no more than the miscreant deserved, yet Mr. Adams, declaring that the conduct of the natives was cruel and inhuman, left Calicut and threatened to set the bazaar on fire. The Zamorin, who reaped so much profit from the English trade, managed to pacify him and to recall him to Calicut, but as the bad feeling of the natives towards the English still exists, he distrusts them and spends most of his time at Tellicherry.

While the tenure of Adams’s stay in Calicut during the 1687 to 1703 period is not well detailed in any primary source, his times and machinations as the chief and Governor of the EIC factory in Tellicherry is better known. His involvement on Malabar trade and its politics are somewhat well recorded from the time he was made the chief of the EIC factory in Tellicherry. The EIC had finally chosen Tellicherry after toying with ideas for locating a major factory either at the Indonesian islands in Bantam (Java) and also at Calicut. Due to continuous sparring with the Dutch at Calicut, they decided to occupy the factory abandoned by the French at Tellicherry late in the 17th Century. This proved to be a wise decision for the EIC, for the pepper obtained from Randattara, Kottayam and Valapattanam were of better quality and the duties levied by the Kolathunad raja was lower than Calicut. It was in these circumstances that in 1703, the competent Robert Adams with strong local knowledge took over from Thomas Penning as its chief. His brother in law Alexander Orme was appointed the chief at the southerly factory at Anjengo near Attingal (Adams was also involved in resolving the situation after the 1721 massacre at Anjengo). A shrewd politician and more than just a trader bringing profit to the EIC, Adams spent his years tarrying between the rajas of Kolathunad, Calicut, Kadathanad, the Ali Raja and sometimes even venturing south to Cochin and Travancore, but always maintaining cordial relations with them.

George Woodcock writes - The Dutch were not the only Europeans anxious to feast on the great spice trade which the Portuguese had created and been forced to abandon. But the English remained, and under their most active administration, Robert Adams in Calicut and Alexander Orme in Anjengo, they energetically cultivated the favour of the local princes of Calicut and Travancore. Other nations followed their example.

His first act was to fortify the Tellichery installation with material support from the Zamorin. Robert Adams was the one to lay the foundation stone for the fort and this remained one of the EIC’s strongest forts in the region. Robert Adams’s adroitness in securing permission for the fortification of Tellicherry from the Vadakkilamkur Raja and material support from the Zamorin is testimony to his relations with two rajas who were otherwise wary of each other, to say the least. Following the fortification, he obtained a monopoly for spice trade from the Kolathiri king.

But another event which brought his name to the fore was the acrimonious relations between the EIC and the Kurungoth Nair in whose lands the EIC factory actually stood. The Nair (who depended on the duties and rent) instigated by the French who had returned to start operations nearby in Punno, demanded continued payment of duties from the EIC, which they refused to pay. As matters transpired, the Nair supported by a rival Kolathiri Prince of Udayamangalam attacked an EIC warehouse situated North of Mahe, in 1704, and destroyed it. Skirmishes continued for many years and finally Adams retaliated with force in 1715 by commencing hostilities with armed forces against Unnittiri and Kelappan, the two local chiefs of Kurungoth Nadu. They were defeated, the Nair had to sign an agreement accepting EIC superiority and he also ceded the Mailam hill to the EIC as reparation. We will get into this battle in more detail another day and examine the circumstances, but for now suffice to note that Adams established himself and EIC as an important factor in Malabar politics ever after.

Another longish story is the involvement of Adams in the fight for Chetwa between the Zamorin and the Dutch. Here we see that Adams had a personal stake. In reality he did a lot of trading on the side and outside the EIC books. We can see that Adams organized a large and profitable trade in opium whose consumption was popular in the Cochin and Venad regions. Robert Adams, turning in a good personal profit, imported Bengal opium and sent it up-river on empty EIC pepper boats to Chetwa, for further sale. The situation as conducive to Adams, due to the peace treaty between the Zamorin and the Dutch signed in 1710. But when the Dutch decided to fortify Chetwa, the act would not be tolerated by the Zamorin.

Adams, whose business was also affected by the entry of the Dutch in Chetwa, instigated the Zamorin to launch a surprise attack on the Dutch in 1715, and provided English armaments and forces in support. The fort of Chetwa was eventually destroyed by the Zamorins forces and the Dutch had the humiliation of seeing the English flag hoisted at Chetwa. The Zamorin then built a fort at Paponetti with English forces manning it. The Dutch had no choice but to retaliate and they were supported by forces from Batavia led by William Jacobitz. In 1717, they destroyed the Paponetti garrison and recaptured Chetwa, but all this was at a great commercial expense which pulled down Dutch balance sheet even more into the red. So much so, they proclaimed that with effect from 1721, they would not enter into any more wars to support the Cochin raja. It was also during this time that Adams had an apparent fall out with the Zamorin (maybe due to events at a Calicut bazar) and retired to Tellichery, as we saw from Vissicher’s notes, quoted previously.

Adams then found his name broadcast due to his sometimes acrimonious and oftentimes friendly relationship with the French who were vying to get a strong foothold in N Malabar. They started by signing an agreement with the Kadathanaad raja for pepper monopoly. Adams was instrumental in getting the Vazhunnavar to attack the French at Mahe, and these kinds of attacks continued while Adams at the same time maintained a friendly personal relationship with Tremisot, the French chief at the Calicut lodge, exchanging frequent letters on commodity prices, attending mutually hosted parties and so on.

Various sources point out to Adams’s involvement in funneling tobacco and pepper purchases to the EIC through himself and many benami (fictional or other third parties) names. We also note that that the VOC was quite furious at all this and even had planned to employ people to silence him on some occasions. He chose to follow rules only when they suited him and otherwise flouted them at will. But he got away with it all for a long time.

But his later years at the EIC outpost were clouded by accusations of misappropriation and personal profiting at company expense, all acts which were often in practice amongst the many EIC managers of that time. Just around the time he was being bandied to take over as Bombay Governor from William Phipps, the accusations came out and the next years were spent fighting these as well as threats of legal actions. Adams had been tipped of the activities by his friends in the Bombay bureaucracy and he was encouraged to leave Malabar for the sanctuary of London. Let’s take a brief look at this epoch in his lifespan.

It appears that Adams had loaned large amounts of company funds to the Zamorin and other Malabar ‘princes’ to fight the Dutch. Some 650,000 fanams could not be recovered and Adams was forced to sign bonds for their recovery. Additional charges against him were in retaining EIC ships for longer periods at Tellicherry and their missing profitable business opportunities due to this, lading company ships with his own stocks of pepper, and indulging in expensive conflicts with the French at company expense. To prevent him from absconding, his wife Margaret was detained. Nevertheless, the couple managed to scoot and sail to England from Calicut in 1729, ending their many decades of life in Malabar.

In London, he worked hard to have his name cleared and furious correspondence ensued between him and the EIC directors. He argued that all his actions were as subordinate to the Bombay offices and that there had been no objections, all along. Since many of the serving officers and directors were also complicit, he managed to get away from any kind of formal censure and was eventually cleared. A lot of claims due to him were paid by the EIC in Bengal and with it Adams purchased his new house at Cavendish square from the Duke of Chandos, in 1730. He had brought with him three Malabar servants Edward, Antonio and Abgail, but it appears that the harsh London weather disagreed with them and they went back home in 1731.

It was in 1732 that Adams acquired the Tyger coat of arms and found a home for the poor tiger’s skin on a prominent wall of his home. Even larger compensation claims by him were remitted by the EIC and he lived a life of comfortable retirement, in London. It may be interesting for some readers to note that these areas in London were developed, resettled and promoted by the so called ‘distasteful new Indian (pepper or Malabar money) money’ brought in by such nefarious and avaricious traders. After his return to London, it appears that Adams continued to invest monies in the India trade.

His infant nephew, Robert Orme, was sent from India to be brought up in Adams’s house from the age of two and later sent to Harrow for schooling in 1734. In 1736, Roberts Adams passed away leaving behind an estate reportedly worth £100,000. R Orme went back to India in 1742 aged 13. The widowed Margaret Adams vacated the big house and moved round the corner to a marginally humbler dwelling at 6 Cavendish Square. Adam’s house at Cavendish Square served as an embassy for the Spanish in the late 1840's and the Brazilians around 1860, finishing up as the Japanese Legation until 1892.It later became the UK headquarters of Chevron, the giant American energy corporation.

Adams’ correspondence, now archived as the Adams letter book, reveal much about the English private trade in Malabar and through to Bombay. Adams private enterprise involved not only financing the local rulers such as the Zamorin, but also holding a share in the shipping ventures of that period. We note from his letters that Adams held a sixteenth stake in one ship belonging to Captain Gilbert and was one investor among thirty two in another ship, the Wyndham.  We can also see that by 1707 Adams was even involved in constructing and managing his own vessels, attested by his purchase contracts with one William Gayer to buy masts, timber and various other ship provisions. Some of his vessels were recorded as having called at Mocha in Yemen, sailing from Calicut around 1721. We can also see piracy accounts related to Adams’s ships operating along the Malabar Coast which had been attacked by both the Dutch and Angre’s fleet during the 1720s. Another noteworthy incident occurred when Robert Adams’s ship manned by Moplahs was involved in the Jeddah massacre in 1726 where Adams’s supercargo (one who traded on behalf of a principal) Frankland and Dalgeish ended up getting murdered by an irate mob. Adams settled the case after obtaining large compensation.

Adams was also a provider of information and business tips to his friends, he informed them regularly of incidents in parts of the world through lively correspondence, and provided them market information often on Malabar and Persian trade. He invested heavily in joint ventures with Charles Boone (his close friend and governor of Bombay) at this time. Adams’s sisters were married to East India Company officers resident on the west coast; Hannah to Hezekiah King and Eleanor to Alexander Orme. Both of Adams’ sons, Robert and Benjamin, were also in the East Indies forging careers in commerce.

From London, Adams provided much support to Robert and particularly Benjamin. As is obvious, he offered them advice, and recommended them often to other higher placed EIC officers such as William Wake, Stephen Law and Robert Cowan; each of whom eventually became governors of Bombay during and after Adam’s stay in Malabar. Adams asked Stephen Law to regularly advise him ‘how my son Benjamin behaves himself and lives’, keen to be the first to know about any indiscretions or ‘any loose or extravagant behavior of his’. Moreover, Benjamin was encouraged by his father – like any good merchant – to be a diverse and varied trader, to hold more than one investment at the same time and to endeavor to be an amiable, friendly and well-grounded individual in order engage in successful business.

He was also the first to experiment with different methods in remitting his profits to security in London. Edward Harrison, always professing sane advice, suggested to Robert Adams in 1721, that diamonds could be an efficient method of remitting money back to England.

Testament to Adam’s relations with the Kolathiri Raja is the latter’s letter to the new EIC governor John Braddyl, stating Robert Adams “behaved always with great candor and civility to the country in general” and now with the recall of Adams in such a manner, “little trust is to be placed on the company”. He concluded his letter by saying that, “it is said that the Europeans are men of their words, but the ordering of Mr. Adams away, and the manner of his going seems quite contrary”

I won’t be surprised if Adams had himself dictated this, he was one canny individual! But one thing is clear, from a sleepy little port, Tellicherry rose to the position of a trading post of much prominence, and for that it owes much to the machinations of country traders like Robert Adams.

Speculative development and the origins and history of East India Company settlement in Cavendish Square and Harley Street -Richardson Harriet; Guillery Peter
British Private Trade Networks in the Arabian Seas, c. 1680 – c. 1760 - Timothy Davies
Robert Adams: the Real Founder of English East India Company’s Supremacy in Malabar Arun Thomas M., Dr. Asokan Mundon
Letters from Malabar – Jacob Canter Visscher
Establishment of British Power in Malabar – N Rajendran
Malabar Manual – William Logan
Dutch power in Kerala – MO Koshy
Malabar and the Dutch - KM Panikkar
The Rajas of Cochin 1663-1720 – Hugo K s’Jacob
History of the Tellicherry Factory (1683-1794) – KKN Kurup
Fortunes a faire – Catherine Manning
Private fortunes and Company profits in the India trade in the 18th century – Holden Furber
Foundation of the Empire – Ina Bruce Watson
Arabian Seas – Vol 1, Vol 4 R J Barendse

Pics – Tellicherry fort – British library

Maryam Zamani – Still an enigma

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Jahangir’s mother and Guardian

This is a mystery that had endured for many a decade and every historian working on Moghul history and Agra has come up with their own twist to it. When I started on this topic some years ago, I believed I could get to the crux of the matter with some effort, but it proved to be so difficult to peel the onion, as they say.  I spent so much time and effort in this study, perusing countless articles and sources, reaching nowhere conclusively. Were Maryam Zamani and Jahangir’s mother the same person? Or was it that there were two people in the picture?  

Why is there so much of a problem in this case? Was it because Akbar had women of multiple religions in his harem? Did confusion in the mind of historians arise because Akbar had allowed his Hindu consorts to practice their beliefs and rituals? Did further complications arise when researchers connected the Portuguese, Hindu, Christian, Turkish and Armenian wives of Akbar to Maryam Zamani and Jahangir, proving nothing? Perhaps so. The other issue was that the translations of many of the primary sources are considered conflicting, doctored over time and inadequate by some experts.

Birth Of Jahangir
But it is a fact that the biological mother of Jahangir was never named in any record. Jahangir’s memoirs do indicate that that a lady of very high standing and titled Maryam uz Zamani was considered to be the Wali Nimat Begum. The Mughal times were replete with adoptions, god mothers, and nursing mothers, so it proved to be pretty difficult to figure out who could be the biological mother of Jahangir and who became the titular mother of Jahangir. From all studies, one thing is amply clear, that Maryam Zamani was the definitely the titular mother of Jahangir.

Another issue was the palace of Mary (Maryam ki Kothi) or Mariam at Fathepur Sikhri which many attributed to Maryam Zamani. Many argue about the presence of pastors in that specific palace, the presence of the image of Mary, a cross and so on and so forth, confounding the situation. Some others clarify that it was in actuality, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

So I decided to take a different route after having exhausted normally followed routes. Why not try a different method and just focus on Maryam uz Zamani, the so called queen mother? And thus I got back to the records which I had collected while researching the sinking of the queen mother’s ship Rahimi. At that time the identity of the queen mother was secondary, so I had not paused while repeating the oft stated belief that she was potentially Jahangir’s mother, the daughter of the Kachwaha Rajput. Now let us check what we know from British records.

We know that the queen mother was the owner or at least the patron of the ship Rahimi, one of the biggest, plying the seas between Surat and Mocha, carrying goods and approximately 1500 pilgrims for the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. We know that she got miffed when British and later the Portuguese held her ship to ransom, and in turn with her powers in the Mughal court put the English and the Portuguese into no amount of trouble. All records state clearly that ship was somehow connected to the queen mother. The title Maryam uz Zamani is not used (This has however been inserted as a foot note by translators & late researchers). And interestingly she was perhaps never the titular owner of the Rahimi.

We also know that she was involved in the Indigo trade. Some English and VOC Dutch traders saw the potential behind exporting the much vaunted Bayana indigo to Europe, and this indigo was needed for cloth dyes as well as for the Dutch porcelain industry. Finch’s transactions record the indignant queen mother who took revenge on Hawkins when he usurped stock which was not meant for him. Most of the indigo crop came from a place called bayana and we note that Bayana was an area patronized by Maryam Zamani. She had built the water tank (a baoili or step well), a residence and the gardens at Ibrahimabad in Bayana and guard posts on the route from Agra to Bayana, to protect the Indigo industry. These structures were built in 1612-13 (If she was from Amber in Rajasthan, she would have made some investments there, right, why Bayana?) and was also an occasional residence for Maryam Zamani, at a period when the indigo producing tracts in Bayana were doing well, trade in Indigo was brisk and the Dutch and English were the buyers. The Baoli has two gravestones which have not been identified and it is felt that one of these may even belong to Maryam Zamani.

All this points to the fact that she was a shrewd businesswomen and well respected by traders and in the Moghul court. She certainly had the powers to execute hukum’s /written orders (they were not strictly speaking farmans as some have noted) or edicts under her own seal and in those documents she terms herself ‘the Wali nimat Begam mother of King Nuruddin Jahangir’. Now Wali Nimat is a term that has been translated in differing ways. In Persian, which was the legal language of the Mughal court, it means ‘A benefactor, a generous patron’. The full sentence is ‘Wali Ni’mat walida I Jahangir badshah’ where it is clear that Maryam Zamani is the titular mother. Otherwise adding the adjective such as ‘generous patron of’ makes little sense, mother would have been enough and powerful.

She was a certainly a person of high standing as certified by Hawkins for she was known to receive a jewel from every nobleman "according to his estate" each year on the occasion of the New Year's festival. Interestingly Hawkins refers only to Jahangir’s mother, not a Maryam Zamani.

We also know that while she had a residence in Agra, her home was at the village of Dahr near Lahore, where she spent her time and invested time and effort, also building gardens. We can see that Jahangir visited her repeatedly at Dahr for important occasions such as weddings and ceremonial weighing’s. This is stated in the contemporary Persian texts.
Maryam Zamani Mosque - Lahore
And of course we have the very famous Maryam Zamani mosque which she built in Lahore in 1614, one of the earliest mosques in Lahore which was built under her patronage (the inscription states- founded by Maryam Zamani, the Queen). The architectural style it seems, marks a transitional period between the two periods, i.e., Pathan and the Mughal with the gigantic domes is taken from the old Pathan period mosques and the construction style for example, the gateways, the balconies etc. are reflective of later Mughal architecture. For me, it is difficult to imagine a Rajput woman practicing Hinduism and living in Agra as Akbar’s wife building a splendid mosque in faraway Lahore. We also know that there are no known records of temples or places of Hindu or Christian worship patronized or built by Maryam Zamani, thus making it somewhat clear that she was a serious practicing Muslim. Also it is clear, she took the wellbeing of thousands of Hajj pilgrims seriously, and interaction with Mecca and trade there. Why would the daughter of Bihari Mall do that? One could argue that she took to Islam a 100% and was an overt believer, but we see little reason for her to do that as she had been allowed to practice her religion and live in peace and harmony by Akbar. But it is also somewhat clear that many of these Hindu wives, for the purpose of marriage could have been given Islamic names for the record.

There is an intriguing reference that the title of Maryam Zamani was given to the lady posthumously (Monserrat). That does not sound quite correct for we do know that the title was used by Jahangir in his writings and the stones laid at the mosque in Lahore as well as the baoli in Bayana state her name. But it cannot be found in any contemporary accounts of Akbar, though we can find Mariam Makkany and the usage queen mother mentioned often in British and Dutch accounts. Perhaps those writers mistook one of Akbar’s wives to be Maryam Makani, who was actually Hamida Banu, Akbar’s mother and there was a similarity in the first name on both titles.

Then we have the so called tomb of Maryam Zamani in Agra, which has its own intrigue. She was not cremated after death. Instead, it is mentioned that Maryam Zamani was buried at Sikandra at the Lodhi garden. Now that again is a troubling subject because Jahangir did not build his revered mother a tomb of her own, but appropriated a garden and building used by Ibrahim Lodhi, which is quite strange and inappropriate according to many researchers.

Coming to nursing mothers, we know that Sheikh Bayazid (Moazzam Khan) was grandson of Sheikh Salem. And it was Bayazid's mother nursed Prince Salem (Jahangir) on the day of his birth.
Finally we know that Jahangir himself believed and mentioned that he was originally the son of one of Akbar’s consorts, not a regular wife of Akbar. The Tabaqat-i-Akbari Vol 2 states as follows - As one of the consorts became enciente at this time, His Majesty took her to SikrI, and left her in the house of the Shaikh; and he himself remained sometime in Agra, and sometime in SikrI. He gave the name of Fathepur to SikrI, and ordered the erection of bazars and public baths there.

Knowing this, how could we possibly comb through the 5,000 or so women in Akbar’s harem (and some 300 wives) as well as the palatial homes of many other royal ladies to get to the hidden persona of Maryam Zamani or for that matter Jahangir’s mother? It is made somewhat easier by the many hundred researchers who have traversed this route and have recorded their findings. I was fortunate in accessing and perusing many of them but decided sadly to forgo their conclusions as each came up with a different outcome.

13 of Akbar’s more famous wives have been traced by historians. The first was Ruqaiya Begum and she was childless. The second was the daughter of Jamal Khan and the third was with Abdulla Khan’s daughter.  The fourth was with Bairam Khan’s widowed wife and Akbar’s cousin Salima Sultan Begum. He had four Rajput alliances and they were with the daughter of Bihari (Bhar) Mall of Amber, the niece of Rai Kiran Mall of Bikaner, the daughter of Rawal Har Rai of Jaisalmer and finally the daughter of the Raja of Dungarpur. There were many other marriages, such as the scandalous taking of Abdul Wasi’s beautiful wife (which I had written about earlier).  Then there was Qasima Banu daughter of Arab Shah, later Bibi Daulat Shad and finally the daughter of Naquib Khan. From all these wives, only one son survived, that was Salim who later on became known as the emperor Jahangir.

What is also clear was the amount of intense rivalry and intrigue in the Mughal courts and particularly between the wives at the harem. Not that it is surprising in any way, for it was common in every royal household what with the endowments and titles the girls families expected from such matrimonial and consortia alliances. Everything depended on the relation the girl managed to keep with the monarch. They are known to have tried all the tricks of the trade, including opium, alcohol and so on. But that is not the topic, so let’s move on…

Noorudin Islam points out that the Tabakat page 281, vol II clearly mentions the mother was Salima Sultana. But I could not find any such reference other than the cryptic statement ‘As one of the consorts became enciente at this time, His Majesty took her to SikrI, and left her in the house of the Shaikh’. However it is true that Salima was in charge of Akbar’s Zenana and had mediated on Jahangir’s behalf. It is still a possibility that she was Maryam Zamani for Kaviraj Shyamal Das opines- Salimah Sultan was considered the guardian of Akbar's zanana, and all the children of Akbar and Jahangir were tended by her: it was for this very reason that she mediated on Jahangir's behalf, when he had fallen out with Akbar, and brought him to Court from Allahabad. Jahangir regarded her as his mother, and she in turn looked upon him as her son. She could in theory be therefore a strong contender for the identity of Maryam Zamani.

The learned Beveridge mentions - I still think the silence of all the leading historians remarkable. Neither Abu-l-Fazl, nor Nizamu-d-din, nor Badaoni, nor Firishtah nor Khafi Khan mentions Bihari Mall's daughter as Jahangir's mother. This cannot have been the result of bigotry; for Abu-l-Fazl, at least, was no bigot, and he and some of the others mention the marriage of Bihari Mall's daughter with approval. If they approved of the marriage, why should they not have approved of its resulting in the birth of a son? He however admits that the Tawarikh-i-Salim which he checked mentions that Jahangir married a daughter of Bihari Mall, and had by her his son Khusru.. But he adds - There is a curious statement in the Tawarikh-i-Salim (Price, p. 47), that Akbar had a son by Bibi Maryam who was placed under the care of Raja Bihari Mall, confounding the matter even further.

The book on the Kachhwahas makes their potential connection to Jahangir clear by quoting Jahangir himself - Tuzuk-i-jahangiri (p15)- I made Raja Man Singh who was one of the greatest and most trusted noblemen of my father, and had obtained alliances with this illustrious family, inasmuch as his aunt had been in my father's house (i.e. was his wife), and I had married his sister, and Khusrau and his sister Sultanu-n-nisa Begam, the latter of whom is my eldest child, were born of her. (Refeqat adds - Had Mansingh’s paternal aunt, i.e. Bharmall’s daughter been Jahangir’s mother, he would have mentioned it since he spoke highly of Mansingh). A table of births (Abul fazl) also shows a blank against Jahangir, which was the custom if it was a concubine and not a noble (Note here that the table shows Hindu mothers as daughter of and none is mentioned as d/o Bhram Mall). A related fact is that Mansingh, developed an intense dislike for Jahangir towards his later days.

Now let us take a look at a contemporary work - which is the record left behind by Dutch trader
Francisco Pelsaert. This was a very enterprising young man, who lived in Agra during Jahangir’s time and played with super high stakes. He gambled with VOC money, and had connections with Mughal women of high standing. In 1618 he sailed for the east in the Dutch company's commercial service and two years later was posted to India as junior merchant. After travelling overland from Masulipatam to Surat, he was sent to Agra where he stayed for seven years, becoming a senior merchant. He lived in Agra during 1620-27 for all of seven years and should have been in the thick of things. He loaned money, he hobnobbed with suppliers and other traders, he embezzled money for himself in the process and he traded in Indigo, a matter close to the heart of Maryam Zamani. In 1626 he wrote an account of the Mogul Empire, which was translated from the Dutch by W. H. Moreland and P. Geyl, and published as Jahangir's India -The Remonstrantie of Francisco Pelsaert

He mentions the following in his book, while describing Agra - Beginning from the north, 8 there is the palace of Bahadur Khan, who was formerly king of the fortress of Asir (5 kos from Burhanpur) . Next is the palace of Raja Bhoj, father of the present Rai Ratan, Governor of Burhanpur 4 (rank 5000 horse). Then come Ibrahim Khan (3000 horse); Rustam Kandahari (5000 horse); Raja Kishan Das (3000 horse) ; Itiqad Khan, the youngest brother of Asaf Khan (5000 horse); Shahzada Khanam, sister of the present king, who was married to Muzaffar Khan (formerly King of Gujarat) ; Goulziaer Begam, this king's mother; Khwaja Muhammad Thakaar (2000 horse); Khwaja Bansi, formerly steward of Sultan Khurram (the translator adds a foot note - This should represent Guljar Begam, but the name of Jahangir's mother is not elsewhere recorded, her official title was Maryam-uz-Zamani, which Pelsaert gives below as "Maryam Makani”.

Going on to describe the fort he says - There is little or no room within the Fort, it being occupied by various princely edifices and residences, as well as mahals, or palaces for ladies. Among these is the palace of Maryam Makani, wife of Akbar and mother of Jahangir, as well as three other mahals, named respectively Itwar (Sunday), Mangal (Tuesday), and Sanichar (Saturday), in which the King used to sleep on the day denoted by the name, and a fifth, the Bengali Mahal, occupied by ladies of various nations. Internally then the Fort is built over like a city with streets and shops, and has very little resemblance to a fortress, but from the outside anyone would regard it as impregnable.

We can see that the use of a term Maryam Zamani is missing and Palseart persists with Maryam Makani, who was actually the mother of Akbar, but what is glaring is the fact that he gave a proper name to Jahangir’s mother and that she had a Haveli at the edge of Agra and that another ‘mother’ potentially Maryam Zamani, had a palace within the Red Fort. Considering that Palseart was known to be very correct with his facts, it is clear that Jahangir’s mother was one Gulzar (Gulizaror Goulziaer) Begam.

Could that be one of the Gulizar Begam’s in the court and Zenana of Akbar, i.e. the two well-known women? One was the sister of Mirza Kamran, Akbar’s cousin, and the other was Kamran’s (unmarried) daughter, the latter being the one who went on a hajj with Gulbadan Begam (who wrote the Humayun Nama). Assuming that the elder Gulizar could be Maryam Zamani does draw some merit, since Kamran Mirza had intimate connections with Lahore. As we discussed previously, Maryam Zamani built a mosque in Lahore and had a house in the village of Dahr near Lahore. But we are not sure that she lived within the fort, all we know from Palseart’s writings is that she had her own haveli.

So we are left thus with three contenders, all staunch Muslims, for the god mother position. Salima Sulatan, Ruqayah Sultana Begam and the elder Gulizar Begam. One of the three above was Maryam Zamani who went on to build the mosque in Lahore and the baoli at bayana, as well as contribute liberally and be a patron of many charities. Now Salima and Ruqayah were Akbar’s wives, so they had their own quarters within the fort. The person who lived outside in a haveli could thus e the Gulizar Bagam.

According to Jehangir, Maryam Zamani passed away in 1623 (9th May 1623 "On this day news came from Agra that Her Highness (Hazrat) Maryam-uz-Zamani, by the decree of God, had died). Now we know that Salima passed away in 1613 and her body was laid to rest at the Mandarkar Garden in Agra. Ruqayah sultana passed away in 1626, and she was buried on the fifteenth level in the Gardens of Babur (Bagh-e-Babur) in Kabul, Afghanistan. If you cross those two out based death dates, the only remaining senior person who could have been Jahangir’s god mother or step mother is Gulizar, the sister of Kamran and the wife of the late Yadgar Nasir Mirza. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that the other two women cared very much for Jahangir.

The business transactions conducted by the royal women from inside the Zenana or around were through multiple layers and involved many other persons. Who therefore was the queen mother referred to by the traders and how about the fact that Maryam Zamani owned a ship Rahimi and traded with the English and the Dutch? As such the real owner of the ship was Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, Salima Sultana’s step son. Rahim was incidentally a ‘Navaratna’, a honored poet in Akbar’s court. It is only conjuncture that the queen mother was the real owner working behind him. Perhaps Salima Sultana was that person, not Maryam Zamani, and it is not mentioned so to my knowledge by Hawkins or others.

As for Maryam Zamani’s tomb, it is unlikely this had anything to do with any Rajput wife of Akbar, perhaps it was indeed Gulijar Begam’s tomb or for that matter, Maryam’s tomb is one of the two at the Baoli in Bayana where it is felt Maryam Zamani spent her final years.

And how about the Mariam palace in the Fathepur Sikri? That is another intriguing story which we will discuss another day.

As always, this is an open discussion based on various resources I perused. More research is needed to conclusively determine the facts, which I doubt will happen considering that most people seem comfortable identifying Bharm Mall’s daughter to be Jahangir’s mother.

A few of the references perused

The story of Akbar’s Christian Wife - Rev H Heras
Mughal marriages, A politico-religious and legal study- Ansari Zahid Khan (Pakistan Historic society journal)
Maryam Zamani’s baoli at Bayana – A note – Rajiv Bargoti
Farman of Maryam Zamani, mother of Emperor jahangir – Khan Sahib Zafar Hassan
Jahangir’s india - The Remonstrantie of Francisco Pelsaert WH Moreland
Edicts from the Mughal harem – SAI Tirmizi
Akbat the greatest Moghul – SM Bruke
Waterworks of Mediaeval Bayana – Natalie Shokoohy
Maryam Zamani mosque - the earliest dated Mughal period mosque at Lahore – Saeed Tahir
ShahJehan – Fergus Nicoll
Akbar’s Queen Mary - HS Hoston
The topography of the Mughal empire as known to the Dutch - Joannes De Laet ( Tr-E Lethbridge)
East India Company records 1602-1613
Early travels in India – 1583-1619 Ed William Foster
The female missionary intelligencer May 1, 1868 (Tomb of Mariam Zamani)
History behind the terracotta paintings – Md Noorul Islam
The Kachhwahas under Akbar and Jahangir – Kunwar refaqat Ali Khan
Identity of Jahangir’s mother- Aparna Chattopadhaya (Journal of Indian History 68-71, 1192)
The Mother of Jahangir - H. Beveridge and reply by Kaviraj Shyamal Das
The Tuzuk Jahangiri

Pics – Maryam Zamani mosque (courtesy Dawn 13-05-2015 ) 

Farrukhi – A capital shortlived

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Tipu Sultan’s new Malabar Capital and the Farrukhi mint

There is some mystery involved in the town of Feroke, and its antiquity boasts of it being the capital of Tipu’s Malabar, though quite short lived. The first hint of the town’s name comes from Tipu’s own writings about his dreams, where he mentions of a particular dream involving white elephants (and later, a second one dealing with a bear) from China while returning from Farrukhi (near Calicut) and camped near Salamabad (Satyamangalam near Coimbatore). More precisely, in history it is named as Paramukku, a desam in Beypore amsham about 6 miles distant from Calicut town wherein 1788 Tipu apparently built a fort and projected the founding of a new capital. It is indeed cryptic and we have only very little information on the establishment of Feroke and its instilment as a Malabar capital in the amsam of Nelluru. Let’s take a look at what we have.

But before Tipu’s arrival in Malabar, the region boasted an ancient habitat. Let us check out that story. The person who brought it to fame was one Madam Blavatsky. Helena Blavatsky was a very interesting person and deserves more than an article to just introduce her. If you did not know her already, she was a Russian occultist, philosopher, and author who co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. Theosophy according to her was reviving an "Ancient Wisdom" which underlay all the world's religions. In 1880 she and her American husband friend Olcott moved to India, where the Society was allied to the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement and were later headquartered in Adayar. The couple became the first Westerners to officially convert to Buddhism. Theosophy spread rapidly in India but experienced internal problems after Blavatsky was accused of producing fraudulent paranormal phenomena. In 1885 she moved back to Europe and published many works, with “The Secret Doctrine’ as one of them.

In Secret Doctrine, she stated - E. Biot, a member of the Institute of France, published in his Antiquites de France, Vol. ix., an article showing the Chatam peramba (the Field of Death, or ancient burial ground in Malabar), to be identical with the old tombs at Carnac -- "a prominence and a central tomb." . . . "Bones are found in them (the tombs)," he says, "and Mr. Hillwell tells us that some of these are enormous, the natives (of Malabar) calling the tombs the dwellings of Rakshasas (giants)." Several stone circles, "considered the work of the Panch Pandava (five Pandus), as all such monuments are in India, so numerous in that country," when opened by the direction of Rajah Vasariddi, "were found to contain human bones of a very large size." (T. A. Wise, in "History of Paganism in Caledonia," p. 36).

I perused the original Biot article, but he had never mentioned Chatanparamba, in fact he just mentioned the existence of circular formations illustrated with sketches and adding some of the above text. Deccan and the mention of Raja Vassiriddi etc started giving me the feeling that something was off in Balavatsky’s quotes. Furthur research led me to an authoritative note by A Aiyappan on the very subject which confirmed the stone structures, capped kudakallus (umbrella or mushroom covers), the rock cut tombs in Feroke and the details of the excavations in 1931 by Prof Dubreuil and Ayappan himself. Ayappan believes there were Samadhi or Nirvana locations of an old Buddhist community. The tombs were complete with some tripod stands, urns and a few more artifacts, though they had already been ravaged by treasure hunters by the time these 20th century archeologists reached there. Prof Dubreuil believed they were of Vedic origin, and he thought they were agnidriyas or fire houses. In all they acquired about twenty-five objects of burial urns, pottery, four-legged urns, clay models of doga, brinjals, iron objects, cornelian beads etc The general conclusions after a detailed study was that these were pre 200BC rock tombs. The location of these in Feroke is at Chenapparambu, not Chatan parambu.

Let us not dwell too much on it now and go to another period, when Tipu Sultan following on his father Hyder’s heels, decided to move his administrative headquarters to Feroke. Was it because the old Samoothiri Kovilakom had been burnt down to ground after the Zamorin immolated himself in 1766?

In English and Mysore records you will find the town variously mentioned or transliterated as Ferokhi, Furkhy, Farrukhi, Furruckabad or Ferrockhee, Feroke cutchery or Ferokhabad. The translations and origins of the name Feroke are also varied while some historians believed it was from a man of fame named Umar Farukh while others insist it is Feroke meaning ‘prosperous town’. In Tipu’s writings, he calls it Farrukhi. Some others explain that Farrukhi means happiness. Tipu also had a coin mint established in the area, after destroying the Zamorin’s mint at Calicut.

The joint commissioner’s report mentions Tipus visit in April 1788 as when the decision was taken to move the capital to Feroke. On the occasion of this visit which Tippoo made to Malabar as sovereign, he projected the removal of its capital from the old seat of it at Calicut, to a much preferable station between seven and eight miles from its mouth (which is better adapted to become a seaport than any other within the province), where he laid the foundation of a fort and city, on which he bestowed the name of Furrukabad or Ferokhia, and compelled the natives of Calicut, much against their inclinations,(though apparently with the wisest political intentions) to remove thither: but since the war in 1790, they have all returned to their former abodes, so that hardly a vestige now remains of the new capital.

An analysis of the Farokhi Pagoda (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 52) coin reveals the following summary- This coin is known as the "Farokhi pagoda" and, according to Hawkes, "is supposed to have been so called by Tippu in honor of a new sect of this name." Others state that it was so designated from the circumstance, that Farokhi was a title of one of Muhammad's successors. Marsden (Vol. II, p. 717) observes regarding the term "on some of the copper money we shall find it to stand, apparently, for the name of a place, otherwise called New Calicut." At first I was inclined to adopt the last suggestion, and there seems little doubt that in some cases the words Farokhi patan do indicate that the coin was struck at a fort near Calicut, which, according to Wilks, was called "Ferrockhee." In other instances this cannot be the case. Thus on the hun described by Marsden, Part II, p. 716, the place of mintage given along with the word Farokhi is Hyder Nagar (Bednur). Probably the term was originally adopted as a pious token of respect for one of Muhammad's successors, and subsequently in some cases did double duty by expressing this and also the place of mintage.

The English reports of Tipu’s rule (though it should not be believed as such) are not flattering. They state - Calicut, having with other parts of Malabar cast off the yoke of Hyder, was, in 1773, reconquered by the Mysorean ruler, whose forces were, however, in 1782, driven out by the British. Tippoo Sultan retook the place in 1789, and treated the inhabitants with a studied and detestable cruelty, thus described by Bartolomeo, who was then in the vicinity: "He was preceded by 30,000 barbarians, who butchered every person who came in their way, and by his heavy cannon, under the command of General Lally, at the head of a regiment of artillery. Then followed Tippoo Sultan himself, riding on an elephant, and behind marched another corps, consisting of 30,000 men also. The manner in which he behaved to the inhabitants of Calicut was horrid. A great part of them, both male and female, were hung. He first tied up the mothers, and then suspended the children from their necks. The cruel tyrant caused several Christians and heathens to be brought out naked, and made fast to the feet of his elephants, which were then obliged to drag them about till their limbs fell in pieces from their bodies." Such of the men as were not immediately massacred, whether Brahmins or Christians, were forcibly subjected to the initiatory rite of Mahomedanism, or at best had the option of submitting thereto or being hanged. The foreign merchants and factors were expelled; and with the view of utterly ruining it, the cocoanut trees and sandal-trees in the adjoining country were cut down, and the pepper-vines torn up by the roots.

The city was almost completely demolished, and most of the materials taken to Nellura, six miles to the south-eastward, where they were used to build a fort and town called by Tippoo Sultan, Furruckabad, or Fortunate Town, "a fancy," says Colonel Wilks, "which afterwards nearly proved fatal to his troops, by leaving them the choice of a ruin or an unfinished work as points of retreat and rendezvous." In the latter part of 1790, the Mysorean force, having been concentrated in the neighbourhood of Calicut, was attacked by a British detachment commanded by Colonel Hartley, and totally defeated ; Tippoo's general was made prisoner with 900 of his men, and 1,500 more laid down their arms at the "fortunate town," whither they had been pursued by the conquerors. Under the treaty concluded in 1792, which deprived Tippoo of half his dominions, Calicut fell to the share of the East-India Company, and was formally incorporated with the British dominions. After this event the scattered survivors of the population returned and rebuilt their dwellings; and Buchanan, at the time of his visit in 1800, found the number of houses considerable, and the prosperity and population rapidly on the increased.

Before its apparent destruction by Tipu, the town of Calicut apparently contained between 6,000 and 7,000 houses. When the province of Malabar was conquered by the English, in 1790, the former inhabitants of Calicut returned to their old abode. In 1800 Calicut again contained more than 5,000 houses. The new town of Feroke, had thus, a short lifespan of only twenty four months - from May 1788 to December 1790.

I had covered the last battle at Feroke in an earlier blog, but catching up to Mahtab Khan who had retreated to Feroke, Mahtab Khan had retreated to Ferokabad, and the Colonel resolved to pursue him, and accordingly marched next morning, 11th December, but as he approached the place, he heard that Mahtab Khan had fled the night before with 200 men, and all the treasure loaded on elephants, towards Tambercherry Pass. Fifteen hundred men laid down their arms as our Troops entered Ferokabad, Beypore, and all the vessels in the Calicut Harbour submitted, and six thousand inhabitants. Colonel Hartley's success will be followed with the most important advantages. The whole country is now reduced from Tellicherry to Cochin, and the Zamorin again put in possession of his hereditary dominions. He has sent out his Nayrs to clear the country of Tippoo's adherents.

Now having seen what the English had to say and the very little the Mysore rulers mentioned, let us go on to study the antiquity of Nellura. In fact there are some doubts that the Paramukku fort was built by Tipu. A study by S Nalapat states - Paramukku (The corner of Parappanad) now called Feroke after Tipu named it as Ferokabad with a ferry (Beypuram ferry) and 2 miles above it in Ernad is the field with megalithic remnants of old Cheranad, Ernad families and ancestors. Beads and urns were excavated here. The agate beads and urns are ancient settlement remnants of the people. Captain Gillham found a very ancient fortress at the mouth of Beypore River the walls strongest at west and northwest and north angles where foundations were 13’ across and 2’-3’ deep commencing on coarse sand and shelly bottom. Southwest it is of laterite stones and chunamb, and there are small portions of masonry and concrete leveling. Who made that fort, a Parappanad Raja maybe? The assumption that it was Tipu’s fort was by the British and not quite proven.

In reality, only a well and a small building for storing magazine were constructed at the site. The remnants of the fort built in laterite at Paramukku, Kottasthala, was declared an archaeological monument in 1991 under the Protected Monuments Sites and Remains Act of 1968. A well with a 12-metre diameter can be found in the compound with two mini wells inside this huge well. There is a long tunnel that leads from the premises of the fort to the river. Tipu’s dream of founding a new capital had to be abandoned after he was compelled to retire to Coimbatore due to the approaching monsoon. But it is certain that his administrative officers lived in Farrukhi during 1788-1790. Tlpu himself visited Malabar early in 1788 and made a stay of several months, during which arrangements were made for transferring the seat of government from Calicut to Feroke. Calicut was taken by British troops towards the close of 1790, and by the treaty of Seringapatam in 1792, the Malabar district came under the jurisdiction of the East India Company. The usual spelling of the mint-town is that given above, but on some of the coins it is 'Kallkut'.

From Tipu’s letters we can see that in his communications during 1786 concerning Athan Gurukkal (who together with other Malabar Moplahs are not considered as Muslims by Tipu!), Arshad Beg is addressed as Faujdar of Calicut and Abdul Kareem as Sipahdar of Calicut. By 1788, he is seen to be writing to Husain Ali khan, faujdar of Farrukhi and later Muhammad Ali, Second Diwan of Farrukhi , confirming that the move/change of capital took place in 1788 and remained so in 1789. In his 1789 letter to Badruzzaman Khan, he states “Seven months ago [that is in August 1788] we proceeded in splendor for the purpose of settling the country of Farrukhi (Calicut), when calling together all the Nairs and Mopillas, we made enquiry respecting the state of the receipts and disbursements of the rayats; and having ascertained the same, remitted a third part of the amount which they had been accustomed to pay to the Sarkar, delivering at the same time to every one of the rulers or chief men of the country, a Hukm-namah (or mandate) to the following effect………In 1790, he writes to Syed Abdullah “Through the divine favour, and with the assistance of the refuge of prophesy (Muhammad) the whole of the infidels inhabiting the districts of Farrukhi (Calicut) have received the honour of Islamism [that is, have become Musalmans].

About the mint at Farrukhi, the following is stated by Sanket and Kapoor - One of the major mints during Mysorean rule over Malabar was Kozhikode (Calicut). This mint struck gold and silver coins, generally fanams and rupees, as well as copper coins. Coins have been recorded bearing dates 1195 AH to 1201 AH (1215AM) which coincides with 1780-1787 AD. However in 1788 AD the mint in Calicut was closed and destroyed and the Mysorean administration centre in Malabar was moved to Farukhabad (Farrukhi). This newly founded mint took over the tasks of the earlier Calicut mint. Gold fanams and copper paisas were struck here. The last date recorded on coins from this mint is 1218 AM (1790 AD). The fort at Farrukhi was taken by Colonel Hartley, after the defeat of Tipu’s army under Husain Ali and the mint ceased was shut down.

Quoting Bhandare & Stevens, Farrukhi is the name was given to the place now known as Feroke situated on the south bank of the Beypore River, about seven miles to the south of Calicut. In 1788, Tlpu Sultan, no doubt prompted; by similar reasons to those which led to the destruction of the town of Mysore, demolished Calicut and commenced the erection of a fort a few miles away, around which in course of time it was, hoped a new Calicut would arise. The fort was still unfinished on 10th December 1790, when it was taken by Colonel Hartley, after the defeat of Tipu's army under Husain All. The designation of this mint is no more intelligible than are most of Tipu's newly invented names, but in this case it has persisted to the present day, thus affording a solitary instance of the term which he adopted coming into general use.

During the Mysore occupation, currency m Calicut is seen to have undergone a drastic change Initially, Tipu ordered a variant of the gold 'Vira Raya' Fanams to be struck there This variety is inscribed with a Persian letter he and called the 'Bahadun Vira Raya' Fanam In tune with Tipu's currency reforms after he ascended the Mysore throne in 1782, he introduced a Paisa-Rupee-Pagoda system in Calicut He also opened a new mint in the region at Feroke (Farrukhi), located near Calicut, which, during the later part of his reign, became the principal mint for copper and gold While gold and copper issues of both Calicut and Feroke under Tipu (namely fanams and paisas) are fairly numerous, silver is exceedingly rare for these mints This phenomenon was probably an outcome of the large issue of French and British silver fanams in the preceding years

Tipu's fort - Feroke
PP Mohammed Koya writing about Feroke states that the fort building started in April 1788, and the view from atop the Mammally hill, 105 ft above provided a clear view of Kallayi, Beypore, Calicut, Chalium etc. proving that it was a strategic selection for a capital and a fort at Nallura. The fort was situated in a 9 acre area. Farrukhi was notable for the imprisonment of Ayaz Khan and the hanging of the Mangat Achan. The nearby Pettah housed the trade establishments and the ‘jivahani parambu’ was where hangings took place. A mosque in that vicinity was where Tipu met the Kondotty Thangal. It appears that there are still some Hanafi Deccani Muslim families living in the area, remnants of Tipu’s soldiers and administrators from Mysore. Later it became a camping area for British soldiers and was known as Paramukku. The area behind the fort was the Kottapadam. Other place names connected to this fort are Kottakadavu, Kottakkunnu, Kottasthala and Kottakkal Puzha. It was later acquired by one Hofman, then the commonwealth works and later Dr TP Muhammad.

So much for a capital of the Mysore sultan, which remained a work in progress..

The coins of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan – JR Henderson
A Unique Over-struck Paisa of Tipu Sultan - Purnanand Sanket, Mohit Kapoor
Dreams of Tipu Sultan –
Original letters of Tippoo Sultaun – asiatic annual register, For the Year 1810-11.
"Bombay Billys" The British Coinage for the Malabar Coast - A reappraisal By Drs. Shailendra Bhandare & Paul Stevens (Oriental Numismatic Society Newsletter # 172, 2002)
Kozhikode Muslimgalude Charitram – PP Mohammed Koya
History of paganism in Caledonia – Thomas A Wise
Rock cut cave tombs of Feroke – A Aiyappan (Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society Vol.23)
The secret Doctrine - Blavatsky

Fort photo courtesy Kallivalli.blogspot 

Checkout the following videos on the Feroke Tipu Fort, 1 and 2