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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

The many mysteries behind the Cheng Ho Voyages

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Much is written about the voyages of Cheng Ho. In fact there is even a voluminous book just listing bibliography of published works detailing Cheng Ho’s life and time. But how much of all that is conjecture, myth, lore and legend and how much of it is fact? That seems to be the biggest problem, because the scribes of the Ming period rewrote history and fudged fact with fiction with impunity, so much so that filtering truth from them is an art in itself. The importance of the voyages, the treasure ships themselves which awed and terrified onlookers from any shore, the expenses in making them, the reasons for these voyages and the reasons which ended the voyages are still steeped in mystery. The man behind it all, the seven foot tall Muslim eunuch, is who they say brought Islam to Melacca, defeated pirates, established relations and leaders, fought a war with a Lankan Monarch and took away Buddha’s tooth to Nanking. But Zheng He or Cheng Ho, who suddenly found himself adrift when his patron Chu Ti (Zhu Di - the Yong Le, Yung Lo monarch) passed away mysteriously, also met a mysterious end.

Those 35 or so years in history are testament to the heights reached by the Ming dynasty and the depths they sunk to, as events took its toll on the uncle who usurped the throne from his nephew. They are all connected in a way and it is always interesting to see just how fate intervened and upset a merrily trundling apple cart. And for that, we have to start at the very beginning with an ill-fated child king named Chien Wen, for it is, as Julie Andrews put it , ‘a very good place, to start’.

The Chien Wen period 1398-1402 was a turbulent phase in Ming history. It is closely tied to the succession issues which cropped up after Chu Yuan-Chan, the Hung Wu (1368-1398) Ming emperor died. Even though he had a number of powerful sons well placed in positions of governance in various provinces, he chose Chu Piao, the son of his principal consort Ma as his crown prince and successor, but as destiny would have it, this bloke passed away before his father, in 1392. The Emperor for some reason then chose this Chu Piao’s second son and his grandson, the 15 year old Chu Yun-Wen, as the crown prince. Chu Yun-wen ascended the throne in Nanking on 30 June 1398, at the age of twenty-one, a few days after his grandfather's death, much to the dismay of Chu Ti, his powerful warrior uncle, the 4th son of Chu Yuan-Chan and Prince of the Yan province (Yanjing, Beiping, Peking, Beijing). The position was very important for it was the Mongol frontier and at that time, an invasion by Timur was anticipated. Thus started the apparently benevolent Chien Wen reign, a period which is still a mystery due to its erasure from all records by Chu Ti, who usurped the throne a few years later following a civil war and much intrigue.

JianWen - Chu Yun-Wen
The changes the new emperor brought about were more for centralized governmental rule and the enforcement of the rule of civil law, reduction of taxes and finally clipping the powers of the regional chieftains, i.e. his own uncles, by abolishing their princedoms. But naturally, they were furious and the person who spearheaded the rebellion was the lone remaining (of the 5 who fell, two had died) Yen prince, his uncle Chu Ti. Now one should also take note that a rule existed that no princes should head to the Emperor’s capital Nanking (Nanjing) in the South unless there was a potential threat against the emperor by wicked officials. Secondly Chu Ti’s sons were being held in Nanjing as hostages. In 1399, Chu Yen-Wen made a blunder by sending back those sons to Peiping and Chu TI seizing the opportunity, rose against his nephew resulting in a 3 year civil war. By mid-1402, Chu Ti and his eunuch supported army (Zheng He included) broke through the Chin Chuan palace gates which had been clandestinely kept open by conspirators.

During the melee that followed with the arrival of the Yen prince's armies, the palace compound within the Nanking city walls was set ablaze. When the fire subsided, several badly burned bodies were produced and declared to be those of the emperor, his wife empress Ma, and his eldest son.The emperor's second son, Chu Wen-kuei, just two years old, was captured along with other surviving members of the imperial family. He was spared but was jailed with the others and released many years later. The true fate of the deposed Chien Wen emperor however remained a mystery.

As legends go, Chu Yun-Wen knew what was coming. He had been provided a lacquer box some time ago by a monk. He opened this, as Chu Ti broke through the gates. The sealed box contained a tonsuring knife, 10 pieces of silver and monk’s garb, enabling him and nine followers to escape from the palace through a secret passage. Some 13 more followers joined them later in exile. So stated the lore.

Yongle - Chu Ti
Chu Ti took over as a new emperor after ensuring that his nephews reign was expunged from all records and proclaimed the following year, as the first in the reign of Yung-lo (Lasting joy). Nevertheless, there was as it seems, popular sympathy for the previous emperor’s suffering and legends about his mysterious fate spread. Whether Chu Yun-wen died in a palace fire (as was officially announced) or escaped in disguise to live many more years as a recluse is perhaps a puzzle that troubled Chu Ti until his own death and has been a subject of conjecture by Chinese historians ever since. Some believe that Chu Ti did little to kill the rumors because he wanted people to believe that he had not killed his nephew, and had taken over the throne at a time of unrest in the country’s best interests. Whatever said, he would have desired to know where Chu Yen-Wen was and keep an eye on him.

The first Zhu Di confidante who was sent out to track down the Chien Wen emperor in the land areas around Nanjing and afar was one Hu Jung. He set out and came back twice with no information but assured the emperor that Chu Yun-Wen had no populist support and was no more a challenge. Many years later, in 1440 a monk named Yang Hising Hisiang appeared with 12 followers and claimed to be the Chien Wen emperor but this was quickly debunked as he was over 90 years old and the real emperor would have only been 64.

Zheng He’s (Ma he, San bao or Cheng Ho) association with Chu Ti had started in the 1380’s after he was captured from the Mongol armies and was castrated to become a eunuch. A huge, commanding man (his family records claim that he was seven feet tall, with a waist five feet in circumference, glaring eyes, and a stentorian voice), he was considered to be a fierce warrior and was very much involved in campaigns against the Mongols from 1393 to 1397. He is also believed to have played a key role in Chu Ti's move to Nanjing and the usurpation of the throne. Chu Ti was now in place, the eunuchs had replaced the scheming monks and the king was building up his image and power base while planning a move of the nation’s capital to Beijing. Getting back to the Chien Wen story, it was believed by some that Zhu Di requested Zheng to check all sea ports and countries he visited, if the Chien Wen emperor was hiding in any of those nations.

Meanwhile, Chu Ti was perturbed with the relations with Timur the Mongol whom he feared the most, for his envoys had not returned, not did those his father had sent some years earlier and it was becoming clear that Timur wanted to annex China next. Timur deputed his armies to build forts and farm the land at the borders well ahead of his attack so that when his large armies arrived, they had no supply issues. In Dec 1404, he commenced his march to China with some 200,000 troops. But as luck would have it, he died enroute in Feb 1405 and his son Shahrukh decided that war with China was not a good idea.

This was the background to the Ming voyages touching ports at South East Asia and South India. Many reasons were provided by subsequent historians as to why these apparently expensive voyages were planned and carried out under the captainship of Cheng Ho. While it could have very much been for the new monarch (who had secured the throne by force) to cement his position and obtain a tacit approval and formal recognition from the rest of the neighboring countries, especially those they traded with, it could have been a number of other reasons.

The reasons usually discussed are a) to search for and weed out the deposed Chien Wen emperor Chu Yun-wen, who was rumored to be wandering around the SE Asian countries in the guise of a monk b) to obtain support from Muslim countries and ward off a potential invasion by Timur c) encourage tributes and endorsement by the various foreign states of the fragile legitimacy of the new emperor d) to display China’s military prowess and extend the new emperor’s political influence e) to bolster and improve trade relations e) Southern expansion policy f) to fight off piracy in the South China seas.

It is quite clear that there was no need for a huge armada to go hunting for the Chien Wen emperor who was actually rumored to be lurking in the North Vietnam (Annam) area (South Vietnam was Champa) . Also by that time private shipping was virtually banned and only state sponsored ships piled the seas. But then again, Zhu Di could always have asked Zheng He to keep an eye out and the ears open for news about the absconding emperor. So that was not a reason, nor was the Timur invasion a reason for the attack was aborted and Chu Ti would definitely have heard of Timur’s demise, in time.

A treasure ship 
Starting in 1405, six expeditions were launched and continued through the reign of Chu Ti. With Chu Ti’s mysterious demise, the expeditions stopped, though a final 7th voyage captained by Cheng Ho traversed SE Asia, circumvented South India and touched African shores, one last time. When the ships came back, they were without their admiral, for he had met his end, as they say, at Calicut in 1433. The voyages, their composition and the routes are covered in so many sources, so I will not get into them. But let us for a moment check again some of the remaining reasons. Why were they launched with much fanfare and expense, when the very same Chinese had already been trading with the very same countries for many centuries before the Mings? They had a tributary system in place with Maabar and Quilon, as well as many other countries since the Sung period (I had covered some of this in the Sha-mi-Ti mystery article

During the Sung period, foreign trade flourished under private management, and half of the government's revenue came in the form of returns from monopolies and excise taxes. As much as twenty per cent of the cash income of the state came from maritime trade. The Emperor even stated: The profits from maritime commerce are very great. If properly man- aged they can be millions (of strings of cash). Is it not better than taxing the people? Before the fall of K'ai-feng in 1127, thirty-five per cent of the tribute with trade missions came to China by land and sixty-five per cent by sea. After this date, all tributes came by sea. So you can imagine how important sea trade was to China in those times and this continued through the Yuan period.

Even before Kublai Khan’s regime, Maabar was considered a Chinese tributary. During the Yuan period, Yang Tingbi had been deputed in 1280 to secure Qulion’s participation, perhaps also some other kingdoms with ports such as Xincun matou (Punnaikayal). Later, several delegations were sent from China either to Maabar and Quilon and, in fact, tribute trade between South India and Yuan-China flourished – particularly between Quilon and China as attested, for example, by Ibn Battuta.

During the early Ming period, even though maritime commerce was an exclusive monopoly of the state, and they believed in a larger Chinese world, the state readily accepted the contributions of the Arabs and Hindus in the fields of astronomy, geography and navigation. Places like Calicut and Berawala were of "strategic" importance within the larger networks of fifteenth century emporia trading, whereas older locales such as Kayal only had a minor significance (Perhaps due to the silting up of coastal waters in the Tambraparni delta and a subsequent deterioration of harbor facilities). So one reason would have been to cement ties with the Calicut Zamorin after the rise of Calicut and its establishment as a port. That the Chinese were close by and observing all this, is clear with the Chaliyum activities, as previously discussed when I mentioned the Sha-mi-ti story. 

And so the trips continued, tributes were made, Zheng he and party came and went a few times, they meddled around with some local affairs, placed steles and promoted trade, got some ‘ponnadas’ now and then for Zhu di. Large numbers of people came and went with the treasure voyages, ambassadors went and came back presumably with stories of the magnificence of China, especially the Forbidden City. Many who studied these made mentions of immense expenses incurred in these voyages, with good returns due to the opening up and promotion of trade with China. The treasure ships came back laden with what the Chinese needed. Glue, Gum, Cobalt blue, pepper, spices, hides, wood and so on arrived, while silk, clothes, umbrellas (palm leaf type), paper currency left its shores to pay for the goods.

The ships themselves were not that much of a drain to the state as is widely believed. Of the 2342 ships ordered during 1403-12, some 62-94 were large treasure ships. Also, 249 older transport ships were converted to handle Ocean voyages in 1408. An ocean going ship in 1408 cost aproximately 1000 piculs of rice (375 taels). Considering the state revenue which was 30 million piculs of rice or approximately 200,000 taels of silver, this shipbuilding was not really a huge drain on the coffers (in 1408) as some scholars felt. But by 1410 floods arrived, accompanied by famines and plague and the decade which followed was a disaster period (some felt that the plague came with Zheng he’s ships return voyages). Deaths were numerous and Chu Ti responded with subsidies to farmers and reduction of taxes. From 30 million piculs of rice, the state revenue dropped to 20 million. But Chinese reputation suffered and the paper currency depreciated terribly. A thousand strings of 1000 paper cash which fetched 1000 taels of silver or 250 taels of gold during the Hung-wu (pre Chien Wen) era was now worth only 12 taels of silver or 2.5 teals of gold!

As the Chinese economy suffered, the Mongols in the north invaded and troubles in southern Annam (Vietnam) areas surfaced. Chu Ti moved the capital to Peking in 1421 and further away from the sea ports at a huge expense. Perhaps many of these voyages were also meant to bring in material and equipment for the new capital, but that is a topic we will revisit another day. The entire expense in creating this new capital, feting of other nations ambassadors and so on was frowned upon by Chu Ti’s bureaucrats while he was busy trying to shore up the country against the marauding Mongols in the North leaving his son Shan Chi in command at Peking. All government expense was slashed, travel was curtailed and the treasure ship voyages temporarily stopped. But the 6th voyage of Cheng Ho was already planned and there were embassies of 19 states waiting to go back home. As the Mongols attacked from the north, Hsia Yuan Chi, Chu Ti’s commerce minister protested, was jailed and his war minister killed. Chu Ti then set out on his 5th campaign to take charge of the battles personally.

On August 12, 1424, the 64-year-old Yongle Emperor Chu Ti died on the march back to Beijing, at Yumachuan, after a fruitless search for the fleeing Oirats. Some say he was frustrated at his inability to catch up with his swift opponents, and that he fell into a deep depression and illness, possibly owing to a series of minor strokes or as one mention states, elixir poisoning. Some accounts mention that the emperor was partially paralyzed and took potions laced with arsenic as a stimulant and may have been slowly dying of arsenic poisoning. The king who was famous for his one finger Ch’an (whenever Chu-Ti was asked anything, he would just raise one finger) was gone.

Shan Chi took over, reinstated Hsia Yuan Chi as finance minister, reduced taxes and brought about a series of austerity measures. All sea voyages were banned. All imports were stopped, so also purchase of horses and teak. But there was a problem with the large numbers of crews (some 200,000 of them) in Cheng Ho’s fleet. Shan Chi ordered Zheng He’s deputies to round up all those sailors and proceed to Nanjing and garrison the palace.

Cheng Ho had at this point of time been deputed on a special mission to Palembang, in order to confer a seal of office on the Ming appointed Chinese chief of that Sumatran city. He knew of his master’s death only after he returned. He was then placed in command of the Nanjing palace forces in 1425. The new king now decided to move the capital back to Nanjing but he died in the same year. The sailors were next put to work on repairing the palaces at Nanjing and the great tomb of Chu Ti. Later as the insurgence in Annam grew, many of these sailors were sent south to fight that battle, but as fate would have it, they were trapped and many were decimated. Some were deputed to the grain transportation barge service.

Cheng Ho continued to work on palace repairs with the remaining men, even requesting the new monarch that they be rewarded for their hard work, but got his wrists slapped for making frivolous requests. They were then commanded to complete the mausoleum for the empress Ma. Presumably many were frustrated about all this and a number of them dispersed, many retrained themselves for other jobs and thus the huge number of sailors of the great treasure voyages were soon mostly gone.

No more ships were built, for those shipwrights were no longer available, and the stores had no supplies of wood or other building material, by 1426. The techniques of constructing these massive ships had also been lost. In fact much of that wood was given to the people of Nanking in 1424, when there were fuel shortages, for a pittance. Many of the remaining 118,000 shipbuilders were moved in 1426 to Peking in order to build the mausoleum for the Hung-hsi emperor.

In 1430, the finance minister Hsia Yuan chi died and the new king finally sanctioned the last or 7th voyage. It took a year for Cheng Ho to get everything ready, and it was made up of reconditioned ships from earlier voyages and a few sailors Cheng Ho could find, plus a few new recruits. The voyage which set out in 1431 returned after two years, this time also touching new shores in Africa and the Middle East and Mecca. That Cheng Ho died in this voyage is clear, for in 1434, Wang Cheng was appointed to his post as chief supervisor of the department of ceremonials.

Cheng Ho as is reported, died at Calicut and was apparently buried at Niu-erh-shan outside Nanking. The ships were in Calicut in the last days of March and Mid-April 1433, so that was the time when he passed away. And with his demise, the death knell was sounded on the Ming voyages. The economy continued to deteriorate, the troubles in Annam became worse and the new emperor had to sue with them for peace. Up North, the Chinese lost to the Mongols and the Ming king was taken prisoner. And with all that, Ming China shuttered its gates, ports, and shores, effectively walling itself off from the outside world.

A dynamic era had come to a close….

People ask, what would have happened if Cheng Ho had to contend with the new entrants, the Portuguese, at the shores of Malabar? It is difficult to say, but with the information above, it is apparent that the contest would not have been one sided or fully in favor of the Chinese, but at the same time, the Portuguese would not have acted with impunity as they did, after 1498. 

The Cambridge History of China- Volume 7, the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Yuan and Early Ming Notices on the Kayal Area in South India – Roderich Ptak
The Emergence of China as a Sea Power during the Late Sung and Early Yuan Periods: Jung-Pang Lo
The termination of the early Ming naval expeditions (papers in honor of Prof Woodbridge Bingham) – Jung-Pang Lo
The Formation of Chinese Maritime Networks to Southern Asia, 1200-1450 - Tansen Sen
Cheng Ho and Timur – Any relation – Morris Rosabi
On the ships of Cheng Ho – Pao Tsen PAng

The Chien-wen reign name was belatedly restored by the Wan-li emperor in October 1595 as part of an abortive project to compile a history of the Ming dynasty. However, it was not until July 1644, 242 years later, that the Southern Ming ruler the Prince of Fu (Chu Yu-sung, d. 1646) assigned to the emperor the temple name Hui-tsung (Magnanimous Ancestor) and the posthumous name Jang Huang-ti (Abdicated Emperor). The latter honorific title was chosen in response to the popular belief that the emperor did not die in the palace fire, but willingly abdicated the throne in favor of his uncle in order to mitigate the general disaster of the civil war.

The Zheng He ships are a subject of much discussion, and their sizes vary greatly in different accounts. They were supposedly 44 chang long, 18 chang wide (1 chang=3.3mts) and built at Lungkiang near Nanking. Woodcuts of these ships show 4 masts, while some showed 3, but they were not complete records. General design notes stated that for every 10 chang length, two masts were required. Further studies by Pao Tsen Pang and others establish that the big ships should have had 9 masts and that the armada comprised many types of treasure ships. The pictures of the largest with more than 4 masts are not available.