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


  1. Maxbinder

    Thank you Maddy .....hope you will some day consider collating and publishing your posts as a treatise on Malabar history. I feel indebted to you for the sheer passion and effort you have put forth in dusting out our historical facts for all to read. Till few years back History was just confined to the halls of university to be transmuted into some dissertation to satisfy the faculty trends on the time. What you have done to Malabar history is akin and more to what William Dalrymple has done to Indian History. Thank you.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks Maxbinder..
    I will certainly try and get it all together, in steps. My plan is to start next year. and, readers....your encouragement is the most important part of it.

  1. Walter Mason

    Hi Maddy - one little correction - Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott were not married and were not romantically linked. Friends only - perhaps you could say teacher and student.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks Walt
    So corrected, apologies....

  1. aks

    Awesome stuff ! Just what I was always looking for and never knew where to find ! My father is from Feroke and my mother from Calicut, and I've always had a lot of questions and fascination about the history of the region. Back in school, they never taught this kind of history and coming across your blog is like discovering a treasure trove. I shall be spending a number of days going over it :)
    Your articles seem to be very well researched and written. Kudos !


  1. Kiron Ponnath

    Could you elaborate on why Tipu conquered Kerala and how is it not explained as a Genocide? Do you know how much of ethnic cleansing was done in that short period? Just because he faced tough resistance from British he fought agianst them, and now he's celebrated as "freedom fighter" as well. I don't understand the purpose of glorifying him. I am keeping religion out of equation so do not read on that lines.

  1. Maddy

    Thanks Akhil
    you will find plenty to read here..
    glad you enjoyed this...

  1. Maddy

    Yes, Tipu and Hyder did upset the entire social fabric of the Malabar at that time (not Kerala) and a lot of misdeeds were done by them. For us from Malabar, he was therefore no hero..But there is still no complete & authentic record of the Mysore Sultan's rule and British records are somewhat tainted..

    On the other hand, if you view the British as the enemy, then anybody who was against them is a friend of sorts, perhaps that is the reason why some support Tipu.

  1. aks

    "On the other hand, if you view the British as the enemy, then anybody who was against them is a friend of sorts, perhaps that is the reason why some support Tipu." - I can see where they come from, but it is a flawed logic. By that logic, Hitler would be a freedom fighter too, since he fought the British. Tipu is certainly no Freedom Fighter. He fought to save his realm from a bigger invader, not for the "freedom" of his country.