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China Kuttiali Marakkar

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Chinna or China?

The exact identities of the various Marakkars have continued to confuse me throughout my Malabar studies. We all know Kunhali IV and his story, especially the  final stages when the Portuguese managed to capture and behead him, to ‘apparently’ bring an end to the line of Malabar corsairs and admirals of the Zamorin. But there is one Marakkar who has slipped the cracks as they say, in history books and got lost or miscast. He was the most notorious of the lot, perhaps the most powerful, yet he is mentioned only briefly. Why so? Let’s uncover his story.

Ottoman links to Medieval Calicut

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Pre Khilafat Turkiye Malabar Connections, ante 1919

Some years ago, I had touched on the connections between Malabar and Turkey in relation to the Khilafat movement of the 1920’s and how and why it all fizzled out, culminating with the terrible days of the 1921 uprising. But Ottoman Turkey did have a link with the muezzins of Calicut and the clergy at Ponnani even before all that. I may have touched on the subject while writing about the Fathul Mubeyin, but let’s now see how it all adds up.

Hari Singh, Haider Ali and the Zamorin

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A Punjabi adventurer and Calicut 1756-58

It is certainly a point of interest to note that a Punjabi adventurer in the employment of Devarajaiya the ruler of Mysore had something substantial to do with the eventual fall of Calicut in 1766. Not may are aware of this sub plot in the advance of Haider towards Malabar and how Haider usurped the Mysore throne. Let’s take a look.

The Moplah Rifles (1902-1907)

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A Short Lived experiment

Many have asked me why I continue to use the word Moplah, and not the word Mappila. I have no real answer to that, perhaps it is because it is more often used in historical text and finds more results in searches. I have also never been a great supporter of changing well accepted names like Bombay to Mumbai and Madras to Chennai, but then I should not digress. We will spend some time today studying the creation and the untimely disbanding of the Moplah Rifles in the British Army.

The Kunisseri Mamamkam

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The Kummatti at Kunisseri

Nestling between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea is the rice bowl of Malabar, todays Palakkad. Its strategic location and rich agricultural tradition was a cause for many a battle. Primary was its produce being important for expanding populations and secondly because it was the entry point of the Tamilakam trade route, i.e. the Palakkad gap. Carts and animals of trade carried produce back and forth through a domestic highway of sorts. As time went by and the kingdoms in North Malabar became more and more affluent and populated, and as import of rice from the Konkan and Coromandel rice traders came under threat, the southern rice producing areas became even more important.The Palghat rajas, whom we talked about in the past, were not always the overlords of the entire district as we know it today, since some parts of it were either under the suzerainty of either the Zamorin or the Kochi raja.


Napoleon, India and the Russian intrigues – Part 1

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The Oriental conquest for the Golden Sparrow 1801

We are all so used to speaking English these days, but can you imagine a prospect of a French speaking India? Well it could have happened if Napoleon had followed on with his oriental dreams of acquiring the golden sparrow and won the battles with the British. Napoleon was quite vocal about his desire to conquer the East from the very beginning, as he remarked after his first Italian Campaign: ''My glory is already at an end; there is not enough of it in this little Europe. I must go to the East; all great glory comes from there." While his loss at the battle of Waterloo is apparent to most, the Indian aspirations of Napoleon are not so well known.

The Mystery of the Zamorin’s Coronation Stone

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And its Chinese connections

Those perusing texts written by personnel accompanying the Portuguese navigators and administrators after the 15th century may have come across mentions of a sacred stone connected to the Cochin king’s or varyingly, the Zamorin’s coronation. Some of the legends connected with it make interesting reading and so I thought it a good idea to cover it.