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Pooku Moosa Marakkar

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And his involvement in Travancore affairs - Marthanda Varma’s reign

This is yet another interesting medieval trader who made his name and lost it after a lifetime of high-risk balancing acts between the various players at the trade scenes of Travancore during the 18th century. His rise to fame was meteoric, from a simple trader to providing military support to Marthanda Varma with his pathemari boat fleet, going on to become Marthanda Varma’s confidante, and eventually ending up as the Travancore sarvadi karyakkar in negotiations with the Dutch. His fortunes rose and ebbed like tides, till it was cruelly ended when he lost his patron. Let’s see what we can dig up about this bloke, from the deep cellars of history.

First let us revisit the era. As I wrote earlier in the Abhiramai tale, the days of the last part of the 17th century and the early parts of the 18th were beset by all kinds of feuds related to succession, Venad – Madurai rivalry, temple related demands, settlement of dues, embezzlement and so on. For a period, the famous Umayamma Rani brought order to the region, but with her passing in the early part of the 18th century, the problems from the past began to reassert themselves and the feudal barons of Travancore started to get belligerent. Marthanada Varma as it turned out, her heir proved to be efficient, ruthless and was able to tighten the reins of the Trippappur swaroopam at Trivuvitamkode (Trivandrum).

We also see from the Travancore manuals that Varma even while serving as a deputy to his uncle had a number of issues with the barons (pillamar) on varying occasions resulting in his being on the run and even sleeping on tree tops. Quoting Nagam Aiyya - Even as First Prince and Elaya Rajah of tender years, he set himself to put down with a strong hand the lawlessness of these disloyal chiefs. In consequence, he had earned their undying hatred and his life was more than once attempted. He sought the aid of the English and the Dutch and would have completely quelled the rebels but for the timidity and weakness of his uncle the King who compelled him to desist. He had fled from place to place and on several occasions slept on the tops of trees in far off jungles. It was on one of these occasions that MV apparently sought refuge in the house of a well-known trader Pokku Moosa, at Poovar in the precincts of Desinganadu (Quilon). Now who is this Pokku Moosa?

Pooku Moosa, Poku Mussa, Pockoe Moessa, Pokker Moosa, Pachu Musathu (Kochu Moosa, Kochu Moosad is sometimes confused with him, see note) they were all names given to him by the various people who recorded transactions with him, and what we do know for sure about his early days was that he was a well to do trader living in the locale of Poovar near the southern border of today’s Trivandrum near Vizhinjam, a place which was originally called Pokkumoosapuram, after him. The family lived in a large mansion named the Kallaraickal Tharavad.

Poovar incidentally is located in Neyyatinkara, is placed south of Kovalam and north of the old Dutch holdings at Coalachel and Tengapatanam. However he may have lived in the Quilon or Kayamkulam areas as well for extended periods, for he is sometimes termed as a Desinganad trader. Legend has it that he hailed from the Marakkar families settled at Calicut. From there he moved to Kayamkulam, but after antagonizing the ruler there, fled to Poovar where he married the daughter of a rich trader of the Kallaraickal Tharavad, then settled down and built up a solid business distributing sugar, spices and tobacco. Some historians are of the opinion that Moosa supplied goods to the palace and that was how he entered into a long-term association with the royals.

As the legends state, once when Marthanda Varma was hounded by the Ettuvettil Pillamar, he sought refuge at the Kallaraikkal Tharavad. He did not forget the help and so after he vanquished his enemies, the grateful king bestowed the family with many gifts and honors. Some also mention that the locale got its name Poovar when Marthanda Varma observing the nice spring scenery of the river full of fallen flowers called it a poo-aar, a conjunction of the Malayalam words for "flower" and "river".

As matters progressed, MV got the better of the recalcitrant rebels.  After Rama Varma died, MV took over as king. He set up a new system of administration and bypassed the old feudal system consisting of the madampies and the pillas. MV reorganized his military to include Maravars, Pathans and Channars and created a network of spies all around the country to report on the pillas. In one swoop they are rounded up during the arattu procession of 1736 by MV and MV going against all tradition that a Nair noble is never held accountable for such matters, tries and hangs them all, over 42 pillas and madampies (Some of them actually fled to neighboring domains), after which their families are sold to fisher folk and the others excommunicated. Golleness the Dutch commander also records these actions stating emphatically that MV did all this with English support, who in turn had provided arms and ammunition and other kinds of indirect support. MV having got rid of his nemeses, now laid eyes on the neighboring kingdoms and principalities between Venad and Cochin. As time would tell, he captured each of them in the wars that followed. The architect for executing his strategies and providing the leadership through these wars was his confidante and friend, the crafty Dalawa – or chief minister Ramayyan.

We can also see that among the merchants who provided him support and finances through these years was our protagonist, Poku Moosa. Moosa had a very good relationship with MV and even received tax-free land gifts from the crown (e.g. at Paikulam pakuthi – Vilavamkodu). It appears that the rebuilding or renovation of the Kallaraikkal mansion was also done with the king’s support.

When the kulachal battle took place in 1741 (see my article on Lannoy) the VOC were besieged at their mud fort and were desperately waiting for reinforcements and food. Again, we see the hand of Poku Moosa, and we are given to understand that it was the blockade of the area by Moosa’s Pathemaris which ensured that no supplies reached them, resulting in the Dutch surrender to MV.

MV then annexed Kayamkulam which had been supporting the VOC all along. A treaty known as the Treaty of Mannar (1742) had been signed, under which Kayamkulam became a tributary state of Travancore. MV’s taking of Kayamkulam also resulted in great benefits for Moosa as MV gifted the market and its control to Moosa.

Moosa was soon to figure in the many discussions, negotiations and contracts between the VOC and Travancore. He came to the fore in Feb 1942, just after the VOC wanted to conclude a peace deal with MV. Protracted discussions covering reparations and release of prisoners, rebuilding of the forts at Colachel and Thengapatanam, monopoly in trade and sole control of all Christians in Travancore reached nowhere. When MV suggested that either the Cochin king or the English factory mediate, the VOC refused stating that the former was too old and weak while the latter were their biggest competitors. As they argued endlessly, the crafty Dutch attacked and took Attingal, now demanding huge reparations from MV in return for a peace treaty. It was under these circumstances that we see Moosa in Feb 1942 representing the king MV for negotiations, while the Dutch were represented by Ezekiel Rahabi.

A little introduction on Rahabi would provide some context. Rahabi II (1694–1771), was a merchant and community leader from Cochin. In 1726, after the death of his father who migrated from Syria, Rahabi II was appointed by the Dutch East India Company as "chief merchant and agent," and invested with a monopoly of the trade in pepper and other commodities in Malabar. He rose to a position of remarkable influence and prestige; for almost 50 years he was connected with all the company's major financial transactions in Malabar, and undertook for the VOC diplomatic assignments to the king of Travancore (1734–42), to the Zamorin of Calicut (1751), and to other native rulers. He was, in addition to Issac Surgun of Calicut, one of the two prominent Jewish traders of that era. As a person born and brought up in Cochin, Rahabi surely understood and spoke Tamil and Malayalam dialects, so he had no difficulty dealing with emissaries like Moosa.

Negotiations with VOC were tough and Moosa stood his ground. He went on to accuse the Dutch as interlopers, and made it amply clear that they were nothing more than traders and furthermore, had no right to interfere in any Kerala politics. Rahabi was quite upset with all this and returned empty handed to the VOC, complaining that Moosa was firmly behind the brutal and arrogant proposals of MV.

On the warfield, the VOC did not fare well, MV captured Nedumangad, and the Dutch fled to Quilon (Desinganad). The king of Purakkad also went against the Dutch and the Desinganad king escaped to Tiruvalla in Tekkumkur. Led by Duijvenschot, the MV army comprising many Kunji kudis were victorious, Kayamkulam was devastated and the Dutch soldiers defending Desinganad were close to revolt, not being provided food or having been paid. The reinforcements requested from Batavia never arrived. But MV did not succeed in capturing Quilon and after taking advice from the British and seeing that his general Duijvenschot was sick, being short of funds himself, eventually withdrew. In fact, it was a time when we even observe that he raided the temple vaults to mint kaliyan panam for these encounters. A peace deal was finally concluded at Manaddi and the Quilon king had to pay large reparations to MV. In 1743, a formal peace agreement was signed between the VOC and Travancore. If you ask a question why the VOC supported Quilon in all this, the answer is that it was only to keep Quilon as a physical buffer between them and the marauding forces of MV.

In between all this we come across another mention of Pooku Moosa as a power broker, for in 1747, we see the Ali Raja of Arakkal – Cannanore is requesting that Poku Moosa pays off some arrears of his to the English amounting to Rs 15,000/-. It does make it clear that these traders were well connected.

Three years later they were at war again and Qulion and Kayamkulam which were defeated with Lannoy in charge, were fully under MV’s rule. Draconian measures were enacted and the common man had to cough up huge taxes for the upkeep of the MV forces and the continuing war. All lands upto the borders of Cochin were now in the hands of Travancore’s MV by the close of 1750 and MV forced an assurance from the Dutch VOC that they will stay away from any politics between Travancore & Cochin. As reparation, all the jewels in the treasuries of Desinganadu and Thekkumkur were transferred to Travancore. Nevertheless, skirmishes and wars continued with the old regimes not accepting defeat and the treasuries of MV emptied rapidly. He even tried to force the Zamorin to pay up Rs 50,000/- and submit to MV’s suzerainty, but was soundly rebuffed.

During this period, we note that Moosa continued diversifying his trade activities and was involved in supplying various types of cloth to the Dutch 1752 through Tengapatanam, but he did not turn out to be reliable in the minds of the Dutch.

MV clung on and continued his fight to reclaim all territories. Seizing the opportunity, the Zamorin started an invasion of Cochin, from the North. It was during this skirmish in 1754 that the Travancore mud wall or the Nedumkotta modifications and repair were commenced between Vaikom and the Western Ghats, cutting off a rebelling Vadakkumkur from his Northern allies and to stave off the Zamorin’s armies marching South. Soon came a period where MV had to protect not only the Northern flanks bordering Cochin, but also the southern fronts when the troops of Nawab Muhamamd Ali attacked. With Lannoy victorious in fending away the Nawab’s troops, MV pushed towards Cochin.

At this juncture, Ramayyan Dalawa, MV’s right hand, passed away, leaving behind a distraught MV. But the march to Cochin continued and MV can be seen discussing a treaty with Cochin to stop the Zamorin on his tracks. The crafty Zamorin tied up with the feuding Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur princes and brought an end to the MV-Cochin alliance.

By this time, i.e. 1756 we notice that Pooku Moosa has become the chief or Sarvadi Karayakkar of MV, and the Travancore regime, desperate for money to hold on to territories captured and to fight off rebellions, took tough measures in exacting money from the common man. Pokko Moosa was responsible for the Torakkar or tax collectors who did this job. In fact, he was now at the Travanocre court, beside MV and manipulated things in such a way that MV was not influenced by the Dutch with bribes or gifts. He refused to accept gifts sent to the king on the pretext that gifts should be given to all 24 karayakkar of Travancore, not just the king, as was the prevailing norm.

Back in cochin new intrigues were in play. While the Zamorin tried to pull the Dutch to his side in a joint attack on Travancore, MV deputed Pokku Moosa to discuss a joint operation of Travancore, Cochin and the Dutch against the Zamorin. At the same time, the envoys of MV and the Zamorin met at Trichur to divide off the Cochin territory and get rid of the Dutch. Phew! imagine how it would have been. The Dutch, wisely stayed out of all this, refusing to take sides. However, the Zamorin did succeed in signing a peace treaty with the Dutch, in 1758.

An overview of the MV years shows that he adopted a technique of converting merchants of the interior to state officials as we saw in the case of Poku Moosa. This was as you can observe quite different from Calicut where it had always been a concept of free trade, until of course Haider and in reality Tipu came by and destroyed it all. MV adopted various methods to subjugate private merchants to toe the line, and the most common one was to ‘set Nairs on their houses’ meaning intimidation and disfigurement.

1758 was an eventful year, both the reigning Zamorin and Marthanda Varma passed away and a new king came to power in Travancore, the Dharma Raja (Rama Varma). It can be assumed that Pokku Moosa remained as a senior Karyakkar during the initial years and we see him associated with the story of a young Keshava Das.

A small incident involving Moosa and the future Dewan of Travancore, the famous Keshava Das needs to be retold, for completeness. Keshava Das, born to a poor couple (father an astrologer and mother a maid at the palace) moved to Poovar at the age of 12 ( i.e. around 1757) to apprentice under Poku Musa (others mention him as an apprentice of Kochu Musa, Poku Moosa’s co-brother, but it is unlikely that Kochu Musa had access to the king like his brother), who was of course at his peak, as chief Karyakkar for MV. As a tally clerk, he did well and a chance encounter with the king was to change the course of his life. During Moosa’s visit to the palace, he took along the young clerk. The meeting went through the night and the boy fell asleep at the king’s door. The king saw the boy first thing in the morning and considering it a bad omen, had him locked up. It was only after Moosa explained that the boy was his guest that Keshavadas was released and later appointed as a palace assistant. He steadily rose in esteem, being a reliable and sharp lad and got promoted as a Rayasom in Dharmaraja’s court. Before long he rose to the high office of Sarvadhi kariakar. In 1789 he became the popular Dewan of Travancore. Moosa’s support in his younger years proved to be the reason for Das’s success, as you can see.

Poku Moosa continued to be a wealthy financier and trader in Poovar and we see that he advanced money for various causes, but was also a strict moneylender. It appears he even loaned money towards the ship fare of some Catholic priests traveling abroad and the Kalloppara Church nearly faced bankruptcy when it defaulted on repayment to Moosa.

He however did not fare well in the eyes of the Dharmaraja or his administrators and we can see from Commander De Jung’s note that Moosa was arrested and trampled to death under the king's orders, by an elephant in 1758, for financial dishonesty. Perhaps he was avaricious as time went by and paid for his sins, perhaps it was something else, maybe his detractors at work. So that was it, once his patron sponsor was gone, he was also quickly done away with. The old Kallaraikkal Tharavad slowly disintegrated.

New traders like the Konkanis of Cochin and timber lords like Mathu Tharakan took up where he left, until of course the British became the masters of all land. Nevertheless, the 17th -18th centuries was a time when the medieval trader was facing tough times, not only the vagaries of weather, supply and demand, but also the tough political situation and difficult masters. The seesawing fortunes saw many of them fade away and following the arrival of the Mysore sultans they were no longer the power brokers of the past.

Kulashekara Perumals of Travancore – Mark D’Lannaoy
India and the Indian Ocean World – Ashin Das Gupta
Coastal polity and 2nd paper winds of change - Pius Malekandathil
House of memories – Sharat Sundar Rajeev – Hindu, July 3, 2015

About Kochu/Kunju Moosa - Kunju Musa Pulavar, who belonged to the Kallarakkal family of Kerala was the son-in-law of the great merchant Syed Mohamed Marakkayar of Poovar, wrote many poetical works in Tamil, Arab-Tamil and Arab-Malayalam. War Ballads (Padaippor Kappiyangal), Salka Padaiappor and Saidattu Padaippor were his masterpieces. He was the first Muslim poet who introduced war ballads in Islamic Tamil literature and also the first to project women in heroic roles. He had 14 other works to his credit. (Source - Identity crisis and the response of the Muslims, Muslims of Kanyakumari District through the ages - Mustafa Kamal, M A, PhD thesis)

I have a feeling that Kunju Moosa was Pooku Moosa’s co-brother and lived at the Tengapatanam branch of the Kallarakkal family. It also implies that Pooku Moosa’s father in law was perhaps Syed Mohamed Marakkayar.

The Umbrella Riots

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Out at the islands, long ago - Lakshadweep

Many years ago, a peculiar series of revolts took place in the lovely islands off to the west of Malabar, called the Lakshadweep (100,000 islands), which were and still are sparsely inhabited by Muslim folk who originated from the mainland, moving to settle down there sometime around the 14th century and thereafter. The immigrants carried with them a form of stigmatic caste system separating the affluent upper castes from the working castes which as you can imagine, resulted in a good amount of friction. Caste separatism within this community was the reason for a rebellion, but the triggers are for an outsider, particularly interesting. We had previously discussed the breast cloth movement in Travancore, and this is another tale from a time period, when life was quite a bit different from what it is today!

The 12 square mile island archipelago of Lakshadweep lies some 120 miles west off the Indian coastline with only 10 of them being inhabited. The oldest inhabited islands in the group are Amini, Kalpeni, Andrott, Kavaratti and Agatti - places where Islam arrived very early, perhaps around 661AD. Around 1545, the islands were in the hands of the Arakkal Ali Raja’s, after the Kolathiri Rajas ceded them to the Beevi. Coir trade was the islander’s major form of livelihood and by this time, the islands were inhabited by Moplahs, under the suzerainty of the Ali Raja of Cannanore. Once the British claimed Malabar from Tipu in 1799, the islands too came under their administration (though nominally under the Beevi until 1908). From very early times, their livelihood was from the export of coir, cowries and dried fish. As you can see, all these involve manual labor, carried out by lower castes. We are now going to check out events which took place there, mainly at Kalpeni, located 80 miles southeast of Kavaratti, the capital of Lakshadweep and about 135 miles west of Cochin, just after the turn of the 20th century.

In Oct 1930, the Illinois Times posted a curious story titled ‘Western Umbrellas Are Cause of Riot On the Malabar Coast’ - A job lot of western umbrellas and shoes; caused a riot on the Laccadive Islands, 150 miles off the Malabar coast - The Koyas , or aristocracy of the islands, long ago decreed that they alone might go shod and carry umbrellas but when the western shipment came in the Malumis, or sailor caste, and Melacheris, who pick cocoanuts, decided-to try dressing up. They picked eleven Melacheris and nine Malumis to defy the old edict and it was a gala day for the strutting low castes until the Koya chief heard about it and ordered out his spearmen. After the fight the mannequins found themselves in jail.

Why would carrying an umbrella be an issue? That too in islands which suffer torrential rain during the monsoon? Well, to understand the umbrella’s importance in ancient Malabar, you could check out my article on Palghat umbrellas and digest the fact that in those days only people up the totem pole could carry one. Now that was valid for the Hindus with their stringent caste system, but how about the Moplahs? Why would they bother unless they had their own sub castes? As a matter of fact, they did. To get the hang of it, let’s first look at the situation in Malabar and then move out West to the outlying islands.

Mappilas shared more of their culture with the Hindu castes of the region and there were multiple castes or subdivisions within the loosely formed port town Mappila communities in Malabar, segregations occurring over a longtime period. Quoting from Souza’s anthropological study, there were five distinct sections among the Moplahs: Thangals, Arabis, Malabaris, Pusalars and Ossans. The Thangals who are at the top of the pyramid, are a small group of people who trace their descent to the Prophet, through his daughter Fatima. The Arabis are a group of people mostly concentrated in Quilandy (a town north of Calicut), who are descendants of Arab men and local women, but who have preserved the memory of their descent. The association of the Arabis with Arabia entitles them to a respect in Moplah society second only to that of the Thangals. The Malabaris also claim descent from Arabs, but they are those who followed a matriarchal system – the so-called "mother-right" culture. As for the Pusalars and the Ossans, D'Souza explains: The so-called Pusalars (new Muslims) are converts from among the Hindu fishermen, called Mukkuvans. Their conversion took place relatively late. Because of their latter conversion and their low occupation of fishing they are allotted a low status in the Moplah society. The Pusalars are spread all along the coastline of Kerala and they still continue their traditional occupation of fishing. The Ossans are a group of barbers among the Moplahs and by virtue of their very low occupation they are ranked the lowest. Their womenfolk act as hired singers on social occasions like weddings. The hierarchies in Moplah society also show a tendency to accord the highest place of honor to the Sayyids, and lowest place to new converts and despised groups, such as barbers.

The Koyas among the Malabari’s claim lineage with the Pardesi Moors and the Nayar castes of Malabar, keeping themselves at the apex of the Moplah caste hierarchy. A second class Koya would be connected to the lower Malabar castes such as the Tiyyas and both these categories differentiate themselves from the converted fisherfolk and the converted Moplahs of the interior, the agricultural help. In summary, the ills of the Hindu caste system permeated into the Muslim castes of Malabar.

But at Laccadives, we find only three classifications, the Tarawadi Koyas, the Malumis and the Melacharis (may have been derived from the word Mlechha - uncultured). The Koyas were the affluent land and Odam (the large sailing vessel used in traffic between the islands and mainland) owners, the Malumis were the traditional navigators, and the Melacheris, the serfs of the Koyas were engaged in coconut plucking, fishing and all sorts of manual labor.

The people according to HA Stuart are not called Mappilas, but (1) Koya, (2) Malumi, (3) Urukkaran, (4) Takru, (5) Milikhan, and (6) Melacheri. No. 1 is the land and boat owning class, and is superior to the rest. Nos. 2 to 5 are pilots and sailors, and, where they are cultivators, cultivate under No. 1. No. 6 were the slaves of the first division; now they cultivate the Koyas' lands, take the produce of those lands in boats to the mainland, and pay 20 per cent. of the sale-proceeds to the Koya owners. The islanders generally dress like ordinary Mappilas. The Melacheris, however, may use only a coarser kind of cloth, and they are not allowed intermarriage with the other classes.

The Melacheris (aka Klasies (Khalasees), Thandals, Reveris) were subjected to a number of restrictions in their social and religious lives. They were not allowed to wear shirts, scarves, or sandals, nor to use umbrellas, and all menial work such as plucking coconuts, manual labor, twisting coir and cooking on odams were their responsibility. Their women folk could not adorn gold ornaments or wear silk clothes. During religious and rites of passage ceremonies such as circumcision, they were not allowed to sing and walk in procession. They could not build any fancy houses. If they did come across a Koya on the street, the Melacheri had to remove his veshti (a piece of cloth hanging on the shoulder) or upper cloth, in respect and move aside. When talking to a Koya, he had to cover his lips with his fingers. A Melacheri may not sit in the presence of a Koya; he should remove his head-gear or turban and stand in reverence. They could neither own odams nor conduct trade by themselves at the mainland. Finally, they had no say or share in the administration of the islands which was fully in the hand of Koyas.

A Koya (of those days) on the other hand, wore a colorful loin-cloth and three other pieces of cloth of variegated colors - one on the shoulder, one tied around the waist, and one wrapped round the head like a turban. He carried a knife hanging at his waist and a brush made of coconut husk tucked into his turban. They were the landlords, the administrators and the judiciary of the islands, and never opposed. The Malumis were placed in between, and a marked difference was that they were sailing folk and never engaged themselves in plucking coconuts or tapping toddy, which was considered beneath their dignity.

For Melacheri weddings, singers from among the Koyas had to be employed and they as well as other koya guests were to be provided with separate eating and seating arrangements. Same was the case  during the socio-religious ceremony – Maulood, where the singers and priests had always to be from among the Koyas.

As you can imagine, this led to a lot of conflict as the Melacheris felt oppressed. From the earliest English records, we can detect a number of complaints and cases reaching the English administration. In the early days the British took to siding with the Koyas, but as time went by, discerning administrators decided to bring a semblance of balance to this unsatisfactory situation. But naturally, as the Melacheris started to express their dissatisfaction, the Koyas employed an iron hand, yielding little or nothing.

In the beginning, all work had to be done only by Melacheris. In 1909, the first mass representation by the Melacheris resulted in the British administration stating formally what work each caste had to do. Though it did little, it made some distinctions and removed abject slavery. During the next phase, some Melacheris acquired land by virtue of their landlord, the koya passing away and this raised some of their confidence, resulting in increased antagonism between the two communities.

In 1913, some Melacceris sang during one of their weddings, incensing the Koyas who reacted violently. They stoned their house, assaulted the inmates and destroyed household utensils. Unable to retaliate against the numerically superior Koya community, the Melacheris approached the government. They submitted a petition to Mr Rabjohns who however, ruled in favor of the Koyas, following which the Melacheri’s struck work and refused to do anything for the Koyas. After an appeal to the high court, peace prevailed and by 1920 things were on even keel.

It is in 1915 that we hear of the first edict alleviating the situation. One Mr Robb decreed in the name of peace, that the Melacheris could carry an umbrella during adverse weather, but not to offend a Koya, that they could sing during festivities within their homes, but not walk in procession, and finally that they could wear shirts while on a voyage or if the weather was cold, but not onshore, as an adornment! These allowed the Melacheris basic social freedom but prevented them from taking any equal or upper hand at the Koyas.

The Melacheris were not happy, even though they had gained some leeway. This was when one Rajab Arakkalar of Kalpeni Island, sailed over and met with the Malabar Collector. He petitioned him for permission to wear shirts island, asking, ' Is the right to wear clothing not a fundamental right?' He eventually secured an order from the Collector allowing Melacheris to wear shirts not only while at sea but also on land. He then found a tailor, all this at Calicut, I presume and made himself made a jacket of very strong and durable material. Armed with the Collector's directive and wearing his coat, he appeared before the Amin of Kalpeni Island, one Attakoya. The Amin had no choice but to obey the Collector's orders and permit Rajab to wear the jacket.

Well, things did not stop there, our man Rajab went for the mosque wearing his new jacket. The Koyas were enraged and trashed him soundly, but as they could not rip off the stoutly made jacket with their hands, resorted to using knives to cut it into shreds. Rajab and all Melcharis were then thrown out of the mosque and banned from entry. Unfortunately, around this juncture, the Malabar collector was replaced by a new fella who decided that it was not wise to change the status quo in the islands, for he grandly stated ‘The islanders should preserve the island conventions themselves’ and slunk away.

But help was at hand, and not far away, for a few liberal Koyas of the island decided to support the Melacheris, and exhorted them to wear shirts, carry umbrellas and sing and dance in procession. In 1922 they proceeded to carry out all the said actions during a wedding and but naturally the Koyas were merciless in retaliation. The Melacheris again approached the Collector, who by this time was the redoubtable RH Ellis. Ellis castigated the Koyas tactfully and stated that the Melacheris be allowed to sing at weddings.

The Melacheris however, decided to stretch the new law by singing and walking in procession. The Koyas sued and the court decided that the 4 Melacheri leaders be fined 15/- each. On appeal to the collector, the fines were cancelled and the rule modified to allow them to sing on the streets. It was settled then by the formation of two singing parties of trained men both Koyas and Melacheris, which were to be invited to all weddings.

Two years passed by and in 1924, one Melaillam Saban, requested permission of the Amin of Kalpeni Island to celebrate son's circumcision ceremony with a musical procession. The Amin, ignoring the previous rulings refused permission. Saban Haji companied to the collector and an inspecting officer, Mr Gone was deputed to check it out. As soon as he arrived, he was deluged by hundreds of complaints and appeals cooked up by the koyas, against the Melacheris. But Gone saw through the ruse and ruled 'It is permissible not only to sing in wedding houses, but since the procession by the bridegroom and his party to the bride's house is an important rite, playing and singing of music at such processions cannot be prohibited.' He also pointed out to the judgement by Ellis in 1922 which implied such a verdict. The koyas were unhappy.

When on a rainy day which followed, Musakka Abdurahaman sporting an umbrella, passed a koya, the Koya sued to the local court who fined Abdurahaman. Abdurahman approached the collector who reversed the fine and the ruling. In 1931, one Mohammed went to a koya mansion as a guest to attend a wedding, but as it was a rainy day, had his umbrella open. The other guests assaulted him and threw him out. He too complained to the collector but the inspecting officer this time, did little than warn the koyas. What became clear by now was that the local administration headed by a Koya Amin as well as the Kachery or the local court were totally useless for the Melacheris. The Malabar collector was needed in case any resolution was required. A very unsatisfactory situation, indeed.

Towards 1931, owing to stricter warnings to the Koyas from various officers, the lower groups were able to assert their rights of wearing shirts and sandals, holding umbrellas and singing in the processions. As time went by the Malis and the Melacheris started to accumulate money and build better houses and mosques.

In 1934, at Amini, fireworks were lit for a Melacheri wedding resulting in them getting trashed by the Koyas, yet again. The Tasildar arrested leaders from both groups and the Koyas retaliated by refusing to allow the Melacheris to use the water wells on Koya lands and destroying the others. The collector intervened to prohibit fireworks and finally allowed the inclusion of two jurors or Moktessors to take care of Melacheri interests, for the very first time, a major win!

Then a Mali at Kalpeni started an Odam rental business and it was then that the Melacheris decided to take the final step in becoming ship – odam owners with 12 of them pooling money to purchase an odam. That was the terrible and proverbial incident of 1949, which went on to break proverbially, the camel’s back. The Melacheris who decided to buy an odam, supported by the liberal koyas, decided to register the sale and the Amin had no choice but to accede, but the following night, the coconut sheds of the Melacheri owners were set afire. The new ship, loaded with produce was drilled with holes and scuttled. A period of violence and threats prevailed, while the outnumbered Melacheri could not even step out of their homes for fear of their own safety.

The Amin appealed to the collector for help, when things started getting out of hand. The Collector arrived with the MSP in tow and found that the complaint was indeed correct, but let the koyas off with a warning and some fines. The die was now cast and the iron grip the Koyas had was started breaking up.

There were so many other issues, such as the incident where some Amini Melechri’s surreptitiously learnt how to sing the Baith, which was a Koya monopoly, then there was the burial where a Koya Khazi was not called to perform the last rites. Similar incidents took place in other islands as well. Finally, in 1952, the administration succeeded in persuading the Kalpeni koys in including two karanavers from the Mali and four from the Melacheri group into the Council of Elders, thus bringing some representation for them, within the local administration.

While I have covered only some known events at Kalpeni and Amini, the situation was as you can imagine, ghastly, to say the least.  Though it all looks very silly, such was life before and immediately after independence. However, friction continued between the two groups for a long time, even after all that we can find a certain amount of social distancing, even today!

So, what about the story we started with? Did the islanders walk in procession with umbrellas? Of that event, much as I tried, I could not dredge out anything dating to the Oct 1930 revolt, perhaps it must have been one of the older stories which percolated slowly to the mainland and got reported by an avid reporter. Perhaps it was from the 1924 events I described previously or thereabouts, perhaps they did carry out an umbrella procession! Interestingly, the pioneer who supplied umbrellas to Laccadives was the famous Abdul Rehman Haji Aboobaker Chhatriwala from Bombay!

So, you can see the effort it took, close to four or five decades to bring about a semblance of balance, if not parity, between the upper and lower Muslim castes in the Laccadives. To get a view of those lovely islands, see the recent Malayalam film Anarkali.

Now if I were to tell you that at one time in Malabar, nobody could tile roofs without express permission from the Zamorin, would you believe me? Even the Cochin king was denied that honor until the Dutch built him a palace with a tiled roof. That my friends, is a tale for another day.

Caste Conflict in Kalpeni Island - Theodore Gabriel – Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (1988). The main source, acknowledged with much thanks
Marriage and kinship in an island society – A R Kutty
Changing patters of an island society – KP Ittaman (Culture & Society Ed BN Nair)
Amini islanders – K P Ittaman


- The union territory of Lakshadweep comprises 19 coral islands of which 13 (4 inhabited) belong to the Laccadive group, five to the Amindivi group and just Minicoy in the 3rd group. While the first two groups are inhabited by Muslims of Moplah stock speaking a Malayalam dialect, the Minicoy has Maladivian stock and speak Mahl. Kalpeni and Amini had the most stringent restrictions.

- Melacheris could not share food with a koya!

- The Melacheri had many other menial tasks like loading and unloading of odams, clearing sandbars, carrying the landlord’s son for circumcision, holding an umbrella for the landlord’s son when he goes to get married, and all this is done gratis. He is just allowed access to some 30-50 coconut trees and in return paid a 5th of the returns from them to the landlord, as well. All kopra and coir had to be sold through the Koya who in many cases underpaid the serfs. In a barter sale, the koya decided what was a proper equivalent for the serf’s produce.

- Any festivity in a Melacheri house has to be with permission from his lord. Wedding presents are checked by the lord and he could pick what he desires, from among them. If any slaughter is done, the animal head has to be given to the koya.

- The Maladives were known as the Mamale islands, for details of the connection read this article I had done some years ago. The Portuguese records included the Lacadives also in this lot, as the Arakkal kingdoms controlled it in the 16th century. 

Pic – Wikimedia

The Malabar European Club – Calicut

Posted by Maddy Labels:

A long time ago….

Some 500 years or so into the past, Calicut was not quite mired in obscurity. It was as one intrepid traveler wrote, ‘on the way to everywhere’. Traders and travelers vied to make their way to the spice capital of the world and write about the strange ways of the people, the spices in the markets and the riches on display. Some even wrote about the honesty of the rulers and the cosmopolitanism they saw. The Portuguese, the French, the Dutch, the Danes and of course the British made their presence felt at this entrepot as time moved on, if only to profit. Years passed and soon it was stripped off all its glory as the British, who like many others, also entered India through its gates at Calicut, moved North and established the metropolises at Bombay, Calcutta and eventually Delhi. The new order had no place for lowly Calicut, but a few enlightened souls still came by, now and then. They all had mainly one place to stay and lodge at, the Malabar European Club, facing the Arabian Sea.

A couple of them wrote lovely accounts while ensconced in that motley club, with a handful of rooms and a small library to boast. We discussed one of those travelers - Edward Lear, some years ago, and I read about another who supposedly stayed there and wrote a masterpiece, the writer being Somerset Maugham, and the masterpiece being The Razor’s edge. I found that a bit unlikely, for I did know SM had been to Travancore, but did he ever set foot in Calicut? I decided to check this and so, let us go there and check the club out, if only for an hour or so, what do you say?

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the unfortunate Ratnavelu Chetti ICS, and the racist incident at the Calicut Club during the Canterbury festival at Calicut. It was decidedly a very different place at the turn of the 20th century, where one saw bullock carts on the road, an occasional buggy or horse cart, Brits riding horses and the Nairs, Tiyyas and Moplahs bare bodied and sporting just a dhoti, scurrying about the port area and town.

The Malabar European Club, on the Beach Road- Calicut, was established on 8th Feb 1864. The warehouses and offices of the mercantile community fringed the shore from the Malabar club to the Kallayi River, and the bungalows of the European residents partly lay facing the sea between the pier and the club. The gazetteer from the early 20th century mentions that visitors to the town were catered for by a travelers’ bungalow and hotel, not to mention two clubs for European and native gentlemen respectively.

So, for the Europeans, a smattering of British, French and perhaps a Dutch or two, this European club was where they could come, wet their beaks and play some cards, have some continental food, peruse a book or two, the Punch magazine or newspapers from London or play some billiards. Couples could dance, and if so required, stay at one of the Club’s few rooms. Sometimes a traveler landed there and stayed for a while, partaking in the little entertainment the club had to offer while he went about his work be it writing or transacting business. Tennis and cricket were played, so also golf, all reserved of course for the white man. There was one exception though, Parsees (perhaps just one) gained admittance to this exclusive club otherwise known as the Malabar European Club of Calicut.

Let’s go back in time and pass through the doors, nod curtly at the doorman clad in white, turban and red cummerbund and get into the ambience of the hall, get seated and gaze at the serenity presented by the glorious Arabian Sea with the setting sun a beautiful reddish orange silhouette and the horizon as its backdrop.

Lear in 1874 wrote lovingly of his stay there – Drove to the travelers’ bungalow, but found it very bad form, no butler, low as to position, dirty, damp; and the only decent-sized room tenanted by an old planter of by no means prepossessing appearance, who advised me to go to the club. So I drove thither. It is close by the seaside; boats and coconuts ad lib. Some little difficulty ensured on account of my not being a member, and I had to shew letters, etc.; when two or three good natured members allowed me to take two rooms. Gazing out, he sees bare breasted (he complains they were old) women ambling along, picking this and that from the beach, fishermen getting off their boats. Off to the right, half a mile to the North was the lighthouse and the screw pile (kadal palam) snaking into the sea. Next door is the French Loge. He mooned about those beautiful lanes and roads, the exquisite vegetation which beat all chance of description, but complained often of the ‘crow-be-bothered club at Calicut’, firmly stating ‘The crows here are a bore!’.  

He loved the scenery - Beautiful colour, calm sea and bright sunset, all more or less qualified by the odour of stinking fish. He managed to get what he wanted from the little town – going out with Giorgio to the Basel Mission; he bought a book about Coorg and ordered two suits of clothes. The tailor, Francis Pereira, brings two suits of clothes made up, the cost of both 45 Rs. The days of Malabar Club life go by happily; the quiet, bar the crows, is delightful, so also the bright calm sea. They then had their hair cut, now can you imagine the scene, the barber coming to the club and cutting their hair the old-fashioned way?

Lear added - There are worse places than the Malabar Club. I wrote and read, and enjoyed the bright sun and broad shadows and lovely air. I remember I disliked many things in Malabar on my first visit here; but now, after Ceylon, Malabar seems Elysium. The Beypore road is undoubtedly one of the model wonders of beauty in this world; nothing can be lovelier than that river scene with the far hills. He concludes - I wrote and read, and enjoyed the bright sun and broad shadows and lovely air.

A gentleman visiting Wynad in April 1881 mentions - The Malabar Club there is as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, and possesses one refinement of luxury which considerably astonished me. I do not allude to the two lawn tennis courts, nor even to the excellent racket court, but to the swimming bath of fresh water which is kept always in perfect condition. It was a great boon to a stranger like myself to be able to put up at the comfortable club chambers there, instead of going to a traveler’s rest house, or inflicting myself upon a private bungalow on the strength of a 'letter of introduction’.

Let us go further, to 1883 – we read of the grand sendoff dinner given at the club for W Logan, collector This was just as he was moving out of Calicut and to Travancore as resident (now that was news to me!). A correspondent at Calicut writes to a Bombay paper (Homeward Mail from India, China and the East - Wednesday 23 May 1883): A large dinner has been given at the Malabar Club to Mr. Logan, our popular Collector. Covers were laid for sixty, and fifty diners sat down. The ladies of the station were invited and graced the entertainment with their presence. The town band was in attendance, playing during and after dinner. The rooms of the club and the dining-room were very tastefully decorated, and the arrangements altogether did credit to the gentleman who undertook to carry them out. After dinner our local musical talent was to the fore, and subsequently all adjourned to the lawn tennis court, on which the younger folks danced till an early hour of the morning. The dinner was a farewell entertainment to Mr. Logan, who proceeds to Travancore as Resident, much to the regret of the district of Malabar, where he is respected and loved by all classes. The entertainment clearly indicated the universal esteem Calicut (indeed Malabar) society has for him.

An 1898 report states - The annual general meeting of the Malabar Club came off on Monday evening, Sept. 5, about twenty members being present. The report and accounts were laid on the table and were formally adopted. Mr. E. E. Davies was elected honorary secretary for the coming year. The members afterwards sat down to a grand dinner, at the conclusion of which several toasts were drunk amid great enthusiasm.

Many an Englishman gave his address in Calicut ‘care of the Calicut club’ and we see a report of one KF Tarrant, working for a Rubber company in Calicut, originally hailing from Cheltenham filing for divorce - due to his wife’s dalliance with another man, in 1927. We also read that in 1931, the secretary of the club, one GH Bull committed suicide by shooting himself with his seven chambered revolver, sitting by the verandah (perhaps after lifting a final toast as a goodbye to the Arabian Sea)!

We can read a curious argument by one Capt Rigby who is indignant when a visitor Mr Palmer scoffs that Calicut had but one road which is only 3 miles long. Rigby maintains that the entire state is traversable by road and that he himself had done thousands of miles from Travancore to Cannanore and beyond in the first decade of the 20th century. He adds that the Malabar Club provided the latest papers from Britain and that the Madras Mail was but one day late, in availability.

From Raghu Karnad’s marvelous book ‘Farthest Field’, we can see that a prominent Parsi - Dr Khobad Dhunjibhai Mugaseth of Calicut was the only non-white member of the club. Dr Kobad Mugaseth for those who don’t know, was among the most respected medical practitioners and it seems his treatment of a choking elephant was a story dutifully (I don’t know the story, as yet!) recounted to each succeeding generation in Calicut. CHF had introduced him in an article some years ago.

The Beach Hotel Today
The Malabar Club then moved to the new building (the Beach Hotel these days) on the same Beach Road, which was built in 1890, and by then it comprised some 200 members, inclusive of married men whose wives were also eligible for membership. Beach-facing rooms had bathtubs and secluded verandas; all the rooms were tastefully furnished and had plenty of character. At the previous location, a nursing school was built. Soon, it boasted of six stately rooms with polished wooden floors, soaring ceilings, while the ground floor rooms were garden facing rooms.

The 1866 rulebook provides more information – To be a member, you had to be a resident of Malabar, the Neilgherries, Coimbatore, or Palghaut. We see that the rules were quite strict, and late payment or nonpayment defaulters were shamed on the notice board placed in the Public room, and had to pay double to get back. The club house was available for receptions to members between 6AM and 2AM, a member could book rooms only for a maximum period of 14 days, with prior reservation. When one person vacated a room, it was aired and cleaned for a whole day before being let out again, meals had to be eaten in the restaurant, some supplies were sold at the club, no club servant could be reprimanded by a guest, tips or gratuity were banned, dogs were not permitted, horses had to be parked in proper places, music was prohibited, members could not bring their own liquor, no games/play was allowed in rooms and on Sundays. Games at the Billiards table were chargeable. A large number of members seemed to be planters from Wynad. The Club had an entrance Fee of Rs.100. The annual Subscription was Rs.12 for members resident in Malabar and Rs.6 for non-resident members; The Monthly subscription was Rs.10 for singles and Rs.12 for married couples.

Later on, in 1898, the Cosmopolitan club was founded by Jamshedji Mugaseth, as a meeting place for the native gentry, stated to be open to persons of over 20 years of age. Entrance fee for gentlemen Rs.25- and monthly subscription Rs.3-. It appears there was another club as well, the Catholic Union Club.

Now let us get to a quick runover of Maugham and his trip to India. In 1938, W. Somerset Maugham on his visit to India met with Ramana Maharishi at his ashram south of Madras. After a month touring holy sites in the south, Maugham arrived in Madras, where at a cocktail party Christina Austin, the wife a senior British civil servant, offered to take him to meet Ramana Maharshi. The meeting did take place during which Maugham fainted, later met Ramana for a few minutes and Maugham departed. In an essay entitled “The Saint”, published in 1958, Maugham wrote that while he had been touched by Ramana’s humility and dignity he had reservations about what he regarded as the guru’s acquiescent philosophy. Nevertheless the whole event seems to have influenced him a lot. Some insist that Maugham modeled his fictional guru around Ramana in The Razor’s Edge.

But did Somerset Maugham ever land up in Calicut or sit at the Club’s verandah, overlooking the Arabian Sea, to pen his ‘Razor’s Edge’, as claimed by some? I am not at all sure and I doubt it, for even after scouring through his diary and notes, I could not find any mention of Calicut. He did stay at Travancore and Cochin though. I checked with Lady Selina Shirley Hastings who had after extensive studies on SM, written a lovely biographical account on Maugham’s secret lives. She got back with this comment - I never came across any information about Maugham staying at Calicut, but of course it’s entirely possible that he did!

My search and study had been completed, though the question had not been satisfactorily answered. I have not read Razor’s Edge as yet, maybe someday, but for now, it is time to move on….

Ah! this trip took us to another era, when life was different, for those were the lazy and serene days when the contemptuous Burra sahib was sitting on his high horse, lording a colonial town, governing the outlying estates while at the same time crawling slowly towards industrialization, as the subjugated natives groveled on the ground and watched through tired and sleepy eyes.

Life is decidedly better these days, but it is always interesting, to say the least, to look back and see how it once was, to appreciate the today we live in. For some it would be nostalgia, for others a dark age which they prefer to forget.

The rules of the Malabar club – 1866
Edward Lear’s Indian journal – Ed Ray Murphy
Somerset Maugham and the guru – Mick Brown – Telegraph, 10 Aug 2014


Razor’s edge - It tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. He finally finds his way to India, where Larry has significant spiritual adventures before returning to Paris. He is introduced to Advaita philosophy and eventually goes on to realize God, thus becoming a saint—in the process having gained liberation from the cycle of human suffering, birth and death that the rest of the earthly mortals are subject to. The novel's title comes from a translation of a verse in the Katha Upanishad -The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

Ramana Maharshi – Venkatraman Iyer, a sanyasi, had his ashram west of Tiruvannamalai, south of Vellore. Since the 1930’s his teachings have been popularized in the West, resulting in his worldwide recognition as an enlightened being. He approved a number of paths and practices, but recommended self-enquiry as the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in self-awareness, together with bhakti (devotion) or surrender to the Self. Although many claim to be influenced by him, Ramana Maharshi did not publicize himself as a guru, never claimed to have disciples, and never appointed any successors, he never promoted any lineage. Interestingly, he spoke Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam!

Pic - Courtesy Beach heritage - Calicut

The tragic story of Pulicat Ratnavelu Chetty - ICS – Palghat 1879-1881

Posted by Maddy Labels: ,

The first covenanted ICS officer of the Madras Presidency

This story was lying in my drafts folder for a long time, as I was not able to establish the identity of the character involved. It was only after reading a relatively recent blog post by Murali Rama Varma who had been away for a while, that I got it resolved. First, thanks Murali for coming back, your posts have always been refreshing and secondly, for helping me identify the person involved.

The only place you can find a pen-portrait of this person is in the book penned by one Isaac Tyrrell. So first let us start with Tyrrell, he spent 56 years in India, in the police and jails and through the 1857 Sepoy rebellion. It is claimed to be an extremely readable and amusing account of a long and varied career "with never a furlough to Europe, nor a residence in a hill station”, a record which he believes has never been beaten in India. Having enlisted in the 46th Regiment of foot, Tyrrell embarked in 1847 as a guard on a convict ship bound for Hobart, Tasmania. In 1849 his regiment was posted to Calcutta and for the next 48 years he moved frequently around north and south India, working for the EIC.

It is surely fascinating, a window into the life of an Englishman in India, but we will not get into all that, we will focus only on his life in Palghat circa 1880 -1881, as the superintendent of the Fort Jail (Tipu’s fort was first a government office, the Thasildar’s Cutchery and then converted into a jail after the British took over). We note that a school existed and that one Mr. T. Elsworthy, was the Principal of the Palghat High School. We see that a railway station existed there, and one Mr. Paton, was the Railway Permanent Way Inspector. There were other foreigners too, a German miner prospecting for gold who is stated to have been friendly with one Mrs Tomlinson and her daughter Mrs Du’Pen. Mr Gay was a contractor, Ebenezer Sewell the assistant magistrate, Mr. Theobald, a Eurasian subordinate of the Forest Department, with his headquarters at Palghat and they all congregated at a church there, well attended, while tigers and cheetas roamed freely and made life interesting or difficult, whichever way you see it! Even a wealthy American globetrotter stopped at Palghat to hunt tigers with Theobald, can you believe that! The American sent Theobald some gorillas in return, from Borneo, who would ‘ wrap themselves in their " cumblies," and go to sleep quite cosily at the foot of their master's bed ; but Mr. Theobald feared they would not survive the wet season of Palghat’ – and well, as he feared they both died soon after (Theobald was fired later when some elephants under his care died of foot disease, he moved to Mysore as a ranger and started a fight for reinstating lasting 14 years after which the British agreed!).

They did have a library and a reading room, low on funds and upkeep. The following passage tells you a lot on the life in those days at Palghat, which by the way, readers pls note – is also my maternal ‘Native place’!!

The Tahsildar and two or three other Native gentlemen who were members of the institution exerted themselves strenuously to assist Mr. Sewell. Of course, even those who took part in the performance gave their ten rupees each towards the fund, and all the Native gentry followed suit, and this brought up the collection to over three hundred rupees which put the Library on a sound financial basis. Some of the ladies sang and several gentlemen gave readings, while I gave a couple of recitations, but the gems of the evening's entertainment were a couple of humorous readings by Colonel Dance, a son-in-law of Mrs. Tomlinson which pleased the audience very much. The entertainment was held in a large room in Mr. Sewell's bungalow where light refreshments were also provided. I was shocked on seeing some of the Native gentlemen come into the room dressed in their semi-transparent mull cloths tied around their waists, which caused them to have a Rontgen or " X " Ray appearance. One can admire this sort of thing in a music hall dancer, but in a Drawing-room, and in the presence of ladies, it was outrageous. One must draw the line somewhere and I drew it at that. These gentlemen were quite unconscious that they were transgressing the laws of decency. Indeed, I may say they seemed as if they were quite proud of themselves. " You may look, and you may admire, but you must'nt touch." That was the sort of look they had on their faces. I remarked to Mr. Sewell " surely these gentleman should not come in such dresses where ladies are." Mr. Sewell, who was rather of a serious turn of mind smiled, and replied " why, don't you know this is full evening dress for the Native gentlemen of Malabar?"

Tyrrell was deputed to Palghaut (as Palghat was called) in 1880, following a visit of the Duke of Buckingham. The jail had been opened in 1878, during the famine years, after many issues, one being the violence at the Cannanore jail (one or two of the convicts had been shot down from the central tower where the Superintendent Colonel Beauchamp and the Jail subordinates had taken refuge, following a case of flogging and subsequent revolt). Mr Grimes from Palghat was transferred to Cannanore and Tyrrell was sent to Palghat from Madras as the Jail Superintendent. He observed straightaway that the prison with 400 prisoners had been badly mismanaged and that some prisoners had succumbed to dysentery. He noted that half the milk collected for the inmates was being diverted for private use. The Rajput apothecary was not too bothered about his work and the inmates suffered, as a result.

The description of the Palghat area is fascinating and original, he states- The rainfall was so great, that I began to wonder to myself where all the water came from, for within thirty miles to the East on the Coimbatore side, there was in all probability scarcely a shower of rain during all the period, and nearly the same might be said of Ootacamund which is only forty miles to the North from Palghat, as the crow flies. There is no road from the hills North of and close to Palghat, but there is a jungle tract to Ootacamund. Probably a few numbers of the jungle tribes inhabiting these hills may have travelled through these jungles, but it must have been a terribly risky thing even for them, for the jungle is infested with tigers, cheetas, bears, and other wild animals.

Tyrrell goes on to describe the social ladder, the positioning of the Englishman, the middle-class Hindu, the lower castes and the untouchables and asks a pertinent question - I wonder how they would like a Cherumer as leader of the opposition to lay down the law to them. All this disgusted me with the mild Hindu of Palghat and I frequently gave him a piece of my mind and told him that in Madras, these poor outcastes would have just as much claim to walk on the roads as the Governor himself.

And then he comes to the gent this article is all about, though he names him wrongly as Ramaswamy Chetty. Well the person is none other than the famous Pulicat Ratnavelu Chetti. Tyrrell introduces him thus - While I was at Palghat the first Native Covenanted Civilian to enter the Indian Civil Service, one Mr. Ramaswamy Chetty, was appointed to act as Assistant Magistrate of the Station.

Let us now get to know this fascinating character from Madras. Mr Ramaswamy Chetti, his father was a wealthy and very well-known person in Madras, working in the Madras municipality. He had decided to get his sons educated in England and Ratnavelu was his eldest son born in 1856, who found himself bound for the cold climes of England, in 1873.

In May 1873, Ratnavelu was admitted to the Lincoln’s inn (The Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. (The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray's Inn.) Lincoln's Inn is recognized to be one of the world's most prestigious professional bodies of judges and lawyers. He then continued his education at Oxford and was later called to the bar in Nov 1877.

In 1874, he had secured an admission with distinction into the prestigious ICS which had just been thrown open to native Indians. From various newspaper accounts, we see that this 19-year-old ‘Hindu Scholar’ who had initially been schooled at Madras (he obtained his BA there), excelled in his educational pursuits at the Balliol college in Oxford. He obtained a mathematical scholarship and was placed first but went back to India in 1876 to get started on what would have been an illustrious career.

His service record reads thus.

PULICAT RATNAVELU CHETTI, B.A - Arrived 24th December 1876. Assistant to the Collector and District Magistrate, Salem. 2nd January 1877. Assistant Collector, Chingleput, 9th August 1878. Acting Head Assistant Collector and Magistrate, North Arcot. from 9th August 1879. Assistant to the Collector and District Magistrate, Malabar, 2nd December 1879. Assistant special assistant Collector and District Magistrate, Malabar, 5th May 1880, Assistant inspector general of registration from 24th Aug to 28th Sept and from 1st Oct to 4th Nov 1880. Acting Head assistant Collector Malabar from 13th Nov 1880 – 4 years, 8 days (Note that Chetti never moved from an assistant to the collector’s position because the Madras presidency would not seemingly appoint a native in that post).

Whatever happened to this brilliant person in 1880? Why did he vanish from the civil service records? Well, let us follow his story in Tyrrel’s words for his arrival into the midst of the British ruling establishment at Palghat caused much furor. The fact of a Native being sent to Palghat as Assistant Magistrate was a thing the local leaders of Society could not comprehend, and it caused a great deal of talk and angry comment, especially amongst three or four of the ladies. One lady in particular gave vent to her feelings on the subject in very strong terms. The " fuss and clatter " made in connection with this matter suggested to one the idea of a hawk swooping down on a poultry yard.

When ladies are upset, their menfolk I suppose get even more upset! Anyway, at this point, it appears that Chetti had become a Christian, as we can see from Tyrrell’s accounts and managed to handle the situation quite well. He explains - We were badly off in the matter of our spiritual needs at Palghat, but Mr. Elsworthy who was Lay Trustee acted efficiently in the absence of a Chaplain and used to take the Services. The Revd. W. Elwes, the Chaplain at Calicut at that time, however, would come down three or four times a year for such essentials as Baptisms and the administration of the Holy Communion.

Tyrrell continues - Mr. Ramaswamy (Ratnavelu) Chetty however came, saw, and conquered, and the lady who was the loudest in her condemnation of him was driven by him to Church in his turn out, Verbum sap! Mr. Ramaswamy (Ratnavelu) Chetty attended Church regularly, and was most popular with the Europeans, He had taken a high place in the list of " Passes" in the Examination for the Civil Service in England. In our private, as well as our official relations with each other, we were the best of friends, and I got to like him very much. He was also a man of wide culture and had some valuable classical works which he kindly placed at my disposal. There was a great deal of comment in the Madras papers regarding the certainty, of his losing caste on his return from England (Maybe that is why he became a Christian), but he did not seem to care. a straw for the opinion, of his fellow castemen, for he went to Church, dressed, ate, drank and behaved in every way like an English gentleman. I must also say that his house was furnished in the English style, in the most elaborate and expensive manner, and could scarcely have been in better taste than if the hand of a lady had had anything to do with it.

A little research proved that Ratnavelu had been dogged by racist issues even before his arrival at Palghat and in this regard, I would like to quote from an interesting paper listed under references

Attitudes towards the new educated Indian Middle Class, as expressed in the newspaper, were also far from consistent, and for every article approving of the presence of Indians of ‘the better classes’ on the Hills, there was another attacking the ‘Anglicised Hindu’ in virulent terms, and expressing the greatest hostility to the appointment of Indians drawn from this group to civil service posts in the Nilgiris. In January 1877 an editorial decried the appointments of Mr. Pulicat Ratnavelu Chetti and Mr. Parupalli Pundarikashudu Gar to the Madras Civil Service.

Articles such as this appeared with frequency in the S.I.O. (South of India Observer) The educated Hindu is an anomaly. He is respected in his dhoti and his chudder, but despised in patent leather boots, knickerbocker stockings and linen cuffs and collars. He can be listened to, when expressing himself in his vernacular, with appreciation and attention, but is repulsive when speaking in English with a vile accent, interlarded with d – ‘s and vulgar oaths, which he has picked up from association with low and drunken foreigners, whom he strives his best to imitate.

Murali provides more bio - During service, he had qualified in Tamil, Sanskrit, Canarese, Telugu and Malayalam. He was also drawing salary and allowances of Rs 802 rupees, a princely sum in those days. Assuming gold price to be Rs 13 per sovereign (as in early 20th century), the amount could well be equivalent to today’s salary of Rs 15 lakhs per month.

Perhaps he managed to get through occasional racist incidents (we know that British could be the worst among racists), perhaps he did not, for we hear of another incident (not substantiated) but well known to the old timers of Palghat, that Ratnavelu Chetti once organized a reception to the visiting Malabar Collector, a British ICS officer under whom he was working. During the function, Chetti welcomed the guest by shaking hands with the guest. It is reported that the racist senior officer washed his hands in public, mouthing expletives, in front of the guests and attendees, since Chetti was a black skinned native. Chetti was deeply shocked and humiliated and killed himself. A kerosene lamp and post were set up by the public in his honor, which the British removed citing lack of permission, resulting in huge protests. John Stanley the governor in Madras finally acceded, and a new lamp was installed. This is the story attributed to his suicide by the Kerala archives in their commendatory video, which alas, is not quite true.

Now looking at the list of collectors, we see that three people served during the period when Logan was away. We had CWW Martin, followed by EN Overbury and finally G Macwaters until Logan returned in 1880-81. We do not come across this incident in the extensive studies people have conducted on the life of William Logan, so it must have been related to one of the three during 1879. The very fact that three collectors served in one year shows that some rapid changes were made at Calicut during the absence of Logan.

Another story did its rounds which goes thus - Ratnavelu Chetti being the top Government official was invited to the club when the Britishers were celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria. As you can imagine, he was the only native. After the banquet and a toast to the Queen, the attendees commenced dancing, sans Chetti who sat watching them. A British couple gyrated towards the corner where Ratnavelu was sitting and the English lady quipped ” who is this crow among the swans” and glided away. Now I cannot quite believe this took place in Palghat since Chetti was well known to the British as Tyrrell explained earlier. It probably took place elsewhere, and we will get to that aspect soon.

Let us now get back to Tyrell’s documented account published in 1904, where he explains that Ratnavelu Chetti went to Calicut to attend what was popularly known as the Canterbury week. I had written about this celebration some years ago (that is when I came across the story for the  first time). As a gentleman of the time puts it - John Bull brought his idiosyncrasies to Malabar too, specifically Calicut in this case, which is his love for Cricket. And what better than to have a Canterbury week in Calicut? Thus, came about the CW during the 1870’s and this was hosted and conducted with regularity through 1920 at Calicut.

As the planters in Wynad went around planting rubber, tea, coffee and so on, they also found ways to have a bit of amusement both in the hills and the plain of Calicut which was some 30 miles away. So when the lean period came by, the planters took some days off and came down the Ghats to Calicut to spend a week on fun and frolic, perhaps on the MCC, Mananchira and Zamorin’s school grounds of those days as they stayed in the Malabar European club off the beach front. The week was aptly called the ‘Canterbury week of Calicut’. The only difference was that while the British Canterbury week at Kent welcomed a mixing of both the upper and lower classes of peoples, the one in Calicut was primarily for the British gentry.

The picture tells the story, it shows ‘hat clad’ Englishmen coming to the Malabar club on the Calicut Beach early in the morning, riding down the hills on bullock carts through the night, with many ladies and the pomp. They must look their best, so the first call of the day is to get their hair cut (look at the guy’s hair sticking out) and barbers are pulled out of their beds, struggling. Looking at the picture - makes me a little confused as to whether the artist was really in Calicut, for that kind of a Chaprasi and barber dress is unusual for Calicut, but perhaps it was so.

Getting back to Tyrrel, he had to leave Palghat - In May 1881, Colonel Tennant wrote to me to say that it was his intention to recommend the closing of the Palghat Fort Jail to the Government of Madras, on the ground of the unhealthiness of the place and the number of cases of sickness amongst the prisoners. After closing the Jail, I returned to my former appointment as Keeper of H. M.'s. Penitentiary on the 3rd June 1881. 

During the same year in which Tyrrel had left, Ratnavelu went to Calicut, to attend the Canterbury week of Autumn 1881. Whether he had attended the events in previous years or whether he stayed at the Malabar club is not clear. But the 1881 visit proved to be a disaster. Bullying or racist behavior continued and Ratnavelu was, it appears, snubbed at Calicut by a planter (this was possibly when the lady called him a crow, resulting in a fracas with the husband). This was perhaps the last straw which broke the camel’s back, for it is said that Chetty ended up getting shot.  

The official report stated – On the 28th Sept 1881, Mr Puliccat Ratnavelu Chetty C.S, the first native civil servant of this presidency, met his death by an accident at Palghaut, where he held the office of Acting Assistant Collector. He had returned from Calicut and the cause of death is attributed to a gun accident. The deceased gentleman was the son of Mr P Ramaswamy Chetty, the revenue vice president of the Madras Presidency. He was just 25!

Tyrrel heard about this incident later, and he remarks sadly - It was some time after I had left the station that I heard of his tragic death. He had either shot himself accidentally or had committed suicide—the point was never cleared up'. He had been to Calicut for "the Canterbury Week," and while there had had a dispute with a planter who had used some strong expressions towards him. This, it was said, had preyed on Mr. Ramaswamy Chetty's mind, and led him to commit the deed. I was very sorry indeed to hear of the occurrence, for I liked him very much and felt sure that, had he lived, he would have been an ornament to the Indian Civil Service.

Was it an accident, murder or suicide? In 1881, the righteous William Logan was back as collector, but he never made a mention of the incident. Did the British condone the actions of the racist planter? Was there an enquiry into the incident? It does appear from the report that Chetti lived for a few hours after the shooting and died at Palghat after heading home, so was he gravely injured and died subsequently. I assume time may uncover some details, though I have been unsuccessful. Maybe the incident figured in some repentant planter’s diary.

His father was well known in Madras, had excellent connections and outlived him, his brothers studied in Britain though one of them named Narayanaswami died after returning to Madras, in 1901, after an equally proficient tenure at the bar in Britain. Why did none of these relatives mention this or go against the establishment, if it was indeed a case of murder or bullying? Was Ratnavelu disowned by his folk for converting? We don’t know!

The people at Palghat decided to honor him and constructed a lamp pillar near the district hospital, very Victorian in design as you can see,  complete with five kerosene lamps, called Anchu Vilakku which survives to this day. This was done at the initiative of municipal chairman Rao Bahadur Chinnaswamy Pillai around 1893, with funds collected from the local community. The people of Palghat still remember Chetti and his unfortunate tryst with destiny.

From England to the antipodes and India 1846-1902 - Isaac Tyrrell
‘White Todas’. The Politics of Race and Class amongst European Settlers on the Nilgiri Hills c1860 – 1900, Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History Vol.32 No.2 (May 2004) pp.54-85
Canterbury Week at Calicut – Maddy’s Ramblings , Jan 07,2012 
Kerala Archives video commemorating Ratnavelu Chetti
Racism and it’s 19th century martyr from South India -The story of Ratnavelu Chetti ICS - Murali Rama Varma
Palakkadwalks page

I wish my dear friend S Muthiah were alive, he would have given me more details of the incident, digging into his extensive resources. In case anybody else can help, please feel free to comment.

Pictures of Anjuvilakku – courtesy Murali Rama Varma

The Kora Puzha custom

Posted by Maddy Labels:

A Cultural or political boundary?

I think most of us will recall that in the past, we had some strict rules when it came to marriages. People from Malabar would not marry from families down South or up North. Let us take a look at that rule or custom and see what it was all about during and after the days when the Calicut Zamorins feuded with the Kolathunad rulers.

One can always argue if it was a rule or a custom, perhaps the latter is a more appropriate usage, we shall soon see. The details come out in various clarifications sought during the long discussions held to formulate what is known and the Report of the Malabar Marriage Commission of 1891. It is not my intention to discuss the practice of a Sambandham marriage, for it is a complex and vast but totally misunderstood subject, so we can get to it some other day.

Rivers were considered natural barriers and divisive lines between medieval feudal states. While women of South Malabar and Cochin cannot go beyond Quilon in Travancore on pain of losing caste, those of north Malabar were prohibited from crossing the Perumpula River towards the north and the Korapuzha towards the south (Kora Puzha is roughly nine miles north of Calicut). Those of Polanad were confined between Korapuzha on the north and Chalian River on the south. The Putiyapalam River was respected by the ladies of the orthodox Nayar families of Kizhakkumpuram and Vadakkumpuram. The list goes on, but we will discuss the Kora Puzha rule, only because the discussion over that rule was very well documented and widely debated.

How and why did this custom originate? The earliest mentioned relate to the mythical Parasuma (of course!) who created the three classes of women. According to the Kerala Mahatmyam, the Kora River, is the "Ghara" in Sanskrit. The story is that Parasurama provided three women by Indra, them being an Asura, a Gandharva and a Deva, proceeded on to Malayala. He settled the first at Gokarnam, the second in North Malabar and the last at Trichur. The progeny of these three women were (due to social levels or hierarchy at Devaloka perhaps!) prohibited from associating with one another. The sons of Deva and Gandharwa women may have mutual intercourse with the daughters of Gandharwa and Deva females respectively, and vice versa in the Malayalam country – viz. Kerala).  Now note here that the sons of Deva females are the Nayars of South Malabar, and the daughters of the Gandharwa females are the women of North Malabar, because according to Kerala Mahatmyam, the country between Cape Comorin and Ghora river was colonized by the descendants of a Deva female and those of her six handmaids, and the country between the Ghora river and Paysasini river in Kizhoor, at Kasargod, by the descendants of a Gantharwa female and those of her six handmaids, and the country between Payassini river and Ghokarnam in North Canara, by the descendants of an Asura female and those of her six handmaids. This as you can see was the legend attached to the divisions.

That was a myth, but perhaps the real reason lay in the rivalry between the Zamorins and the Kolathunad Rajas. Many of the people quizzed came up with this reason as the real basis, and the necessity for absolute faithfulness by the supporting Nair and Tiya militia. Wifely ties would weaken such faith and so, no liaisons should exist across the borders. Further, property rights would mean that men in the South marrying up North can lay claim to lands through their wives and vice versa!

Of course there were some who tried to explain that the Northern Nair castes were superior, chaster compared to the South, that their women had higher standing and so on which I would, like the marriage board, take with a pinch of salt. The argument rested on the supposition that polyandry prevailed largely in South Malabar whilst North Malabar was comparatively free from it, and that the edict was issued to protect the purity of North Malabar women. A curious fact was that all this and the Anuloma/Pratiloma concepts were applicable only in Malabar and not to adjoining South Canara, so it was not a rule which had any kind of broad religious or moral ground. Hence it was just a custom.

Some went back to a period where there was a belief that N Malabar women would be dishonored in the Zamorin’s country and connected the belief to an event where a bunch of N Malabar women had gone to Calicut to attend a feast or celebration, during which they were detained there and married off to many Nairs in the palace. This was done in order to create a clan which became the Zamroin’s personal staff. They are the ‘akathu cherna nayanmar’ or Parisha Menon’s or todays Menon’s.

The furious Kolathunad raja, unable to physically retaliate against his powerful rival, put in the ban on any of his female subjects from ever again entering the Zamorin’s territory. His words on the occasion are reported to have been somewhat to the following effect. "Into the territory of the Zamorin, who is guilty of such gross misconduct as this, let our women (subjects) not enter." A later generation, who perhaps did not know, or were not informed of the reason for the prohibition, or, who, by lapse of time, and because no fresh instance of the kind took place in the South mis-paraphrased the Rajah's words into a prohibition to cross the Korapuzha—the Southern boundary of Kolathnad.

Stories like this abound, for there is one siding with the Zamorin as well. The relations between one of the Zamorins and a certain Kurumbranad Rajah was, let us say friendly and there was much intercourse between the two domains, so much so that it appears the Kurumbranad Rajah succeeded in bedding a Tampuratti of the Zamorins's family. The enraged Zamorin put in a travel ban towards the North!

There were some other complex issues too at stake relating to Yagam performance as one explained- There are no Nambuthiris to the North of Korapuzha and to the South of Aleppie river who can perform Yagam and kindred ceremonies; therefore high caste Brahman women cannot travel beyond these boundaries and consequently the Sudra dependents too, of these Brahmans are prohibited from going further than the two limits.

Connections and potential pollution with Muslims was another major issue cited by some and date back to the Pardesi Arabs in the Zamorin territory. It appears that new Arab settlers (perhaps 13th to 15th century periods), forcibly carried away some women - one or two of them of very high rank too and made them their wives. Such unpleasant facts occurring in the South must have made the northern people regard the Zamorin's dominions as dangerous places to live in or travel through, and that more especially for women, and as, to them such travelling or settlements were not necessary, they made the passing into the Zamorin's dominions by women ,an offence " punishable with forfeiture of caste."

While Korapuzha was the Kolathunad border many years ago, in the 19th century it became an issue since Korapuzha was no longer in the Kolathunad territory. The correct boundary between North and South Malabar, for argument sake should have been the Kottakadavu (Marat River) and not the Korapuzha, because, the country beyond the Kottakadavu and within the Korapuzha forms the Southern portion of the Kurumbranad Taluk.

Petty religious issues were also brought up, for example the Korapuzha required boats to cross it and they were all owned and rowed by Moplah’s. In certain other rivers, they had Hindu Pitran rowers, so it was not a problem. But at Korapuzha, they could not circumvent Moplahs. It also appears that there was an event relating to some Kolathunad women being ‘ravished’ by the Moplahs in the Zamorin’s kingdom!

Property rights were mentioned - In the olden time Kolathunad extended up to Korapuzha and Kolathiri, who is said to have exacted feudal services (military) from thirty thousand Nayars under him, thought it wise to rule with a view to stop emigration of these feudal serfs, that to cross that boundary for a female of North Malabar (who is, of course only likely to propagate such serfs rightly belonging to his Swarupam) was to entail excommunication.

The subsequent conquest by the Mysore Sultans also figured in the arguments – One went thus - The dominion of the Zamorin was overrun by Tipu Sultan, who converted many a Nayar to Islam. The Rajah of Chirakkal then issued an order that no woman should cross the Korapuzha, lest she be converted, and that no man of South Malabar should be admitted to a North Malabar family on the belief that all in South Malabar (including the Zamorin) had become converts to Islam!

The conclusions after the involvement of all the representing nobles (my Great Great grandfather Vidwan Ettan Thamburan, included) and educated men of that time, was as you can imagine, inconclusive. If you are interested in hearing what my ancestor (who became the Zamorin only a few years after the interview) had to say, well he was a deeply religious person who believed in the caste system and furthermore, the Bhagavad Gita. A very conservative and caste bound men, he said…

There exists no absolute objection to a Nayar woman of North Malabar going South of Korapuzha. 
The causes which led to this prohibition appear to me to have been:
(1) The restrictions laid down by the two Rajahs (Zamorin and Kolathiri)
(2) If the women were allowed to travel as freely as they pleased, they would enter into all sorts of connections forbidden by caste regulations and customary usage, which would undermine caste observances, and would remove caste distinctions, so much so that all classes would be reduced to the same level, and lead to other similar evils. It is clear from the following quotation from Bhagavatgitha that if the women fall and become degenerated it would be productive of enormous evil…

"0 ! Krishna! From the increase of vice (even) family (chaste) women become sinners. 0! Descendant of Yrishni (Krishna)! When women are bitten ("corrupted) confusion of castes is the result. The wages of this confusion will be hell even to the race of such as destroy the purity of families, for their forefathers will sink into hell, being deprived of Pinda (funeral cake), TJdagam (holy water) and Kriya (funeral rites). By these vices of the destroyers of families, which produce mixtures of castes, the long established religious observances of castes and of families are up-rooted."

The Malabar marriage act of 1896 was eventually enacted, though it did not quite make an impact.The first man in North Malabar, who tried ineffectually to break through the custom was the late Kuvukal Kelu Nayar, a late Sub-Judge of South Malabar. His son Kunhi Raman Nayar, who was also Sub-Judge of Calicut, too, failed in his attempt to take his wife to Calicut.

Thurston adds, though not referring to the apparent origins of the Akattu Charna caste from Kolathunad – To this rule there is an exception, and of late years the world has come in touch with the Malayāli, who nowadays goes to the University, studies medicine and law in the Presidency town (Madras), or even in far off England. Women of the relatively inferior Akattu Charna clan are not under quite the same restrictions as regards residence as are those of most of the other clans; so, in these days of free communications, when Malayālis travel, and frequently reside far from their own country, they often prefer to select wives from this Akattu Charna clan. But the old order changeth everywhere, and nowadays Malayālis who are in the Government service, and obliged to reside far away from Malabar, and a few who have taken up their abode in the Presidency town, have wrenched themselves free of the bonds of custom, and taken with them their wives who are of clans other than the Akattu Charna.

He then goes into detail about the custom of a Mannan being the one to provide the ‘mattu’ or post mensuration period clothes to a Nair woman, but does not quite explain how it applied to an Akattu Charna Nayar woman. Perhaps she can have the mattu from any dhobi, not a vannan?

According to Kodoth’s studies - This prohibition on Women had by the turn of the turn of the twentieth century turned into a source of inconvenience for the increasing number of Nair men employed outside north Malabar. Men employed outside North Malabar or in Madras resorted to sambandham with women in south Malabar owing to the inconvenience of the rule. The first instances of women defying the rule were in order to join their husbands and these women had to bear the pain of ostracism. A few women did cross to join their husbands in Calicut. Chandu Nambiar recalls that it was possible to break the taboo only because women of the older generation took it upon themselves to violate the norm. They were also willing to brave the censure involved. By the 1920s, women were crossing the river without major social repercussions.

But with the passage of time, new marriage rules came into vogue and old feudal rules disappeared, but even today you can see chaste Nair or Tiya families asking questions about the geographic origins of the groom or the bride’s family, during marriage proposals. In fact when two Malayalee’s meet, the first question is where in Kerala the other is from!

Shifting the ground of fatherhood, Matriliny, men and marriage in early 20th century Keralam – Praveena Kodoth
Nayars of Malabar – F Fawcett
Report of the Malabar Marriage commission 1891.
Castes and Tribes of Southern India, by Edgar Thurston Vol 5
Note: Today the Korapuzha is also known as the Elathur river