Monday, November 30, 2009

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja [1750-1805]

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja [1750-1805], popularly known as the Lion of Kerala was a prince from the royal dynasty of Kottayam. He had three senior Rajas above him for his claim to the throne. However, when the Muslim Mysore army occupied Malabar for a second time [1773-1790] all the seniors of Kottayam Royal family fled to Travancore. It was Pazhassi Raja who led a well organized guerrilla struggle against Mysorean invader who were far stronger than Kottayam army. So he emerged in course of time as most powerful man in Kottayam as people stood firmly behind this beloved prince of theirs who had not abandoned them in hour of misfortune. [1]. His troops were drawn from ranks of warrior Nayars as well as tribal Kurichias & Mullukurumbas[2]
Kingdom of Pazhassi Raja
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was born into Padinjare Kovilakam of Purannatt Swarupam, the royal dynasty of princely state of Kottayam. This Padinjare Kovilakam or Western Branch of this royal dynasty was located at Pazhassi. So came the nick name Pazhassi Raja. Kingdom of Kottayam covered what is today Talassery taluk [1000] of Kannur District and Raja of Kottayam was also in possession of Wynad District [2000]. Head-quarters of this kingdom was located in Kottayam, a small town not far from Tellicherry.[3]
[edit] War Against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan
Hyder Ali invaded Malabar for a second time in 1773 on pretext that Rajas of Malabar had not paid him tribute as fixed in 1768.[4] Most of Malabar Rajas with their kin and kith fled to Travancore in terrified of Hyder's ferocious troops. Though resistance sprang all over Malabar in response to bigotry, plunder and atrocity perpetuated by Mysorean officers, it degenerated into anarchy as those who should have led resistance had bolted like rabbits. Only Pazhassi Raja declared loud and clear that escape in face of danger is cowardice and stayed in Kottayam where he gathered a force and engaged in guerrilla warfare as he had neither in numbers guns and troops to face Mysoreans in open field. Raja set up a large number of bases in the nearly impenetrable forested mountains of Puralimala* and Wynad and repeatedly inflicted grevious losses to Mysorean army in Kottayam as well as Wynad. [5]
[*Puralimala is a mountain range that extends east-west from Mozhakkunnu to Mattannur. It is not a part of Western Ghats] [6]
In 1778, Hyder’s vassal, Raja of Chirakkal besieged Talassery and enforced an economic blockade-under order from Hyder himself. British factors at Talassery armed Pazhassi Raja’s men to enable them to recover Kottayam from Mysorean occupation army. This move by British ensured that Chirakkal army was now in risk of being struck in rear by Pazhassi’s force. So Chirakkal troops began to retreat. But Pazhassi chased and devastated Chirakkal army and then marched in Kottayam where he obliterated Mysorean army of occupation and over-ran all of Kottayam. But at this critical moment when Mysorean army in Malabar could have been destroyed by a joint action on part of British and Rajas, British factors at Talassery was instructed by Governor not to upset the nominal peace with Hyder.[7]
Thus British decision not to exploit victory at Talassery was exploited by Mysore well. Chirakkal army reinforced by a Mysorean contingent under Balwant Rao marched into Kottayam. Pazhassi’s men, though secretly supplied with arms and ammunition by English, could not hold or defeat this huge host as he lacked numbers and soon Kottayam army was forced to disperse after a fight. Then Mysore-Chirakkal army captures Kadathanad and installs a puppet Raja who joins hand with Mysore. In 1779, a huge Mysore-Chirakkal-Kadathanad army besieged Talassery. Pazhassi Raja sent a force of 1300 Nayars to aid British defence of Talassery-and this enables factors to hold on successfully.[8]
By end of 1779, Sardar Khan, Mysorean general is sent to Talassery to speedily bring the siege to a successful conclusion. Sardar Khan knew that it was Pazhassi’s help that enabled British to resist him and so he opened negotiations with Pazhassi-his offer was restoration of Mysore occupied territories of Kottayam if Pazhassi was to ally with Mysore and pay an immediate tribute of 5 lac rupees. It was well beyond the capacity of Kottayam to raise so huge a sum in so short a time. But Pazhassi did his best to pay Sardar Khan [probably in hope that latter will make concessions] and 60,000 rupees was paid to latter. But Khan was not satisfied and rejected Pazhassi’s request that he be restored his possessions in Malabar. This greedy and tactless approach of Sardar Khan made sure that there was little chance for Mysore to capture Talassery.[9]
In 1780, Pazhassi Raja proposed to British a plan to break Mysorean siege of Talassery-He and his men will strike enemy in rear from east as British should come out of fort and strike Mysorean line in front and both armies are to effect a junction that will spilt enemy into two and then Mysorean and allied troops can be routed easily. But it was only in 1781 that British understood the value of this plan and their Bombay authorities agreed with Pazhassi and an operation was carried out as Pazhassi suggested-It ended with destruction of Mysorean force and Sardar Khan himself was killed. What followed was rebellion in Kottayam by Nayar militia led by Pazhassi Raja and soon Mysoreans were ousted from their country. [10]
By 1782, Kottayam was once more a free land. But by Treaty of Mangalore [1784] after Second Anglo-Mysore War, British recognised Malabar as Tipu’s sphere of action. Thus with only valuable ally lost, Kottayam was ready to become a vassal state of Mysore. But once more, as Sardar Khan did in 1779, Mysore made an exorbitant rate of tribute. While Ravi Varma, elder brother of Pazhassi Raja agreed to pay 65,000 rupees per year, Mysore demanded 81,000 rupees instead. Hiked rate of tribute meant greater hardship for peasantry [largely Tiyar/Izhava] who had suffered from years of foreign occupation. So Pazhassi Raja took up this issue and decided to launch a mass resistance struggle once more.[11]
By end of 1788, Pazhassi’s loath for Tipu had shot up on account of latter’s policy of forcible conversions and Pazhassi was convinced that British was definitely the lesser evil and so Pazhassi-British ties became stronger than before as now it was a fight to death with Tipu. Not surprisingly, Tipu had sent that year an army under Lally with a mission - Extermination of the Nayar warrior caste (chief opponent of Mysore terror) from Kottayam to Palakkad. But in 1790, Tipu abandons Malabar as war in Deccan forced him. Pazhassi Raja joined British with a force of 1500 Nayars in their capture of Mysorean strong-hold in Katirur [near Talassery]. After Katirur, Pazhassi and troops move south-east and captures Kuttiyadi fort from Tipu’s men. Thus once more whole of Kottayam was in control of Pazhassi Raja. In 1790, British also recognized Pazhassi Raja as head of Kottayam as actual Raja was in refuge at Travancore. Raja agreed to pay 25,000 rupees as tribute to British.[12]
But by Treaty of Seringapatam [1792] signed between British and Tipu after latter failed in Third Anglo-Mysore War, Malabar was ceded to English. British then began to work for establishment of their supremacy in Malabar. [Logan] This was where British and Pazhassi had opposite opinions-Pazhassi helped British not because he was ready to accept British suzerainty but he wanted his country Kottayam to be a free land. [13]
Pazhassi was disturbed when he read the terms which British put forward to Rajas of Malabar in 1792. Though he was unsure in beginning, he made up his mind and agreed to British terms. Their summary is as follows-
1. Raja can rule as before but British will control him “in case of oppressing inhabitants”.
2. A resident will be appointed to enquire about “complaints of oppression”.
3. Two persons on part of British and two persons on part of Raja to make valuation of land revenue of Kottayam.
4. Tax to be paid by each subject to be ascertained.
5. Raja’s tribute to be settled in October of 1792 according to appearance of crop.
6. English’s share of pepper to be delivered at a price fixed by British in December of 1792.
7. Remnant pepper to be bought only by merchants appointed by English.[14]
These terms converted monarchs to mere agents of English. Rajas now are stripped of their right to rule as they willed and they also lost control over their economies too.
Why did a man who fought for his country’s freedom for 17 years sign so unfair an agreement? Probably Pazhassi would have thought that British would not interfere in domestic administration of Kottayam as autonomy was practised by tributary Rajas even during Mysore days. If this was how Pazhassi had thought future would look like, he was to be disillusioned with British in near future.
[edit] War Between Pazhassi Raja and British

Pazhassi Kudeeram-a memorial for Pazhassi Raja at his burial spot in Mananthavadi, Wayanad, Kerala
Pazhassi Raja resisted British imperialism from 1793 onwards till his death in 1805. He fought two wars to resist English intervention in domestic affairs of his kingdom. From 1793-1797 he fought over the question of management of Kottayam and from 1800-1805 over the issue of who is master of Wynad.
[edit] First Revolt [1793-1797]
Pazhassi Raja was not on good terms with his uncle Vira Varma, Raja of Kurumbranad. In 1793, this foxy uncle Raja convinced British Commissioners to let him collect tax in Kottayam. He calculated that a good collection might please British and that will let him seize all of Kottayam. Needless to say that Pazhassi Raja was angry at this British move. He felt betrayed. After all he was the only Raja in Northern Malabar to have helped British consistently in war with Mysore.[15]
Vira Varma Raja was a real crook-on one hand he undertook to collect tax in Kottayam directly and on other hand he instigated Pazhassi Raja to oppose English. Moreover, British assessment was harsh and beyond peasant capacity to pay. They resisted forcible collection by agents of British and Pazhassi Raja took up their cause. As seen before, Raja was deadly opposed to extortion of peasantry. [16]
In 1793, Pazhassi Raja made sure that no tax was collected in Kottayam by English-as a mark of his protest. He also threatened that if British officials did not give up their enumeration of pepper vines, he will have vines destroyed. Local British authorities, however, debated with Raja and soon both discovered Vira Varma’s dirty games. So British put forward a solution acceptable to Raja by which 20 percent of gross revenue would go to Raja and another 20 percent would go for temples’ expense. No tax would be imposed on temple property in immediate future. [17]
In 1793, Tipu’s Vakils protested with British that Pazhassi Raja who was latter’s tributary had overrun most of Wayanad, still under Mysore. Soon Raja is supreme in Wayanad Plateau.[18]
But Governor General unwisely revoked the agreement in 1794 and gave Kottayam on a five year lease to Kurumbranad Raja. Raja was truly angry at this decision and decided retaliate by ruling his country as per customary law. That year before lease was concluded Raja provided asylum to a Nayar noble Narangoli Nambiar of Iruvazinad who had been declared an outlaw by British for murder of three men who killed his kinsman. Raja’s kind treatment to Nambiar irritated English. British also became angry that Raja impaled two robbers as per customary law. British planned to arrest Raja for ‘murder’ but gave up the idea as Raja had a bodyguard of 500 well armed Wayanad Nayars. [19]
In 1795, even after a year Vira Varma Raja got Kottayam on lease, he was not able to collect tax in Kottayam-thanks to his nephew Raja’s determination. So British troops arrived in Kottayam to help Vira Varma’s tax collectors, but Pychy Raja’s men resisted them with success. [20]
In 1796, orders were issued from Bombay to collect tax arrears for 2 years in Kottayam. For British no more pretexts were needed to arrest Raja. 300 men under Lieutenant James Gordon marched from Talassery and seized Raja’s fortified house at Pazhassi-but Raja fled four days earlier to Manattana [near Kottiyur]. Gordon plundered the palace where traditional treasure of Raja was kept. Raja was angry at this loot and sent a letter to Supervisor at Talassery.[21]
Raja was also angry that one of his former general named Pazayamviden Chandu had become an agent of Kurumbranad Raja and what angered him even more than that was that this turn-coat had the audacity to boss him with Vira Varma’s and British blessings.[22] Chandu was later killed by a follower of Kaitheri Ambu when latter was about to be killed by Pazayamviden. [23] Raja shifted his HQ to Purali Range and then into Wayanad. Raja then blocked all British communications between Wayanad and Low Malabar through Kuttiyadi Pass. British retaliated by cutting all communications between Raja and Low Malabar. But as they did not have enough troops to chase him they waited for reinforcements. [24]
British commandant was Colonel Dow, whom Raja knew well during Siege of Talassery. So Raja thought that this old friend might help him mediate with British government. Raja offered to give up struggle provided he was pardoned and his treasure and house restored. Colonel and Raja being old soldiers hated needless bloodshed and so he forwarded Raja’s request to Commissioners, who though were bitterly opposed to Raja’s independent style, agreed to Colonel’s suggestion as there was a risk that Raja might ally with join with Tipu. [25]
So Northern Superintendent orders restoration of house back to Raja [but not treasure] and pardon to Raja was confirmed by Bombay and Supreme Governments. But orders of government was communicated to Raja via Vira Varma-which meant uncle Raja took care not to report his nephew of British agreement of his demands. Uncle Raja had vested interest in war between Company and his nephew Pazhassi Raja.[26]
Vira Varma also removed Kaitheri Ambu, a favourite noble and general of Raja, form home administration of Kottayam. Ambu along with followers went to Kannoth, where he planned and executed a mass resistance with people’s support, which made sure that Vira Varma could make no tax collection in Kottayam. But Ambu acted clearly on guidance of Raja, who felt expulsion of Ambu was another of his uncle’s conspiracies to undermine him. [27]
Raja feared that British planned to seize him [not knowing that their truce terms were kept blocked from him by his uncle] and retreated into depths of Wayanad. British troop build up in Wayanad also accelerated his doubts. However Raja was still eager to avoid a war and came to meet Northern Superintendent with a bodyguard of 1500 armed men. Vira Varma Raja was also ordered to be present. Pazhassi Raja’s main demand was that Kottayam must be under his rule-a demand his uncle was not ready to accede. [28] British Commissioners’ attitude also was arrogant-they were already prejudiced towards Raja and so were blind towards Raja’s logical argument that Vira Varma had no business in Kottayam. As talks broke down, Commissioners’ issued a threat proclamation in Kottayam that if those Kottayam men in service of Raja does not desert him and come home, they would be declare enemies and their properties would be confiscated. But this proclamation had little effect in Kottayam where resistance to British-Kurumbranad rule became stronger. [29]
British, to their horror, found out that a large number of Vira Varma’s troops had deserted to join ranks of resisters and Vira Varma himself was not much interested to help British-after all his aim was to create a flare up between his nephew and British for sake of pure self-interest. [30]
Raja then visited to Mysorean commandant at Karkankotta in 1796 and in 1797 held an audience with old enemy Tipu in Mysore who posted 6000 men at Karkankotta to aid Raja in case of war and also to supply ammunition to rebels. He also began to collect troops and armament. War was imminent. 1200 troops and artillery under Major General was sent by Bombay Government to deal with Pazhassi. British also began to set up outposts in Kottayam and sent more troops to Wayanad.[31]
In early 1797, Nayar militia rose all over Kottayam and British outposts were trapped in a true state of siege. Partisan bands became active all over Kottayam and harassed reinforcements and supply convoys. Same was the case in Wayanad where British troops that moved out of safety of block-houses risked being way-laid by Kurichia bowmen. British suffered good loss in terms of men, ammunitions and stores in these ambuscades. [32]
Periya Pass Episode-
This event is the most important in the whole war. In 1797, Colonel Dow & force marches into Wayanad. His plan was to block Periya Pass and then crush a large rebel force in Kannoth once their retreat is blocked. [33]
Reinforcements under Lieutenant Mealy were to reach Dow at Periya, but on way they were severely harassed by a force of Nayars and Kurichias and suffered a casualty of 105 men. So instead of Periya they retreated to their original base. [34]
Dow’s troops suffered chronic shortage of supplies and so Dow applied for reinforcements and re-supplies to be sent under Major Anderson of Bowles’ regiment. But as Mappila guides of Anderson deserted at last moment. That caused a delay in journey of Anderson-a delay that had fatal consequence for British.[35]
Dow then received news that Tipu had sent sepoys to aid Raja as Tipu considered British entry into Wayanad a violation of Seringapatam Pact. Dow decided that he will go to Talassery to consult authorities there and to plan a greater operation to deal with troops of Raja and Tipu simultaneously in Wayanad. He left with a small band of men but was ambushed on way by Raja’s men aided by Mysorean sepoys but Dow escaped unhurt. [36]
Day after he left, British force of 1100 under Major Cameroon in Periya decided to descend into Kottayam via Periya Pass as their supplies have exhausted. [37]
But what they did not know was that Raja who learnt of true state of British army laid a trap for them-he ordered troops lay concealed in camouflaged stockades built on both sides of pass. Once the whole British force entered the narrow pass, hidden troops were to pounce on their enemy who must be caught unawares. [38]
Plan worked well and what followed was great slaughter of British. Had it not been for arrival of Major Anderson’s force the following day, hardly any would have survived due to lack of medical care. Most of enemy were killed and all their guns, ammunition, baggage and cattle were plundered along with Union colours. Senior British officers like Major Cameroon, Lieutenant Nugent, Lieutenant Madge and Lieutenant Rudderman were killed in action. [39]
Around this time, Commissioners took a decision on advice of Swaminatha Pattar, a Tamil Brahmin who was minister of Zamorin that sowed the eventual downfall of Pazhassi Raja. They decided to raise an irregular force of local traitors to harass Pazhassi Raja. This force was a fore-runner of the infamous Kolkar, a Malabar version of Turkish Bashi-Bazouks, who became infamous for their sycophancy to British and cruelty to resisters and people. [40]
A brief introduction to Shamnath-He is an arch rogue who helped to consolidate British rule in Calicut. He was so hated by right minded people of Calicut that near kin of Zamorin made a nearly successful attempt to have this rascal killed. [Logan] But for time being, Raja was in a strong position. On account of British disasters, Bombay Government sent a Committee of Government composed of men of highest ranks-Commander-In-Chief Lieutenant General Stuart and Governor Jonathan Duncan. They decided to make peace as they were anxious that guerrilla warfare in a mountainous and forested terrain could last long and that Raja might join forces with Tipu or French. They also decided that Kurumbranad Raja Vira Varma should be ousted form administration of Kottayam. Rajas of Chirakkal and Parappanad acted as mediators in negotiation between Raja and British and a peace pact was signed between Pazhassi and British in 1797. [41]
Treaty of 1797 agreed on following points-[42]
1. Pazhassi Raja was to be ‘pardoned’.
2. He will be returned his treasure.
3. He will be provided an annual allowance of 8000 rupees.
4. He will be given back his confiscated house at Pazhassi.
5. Ravi Varma, elder brother of Pazhassi Raja will be head of Kottayam.
A pardon and restoration of property was also extended to Narangoli Nambiar of Iruvazinad also.[43]
Thus Raja’s efforts of four years ended in a political victory. Peace dawned after four years of antagonism and war.
[edit] Second Revolt & Death [1800-1805]
After fall of Tipu, Wayanad fell to British. They sent a Mysore Commission to seize Wayanad and planned to annex it to either Canara or Coimbatore. But as Wayanad was a traditional possession of Kottayam Raja and that Pazhassi is in control of this region since 1793, Pazhassi correctly saw move was an encroachment on his country’s ancient provinces. Raja retaliated by collecting a large force of Nayars which was now supplemented by Mappilas and Pathans, latter being ex-soldiers of Tipu who became unemployed after Tipu’s death. [44]
British Government at Madras appointed Colonel Arthur Wellesley as British army commandant of Mysore, Canara & Malabar- He planned a double pronged move from Malabar Coast and Mysore into Wayanad and began preparations for that end. Raja observed Colonel-latter had brought reinforcements and building roads in Wayanad and outposts across rebel country. In response, Raja also recruited numerous men which so alarmed Wellesley that latter even wanted to kidnap kith and kin of rebels so as to check Raja’s recruitment. [45]
Raja learnt that Wellesley had left to Deccan on a military mission-Raja who understood that Colonel’s absence is a great chance swiftly made his move. He marched across Kuttiyadi Pass and below he made a junction with Unni Mutha Muppan, a Walluvanad Mappila leader & his men and soon several great nobles of Iruvazinad like Kampuratt Nambiar, Peruvayal Nambiar and Kannoth Nambiar also joined Raja with their men. [46]
By monsoon of 1800, rebels who controlled all of country-side of Kottayam threatened to overwhelm British outposts in Kottayam. Wellesley sent a large force under Colonel Sartorius to recapture rebel held Kottayam. But the plan could not be carried out as there were not enough troops in Malabar. Wellesley advised Commissioners to stop all communications with Wayanad so as to starve Raja of supplies. But shortage of troops also meant this plan too remained on paper. By the time, Wellesley decided to smash Raja by a double drive from Malabar Coast and Mysore into Wayanad, Manjeri Athan Gurikkal an Ernad Mappila leader along with his followers agreed to support of Raja. [47]
By 1801, a large British force of over 7000 men swarmed all over Kottayam and Wayanad and they blocked all passes that linked Wayanad with Malabar. Before so large numbers, rebels thought wise to go under-ground for time being. Raja also found that he could no longer contact his supporters in Southern Wayanad and Southern Malabar. Raja became a wanderer in forests but even then, to surprise of British, he ruled out compromise [48]-it seems he understood that there was no alternative to full freedom.
Raja had six close aides and 25 musketeers in his wanderings. First he went north via Payyavur along montane forests of eastern Chirakkal to rally support. But British were on his trail but failed to catch him. Raja then visited his secret bases in Kottayam and then moved into Kadathanad and into jungles of Kurumbranad. British were angered that where ever he went, nobles supported him in secret and decided to punish them for their help to rebel Raja. [49]
As a part of terrorization, Peruvayal Nambiar who was arrested was hanged. British also threatened brutal penalty and confiscation of property for all those rebels who failed to surrender in six weeks time. But a pardon was also issued for surrendered rebels. But none of these threats and temptations worked and Raja was still at large. But some of his chief supporters were arrested of whom Kannoth Nambiar was most famous. Kannoth Nambiar and his son were hanged too and their property was confiscated. [50]
Following murder of Kannoth Nambiar, a deceptive calm descended on North Malabar-calm before storm. Collector Major MacLeod believed that war was over and went ahead with exploitation program. He immediately declared a total disarmament of Malabar and threatened those who kept arms with death penalty. He also doubled the rate of tax and ordered a reassessment of tax of whole Malabar in a mere forty days. [51]
All these stupid ‘reforms’ paid back in 1803 when whole Malabar was on verge of revolt as people were pushed to wall. MacLeod tried to calm this with corrective measure-He cancelled all his ‘reforms’ and old system was reinstated. But it was too late for Wayanad where Raja’s men were prepared for a rebellion. [52]
Capture of Panamaram Fort
First major event was capture of Panamaram Fort. Edachena Kungan planned the operation and was helped by 150 Kurichia bowmen under Talakkal Chandu. Fort had 70 men under Captain Dickenson and there was a large force of 360 men under Major Drummond only a few miles away in Pulinjali. So if Major came to help Captain in time Kurichia force would be overwhelmed by gun-fire and numbers. But Kungan and Chandu decided to take risk. [53]
Whole garrison was slaughtered in the surprise attack led by the two generals and they lost only 5 dead and 10 wounded. Dickenson himself was killed. Rebels got 112 muskets, six boxes of ammunitions and 6000 rupees. They also destroyed the whole fort.[54]
Wellesley was enraged at this rebel audacity and dispatched 500 men to retaliate. But by then rebel victory had roused all of Wayanad and Kottayam. Edachena Kungan, hero of Panamaram success, went to Pulpally shrine and issued a proclamation to people to join Raja’s war. 3000 men volunteered. They were posted at Valliyurkav at Mananthavadi, Motimjarra [?], and Edappally and 100 of them under brother of Kungan posted themselves at Periya Pass and 25 men were posted at Kottiyur Pass. Rebel outposts were set up en route from Dindimal to Valliyurkav. Rebel army was mostly composed of archers and sword men, but some had muskets. [55]
Edachena Kungan led an attack on a British detachment headed from Mysore to Mananthavadi. Harassment began once this force entered Wayanad till it reached a stream between Manathavadi and Bhavully [?] river. There they were blocked by a rebel force entrenched on opposite side of stream. But to ill luck of rebels a reinforcement which had caught up with blocked British army outflanked the rebel entrenchment and took a large number of prisoners. All these prisoners were disarmed and marched to a road where they were murdered. [Logan]
Besides, British reinforcements arrived in Wayanad from all directions. But British could find rebels nowhere. [56]
Rebels now concentrated in Kottayam. In 1802, they raided a supplies convoy near Kottiyur. British were frustrated by Kottayam people’s total lack of cooperation. To add to their trouble, in 1803, a rebel force took to field in Kurumbranad* & Payyormala* and people were sympathetic to rebels. Kungan marched towards Pazhassi to wipe out the British outpost there but had to retreat with large loss of men. But rebellion spread into Chirakkal where armed bands of partisans launched operations and often fought British openly. Raja’s army by end of 1803 was ranging as far as Kannur and Talassery. [57]
[*Both in northern and eastern parts of modern Calicut District]
In March 1803, a rebel force marched as far as Calicut and captured Sub-Jail where they killed all guards and seized their firearms and ammunition. They also released prisoners, many of whom joined ranks of rebel army. This was too much for MacLeod and he resigned immediately after this event.[58]
In 1803, Wellesley left for Europe, after three years of inconclusive war with Pazhassi Raja, later destined to become Duke of Wellington, vanquisher of Napoleon at Waterloo.[59]
In 1804, a large British army arrived and 1200 Kolkar were also ready for action. Most importantly Thomas Harvey Baber, a cunning man was appointed as Sub-Collector. [60] It was he who crushed Pazhassi Revolt forever. It is indeed ironic that what a military genius like Wellesley could not attain, a puny civil servant could!
In 1804, a huge rising lead by Kalyat Nambiar [a powerful Chirakkal noble but Raja’s sympathiser] and Raja’s men in largely forested eastern Chirakkal was crushed by British. If there was large and long revolt warfare in Chirakkal, it would have immensely profited Raja. Though there was a lot of supporters of Raja in Chirakkal, as revolt collapsed fast as rebels opted for open confrontation instead of time honoured guerrilla warfare. Another cause for failure of revolt was treacherous Kolkar also served their White pay-masters well. [61]
So once more rebel force had retreat to Wayanad. They were hotly chased by British who had 2000 Sepoys and 1000 Kolkar. A reward of 3000 pagodas was offered for Raja along with 10000 Pagodas for Edachena Kungan and bounties were put on heads of 10 other associates of Raja. [62]
But rebels, mostly Kurumbas, struck at Churikunji [?] in Wayanad. Though they had to withdraw, they had devastated their enemy. That year, a party of Kolkar nearly caught Raja but he escaped thanks to timely warning of a Kurumba guard. [63]
But monsoon and brutal climate of Wayanad soon aided Raja. Of 1300 Kolkar only 170 were not sick by October. Raja and Edachena Kungan organized a large force of Kurichias and Kurumbas at Pulpally shrine and positioned them to as far as Kurichiyat. Also effort of Kungan to rally Nayar nobles of Wayanad to support Raja’s war-effort had also succeeded. [64]
British for past couple of years did not have to suffer loss on a scale of Periya in 1797, but matters were not easy for British at all. Even in Kottayam which had become quiet might explode once more and a large rebel force with Raja as head was still at large. [65] But one must remember that the whole revolt is a one man show as Wellesley himself remarked once-“We are not fighting 1000 men [Raja’s army]...but one man...Kerala Varma.” [66] Raja’s end would mean end of revolt.
T.H Baber went to Mysore to direct operations himself and began a large search for informants and traitors. True, British themselves admit that they did not get lot of informants as locals were devoted to Raja, but some of those few informants proved devastating to revolt-one of them a Chetti, found out where Raja had camped and informed Baber who took to field with 100 Kolkar and 50 Sepoys. [67]
On 1805, November 30, Raja and retainers were camped near close to Karnataka on shore of a stream named Mavila or Mavila Tod [not far from Pulpally]. Raja and party were caught by surprise and an intense but short fight followed. Large number of rebels fled away. Six rebels were killed. One of the earliest rebels to be killed was Pazhassi Raja. [68]
Raja’ wife and her female servants along with 2 rebels were caught. Baber made arrangements for medical care of Raja’s wife who was dreadfully sick due to privations and made sure she got good treatment in captivity. [69]
To credit of T.H Baber, he treated Raja’s body with due respect and arranged for cremation with full traditional honours. Baber justified his respectful treatment in following word- [70]
“I was induced to this conduct from the consideration that, although a rebel, he was one of the natural chieftains of the country, and might be considered on that account rather as a fallen enemy.” [71]
Baber also added-
“Thus terminated the career of a man who has been enabled persevere in hostilities against the Company for near nine years, during which many thousand valuable lives have been sacrificed and sums of all money beyond all calculation expended” [72]
[edit] Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja - About the Man
Opinion of T.H Baber in 1805 that-
“...but in all classes, I observed a decided interest for the Pyche [Pazhassi] Raja, towards whom the inhabitants entertained a regard and respect bordering on veneration, which not even his death can efface.”[73]
Pazhassi Raja was only a junior prince of his dynasty and it was Fate that he rose to leadership. As foretold, people of all castes, tribes and classes of Kottayam & Wynad adored him as their beloved Raja.[74] They came to love this man so much that he became a hero of folk songs in Northern Malabar[75]
In film Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja [2009] as is in popular legend, Raja is depicted as a tall man. But eye witness account of Jonathan Duncan, Bombay Governor in 1797, who held peace talks with Raja describes him as a man with pleasing looks, short in height, fair in color, and had mustache as well as a light beard[76] That makes picture of artistic depiction of Raja at beginning of this article some what inaccurate.
Raja had two wives-first named Avinjikkat Kunjati who was much nearer to him in age, was neice of Payyormala Nayar, a nearly independent chief in modern northern Calicut [77]. It was this wife who accompanied Raja to forests [78] and was captured as a sick woman by British in 1805. His second was named Kaitheri Makom, who was sister of Kaitheri Ambu, Raja's close aide. Makom was much younger to Raja in age and this alliance was handiwork of Pazayamviden Chandu in those days when he was loyal to Raja[79].
Following are some reasons why he can be viewed as a great man-
1. When Mysorean army invaded all kings and princes fled in terror leaving their people and land to its fate. But Pazhassi Raja preferred hard life in mountain fastness than comfortable sanctuary in Travancore. [80]
2. He led mass resistance against Mysoreans and British, in which all sections of people, directly or indirectly took part.[81]
3. His troops worshiped him as he was a fearless warrior and a first rate general who led from the front and lived during wartime as an ordinary soldier-he shared all soldierly hardships with them. He had great physical endurance that enabled him to fight in in the cruel mountain fastness of Puralimala and Wynad.[82]
He knew well how to use his limited armed ability to resist far superior enemies. Remember, Raja's men were mostly armed with sabers and bows as gunpowder was short in supply and his enemies were superior in terms of numbers and fully armed with firearms. Yet, he defied Mysoreans for nearly 20 years and British for 10 years[83]-Perhaps one of best examples of the fact that good leadership can compensate other handicaps.
British could conquer great powers like Nawabs, Marathas & Sikhs with far more ease once they opened war with them. But it took well over a decade to crush this turbulent prince who had no more than 3000-5000 men armed with primitive weapons. By 1805, English had deployed a force of 15,000 men to face Raja's small army[84]! More important is the fact that Raja WAS NOT defeated and killed by military methods-it was PURE TREACHERY that led to his downfall in winter of 1805. We can say that he was "undeafeated in the field, but stabbed in the back".
What greater tribute is needed to Pazhassi Raja's military genius other than the fact that even Arthur Wellesley aka Duke of Wellington could not subdue him even after 3 years of severe struggle? Wellesley's experience in war with Pazhassi enabled him to use Raja's tactics in Spain to bleed Napoleon's army to death[85]
4. Some historians like Woodcock have denounced Pazhassi Raja as a casteist and feudal obscurantist who have no feeling for low caste majority[86]. But Pazhassi Raja cannot be expected to mouth slogans of French Revolution about which he had only a dim idea, if ever he knew of it.
But Raja's attitude towards low caste majority was generous and kindly indeed. For e.g-unlike his contemporary princes and lords of Malabar who on return from exile in 1792, launched a wave of inhuman tax extraction from Malabar people who had suffered endless privation in 20 year Mysorean terror, Pazhassi Raja borrowed a large sum from rich merchants and encouraged his farmer-folk with free seeds and saplings to resume agriculture[87].
Also as mentioned before [88] Raja was opposed to exorbitant taxation of peasantry, who were majority of his subjects and mostly low caste,and it was this issue that led him to war in 1784 and 1793.
5. Raja took special care of his aides and troops. In fact, he was so brutal in revenge if any of his follower or his kin is harmed that not even most fearsome of bandits dare not to threaten Raja's followers' homes, where during war, only women and children were present.[89]
6. Raja promoted capable men to key posts. All of them remained loyal to Raja to the bitter end. Only Pazayamviden betrayed his master. Had it not been for these able and loyal lieutenants, of whom Edachena Kungan, Talakkal Chandu, Kaitheri Ambu & Kannoth Nambiar are most important, Raja could not have held out against foreign aggressors for so long. [90]
[edit] List of Raja's Renowned Supporters[91]
Most important of them are in bold letters
1. Vira Varma [Raja’s nephew]
2. Ravi Varma [Raja’s nephew]
3. Pallur Eman Nayar
4. Pallur Rayrappan [Killed in 1806 while attempting to escape]
5. Talakkal Chandu [Kurichia-aide of Kungan/Hero of Panamaram]
6. Edachena Kungan [Directed Raja’s operations in Wayanad/Hero of Panamaram]
7. Edachena Othenan
8. Edachena Komappan
9. Edachena Ammu [Killed in 1805-British dreaded him, if one were to believe British records][7, 8, & 9 are Kungan's brothers]
10. Aralat Kutty Nambiar [Died fighting along with Raja in 1805-a 'notorious rebel' in British view]
11. Karverialli Kannan
12. Yogimulla Machan
13. Ittikombetta Kelappan Nambiar
14. Parappanad Raja
15. Kannoth Sankaran Nambiar [Raja’s Minister]
16. Kaitheri Ambu [Raja’s brother in law, also directed Raja’s operations in Kottayam]
17. Kaitheri Kammaran
18. Kaitheri Eman
19. Elampullyan Kunjan
20. Puttamvittil Rairu
21. Kuran Menon
22. Sekhara Variyar
23. Puttalat Nayar
24. Melodam Kanachan Nambiar
25. Chattappan Nambiar
26. Chingot Chattu
27. Pulliyan Shanalu
28. Punattil Nambiar
29. Kampuratt Nambiar
30. Peruvayal Nambiar [Hanged]
Edachena Kungan, who was perhaps most important of Raja's follower outlived his master only to commit suicide in 1806 to prevent capture by British. [92]
Talakkal Chandu was arrested and hanged in 1805 shortly before Raja's death.[93]
Kannoth Sankaran Nambiar was hanged along with his son in 1801[94]
Kaitheri Ambu was killed in action in 1805 before Raja's death.[95]
Pallur Eman who once was close to Wellesley and leaked all his plans to Pazhassi Raja from 1800 to 1802 and in 1802 escaped to forests to join Raja when his spying was discovered by British. It was Pallur Eman Nayar who mobilized Kurumbas [with whom he had nice relations] to join Raja's army. Eman was arrested in 1806 and deported to Prince of Wales Isle, Australia.[96]
Raja's nephews, Vira Varma and Ravi Varma, however, were pardoned in 1806.[97]

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