Sunday, April 15, 2018


Not many in India take note of a rebellion in Malabar against the English that lasted for more than a decade...a quarrel forced by the flow of circumstances and control and conflicts of legitimacy between the English East India Company and a local Chieftain if you may call him..a friendship and intimacy turned sour to the point of no reconciliation leading to his death finally in the Mysore forests on the bank of the kangra river in the early hours of 30th of November 1805. A Malabari if you may call him stiff on his principles and concern for mankind and his fellow citizens make him a character worth the while of reckoning and concern.

What was Malabar in the late 18th century ..a large prosperous landscape growing Spices which Europe wanted badly. Malabar was the only place in the World that grew pepper from the early days of the Vijayanagar Kingdom. Europe due to its cold weather ate beef as a prime food-stuff and for the beef to be palatable it had to be laced with pepper and pepper dictated the survival of the populace and companies were formed that could bring pepper into Europe and whole of Europe participated in it..and rivalry at Business later leading to the World Wars.

All Europeans for ages used the sea route dictated by  Vasco-da-Gama eventually landing at Kozhikode =Calicut.At Beypore they ordered new Vessels or Boats which were used to ferry pepper grown from some thirty miles to the north of Calicut...from the fringes of modern koyilandy all upto modern day Mangalore and beyond.  A large territory and possibly had 25 percent of world GDP of these times.The pepper being grown by the Kolathiri royal families adept at supervising agriculture and rendering  yield. The Kolathiri families belong to the fuedal castes and probably belong to the Nambiar ancestry..some of them of direct descent of Nampoothiris and possessed scholarship in combine with valour. As in most families the Kolathiri families had family feuds which were territorial and matrimonial ..but as the demand for pepper began to grow they expanded their territories setting up Kovilagams or palaces in various directions for more accurate control of Agriculture.Before long the split and partitioned with lack of conciliation with brother conflicting his brother..and when the Europeans began to visit these areas they saw a set of  fractured  kingdoms all in uncomfortable calm.Kadathunad..Kolathunad and Chirakkal were the large feifdoms in Malabar in about 1800 Ad...Kadathunad the modern day Badagara.....Kolathunad the modern day Telicherry and Chirakkal the modern day Cannanore and Kasargod.

A possible accurate portrait of  the Pazhassi Rajah 

Into such a situation was born a lad.....second son of his parents...his mother belonging to Pazhassi and his father the ruler at Kottayam presently Kottayam -Kadavu in Telicherry.(This Kottayam is not to be confused with Kottayam in Southern  Kerala).The Kottayam Rajah is also called Kotiote Rajah as he belonged to the Kotiot family in Telicherry. Since he was born in his mothers'house in Pazhassi he gets the title Pazhassi Rajah.His mother had an Elder brother who controlled the affairs of his mothers house-hold and the Pazhassi Rajah had an elder brother  and possibly had sister who was married into the Chirakkal dynasty north of his place.It is customary of these times to have more than five children in a household which means the Rajah had many more siblings who were later to be based in Wayanad.What exactly is the count no one knows. 

Some principal forces governed this part of the  world during these times (It is very interesting to note) which during the last decade of the 18th century got into some form of equilibrium. Initially the Portuguese were the European settlers in India but gradually weaned into Goa and Cochin redefining their trading priorities.They built most of the forts seen in Malabar.They were followed by the Dutch East India Company...who seem to have found it difficult to cope with the more battle hardened European counterparts the french and the English.The English having strong Naval skills sunk ships of other Europeans approaching Malabar and in due course the English East India Company were the sole Europeans trading in pepper and other spices on the Malabar coast especially after the defeat of Tippu Sulatan in the hands of the combined European and regional forces which permanently sealed the French aspirations in this part of the World.Many of the English commanders who served in India during these times had vast experience handling the American War of Independence in the modern day United States.

The English East India Company set up various offices around Malabar and also appointed Agents in the business of Spices..many Englishmen and Scotsmen made Telicherry their homes and were dealers in spices.....But Malabar was under the overall control of Tippu Sultan until 1791 and had full control of the Telicherry fort  and the taxation at the Harbours making it difficult for the English to operate.

Something about Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan..Hyder Ali started of as a soldier in the Wadiar military based in Srirangapattana.The constant problem of the Wadiars were the military assaults on their territory North of their empire by the Marattas...the Marattas becoming very powerful during these times with the weakening of the Moghals. But the Marattas did one thing....they were willing to hand back the land captured by them for a price and Hyder Ali becoming a key player in collecting funds from the temples from within the Wadiar kingdom and reclaiming lost land and the Wadiar rulers were caught on the receiving end. Hyder Ali takes control of the reign at Srirangapattana in 1760 or so deposing the Wadiar prince and started handling the affairs with the Marattas directly and even imprisoning some of the Maratta commanders in Srirangapattana...but large sums of money from the treasury was expended making Government weak..and the next logical thing to do for Hyder Ali was to turn his attention to the more prosperous Malabar region which he ravaged over and over again carrying away men and materials from this place.In 1782 Hyder Ali is dead owing to the strain of these many expeditions...but the kingdom at Srirangapattana became rich with Malabar under their control and the focus shifted on taxation of ports to augment Governmental revenue and Telicherry fort was a key stakeholder in the affairs of these times.

When Tippu Sultans Army marched to the Telicherry fort from Srirangapattana they took the Periya pass through Kodagu crossing small rivulets on their way and directly criss-crossing the Pazhassi Kindom in Telicherry on their way.The local populace were petrified and subdued. Due to such occasional onslaughts many in the local populace fled the kingdom.The uncle of the Pazhassi rajah and his elder brother were given shelter by Bharatha Raja of Travancore..But Pazhassi Rajah did not flee..Using the local populace he held Guerrilla assaults on the marauders in the night weakening their positions and their quick mobility.Since they were operating under the cover of the forests the Guest soldiers were becoming sitting ducks because of such bolts from the blue.The local populace appreciated the Rajah for standing by them and some of them moved back into their households which they once abandoned.The movement of Tippu troops into telicherry was being effectively stalled to some relative measure and the enemy un traced the strategy seemed to work.

This skill of the Pazhassi Rajah attracted the English who suggested that the entire fort could be taken over from the Tippu Sultan if a combined force of the English and the Pazhassi Rajah were to work hand-in-hand.A force of some five thousand storm the Fort and the supply chains of Tippu Sultan cut along the Periya pass and prevent re-enforcements of the Sultan from entering Telicherry. Such a battle plan worked and in 1791 the fort of Telicherry is evacuated of the Mysore Sultanate..some five thousand a combination of two thousand supplied by the Rajah and the rest from the local loyalists and the English and many of the soldiers on the English side were paid to partake in the operation and hence large sums of money spent in the evacuation process both for the Rajah and the East India Company.The English and the Rajah were quick allies and friends until the question of who would control the Telicherry Fort became apparent.Hearing the exit of the menace of Tipu in this part of the world the uncle of the Pazhassi Rajah came back to Telicherry from Travancore creating another power center. The older brother of the Pazhassi Rajah appears to have settled in Travancore possily  entering into matrimony there...and the Uncle resented the rise to power of his second nephew who became all encompassing and a subject of adoration and much of the family wealth falling into the hands of  his second nephew and the power wielded by his family and adherents. The larger populace was against the Uncle who fled the land at time of crisis. In the newly held equation the East India Company consisting of officials and traders...the uncle of the Pazhassi Rajah  Pazhassi Rajah himself became three corner stones into some kind of altercation which will gradually lead to serious conscequences and would turn one time cronies into bitter of rivals leading to skirmishes one after another into an insuperable zone leading to death and destruction from which  whole region would take centuries to completely recover.

The first question arose..who would control the Telicherry Fort.The English East India company said it belonged to them and were busy converting it into a Garrison. The Pazhassi Rajah said it belonged to his Kingdom and the fort must be under his control....the English East India Company wanted the Pazhassi Rajah to pay them a huge sum of money in lieu of those spent by the company in raising and maintaining a local force that vanquished the Tipu Sultan forces in the Telicherry fort.The rajah was possibly willing to pay it in exchange for control of the Fort but the English did not want to hand over the control of the Fort.In all such altercations the uncle of the Pazhassi Rajah seemed to support the English East India Company side=lining his own nephew.Wasting no more time the EastIndia Company made a late night assault on the residence of the Rajah and looted the belongings well pictured by Gokulam Gopalan in his film Pazhassi Rajah.The Rajah fearing arrest had moved his family and himself to his mother's place in Pazhassi..The English take two of the nephews of the Rajah into undisclosed captivity.Fearing further assaults the Rajah moves his family into Wayand which was a pristine green feild a vast stretch of unhindered soil with well defined towns that were sparsely populated.He was almost in a jungle forced out of his home and in thatched roof hutments with supplies provided by the Kuchiar tribes in this area who resented the English for their larger tax burdens.

The end of the third Mysore War saw Tipu further weakened...two of his sons taken away by the English grieving for whom Tipu began to sleep on the floor as against his couch.The Pazhassi Rajah did send emissaries to the Tipu for a co-operativ eattempt against East India Company but Tipu had forgotten Malabar for all practical purposes and had more serious business to attend to a possible on-slaught on his fort at Srirangapattana by an English contingent.The Pazhassi Rajah accumulated Kuchiar tribals and trained them in fitness and accuracy and armed them with lethal bows and arrows and launched many an assault on the EIC English East India Company forces for more than five years from 1792 crippling the English In Wayanad at many junctures.A fight that starts in Telicherry ends up in the terrains of Wayanad. The Rajah agrees for a truce under some conditions with Governor Duncan who comes to Telicherry all the way from Bombay hearing this commotion under the aegis of the Chirakkal Rajah a truce which did not last for long and matters slipping into bygone ways. Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington was assigned to capture the Rajah for a few months camping in Manatana and of the relaties of the Rajah Kannavath Sankaran Nambiar is hanged by the EIC along with his son near Mattanur in front of the public sending a message to all.

Arthur Wellesley is called to handle operations against Tippu Sultan towards the end of 1798 and on 4 May 1799 Tipu Sultan is worsted and the focus of the English was on Malabar sending many seasoned personnel from the Madras Sappers to Wayanad to handle the Pazhassi Rajah who had become elusive.Sensing trouble the Rajah moved deeper into the jungles of Mysore....relatively deep into Mysore forests but close to Wayanad. In 1802 a major assault was conducted by some five hundred tribals under the supervision of the Rajah at Panamarakota..or modern day Panamaram where fifty English soldiers some of them from the Madras Sappers were stationed.All the fifty are dead and the Garrison set on fire the entire operation conducted in total surprise  pre-dawn.The Collector at Telicherry was aghast and they were at their wits end facing a single man with a definiteness of purpose trying to save his personal honour supposedly for being betrayed by once upon a time a true friend and ally the reasons for such hostility being unclear and aggravating by the day.

On the English side was a man called Kulpilly Karunakara Menon whom the English called Canara Menon.The entire English East India Company could feel the pressure of the situation. Menon was from the Tirur-Tanur belt and a devotee of the EIC and also a friend of the Sub=Collector Thomas Hervey Baber. Various English elements were discussing various methodologies to trap and kill the Rajah..but  everything was in vain. Canara Menon suggested that the only way to kill the Rajah was to hunt him in the forests and started using a large bunch of spies for this purpose..cut off food supplies that were being ferriedinto the forests and it was made mandatory for every trader in the region to report to the EIC large scale supplies..such pressure seemed to work.Note that the wife of the Rajah by name Maakam was with him during his forest sojourn. Maakam's roots can be traced to Badagara but needs verification and tested for accuracy.

One of the tribals traversing on a boat through these rivers of Mysore spotted the Rajah and his team whom he seemed to recognise and informed some of the spies who take the message to Canara Menon who in-turn discusses it with Thomas Baber and Canara Menon insisted that they proceed at once into the jungle along the river course to eventually meet the enemy. Early morning they come face to face with them on the 30th of November 1805 to be precise the Rajah being pierced into death by Canara Menon and his team with his wife in-tact and her few women attendees.He is cremated they say in Manantavady or so..a territory he loved so much not far from his home town of Pazhassi and Telicherry.

What is the legacy of this man ..many wonder...a person catapulted into conflict for no fault of his...who was responsible  for betrayals no one knows for sure....sidelined by his own Uncle...once upon a time a friend and ally of the EIC..had to endure life in a forest..and death in the hands of a dagger possibly pierced by a native..and a deep devotion that the general populace had for him..all seem enigmatic and paradoxical and a set of events which could have been warded off if handled delicately with wisdom by all stakeholders concerned.

Many would wonder why Iam interested in the Rajah..I went to the ancestorial home of my mother called Kottayam Kadankot in the year 2004 from Bangalore and met an eldery  relative of mine who told me his ancestors who built this house were from Kottayam in Telicherry..I google searced Kottayam Telicherry and stumbled upon the Pazhassi Rajah...Cant Say !  I might have some family links with this man considering the flow of events along these times.

Friday, April 13, 2018



Ooty or Ootacamund is a very important hill station some 350kms from Bangalore and some eight hours by bus.The bus traversing through Mysore and Gudalur to reach ooty.Ooty is some 6000ft above sea level and night temperatures during summer could be less than 10 degrees celcius though the day temperatures would be more than 20 degrees celsius.The winter temperatures could reach near freezing. Ooty is in the part of the western ghats called the Nilgiris or Blue mountains.The Nilgiri hills are at the point of confluence between the Eastern and Western ghats.When seen from Mysore a distance of some 100 miles these hills look blue largely due to the reflection of the various river bodies along these hills and the atmosphere reflecting the blue component of the visual spectrum and hence the blue tinge of these mountains. Kodaikanal is also on these mountain stretches at a similar elevation at some considerable distance from Ooty at a similar height above sea level and is another hill station frequented by tourists.

In 1819 one of the Commissioners  by name John Sullivan gets a letter from the Madras Presidency to find out what exactly exists at these blue mountains and he was almost ordered into an expedition.He gathers some 100 tribals and sets out one afternoon after attending a Hindu wedding between a Wodeyar Prince and a Malabari lady at the Mysore Palace which was a wooden structure at that time which was razed by an accidental fire some decades later.Mummadi Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar was the King at Mysore who gave consent to the expedition.Reaching villages near Gudalur Sulliavan suddendly found a precipice some 2000ft high largely flooded with very tall trees-most probably Eucalyptus which contributes to the excessive cold of Ooty and also many river ways along the way.Sullivan was convinced about the dangerous nature of the expedition but decided to proceed he himself on a Palaquin. Eventually they make their trip loosing some ten tribals some of them dying due to exhaustion and others due to falls from slippery surfaces and what faced Sullivan was a large platue of green lands with human habitation in peices and petty villages...but Sullivan was convinced he found something valuable.

How this name Ooty was given to this place os a matter of conjecture. The tired tribals on finishing their treacherous journey up the hills wanted Kannada meaning Food.....and a Command was created to make food during their stay for few weeks after their discovery..Command being a military word.....the name sticking on to this place as Ootacamund. Much later with the railway line erected from Coimbatore to Ooty..Ootacamund started becoming famous for its tea...Ootacamund  along with tea takes its shorter form Ooty...and the simpler version of the original name to Ooty.

John Sullivan builds a house at one of these villages and informs the Madras Presidency of his new find and thereafter the Madras Presidency takes the renovation and inhabitation of modern day Ooty and the weather being very cold was interesting to many.Many houses ans settlements began to take shape after the railway finds its place and sources of water aplenty..Thus takes shape a metropolis which attracts the charm of one and all and added with its cousin Kodaikanal are jewels of present day India. Tamil population from Coimbatore started moving into Ooty through the railway line giving it a distinct tinge though the invention of the city was made from Mysore.In 1843 John Sullivan loses his wife and daughter in quick succession and he leaves for England.In all he had nine children one of his sons' later becoming Collector at Coimbatore.

Any one visiting Ooty from Bangalore will find many buses from the Sattelite Bus Stand on Mysore Road.Deepanjali Nagar  Metro Station is closest to this bus stand.The journey could take eight hours through Mysore, Gundlupet and Gudalur. Gundlupet could be termed as some mid-point.From Gudalur there is a steep stretch which will hoist the bus 3000ft above to ooty and the roads are cozy and better motorable and the view around enchanting. Ooty as a city must be five hours from Calicut(Kozhikode) in Kerala. Ooty...Mysore...and Kozhikode form a equilateral  triangle some four and a half hours in travelling time through the Bandipur forests and Western Ghats. Some of you travelling by car must note that at Gundlupet...the highway straight takes one to Ooty...and turning tight here takes you to Kozhikode  through  Wayanad.

There is a Botanical garden in Ooty whch I have seen during one visit ..the sudden cold weather of Ooty can give health problems to any visitor..sometimes digestive disorders for which a traveller must be well prepared.