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Pazhassi Raja the legend

Updated on June 4, 2013

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was born on on 3rd January 1753 He was a member of the western branch of Kottayam royal family. The ancestral home of Pazhassi Raja, Padinjare Kovilakam is still exists in Mattannur, Kannur district of Kerala. He is also known as Lion of Kerala, Cotiote Raja and Pychy Raja.

Hyder Ali, The Sultan of Mysore attacked Malabar in 1773. During his attack, most of the kings of Malabar area fled to seek political asylum in Travancore. Pazhassi Raja took over the charge of king in 1774 at the age of 21 from his uncle who had fled to Tranvancore. He stayed in his kingdom at Kottayam but he had neither guns or enough soldiers to face the Hyder Ali’s infantry. He support British to stop the invasion of Hyder Ali in Malabar area . During the second Anglo Mysore war Hyder Ali died. Soon after the death of Hyder Ali his son Tipu Sultan become the ruler of Mysore.

Tipu Sultan was quite different from previous Muslim rulers of South India . He was very keen to learn lessons from the failure of others . Tippu understood the importance of economic strength as the foundation of military strength. He also established embassies to many foreign nations like France, Turkey, Iran etc to develop trade. He planned a tree of liberty at Srirangpattanam, the capital of Mysore and become a member of Jacobian Club. The year 1790 was very critical for both the East India Company and the local Malabar rulers. Tipu Sultan introduced so many new techniques in war. His army successfully trailed rocket attacks first time in the world. During his invasion to Malabar, Tipu start dirty techniques to win the war. He used religion as a weapon, as usual in India since the arrival of Muslim rulers. His Army received intelligence from the local Muslim Mappila community and killed hundreds of Hindus and Christians. Hindu women were being gang raped and forcefully convert thousands of locals to Muslim community, may be this is the one and only mistake he did. Due to this, local Hindu community turned against Tippu and start supporting to Pazhassi Raja and British. Tipu’s fort at Palakkad was captured by Colonel Stuart and the Madras based forces of British East India Company mobilized to Seringapatam, the capital of Tipu Sultan and in February 1792 Tipu agreed to sign a treaty to save his capital Srirangapattanam.

Soon after the Tipu left, The British East India Company ignored Pazhassi Raja and gave the land to his uncle on lease. British increased the tax amount in to double and this made the local population upset, Pazhassi challenged the British by stopping all tax collection and giving refuge to people. The troops of British East India Company under Lt. Gordon Tried reached Kottayam to arrest Pazhassi Raja in his palace, but he had already escaped and sought help from Mysore, showing that there are no permanent enemies or friends in war field. Pazhassi Raja's army was very small comparing with the Army of East India Company but he adopt guerrilla type encounters. So many British soldiers were lost their life in the encounters and the British forced to withdraw their army. The lease with his uncle was canceled and Pazhassi Raja agreed to stop revolts against British.

Tipu signed Srirangapattanm treaty with East India Company in 1799, As per the Sreerangapattanam treaty Tipu Sultan handed over Malabar region to the British East India Company. Tipu Sultan was killed in Fourth Anglo Mysore war by Lord Wellesly in the same year. East India Company decide to take over Wayanad, which Pazhassi Raja claimed as his own. They refused to hand over Wayanad to Pazhassi. The peace treaty was again broken and Pazhassi Raja decided to continue revolts from the mountains of Wayanad. He organised the Kurichiya tribes, they were very expert in archery and mountain warfare. They start guerrilla type encounters against British. The fighting started in June 1800 but the British strategy was to isolate Pazhassi from his supporters. They succeeded and Pazhassi was left roaming in the forests of Western Ghat with his wife and few supporters. British caught the supporters of Pazhassi Raja including Chuzhali Nambiar, Kannavathu Shankaran Nambiar and Peruvayal Nambiar and hanged. In 1802 Edachena Kangan Nair and Thalakkal Chanthu captured Panamaram Fort of British East India Company and killed 70 British soldiers.

Pazhassi raja tomb at Mananthavady

Thomas Harvey Babar, one of the young and efficient officer of British East India Company appointed as the new sub collector of Thalssery in 1804. He was assigned the responsibility to solve Pazhassi revolution. He issued a proclamation that It is illegal for the locals to help the revolutionaries and he also mandated that they should be informed about the movements of the revolutionaries to the British authorities. A reward was also announced for the capture of Pazhassi Raja and his commanders. on 16 June 1805 Thalakkal Chanthu, the leader of Kurichya tribes was captured. Baber took direct operations and on 30 th November 1805. His troops commanded by himself surrounded and shot Pazhassi Raja. The body was cremated with full "guard of honor" by the British. With the death of Pazhassi Raja, the resistance movement in north Kerala came to an end.

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