Legendary early freedom fighter of Kerala - Pazhassi Raja - British India

Pazhassi Raja en.wikipedia.org/

Above image: Painting of Pazhassi Raja by Raja Ravi Varma displayed  in Pazhassiraja Museum, Kozhikkode, Kerala. Reign1774–1805....

Many   legendary  patriots  and   early freedom  fighters  from  South  India,  for  unknown reasons,  got  lost  in  the annals  of  Indian  history  because   of  either  ignorance  on  the  part  of  the  central  government  or  lack  of  details  or  sheer  negligence.  Kerala  Varma  Pazhassi  Raja  of  the Kottayam   Clan  is   one  among  them.  Kerala Varma  Pazhassi  Raja staunchly rebelled against the British and  their  atrocities  against  the  natives  of  Kerala in the  early  years  far  before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and made  a  name  for  himself  in  the history of Kerala.
Pazhassi Kudeeram- in Mananthavadi, Wayanad,.en.wikipedia.org
 Above image: Pazhassi Raja at his burial spot in Mananthavadi, Wayanad, Kerala.

Pazhassi Raja dcbooks.com 
Kerala  Varma  Pazhassi  Raja  (Born 3 January, 1753 at Kannur, Malabar; also known as  Cotiote  Rajah  or Pychy Rajah), a member of  the  western  branch  of  the  Kottayam  Royal  Clan  was  the  prince  regent  of  the  princely  state  of  Kottayam  or  Cotiote (anglicized name  of  Kottayam) in  Malabar, India  between 1774 and 1805 and  was one of  the  earliest  freedom  fighters in India. He  is  popularly  known  as  Kerala  Simham (Lion of Kerala)  on  account  of  his daring  martial  exploits  against  the  British. He  hated  the  British  East  India  company  officials  because of their cunning  and diabolic  way  of taking  away  the  Indian  Rajahs' kingdoms  and  subjugating  Indians  wherever  they  had British interests. Being patriotic, he could  not  brook  injustice  done  to  the natives  and  rebelled  against  the  white  rulers. His rebellion against  English  East  India  Company  is  known as the Cotiote War.

Actor playing Pazhassi Raja in the film whykol.com

Above image: 2009 Malayalam  epic historical  film "Pazhassi Raja" in which famous Malayalam film actor Mammootty playing the main role as Pazhassi Raja. This film was directed by  Hariharan and written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair. The film received a National award,  Kerala Government film awards and seven  awards from Filmfare South. 

When  Hyder Ali  of  the  Kingdom  of  Mysore occupied  Malabar in 1773 for  the  second  time  for non-payment  of  tributes  from  the  Rajas  of Malabar  as  agreed  after war in 1768  most  of  the  Malabar  rulers  including  the  Raja  of  Kottayam  found  political  asylum  in  Travancore. However,  Pazhassi Raja, the fourth prince  in  line  for  succession  to  the throne  during  this  period, became  one  of  the  de facto  heads  of  state surpassing  several  of  his  elder  royals. Valiant as he  was, he fought a war of  stiff resistance  against  Hyder  Ali's army  between 1774 to 1793. Between  1776  and 1780  Hyder Ali,  in  collusion  with  some  Hindu rulers  and  Coorg  army,  made futile attempt to capture  Pazhassi Raja. Later he fought  wars  against  Tipu  Sultan from 1784  to 1793.  On account  of  his  refusal  to flee  and  resolve  to  fight  invaders till the last breath of his life, people  of  Kottayam  stood  firmly  behind  the  Raja, who  had  not  abandoned  them  in  their  hour  of misfortune and pain.  Raja's  troops  were  drawn  from  ranks  of  the  Nambiar, Thiyya  and  also  from the  tribal  clans  like  Kurichias  and  Mullukurumbas.

Pazhassi Raja Museum and Art Gallerywww.linkedin.com  

Above image: This Pazhassi Raja museum, Kozhicode includes the coins, costumes, and weapons etc which were used by the king. It also includes  the painting of Raja Ravi Varma, many mural paintings and sculptures.

 In the 18th century the British  used Tallacherry  as its  harbor and  Naval base. Hyder Ali,  in collaboration  with  local  ruler,  imposed  economic blockade to  break  the  backbone  of  the British.  Pazhassi  Raja  successfully  resisted  the  Mysorean army in  association  with  the  British. After several political  manipulations  and intrigues  among the Mysorean  Army, British  army and  Pazhassi Raja, the  control  over  Tallasseri  remained  unresolved.

In 1792, after  the  Third Anglo-Mysore War, the English  imposed  their  ruling  power  in  Kottayam  in  violation  of  their  earlier  agreement  of  1790  which  recognized  independence  of  Kottayam.  Vira Varma, to  whom  Raja  was  a  nephew,  was  appointed  by  the  East  India  Company  authorities  as  the  Raja  of  Kottayam. Vira  Varma  played a  series  of  power  games  to  cut  down  the  influence of  his  nephew. Here, the wily  British used  Vira  Varma  as a puppet to their advantage.  The British, at no time, felt ashamed  of  breaching  written agreements  made with  the  local rulers. Violation or breaching  of  trust  was  part  of  British  East India company's  strategy  to  expand  imperialism world over and later the British Crown followed the same dictum to expand their lands and influence.  As  part  of their deal, they  imposed  tough revenue  targets  for  the local rulers who were  under  their control.  This way they wanted to fill the coffers and the  excess money would be  either sent to England or used here to grab more lands.

Having  been  caught  in  the net, Vira Varma  found  it  difficult  to  meet  the  high  revenue  target  imposed  by  the  British and to safe guard  his  status and commitments, he  introduced  exorbitant  tax rates to  be  collected  from  the peasants.  This  unjustifiable  move was  met with  a  mass  resistance  by the people led by Pazhassi  Raja  in 1793. Vira Varma, on  his  part, earned  the  ire of  the people. Right  from  the beginning  Pazhassi Raja  was  against  the English hegemony  and  their  subjugation  of  native  people.  He was  much  concerned  about  losing  native people's  freedom  and  fundamental rights  to  the foreign  rulers.  In 1796, the East India Company  made  an  attempt  to  arrest  Pazhassi  Raja, but  he  evaded  capture  and  instead  fought  back using  guerrilla  warfare.  

Rajah secretly built  an elaborate system of  cantonments and forts in thick jungles  and mountainous  areas  of his country. Four of them  were most important.  1. The granite fort on Purali range - modern  Muzhakunnu, 2. Manatana, 3.  Wynad, he had a great fort in  Mananthavady  which could  house 6,000 army men and 4. at  Todikulam near Kannavam.  None of them survived  and are in ruins  today.

After  a  string  of  serious  setbacks, the company wanted to have  peace treaty in 1797. The conflict  was renewed in 1800  over  a  dispute  regarding  Wayanad  and  after  an  insurgent  warfare that lasted  for  five  years, Pazhassi  Raja  was killed  on 30 November 1805 at the age of 52  in a gun-fight at  Mavila  Todu  near  Kerala - Karnataka border. The gradual fall of   Raja  was due to a few betrayers and traitors among  the  natives  and their  proper manipulation  by the wily British.



Fischer-Tiné, Harald; Mann, Michael, eds. (2004). Colonialism As Civilizing Mission: Cultural Ideology in British India. Anthem Press. ISBN 9781843310921.