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Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Ali Raja

It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!

When speaking about north Malabar, and especially about the locations between and including Tellicherry and Cannanore, three families are mentioned. One is the Chirakkal family, next the Kolathiri and the third the Arakkal family.

The first two are connected and I think can easily get mixed up. The third one is also known as the Ali Raja family. It is generally seen mentioned nowadays that the meaning of Ali is Sea or Ocean. I do not know in which language Ali becomes Sea or Ocean. I think it is a mistake which must have originated from this book, Malabar purportedly written by William Logan.

In this book, a general tendency to write the Malabari and Malayalam zhi (ഴി)as li (ലി) is seen. From this perspective, I think that actual word was not Ali Raja, but Aazhi Raja. Aazhi (ആഴി) does mean Sea or Ocean. However, since the family was Muslim, and the name Ali is a Muslim name, the shift in the English pronunciation was widely accepted without much demur. And from English, the name pronunciation must have diffused into Malabari and Malayalam also. So that as of now, the name must be Ali in all the afore-mentioned languages.

Even though the kingdom has been mentioned several times in this book, as far as I can discern, it is a very tiny bit of place. I feel it was more or less confined to certain parts of Cannanore town. In the heydays of its existence, it must had occasion when it might have had some larger existence. I am not sure about that.

See the words of Hamilton: QUOTE: “Adda Raja, a Mahometan Malabar prince, who upon occasion can bring near 20,000 men into the field. END OF QUOTE.

The number 20,000 in the above statement might need to be imbibed with a pinch of salt. 20000 was the number of soldiers assembled by the Mogul Diwan at Murshidabad to attack Robert Clive and his native infantry. It was indeed a very huge assemble of soldiers.

However, the Arakkal family has had some kind of ownership of certain islands in the Laccadive Sea. This ownership must have come upon this tiny kingdom by their supporting the Arabian trading ships that came from Egypt. It is also possible that the Mappilla seafaring family known as the Kunhali family of Badagara area may also have supported them in this. The Arakkal family’s hold on the Laccadive islands was more or less tenacious, I think, holding on against the overall antipathy for the more or less exploitative control over the disunited islands and the island populations.

There is the name of Arakkal Bibi, or Beevi or Beebee found in this book, Malabar. This denotes the title holder of ‘queen’ of this family. Since the family system was matriarchal, it is the Beevi who is mentioned in this book as representing the family and ‘kingdom’. However, there is evidence in this book itself that the actual players in decision-making were the male members of the family, with the Beevi being only namesake tile-holder of family head.

The next point is that the word Bibi, Beevi and Beebee is seen mentioned in the book, Malabar, in the history over the centuries. So naturally there will be different individuals holding this title one after another over the years. There seems to be no mention of these individuals, other than the sterile word Bibi, Beevi or Beebee. The situation looks quite similar to the ‘Zamorin’ word representing another tiny, but still much bigger kingdom that that of the Bibi.

QUOTE: Cheraman Perumal, the text goes on to say, encouraged merchants and invited Jonaka Mappillas (Muhammadans) to the country. In particular he invited a Muhammadan and his wife to come from his native land of Aryapuram and installed them at Kannanur (Cannanore). The Muhammadan was called Ali Raja, that is, lord of the deep, or of the sea. END OF QUOTE.

So, that was how this family came into being. There is another local story with a slight variation in circulation in Cannanore.

QUOTE: On the 26th of the same month the Prince Regent took and destroyed the Mappilla settlement at Valarpattanam, killing 600 men, women and children END OF QUOTE.

Ali Raja’s relationship with the Kolathiri and also with Kottayam raja were at times strained.

QUOTE: In their letter of 14th March 1728 to Bombay the factors reported that “Ally Rajah .... is sailed for duddah, and all his country save Cannanore entirely destroyed by the Prince.” The next news of him received in October, through Bombay, was that he had been poisoned at Jeddah by his minister, and that all his effects had been seized on account of presents promised to the prophet’s tomb. END OF QUOTE.

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QUOTE: The Bibi of Cannanore was next prevailed on in November- December 1734 to surrender her claims to the island out of fear that the Canarese or French would take it, and owing to her inability to retake it herself and keep it securely. If it was to be in any other hands than her own, she preferred that it should be taken possession of by the English. END OF QUOTE.

The ‘she’ in the above passage might not really any ‘she’. It would be a decision taken by the men folk. And it might be their preference to see that the island is in English hands, rather than in the hands of Canarese or the French. The former being dangerous feudal language speakers. And the latter also with the same infliction but also quite unsteady.

QUOTE: The weakness of that prince was avarice, and Ali Raja of Cannanore, helped by the French, had been “spiriting up” the Prince Regent with money and creating dissensions between him and the English factory. END OF QUOTE.

This was the state of the geopolitical location where the English Company tried to establish a trading relationship. Everyone was fighting against each other. Even inside the Kolathiri family, there were various groups, all seeking ways to usurp the title of the king.

It is seen that when feudal language speakers set up beachheads inside native-English nations, those locations also start exhibiting similar social infections. That of the nation fighting against itself. This is very much evident in the case of the USA now.

QUOTE: Ali Raja repaired at once to Mahe with 500 men. But his reception seems to have cooled his ardour for the French alliance, and after this powerful French fleet had sailed away without even attacking Tellicherry, he soon sued the English factors for peace and stated his hearty repentance. END OF QUOTE.

The native-kings were shifty and always doing things which were not direct, but from behind the back. There is indeed a culture here in which it is seen that cheating another person, or doing something against him behind his back are seen as great personal capacities. The direct manner of dealing is not encouraged by the feudal language codes.

QUOTE: In September 1755, Ali Raja of Cannanore organised a big buccaneering expedition in close alliance with Angria. He sent 3,000 men with guns in 70 native small craft (manchuas) and large boats to ravage the Canarese country. This expedition attacked Manjeshwar and obtained there a booty of 4,000 pagodas, besides 100,000 more from a private merchant. They also landed people to the north of Mangalore, marched 18 leagues inland to a very rich pagoda called “Collure” and carried off booty to the extent, it was reported, of no less than 4,000,000 pagodas. END OF QUOTE


Till the entry of the English rule, there was no far-sighted aim to create any enduring social or administrative system in the subcontinent. Everyone acted in the most selfish manner.

QUOTE: On the 11th Ali Raja of Cannanore, without giving any notice to the factors of his intention, surprised the French fort on Ettikulam Point at Mount Deli and most barbarously massacred the garrison of 20 men. END OF QUOTE.

This was done because the support of the English Company was on their side. However, it seems to be a show of power done without the permission of the English Company officials.

QUOTE: On the 11th March 1761 the Kolattiri Regent wrote to the Chief to say that Ali Raja of Cannanore had given the greatest affront possible to the Hindu religion by putting a golden spire on the top of one of his mosques, it being contrary to their established rules to have a spire of gold on any edifice throughout the coast except on the principal pagodas ; and only those of Taliparamba, "Turukacoonotu" in Kottayam, and "Urupyachy Cauvil" at Agarr were entitled to the distinction. War ensued: the Court of Directors’ orders were peremptory and forbade the factors from interfering, except as mediators, in the disputes among the country powers. END OF QUOTE.

These fights are innately encoded into the social culture of the location. The moment one side gets power, it will display it. However, the English Company was not to get involved. This was a most sensible policy. This is the sense that has been lost in native-English nations as they continuously get hoodwinked by various lobbies to and get entrapped into fighting other people’s battles and wars.

As to the communal divide that ensued, it is spontaneous and not from what has been currently described as a ‘divide and rule’ policy ostensibly of the English.

QUOTE: Shortly after this, the Bibi of Cannanore again sought protection from the company and stated positively that Tippu was shortly coming to the coast with the whole of his force. The Bibi was probably at this time playing a deep game. The Mappillas of the coast generally recognised her as their head, and the Mappillas of the south were in open rebellion against Tippu’s authority END OF QUOTE.

Everyone was cunning to the core. And the political scene itself was quite confusing.

QUOTE: She professed friendship for the Honourable Company, but did all in her power in an underhand way against them. END OF QUOTE.

The word ‘she’ can be taken in a more gender-neutral sense. As to how the Ali Raja side acted, there is nothing unusual. That is how unwary adversaries are struck down in all feudal language locations. Affability and extreme hospitality are tools of conquest and backstabbing.

QUOTE: The Bibi’s attitude at this time to the British was very unsatisfactory and enigmatical. Ever since Tippu’s visit to Cannanore in the preceding year, she had ostensibly lent to an alliance with the British, but had in reality secretly worked against them END OF QUOTE.

The English Company officials were slowly learning the social culture of the location.

QUOTE: It will be noted that this chieftainess was not on a footing similar to that of the rest of the Malabar chiefs, for she had basely thrown over the English alliance instead of assisting the Honourable Company’s officers, and had been compelled by force of arms to withdraw from her alliance with Tippu. END OF QUOTE.

It is only natural that the Muslim Arakkal family would find it more advantageous to support a Muslim raider, who could probably overwhelm everyone in Malabar and Travancore. If he was to win, it would have fared very good for the Arakkal family. From its very tiny size, it would probably have grown into a very powerful ruling family in Malabar and probably in Travancore also.

QUOTE: The islands numbered 1 to 4 yielded annually during the ten years 1865-66 to 1874-75, during which period the islanders had broken loose from the Raja’s control and exported their produce without any restriction, END OF QUOTE.

It is doubtful if the islanders derived anything good by being the subjects of the Arakkal family. However, till the advent of the English rule in the subcontinent, it is doubtful if any of the rulers in the location had any concept of a people’s welfare in their administration policy. Their main idea and mainstay was fighting, conquering, capturing, overrunning, molesting, plundering, pillaging, breaking places of worship, catching people for slavery &c. That itself took up almost all their time and intelligence. Moreover, they had to be continually vigilant about individuals on their own side trying to seize the power and the title of king.

QUOTE: Over a part, however, the Pandaram asserts exclusive claims on the ground that it was formerly waste land and therefore the property of the raja. The claims were resisted by the people and gave rise to great discontentment and opposition on their part END OF QUOTE.

That was with regard to Kavaratti Island. The mentioned ‘raja’ was Ali Raja.


Commentary                MMVol 1               MMVol 2

Book Profile

1. My aim

2. The information divide

3. The layout of the book

4. My own insertions

5. The first impressions about the contents

6. India and Indians

7. An acute sense of not understanding

8. Entering a terrible social system

9. The doctoring and the manipulations

10. What was missed or unmentioned, or even fallaciously defined


12. Nairs / Nayars

13. A digression to Thiyyas

14. Designing the background

15. Content of current-day populations

16. Nairs / Nayars

17. The Thiyya quandary

18. The terror that perched upon the Nayars

19. The entry of the Ezhavas

20. Exertions of the converted Christian Church

21. Ezhava-side interests

22. The takeover of Malabar

23. Keralolpathi

24. About the language Malayalam

25. Superstitions

26. Misconnecting with English

27. Feudal language

28. Claims to great antiquity

29. Piracy


31. Slavery

32. The Portuguese

33. The DUTCH

34. The French


36. Kottayam

37. Mappillas

38. Mappilla outrages against the Nayars and the Hindus

39. Mappilla outrage list

40. What is repulsive about the Muslims?

41. Hyder Ali

42. Sultan Tippu

43. Women

44. Laccadive Islands

45. Ali Raja

46. Kolathiri

47. Kadathanad

48. The Zamorin and other apparitions

49. The Jews


51. Hinduism

52. Christianity

53. Pestilence, famine etc.

54. British Malabar versus Travancore kingdom

55. Judicial

56. Revenue and administrative changes

57. Rajas

58. Forests

59. Henry Valentine Conolly

60. Miscellaneous notes

61. Culture of the land

62. The English efforts in developing the subcontinent

63. Famines

64. Oft-mentioned objections

65. Photos and pictures of the Colonial times

66. Payment for the Colonial deeds

67. Calculating the compensation

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