Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
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Kottayam

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There was a small kingdom headquartered near to Tellicherry. It was the Kottayam kingdom. Even though a lot of fabricated fame and halo has been added to this tiny kingdom, most of the people who had heard about this kingdom did not really know where exactly this place was. The place name Kottayam was misunderstood as the Kottayam of Central Travancore.


In fact, when I once told a man in north Malabar this kingdom was near to Tellicherry, he replied thus, ‘Now only I understand. I was always wondering how the Wynad Kurichiyas were involved in a fight with the British in Kottayam.’


The issue here is that man’s native place was just around 35 kilometres from the location of this Kottayam and yet he had not heard of this place. Nor had this place been mentioned by my own family ancestors in Tellicherry.


However, the fame of this tiny place is being slowly built up by a series of fabricated stories, newspaper writings, fake-story films, and outright manipulation of written history, of how this kingdom fought for the ‘freedom of India’ against the British Empire!


The fabricated story was of the king of Kottayam fighting against the British to save his people, his kingdom, and ultimately India, with the help of the Kurichiya lower-caste tribals of Wynad forests. There are even persons who ascribe his team to have used the martial arts techniques of Kalari to defeat the British in various battles and guerrilla attacks.


This Kottayam itself must be a small place near to Tellicherry. However, the kingdom is mentioned as having its rights up to Kuttiadi and Kavilumpara etc. and inside Wynad also.


However, the so-called Pazhassi raja was not really the king of Kottayam. He was seen as an usurper by the real king of Kottayam.

As to Wynad, there is this point to be noted. Wynad forest area seems to be part of the Deccan plateau. I am not sure about this. However, it might be very much a part of the Mysore kingdom. But then being a thick forest location, there might not be much of a ‘rule’ there.


See this quote:

QUOTE: The Governor-General, Lord Mornington, after full consideration of the matter, came to the conclusion that “Wynad was not ceded to the Company by the late Treaty of Peace, and that it belongs by right to his said Highness the Nawaub Tippu Sultan Bahadur,” who was to be permitted “consequently to occupy the said district whenever it may suit his pleasure.” END OF QUOTE


Now, let us go through the text in this book, Malabar and try to place everything in the correct context. It may be borne in mind that the Nayar and higher caste sections would insert filtered information into this book in an attempt to portray the Kottayam insurgent leader in a larger than life version. The Company officials are also seen to be lenient to him in this regard without really understanding the social reality.


QUOTE: Of Rajputs, or foreign Kshatriyas, there are in Malabar (census 1881) only three hundred and sixty-two all told. The families of the Kottayam and Parappanad chieftains belong to this class, and the former of these chieftains used sometimes to be called the ‘Puranatt’ (i.e., foreign) Raja. The Parappanad family supplies consorts to the Ranis of Travancore, and also forms similar connections with the families of other chieftains in Malabar. They follow the Marumakkathayam law of inheritance. END OF QUOTE.


There might have been a sort of feeling that a mention of a connection to the populations of the northern parts of the subcontinent would give a better genetic address. It is seen mentioned that they follow the Matriarchal or Marumakkathaya law of inheritance. In which case, the same family system must be seen in the Rajputs who are seen mentioned as their family ancestry. I do not know if this true.


It is seen in this book that various persons when they assume or attempt to assure some regal title or address, assume the Varma name. This Varma name in Malabar might have helped earn a Kshatriya heritage and antiquity address. There is a general indoctrination in the social system that the Aaryan heritage is something superior, to the Dravidian heritage. The Dravidian heritage is generally connected to the Tamilians who are dark-skinned. Many of the dark-skin people have this skin-colour inferiority complex in themselves.


However, it would be most unwise to assume that all the south Indians are connected to the Tamilians or Dravidian ancestry. The Marumakkathaya Thiyyas, the Malayans, the Pulaya, the Pariah, the Makkathaya Thiyyas, the Nayars, the Shanars, the Vedars, the Chovvans, the Ezhavas, Nambhuthiri Brahmins, the Ambalavasis etc. might have different ancestry and antiquity. Each one of them would have connections to different population groups from all over the globe. In Malabar, Canara, Tamilnadu, Travancore etc. they got regimented under the same social system. With the Brahmins at the top. That is all.


Much before the Pazhassiraja insurgency, the Kottayam kingdom had long years of relationship with the English Company. This kingdom also made use of the Company to protect themselves from the insidious takeover attempts by other small-time kingdoms, nearby. Moreover, the kingdom did try its own game at make the best profit out of the competition between the English Company at Tellicherry and the French headquartered at Mahe. Tellicherry, Kottayam and Mahe are within a few kilometres radius.


QUOTE: And it was known that the Kottayam Raja, who had helped the prince to take it from the Mappillas, had agreed to give up the positions held by him on it to the French whenever they should choose to END OF QUOTE.


The king of Kottayam was also playing the seesaw game, with the English Company and the French. However, whenever things became too hot, the then ruler of Kottayam would rush to the English to ask for help.


QUOTE: But disputes early commenced between this Raja and Tippu relative to their respective boundaries, and the latter’s vakils complained also of the Kottayam Raja taking Wynad, which district the Commissioners were then of opinion was not ceded by the treaty. END OF QUOTE.


Wynad was not part of Kottayam territory, but more or less under the disputed ownership of the Mysorean kingdom.


QUOTE: The Kottayam Raja's alarm of invasion had meanwhile not abated, and on the 19th of February he sent to the Chief an unconditional agreement to plant the English flag and post garrisons on the island. END OF QUOTE


This happened when the Canarese army invaded north Malabar. It is quite funny that the well-established kingdoms had to run to the safety of a small trading settlement of the English Company whenever there was any attack on them from any neighbouring kingdom.


QUOTE: Meanwhile the mediation carried on by Kottayam went on slowly. He was in no hurry to arrange terms while being paid a personal allowance of Rs. 40 per day as may be imagined, and he appears not to have scrupled at declaring openly that he meant to make the most he could for himself of the troubles in the country. END OF QUOTE.


The king of Kottayam was ‘making hay when the sun was shining’, so to say. For, he thought as every other small-time kingdom in the locality did, that he could play French against the English and vice versa and get his due profit.


QUOTE: The Kottayam Mappillas deserted the Raja and assisted the invaders END OF QUOTE.


This happened when Hyder Ali invaded north Malabar kingdoms. The Mappillas supported the Muslim invaders. For, they had their age-long