Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
The Zamorin and other apparitions


In the various history writings of the land, there are some names that are given a more that life-size dominance. One such is the word Zamorin. Its colloquial name is Samoori or in modern Malayalam Samoothiri.

When one reads the history that encompasses a few centuries, one finds that the various native kings change in the various kingdoms. Then the Continental Europeans arrive; the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French. Then the English comes.

In all these histories, some native kings are seen to remain in a un-dying form. One such is the Zamorin. Another is the Beebi of the minute kingdom inside Cannanore town. Then there are others like the Nawab of Carnatic etc.

Actually the persons do change across the years. Yet, their individual names are not seen mentioned much. They sort of exist like the Phantom, the Ghost who walks!

QUOTE: an agreement with “Kishen, Zamorin Raja of Calicut,” investing him with the sole management of all the countries heretofore included in the province of Calicut, which are or may be conquered by the British troops END OF QUOTE.

The name ‘Kishen’ is seen mentioned in the above quote.

As to the Zamorian, I think the word mentioned in English and the Continental European languages must have struck the imagination of those people. Far in the remote eastern mystical lands, there is a ‘great Emperor’, the Zamorin.

Actually the Calicut kingdom was a very tiny one. Its mainstay of existence was the support given by the king of Egypt, whose one main source of revenue must have been the pepper trade to Europe, monopolised by Egyptian traders. Even the kingdom Palghat in the east did not concede to the supremacy of Calicut with or without demur. Nor did Valluvanaad to the south.

Just beyond the Korapuzha to the north was the kingdom of the Kadathanad. And far at the southern end of the subcontinent, Travancore was to become a far more powerful kingdom than Calicut had ever been. This rise of Travancore was totally due to the support given by the English East India Company.

QUOTE: The king was sitting in his chair which the factor” (who had preceded Da Grama with the presents) “had got him to sit upon: he was a very dark man, half-naked, and clothed with white cloths from the middle to the knees ; END OF QUOTE.

In all probability, the Zamorin would be just like a typical landlord of Malabar, who had the seaport in his areas among the areas which were under his control or ownership. However, beyond that he might even be much connected to seafaring communicates, who are generally kept at a distance by the ‘higher castes’. But then, there is nothing to denote that kings of Calicut did go for sea-travel. For, it was dangerous when accosted by rude pirates, and also a source of defilement, when accosted by lower caste seafaring populations.

May be he had some dark-skin Tamil bloodline. For generally the people in Malabar, unconnected to the fishermen folks were fair in complexion.

QUOTE: “On the other side stood another page, who held a gold cup with a wide rim into which the king spat; END OF QUOTE.

The spitting would be after chewing the betel leaves. It would be done by holding two fingers pressed on the mouth. It is a style that has to be developed with meticulous practise. A barbarian and uncivilised act aimed at protruding some kind of dominance.

QUOTE: “And he (the Zamorin) and his country are the nest and resting place for stranger thieves, and those be called ‘Moors of Carposa,’ because they wear on their heads long red hats ; and thieves part the spoils that they take on the sea with the King of Calicut, for he giveth leave unto all that will go a roving liberally to go ; in such wise that all along that coast there is such a number of thieves, that there is no sailing in those seas, but with great ships, and very well armed ; or else they must go in company with the army of the Portugals.” — (Eng. Translation.) END OF QUOTE.

That was the words of Cæsar Frederick, a merchant from Venice, writing around 1570s.

But then, the king of Calicut was the person who could arrange the pepper for the merchants. And he was in the control of the Arabian merchants who would not allow any other trading team to come into direct contact with him.

QUOTE: But it very soon transpired that all that the Zamorin wanted was to get assistance against the Portuguese for the conquest of Cranganore and Cochin, and when the English ships left without assisting him, very scant courtesy was shown to the ten persons left behind, who were to have founded a factory at Calicut END OF QUOTE.

The English trading ships came for trade. However, the local attitude was to make use of all these gullible merchants as some kind of mercenaries. The local kings and the various other population groups were not intent on setting up any kind of refined social set up. Their one and only ambition was to tumble down another social or political adversary. The continued maintenance of a huge section of the population as slaves or repulsive castes was a foregone conclusion. No one even bothered to even think of an alternative social set up, until the advent of the English colonial rule.

QUOTE: In 1788 the Zamorin was accordingly induced by a promise of the restoration of a portion of his territory to put forward some rather antiquated claims to suzerainty over Travancore. But being disgusted at the forcible conversions which followed the sultan’s advent, he drew back from the arrangement END OF QUOTE.

It is quite funny to note that the then king of Calicut could be persuaded by Sultan Tippu to support him, on being promised that the Travancore kingdom would be brought under him. It might be remembered here that the Kolathiri raja of Cannanore and beyond had been seduced by Hyder Ali, Tippu’s father to support him on the promise that he would be made the king of Calicut. The title Samoori could have had a definite ‘verbal greatness’. Oh, to be the Samoori!

Here the Samoori is being seduced by the promise that he would be the ruler of Travancore!

QUOTE: 1. The Padinyaru Kovilakam branch of the Zamorin’s family, already noticed, possessing great influence in the country, was entrusted with the collection of the district of Nedunganad by the Eralpad Raja, the managing heir apparent of the Zamorin.

On the strength of this the Padinyaru K. Raja attempted to render himself independent of the Zamorin. The dispute was carried on to such lengths that Captain Burchall was obliged to seize his person at Cherupullasseri. He died there a day or two afterwards, and at the instance of the Zamorin his brother and nephew were put under restraint, and released only upon the Kilakka Kovilakam Raja standing security for their good behaviour and payment of arrears of revenue amounting to one lakh of rupees

2. An attempt was made by two of the Rajas of the Padinyaru Kovilakam (western palace) of the Zamorin’s house to assassinate him (the king of Calicut) because he failed to procure them their restoration to Nedunganad. Though severely wounded, he recovered under the treatment of Surgeon Wye END OF QUOTE.</