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Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - SECTION B - Part IV. (1607—1729 A.D.)

Advent of Tirumala Nayak The Yogakkars and Pillamars

The Dutch Umayamma Rani

The Ettuvittil Pillamars A Mahomedan invasion

Kerala Varma The Dutch

The English

Relations between Madura and Travancore

Unni Kerala Varma

Murder of the English factors

Rama Varma Kilimanur

Form of Government

The Neighbouring Kingdoms

The Foreign Powers


According to some of the epigraphical records, one Tirumeni Nambi established the temple of Kulasekhara Vinayakar at Suchindram the 17th Karkatagam 784 M.E (1609 A.D). in commemoration of the demise of his sovereign Rama Varma Kulasekhara Perumal. As we have already said, this sovereign was ruling until 1607 A.D., which probably was the last year of his reign.

The next sovereign, according to the temple chronicles, was SRI VIRA UNNI KERALA VARMA, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy. His reign lasted from 787 to 799 M.E (1012—1623 A.D). Two inscriptions in Tamil verse in the Bhagavati temple at Valvachatottam in Kalkulam, prove that Venad was under the sovereignty of Sri Vira Ravi Varma from 795 to 798 M.E (1620—1623 A.D). This Sri Vira Ravi Varma may have been the co-regent of Unni Kerala Varma. Their dates of accession and death are not definitely known.

In 782 M.E (1606 A.D)., Muthuvirappa Nayak, elder brother of Tirumala Nayak, made certain gifts of land at Kakkarai and other places in Tinnevelly to the Bhagavati temple at Cape Comorin. There is also other evidence to show that the Cape and the Comorin temple were already in the possession of the Madura king.

The temple chronicles show that SRI VIRA RAVI VARMA of Tiruppapur was the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy and flourished in Venad for about twenty years from 803 to 823 M.E (1628— 1647 A.D) and that UNNI KERALA VARMA was the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur and reigned from 807 to 826 M.E (1632—1650 A.D). About 1644 A.D., this king granted Vizhinjam to the English East India Company that they might erect a factory there for purposes of trade. This was the earliest English settlement in Travancore.

Advent of Tirumala Nayak

Tirumala Nayak, the greatest of Pandyan kings, established his capital at Madura immediately after his accession in 1623 A. D. After defeating the Mysore army, he turned his attention in 1634 to the more fertile regions southward, which had hitherto escaped the notice of his ancestors who ruled from distant Trichinopoly. He was now independent of the Narasinga dynasty of Vijayanagar and wished to make larger acquisitions under the auspices of his family deities, Sundara and Minakshi. The earliest record showing the advent of Tirumala Nayak with his forces to Nanjanad, is a neet (edict), dated 22nd Kumbham 810 M.E (1635 A.D.), issued by the sovereign of Travancore to the Nanjanad ryots, regarding the remission of tax. This was found among the cadjan records preserved by Periyavittu Mudaliar of Tazhakudi already referred to. The edict runs thus —

“Whereas it has been represented to us at our residence at Kalkulam by the nattars (ryots) between Mangalam and Manakudi, including those of perumpottu, tali, and sanketam, that the country is smitten by calamities, having had no cultivation for the Kar (Kanni) crop of 810, and that, as Pisanam (Kumbham) cultivation was not begun owing to the advent of Tirumala Nayakkar’s forces and as the crops raised of Manalvari, Samba and Adikkiravi (different kinds of paddy) suffered by blight, the ryots have not the where-withal to begin fresh cultivation, we are pleased to command on this the 22nd day of the month of Masi in the year 810 M.E, that the levying of orupoo-melvram (a fixed tax) be given up for the Pisanum crop and that this fact viz., that simple melvaram alone will be realised on the Pisanam cultivation between Mangalam and Manakudi including perumpattu, tali and sanketam be duly notified to the ryots of the said places in the southern portion of Nanjanad North.”

It would appear from the above edict that in 810 M.E, Kalkulam or Padmanabhapuram was the seat of government, that on account of the advent of Tirumala Nayak’s forces (which according to tradition were encamped in the paddy fields), there was no cultivation for the Kar crop of 810 M.E, and that the Pisanam cultivation was not begun in time, and that Nanjanad was then divided into Nanjanad North and Nanjanad South. Mangalam is now a small village near Ponmana, nine miles north of Padmanabhapuram, and Manakudi is a seaport village in Agastisvaram Taluq, three miles along the coast from the Cape. The term sanketam is applied to the property of Sri Padmanabhaswamy; tali means temple or Devaswam property and perumpattu corresponds to Pandaravagai-pattom or Sircar’s own — a name still used in the Shencottah revenue accounts. It is evident from the edict that Tirumala’s first advent took place about the close of 809 M.E (1634 A.D.), when Venad was under the joint-sovereignty of Ravi Varma and Unni Kerala Varma.

According to the temple chronicles, Sri Vira Ravi Ravi Varma succeeded Unni Kerala Vanna in 827 M.E Nothing more is known about this sovereign. One Aditya Varma is said to have ruled over Venad from 1661 to 1677 A.D., though according to the epigraphical records he died only a year later viz., in 1678 A.D.

On the 20th of Mithunam 839 M.E (1664 A.D)., Tirumala Kolundu Pillai, one of the chieftains of Chokkanatha Nayak, a descendant of Tirumala Nayak, set up a kal-matam (stone-shed) on the bank of the Chakratirtham tank at Cape Comorin, and assigned certain lands in Tinnevelly and in Nanjanad for the maintenance of certain charities there.

The steps of the Tiruppatisaram tank were constructed by one Tammappa Nayakkar. These facts go to show that at the beginning of the latter half of the seventeenth century, Tiruppatisaram and certain other places in Nanjanad were under the sway of the Madura Nayaks.

The Yogakkars and Pillamars

Reference may now be made to the Yogakkars and Ettuvittil Pillaniars who have played so important a part in the early history of Travancore. The Yogakkars were a body of Potti Brahmins who formed themselves into a committee of management of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple at Trivandrum. These were eight such Brahmin representatives belonging to eight Brahman families. Each of them had a vote while the sovereign himself had only half a vote — in all, eight votes and a half. The committee was therefore known by the name of Ettara-yogam (committee of 8½ votes). According to Shungoonny Menon, there was effected a reorganisation of the Devaswams in 220 M.E (1045 A.D.) under the management of this Ettara-yogam. These members gradually became a powerful body and wielded immense influence in the conduct and administration of the temple establishments.

The sovereigns had little or no control over them and were simply permitted to be present at the periodical ceremonies. The Ettuvittil Pillamars were the representatives of eight noble Nayar families and were entrusted with the collection of the Devaswam revenues. Originally they had nothing to do with the Devaswams. They were the tenants of Potti jenmis who were not members of the Ettara-yogam but mere landlords. In course of time, however, they acquired great wealth and power, defied their own jenmi landlords and allied themselves with the Yogakkars.

As the king had no authority over the Yogakkars and was evidently unable to control the Pillamars, these latter easily rose to power and importance. They became as troublesome as the feudal barons of England were to King John — so much so that in 510 M.E., when the sovereign proposed to construct a palace for himself at Trivandrum, he was opposed by the Yogakkars. The king of course resented such a proceeding and in return called upon the Yogakkars to submit to him their Devaswam accounts. They told him that he had no controlling power over them and that he himself had only half a vote in the Yogam (committee), which was nothing as compared to their united will. This opposition continued for a long period, but open rupture was avoided by the tact of the sovereigns who fully realised their helplessness.

Matters, however, came to a crisis in the reign of Aditya Varma. He was of a very mild disposition and being of a religious turn of mind, he insisted upon the Devaswams being managed properly. The result was that his palace at Trivandrum was burnt by the Ettuvittil Pillamars and the king himself fled to Puthencottah, a small fortress on a beautiful hill by the side of the Killiyar, where he lived until he was himself disposed of by poison at the instigation of the Pillamars.

According to the epigraphical records, the date of the king’s death is 5th Dhanu 854 M. E. (December 1678 A.D.). From the temple chronicles we understand that the regular performance of the pujas in the Padmanabhaswamy Pagoda had been entirely stopped for a period of five years from 848 to 853 M.E (1673—1678 A.D)., and the temple itself closed during the period owing to the internal dissensions caused by the unruly Ettuvittil Pillamars and their confederates, the Yogakkars. It appears that the temple was subsequently opened for puja by the Queen of Attungal and Sri Vira Ravi Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy.

In this connection, the following extract from an official document regarding the state of Malabar, drawn up in 1677 A.D., by Van Rheed, then the Dutch Governor of Ceylon and author of the well-known botanical work Hortus Malaharicus, is worthy of reproduction —

“Travancore with whom a friendly contract was entered into, would never yet suffer the free and unlimited pepper trade in this country; he however allowed it with respect to all other Articles, with the exclusion of all other Europeans. He is a powerful Prince and his Dominions formerly extended from Cailpattanam on the coast of Madura to Poona. The Prince is an adopted son from a Cochin family called Ramenacoil, this court has often solicited a Cochin Prince and Princess as heirs, but I have never been able to persuade the king to it, not but that he saw the great advantages which might result therefrom to Cochin, but because this would be from the Cochin family of Tayaloor, which he will not suffer. We never had any quarrels with this Prince, but a few misunderstandings respecting the prohibition of the Archa, but has been a stranger and not having the good luck to please the great Lords of his country, not the Princess of Attingah he has it not in his power to employ his whole strength, but as these differences are so far distant from us, and consequently of such a nature as not to hurt the Company, I have always in as friendly a manner as possible declined having any hand in the propositions of the Rajah as being the weakest, to bring in the Company as mediators, as I have always considered that a kingdom divided within itself was least in a situation to hurt us.

“The Princess of Attingah, who is not alone the mother of Travancore but the eldest of Tippaposorewam has a large territory of her own independent of Travancore, is also in alliance with the Hon’ble Company — along with the old Princess lives a younger one, but of such noble and manly conduct that she is both feared and respected by every one, some out of respect to her sex and others out of regard to the old Queen, which this youngest Princess knows so well how to turn to her advantage that she not only rules Attingah but Travancore itself within whose bounds no Princess may set her feet according to their laws, nor pass the river Canimani on pain of forfeiting their rights, but this young Amazon has lately violated those customs and made even the king fly before her.”

The above document (found among the old Huzur records) clearly brings to light that the kingdom of Travancore formerly extended as far as Cailpatnam (Kayalpatam) in the Tinnevelly District, that the king could not hold his own against the powerful barons of the country, that the Queen of Attungal was a powerful ruler and had a large territory of her own, independent of Travancore (this explains the independent existence of the two Swarupams we have referred to, namely, Siraivoy near Attungal, and Tiruppapur), that besides the Queen there was a young Princess at Attungal of a very noble and manly conduct, and that commercial relations existed between the Queen of Attungal and the Dutch Company. The reference to Cochin is probably a mistake for Kolathunad from which Travancore made adoptions, or it may be that the Raja of Kolathunad at the time a tributary of the more powerful Prince of Cochin. We find the very same account in Nieuhoff’s Voyages and Travels to the East-Indies (1653-1672 A.D). He says: —

“The ancient race of the kings of Travankoor owed its origin to Attinjen, but for want of male heirs, one of the princes of Cochin was placed in that throne; the king who then reigned being descended from the Cochin race of Rammerankoil and elected king of Travankoor.’’ *

NOTEs: * Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. II. Page 227

The Dutch

The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602 A. D. In the course of about fifty years the Company made very steady advance and formed numerous settlements all along the Malabar Coast ousting the Portuguese from most of their possessions. In 1653 they laid siege to Cochin which soon surrendered, and the Portuguese left Cochin according to the terms of the surrender. The Dutch troops were then marched to treat with a petty king viz., the Rajah of Poracad and it was on this occasion that the Dutch general showed himself to be a very severe disciplinarian. For four days the soldiers were unable to get any food and two of them having slaughtered a cow stolen by them out of dire necessity, the general ordered one of them to be hanged forthwith and intended to shoot the other who was however saved by the intervention of the Rajah. After the treaty the Dutch troops marched against Cranganore.

In 1661 A.D, the Dutch again attacked the fort of Cochin which was bravely defended by the Portuguese garrison stationed there. The Rajah of Poracad came to the assistance of Cochin with six thousand native troops. The Dutch determined to retreat and embarked in silence in the dead of night. The Dutch admiral Van Goens appeared with a fleet before Quilon, then the chief Portuguese possession in Travancore, in December 1661. This was opposed by a large body of Nayars who in spite of their brave resistance had at last to yield. The Dutch troops marched against the town which they soon occupied as the Portuguese garrison had fled to the neighbouring woods. They then took possession of the palace and the pagoda. The whole town was pillaged and all the churches were pulled down except that of St. Thomas. After this they marched against Cranganore which they found to be well fortified. After a bombardment for fourteen days the place was stormed and the fortress at last surrendered to the Dutch. In October 1662 the Dutch returned to Cochin but were vigorously met by the Portuguese.

But the attempt to prevent their landing failed. The Rajah of Poracad arrived with a large force and threw supplies into the fort. The natives under the Portuguese officers met their foes most gallantly and inflicted severe losses on them. The Poracad contingent fought valiantly but had to yield in the end. The Portuguese finding that resistance was useless now that all were worn out with fatigue and anxiety, at last surrendered on the 8th of January 1663 leaving the Dutch masters of Cochin and of the entire commerce of Malabar. With this event ended the influence of the Portuguese on this Coast.

A treaty was concluded between the Queen of Quilon and the Dutch by which her palace and the guns were restored and large sums were paid to indemnify her losses in the last war. In 1663 and 1664 alliances were formed between the Dutch and the chief princes of Travancore, the Company being represented by Captain John Nieuhoff, and the kings of Karunagapalli, Travancore, Quilon and Kottarakara being parties to the transaction. The articles of agreement were —

‘I. No body shall import, sell or exchange amison (opium) into these countries, except the Dutch East-India company,

‘II. No body, without any exception, shall be permitted to export any pepper or cinamome out of this country, or to sell them to any body, except to the said company.

‘III. A certain price was settled, betwixt both parties, and what share each should have in the customs, whereby all former pretensions and exceptions should be annulled.”

In connection with this treaty, the following account of Nieuhoff’s interview with the Queen of Quilon in March 1664 A.D., as told by himself, is worth quoting —

‘The 2nd of March with break of day, the viceroy of the king of Travankoor call’d by them Gorepe, the chief commander of the negroes, call’d Matta de Pulo, and myself, set out for the court of the queen of Koulang, which was then kept at Calliere (Kallada). We arriv’d there about two a clock in the afternoon, and as soon as notice was given of our arrival, we were sent for to court, where after I had deliver’d the presents, and laid the money down for pepper, I was introduced into her majesty’s presence. She had a guard of above 700 soldiers about her, all clad after the Malabar fashion; the Queen’s attirement being no more than a piece of callicoe wrapt round her middle, the upper part of her body appearing for the most part naked, with a piece of callicoe hanging carelessly round her shoulders. Her ears, which were very long, her neck and arms were adorn’d with precious stones, gold rings and bracelets, and her head cover’d with a piece of white callicoe. She was past her middle age, of a brown complexion, with black hair tied in a knot behind, but of a majestic mein, she being a princess who shew’d great deal of good conduct in the management of her affairs.

‘After I had paid the usual compliments, I shew’d her the proposition I was to make to her in writing which she order’d to be read twice, the better to understand the meaning of it, which being done, she ask’d me, whether this treaty comprehended all the rest, and whether they were annull'd by it ; unto which I having given her a sufficient answer, she agreed to all our propositions, which were accordingly sign’d immediately. ... ... ... I then desired leave to depart, because I expected Mr. Hustart* every hour at Koulang, which she readily granted, and at the same time took a golden bracelet from her arms, which she presented me as a token of her good inclinations to the company!

NOTEs: * Councillor of Indies and Governor and Director of the Isle of Ceylon and the Malabar Coast.

She order’d one of the Residoors (Governors ?) to fasten it to my arm, but it being too streight she caused it to be fitted for me, she having once before viz., when I first gave her notice of Mr. Hustart's coming, presented me with another golden bracelet, for which and all other honours, I had received from her majesty, since my residence at Koulang, returned my hearty thanks, desiring her once more not to withdraw her favour from the company.*

NOTEs: * Churchill's Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. II. Page 231.

The chief Settlements of the Dutch in Travancore about 1667 were thus, Quilon, Kayangulam, Poracad, Karunagapalli and Tengapatnam.

Divisions of Travancore (1664 A.D.). John Nieuhoff who was the Chief Director of the Dutch Company at Quilon at this period gives, in his Voyages and Travels already referred to, a short and at the same time clear account of the various kingdoms into which Travancore was then divided viz., Travancore, Quilon, Karunagapalli, Poracad etc.

“The kingdom of Travankoor begins at the cape of Comory or Comorin, and extends all along the sea-coast as far as Koulang, comprehending a tract of ground of 20 or 24 leagues in length; the famous village of Paru, belonging to the Queen of Singnaty being only in the midst. To the east it borders upon the kingdom of Madure, and to the west upon the countries of Peretaly and Kotarkery. It has several considerable villages which are inhabited by the moors, such as Tengepadnam, Kuletture, Korityapatnam and Allage. ..... Put the chief cities lie deeper in the countrey, which is of a great extent all along the mountains to Naynar, near the cape of Comorin and toward Travankoor, in all 29 great cities and villages. About a league and a half to the north of the cape is the city of Kotate or Kokatti, a place of great traffick ; the populous city of Simintra and Matadavalur, famous for its bigness, being surrounded by six or seven other towns ; Verrage is not above a quarter of a league distance from Kotate and Tatikury, the two most considerable places of the whole countrey.

“Kalkolang is a very large city, being a league and a half long, upon the confines of the Neyk of Madure. It is situate upon a high hill, 3 leagues from Tengepatnam, and 12 from Koulang; being on one side strengthened by inaccessible mountains, on the other by a wall, the undermost part of which is of stone, the uppermost of brick-work, in all 24 foot high ; the royal palace stands at the west end, being surrounded by a stone wall. On the east side you see the ruins of an old castle, built on the top of a hill, fortified with a triple wall. Kalkolang is the chief residence of the king who constantly keeps a garrison of 10,000 negroes here, to secure it against the Neyk of Madure, whose power is much dreaded here......... He is by some styled the great king, because he possesses larger territories than any other of the Malabar kings. He is served in great state, and maintains abundance of commanders, whom they call Mandigals and many councellors, called Pullas. Some ascribe to him a superiority over neighbouring princes, but of this I am convinced to the contrary by my own experience ; it is true they reverence him, as a potent king, but pay him no obedience. Others will have him to be a vassal of the king of Narasinga.”

This much is certain that the king of Travancore did exercise some control over the neighbouring princes, for we find him interfering with the Dutch Company for their burning the royal palace of Quilon and for driving Godavarma Rajah (Gondormo) of Vettatnad from Cochin, and that the Dutch Company always held him in very great esteem.

Quilon (Coulang or Singnaty). This small principality was, as we have seen already, ruled at this time by a Queen “past her middle age, of a brown complexion, of a majestic mein, a princess who showed a great deal of good conduct in the management of her affairs”.

“The city of Koulang, the capital of a kingdom bearing the same name, is situate upon the sea shore of the coast of Malabar, about 13 French leagues to the south of Cochin. It is fortified with a stone wall of 18 or 20 foot high, and 8 bastions ; its suburbs which are very large and stately, are by the Portuguese called Colang China. For Koulang is separated into two bodies, one of which is called the Upper or Malabar Koulang, the other the Lower Koulang ; in the first the king and queen kept their ordinary residences ; the last was formerly in the possession of the Portuguese as lying nearer to the sea side. The houses of the inhabitants were very stately and lofty built of free stone.

The rulers of this State were closely allied to the Travancore Royal family and about 1600 A. D., the eldest member of the Quilon or Travancore family seems to have ruled over the whole country from Quilon to Cape Comorin. The Rajah of Kayangulam (Kalkoulang) was a very powerful prince being frequently at war with the king of Travancore and claiming a second place among the Princes of Travancore at this time.

Karunagapalli (Marta). “The kingdom of Marta or Marten is very near as big as that of Kalhoulang, extending to the north as far as Porka ; to the south it borders upon the Indian sea, and to the east it is surrounded by high mountains, and washed by the same river, upon which Cochin dradi Koulang lie.............. This king possesses some parts of the countrey in common with the king of Kalkoulang, a thing not usual on this coast, where are so many petty kingdoms, that it requires no small time, to distinguish and know them from one another...... The king is a sovereign prince, he that then reigned being of about 60 years of age, very large of body and a stern countenance ; he keeps constantly 1,200 negroes in pay: his residence is at Carnopoly (Karunagapalli), a place surrounded with an earthen wall of 20 feet high but appeared much decayed at the time.”

The capital of this State was Marta (Maruturkulangara) and Mavelikara (Maulikara) was another city belonging to this principality.

Poracad (Porka). “The kingdom of Porka, otherwise Perkatti, has borrowed its name from its capital city ; it borders to the north upon the kingdom of Cochin, to the south upon that of Kalkoulang, it has Takken Berkenker to the north-east, and the sea to the west, being about 12 leagues in length ; its capital city is Porka. Another of the chief cities is Koramallur (Kutamalur), situated up in the same river with two cities of Cochin and Koulang. The king reigning at Porka was a parson of 30 years of age, very stately and well made........................ He is a most absolute prince, acknowledging no superior, every fort of the country being his own, and at his disposal. Justice is administered here with extraordinary severity, especially on the account of theft, which makes this crime scarce ever to be heard of here. " *

NOTEs: * Churchill's Collection of Voyagas and Travels, Vol II. Page 223.

The king’s revenue was chiefly obtained from pirates on the coast.

Among other kingdoms, mention may be made of PERITALLI (Nedumangad), ELAYADATHU SWARUPAM (including Kottarakara, Pattananpuram, Shencottah and Calacaud), PANTALAM, TEKKUMKUR (embracing the Taluqs of Tiruvalla, Changanachery and Kottayam), VADAKKUMKUR and Parur.

Umayamma Rani 853-859 M.E/ 1678-1684 A.D:

When Aditya Varma died by treachery in Dhanu 854 M.E. the Royal family consisted of one female, the Queen of Attungal, and her six sons all minors. This is the Queen to whom Van Rheed refers in the extract quoted above in such flattering terms.

The Ettuvittil Pillamars and their confederates waited upon the Rani and gave their assurances of allegiance to her and her children only as a take-off to the villainous act of treachery they had determined upon against her and her issue. Five of the princes were inveigled to go to a bathing tank known as Kalippankulam at Manakad (half a mile south of the Trivandrum town), on a fine moonlight night along with other boys they had set up ostensibly for purposes of swim and play. As the boys were enjoying their swim, a few ruffians hired for the purpose came also to the tank under the pretext of bathing, and seizing the princes drowned them in the water. The confederates then spread a rumour to the effect that the princes were accidentally drowned in the tank while bathing. The shocking news of the simultaneous death of her five sons left no doubt in the mind of the Queen as to the cause of death and the hands that wrought it. She was entirely helpless and finding her stay at Puthencottah unsafe, she retired with her only surviving son, a boy of nine years, to Nedumangad with a faithful staff of followers. She then gave up all concern in the affairs of her government, her whole thoughts being centred on the safety of her son and heir.*

NOTEs: * Miss Augusta M. Blandford makes a mistake on this point in her pretty little book on Travancore, called by her 'The Land of the Conch Shell." She says: "The chief residence of the Rajahs of those days was at a place about 30 miles from Trivandrum, the present capital but in A. D. 1335, a palace was built near the great pagoda there, and both buildings were enclosed by a high, strong wall, and formed what is now called the Fort. As soon as the Rajah moved to his new palace he began to watch the proceedings of the Brahmins and to insist on supervising the expenditure of the pagoda funds. This measure was, naturally, displeasing to them, but they submitted during the reign of this Rajah and those of several of his successors who appear to have been determined men, and capable of rigorous government. At length, however, in 1661, a weak prince, who had always led a retired life, and was more fit for a cloister than a throne, began to reign. The Brahmins then carried everything before them, and exposed the unhappy sovereign to every kind of annoyance. One night his palace caught fire and as no one but the adherents of the Brahmins lived near, and they made no effort to extinguish the flames, the whole building was destroyed. The Rajah and Royal Family were obliged to retire to another palace at some little distance and to it the temple Brahmins (the probable authors of the fire) came with expressions of condolence and sympathy. They were received by the king, who appears to have been most unsuspecting, with great kindness, and their visits were often repeated, and offerings of sweetmeats brought by them were accepted. The Rajah being a devotee, dared not refuse to partake of food which had been first laid before the image of the great Padmanabhaswamy, but his compliance cost him his life ; his enemies one day mixed poison with the gift, and the Rajah died suddenly after a reign of sixteen years. The malice of the Brahmins did not end here, and they resolved if possible to take the lives of the six young princes, nephews of the late Rajah, who, according to the curious law prevalent in Travancore, were to be his heirs in succession to one another. One moonlight night a few boys belonging to Brahmin families were inlaying in the Palace courtyard with the five elder princes, when one of them, no doubt, instigated by the enemies of the Royal House, proposed that they should go and bathe in a tank a little way off. The young Princes agreed without consulting their mother and while they were bathing, some men rushed into the water and drowned them all. One can well imagine the agony of the poor Rani when she learnt that her sons had perished. Taking with her the survivor, a boy of nine years old, and a few trusty followers, she fled to a place about twelve miles off, where she remained in retirement, not daring to interfere with the government of the kingdom, lest her only surviving son should fall a victim to some vile plot.”

The author is evidently labouring under a misapprehension, for the Brahmins had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Rajah nor the setting fire to the palace, nor the murder of the five children of the Rani out of six. These deeds of violence were the work of the Ettuvittil Pillamars as recorded in the text. Miss Blandford is a very able and well-informed lady who has devoted the best years of her life to the C. E, Zenana Mission work in Trivandrum and is highly esteemed by her numerous lady pupils and their families. The mistake is therefore the more regrettable.

The Ettuvittil Pillamars. A reign of terror ensued. The Ettuvittil Pillamars became the virtual rulers of the land. Originally mere tillers of the soil as the tenants at-will of the Potti jenmis (not the Yogakkar Potties), they gradually usurped all the properties of their landlords and soon supplanted them. They belonged to eight houses viz., Martandam, Ramanamatam, Kulattur, Kazhakuttam, Venganur, Chempazhanti, Koduman and Pallichal. These are not the house-names but rather the villages to which they belonged ; all these villages are identifiable to this day in their old names. Their aim was to extirpate the royal family and establish a republic to be ultimately converted into a monarchy under the rule of one of themselves. In subsequent years, as we find later on in Martanda Varma’s reign, they proposed a ‘Protectorate’, the first Protector to be Padmanabhan Tampi, the cousin of king Martanda Varma, but the Tampi would not be anything less than the sovereign himself. On one occasion the Maharajah sent word to the Pallichal Pillai for sending up a cheetah-cub from his neighbouring jungle. He sent a reply message to say that if His Highness would condescend to come to his house he would show him a cheetah-cub there, meaning himself.

The Maharajah took him at his word, and going there one afternoon un-awares went straight into the Pillai’s house and seizing him by his kudumi (tuft of hair) asked him to show the cheetah-cub promised, whereupon the Pillai tried to extricate himself from the grip of the Maharajah, but the Maharajah overpowered him and cut him with his sword into two pieces — the spot in Pallichal where this was done is still known as Naduvathumuri literally ‘cut into two’.

The Pillai’s properties were confiscated to the State and sold. The lands were purchased by a Brahmin Anaval and endowed by him for public charity, which continues to this day. All the Ettuvittil Pillamars were either executed or banished as the later history will show— but it is believed they are not altogether extinct. Two families are said to exist and there was a great sensation caused sometime ago when a member of one of these proscribed families applied for a government appointment. The application was stoutly opposed on the ground of the man belonging to this set of ancient traitors to the Travancore Royal house. A petty subordinate of mine in the Settlement Department claims to be a descendant of one of the families.

Internal dissensions having broken out amongst the confederates themselves, anarchy and misrule prevailed throughout the country for some years.

A Mahomedan invasion

Taking advantage of this state of affairs, a petty Sirdar named Mukilan under the Mogul Emperor who was leading a wandering wayfaring life in the southern part of the Peninsula with a number of horsemen, invaded the southern part of Travancore and carried on depredations among the people there. This was not probably the name of the Sirdar, but the name of his race ‘Mogul,’ which in the vernacular may be called Mukilan. The invasion is still known as Mukilan-padai literally ‘Mogul’s invasion.’

None of the chiefs or nobles being able to oppose him or impede his march he soon reached Trivandrum which was deserted by the Yogakkars and Pillamars fleeing for their lives. A few faithful Pathans attached to the palace prevailed on the Sirdar not to demolish or pollute the pagodas or convert the people to Islam. The Sirdar encamped at Manakad and exercised his sway up to Edawa in the north and became master of the country between Tovala and Edawa. He did not care to go to Nedumangad where the Rani was staying with her son. The Mahomedan conqueror imposed certain customs and observances peculiar to Mahomedans on the Malayali-Sudras living between Varkala and Vilavankod which tract was now under his sway. They were —

1. Males should cover their heads and females their bodies, when going out of doors.

2. Males should undergo the ceremony of circumcision before the age of ten.

3. During marriage ceremonies the relatives and friends of the family should sit together and eat from the same dish.

4. Sudra women should cover the upper part of their bodies with a cloth like males and should not remain naked like their sisters of the north.

5. Every child on being weaned should have a handkerchief tied round its head.

6. Females should get themselves tattooed on some parts of their bodies.

7. Females need not wear the lower cloth as the women of north Trivandrum do viz., തറ്റുടുക്ക (Thattudukka).

Some of these customs still prevail among the Sudras in and about Trivandrum.


The exiled Rani at Nedumangad now sought the aid of one Kerala Varma, a member of the northern Kottayam Rajah’s family and related to the Travancore House, to drive the Mogul Sirdar and recover her country from him. Kerala Varma soon answered the call and raising a large force of archers at Neyyattinkara marched against the enemy. The Sirdar not having a sufficient force ready with him retreated to Tovala where his horsemen had gone for collecting the revenue. He was closely pursued by Kerala Varma and in a battle at Tiruvattar, the Mogul chief was killed. Kerala Varma with the horses and weapons seized from the Mogul, organised a battalion of cavalry and soon brought all the refractory chiefs to obedience. He then went to Nedumangad to bring the Queen to Trivandrum where he acted as her principal counsellor and commander of the troops.

Two palaces were constructed at Trivandrum called Tevarathu Koikal and Valia Koikal for the residence of the Queen and Kerala Varma respectively. When peace was restored, the Rani was greatly pleased with her commander whom she elevated to the position of Elaya Rajah or Heir-apparent. Subsequently misunderstandings arose between her and the heir-apparent and it is believed he was assassinated. He was one of the greatest poets of his time.

The Dutch

About 1680 A.D., the Dutch began to realise the results of their policy in seeking trade at the point of the sword. The expenses of the several garrisons maintained at the various settlements were so large that their trade yielded no profits, and they began to consider the advisability of destroying the forts of Cannanore, Cochin, Cranganore and Quilon. But this resolution was not however carried out until some years after viz., 1697 A.D.

The English

In 1684, the English East India Company obtained from the Rani of Attungal, a sandy spot of land at Anjengo and appointed a commercial Resident there. The place was not well selected on account of want of good water and an open roadstead and surf rendering shipping operations dangerous. But the selection was made on account of the abundance of pepper and piece-goods there. When the place was fortified some years later, the cannon of the fort commanded the backwater, the mainstay of traffic, and the shipping in the roadstead. At the time of the English settlement and for several years subsequently, Travancore did not offer facilities for commercial operations on account of the ascendancy of the Yogakkars and Pillamars making the Rajahs mere puppets at their hands. The English had now three factories in Travancore viz., Anjengo in the territory of Attungal, Brinjohn (Vizinjam) and Ruttera (Covalam). The Company paid ground rent in addition to the yearly presents.

Ravi Varma (859-893 M.E. / 1684-1718 A.D.). Ravi Varma, the son of Umayammna Rani, having attained his sixteenth year was installed on the musnud in 1684 A.D., according to the laws of the country. As there was no heir to the throne and as the Dowager Rani had become old, an application was made to the house of Kolathunad for permission to adopt from that family. It appears that the application was at first declined, or rather there was a hesitation to comply with the request, in consequence of the assassination of Kerala Varma. But not long after, a Prince of the Kolathunad house happened to be a guest at the Travancore court on his way back from a pilgrimage to Ramesvaram, when the Rani availed herself of the opportunity to explain to him the close relationship and attachment that had existed between the two houses from very early times and obtained from him a promise that he would as soon as he reached his country send two of his nieces and two of his nephews to be adopted as heirs to Travancore.

The Queen honoured her guest with suitable hospitality and sent him to his country with a proper escort. The Prince kept his word and sent two princes by name Unni Kerala Varma and Rama Varma and also two princesses, all born of the same parents. They were accordingly adopted with the necessary ceremonies and made heirs. A year after the adoption, the Dowager Rani and the elder of the adopted princesses died. The surviving Rani now became the Senior Rani of Attungal.

In 1690 A.D., permission was granted by the Queen to the English East India Company to build a fort at Anjengo which was completed about 1695. The following description of the fort is given by Surgeon Ives in his diary dated 17th December 1757 A.D. —

“Anjengo fort is small but neat and strong it is a square with four bastions, having eight guns mounted on each, carrying a ball of eighteen pounds. Two of these bastions face the sea, the other two the country. Besides these there is a line of eighteen or twenty guns pointing towards the sea of eighteen and twenty-four pounders. About a pistol shot from the back of the fort runs a river which besides a security to the factory, adds much to the agreeable situation of the place.”*

NOTEs: * * Ive's Voyages. Page 191.

But the Pillamars and Madampimars (petty chiefs) resented this act of the Rani, and in November 1697 A.D., the factory of Anjengo was violently attacked on the plea that the English were pirates, but without success. Mr. Logan writes: —

It may however be doubted whether this, their ostensible reason, was the true one, for as will presently appear, the presence of the English in Travancore was gradually leading to a revolution in that State*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. 1. Page 344

The fort of Anjengo has since been of very great use to the Company’s trade, and it was from here that the English were able to gradually extend their influence on the State affairs of Travancore and Cochin. This fort, as we shall see, served them in later days as a depot for military stores during the wars of the Carnatic; it was also the point from which the first news of outward-bound ships reached Madras.

In a letter, dated 6th June 1695, from the President and Council of Fort St. George to the Company, referred to in the Press-lists of the ancient records of Fort St. George, we find that there was a contract for pepper entered into between the Queen of Attungal and the Danes about 1695 and that the Danes had a factory in the territory of the Queen of Attungal, probably Edawa.

About this time the Dutch Company’s business had considerably declined in spite of the strength of their numerous fortifications, for we find that in 1697 A.D., the Supreme Government at Batavia declared that the Cochin fort should be reduced to half its size, that at Cannanore and Quilon only one tower was to be left standing, while at Cranganore the external works alone were to remain. The forces at all the military out-posts were ordered to be withdrawn excepting those at Paponetty, Poracad and Kayangulam and the marine and other establishments ware considerably reduced.

Relations between Madura and Travancore.— Nanjanad

It is recorded in the Tamil chronicles that Visvanatha Nayak subdued some chiefs of Travancore and levied tribute from them, in the name of his sovereign, the Emperor of Vijayanagar. Not long after, the great Tirumala Nayak reduced the Travancore sovereign to subjection, made the ‘Nanchi-nattu Rajah’ the foremost among his vassals — the seventy-two Poligars, and appointed him to guard the bastions of the Pandyan capital. Whether these are historical facts or not, we have ample proof of one fact, that Tirumala Nayak’s forces attacked Nanjanad and made certain portions of it their own about the year 809 M.E (1634 A.D.). The inscription of Kudiraipandivilai and Vaiyalivilai in the Taluq of Agastisvaram and copies of certain edicts, throw some additional light on the political and social conditions of Nanjanad during the ninth century of the Malabar era.

It is clear from these records that the forces of Tirumala Nayak visited the country several times conquering and plundering wherever they went and that the country was in a state of anarchy and confusion for about half a century. Even in 1694 A.D., there was an invasion of Nanjanad by the forces of the Madura Nayaks. It should be remembered that the limits of Nanjanad which now comprise the Tovala and Agastisvaram Taluqs, were not the then limits of that tract. The records show that a large strip of land between Mangalam near Ponmana and Manakudi, formed part of Nanjanad, while a part of Agastisvaram Taluq from the Cape to Kottaram belonged to and was governed by the officers of Tirumala Nayak and his descendants. There existed in those days a partition wall, the remnants of which are still to be seen from Manakudi to Pottaiyadi, and the triangular piece of land on the other side of the line including Variyur, Karungulam, Alagappapuram, Anjugramam, Cape Comorin, Mahadanapuram and Agastisvaram, went by the name of Purattayanad or Murattanad. There was thus great facility for the Nayak’s forces to march into Nanjanad and commit depredations. Purattayanad formed part of the Pandyan kingdom and was governed by its officers during the eighth and ninth centuries M.E: One of the edicts above referred to runs as follows —

Inscription on the stone set up after redressing the grievances of the people on the fourth day of the month of Kartikai in the year 873 M.E (1697 A, D).

“Whereas owing to heavy losses sustained by the people on account of the invasion of the Nayakkar’s forces at different times from the year 852 M.E (1677 A, D) forward, we had remitted anjali tax in arrears for the years 849 to 869 M. E., that is, for two Kar crops and thirteen Pisanam crops, or fifteen crops in all. We are pleased now and for ever to command the relinquishment of all claims for the following taxes viz., anjali, kattakai, kottapadivukanikkai, supplying castor oil for torches, supplying cloths for the same and supplying paddy for royal birthdays; and whereas between Mangalam and Manakudi the people have lost their title-deeds with the baskets * in which they were kept, we do hereby command that, should any of them be found in the possession of any one, they be at once torn to pieces then and there, excepting those that relate to property holdings and services which must be restored to the respective owners, that the cadjan bonds and kanam documents lost during the confusion and plunder caused by the forces, if they be produced by any one except the rightful owner, shall not be considered as proofs; that the paddy alone be paid as pattom and melvaram, including tali and sanketam for the Kar crops in the months of Alpasy and Kartikai, and for Pisanam crops in the months of Panguny and Chittrai and that no money shall be paid or received at commutation value that with regard to padukalam (debt bonds) and ubhayam-palisa which could not be realised, the monies under padukalam deeds are excused as well as the penalties imposed upon particular individuals and funeral fees.

NOTEs: * Even to this day cadjan documents are preserved only in rattan baskets by the indigenous population in rural parts.

“We are farther pleased to declare with respect to sanketam and perumpattu ryots that distraint of the above properties for their debts shall be of no avail, that for the debts due from sanketam there shall be no distraint of the villages but should be realised out of any residue left after paying the melvaram dues; that during the payment of the taxes the ryots should produce the tax-receipt for the current year as well as for the year preceding and that whenever our employees go out, the Brahmin shall not get more than twelve nalis and the Sudra nine nalis per day and that in accordance with the neets issued under dates 17th Alpasy 870 M.E and 13th Vycausy 871 M.E. (1694-1695 A.D.) and the stones raised at Mavilai, Kudiraipandivilai and Vaiyalivilai in evidence thereof, the ryots are required to conduct themselves accordingly.”

The above document, intended for the ryots inhabiting the southern portion of Nanjanad North, reveals many interesting customs and kinds of taxes to government then in vogue. There were at this time such cesses as padukalam, ubhayam-palisa, tanittandam and savukanikkai &c. In former days lands were never sold for arrears of tax, then known as padukalam debts, and after the said debts had been abolished, the interest on the amount of arrears was levied as an extra cess called padukalam-palisa. The people of Nanjanad had a right to make enquiries into the crimes committed by the individual members of the community and the penalty imposed on such criminals by a fixed committee was called

(fines) and

(compensation to the sufferer). As the latter was abolished, the former alone remained in force and these fines were paid to the government. There were also special cesses called

(death dues) and

(marriage) &c., dues, the latter of which was abolished.

From the time of the advent of the Nayakkar forces the Travancore king was paying a tribute to the Madura kingdom. About the year 1697 A.D., owing to the disorderly state of the Madura kingdom, the Travancore king was unpunctual in remitting his usual tribute to the Nayak’s treasury. As usual an army of Vadukans was sent by the Madura State to collect the arrears. This army entered Travancore through the pass near Cape Comorin. They immediately began to devastate the country in every direction and finally blockaded the king in Korkulam (Kalkulam)* his principal fortress.

NOTEs: * Mr. Nelson in his Manual of Madura identifies Korkulam with Quilon. This is evidently a mistake. The place referred to must be Kalkulam or Padmanabhapuram.

The king of Travancore determined to put an end to these periodical visitations of the Vadukans and also to get rid of the obnoxious factions in his own country viz., the Madampimars and Pillamars. With this double object, he opened negotiations with the officers of the Vaduka army, promising them that he would give them Korkulam and a few other districts if they would assist him in getting rid of the rebellious chiefs and lords. The Madura officers gladly accepted the offer and being placed in possession of the forts carried out their agreement by seizing and putting to death one or two of the refractory lords in the Trivandrum pagoda, while the others escaped or bought themselves off. But soon after, when the officers and troops of the Madura army had dispersed themselves about the town and were in great disorder, the king of Travancore collected a large army, captured the Kalkulam fortress which yielded without resistance and nearly destroyed the Madura forces. A small body of them fled in the direction of the pass but they too were captured by the main body of the Travancore army and killed.

It was about 1698 A.D., that Mangammal, the Queen-regent of Madura, actuated by a desire to repair this defeat and to exact the annual tribute which the Travancore king ceased to pay, entered on a war with Travancore and sent a large army under the command of Narasappayya the Madura Dalawa. He invaded the country, conquered the Travancore forces after hard fighting and returned to Trichinopoly with considerable booty consisting of spices, jewels and guns.*

NOTEs: * The Madura Manual, Part III. Page 226

The attacks from Madura for collecting the arrears of tribute from the Travancore king became more frequent while the efforts of the latter to resist them seemed to be futile. The Nanjanad people, who had to bear the brunt of these frequent attacks, became naturally very callous to pay their homage and allegiance to their sovereign who was not able to protect them from his enemies. The feudal chieftains, therefore, became recalcitrant. Fresh taxes had to be imposed on them to meet the expenses of the army which had to be maintained on a very large scale. The discontent of the people developed into open revolt and the Nanjanadians are said to have convened five meetings in different places from 1702 A.D., forward. The following edicts found among the records of the Periavittu Mudaliar already referred to, written in Tamil, contain resolutions passed by the people of Nanjanad at four of these meetings —


dated first of Alpasy 878 M.E, passed by the nattars (people of Nanjanad) between Mangalam and Manakudi assembled in solemn meeting at


“As our land has from the year 852 M.E, been the scene of distress on account of foreign invasions

from the east and of troubles from within the State, we having failed owing to lack of union (and emigration?)

to make a bold stand and to have our grievances heard in that our property

, holdings

and services

are being usurped by others, the village chieftains

oppressing us in doing things not heard of before, the government listening to tales carried by backbiters from the country and harassing us on account of old discharged paduikalam deeds and debt bonds and false padukalam deeds and false documents produced by individuals, so much so that baskets are opened and documents produced with ease from any place where they happened to be at the time, government getting hold of debt bonds executed by Pottis

and Pillamars (accountants) of the eleven matams appertaining to Sri Padmanabha Perumal and Adi Kesava Perumal, are not allowing us to sow our seeds and take the harvest, in that they tried to enforce the redemption of chora-otti

and obtaining extra monies for sub-mortgages

in addition to taxes; in that we are deprived of our possessions by the (arbitrary) fixing of inscription stones; our houses and things distrained after ousting the inmates, our Paraya slaves taker away by the Sirkar and made to work for them as they pleased and such other calamities have befallen us; we do hereby resolve and determine that we do form ourselves into a body for union (and emigration), and that whenever any casualty should happen to any man in our country or to any village or pidagai or any affair occur that might cost some ten or sixteen fanams, the country should pay the same from the common funds and decide how best it could do under the circumstances and that whenever a calamity should happen to the country or to any village, the aggrieved person should meet in a common place and give intimation to the pidagakkars, when we all should assemble, resolve and decide according to circumstances and that the case of those persons who in contravention of the terms of these resolutions fail to attend and weaken the cause thereby, would be considered and decided in the public meeting,

Upon the holy feet of Lord Thanumalaya Perumal these resolutions are irrevocably passed. All the nattars of the southern portion of Najanad North consenting, signed Arumukaperumal.”

The following resolutions were passed by the nattars between Mangalam and Manakudi assembled in solemn meeting for the second time at Asramam near Suchindram under date, the 14th Margaly 889 M.E, corresponding to December 1713 A.D. —

“As royal cavalry and troops have repeatedly and in large numbers caused great damage to us, and as while from the time this land came into existence we continued to pay anjali and melvaram for lands we possess by purchase, we have been obliged to pay kattappanam

and unprecedented taxes, the land has suffered very grievously. Hereafter, therefore, we should, in accordance with the royal commands of our sovereign Kulasekhara Perumal Tampuran, continue to pay anjali and melvaram alone, but not any kottappanam and unusual taxes, and should protest against such attempts by unitedly making a bold stand and (if necessary) by emigrating. We should honourably keep up all the privileges or rights which our ancestors enjoyed in olden days. If palace officers should come, we should give them allowances only at the rate of twelve measures (nalis) for each Brahmin and nine measures for each Nayar among them. As regards the balance of kottappanam for the Kar crop of the above year, we should only pay arrears as per account of the kelvi

, but if they should demand any items as due from omission

or wrong entries in accounts , we should protest

against such (unjust) demands by unitedly making a bold stand and by emigrating. In thus asserting our rights, if any pidagai or village, or any single individual, is subjected to loss by acts of government, we should support them by reimbursing such loss from our common funds. If at such times any one should get into the secrets of government and impair the privileges or rights of the country, he should be subjected to a public enquiry by the nattars. We have thus passed these resolutions taking oath at the feet of our Lord Thanumalaya Perumal and our Lord Bhutanathaswamy. Signed Arumuka Perumal for the people of the northern and southern divisions of Nanjanad”.

Resolutions of the third meeting of the nattars held on the 15th Vycausy 801 M.E (1716 A.D.) at Isantimangalam —

“As from the year 82 M.E. on account of the annual visits of the royal cavalry and troops, the levy of unprecedented dues

, and the payment of the unusual taxes which have been imposed on Devadanam, Brahmadanam, Manipam and Malappuram

tenures, religious offerings in temples have been stopped; as Srinivasa Rao has carried away flocks of sheep and herds of cattle as well as the leaders of the people

; as Reddy cow-herds have been daily lifting herds of cattle from the country; as Anantoji Nayakkar has, in the southern division of Nanjanad, deprived women even of their marriage badges which were only cotton threads and ruptured the lobes of their ears, has carried away herds of cattle, paddy and seed-grain from the country, and has besides appointed watchmen

over every village and carried off paddy and seed-grain from there; as all the boxes containing documents (title-deeds), gold and silver, jewels, brass vessels, articles of dress, paddy and seed-grain of the whole country, which had been deposited at Suchindram, in the hope that it would serve as a place of safety, being within the sanketam (precincts of the Swamy there), have all been looted (by foreign marauders); as Suchindram and Asramam villages have been set on fire; as the shops there were all plundered; as by these acts, even the precincts of the Swamy, have been tampered with; and as though there have been thus numerous kinds of troubles in the country, the Kariakars and Swarupakars have not, under royal command, redressed our grievances, and enabled us to live in peace, we should leave uncultivated the whole country between Mangalam and Manakudi from the Kar season of 892 M.E, and if after that the Kariakars and Swarupakars under royal command, redressed our grievances and enabled us to live in peace, we may then cultivate our lands. We should keep up all privileges (or rights) in the country as in the days of our ancestors. If any in the country get into the secrets of the government and undermine the established privileges of the country, we should enquire into the matter and make such persons answer for the same both as a house (family) and as individuals, personally

While thus managing our affairs, if the country, or any pidagai

, or village, or any house, becomes subject to troubles, we should, as a body, make ourselves strong by making a united stand, and migrating (if necessary). Signed Arumuka Perumal on behalf of the northern and southern divisions of Nanjanad.”

There are clear references in this edict to two invasions by the Vadukar army under Srinivasa Rao and Anantoji Nayakkar, two officers or agents of the nominal suzerain at Vijayanagar.

The following are the proceedings of the fourth meeting held on the 16th of Kartikai 898 M.E (1722 A.D.) at Kadukkara by the ryots of Nanjanad, North and South, lying between Mangalam and Manakudi —

“1. On account of the heavy taxes imposed on us and the cruel treatment which we were subjected to till the Kumbham harvest of 895 M.E (1720 A.D.), we were forced to leave our fields uncultivated during the whole of the year 896 M. E. (1721 A.D.) and retreat to the east of the mountains. The sovereign, together with the Pottimars, Pandalas, and the members of the Swarupam, encamped at Bhutapandi and summoning the people of both the divisions of Nanjanad before him, redressed all then: grievances till the Kumbham crop of 896 M.E (1721 A.D.). A royal writ was also executed to that effect and as a mark of special favour we were presented with a brass drum, a horn and a ponthi made of silver. Another writ was also issued cancelling all heavy taxes, prohibiting tyranny in the land and reorganising only the original imposts. It was further agreed that the assembly at Nanjanad might continue to enjoy the powers and prerogatives originally vested in them. But when the assembly exercised those privileges by instituting a regular enquiry against those that infringed its laws, the sovereign came down upon the association and demolished the houses of two chiefs in each division (pidagai)

“2. Sivasaila Mudaliar, with the members of the Swarupam and their troops pressed us hard for the payment of the unjust taxes levied on the Kanni crop of 897 M.E.

“3. The sovereign himself insisted on demanding thirty fanams per mathal on all lands including Devadanam Brahmadanam, Kanduzhavu and even on waste lands.

“4. Government exacted 125 fanams per kottah from the poor ryots who were not able to realise anything from the Kanni crop of 898, since it was a complete failure and thus doubled the amount, when they actually deserved a proper reduction in their payment.

“5. A similar exaction was made in Nallur and Villipattu from uncultivated lands.

**6. The officials were ordered to farm out all the unjust taxes from the villages of Anumaketananallur and Viravanallur, even when the sums had already been remitted by government.

“7. The Dalawa demanded the immediate payment of mathalpanam, kottapanam and other imposts which were declared by the sovereign’s writ, as having been prohibited in the kingdom.

“8. The government appropriated to itself those lands which were lying barren and now cultivated by the ryots.

“9. The ryots were ordered to pay for the dry lands the taxes levied on the wet ones, after having paid their regular dues.

“10. One-fourth of the Kanni crop of 98 was forcibly wrested from their hands.

“11. The whole tax levied on the wet lands was levied on the seed-bed lands too for the non-payment of which the grains stored in houses, the brass vessels and the silver utensils of these ryots were all confiscated to the government.

“12. When the seven village watchmen were deputed to lay before the sovereign at Kalkulam their insufferable grievances and even after their representing the deplorable state of affairs before the Pottimars, Pandalas and the members of the Swarupam, no measures were taken to redress them in any way, but on the contrary Muthu Pillai with his troops besieged Darisanamkoppu and blockading all entrance into it, suffered the cows and other helpless creatures to starve there for three days and committed other atrocities within it, such as, breaking the pots of the poor women who were carrying water and confiscating paddy and other grains stored in their houses.

‘’13. And lastly when the inhabitants in a body emigrated to Kadukkara, Muthu Pillai and Chittambalam Pandaram followed by hundreds of their servants surrounded us there, and when they demanded the payment of our dues on the spot, we had to scale up the hills and settle on the other side; then they plundered the whole of Kadukkara.

“We therefore pass the following resolutions from the Chempakaraman Puthukal-matam, east of Alagiapandyapuram —

“1. That the taxes on the seed-bed lands and kottapanam cannot be paid.

“2. That we will bind ourselves to pay only the anjali and the other taxes originally existing on all our lands and cannot pay the mathalpanam imposed on Devadanam, Brahmadanam &c.

“3. That we will be prepared to make a bold stand and resist by force, if any measures be taken to enforce the unjust imposts, and even be willing to migrate into another country, leaving our Kumbham crop behind.

“4. That if anybody — be he pidayakar, oorkar, or ambalakar — were to betray the proceedings of this assembly, being bribed by the government officers, or consent to pay the unjust taxes, he shall be liable to pay with his person and property, the penalty for such gross treachery.

“5. That when we have migrated to any new country we will demand fit retribution for the high-handed murder of the ambalakkars.

“6. That no ambalakar from our country be allowed to be employed as revenue farmers.

“7. That if the government exact such new taxes from a person, village, or whole division, by confiscating the properties attached to them, the loss sustained by the individuals or community be made good from our common fund.

“8. That if in the period of our secession, any body be found lurking in the village and be caught by the officials he shall not only have to pay the dues himself but also be liable to pay the penalty for his treason against the commonwealth.

“9. That we will demand reparation for the destruction of the two houses in each division, which was sanctioned by the sovereign because the assembly used its legitimate powers.

“10. That if the government does not make good their loss in this direction, we will take the money from our common funds.

“11. That if any person from Nanjanad, North and South, serve as an accountant under the government or betray our affairs, he shall pay the penalty by forfeiting his property.

“12. That, while the government has made its former promise of allowing our assembly to enjoy its former prerogatives null and void, if anybody take up arms on their side, he shall pay a similar penalty.

“13. That a similar penalty be inflicted on those who infringe the laws and customs of his class.

“14. That, if the forces of the sovereign be encamped in our country, measures be taken to represent the matter before the Maharajah and the Swarupakars, or we ourselves be prepared to emigrate somewhere.

“15. That these shall be the standing rules of our assembly and if any person attempt to dissolve our union, he shall incur the accursed sin of having butchered a cow on the banks of the Ganges; on the other hand the person who tries to consolidate our union shall reap the supreme benefit of having given a cow to a Brahmin on the banks of the same river.

“We swear on Thanumalayaperumal and Bhutalingam to preserve the rights of our assembly. These are the resolutions arrived at by the inhabitants of Nanjanad, North and South. Signed Arumuka Perumal.”

These edicts and the resolutions embodied in them speak for themselves and do not require any comments here. The Nanjanad people became desperate. They were harassed on the one side by the marauders from the Pandyan kingdom and on the other by the king’s officers who, when the former disappeared after plunder, put in their appearance only to demand fresh taxes for the so-called defence of the land. The spirit of lawless defiance to the king’s authority engendered by this state of affairs reached its climax when the people openly met and resolved to take the life of any man who acted against the interests of the public therein assembled. Such a person was to be treated as a common enemy and dealt with accordingly. The people also more than once abandoned their houses and took to the neighbouring hills refusing to return to their villages unless the king promised redress to their grievances.

Even service under the king was declared treason against the commonwealth of Nanjanad. To this day the people of Nanjanad are as a class distinguished from the other Travancoreans by a bold address and plain speaking to the authorities — an instinct inherited from long ages of suffering and resistance to misgovernment. One of the most favoured forms of expressing grievances adopted by the people of the southern Taluqs to the sovereign is to say “Kindly allow us to go outside the Tovala frontier”. As a matter of fact, they did go several times in former ages outside the Travancore frontier when oppression by the king’s officials or depredations by foreign armies became intolerable; but every time they went, they were called back to their homes by the ancient kings who always cajoled them with sweet promises of sympathy and better protection.

Unni Kerala Varma 893-899 M.E /1718-1724 A.D

On the death of Ravi Varma., the elder of the adopted princes, Unni Kerala Varma, succeeded to the throne. The country “had now been broken up into an immense number of small chieftainships over which the Rajah had very limited and precarious authority”. This sovereign being of a very weak disposition, the Ettuvittil Pillamars were again in the ascendant, usurping all authority from him. The main army of the State had been disbanded as the king’s finances did not allow the maintaining of so large a soldiery. The small body of armed troops actually retained was divided into smaller detachments and posted at the different forts and palaces; so the army lay scattered over the land and could not be concentrated at one point. The rebel chieftains in the country now became a source of positive annoyance to the king, who removed his residence to Neyyattinkara to avoid falling a prey to their violence. In 893 M.E (1718 A.D.), a princess was adopted from the Kolathunad family who in 899 M.E (1724 A.D). gave birth to the renowned king Rama Varma or Kilavan Rajah of Travancore.

Murder of the English factors

In April 1721 A.D., while the Ettuvittil Pillamars were still supreme in the land, the usual annual presents due from the factory at Anjengo were demanded in the name of the Queen of Attungal. “Those who demanded it assured the chief of the factory that they came to demand it by the Queen’s order and offered their receipt of it in her name.” The chief (Mr. Gyfford) appears to have suspected the message and feared that the presents would be seized by the Pillamars and would not reach the Queen. He therefore refused to pay the money into any other’s hand than that of the Queen, upon which the Rani invited him to Attungal to deliver the present personally. “And he, to appear great there, carried two of his council and some others of the factory with the most part of the military belonging to the garrison, and by stratagem they were all out off, except a few black servants whose heels and language saved them from the massacre, and they brought the sad news of the tragedy”.* This occurred on the 15th of April 1721. After this the murderers made for the fort of Anjengo which was most valiantly defended by Gunner Ince who repulsed every attempt of the besiegers to scale the walls. He kept the besiegers at bay till succour came from Mr. Adams, the Chief of Tellicherry. The English factors were at the time powerless to take vengeance on the “great lords”.

NOTEs: * Hamilton's New Account of the East Indies, Vol. 1. Page 335.

On the 25th April 1723 A.D., the English Company under their local Chief, Dr. Alexander Orme, the father of the historian Robert Orme, entered into a covenant with the Prince of Neyyattiakara by order of the king of Travancore, which contained the following articles —

“1. The King of Travancore by the end of June of the current year, is bound to order the erection of a fort in his country at Collache, and give the die with people to coin fanams on account of the Honourable company.

“2. If, within the time specified, a fort is not built at Collache, the Honourable Company may bring the die to Anjengo and the Government will be obliged to send men to Anjengo to coin the fanams.

“3. The fortress which is to be built shall be at the cost of Government, as well as the pay of the people placed in it.

“4. The artillery and munitions of war for the fort, the Honourable Company is obliged to supply.

“5. After the erection of the fort at Collache, the die can be taken hither and the coinage of fanams carried on.

“6. The Government will be in league and united in good friendship with the Honourable Company.

“7. Thus by order of the King of Travancore, was this treaty adjusted between myself. Prince of Neyyattinkaray, and Commander Alexander Orme on the part of the Honourable Company and I have affixed to this writing my signature and sent it by Ramen Ramen who drew it up.”*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. III. Page 9

The English Company had made up their minds to take vengeance on the “Lords of the land” and subject the country to the king. In connection with the massacre above referred to, the resolution taken by the Honourable Company is thus expressed in an ola (cadjan letter) written by the Travancore Rajah to Dr. Orme on the 15th of August 1723 A.D.

“Owing to the loss sustained by the Honourable Company in the capture of Atinga, and the money and artillery which the enemies robbed in our country, the Honourable Company have resolved, in spite of money expensed, to put down the enemies and subject the country to the King, we are ready to do anything, which the Honourable Company may require, and shall personally come there and punish the enemies there in the best manner you may desire, regarding which we affirm to do without fail and wish to know when we must come there with our army,”

The following are the conditions which the Rajah of Travancore pledged to observe —

“1. Owing to the fault committed by Sendu Comodu against the Honourable Company, I will oblige him to give a writing, in public, begging pardon for the fault he has been guilty of against the Honourable Company.

“2. The arms which he seized from the dead soldier I will oblige him to return and pay a penalty for the fault.

“3. For the parents of the dead soldier I will oblige him to pay them 1,001 fanams by way of fine.

“4. The vessels which pass by without paying the dues, excepting the ship of Europeans, the Honourable Company may send a watch Barge to seize all such vessels at Collache and direct them to pay the customs the expenses of which I shall bind to pay 4,000 fanams yearly to the Honourable Company.

“5. To all the ships on my borders and of my vassals, which should pay customs, I will give my writing.

“6. In future times, any of my vassals, acting in such a manner against the Honourable Company, both jointly should punish them and for which I shall give my writing to the Honourable Company.

‘’ 7. In lieu of the dead soldier, I will be obliged to send another to the Honourable Company.

“8. As Collache has been made over to the government of Landatu Curipa (Holland — Dutch Company), at least on the half of the place which properly belongs to me, I shall soon direct a banksaul to be made and a post for the banner to be planted.

‘’9. All the piece-goods and other things which the Honourable Company require, I shall order the merchants to supply.

“10. I shall soon confirm, by writing, that I shall not give to any other European nation any goods, which are necessary to the Honourable English Company.

“11. The customs on exports and imports of the goods, the Honourable Company may receive from merchants, but the rate of exchange should be adjusted.

“12. Every year in various kinds, which the Honourable Company require, I will order to supply up to 100,000 piece goods.

“13. In order to adjust the dues leviable from merchants, the Honourable Company will be obliged to give in gold or other articles on account, to the extent of 6,000 fanams yearly. All these things referred to above I did grant since the Honourable Company asked me.” *

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. III. Page 12.

But the real amends for the murder of the factors at Anjengo and the loss incurred thereby were made only in 1731 A.D., when the Rajah of Travancore and the Queen of Attungal granted the gardens of Palatadi and Kottadalli to the Honourable Company in satisfaction for the outrage.

The grant ran thus —

“Towards Cherreungue are the gardens of Palatady and Cottudali which were formerly bought by the Commander of Anjengo, but, when on 15th April 1721, he and ten other persons went to Atenga to make presents to the Queen, they were killed by the treachery of Pullays and Kariakars, who seized the money of the Honourable Company. Seeing the loss and damage thus done to the Honourable Company, we have ceded the same gardens to them, giving up their revenues and the right of cutting trees and all other privileges, which the Company may take and they and heirs may enjoy these gardens without any obstacle or having any obstruction but we are obliged to ask for a free passage and protection on the part of the Honourable Company. Thus, in truth, we confirm (the grants) with our signatures to the Commander on the 10th January 1731.” *

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. III. Page 19

Unni Kerala Varma died in 899 M.E (1724 A.D). During this reign, Nanjanad was divided into three portions viz, Bhutapandi, Cholapuram and Cheramangalam. It appears that one Kunda Pillay of Tinnevelly was made revenue officer of these divisions on condition of his paying two thousand fanams for each division exclusive of the expenses of maintaining Devalayams and Brahmalayams found in those divisions. In 898 M.E, this arrangement was interrupted by the rebel chiefs who collected the revenues for themselves and paid no part of it to the State.

Rama Varma 899-903 M.E/ 1724-1728 A.D

Unni Kerala Varma was succeeded by his brother RAMA VARMA, who was adopted with him. In 1726 A.D. King Rama Varma in consultation with, and on the advice of Prince Martanda Varma, his nephew now barely twenty years of age, determined once and for ever to completely break the confederacy of the Yogakkars and the Ettuvittil Pillamars. With this object the king went to Trichinopoly and entered into a treaty with the Madura Nayaks, by which he acknowledged the Madura suzerainty and agreed to pay a sum of three thousand rupees annually as tribute to Madura for supplying a suitable force to punish the Madampimars and other rebels. A large force consisting of one thousand cavalry under the command of Venkatapati Nayak, and two thousand Carnatic sepoys headed by Tirupati Nayak and others in charge of fifty Sirdars, was brought from Madura. The refractory chiefs on seeing such a large force march against them fled for their lives. But the Yogakkars and the Pillamara fully knowing that harsh measures would not be taken against them as they were attached to Devaswams still continued their arrogant conduct. Afraid of their evil machinations Prince Martanda Varma was obliged to reside at Attungal with the Senior Rani and her son Prince Rama Varma.

On the 19th March 1726 A.D., the Queen of Attungal granted to the Anjengo factors the factory of Edawa. The following is a copy of the grant: —

All that, which the Commander has spoken to Gristnava (the bearer of the usual presents to the Queen) he has related to me; the place which is now granted in Eddawa for a factory, is not for any interest of government, but that of obtaining the favour and help of the Honourable Company during all the time which this Government and the Honourable Company should last, as well as that of augmenting the custom duties of this Government. No Commanders, who came in these days here, have obtained such a place as this Commander, so that he may acquire greater fame in the service of the Honourable Company it is that I have granted this place. The presents sent by the Commander through Gristnava to me and Pulamars have been received.” *

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. III. Page 14.

From a letter from the Chief and factors at Anjengo to the President and Council, Fort St. George, referred to in the Press-lists of Madras Government records, we learn that there was an alliance in 1527 A.D., between the kings of Chinganad (Jayasimhanad or Quilon) and Peritalli and Vanganad to crush the king of Travancore. It is quite probable that this alliance was brought about by the Pillamars themselves. The special mention made of them in the ola referred to above clearly indicates their importance.

In 1728 A.D., the Senior Rani and her little son Rama Varma were waylaid on their way from Trivandrum to Attungal by a party of men sent by the Ettuviitil Pillamars for the purpose of assassinating the Rani and the young prince. Kerala Varma Koil Tampuran, the Rani’s Consort, who was at the head of the Queen’s escort contrived the escape of the Queen and the Prince to a neighbouring village, and to keep them out of harm’s way got into the Rani’s palanquin and proceeded with the journey. When stopped by the insurgents, the brave Koil Tampuran rushed on them sword in hand and cut down many of them, but unfortunately lost his life in the conflict. He belonged to one of the few noble families from among whom consorts are chosen for the Ranis of Travancore viz., the Kilimanur house which has existed in Travancore for above two centuries. The Kilimanur estate belonging to them is a freehold granted to the family by the sovereign for their maintenance in affluence and dignity in recognition of the heroic services of this Koil Tampuran.

KILIMANUR literally means “the land of the parrot and the deer”. So wild was the country when the estate was granted. It is situated nearly seven miles to the north-east of Attungal, the seat of the Ranis and twenty-seven miles to the north of Trivandrum. It has an area of seventeen square miles with a population of eight thousand souls. According to tradition, the village was owned by the ‘Kunnumel Rajah’ a turbulent chief of the Pandala caste. The fort of Kilimanur and the temples of Devesvaram and Mahadevesvaram are said to have been built by that Rajah. During the anarchic days of the Ettuvittil Pillamars, the Rajah plotted against the Travancore king and consequently was dispossessed of his estate and Kilimanur became a portion of Travancore.

The Kilimanur Koil Tampurans are the natives of Parappanad in Malabar. Their northern home is known as “Tattari-kovilakam”. The great Martanda Varma Maharajah, the founder of Travancore, and his illustrious nephew Rama Varma, were the issue of the alliance with Kilimanur — a circumstance of which the members of that family always speak with just pride, as the writer himself heard from the lips of one of its senior members, a venerable old gentleman of eighty summers. The Koil Tampurans of Kilimanur were the first of their class to come and settle in Travancore and all the sovereigns of the State from Unni Kerala Varma to Her Highness Parvathi Bayi, sometime Queen regent, were the issue of the Koil Tampurans of Kilimanur. Thus it will be seen that the Kiliminur house has been loyally and honourably connected with the Travancore Royal family for more than two centuries.

King Rama Varma died in the year 1728 A.D., after a brief reign of four years and with this reign the Early History of Travancore may be said to close. A brief survey of the Government and the people, the power and influence of the neighbouring kingdoms and the relations with foreign merchants and settlers at this epoch may be of interest to the general reader.

Form of Government

The administration was in the main what it is now. The head of the administration under the direct orders of the king was known as the Valia Sarvadhikariakar corresponding to the Dewan of our days. Under him were the Neetezhuthu Pillay or Secretary, Rayasom Pillay (the assistant or Under-secretary), several Rayasoms or clerks and Kanakku Pillamars or accountants. Inferior in rank to the Valia Sarvadhikariakar or Dewan, were officers known as Sarvadhikaris who had jurisdiction over districts. Political correspondence with neighbouring States or Europeans was carried on by the Valia Sarvadhi; for he signed treaties and agreements. The office of the Djwan was held in the palace in the immediate presence of the king. All important questions were finally decided by the king himself.

State of the country and chief events

Travancore at this period extended from Attungal to Nagercoil. The dynasty of Jayasimha still continued to rule the country between Azhikkal (Karunagapalli Taluq) in the north and Paravur in the south, and, as noted above, there was an alliance in 1727 A.D., between the chiefs of Chinganad and other States to crush the power of Travancore. Nanjanad which once formed part of Travancore was at this time occupied by the Pandyans. The district between Chinganad and Nanjanad was the true Travancore and even in this small territory, the king’s authority was nominal. The Ettuvittil Pillamars and the Madampimars usurped all power and the king was constantly in fear for his own life. King Aditya Varma and the five sons of his niece Umayamma Rani were cruelly murdered by the Ettuvittil Pillamars and the Rani herself fled for her life.

Kerala Varma, the prince who was invited from Kottayam regained for the Rani and her son the lost kingdom. Marthanda Varma, whose career we shall notice hereafter, tried his best to keep the confederates in check during the last two reigns of the period but was not successful. At the close of the epoch we find that King Rama Varma himself went to Trichinopoly to solicit aid to put down the rebels and restore order in his own dominions. Later on, the Queen and her son were waylaid and an attempt was made to murder them. Besides the Pillamars, the Yogakkars and the Madampimars, there appeared to have been other petty chieftains whose tributes contributed to the revenues of the State. These also grew refractory and the result was that the king was left literally without men or money. As a natural consequence anarchy and confusion in their worst forms stalked the land. The neighbouring chiefs came with armed marauders and committed dacoities from time to time plundering the people wholesale, not sparing even the tali* on their necks and the jewels on the ears of women. The headman of each village in his turn similarly treated his inferiors. The people of Nanjanad in a body fled to the adjoining hills on more than two occasions, complaining bitterly to the king of his effeteness and their own helplessness.

NOTEs: * The Tali is the most important ornament of Hindu women being the badge of the married life.

The Neighbouring Kingdoms

The once prosperous Pandyan kingdom (Madura) now under the effeminate sway of Tirumala Nayak’s successors was in the last stage of decrepitude. On the death of Vijayaranganatha Chokanathan, there arose several claimants for the throne and civil war ensued. The contending parties sought the aid of Mahomedans and Mahrattas and thus paved the way for their own final ruin. Tinnevelly was now under several Poligars who were once subject to the Madura Nayaks. They were practically independent and found congenial occupation in little wars among themselves. North of Venad lay several principalities, chief among them being Quilon, known as Jayasimhanad, Kottarakara or Elayadathu Swarupam including Pattanapuram, Shencottah and Calacaud, Kayangulam (including Karunagapalli), Pantalam, Ampalapuzha or Poracad, Tekkumkur embracing Tiruvalla, Changanachery and Kottayam, Vadakkumkur, Punjar, Alangad, Parur and Edapally. These were all independent but were too weak to give any trouble to Travancore. Further northward lay Cochin, which had now become very much weakened by incessant wars with Calicut and other petty chiefs. The Nawab of the Carnatic was under the Nizam of Hyderabad who had already made himself independent of his nominal suzerain, the Mogul Emperor of Delhi. But the Nawab confined himself to the territories north of Trichinopoly.

The Foreign Powers

The Portuguese though the first European power to establish factories in India were now displaced and their possessions taken by the later adventurers, the Dutch. These latter did not much care to acquire territory in India. But they had commercial settlements in Quilon, Kayangulam, Poracad and Kodungalur; and they occasionally interfered in the affairs of native Rajahs.

By the end of the sixteenth century, England had risen to be a great naval power and was desirous, like the other European nations, to establish herself as a mercantile power in the East. To quote Sir Alfred Lyall,

“Continual expansion seems to have become part of our national habits and modes of growth. For good or for ill, England had become what she is in the world by the result of adventurous pioneering, by seeking her fortunes in the outlying regions of the Earth, by taking a vigorous part in the unending struggle out of which the settlement of the political world is evolved.”*

NOTEs: * Rise and Expansion of the British Dominion in India Page 346

The chapter of Queen Elizabeth in 1600 A.D., authorising “The Governor and Company of merchants of London trading to the East Indies” to carry on trade with all parts of Asia, Africa and America, the establishment of factories by them at Surat and other places, the starting of rival companies and the consequent quarrels and difficulties, the competition with other European powers, and the ultimate coalescing of the different conflicting interests into a united association of merchants known as the “United East India Company”, are all facts too well known in Indian history to require special mention here. It is sufficient for our purpose here to state that the Company obtained permission from the Queen of Attungal to build a factory in her territory. The treaty with the Travancore king was entered into in 988 M.E, as has been already noticed. They had already established themselves at Edawa, Ruttera (Covalam) and Brinjohn (Vizhinjam) besides Anjengo.

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