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Pazhassi Revots

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

  • By the Treaty of Seringapattam, Malabar was ceded to the British by Tipu Sultan.

  • Malabar was made a district in the Madras Presidency.

  • The local rulers who rebelled against Tipu was then turned against the British.

  • One such person was Pazhassi Raja.

Impacts of Third Anglo- Mysore War

  • In the third Anglo- Mysore war, Tipu was defeated by the British. Tipu had to retreat from Malabar.

  • By the Treaty of Seringapattam (1792), the Malabar was ceded to the British.

  • The District of Malabar, as part of Madras Presidency was formed in 1800.

  • Mr. Macleod became the first collector of the District of Malabar.

  • The British administrators introduced the Cornwallis code in 1802 to evolve a judicial system for Malabar. Under this system, judicial and executive functions were separated.

  • By the treaty of 1791, the Kochi Raja became a vassal of the English and in 1800 Kochi was placed under the control of the Madras government.

  • By the treaty of 1795, the Travancore Raja accepted British hegemony. By the treaty of 1805, the state became a subsidiary ally of the British and accepted British protection.

  • The treaties specified the appointment of a Resident.Col. Macaulay became the British resident of Travancore and Kochi. It further granted to the Company to interfere in the internal affairs of the two states.

Background of the Revolts

  • During the third Anglo-Mysore war, there were numerous battles fought in the Malabar region, between the British and the Mysore Army.

  • In these battles, the British were assisted by the dethroned rulers and the local Nair warriors.

  • The British had promised that, these exiled rulers would be restored to their territories after Tippu's expulsion.

  • But the British never kept their word.

  • The British directly took charge of the administration of Malabar.

Kerala Varma-Pazhassi Raja

  • Kerala Varma belonged to the Western branch of the Kottayam royal family.

  • His kingdom was known as Puraikizhinadu (present day- Wayanadu), which had its headquarters at Pazhassi.

  • Kerala Varma helped the English to capture Mahe and assisted them at Thalasseri against Tippu.

  • He was promised by the British that after the expulsion of the Mysore army, he would become the ruler of Wayanadu region.

  • But when the British failed to honour their promise after the expulsion of Tippu, Pazhassi revolted against them.

First Pazhassi Revolt (1793-97)

  • Pazhassi Raja had two reasons to revolt against the British:

    1. The British failed to honour the prior agreement that the territories would be restored back to the former Rajas soon after the expulsion of Tippu.

    2. Instead of authorizing Pazhassi Raja, the company made arrangements of revenue collection for Kottayam with the Kurumbanadu Raja.

  • The British had adopted a revenue policy that adversely affected the interests of the peasants.

    • The Mysoreans had collected their revenue directly from the peasants (Jamabandi System)

    • The British reversed this policy and authorized the local Rajas to collect the same.

    • Their harsh assessment and forcible collection was resisted by the peasants.

  • Pazhassi revolted against the mistaken revenue policy of the British. He stopped all collection of revenue in Kottayam. The British found if difficult to meet the situation.

  • The British tried to subjugate him.

  • The Raja took refuge in the jungles of Wayanad and adopted the guerrilla system of warfare.

  • His supporters assembled in small groups, erected barriers and cut off British communications.

  • The British were forced to have a truce with the Raja.

  • To work out a compromise with the Raja,the Bombay governor himself came to Malabar. The Chirakkal Raja acted as the mediator.

  • By the agreement, the Company agreed to withdraw all the troops from Wayanad and to cancel the agreement with the Kurumbanadu Raja.

  • The rebellion was a great success and peace was restored for the time being.

Second Pazhassi Revolt (1800-1805)

  • The truce between the British and the Pazhassi Raja did not last long.

  • In 1800, Malabar (including Wayanadu) became a district of the Madras Presidency.

  • Pazhassi was provoked by the British move to take possession of Wayanadu.

  • To subjugate the Raja, the British brought Arthur Wellesley to Malabar.

  • Pazhassi Raja became a homeless wanderer in the jungles. His followers were hunted down.

  • The resistance movement lost its spirit, but not died out.

  • When there was a peasant uprising in Malabar against the enhancement of land revenue, the Pazhassi troops made common cause with the peasants. They attacked the spice plantations at Anjarakkandi.

  • In 1804, Thomas Harvey Baber was appointed as the Sub Collector of Thalassery. This turned the tide of war in favour of the British.

  • Baber took a series of measures to crush the Pazhassi revolt. The local people were made responsible for cooperation with the rebels. Rewards were announced to those who would supply timely information of the rebel movements.

  • On 30th November,1805 the British troops surrounded the Raja and his men on the banks of Mavilanthodu. After a severe battle of 15 hours, the Pazhassi forces were routed and the Raja was shot dead.

  • Baber was so touched by the gallantry of the Raja that he carried the Raja’s dead body in his own palanquin to Mananthavady and cremated it with customary honour.

  • Baber wrote “Although a rebel, he was one of the national chieftains of the country and might be considered on that account as a fallen enemy.

Importance of Pazhassi Revolts

  • Though began as an isolated outbreak and centred primarily on personal grievances, the Pazhassi revolt assumed the character of a popular movement.

  • As the conflict continued, Pazhassi identified his interests with that of other disaffected groups of Malabar.

  • The revolt of Pazhassi Raja was a people’s revolt in every sense. All classes of people were involved in it.

  • The active involvement of the tribal communities of the Kurichiyas and Kurumbar has lent it the dimensions of an agrarian upheaval.

  • He rose above communal and regional considerations and organized the diverse sections of the Malabar population into a confederacy against the British.

Quotes about Pazhassi Raja

  • Woodcock (Kerala – A Portrait of the Malabar Coast) remarks:

“These feudal noblemen had no conception for an Indian nation: they were fighting not for the future, but for the past; one may admire their bravery and spirit; one may sympathise with their desire to live as they had always lived; But when all is said, they looked back to a feudal order, to a rigid caste system, to a restrictive society dominated by the Brahmins and the Nairs; for the submerged half of the society, they had little feeling. Far from representing India of 1789, they stood for it of 1745”.

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