(Note: We have been getting lot of comments these days that we just stole the wikipedia content and pasted it here. These comments have said that this is “typical mallu” behavior. Since these people seem to have discovered Internet yesterday, here are some clarifications: Can’t you consider for a moment that our article was so good that we edited the Wikipedia page and added it? Difficult to believe? Wikipedia being edited by “typical Mallus” ? How can that happen?
Our article was posted on June 1, 2007 (see the url of this post). This is the Wikipedia Pazhassi article as of July 12, 2007. Now notice what happens on 25th January 2008. See who made the edits? Can’t believe eh? One more thing: There is another Wikipedia page on Pazhassi Raja Movie. Guess who created the page?)
The late 17th century was a time of wars for the British. The Americans had declared Independence in 1776 andÂ Â the French Revolution happened between 1789 and 1799. King George III ruled Britain while John Adams was the President of United States in the 1790s. In India at that time, the Marathas and Mysore were fighting the British. It was at this time that Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja revolted against the British in Kerala. We at Varnachitram.com were lamenting about lack of historicals in Malayalam and it’s exciting to know that this exhilarating chapter of history is being captured on the celluloid.
In their fight against Tipu Sultan, Pazhassi Raja had helped the British, but following the Mysore withdrawal, their relationship fell apart. His fight was not a freedom struggle, but was triggered by the British taxation rules and the first revolt happened between 1793 and 1797. It is at this point that standard text books mention him and little is known about his early life.
When Kerala was ruled by the folks from Mysore, Tipu and Haider, their officers used to collect taxes directly from the farmers bypassing the land lords, but he British changed this and decided to collect taxes directly from the Kings. The amount fixed as tax by the British was unreasonable and people did not have the capacity to pay that much. Faced with revolts from people, the kings were unable to collect the taxes.
After Tipu left, the British ignored Pazhassi Raja and gave the land around Kottayam to his uncle on lease. This insult to Kerala Varma, who was loved by his people, also helped in triggering the revolt. Pazhassi Raja stopped collecting taxes in Kottayam and this upset the British. Since the king was popular, they could not do anything but stop collecting tax for a year, but to add more insult, they extended the lease given to his uncle for another five years. On June 28, 1795, Pazhassi Raja challenged the British by stopping all tax collection and giving refuge to people who were who were considered revolutionaries by the British.
The Army was deployed in Kottayam and troops under Lt. Gordon tried to arrest the king in his palace, but he had already escaped. The British negotiated with him and allowed him to return, but another misunderstanding caused him to flee again to the mountains of Wynad. In case youÂ are wondering why Pazhassi would flee to Wynad from Kottayam, it should be understood that Pazhassi belonged to the Kottayam Royal Family which is near Thalassery in Kannur district.
Showing that there are no permanent enemies or friends, he sought the help from Mysore, from the same people he helped the British fight. 1797 saw a series of revolts resulting in the loss of lives for many British soldiers and they were forced to withdraw. With an army of thousands of Nairs, Pazhassi inflicted such defeat on the British that they were forced to retreat and negotiate. The lease with his uncle was canceled and Pazhassi agreed to live peacefully with the British.
In 1799, after the fall of Srirangapatnam, the British decide to take over Wynad which Pazhassi claimed as his own. The peace treaty was broken and with an army of Nairs and Muslims, Pazhassi decided to wage a guerilla war from the mountains of Wynad. The fighting started in June of 1800, and the British strategy was to isolate Pazhassi from his Southern Malabar supporters. They succeeded and Pazhassi was left roaming in the forests with his wife and few supporters.
His supporters like Chuzhali Nambiar, Peruvayal Nambiar and Kannavathu Shankaran Nambiar were caught and hanged, but this did not halt Pazhassi. In 1802 Edachena Kangan Nair and Thalakkal Chanthu captured Panamaram Fort and killed the 70 British soldiers there and this victory brought a new vigor to the resistance movement.
An increase in tax at this stage upset the local population which rose in revolt. The Pazhassi soldiers made use of this and inflicted more damage on the British. Besides this the British troops caught diseases and it looked like they were in deep trouble.
Thomas Harvey Babar, a young British officer came as the sub collector of Thalassery in 1804 and was assigned the responsibility of suppressing the Pazhassi revolution. In April, he issued a directive making it illegal for the local population to help the revolutionaries andÂ Â he also mandated that the British should be informed about the movements of the revolutionaries. On June 16th, a reward was announced for the capture of Pazhassi and his commanders and soon Thalakkal Chanthu was captured. On Nov 30, 1805, Pazhassi was shot dead.
His body was taken back with respect by the British and cremated, but his death bought an end to the resistance movement. The other leaders either committed suicide or left the country. Though the Pazhassi movement was suppressed, the British did not have peaceful times, for in Kochi and Travancore, Paliyathachan and Velu Thampi Dalava were just warming up.
Photo courtesy: Sify.com