A Blog on Cinema

Who was Pazhassi Raja?


(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 and  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 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 you 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 and  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.

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  1. Good informative write-up. Probably you can come up with one on Chanthu and compare with the movie…
    Lets wait how the onscreen raja turns up…

  2. I have read that the adivasis of Wayanad also played an important role in prolonging Pazhassi Raja’s struggle especially in the guerilla war phase…wonder how you missed them out.

  3. Most of the history books like A survey of Kerala history do not give much importance to the role of adivasis. Also for this article, we have not done an extensive literature survey, the idea was to give a big picture of Pazhassi Raja.

  4. Is there an existing lineage chart of the Kottayam Royal family? I have these weird wannabe ancestors who love to speak of the greatness of our family and the days of yore. No link whatsoever has been established with the Kottayam family, but the rumors sure have succeeded in generating self assumed pompous aristocrats within my family. It would mean the world to me if I could lay my hands on one of those and quash their baseless pseudo desires. If anyone can be of help or even point me in the right direction, I would much appreciate it if you would drop me a line. The i.d is

  5. has any one heard /or know of his musical achievements?if so pls reply to me thanks

  6. Its a shame that we don’t try to learn much more about our own history…

    Has any sort of academic research, or any books, been written on this period?

  7. First some basics of Kottayam history. Until Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore annexed a few insignificant kingdoms, Thekkumkur, Manjanad and created Kottayam in the years 1749-1754 Kottayam didn’t even exist. When it did exist it was part of Travancore kingdom. This was the time the Dutch presence was strong in Kerala. They were based in Cochin but had their centers elsewhere in Travancore. Enter the British who are eager to oust the Dutch. King of Travancore finding the British more useful supported the battle against the Dutch. Nayar Pattalam played a big role. The British settle down in Kerala in 1795. Travancore is a semi-independent Princely State. The Malabar District directly under British rule is in the north. Wyanad and Kannur is in the North, in British controlled Malabar District.

    So how did Pazhassi Raja get to rule Kottayam which never existed except as a part of Travancore kingdom? And how did Kottayam change location and go to North Kerala to become part of Malabar District?

    The material for the movie has been pinched from a book titled Malabar Manual written by a British officer who worked in Malabar, NOT Kottayam.

    It is a terrible shame that this movie is being sold as history.

    There is a college by the name Pazhassi Raja in Wyanad run by the Syro Malankara Catholic Church.

    So the church is in the business of producing propaganda too.

    Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts make up for their lack of history and antiquity by pinching ideas from other parts of Kerala and calling it their own. The story used to cover up the pinching process is that all the people from central and north Kerala mass migrated to Kottayam-Pathanamthitta districts.

  8. Its in fact no historical data available on Lion of Kerala.

    New Move of Pazhairaja will at least give some knowledge through out

  9. Kottayam mentioned here is not the Kottayam district. It is a place near Kuthuparamba in Kannur District

  10. critical mallu..

    looks like we have seen u in rediff b4..

    anyway.. do your research b4 writing crap comments..

    any way all the best 2 all critical mallus

  11. Yes,
    Pazhassi Raja’s Kottayam is not the kottayam in south kerala. Kottayam never existed as a separate country and was a part of travancore.

    Pazhassi’s kottayam was either the kottayam in kannur district of north kerala or ‘kottayam royal family’ can be the name of a family, not a place.

  12. I do agree with the comment that we Mallus have a tendency to talk nonsense with authority.This is with reference to the “Kottayam” and its link to Pazhassi Raja.
    There are so many resources avaialable please look before your “leap”
    For the record once again there is no connection between the present Kottayam distict and Pazhassi Raja.
    Try to read this book
    Pazhassi Raja: The Royal Rebel by Shreekumar Varma (Macmillan, 1997)

  13. I have gone through all the comments and understand that many people are confused with the “kottayam” ruled by pazhassi Raja.
    This kottayam is not the current kottayam. This is the Kottayam malabar near Kuthuparamba in Kannur district.
    Thie place still exists and the Kovilakam of Pazhassi Raja is at pazhassi between Kuthuparamba and Mattanur.
    The successors of Pazhassi raja still live in this area.

  14. Most part of this write is a copy paste from

    Read the original.

    Seems it is again a mallu tendency to copy paste and pretend as their own

    • Second Thought,

      Here is an exercise for you: Find out which article came first – the Wikipedia one or ours. It can easily be found by anyone with the intelligence of a chimpanzee. To get you on the fast track here is a clue:”Revision History”. Please let us know what you find.

  15. Hi all,

    Any clue about the origin of the word Mallu ?? As far as I know it is a kind of derogatory term used by other state people inspired by our midnight masala ‘mallu’ movies 🙂 Nowadays I am seeing even we malayalees are using the same term.

  16. Critical Malayali should understand that Kottayam here belongs to Mananthavady area.We will not find any other linguistic group so ignorant and premature in everything than we

  17. Please stop grouping people acc to language or state.Word mallu doesnt points towards to third rate malayalam movies .Its just a another term used for malayalam speaking people, and how u absorb the meaning of that depends on how narrow or broad minded u r .
    By the way its a nice piece of article to go thruogh.Thanks.It doesnt mater whether u took it frm anywhere else or not .Whatever we all know we just absorbed from textbooks or other informative places like wiki’s.

  18. Pingback: Pazhassi raja review | varnachitram

  19. Hi all

    Its good to see that we still have the fighting for truth spirit in us which great people like pazhassi raja and our freedom fighters had ….

    whatever the movie pazhassi raja shows … we should do our own research and get to know about the king… but the movie truly does arouse our curiosity about the king … which is good…

    yes Mallu is a short of malayalee gujju for gujarati ,etc
    and we shouldnt be having any problem in the emaning of it ..

    we are proud of our malayalee culture , language , history and traditions , a simple word like mallu wont make any differnce ..

    a proud to be a mallu ..

  20. Pingback: Pazhassi Raja: The movie and history | DesiPundit

  21. Dear Citadel Malayali,

    There is a Panchayat by name Kottayam in Kannur district near Koothuparamba.
    In the British eara, Tellicherry used to belong to this Kottayam Taluk. It is this Kottayam that is referred to and not the Kottayam in South Kerala. Before you get hyper-critical, do some research.

  22. Dear Citadel Malayali,
    By the way, I belong to Tellicherry and work in Bangalore and I happen to pass this Kottayam panchayat on each of my travel from Tellicherry to Bangalore.

    So please do not fool me by telling that there is no such place in Malabar.

    Let us not hype ourselves. But let us not deny what is due to us. As always, it is our own people who deny our history !!!

  23. Yes,
    Pazhassi raja is a good film. This film gives an essential part of freedom history.
    Pazhassi raja was king in kotayam (it is not Kotayam distric. This palace in north of kerala). And his resistance was very paineful for British. Thalakal Chandu was a greate warrior from ‘Kurichyar’ at last he was kille by a cheating. This was a half fall of king Pazhassi. In 1805 , in the day of death anuversary of his mother. The pazhassi bathed in river and preyerd .suddenly the were attacked by british army and Kerala Lion Pazhassi Raja was killed..
    I studied a lot of articles about Pazhassi. But there is no any description about his wife and family afte his death. Like that there is no description about ‘Neely’ (wife of thalakal chandu). Like that i studied some books about the freedom fightin . There no good stage for King Pazhassi. Yes the history is coverin the Pazhassi. But Gokulam Gopalan, Mammooty and M.T were destroying this cover by the film PAZHASSI RAJA !

  24. I did not view the film pazhassiraja. but certainly i have something to say about pazhassi. I had an opportunity to visit all the major places related to Pazhassiraja when Malabar Vikasana Vedi conducted a cultural pilgrimage through pazhassi land marks with the inspiring leadership of Dr. A.N.P.Ummerkutty the former VC of Calicut University. I am fortunate to study in Pazassiraja NSS College, Mattanur.
    The point I would like to present before you is that Pazhassiraja was not a king among many others who are known for their selfish power crazy endeavors.
    He was a real warrior inspired by feeling of nation and culture. He was always concerned about his subjects rather than his personal well being. He fought against the Britishers as well as Mysore kings ie. Hyderali and Tippu with the whole hearted help and support of his subjects especially Kurichyas. He was called with love as Pazhassi Thampuran and not as Pazhassi raja.

  25. Word by word copied and pasted from wikipedia! how typical of mallus!

  26. Manoj,

    Let us see who is a typical “mallu”

    Find out which article came first – the Wikipedia one or ours. It can easily be found by anyone with the intelligence of a chimpanzee. To get you on the fast track here is a clue:”Revision History”. Please let us know what you find.

    So you found two article which look alike, then you immediately jumped to the conclusion that we stole it from Wikipedia. You can’t even consider the possibility that we wrote the Wikipedia article. Isn’t it?

    • Manoj,

      We, in our mercy, decided to help you. At this beginning of this article, we have added a new section. Please read and let us know what you think.

  27. VC,

    Those who have been around for long at Varnachitram know for sure about the authenticity of this article. I for one, have gone through this article a zillion times, since I had no Malabar Manual at my disposal, if you know what I mean. 😉 And I am eternally grateful to you for that. 🙂

    As for those few odd ones crying hoarse, I feel you should just chuck them down the ignore bin. Some comments do merit responses, but some simply don’t.


  29. Mr CM

    I think ur very poor in history and geography.

    Open ur eyes and try to know something more about malabar before making foolish comments like this.

    God may help u


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