Sunday, 13 May 2007

Thomas Baber's account of the death of the Pazhassi Rajah, Part 1.

Camp at Pulpelly, Sub-collector, Northern Divn., Malabar.
30th November 1805.

To the Principle Collector,
Malabar Province.

Sir, A severe sickness has till now prevented me from making to you my official report of the fall of the Rebel Chieftain Cotiote Kerula Werma Rajah alias the Pyche Rajah (Palassi Rajah). I have now the honour of doing this, as well as of detailing some few circumstances, to enable you to judge by what means so fortunate and important an event has been accomplished.

My letter to you of the 1st November last, though written at the commencement of my career in Wynad, would have raised your hopes to expect further success. The seizure of Tallakal Chundoo , though a Courchan was an event which excited the greatest consternation amongst those in rebellion, for such was the consequence of this person that Yadachana Cooggan is said to have declared, that he had lost his right arm. Your injunctions on this occasion were received, and accordingly in the course of a few days the orders were out for a general movement and alteration in the disposition of our military force in Wynad. Having obtained this so essential point, I deemed it advisable durng the interval that must unavoidably elapse before these arrangements could be carried into effect, to make a tour of the district, that I might be the better enabled to form some certain judgement of the real disposition of the community, and how far I could rely upon them for that co-operation which as liege subjects it was their duty to have afforded me. Throughout the northern and western parts of the district, I found the sentiment in our favour, at the same time a considerable disinclination to afford the smallest information of the Pyche Rajah or his partisans. This I attribute to the dread which the numerous examples of assassination by the rebels of those who had come forward could not fail of inspiring, which, not withstanding all our efforts to oppose, they constantly kept alive by small and numerous roving partisans, who had spread themselves all over the country. In many, however, I evidently saw a strong inclination to favour the rebel leaders, in particular Yadachan Coongan, who, with his rebel relations wisely had taken the opportunity, while the Wynad was in exclusive possession of the Pyche Rajah, to connect themselves with principal families in Wynad, who thereby became interested for them, but in all classes, I observed a decided interest for the Pyche Rajah, towards whom the inhabitants entertained a regard and respect bordering on veneration, which not even his death can efface.

The conduct to be observed towards the most doubtful of those characters it was not difficult to determine on. Something decisive was absolutely necessary; there was no security while they were living on their estates, and I found no other alternative left me than that of sending out of the district such of those against whom my suspicions were strongest, a determination which, while it was calculated to cut off the rebels from deriving any further support from such able allies, also would have the effect of warning others against imitating their example.

Having fully conveyed to the inhabitants of the northern and western divisions a full idea of the line of conduct I intended to adopt towards them, I proceeded to fill up all the vacant revenue appointments in order to give due effect to my measures. Written instructions were drawn out for the conduct of these native servants, throughout which I enjoyed the most conciliatory conduct, and having concluded my arrangements I proceeded to the Southern Hobelies of Parameetil.

In this division of the country, affairs wore a different aspect. Here was no security to be placed in the inhabitants, the most wealthy and numerous of whom were the Chetties and Goundas. – a vile servile race of mortals, who are strangers to every honest sentiment, and whom nothing but one uniform system of severity ever will prevent from the commission of every species of deceit and treachery.
Although the whole of these had presented themselves at the cutcherry, they had done so from no other impulse than a dread of the consequences of absenting themselves, nether did they thereby throw off their connections with the rebels, for it is notorious that the whole rebel confederacy, with the exception of Coongan’s party, were Parakametal and were being supported and secreted by these very Chetties , after they had received cowle . I am fully persuaded also from what transpired in the course of my investigation, that the majority of these Chetties did not present themselves to the cutcherry until they had previously obtained the permission of the Pyche Rajah and Palora Jamen, conduct that will be easily accounted for when it is recollected that the Rajah’s whole reliance for subsistence and information rested in these people. The Soodra or Nair part of the community were more to be depended upon; there was an honest frankness about them which you could not but admire, and which is a surety that in proportion to our increasing influence, these people will prove themselves worthy of the confidence of Government. The Kooramars, a numerous race of bowmen, by far the most rude of all the Wynadians, had to a man deserted their habitations and estates and betaken themselves to the strongest parts of the country, where they had removed their families and were dragging on a miserable existence, labouring under the dreadful impression that it was the intention of our Government to extirpate their whole race.

Continues in part 2 here.

Copyright Nick Balmer May 2007

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