Sunday, 12 August 2007

Thomas Baber's account of the death of the Pazhassi Rajah, Part 4.

The final moments in the hunt for the Rajah are described in an account of events that Thomas Baber wrote at Cannanore on the 31st of December 1805.


Having said this much of the plan of operations that had been adopted, I now come to those which terminated the career of the Pyche (Palassi) chieftain.

I before said that one of my objects by getting in the inhabitants of Pulpilly (Pulpalli) was to obtain accurate information of the rebels. This I did not think prudent to commence upon too early lest they should take alarm. I preferred trying all my persuasive means to gain their confidence and to wean them from their connections. For this purpose I had them before me and took every opportunity of representing the folly of countenancing a body of men so truly contemptible, and who had no other end than to involve them in one common ruin. I pointed to them in the strongest colours the power and lenity of the British Government, and at last, what with exhortation and occasional presents, had succeeded in inducing several of these, who had been of most essential service to the Raja’s party, to send their Paniyars (Paniyar – agricultural labourers) out in quest of information. I took the precaution of swearing all whom I employed to secrecy.

With many agents, I could not fail of success in some of them. On the 30th ultimo, three of them at last brought me intelligence of the Pyche Raja and all the rebel leaders with the exception of Palora Jamen (Pallur Eman) being then in the opposite side of the Kangara river, a short distance in Mysore, and this so unequivocally that I determined to act upon it. I accordingly requested of Lieutenant-Colonel Hill to assist me with 50 Sepoys and an Officer, with which force and about 100 kolkars, half captain Watson’s Police, half my own locals, I marched at nine o’clock at night; and such was the secrecy in which we set off that our guides even did not know my intention until the moment we took our departure. Previous to this I had deemed it expedient to make a feint to divert the attention of the rebels (who I thought it probable might have their spies in camp) by detaching 70 of my kolkars, under the Sheristadar, under the pretext of going in pursuit of Palora Jamen who was reported to be in the Komanpany Mala in the South-eastern direction, while they had secret instructions after marching half-way to this mountain to strike off eastward to the Kallir Mountain and there lie in ambush near to paths to cut off the retreat of any fugitives who would, in most probability, go off in that direction in the event of our party coming up with the rebels.




The banks of the Kangara River

Such was the nature of the country that although we kept marching the whole night we did not reach the Kangara river until seven the following morning. Here we divided ourselves into two parties, and proceeding along the banks, observed a vast number of huts, all of them bearing every appearance of recent habitation: we continue marching until nine o’clock, when the detachment being fatigued, a halt was proposed. We accordingly halted, and having taken some refreshment, we again started, with the determination of tracing every jungly path: so fully persuaded was I, as well from the earnestness of our guides as the consideration that this was a part of Mysore that our troops had at no time penetrated or perhaps even thought of doing, that the rebels must be concealed in some parts of these jungles. After proceeding about a mile and a half through very high grass and thick teak forests into the Mysore country, Charen Subedar of Captain Watson’s armed police, who was leading the advanced party suddenly halted and beckoning to me, told me he heard voices. I immediately ran to the spot, and having advanced a few steps, I saw distinctly to the left about ten persons, unsuspecting of danger, on the banks of the Mavila Toda, or Nulla to our left. Although Captain Clapham and the sepoys as well as the greater part of the kolkars, were in the rear, I still deemed it prudent to proceed, apprehensive lest we should be discovered and all hopes of surprise thereby frustrated. I accordingly ordered the advance, which consisted of about thirty men, to dash on, which they accordingly did with great gallantry, with Charen Subedar at their head. In a moment the advance was in the midst of the enemy, fighting most bravely. The contest was but of short duration. Several of the rebels had fallen, whom the kolkars were despatching, and a running fight was kept up after the rest till we could see no more of them. Just at this time a firing was heard to the right; we accordingly returned, when we saw the sepoys and kolkars engaged with a fresh body of rebels, who proved to be of Coongan’s (Kungan’s) party, but who fled after a few shots had been fired at them and though pursued, were seen nothing more of. From one of the rebels of the first party to the left, whom I discovered concealed in the grass, I learnt that the Pyche Raja was amongst those whom we first observed on the banks of the Nulla, and it was only on my return from the pursuit that I learnt that the Raja was amongst the first who had fallen.



The Mavila Toda, showing the jungily terrain the fight took place in.

It fell to the lot of one of my Cutcherry servants, Canara Menon, to arrest the flight of the Raja, which he did at the hazard of his life (the Raja having put his musket to his breast) and it is worthy of mention that this extraordinary personage, though in the moment of death, called out in the most dignified and commanding manner to the Menon, “Not to approach and defile his person.” Aralat Cootty Nambiar, the only one remaining of those rebels proscribed by Colonel Stevenson and a most faithful adherent of the Raja made a most desperate resistance, but at last fell overpowered by the superior skill of one of the parbutties (pravritti) in Wynad; four other followers of the Raja were also killed. Two taken prisoners together with the Raja’s lady and several female attendants. There was no other property discovered, but a gold Cuttaram (Katharam or Kattaram – dagger) or knife and a waist chain; the former I have now in my possession, the latter I presented to Captain Clapham. And from the accounts of the Raja’s lady, they had been reduced to the greatest distresses in particular for the last ten days. The Raja’s body was taken up and put in my palanquin, while the lady who was dreadfully reduced from sickness was put into Captain Clapham’s. Finding any further pursuit of the rebel useless, we made a disposition of our forces and returned to Chomady which we reached about six in the afternoon without having met with any further occurrence on the road. The following day the Raja’s body was despatched under a strong escort to Manantoddy, and the Sheristadar sent with it with orders to assemble all the Brahmins and to see that the customary honours were performed at his funeral. I was induced to this conduct from the consideration that although a rebel, he was one of the natural chieftains of the country, and might be considered on that account rather as a fallen enemy. If I have acted injudiciously, I hope some allowance will be made for my feelings on such an occasion.

Thus terminated the career of a man who had been enabled to persevere in hostilities against the Company for nearly nine years, during which many thousand valuable lives have been sacrificed and sums of money beyond all calculation expended.

Not withstanding that every effort of moderation and lenity was pursued towards the Raja, nothing could get the better of his natural restlessness and ferocity of disposition, which, aided by evil counsels of his advisers, impelled him to the most desperate acts and produced an infatuation which rendered him insensible to the dictates of humanity or reason. His annihilation became necessary for the stability and security of the Government and its subjects. While this severe necessity existed, the recollection of the services he has performed during the infancy of our Government cannot but inspire us with a sentiment of regret that a man so formed should have pursued a conduct that should have thrown so insuperable a bar to all kinds of accommodations. To temporise further than was done would have been to yield, and to have yielded would have afforded a precedent which might have been fatal to the British Government in India.

But it will not be necessary for me to enlarge to you who are so well acquainted with this chieftain’s history, on the leading features of so extraordinary and singular a character. The records in England and India will convey to posterity a just idea of him”



It is quite obvious from the above letter, and others written later that Thomas came to have a very high regard for the Pyche Raja. He later wrote: -


“ regard and respect bordering on veneration which not even his death can efface.”


As Gopalan Nair wrote in 1911…


“These words were prophetic; more than a century has passed and his name is still cherished by the people as the Saktan Raja.”


Saktan means powerful or great.


11 comments:

Prash said...

It doesnt state whether Pazhassi suicided or he was killed. Merely states that "while dying cried out to Menon to stay off him"

Hobby said...

Actually, we still are cowards. The British dogs ruled as even though they would have been drown if we were united, we still salute & shake hands with England!! The youth should protest! Have to destroy the English supremacy....by any means!!! No wonder a new Marxist group has been planning an attack on Nottingham in December 2009!!!

Anooj said...

the bloody british ..shameless cultureless idiots scounders..motherfucker stupids ...u british go back to the holihole of ur own mother..

neo phyte said...

what does one make of this... the guy aided the brits early on and when the brits ditched him, he turned revolutionary. velu thampi too was ambigious to the brits early on, before turning revolutionary.

why couldn't we have been united. the damned brits bled our country and raped this land. but they could not have done it without the connivance and active help of selfish Indians.

the same thing happened when the muslims invaded; the so-called brave rajputs did not unite and when they did unite it was under akbar.

we have paid jaziya for following our own religion and yes... dogs and indians not allowed.

history repeats itself, hindus are divided again today by the pseudo-secularists and the country bleeds.

harimohan said...

very good post and hikstory tks

manoj said...

well researched and wonderful to have the opportunity to read the original account: there was so much local slavery, brutality and opportunistic backstabbing that the land had to fall to the more unified force which happened to be the british--who would have been totally ineffective without the local help like from the Kolkars and all the rest --- whoever took the peril of sailing halfway around the globe had come in well planned. It is in this that India has always failed --- planning organising and satying together all through for a collective good --something we still fail in --

Anonymous said...

Some of these nasty comments are quite sad... why do we limit our patriotism to abusing Brits on online forums... why not keep our cities clean... refrain from invading tax while buying land... stop paying bribes to cops... driving around drunk... we want to celebrate our uncivil behaviour as a victory against the old imperialism while in fact we use it to conceal our own pathetic selfs... hobby, anooj, give it a break... these events happend at a time when it was the way things happened... it is these struggles and humiliations that make up a great history even though we like to garnish it with some pride and victory... and neophyte..oh dear... it is to avoid ppl like you that millions of Indians migrate every year... why can't we keep India secular... it is beautiful that way... something narrow minded imbeciles like yourelf can never understand...

VR said...

1. Paniyar who led Baber and troops were slaves of a Chetti who told Baber of location of Raja’s camp and who sent his Paniyar to guide Englishman and his troops. Those poor Paniyars acted on their master’s orders.

Baber says that he managed to woo masses of Wynad to British side but in same breath says that people of Wynad of all classes is devoted to their Raja – Is this not contradictory?

2. That 20,000 Nairs and Teers got refuge in Thalasseri during PADAYOTTAKAALAM [that is how we call Hyder and Tippu’s reign] is true and we are grateful for that. BUT..............


During Seige of Thalasseri [1779 – 1782] by Hyder’s army, it was the self same “arbitrary and brutal” Pazhassi prince who enabled tiny English garrison to hold on till English reinforcements could be brought. Kindly note the point that Siege of Thalasseri ended in 1782 with Battle of Thalasseri with Hyder’army falling victim to an attack from 2 sides – English-Kottayam troops attacked in front and a force commanded by Pazhassi prince himself struck Mysore army in rear. THIS PLAN OF ACTION WAS SUGGESTED BY PAZHASSI PRINCE HIMSELF BUT ENGLISH WAS HESITANT TO ADOPT IT IN BEGINNING. But the plan brought a marvellous victory.

English generosity was indeed repaid in equal measure at time of their greatest adversity in Northern Malabar.

3. To say that Malabar would have become a desert had it not been for English is a grotesque exaggeration. Far more longer, bloodier and inhuman warfare between Muslim aggressors and Hindu resistants have happened in many other parts of India like say, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. But that did not lead to extinction of Hindu people in those lands.

More than that, war and peace, disaster and fortune comes and go like day and night. Constantly crying about one’s misfortunes is not a good idea. None of those brave partisans who had fought Hyder-Tippu and then English troops would have approved the constant snivelling by modern people while conveniently forgetting the heroic struggle they waged for 18 long years.

While people are never tired of speaking of atrocity conducted on them by Mysore troops, why do they conveniently forget that their ancestors fought the enemy in hills and woods and killed them in thousands, plundered his treasuries and supply convoys & not only made life miserable for invader and forced him to station a large army to hold Malabar and thus suffer large scale loss of men, but also made sure that his attempt to collect revenue and make profit remained on paper?

4. T.H Baber is a proto-type of Lawrence of Arabia – but speaking in larger political terms his aim was to serve his country and he did that. He was a generous and kindly human being, but for any sane Indian, Baber was one of those Englishmen who were responisble for consolidation of English rule in Malabar. He is an enemy from any angle...but of course, any enemy with a humane heart.

VR said...

5. Englishmen say that our Pazhassi prince is “arbitrary and brutal”. If so how did he end up in folk songs and tales as a prince whose love and support towards his subjects was immeasurable? None in inland Thalassery taluk and Wynad consider him as a cruel and unpredictable chieftain.

Or did he become cruel simply because he ordered his Nairs to hunt down all those Moplahs who had collaborated with Tippu?
Or because he had bandits impaled? [What else do rogues deserve?]
Or because he shot a man who disrespected him? [Common in Northern Malabar to kill one who disrespect you – whether Englishmen and Indian modernists like it or not. It is a part of ancient military tradition of this part of country & if some arrogant know all foreingers have objections, why must people bother about that?]
Or because he pulled down a mosque built on public land without making customary payment to king? [Even these days, Govts pull down illegal structures!]
Or because he had ordered execution of Talib Ali & his retainers, the Moplah chief who killed Pazhassi prince’s messanger Kudali Amen Nambiar?
Or because he protected Narangoli Nambiar who took his just revenge on a Moplah [by killing him] who had killed his man? [What sort of a leader is he if he fail to avenge his follower’s death?]
When Tippu’s armies had left Malabar in 1791, what did this rapacious and cruel prince do to his people?

I will tell you – he borrowed large sums from prominent Muslim merchants to whom he gave contracts for military supplies – like CHOVVAKARAN MUSA and ERAMAKAM MAMMALI [Muhammad Ali] and used that fund to give loans and aid to peasantry to resume agriculture. He distributed seeds, saplings, cattle and farm tools to reconstruct war torn country’s economy

– and if your response is that he did that to preserve tax sources, let me add that collection of land tax in Malabar by Rajas and chieftains was at best erratic and nominal. Tax matters were much more better before advent of Mysoreans and British.

6. You might argue in favour of collaborators and traitors like Kanara Menon, Pazhayavittil Chandu Nambiar and Swaminatha Pattar. But that is British point of view. From a native point of view, what these men did was dishonourable to the extreme. Men like Pattar and Chandu betrayed their masters in favour of British for proverbial thirty pieces of silver – If some one were to argue that it is good to betray if you can fill your pockets, then Judas himself is no sinner.

Nairs like Kanara Menon and Pazhayavittil Chandu along with those who fought as KOLKARS did that only for personal benefit – all they wanted was promotions and perks along with ample scope for rape and plunder– which they did obtain & they had no like or dislike for Pazhassi prince. But let me add –as a Malabari, I too admire Nairs –but not these opportunistic wretches, but those heroes like Edachena Kunkan Nair, Kaitheri Ambu Nambiar, Kannavath Sanakaran Nambiar, Pallore Amen Nair – who had much to lose and little to gain by their alignment with Pazhassi cause.

Some may argue that they were fools - I will say they are not for they have carved out their places ih history as heroes who fought with unflinching and desperate courage to the end. Man’s greatest achievement is ability to live after death – ie in minds of people as good and great.

VR said...

7. To say that Pazhassi prince was power hungry is disproved by the fact that he NEVER attempted in his life to officially become RAJA of KOTTAYAM though he could have done that easily as nobles, militia and ordinary people supported him overwhelmingly. His war with his uncle Raja of Kurumbranad was a just one – because Raja of Kurumbranad had no business to interfere in matters of Kottayam as his right was lost since his accession as Raja of Kurumbranad. Also could Pazhassi prince could have watched in silence when his own treacherous general

Pazhayvittil Chandu and Raja of Kurumbranad indulged in plunder with Enlgish help – all in name of tax collection? Raja’s motives for his first war with English is entirely honourable – he wanted to protect his subjects from exploitation and same with case of his second war with English – he wanted to protect his country from annexation. No amount of cynical theories could deny that Pazhassi prince broke off peace with Tippu in 1785 because Tippu’s demand for tribute meant harships for Teer peasantry.

8. Pazhassi Raja did not sign treaty with EIC in 1792 with full joy – instead he was bothered by loss of independence but still chose to do what was best in his people’s interest.

Note the point - Pazhassi Raja was a man of action and had a war like temper but he chose to cooperate with EIC if terms were tolerable – what does this prove? A statesman who thought and worked for the betterment of his country

Bala Krishnan said...

After typing a very good and long comments condemning the people who are using abusive words against the bloggers, I typed for a preview, and all my half an hour effort is gone - nothing could be retrieved.

Owner of the blog, plese note - remove the preview option if it does not work at all. I am very furious about it.
Balakrishnan Nambiar