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.